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Incredibly simple path to self peace

Friday, 4 September, 2020 - 4:58 am

By the Grace of G-d 

Dear Friend,

In the old ‘normal’, kids hated school.

Not in the new ‘normal’.

My brother runs the Chabad at Temple University in Philadelphia and after four days of ‘in person learning’ on campus, the university management announced that due to high rates of infection they were reverting to online classes only. 

Are the students going home? My brother thinks not. After six months at home they were quite happy to get back to school.

I have seen pictures of nieces and nephews in the USA who have resumed school and they look euphoric.

Kids LIKING school? 

That sounds interesting. A year ago that would have sounded suspicious. What are they doing in school that they like it so much? I am talking tongue in cheek here but I think you get my point.

It is ‘fashionable’ for kids to complain about school.

Hey, our own eleven-year-old, Leibel, started school again here in Bangkok this week. He is very happy to have resumed studying Torah and Talmud with his teacher and classmates in person. 

This example, things we used to think are burdensome, and now we appreciate them, can be extended to many things.

Especially poignant is the appreciation we have for things we once used to take for granted. I met a Bangkok resident who had returned from overseas and spent two weeks quarantined. When I saw him two weeks after he finished his quarantine he still appreciated and enjoyed the freedom of not being holed up in ‘solitary confinement’ in his government approved quarantining hotel. 

Pause. Let this point sink in. How lucky we are to have freedom of movement here in Thailand. Some countries are in lockdown. 

Ironically, during this time period we can easily find many things to be happy about. Even, or especially, every single breath. After seeing so many suffer with their breathing, on ventilators, oxygen or battling the virus at home, we can genuinely appreciate G-d’s gift of natural breathing with a newfound appreciation. 

Gratitude. 

We must rejoice and be gratitude filled to the Almighty for all the blessings that He bestows upon us.

That is the theme of this week’s Parsha that speaks about Bikkurim, bringing ones first fruits to G-d and giving joyous thanks.

(Not everyone agrees fully about my school analysis. Click here to see a humorous alternate outlook how back to school this year is ideal for NO ONE 😊).

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So Leibel was starting school and my wife was going out to buy him supplies and I decided to join. As Nechama was perusing the stationery section I got bored with looking at pens and pencils and found myself meandering to the books section. The ‘self-help’ section grabbed my attention.

The shelves were full of books with catchy titles. ‘The 5am club’ title grabbed my attention, as did books about not caring about what others say, developing good habits, mindfulness, embracing the wonders around you and it went on and on.

The books were covered by plastic, so I didn’t actually read them, but I got the gist. The 5am one was advocating starting the day early and getting meditation, study, and physical exercise into your day before ‘starting’ your day.

I said to myself, I don’t need a popular author to tell me that. My Creator, in the Torah has already instructed me to study and pray before my ‘day begins’ and to safeguard my life and health which means exercising (in today’s sedentary lifestyle).

The book that talks about not caring what others say, just doing what you know is right for you was also ‘old news’ for me.

For this life-lesson I don’t need to buy a contrarian authors writing. The Torah instructs us very explicitly at the very beginning of the “Code of Jewish Law’ to be ‘bold like a leopard’ and not ‘be embarrassed before cynics or scoffers’.

This is a lesson that needs some borders. Let me illustrate via the following joke. 

A guy goes to the bar and after a few drinks hurls the shot glass against the wall and breaks the glass. After a few repeat episodes the bartender says he wouldn’t let him back in to the bar unless he went for therapy. A few weeks went by and the drinker comes back to the bar. ‘I went for therapy’ he told the bartender. After a few drinks he once again hurled the shot glass against the wall. ‘Didn’t you go to therapy’? asked the bartender. ‘Yes, I did’ responded the drinker. ‘And now I don’t feel guilty about breaking the glass’!

The code of Jewish Law cautions: be bold, but only within the context of ‘don’t be shy or embarrassed before scoffers’ and don’t shy away from doing the right thing even if it is not popular. But make sure not to become a brazen or insolent person by nature. Limit your boldness and ‘chutzpah’ to help you in doing the right thing only without embarrassment from peer pressure. 

The words of King David (Psalms 33, 20) really sum up the key to self-help.

Our soul waits for G-d; He is our help and our shield.

All the self-help books in the world cannot help to soothe the pain or provide inner peace unless they are bringing you closer to your inner self. All the self-help books in the world are human attempts at trying to get you closer to the inner peace we all so deeply crave. Many of them are deep and wise. They can be very helpful and I am not trying to minimize them. 

But they are not Divine. I want to awaken your awareness to the genuine path to inner peace.

Torah is the Divine masterplan. G-d’s communication to us. The Sages call the Torah the ‘building plans and blueprint’ for the world. In other words, G-d so to speak ‘looked into the Torah and created the world’.

The real ‘self-help’ book is thus the book of the Manufacturer of man, the Creator of the universe. 

The Torah? An answer to my search for peace?

Yes.

It is so simple that its counterintuitive. 

In this anxiety laden period, the therapists and mental health professionals are very busy. And sadly, the situation is really challenging and it is only natural that the doctors of the mind/emotion should be called upon. Such huge changes and upheavals in people’s lives are bound to create different feelings in people that they are unused to coping with.

Here is an example of what Torah says to do when facing emotional challenge. The Rebbe answered this to someone in 1951, sixty years ago but pertinent as ever. He was complaining about the possibility that he had a health problem, but it seemed as if his anxiety about his possible illness was more real than the illness. 

After advising the person to consult a medical doctor to ensure that his physical help was being taken care of, the Rebbe continued to the emotional side to guide him to find his inner peace through trust in G-d. The soul of a Jew can only be truly happy when it is fulfilling the reason for which it was send down to the earth. 

In the Rebbe words:

Looking from the inner dimension, you should firmly affix your thought — with the simple faith possessed by all Jews who are “believers, the sons of believers” — that G-d, Who created the world 5711 years ago, creates the world anew each and every moment and conducts it according to His will. He is the ultimate of good and it is the nature of the good to do good. Therefore it is obvious that this includes your personal matters as well. G-d is the Master over your life and your personal matters, and He will lead you to your desired destination. (And the inner desire of every Jew [is to follow the Torah and its mitzvos].

Full letter here. 

My dear friends, it sounds too simple, I know. But absolute truths are quite simple. 

Try it. Start with a simple mitzvah. Performed morning and evening. 

Say the words ‘Shma Yisrael Ado-nai Elo-heinu Ado-nai Echad’ which means ‘Hear people of Israel, Hashem our G-d is ONE’. It is a mitzvah to say the Shema morning and evening. 

Click here to see the text of Shema as well as inspirational and transformations meditations.

Here is a link to self-help in the Kabala online site. The Tanya was written as a guide to ‘self help’.

Any diet or self-help regimen require some form of effort and mindfulness.

Wouldn’t it make such good sense to put forth some effort to connect to your inner self? 

You are a Jew! 

Try to connect to your TRUE you, your Jewish soul. 

One does this by learning Torah and by performing mitzvahs.

Helping others is the turbo charged way to feeling an inner peace.

Let us engage in the ‘three pillars that the world stands on’. Torah study, Prayer meditation and acts of benevolent kindness.

Shana Tova!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor









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