Inspired by Reb Kalonymos Kalman's ideal of a group of people coming together with the common goal of enhancing their service of God, increasing their sensitivity to all things spiritual, strengthening their love of acheinu kol beis Yisrael, and unlocking the enormous potential that we all have to cleave to the Almighty.

Interaction and discussion of practical ideas and concepts toward this end, culled from any Torah true source is welcome and appreciated.

Observations and personal experiences are also welcome; the point is to grow!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Warning - Danger Ahead!

Every Yeshiva Bochur worth his salt knows that there are FOUR major categories of damage: Shor - Ox [Ox does damage], Bor - Pit [harm caused by ones pit] , Maveh - Tooth [animal consuming others produce], Hever -Fire.

Listen to the Heilige Ba'al Shem Tov in the Tzavaas Harivash: Four major damagers in Avodas Hashem.

Shor - From the word 'Ashur' which means to see. Looking at what is forbidden KILLS your Avodas Hashem.

Bor - A sdeh bor is an empty neglected field. This means batala - wasting time. That DESTROYS your soul.

Maveh - Tooth. When a person overeats - BAAAAAAD!!!Hever - Fire.

Anger. Anger is the most reliable servant of the Satan. Anger must be quashed. He is the arch-enemy of all that is holy and pure. The Zohar says [quoted in the sefer "Erech Apaim" - an entire book devoted to the evils of anger and how to conquer it] that when a person gets angry he loses his G-dly soul and the spirit of impurity penetrates in its stead. Scary.

But the explanation of the Besht - GESHMAK!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Humble Beginnings

There I was at my friend Kenny's mansion sipping a cup of tea in his backyard and enjoying the view of his pool and beautiful grounds [approximately the size of Rhode Island].

"Man", I said, "who built this place? Two tennis courts, manicured lawns, parking lot for all of the cars - the Lexus, the Limo's, the minivans, full length football field [with a big aqua and orange dolphin in the end zone -he is a Dolphins fan - and yellow uprights] and gorgeous fruit trees everywhere. And the house - 26 rooms, paintings that go for an average of 1.5 mil, exquisite furniture, domed ceilings - and that's the not even the half of it!!"

"Nobody built it", explained Kenny, "one day a bunch of Mexicans were driving down this street with a truck full of dynamite and them BOOM! It blew up."

"And then?"

"And then this mansion slowly EVOLVED over time and the final result is what you see today. Including the paintings, the pool, including the water which suddenly EVOLVED out of thin air. Also the tennis court with the straight lines, the colors - green on the inside and red on the outside, the fruit trees with the delicious, juicy fruits which contain seeds to plant more such trees, the furniture which not only EVOLVED into what they are but EVOLVED in the exact place where they are needed. Also the fancy cars including the cd player and air conditioning."


Anyway, we were talking and I asked him about his parents background.

"Well today my Dad is a world famous brain surgeon. He developed a number of new ways to perform surgery and has done extensive groundbreaking research. But he had humble beginnings. He used to be a MONKEY. Mom is an artist and writes poetry and has sold millions of books of poetry that touch the soul. She, too, was born a monkey."

I guess that is what attracted them to each other, I thought. My first date with my wife was also at the zoo, but we were on the other side of the fence.

"So how did they develop into who they are" I asked.

"Oh, they slowly but surely EVOLVED into who they are. Just like that. By accident."

Uh huh.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Belief in "Self Empowerment"

Pearls of wisdom from the Chovat HaTalmidim:
Just as it is impossible to accomplish anything without will, or to practice a discipline on a constant basis without decisiveness, it is equally impossible to ascend spiritually without having faith in oneself and in the power of one's devotions.
That is to say, we have already established the fact that doing good deeds is not sufficient in and of itself; a person must himself become good. He must take his character traits and transform them to goodness; just as Israel as a whole is engaged in a process of ascent and of growth, so must he be. But it is very difficult for a person who is in a lowly state, who feels that his personality is composed of degraded traits and that even his essence is ignoble to believe that his character will be transformed and made virtuous, and that he himself will experience spiritual ascents.
Because of this, he will be halfhearted and will not make a real effort. He will perform good deeds, but that is all. He will not try to strengthen himself in order to transform his being itself into good.
And yet, have we not said over and over again that you do not know yourself, that all you see is the outer covering - what is inside is concealed from you as well? Why doubt your own ability, thus destroying your own great future, when you do not really see and cannot really know?
Desire, decide, and believe in the power of Israel that is within you and within your devotions. Then you will see whether or not you will become holy as others have, and whether or not you too will shine like a bright star...*
There are so many valuable things to take away from this small excerpt.

First of all, the Rebbe is teaching us an important concept of avodah: there are many levels to serving God, but if one wants to truly grow, he has to internalize his dealings on a "molecular" level. When performing a mitzvah, one has to do it with the intent and the desire that it should have an impression on the very fiber of his being, refining him, altering his spiritual construction; it doesn't happen without a cognizant effort.

But most important, Reb Kalonymos Kalman once again begs us to focus on our innate qualities. This element of faith in oneself does not stem from hubris but rather from knowledge of a special power vested within us by HaShem; as a member of Knesset Yisrael we have to ability to tap into the deepest reservoirs, the richest potential that manifests itself in each Jew through his or her unique expression. It is rooted so deep that we cannot even see it without consciously focusing on that power, and striving to coax it out.

* translation adapted from A Student's Obligation by Rabbi Micha Odenheimer