Food For the Soul
Did you or didn’t you?
In the story of Adam and Eve, G-d comes into the garden of Eden and asks Adam: “Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” A simple question — did you or didn’t you? Adam replies: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” G-d then approaches Eve and asks, “What is that, that you have done?” Eve replies “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” By the time that G-d gets to the serpent, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Being direct descendants from Adam and Eve, perhaps some of us may have inherited this human weakness — to look for others upon whom we can place blame when mistakes occur. Some smokers blame the government for allowing cigarettes to be sold in the shops, and some overweight people blame the supermarket for selling fatty foods. We often forget that every time we point a finger at somebody else we are, at the same time, pointing three fingers back at ourselves. Children may learn this attitude and look for whom they can blame for their mistakes. You can hear them say things like “It’s my teacher’s fault,” “It’s my sister’s fault,” and so on.
One of the best ways of teaching children to own up to their responsibilities is by being living examples. A good leader — and every parent is a “leader” in their family — is one who can stand up and say: “I made a mistake, I’m responsible, and there is an important lesson I have learned about how to avoid such a thing happening in the future.” There are some adults who are in their forties and fifties who have difficulty in making choices. When faced with a dilemma, they still go back to their parents, asking them what to do. Perhaps this is because they grew up in an environment where people were afraid to own up to their mistakes.
When a child sees that their parents are not afraid to admit that they made a mistake, and are prepared to take full responsibility for their actions, this child will feel more comfortable and confident in making choices. If things go wrong they learn from them and keep going to become a better and more responsible person.
From an article by Rabbi Yaakov Lieder
October 2 (26 Tishrei) is the first Shabbat immediately following the holidays, known as Shabbat Bereishit (or Shabbos Bereishis in European Hebrew). Why is it thus named? Every week of the year we read another portion of the Torah. The cycle ends and begins anew on the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah, when we read the final portion of V’Zot HaBerachah and the opening lines of the first portion, Bereishit. On the following Shabbat, the full portion of Bereishit is read from the Torah. It is said in the name of the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) that the way one conducts oneself on Shabbat Bereishit sets the tone for the entire year.
Appropriately, this Shabbat is often earmarked for inspiring farbrengens (gatherings) and resolutions to increase in Torah study. These farbrengens have an additional function, since this Shabbat is also Shabbat Mevarchim, when we bless the upcoming month of Cheshvan.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner
Mind Over Matter
Let there be light!
“Light” is the purpose of existence as a whole. Further, each individual is a microcosm of the world. “Light” is therefore the purpose of each Jew: that he or she transform his or her situation and environment to light, goodness, instead of darkness. If light is the purpose of every created thing, it follows that it must also be the purpose of darkness itself. Darkness does not exist only in order to be conquered or avoided, thereby presenting man with a choice between good and evil; the fulfillment of darkness is when it is changed, when the bad becomes good—when darkness is transformed into light.
The problems that we meet in life might sometimes make us despair even of winning the battle of light over darkness, let alone of turning the bad itself into good. But with the words “Let there be light!” the Torah presents the goal for each of us as individuals and also for humanity as a whole. This is the Divine purpose for our existence: and if this is G-d’s purpose for us, there is no doubt that we will be able to succeed!
From an article by Dr. Tali Lowenthal
The spark of Moshiach in every Jew
Mystics note that adam is an acronym for the names of three central figures: Adam, (King) David and Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov derives from this that there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach within every single Jew. Thus he concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual Jew to perfect and prepare that part of the spiritual stature of Moshiach to which his soul is related. By virtue of his bond with every Jew, because there is a part of him within every Jew, Moshiach is able to redeem the entire Jewish people. Conversely, every Jew is able to effect and hasten the actual manifestation of Moshiach. This is accomplished by means of Torah and mitzvot.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Why my rich friend is poor
I have an old friend who, due to life’s circumstances, floats in and out of my life. She’s a special person with a great soul and a grand character, but there’s always something that seems to be holding her back from growing in life. Something that won’t let her feel or experience happiness. She calls me in tears, and I listen to the same speech over and over again. “I’ve ruined everything,” she cries. “I’ve lost all my money,” she sobs. “I’m alone. I’m miserable.” I brace myself because I know what will come next. “I’ve ruined my life. What have I done? What do I have to live for? I just want to die!” She wails with drama.
I have heard the rhetoric so many times, but I still gasp in disbelief at the last sentence. I know this woman. I know that she has her pain and her sorrow. Like everybody else on this planet, she’s been through her fair share of tests. Difficulties, challenges—yes, she has them. Who doesn’t?
But over the years, I’ve seen the other side as well. I know that G-d gave her many skills and talents. I know that G-d gave her great material wealth. She loses money, yes, but she also makes it—in fact, much more than even she could possibly spend. She has family and people who love her, but there always seems to be the emphasis on “being alone, lacking, miserable.” She also always seems to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again. “Why?” I ask myself. “Why is this woman always a prisoner to the past and to what she lacks?”
I listen to her, and then take a good long look at myself. How many times to I complain and cry, thinking about what I “did wrong,” what I “don’t have”? When I do this, am I happy? Am I growing? Of course not! I feel a sinking feeling of misery, isolation and negativity. When I get like this, I feel stuck.
And L-rd G-d commanded man, saying to him: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat thereof; for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Beresheit 2: 16-17) Now the serpent was cunning beyond any beast of the field that L-rd G-d had made. He said to the woman: “Did perhaps, G-d say: ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden.’ ” (Beresheit 3:1)
Reading these lines from the Torah, do you know what jumps out at me? The way that cunning snake attacked the woman’s very existence by making her see and focus on what she didn’t (or shouldn’t) have. G-d gave man and woman a garden full of trees with delicious abundance. They had bounty, plenty. One tree—only one single tree—they were forbidden to eat from (because this one tree wasn’t good for them—eating from the tree, they were warned, would bring death).
And so, the serpent—the symbol of evil, the symbol of destruction—put all of its energy into luring the woman away from the good G-d gave her and enticed her to sin with negativity.
The woman fell into the snake’s trap; she ate from the single prohibited tree, among all the permitted ones in the garden. She gave the prohibited fruit to man, and as a consequence, brought death to mankind. Pretty intense, no? She brought such destruction for getting off-track by eating a piece of fruit!
Yes, that’s what can happen when a person is focused on what went “wrong,” what “they” lost, what they “don’t” have. They can destroy themselves (and others). When I feel bad about myself, it never pushes me forward. If anything, it pushes me backwards or makes me feel stuck. It wasn’t just the fruit the woman ate from the one forbidden tree; she exhibited a lack of faith and trust in G-d as well.
King David tells us: “Turn away from evil, and do good.” (Psalms 34:14). I once read a beautiful interpretation of the saying, “Turn away from seeing yourself as evil! So that then you can do good!” Turn away from the negative thoughts of what is missing or lacking and wrong. The very act of turning away will propel you forward, and give you the strength and desire to move on, to make positive changes, to learn from your experiences—and do good.