Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

To Know or To Believe, That is the Question

Do you know G-d or do you believe in G-d?

Knowledge is attained through study and research. When we understand something we connect to it deeply. Belief is somewhat external, outside of understanding and removed from our experience. We rely on the accounts of others and believe their word.

So, what should we strive for – to know G-d or to believe in G-d?

The problem with knowledge is that it is tied to our limited understanding. As much as we understand, it is finite. Man has always tried to define G-d, to intellectually comprehend G-d’s existence. As a result, we have created a G-d in our own image.

However, G-d is infinite and unbounded; to truly connect to G-d, we have to do so on His terms, beyond limitations. We have to reach beyond our own intellect and emotion to establish a bond with G-d through emunah, faith.

Who knows, we may even experience a reflection of G-d’s unbounded energy in our own lives. Connecting to G-d in this way frees us from our own (many times self-imposed) limitations and allows us to go beyond ourselves, achieving the impossible.

Do You Desire Your Friend's House?

The single event that most affected history, the revelation of G-d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, is described in this week’s Torah portion.

While each of the Ten Commandments requires much attention, let’s focus today on the tenth commandment, "You shall not covet your friend's house; or his wife, servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your friend." (In plain English it might read “Don’t desire your friends beautiful house, gorgeous wife, high paying job, expensive car or anything else that he owns”).

Notice that the Torah first specifies a few possessions, “wife, servant, ox, donkey,” then concludes “or anything that belongs to your friend.” The Torah could have simply stated “You shall not covet anything that belongs to your friend.”  Why the reiteration?

Here’s a profound explanation that I’ve heard: The Torah is emphasizing that while the grass may be greener in a particular part of our friends’ life, we would be well advised to bear in mind the full picture. While we may be drawn to desire a specific item or part of a friend’s life, if we consider their life in context, everything changes.

They may have a fancy house but is there peace in it? His wife may look great when their out together but is she that easy to live with at home? He may have a great job but is he healthy? Is his family healthy? When we think about the whole picture, we may very likely realize that we are better off and happier with what we have than with our friends’ life.

Instead of looking over the fence at our neighbor’s house, let’s enjoy our own.

Do You Get Manna From Heaven

With the economy still a priority in people’s minds, this insight rendered by my colleague Rabbi Tzvi Freeman of Toronto, based on this week’s Torah portion, is so relevant.

In truth, there are two possible channels by which to receive your livelihood, according to the perspective you take in life:

You could decide to become just another element of nature, chasing after your bread in the chaos, running the race of survival of the fittest.

And the fact is, you may even do well taking this route --in the short run. In the long run, however, your soul is being denied its nourishment, and your body, too, will never feel satisfied.

Or you could see your life as an intimate relationship with the Source of Life Above --as though all your livelihood was no more than manna from heaven, handed to you personally and lovingly straight from the hand of your G-d and partner in all you do.

Then your main job is to keep the basket where your manna will fall sparkling clean, insuring that no one is being hurt or misled by your business. To spend the profits you are granted on spreading kindness in the world.

Maybe you'll get rich this way. Maybe you won't. But you will always be satisfied.

Go Confidently!

Do you know how the Torah describes the first leader of the Jewish people? The man who is described as having spoken with G-d “face to face”; The man who stood up to the mightiest ruler of the world and demanded, “Let my people go!”; do you know how the Torah describes Moses?

As the humblest person on earth.

Moses was the most humble of all men. Yet he had the confidence to stand before the mightiest dictator on earth and assert his demands. He had the confidence to stand before G-d and listen without losing his composure. He had the confidence even to argue with G-d, when necessary.

Confidence is best found among the truly humble.

The confidence of Moses was not confidence in his own self. He had no self. He was but an agent of Above. Above there is infinite power.

Self-confidence is limited, at best. But if you trust in the One who has sent you to be here and do what you need to do --that confidence knows no bounds.

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