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.

Its a false world after all - or is it?

saketh-garuda-SHY-CKpYjrE-unsplash (1).jpgPhoto by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash

It’s been a very confronting week for many of us. An obviously Jewish student was targeted and murdered inside his school and the media ignored it. The police are trying to write it off as a random crime, when it seems pretty certain to have been a hate crime. 

Watching in real time as chaos and acute danger descends on Afghanistan, threatening the lives of millions of innocent people. The political lives of our elected leaders seem to take precedence over the literal lives of so many. 

Add to it the dark ominous skies we’ve been experiencing this week, caused by fires in our virtual backyard. We know people who have evacuated (as I’m sure you do too) and friends of friends whose properties were completely burned down. 

Not to mention all the Covid news, along with the by-now expected acrimony.

It all adds up to a deeply unsettling feeling of uncertainty. Is there any institution that can be trusted? Is there anywhere that we can feel safe?

While this is a somewhat global view, it's often reflected in our personal lives too. And when the people and things that we’ve relied on let us down, it can have ripple effects that are hard to overcome. 

The reality is that it’s time we realize that it’s a “false world”. The motivation behind so much of daily life is twisted by personal benefit and convenience, and not guided by principle or immutable values. 

Coming to this realization can be very uneasy at first (to say the least) but in reality it can lead to a much more liberated existence. Our priorities must be guided by our connection to our “Higher Power”, not by the expectation of others. Our choices must be determined by timeless values, not timely trends. And our decisions must be guided by what’s right, not by what’s expedient. 

And when we do, we’ll come to appreciate a whole different dimension of reality, a deeper and more aligned reality: That our world is, in truth, a garden. That’s how it was created to function and that’s its truest state of existence. The more we live our life in tune with that reality, the more that reality crystallizes in our daily experience too.

It’s certainly true that initially it takes more effort to live life this way, but the payoff is easily worth the investment. We’ll discover deeper friendships and more meaningful experiences. Our life will be filled with value instead of things and despite the chaos around us, we’ll be able to be confident in our mission.

Coming to recognize the “false world”, and it’s deeper “world as G-d’s garden” reality, enables us to build a beautiful, deep and true life. A life that is not easily derailed by events around us; rather, it spreads light, positivity and hope to all with whom we come in contact.


Modern Monarchy?

Crown.jpg Photo by Lians Jadan on Unsplash

Let’s face it, while some parts of Jewish observance are warm and fuzzy (think: caring for the sick and the needy, animal welfare and the like), there are other parts of Jewish practice that take more dedication, conviction and commitment (think: Shabbat, Kosher and the like). 

Then there are parts of the Torah which can truly present concern for the thinking Jew today: The ideas and ideals of the Torah that, to our Western mindset, seem outmoded and archaic (to say the least). You know what I’m referring to - slavery, eradicating entire nations and the like; things that are not exactly in vogue today, to say the least.

In fact, each one is understood in a unique manner and there is much wisdom to be discovered, but they’re beyond the scope of this message. 

Instead I wanted to highlight something from this week’s Torah portion: The Mitzvah to appoint a king. 

Appointing a king? Yes, that’s one of the topics of this week’s Torah portion and it’s one that people find difficult to relate to. I mean, a king is the antithesis of our system of government; representation by the people for the people. 

So how can I, a thinking Jew, understand this text so that I can be comfortable studying it today? 

As with every part of the Torah, the more we study and the better we understand, all the more relevance is discovered. And there is no difference in this instance. You see, there are a few radical ideas that distinguish the Jewish king from any other monarch:

  • A typical king obtained their power by virtue of force and heritage; a Jewish king obtained their power from the people. The people are the ones who accept the king, the king doesn’t impose his will on them. 

  • A typical king would do everything to flaunt their wealth and their power; the Jewish king is required to limit both. 

  • And a typical king was the ultimate power in the kingdom and imposed himself and his rule everywhere he could; a Jewish king is commanded to keep in mind that there is a greater power than he, the Ultimate Power in the universe, G-d.

Take a look at these ideas - I have a feeling that you might find them relevant too. When we are cognizant of G-d Above, when we remember that it’s not about us, rather it’s about the purpose and role that we have to serve, life takes on a whole new look. Suddenly we can see more clearly the needs of others, and not only how they can serve us. Suddenly we feel confident enough to give and share from the blessings we have been granted. And suddenly our life is imbued with a sense of purpose and mission.

Perhaps the information about a king is actually not all that outdated at all. In fact, it seems precisely tailored for our modern era of narcissistic self-centeredness. Maybe the modern monarchy is all about being king over ourselves?

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