Judaism: Baale Teshuva
Returnees to a Jewish Way of Life
Have you thought about returning to your Jewish roots? This is an ideal time to investigate your heritage!
We live in exceptional times, and yet, if we are not in Israel, our daily life, Baruch Hashem, may be continuing in a fairly normal manner. We are aware of the circumstances affecting others in safety, finances and more, but we are busy with toast, carpools and mundane matters.
Something aches in us. Yet it is beyond what our individual sphere of influence seems to affect. NOT SO! Each Jewish person has an ability to affect our world in a cosmic way, simply by the choices you make in your daily life, how you treat people, how you conduct your business matters, and more.
If you are observant, perhaps you are doing your mitzvahs and davening with extra kavanna. Perhaps you have taken on new mitzvahs or avodas to help the situation. Or, perhaps it is too frightening for you to truly consider and, in order to remain calm and cope with your day, you have to shut it out. Individual responses are huge.
If you are not observant, perhaps you are wondering more about what might happen to you because you are Jewish. Perhaps you are concerned about the fate of those who died in Europe during World War II. Perhaps the suffering in the world is waking you up to the spiritual reality that there is in this world, and to the need for good to triumph over evil. Perhaps you need a personal way to stave off negativity and stay centered.
Whether observant or not, a path of drawing closer to Hashem is the path to find, and it is an infinite path.
The designated activities to walk the path are the mitzvahs which are the Will of Hashem. To be close with someone means to be like someone. To want to please someone means to do that person’s will. The only way we can know with our own minds the will of Hashem is to learn them from the Torah that He gave us. Through our own limited minds, there would be no way to verify what we believe is moral or ethical or the will of Hashem. The reason is that Hashem created not only this world but four worlds – all the heavenly spheres and spiritual beings that exist in other worlds. As the Creator, He made us in such a way as to exist in this world and gave us the Torah so that we would know that life is important and that there are instructions to life. Every life matters.
The specific tools that we use to expand our active involvement in mitzvahs to coming closer to Hashem are tools that will help us cling to Hashem while doing the mitzvahs. It is the clinging to Hashem that brings us closer to Hashem while we do the mitzvahs. Doing the mitzvahs without clinging to Hashem’s will does not build the same relationship with Hashem
To cling to Hashem, some tools are 1. the six constant mitzvahs.2.
Miriam Adahan's website - spiritual toolbox
3. Sara Yocheved Rigler’s Battle Plans – tools to fight the Yetzer Hara
Battle Plans by Sara Yocheved Rigler
Why do the will of Hashem? Why draw closer?Before answering that, there is something of urgent importance to know.
Hashem loves us
Mrs. Rigler speaks in her lectures about the greatest crises in the Jewish world being that we may have Yiras Shemayim (fear of Hashem) but we may not necessarily know that Hashem loves us. She suggests that we begin communicating, not just in prayer, but in conversations with Hashem all day long while we are doing things AND that we take 5 minutes of quiet time to speak out-loud to Hashem every day. Hashem wants to have a personal, intimate relationship with every one of us. Do we feel that we have a loving relationship with Hashem? We may love Hashem, but do we feel that Hashem loves us?
Gratitude is important here. Count your blessings. Answer the feeling of lack with the whole list of what you do have.
Hashgacha pratis stories are important. Notice His Hand.
Form an image: Mrs. Rigler’s book Battle Plans describes Reb Nachman’s description of the formation of the world. Hashem made darkness on the second day, before there was a live being in the world. Why did He need the darkness? He concealed some of His light in order for there to be apparent something that was not recognizable as Hashem. Hashem is everywhere at all times, including in our world. He concealed Himself with darkness so that this world could appear to us. Without darkness, there would only be Hashem. In order for us to have free will, He had to be concealed. Yet, He is here and everywhere too. What this means is that we are totally contained within Hashem. His midda of rachamim is the same as the word for womb. We are completely safe in this world from anything that is not good, even though to us it may not look like good.
What we see is suffering. So many people ask about this – all the suffering in the world in relation to a loving Almighty Being. The Gemara sheds light on this.
Gemara Sanhedrin Chapter 11 Cheilek 97b R’Eliezer says “If the Jewish people repent, they will be redeemed. And if not, they will not be Redeemed. R’Yehoshua sad to R’Eliezer: If they do not repent, they will not be redemmed? Rather the Holy One, Blessed is He, will appoint a King over them whose decrees will be as harsh as those of Haman – and the Jewish people will repent. And in this way [Hashem} will bring them back to the right path”
Faced with no other option, the people will come to realize that their only hope lies with their Father in Heaven an that they must repent to merit His salvation. [This is indeed what happened in the case of Haman ]
The following difficulty must be addressed: from this statement of R’Yehoshua it is evident that even he agrees that repentance is a prerequisite for redemption. Yet the Gemara draws a parallel between R’Yehoshua’s view an that of Shmuel, who maintains that redemption can occur even without repentance.
Maharsha resolves this difficulty by asserting that even according to Shmuel some measure of repentance is required. Shmuel’s words (it is enough for the mourner etc.”) mean that it is sufficient of the Jewish people to repent as a result of their mourning – i.e. in order to escape a king’s harsh decrees. Hashem can “force” this type of repentance by creating conditions n which the people will realize that they have no other option. It is possible therefore for Hashem to engineer such repentance at a given date as part of a preordained redemptive process. This is in contrast ot the opinion of Rav and Reliezer which maintains that since the necessary repentance must be self-motivated, Hashem cannot “force” it to occur at a pre-ordained date (Maharsha). [Rashi does not necessarily disagree with Maharsha’s approach. Although Rashi wrote that according to Shmuel the people will be redeemed even without repentance, he possibly means that if the people have not yet repented of their own accord, Hashem will set the redemptive process – including “forced” repentance – into motion].
Footnote 54. Malachi 3:7 first the people must turn to Hashem in repentance. Then Hashem will turn to them and redeem them…
Hashem loves us – we are His to have rachamim on. Let us feel His love, that we know He loves us and that we speak to Him and desire to please Him, to serve Him. This brings about humility, a desirable and necessary midda.
Gemara Sanhedrin: Zeiri said in the name of R’Chanina: The son of David will not come until the arrogant are eliminated from Israel, as it is stated: For then I will remove from your midst those who delight in your arrogance, and it is written: I will leave in your midst a humble and forbearing people, and they will take refuge in the Name of Hashem.
The Gemara in Sotah (5a) teaches that arrogance pushes the Shehina away. Therefore, the Shechinah will return to the Jewish people only when arrogant people are no longer among them (Iyun Yaakov; see Maharsha).
Rav Pappa said: If the arrogant disappear the amgushei will disappear. If the judges disappear, the gazirpatei will disappear. The scriptural allusions to these teachings: If the arrogant disappear, the amgushe will disappear as it is written: I will clean away your dross as though with soap, and I will remove all your tin. If the judges disappear, the gazirpatei will disappear, as it is written: Hashem has removed your judgements; He has turned away your enemy.
The Gemara in Shabbos (75@) cites a dispute as to whether the amgushei were sorcerers or fanatical idol worshipers (Rashi). [Some relate the amgushe to the magi – a priestly caste in ancient Persia]. Our translation of Yiherai as arrogant people follow Rashi. According to Yad Ramah and Maharsha, however, the reference is to hypocrites – wicked Jews who portray themselves as G-d fearing. Yad Ramah explains that it was at the request of these hypocrites, who would not attack other Jews openly, that the amgushei would engage in their machinations against the Jews. Hence, if these Jewish hypocrites would be eliminated, the attacks of the amgushe would cease.Gazirpatei are idolatrous judges who used physical force against the Jews (Rashi). If there will be no corrupt Jewish judges, there will be no hostile gentile judges. This is a manifestation of measure for measure – a deed is rewarded or punished in a manner that resembles and is commensurate with it (Maharsha; cf Yad Ramah)
When we let Him know that we are in touch with the spiritual reality of the world, we bring ourselves to the opening to an infinite path of approaching Him. By making our “me” smaller, we make room for our eternal “me”, our Divine “me”, our devekus. When we love others from this eternal “me” we are also loving Hashem and we are small and beloved to Hashem. We learn how to love others from Hashem.
To approach Him, we emulate His middos. In Tomer Devorah, each of His middos and how it manifests towards us is explained, followed by how WE can emulate that same midda when dealing with other people.
When we choose to emulate His middos, we bring that light into the world. The idea of chosenness is that at the end of days, when mankind has fallen, the nations of the world will see the Jews behaving with kindess and more and they will see Hashem. It is incumbent upon us to do this. May Hashem rejoice in His works!
We are ambulant but not detached
Hashem put our eternal neshamas into bodies in order to be able move in a world of action. In this world we can run – we are here to fix our middos. We are all here to fix and mend things. If we had nothing to fix and mend, we would not be in this world. Therefore, we are here in the world of action to make repairs to our middos and our spiritual selves, and we do this through earning merit in this world of action, where for giving a few pennies of charity we may earn eternity. We live in a world of intentions.
Mrs. Heller in her shiurim says that before Hashem created the world, He created the Torah. But before Hashem wrote the Torah, He created the soul of the Jewish people. Mrs. Heller says that the Torah was created solely so that the Jewish people would be able to find their way in this world to Hashem. Mrs. Rigler, in discussing the Ramchal’s teachings, indicates that the path to devekus is to cling to Hashem when doing mitzvahs. Mrs. Rigler emphasizes that we are to cling to Hashem through the mitzvahs. The mitzvahs themselves are one thing – the active part is the clinging. Clinging involves a relationship – a loving relationship – one where we desire life, where we desire to please Hashem and one where we recognize that our goals are for eternity and not just for this world. Mrs. Rigler encourages us to have spiritual goals, that pursuit of other goals is pursuit of “chandeliers on the Titanic.”
We are on a narrow bridge, do not be afraid. When we serve Hashem, when we feel His love and return it, we will be provided for on an eternal basis, even though our bodies perish, chas v’chalilah. There is One Hashem and two worlds. Do not be afraid. Have the intention all day long of serving Hashem, expressing gratitude, noticing.
What happens when we are afraid? Whenever we experience lack of any kind we are under the attack of the yetzer hara, who tries to make us believe that there is Hashem and His ways but under these circumstances, we have to take action and the YH suggests a whole host of ideas that make logical sense but that break our connection and bitachon.
In a moment of fear or anger, the yetzer hara grabs our consciousness away from Shema Yisroel Hashem Echad and holds up a mirror to our face, showing us what we are lacking and what our image is and he keeps us so “ME-smerized,” that Hashem becomes concealed in our world. When we realize that we are “ME-smerized”, we must also realize that we have another identity at the same time, one that continues to be attached, and one that is eternal, and one that if we can tap into it will be far better equipped to provide us with a good outcome. How do we maneuver ourselves from being “ME-smerized” back toward that quiet voice beckoning to us from the light within?
Six constant mitzvahs are an active tool we can use to cling to Hashem when we are in distress.
Once calmed, Yud gimel middos (see Tomer Devorah) guide us to the will of Hashem regarding actions toward another Jew. And loving our fellow Jew brings Jewish Unity. And Jewish Unity brings protection for all of the Jewish people.
So, if you have been considering your Jewish heritage, today is a GREAT time to begin coming closer.
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