By way of preface:
The "Jewish Spirituality" mailing list is an outgrowth of several conversations in which people told me that they felt "alone" in their quest to develop their relationship with Gd. I knew they weren't alone, just from my own interactions with other people, and so I extended an invitation to the Jewish community of Rhode Island to join in a weekly mailing list exploring issues within their relationship with HaShem.
Many of the messages posted on the list reflect people's personal struggles and sensitivities. As a result, some of the people who post remarks on this list opt to do so anonymously; they send me the e-mail, and I drop their names. The list is "blind cc'd," as well, so that no one knows who else is on the list. Our goal is that the members of this list should draw strength and inspiration from the words of their peers, and thereby continue to develop as Jews.
I am happy to report that I received three responses to our first "catalyst" e-mail. As a matter of fact, I don't see us needing a new "catalyst" post; these messages should be catalytic, themselves.
If you have a thought on one of these messages, please send it to me, and I will post it in next week's e-mail. Please indicate, in your Subject line or in the e-mail, whether your e-mail is a general thought, or a comment on a specific post in this e-mail.
On a separate note, we have added three readers to our list this week. If you know someone who may be interested in this list, please have them e-mail me; it is no trouble for me to add them to the mailing list.
Subject: Being one with G-d
Wow! I think Rav Weinberger is really onto something. Just last night I was
thinking about the fact that everything came from the same SOURCE, and we
call that source "G-d". Thereby anything that comes from the source, is the
source; it is an extention of the source. Just as we are an extention of
the Earth, we came from the Earth, as it says,"And G-d formed man from the
dust of the earth..." Genesis2:7
Anyway, the point is that we all know, in our minds, that everything is
Hashem, that we are ALL just this ONE "Being" that is G-d, BUT we don't
REALIZE it. We don't realize this ONE-ness that we are, we don't FEEL it,
and that is the problem! Without feeling it and bringing it into our
physical reality it's not real, it's just a concept , an idea, a thought.
So, we see that we must bring G-d into our physical bodies in order to feel
the ONE-ness that connects us all; for this body is what we are in, it is
the body that does all the actions in this physical world. Our bodies are
gifts from G-d, they are what seperates us from angels, therefor we must
cherish them, work with them, transform them, and connect them with the
ONE-ness of the ever-pervadeing essence of G-d.
But why us? The Jews play a special role in the un-concealement or the
revealment of G-d's presence and imminence. We have been "chosen" or have
chosen ourseleves to take on the responsability of connecting with the
ONE-ness of existence, filling ourselves with it , and then SPREADING it to
everyone else. But you must FEEL the ONE-ness in order to spread it. And
that is what we must work on, FEELING, and thereby REALIZING, the ONE-ness
of G-d's pressence and cultivating the JOY, LOVE, HAPPINESS, and AMAZEMENT
OF LIFE, that comes out from that "REALization of ONE".
May we all come to be that shining light of G-d unto ourselves, eachother
and unto all the other nations.
Subject: Thoughts on Spirituality
By: Rafi Minkin
Hashem wants us to succeed and therefore we merit according to our effort.
Our relationship to Hashem is unique and individual. The effort is the
positive direction that results from the tension
1) in our physical or animalistic needs,
2) in our soul or spiritual needs, and
3) between the two.
Spirituality is an emotion a feeling. The doing and thinking of
commandments produces spirituality. Doing impacts on feelings to a much
greater extent than thinking and the both together have the greatest impact.
The highest level of spirituality is with the greatest tension in the (doing
and thinking) of commandments.
Subject: Maintaining Spirituality
By: Elaine Saklad
I recognize this problem in my own life - empty prayers, performing the
details of the mitzvos, without necessarily feeling much. I can go along
like this for a while, and then I get a vague emptiness, a feeling that
there's something missing. When this feeling hits, I try to learn
something that will "touch my soul" - most often, it's something by Rav
Soloveitchik - either a book or tape. The other thing I do is to listen to
music or sing - usually something from the siddur, something
meaningful. It gets me feeling more connected. Once I get going, it's a
little easier to keep the connectedness going. For a while, anyway.
I particularly have difficulty on Shabbos and yomtov (not every Shabbos and
yomtov, thank G-d!) I've attributed the feeling of "something missing" to
being responsible for a family - shopping, cooking, food preparation,
etc. The details keep me very busy and I don't get to go to shul or be as
involved in spiritual pursuits as much as I'd like. Some people can feel
spiritual by preparing meals and taking care of a family - I find that I
need to build up my spirituality first, so that I can perform these tasks
in a happy "Shabbos-dik" (or "Yomtov-dik") way. When I think about
these needs in advance, I try to learn, doven, etc. beforehand, so that
I'll be ready. It's difficult to do this, on top of the other things that
I'm looking forward to hearing other people's thoughts on this topic, and
any ideas that people have come up with. I'm very excited about this
forum, and hope that we can grow together. Thanks!
Subject: Spiritual Sweaters
By: Mordechai Torczyner
This past week, I was asked the following question: If Judaism recognizes that spirituality, and approaching Gd, is the purpose of the Mitzvos, then why should a person do the Mitzvos if he does not feel that feeling of approaching Gd?
This (somewhat odd) comparison was one part of my answer:
How would you find the spirituality in the act of putting on a sweater?
My friend's response was based entirely on knowledge of what a sweater is, and what it does. It dealt with fibers, and feelings of cold and warmth, and similar points.
This wasn't what I wanted to know, though. I wanted to know how one would _go about trying to find_ the spirituality in it. The answer, to my mind, is by experimentation. Put the sweater on. Feel it; examine it. Wear it. See how it affects you, see how it changes you.
The same, to me, is true for Mitzvos. Gd has given us Mitzvos, and we are supposed to come close to HaShem via these Mitzvos. A person who waits to "feel spiritual" before practicing the Mitzvah will not be able to learn the spirituality of the Mitzvah, any more than a person who has never worn a sweater will be able to learn the spirituality of the sweater. A person has to try it out, try it on, learn about it, work with it - and that is a way in which he can find HaShem in the Mitzvah.
Have a good Shabbos,
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