Thursday, January 19, 2012

Know him in all your ways--with all Five senses

The wisest of all men, Shlomo Hamelech (king Solomon) tells us in Mishlei (Proverbs) "Know Him in all your ways and He'll straighten your paths. This amazing idea is really the essence, foundation and first principle of Traditional Jewish Medicine. It essentially serves as the roadmap as to how we need to conduct ourselves and lead our lives. Essentially, what Shlomo Hamelech is saying is that we need to constantly recognize how Ha-Shem is interacting with us, literally on a moment to moment basis. But even more, this relationship should not be misconstrued as one of a stern Father watching, intimidating, or as some might mistakenly assume, even manipulating us. On the contrary, our loving Father is constantly coaxing and encouraging us to protect us from harming ourselves and is directing us toward the path which best enables us to bring harmony, success and real spirituality into our lives. This is the concept of "Hevel Halev" that there is a still, small voice which is constantly broadcasting into the depths of our hearts and minds. But there's a caveat: we have to take the first step: we have to recognize his involvement in EVERY aspect of our life in order for us to tune in, hear His voice and feel His love and sweetness.

So how does one come to the cognizant appreciation of "knowing Ha-Shem" of acquiring this quintessential Knowledge? I believe that the key is to learn to focus all of one's senses to that purpose, so that what we hear, what we see, what we smell, what we feel, what we taste, and even what we say (which at first glance does not seem to be a receptive sense but can actually also be "received" when we make ourselves into "Chariots" of the Shechina (Divine presence), that all of these senses can be pathways to connecting with Ha-Shem.

I think that two examples can be informative: The first one comes from the wonderful weekly Shulweek bulletin sent out by Rabbi Baruch Lederman of San Diego. He shares with us a story of how easily our vision can be distorted and how important it is to "see" through bright lenses, as King David teaches us in Tehilim (Psalms): "The Mitzvos of Ha-Shem are clear, they enlighten the eyes:"

"A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean", she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this."

The husband said, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look."
A second story is told of the great Chasidic Master: the Rebbe Rav Zishe of Anipol. In his younger days before he was known as a Rebbe, Reb Zishe took upon himself the practice of "praven Galus," leaving the comforts of home and wandering from town to town is order to share the pain of the Divine Presence in exile. One day, Reb Zishe was sitting in the Beis Hamedrish (house of study) of a town where he was completely unknown, sitting and learning, when in charges a woman and screams out, "Where's my husband?" The story, it turns out was that this woman was an aguna, a chained woman whose husband had disappeared ten years earlier, and not knowing if he was dead or alive, and without receiving a formal bill of divorce, she was unable to remarry. Reb Zishe looked up from his sefer (holy book), and matter of fact tells her, " You'll find him in the hekdesh (communal poor house)." Well off she went, and lo and behold, there he was! Suddenly, Reb Zishe was the talk of the town. Was he a prophet? Did the holy spirit rest on him? Was he a hidden Tzadik? But Reb Zishe was clearly unimpressed with all the excitement. "Well how then did you know where her husband who had disappeared so many years earlier, how did you know where to find him?" the people asked. "Very simple," answered Reb Zishe. " This morning I was in the kretchmer (coffee house) having breakfast when in the next table over, I overheard one fellow say to his friend, "Did you hear, there's a new guy in town who's staying at the hekdesh." "Well it bothered me all day, why I would hear this useless bit of information," said Reb Zishe. "Because I only hear what I am supposed to hear, and so when the aguna suddenly demanded to know where her husband was, I realized that that was the reason why I heard it!"

For us to develop such a sensitivity seems astounding and out of reach, but for the holy Rebbe Reb Zishe, it was obvious and a matter of fact, but this is the challenge that we should all take upon ourselves. Ha-Shem wants us to hear, see, feel, taste, and smell the pure unpolluted emanations that he is sending our way. But one must never say that they are too far away to feel His presence. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches us that we must never give up, and just having the desire to get close to Ha-Shem, "to return" to the main highway, just to have a real sincere desire is enough to transform us into the status of tzadikim (the totally righteous)!

Never underestimate the power of will. The Torah guarantees us that if we make the effort to know Him in all of our ways, with all of your senses, He will unblock you and open up all of the pathways to enable us to feel the sweetness of His presence. The fact is that we are only limited by our fears and imagination.

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