This week we discussed (amongst other things) the importance of going back to the beginning lessons of the vaad when we started in November. All the lessons of the vaad have building upon the previous ones. As we have been growing and changing the way we think and behave in so many situations, we remembered how important it is to go back to the beginning and refresh ourselves with the old lessons, as we continue to build and add on new ones. Now that you are joining us, I thought it would be a good idea and the right time to explain how we got to this place. You have seen a little bit of what we are doing in our vaad and I must say once again.... how absolutely amazing, unbelievable and effective this process is. This actually works!! It's a lot to cover but just so you know how we got here, this is a very brief summary:
(please add comments or questions for the members or Rabbi Miller to respond to, we really want to hear from you!)
1) visualize the holiness within each one of us. The first vaad was to acknowledge and become aware of the fact that we all have the ability to become holy. We did this by imagining the light that was present in the Holy Temple and to visualize G-d's Holy Presence right in front of us and within us. We stuck with this one for a few weeks. It is the core of learning mussar and it took awhile to really understand it and make it an integral part of our daily mussar practice.
2) learn to become encouraging. This was an exercise on becoming aware of our words and learning how to make a choice to speak with encouragement which will produce a much better outcome to any and all situations.
3) discover our own inner goodness. We all have this ability; if we learn how to tap into it, stay connected to it and always try to let this be the source of our actions, thoughts and speech.
4) we are all created in the likeness of Hashem and that He loves us unconditionally. This was the time to shake off our dust (the physical things we become attached to that interfere with our ability to become more spiritual) and begin feeling Hashem's love for us.
5) the image of Hashem.....This became a favorite of the vaad and is probably our most recurring theme, the one we all try to stay attached to. The avoda (homework) was to write on your mirror (the one you look at most often) the words.... the image of Hashem (tzelem Elokim). This is one of the most powerful avodas of all! It is a wonderful daily reminder that Hashem created us in His Image, He loves us and that we all have the ability to connect to it and behave in a way that reflects our own "inner goodness."
6) the image of Hashem in others. It was difficult enough to connect to and bring to life the concept that we are created in Hashem's image, then along comes the very difficult task of seeing it in others. This became the ultimate challenge of the vaad and it probably continues to be a daily challenge for most of us.
7) the Human Soul. At this point, we ventured into new and exciting territory. It was now time to start distinguishing between the nefesh (the living being) and the living soul (nishama). Our essence is the spiritual holy part. The body is an appendage that is attached to our soul. Our essence is our soul and holiness is our essence. Don't be misled and see only physical. We are holy, in both body and soul.
We worked on this one for 3 meetings due to it's power and importance. It is an extremely effective exercise in becoming aware of the nishama (soul) and to use the nefesh (body) to bring our nishama to achieve higher levels of holiness.
8) Hashem's extra-ordinary love for us. It was time to realize that Hashem loves us, each one of us, as if we are His only child.
9) the secret of sensitivity. This avoda was to be gentle and extra-sensitive in all our inter-personal relationships. This is where the blogging began. See the blog archives for more discussion.
10) learning to Pause and "Purim- the time of spiritual doubt." The lesson to learn is that Hashem is waiting for us all day, what are we doing to connect to Hashem? Are we busy with our daily mundane tasks or are we taking time to reach up and connect to Hashem, who is constantly there waiting to receive us with open arms?
THE SIMCHA OF PURIM:
This brings us up to date and to the lesson of this week's vaad, the simcha (happiness) of Purim. The story of Purim tells that the Jews were in great danger, yet they were saved. A tremendous miracle had occurred. Miracles bring true happiness. Why? Because they are proof that Hashem is present in our lives and wants life. He created in us the highest level of spirituality. We have an amazing, exquisite holiness within each of us. Purim is the time to strengthen our vision of holiness - that Hashem gives us the gift of life. He is creating us every second and every second He continues to breathe Holiness into us. This is truly an amazing path to experience pure happiness. The avoda for the week is to remember at least once a day that Hashem continues to breathe into us a holy soul.....every second of the day. This is an amazing miracle. To see miracles is to experience true happiness.
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