Thursday, May 7, 2009

Discovering our Hidden Treasure

Now that we (the weekly vaad members and our followers) have recognized that there lies a potential for greatness hidden deep within us, our daily challenge is to connect to and stay focused on that good place within our souls. We catch a glimpses of it at various times in our life. Recognizing that there is a greater potential within each and every one of us inspires us to improve our conduct.  As we take a moment to reflect on how we might think, speak and act towards others, we awaken our inner goodness. There is place of  "holiness, goodness and joy" that lies dormant waiting to be revealed and calling for us to release it and to connect to the essence of who we truly are. Once we get connected, it's easier to stay connected. Then, when those challenges and pressures come that try to sway us from our path of good, we will stay balanced. We have will have a solid foundation that won't easily be rocked. 
Each person is a house with a buried treasure. The group work in the vaad helps us access the spiritual jewels that lie buried within us. Picture this beauty within you. A treasure chest of  shining, glistening gems waiting to be discovered.
Rabbi Miller tells the story of Hillel, a great Talmudic sage. Hillel finished teaching and put on his coat. A student said to him, "where are you going"? He answered, "I am going to do a very important mitzvah".  "What's so special about this mitzvah", inquires the student.  Hillel answers, "I am going to the bath house to cleanse myself".  The student continued, "what's so special about that"? In those days, every country had a King. In public places, there was a statue of the King. One royal servant had the job of keeping the statue clean and polished.  It was a job of great honor.  Hillel answered, "If that's true of a statue, how much more important is it for a man," to cleanse our body and give it dignity and honor. 
We are walking representatives  of G-d in this world. We emanate dignity on a physical and spiritual level. As we go through our day we are aware that that our purpose is to honor HaShem!

Wisdom through the text (Pirkei Avos 3:18)
Rabbi Zundel said something beautiful and profound that still relates to our generation. When people don't appreciate you and recognize your goodness, go outside and look at the stars. The stars look like a pin-point of light. They appear as little specks, so far away. The perspective is that they seem small. Yet, in reality, they are gigantic way beyond our comprehension. If others look at us as small, they are far away from understanding us. Someone else's perspective of us is just that.... the way they perceive us. The reality is our greatness. HaShem sees our potential. We have to look at ourselves through HaShem's eyes. 
What exactly does that mean? We are all created in the image of HaShem. We possess His Likeness. His attributes are the same as ours. His traits, our traits. His Goodness, our goodness. The Torah states, "And you shall walk in His ways." The Talmud explains, "Just as He is merciful, so shall you be merciful. Just as He is kind, so shall you be kind." (Shabbos 133). In order for us to realize our potential, we must emulate HaShem.  It is the mussar key to recognizing our true worth. The belief that HaShem loves us and reveals to us that we are created in His Likeness empowers us with the awareness of our true capabilities. Our potential.
Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, the exalted radiance of Hashem shines on you, and you, in turn,  reflect the Divine light to the world.

Daily Practice is the key to unlocking ourselves
The daily mussar practice to keeps us focused on journeying towards our inner goodness, our souls, the essence of who we truly are. We have many challenges that pull us away from feeling "our goodness." We are challenged by our jobs, our families, our responsibilities and anything else that creates a pressure or triggers us to fall away from "goodness." Daily study of mussar teachings, sharing mussar thoughts with others, reading and practicing the homework for the week, are all ways to strengthen our awarenss of our goodness. 
This is communication with the subconscious. The process of making repetitive impressions through our actions, thoughts and speech which slowly (without us knowing) deepen and then, suddenly... the transformation happens. After practicing the mussar method when you are in a difficult situation, you suddenly realize that you remembered "to pause."  The "pause" is the precious mussar gift given to us so that we can take the time to not respond when triggered by others' words, actions or choices that cause us to feel hurt, harm or fear. After the pause, we can slowly ease away from the negative thoughts and feelings. After we ease away from negativity, we can then, and only then (because dealing with situations while angry or hurt can never result in a positive outcome) re-visit the situation and communicate our thoughts with calm, wisdom and ease as we strive towards a peaceful resolution. When re-visiting a situation, it is always important to be considerate of the other person's timing. Check and make sure timing for resolving conflicts is right for everyone involved. If it involves shalom bayis (peace in the home) make sure the husband has been fed. If it involves conflicts in friendships, bringing a gift always shows gentle, loving-kindness to you (the one harmed) and those that have harmed you. Sounds tough? It may be right now, but it can definitely become do-able!

Last week's avodah was to focus on the good that others see in us. These traits are gifts from Hashem. When we start to focus on our good traits, we can start to see more of the good hiding deep within ourselves, as well as in others. And we also have an opportunity to see the Goodness in Hashem and His traits as they are also our traits.  One of the exercises from the vaad was to recognize the Goodness of Hashem. The most beautiful traits were noticed. Forgiving, loving everyone, non-judgmental, merciful, kind, always available to us, joy, patient, compassionate, giving, empathic, faithful and Holy. How easy it was for us to see them. How often we don't stop to appreciate them.  May we go through each day focusing on these beautiful traits of goodness in G-d, in ourselves and in others.
There is a morning prayer that a Jew recites upon awakening to a new day. Mode Ani L'fnecha. It states that G-d gives us a new day. That He restores our soul to us, that He has faith in us and that He has abundant compassion for us. He gives us this day so that we can experience the joy of life. It is our task to do so. It is there for us for that purpose. There is no need to spend the day in misery and anguish. It is a precious gift, just for us.... everyday.
The prayer of the Shema also states that, "you shall love G-d with all of your soul." The Hebrew word for soul is the same as the word for breath. You shall love G-d with all of your breath. Every breath you take is a precious gift. We have to become aware of and continue to grow in our appreciation and gratitude for every breath we take. Every day the sun rises, as it has for the past 5769 years. It is proof of G-d's commitment to us. He provides us with the light and warmth of the sun. We have to learn how to bask in the pleasure,  joy and warmth of His light.

All the best towards a beautiful week filled with positive vision and spiritual joy!

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