Monday, June 7, 2010


Bridges are part of our everyday life. Engineers, through the science of precise calculations and the study of environmental conditions design a structure to allow crossing over an obstacle. They design and create bridges. We usually walk or drive over them without even noticing their intricate structure. As bridges provide safety and stability to withstand any weather condition, they also provide support for every person and all vehicles that use it. Since ancient times, engineers have designed only 3 types of bridges to withstand the forces of nature. An engineer is one whose knowledge of calculations and the forces of nature are applied to utilize material against the forces of nature for the benefit of all humans. Ingenium is Latin for engineer; which is defined as innate character, talent or nature.

Mussar is the spiritual bridge that provides passage over life's obstacles that are part of everyday life. It guarantees safety and stability to everyone that needs to go from one side to the other; from a challenge to a lesson and from a spiritual test to a spiritual elevation. No matter how rough the waters are thrashing beneath us, the bridge still does its job. Since ancient times, mussar has designed the formula to withstand the forces of life. As the Rambam has derived the 3 step Formula for Change (which we have been studying for the past few weeks) so too, are only 3 types of bridges to withstand the forces of nature. As engineers build the bridges that allow us to cross over physical obstacles; so too, are the Mussar Masters, the engineers that provide us with detailed and ancient wisdom to cross over the spiritual obstacles of life. No matter how rough the test may be... the Mussar Bridge remains motionless and does its job; with safety, strength, stability and support- we are able to cross over and become spiritually elevated when we reach the other side.

In the Talmud (Pesachim 86b) we learn of the situation in which the guest should display good manners and eat whatever a host offers. Except in one situation when the Talmud says you should not listen to the host. What is the Torah telling us in this seemingly contradictory situation? The great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Cordervero, sheds light on this curious statement. He explains that the passage is an allegory. The host represents Hashem and the guest represents a person. Sometimes, a person dedicates himself to repentance and all his attempts seem rejected. It appears that Hashem is saying, "I do not accept your return to Me. Leave My house." This is the time when one should not listen to his host. No matter how difficult your challenge may seem, do not give up ... because Hashem never gives up on you.

There is no such thing as Hashem rejecting us. We simply have to train ourselves to know that Hashem is in our corner and always wants us to come close. We have to re-train ourselves to avoid going into negative thought patterns and false reports of what we might cynically see. Sometimes, it might appear that Hashem doesn't accept us or love us and is asking us to "leave His house."

The spies in last week's parsha (Torah portion) gave negative reports. They saw evil, giants and disease. Except for the two spies that interpreted the same situation in a positive way. What do you see when faced with a challenge? Which spy are you? If negativity comes at you with false assumptions- identify it, label it and slip away from its grasp- train yourself to give a positive reports.

When we cross over our challenges and tests on the Mussar Bridge that has been so intricately and perfectly designed for us by the Mussar Masters, our spiritual engineers- no matter how wild the waters may be- we have to always remember that Hashem is there for us- providing us with everything we need. We are never alone.

AVODAH: Daily Application
Here are some suggestions for daily application to internalize this lesson:
1) When experiencing events that are troubling, feel that Hashem is recognizing you and cross over them on the Mussar Bridge. Go forward and feel the compassion and mercy of Hashem's love surrounding you.
2) Feel the gates of teshuva always open to you, even if at first, they don't appear as if they are.
3) Practice positive reporting- daily and often. Identify, label and slip away from negative reporting.
4) Train yourself to feel Hashem guiding you through your tests so that you can receive the most precious gift of all... feeling His Holy Presence close to you.

Blessings for a week of closeness to Hashem through positive reports.

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