Ah! How many wonderful opportunities in life we lose for fear of failing.
It’s not uncommon for people to hesitate with intense thoughts and worry about ideas and projects that seem worthwhile to do but they can’t seem to get on with them. Should I do it, how shall I do it? Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it won’t be received well. But in truth, what’s really getting in the way is the perception that whatever one undertakes MUST succeed and succeed right away.
It’s called Perfectionism.
Instead, let’s imagine you’re standing on a barren plot of ground and someone tells you that earlier on he planted a few seeds in various places but he no longer knows where they are, but he asks you to please water the ground for otherwise they won’t grow. You pick up the hose and as you’re about to release the spray, you hesitate, not knowing where to spray, for you don’t want to spray the water on an area that it’ll go to waste. You also don’t want to look like a fool for spraying water in a completely useless direction.
Of course anyone would be a fool for even thinking this way. What, instead, should you do? You should spray the entire area knowing that while much water will not have any effect, but some of it will DEFINITELY bring success.
The same for our pursuits in life. We don’t always know where the seeds of success lie. But we have in our hands the “hose” of ideas and actions. Turn that hose on and spray your efforts onto anything that seems reasonable and logical. True, some efforts may fail but some will definitely succeed. Why? Because HaShem has planted seeds somewhere there. He just wants you to make the first effort and then He’ll make them grow.
Once upon a time there was a wise and benevolent king who, out of a deep love of his subjects, wanted to give them the best opportunity imaginable to acquire the very traits that he himself possessed, for in the embodying of those traits lay the greatest sense of pleasure that anyone could possibly experience.
One subject was called to the king’s chamber.
The king spoke: My dear child, I am sending you to a far off place where I want you to be my emissary to emulate everything you know about me and my traits - to teach the people there about truth and morality, to act benevolently to all, to be patient, to withstand hurt and discomfort without resentment or anger, to pursue love, peace and harmony, to behave in ways that are only holy...to act in ways you know that I would act.
Now, I need to brace you. The mission is not as simple as it sounds, for the environment there will be difficult and the opportunities to be overpowered by the hard experiences you’ll encounter will be many. Moreover where you are going is also filled with what will seem like exciting and tantalizing delights that will easily seduce you. In fact, it’s specifically such an environment that I want you to be in, my child, because they are precisely what will give you the optimal opportunity to actualize the very traits you’re being sent to develop. For remember that the goal is to develop within yourself the embodiment of all the good that you know of me, and so the best way for you to achieve that is by being challenged by the things I mentioned so that you exert yourself to acquire the good instead of me simply gifting it to you.
But don’t be faint-hearted my dear child. I love you and you must always remember that. Therefore, I will be sending you with a very special set of tools to always hold on to. They will constantly remind you of me and the mission for which you’ve been sent and in addition they will help you to feel my presence that will be hovering over you at all times. Those tools are a series of daily activities, which are designed to always remind you of me. In addition, I’ll be providing you with two extra special tools. One will be the opportunity to talk to me every day, so that while I will not be answering you directly, it will be your way of keeping the connection to me alive. You’ll receive a unique book for this purpose that contains a special text written by my wise men for you to use alongside your own spontaneous expressions depending upon what you may be experiencing at any time.
The second tool will be my way of secretly talking to you and “feeding” you more and more knowledge with which to navigate the mission. A special set of books that I, personally, together with my wise men, have written will be given to you for that purpose too. Study them daily - for the instructions contained within as well as for the sense of connection to me, they will afford.
Finally, my dear child, I send you off with three pieces of advice:
Be successful. I will be with you all the way. I love you.
A few months ago I had to take my car to a different mechanic than I usually got to for an inspection. Someone had recommended him because of his price and convenient location. Stepping into his waiting room, I was struck by the untidiness, loud TV playing and the "rough" clientele who were coming and going; it was located in a "lower class" neighborhood. As I was waiting for the car to be inspected I noticed a book on a table about mindfulness. I thought it unusual that such a title should be found in such a "non-mindful" location. I assumed someone had left it there, but when the proprietor came back in - also a man a bit disheveled and "rough and ready" - I asked him about it. He proceeded to tell me that the book actually belonged to him because he practices mindfulness and meditation. He then produced from behind the counter several more books like that and went on to tell me about how he devotes his life to self development and spirituality!
Wow, what a lesson unto itself that was. Never judge a book by its cover !
But it was the following idea that he shared with me that had the biggest impact. He said that from his learning and experience, he has found that those who dwell and ruminate on the past tend toward depression, those who preoccupy themselves with tomorrow toward anxiety but those who are present with today are the happiest and calmest. Such a simple but true insight. How many lost opportunities we lose in the present moment because we're not even there!
That's what an unsuspecting car mechanic taught me. Be present, enjoy and savor every present experience.
The question is, however, is there any place for thinking about the past or future? After all how can we learn or be inspired from what has taken place and how can we prepare for the future?
The answer is to create emotional space for such thinking. By emotional space, I mean, to decide when I can think productively about the past or future in a manner that stimulates positive motivation and not sadness or anxiety. It means choosing deliberately and mindfully to reflect upon the past to gain inspiration and to appreciate or to project forward into the future to plan and to dream.
So don't be deceived by every person you meet who seems to have mastered the art of staying in the present moment, for sometimes it's actually a survival tactic. It's the safest place to be without having to confront ones guilt over the past and feeling of no accomplishment or it's fear and lack of confidence in the future that nothing good will happen.
So, actually mindfulness has its role in the present, past and future. Each time zone needs to be filled with appreciation, hope and ambition.
The name of Hashem is an anagram of "He was - He is - He will be. “It is our responsibility to emulate His middos (attributes) , we also must mindfully and deliberately be present in the past present and future to become enriched and grow from each zone we choose to be in.
Based upon the insights of R’ Gedalya Schorr, the Chassam Sofer and the Chazon Ish
While two events are very well known as having occurred on Lag BaOmer, there is one that is less well known. The well-known ones are the cessation of the deaths of the students of Rebbe Akiva, and the death of R’ Shimon bar Yochai. The less known event is the initial descending of the “mon” in the desert that began on Lag BaOmer. Until the 15th of Iyar the Bnei Yisroel subsisted on the bread and matzos they brought out from Mitzrayim and when the supply ran out, three days then passed until the mon began to fall.
Chazal say that the Torah was only given to the Ochlei Mon. What does this mean?
While mon provided physical nourishment, it was also a form of purification for the body to prepare the Jewish People for kabalas HaTorah. But why would it begin to fall specifically on Lag BaOmer?
The answer lies in the fact that the days between Pesach and Shavuos are days of hachana to develop ourselves emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually for the acceptance of the Torah. The seforim teach us that this period is appropriately divided into three segments, each dedicated to a unique aspect of that self-development and corresponds to the Mishna in Pirkei Avos that the world stands upon Torah, avodah and chessed. The first two segments of the sefira period are a focus on chessed and avodah while the last one as we approach Sinai, on Torah.
Fifty days divided by three equals 331/3 and so Lag BaOmer marks the start of the third pillar of a more intensive dedication to learning of and submission to the Torah. Therefore the mon began to descend on Lag b’Omer as the final leg of the journey to kabbalas haTorah begins – so that not only have our actions (chessed and avodah) become refined but our physical bodies too begin the process of their refinement by absorbing only mon.
The Chazon Ish says in sefer Emuna vBitachon that the root midda from which all good middos flow is the resolution to not allow one’s behavior to be neglected to “gravity”. When we let go of self-awareness and self-hashgocha, there’s no telling what we may do or say. In other words when the fundamental drive inside of us is to do good and that engine is always running, then we are assured of not falling into the grips of negative behaviors. But where does drive and energy emanate from? They come from the heart for when the heart is “pumpling” there’s drive and motivation but when it’s “dead, we’re also “dead”.
Motivation is the subject of much thought and discussion as to how to promote it but Chazal teach us that the most effective means to stimulate motivation and an energized heart is through action. It may not feel so exciting at first but through the principle of “fake it till you make it” a person can reach an emotional attachment to the behavior he’s trying to develop with his heart also being “in it”.
The Chazon Ish, however, taught us that our goal is to develop a good heart for that is where the energy of always doing good will flow. Having a heart and enthusiasm unto themselves will not do “the trick”. All too often we witness people full of vigor and passion devoted to all sorts of causes which can appear on the surface as altruistic and an expression of chessed and avodah but because they are not founded upon the 3rd pillar - of Torah, in reality, they are not.
For, we’re not merely seeking heart but we’re seeking a good heart, one that is informed and driven by the ultimate good of Torah.
Returning to Lag BaOmer.
The first two segments of sefira - the first 32 days - correspond to chessed and avodah which we pointed out helps to develop heart. The gematria of heart is 32! But the last segment consists of 18 days and the gematria of Tov is 18! Hence the final stage of preparation is to refine the heart to be a good heart solidly founded upon the objective truth of Torah.
May we all merit to develop and sustain a Lev Tov.
Tiknon LLC was under substantial stress. Sales were down, company moral was at an all-time low, and on top off of everything, a large number of employees were found to be engaging in illegal and unethical conduct.
The owner, Godfrey Wold was forced to make the very difficult decision of firing the majority of his staff and to hire a new workforce in an attempt to “reboot” his company for a better more successful future. There were, however, four employees that he did retain: Shawn, Hal and Jeff Lemeck - three brothers - and their father Noel. They had always proven to be honest and hard-working men and it was with them that he would rebuild his business.
The first year was a difficult one. Rebuilding a collapsed company was exhausting for them all. Working into the nights and over the weekends, they had little personal time to spend with their families, but what could they do? This was the source of their livelihood and if they didn’t dedicate themselves to the task, they’d also be left with nothing.
Finally, the year was up, and things began to settle down, sales was slowly picking up, the moral was better and Tinon LLC was once again strong. Mr. Wold was happy.
Reflecting on all that had transpired over the last several years and how the company of his dreams had faltered because of the improprieties and foibles of his employees, and realizing that the potential for a repeat was always possible, he decided to employ a different strategy in the event of such a fateful outcome. Not regretting what he did the first time - for the memory of such a massive dissolution of the company would always serve as a reminder of what ought to happen when things go so awry. However, now he wanted the company to become even better than ever before. His plan was to, in a sense, create a collaborative partnership with his employees, empowering them with the responsibility of looking out for each other. This meant not only to help and support coworkers in their tasks but also to point out their faults in a constructive team-like manner. Mr. Wold was a smart man and he understood that the surest way to inspire people was to see the potential in others. When you see the good and the potential in another human being you don’t give up on them and even if they’re acting in ways that are wrong and distasteful, the sight of their intrinsic good can help us to help them. With this simple insight, Mr. Wold called in his IT team and instructed them to develop a software that could allow Mr. Wold, as the CEO, to override the display on every monitor, Smartphone and IPad of every employee at any point when he would perceive that the company may be tottering from its level of integrity. He instructed them that the image of a rainbow should suddenly appear on their screens to remind them that either they or their fellow employees are not up to par and everyone must commit themselves to focus on - similar to a rainbow - the panoply of colors and qualities of each other to encourage a better work ethic among themselves and greater dedication to the company. Underneath the rainbow, the following words were to also appear:
My Dear Employee,
It has come to my attention that some of you are not behaving with the integrity and honesty that I expect. Rather than fire you I send you the message of the rainbow. Pay attention to the plethora of qualities and virtues that you and your co-workers all possess. Focus on them in yourself and especially others and feel a sense of responsibility toward each other. Do not write anyone off. Believe in them like I believe in you and help each other make this company great.
CEO, Tiknon Enterprises
In the same way that Godfrey Wold acted after the restructuring of Tiknon Enterprises starting again with Shawn, Hal, Jeff and Noel Lemeck, so did the G-d of the World do with His Tikun Olam mission starting again with Shem, Ham, Yefes and Noach, son of Lemech, and by using the rainbow as a reminder that we must always see the potential in others to help make the world a better place.
* Based on Midrash Rabba 35:2 and R’ Meir Shapiro, the Lubliner Rav, that Noach and R’Yehoshua ben Levi at a later time, were faulted for not seeing the potential in those who sinned and appeared beyond teshuva. The rainbow was shown to them to teach that not only does everyone possess a colorful array of potentials but that also those potentials sometimes only emerge after a stormy day of darkness.
In the intricate tapestry of human relationships, the art of understanding, validation, empathy, and solutionizing plays a pivotal role in fostering deep connections. Too often, the rush to unravel a partner's problems preemptively can strain the fabric of a relationship. The key lies in the delicate sequence of steps—understanding, validation, empathy—before venturing into the realm of solutionizing.
Understanding, the foundational step in this dance of emotional connection, requires more than a cursory glance at a partner's struggles. It demands a committed effort from one partner, let's call them A, to delve into the intricate details and nuances of the challenges faced by the other, partner B. This process is not merely about comprehension; it's an active engagement with B's narrative, seeking to unravel the layers that compose their emotional landscape.
Following understanding, validation emerges as the linchpin of emotional resonance. A, having comprehended B's struggles, now strives to validate B's feelings. It's an acknowledgment that transcends mere intellectual recognition, reaching into the emotional core of B's experience. Validation tells B that their emotions are legitimate and worthy of consideration. This step creates a bridge between A and B, fostering an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
Empathy, the soulful counterpart to validation, is the catalyst that propels the connection to a deeper, more emotive level. A steps into B's emotional shoes, experiencing their struggles not just cognitively but viscerally. This emotional resonance goes beyond understanding and validation, forging a profound connection that transcends words. A becomes a supportive presence, a compassionate witness to B's journey, creating a sanctuary of understanding and acceptance.
Only after this emotional groundwork has been meticulously laid does the stage become conducive to solutionizing. At this point, B feels seen, heard, and supported, creating a space where the prospect of change is not an imposition but a collaborative endeavor. A, armed with insights garnered from understanding, validation, and empathy, can now propose ideas for change and solutions with a higher likelihood of acceptance.
In conclusion, relationships are a delicate dance of emotions, and the sequence of understanding, validation, and empathy precedes the act of solutionizing. Rushing into solutions without laying the emotional groundwork risks disconnect rather than fostering growth. By embracing the journey of understanding, validating, and empathizing, partners can cultivate a deep, resilient bond that forms the bedrock for transformative change within the relationship.
Based on Orchos Tzadikim, Gate of Joy, 3rd Domain of Trust
A fundamental concept in Jewish outlook is the Hishtadlus-Bitachon Principle.
Hishtadlus means PERSONAL EFFORT like going to work, studying or taking care of one’s health. It’s what we all do to make a living, become successful and stay well.
Bitachon, on the other hand means RELIANCE ON GOD that our efforts will be fruitful.
The rabbis teach that hishtadlus and bitachon must go hand in hand. To have one without the other is not necessarily a prescription for success.
A very important insight into the bitachon-hishtadlus principle is that even when we are on the hishtadlus track, we have to remember that it’s not the hishtadlus technique itself that is the cause for success but rather the accompanying bitachon. HOWEVER: this is only on condition that we are making a hishtadlus that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it does need to be reasonable.
This a very comforting thought. For no longer do I have to feel anxious that my work, studies or healthcare are utilizing perfect methods. For as long as I’m making a reasonable logical effort plus I have trust in God, then I can look forward to success.
You can look at it like a partnership. Your contribution to the partnership is REASONABLE EFFORT while His contribution to the partnership is MAKING IT HAPPEN.
The benefit of this approach is that aside from the success itself, I have also brought God into my life along the way instead of being all alone.
It’s a little like a child riding a horse with his father sitting behind him holding on to the reigns too. While the child is putting out his good effort to ride it straight and safely, it’s really his father who is guaranteeing the secure and successful ride.
So, as you climb the horse of life, be sure to ride it wisely but also allow God to climb on too and He will ensure you’ll reach your destination safe and sound.
Based on Michtav M’Eliyahu vol 1 p. 195-203
The source for man’s requirement to engage in hishtadlus is the cheit of Odom HaRishon with the eitz hadas. Man chose to draw himself closer to an experience of rah/concealment of G-d’s presence in order to increase the kiddush Hashem in choosing good despite the greater experience of rah. The consequence of this act was that he must now be committed to that process of always trying to see G-d in what looks like a natural universe; this is called hishtadlus. The amount of hishtadlus a person is required to engage in depends on how successfully it can facilitate his seeing G-d’s hand in the process. This depends upon where a person is holding in his belief about miracle and nature at the outset, as the following table illustrates.
NOTE: the word “miracle” can refer to either an aberration of nature or a show of hashgocha pratis
The 10 Commandments are one of the most significant codes for social justice the world has ever known. Revered by people of many cultures and religions, the succinctness of its 10-point formula for practical morality and justice, makes it easy to remember and highly relevant. Moreover, for Jews specifically, Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882-942CE), explains that the 10 Commandments also serve as a “roadmap” to all of the 613 commandments in general based upon the common conceptual principles of both.
What follows here, however, is a personal (non-literal) reflection on the 10 Commandments as they apply to personal growth and the navigation of life’s trials and challenges.