The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Much Can You Love Something?

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Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone…


Those can be virtually infinite. 


I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 


He used to say:


“I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d].”


And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 


But how about for things–how much do some people love their things?


I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller’s estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!


That’s a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!


But even things that aren’t so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 


In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 


True, it’s colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!


Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.


But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it’s only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Breaking The Bounds Of This World Thinking

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Coming from the Metro, someone stopped me and gave me this card for meditation, and I thought it was really insightful. 

“Changing the human mind to infinite universe mind”

Our minds are constrained by our mortality, materialism, and physical limitations of space and time. 

But if we free ourselves even momentarily from these, we can enter into a sort of limitless universal mindset.


“Human is incomplete because human are living inside human mind world which is one’s lived life and thoughts.”

We are beset by a near endless barrage of life’s fears and worries–like that we can’t fully perceive the metaphysical and spiritual world that is the real and meaningful one for us. 

“One can live forever and [when] he has escaped pain, burden, stress, and the countless kinds of agonies; his old self has disappeared and so it is great freedom.”

Through mindfulness, centered and balanced thinking, we can go above the “false world” and enter the “true world.”


Doesn’t this ring fundamental and true?


What an amazing approach to thinking that we can use elevate ourselves above what we live and see every day. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via Rockville Meditation)

Is Man An Angel or Beast

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So is man an angel or a beast?


On one hand, we see small and great acts of love, kindness and generosity. 


People feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, donating clothes to the poverty-stricken, and standing up to defend those that are abused, discriminated against, and victimized.


Every day is an opportunity to be a gracious, heavenly angel!


At the same time, we are witness to horrible acts of hate, cruelty and inhumanity.


The strong preying off and committing gross acts of violence against the weak, the rich elitists taking from the poor lower-class, the powerful violating the human rights of the masses and ruling with a brutal iron fist. 


Every day is the possibility to act the vicious, lowly beast!


It’s a choice as we stand here teetering on the world we are injected into. 


The angel and the beast fight within us. 


Our souls yearn to emulate the spirit of our Holy Creator, while our bodies look for raw physical and material satisfaction. 


It is truly a battle that rages within us, and can tear any or all of us apart. 


Yet, our mission is for good to overcome evil–in everyday small and large ways.  


To fight the urges that torment us and to rise, rise, with the wings of an angel to reach our potential and fulfill our destiny. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Our Lives Matter

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I thought this saying by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was very profound. 

“The day you were born is the day G-d decided that the world could not exist without you.”

We all need to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.

…that it’s not all in vain that we live and toil.

There are many such notions tied to this:

– Jewish blood is not cheap.

– Black lives matter and Blue lives matter.

But the question is why do our lives matter? 

Kurt Vonnegut has an interesting piece on this:

“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness. And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely. “Everything must have a purpose?” asked God. “Certainly,” said man. “Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God. And He went away.”  

So the answer is that we bring purpose to life. 


In what we learn, and do, and how we grow…this is our purpose. 


For each of us, it’s different.


G-d created us in “His cosmic loneliness” to think on this and make meaning from the lives that he so graciously granted to us. 


Now we must go and do something positive with it.


Because G-d decided the day you were born that “the world could not exist without you.” 😉


(Source Photo: Forwarded to me by Michelle Blumenthal)

What Is Peace + Happiness?

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I loved this piece of art work with the colorful Buddhas.

It got me thinking about peace and happiness–is it the same for everyone?

To one person, career, achievement, and money seems to make happy–as one of my friends told me about one of his extremely successful bosses who heads a large corporation and has not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 mansions on the water, in the mountains, and overlooking Central Park in NYC.

To another person, it’s being able to do what they want to in life–doing what makes you emotionally happy instead of what you have to do; the freedom to choose and to be passionate about what you do and how you spend you time every day–whether it’s a profession, an activity or sport, or even exploration and travel.

Yet others, find peace and satisfaction in spiritual and religious pursuits–joining the clergy or learning about G-d and philosophy, doing G-d’s commandments or helping his creations by doing good deeds. 

Many of course, find peace and get nachas from their families, the loves of their life, their beautiful children and grandchildren, and helping the next generation to grow and prosper after us. 

That can also extend to friends, community, and even colleagues–when we surround ourselves with other good people, those who we enjoy their company and have things in common, then we can find happiness with each other.

Being here in Florida for the holidays, I’m reminded of all the sun, beauty, and body-worshippers, those people who love their physique and good health, working out, looking good, being with others that look good, and even designing and making things that are beautiful. 

And at the other end of the spectrum again are the intellectual nerdy nerds who get their energy from being brainiacs like one of my friend’s nephews who is one of silicon valley’s serial innovators.

Whatever you love, have, and do that makes you happy is something to be extremely grateful for.

Nothing is forever, and nothing is owed to us.

Use the gifts that G-d has given you with the wisdom to reach enlightenment by being good and generous to others and so that you truly merit these beautiful things and thank the creator who blessed you. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Keeping Perspective

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I thought this was a good photo to depict the importance of keeping perspective in life.


It is easy for any of us to “get bent out of shape” over big and little things alike. 


But if we sort of zoom out a little and see the larger perspective of things then perhaps we can realize that while our problems may be big for us, they are really small in comparison to the bigger picture or G-d’s eye view. 


Yes, to us, little can be big, and big can be little, but if we could just recognize that we are part of something so much more, we can get that finer-tuned perspective on what’s truly important and what’s more trivial. 


It doesn’t mean that our feelings of hurt, pain, loneliness, or injustices in the world are not important. 


They are significant for us to try to deal with them and make things better. 


Yet, we cannot go back in time and right all the wrongs, and we cannot change all the things about ourselves that we’d like to in a presto change-O wave of the hand moment. 


Life, change, and improvement are incremental. 


Sometimes, we make progress only then to fall back some. 


But overall, we need to keep the momentum of positive change for ourselves, forward.


But why are we even here? 


My wife said something the other day as follows:

“We are here in order to learn why we are here!”


Sounds confusing, but really maybe it’s not. 


Our souls are sent here in the temporary vessels of our mortal bodies.


We are here so we can spend time here in this complex and interactive world, and learn from our relationships, positively and negatively with each other. 


The learning corrects our soul’s imperfections and makes us better human and spiritual beings and brings us closer to G-d. 


At the same time that we are here, we should make it as pleasant as possible for ourselves and each other (but not over-the-top in a nihilistic and debauchery type of way). 


Stay fit, support yourselves and your family, live reasonably comfortably, so that you can pursue your karmic-driven learning and growth toward inner perfection. 


Like Buddha, we seek to purify our souls before they return to our Maker. 


In the realm of things, we are a very small microscopic human insect, but in the bigger picture, we are part of the ultimate magnanimous giving of opportunity to fix and maybe even come close to perfecting ourselves to be more like our beautiful and merciful Creator. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)