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)

Going Down B4 You Go Up

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So a really special person that I know is going through some major life changes…


And they told me this interesting, wonderful, and faithful perspective.

“Sometimes you go down before you go up!”


Like the Wheel of Life (Gilgal Hachozer), what goes down, thank G-d can and does tend to go back up–it’s a return to the mean and then some. 


When you realize that challenges and even hardships are part of the cycle, and that these test and grow you and your ability to overcome, then you can face them knowing that you can rise up and hopefully to another level of maturation and happiness. 


Yes, know that nothing is easy in life!


Often we take a step back to take two forward or a step down to boost ourselves further up. 


It’s the nature of progress.


Don’t be afraid to go down a little right before you’re about to go way on up. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Key Is Calm

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So what happens to most of us when we experience the stresses, disappointments, and conflicts in life?


We feel…


– Angst


– Anger


– Upset


– Frustrated


– Murderous at times


We even question, “Why me?”


But none of this helps.


In fact, it just makes things worse.


Because we compound our life challenges with more problems in how we react!


What should we do instead?


The key is to remain calm, cool, collected, and composed. 


Don’t get rattled, disjointed, and out of whack over anything or anybody. 


These are all tests in life.


They are all fleeting. 


G-d is watching us and seeing if we have faith in him.


When you remember the creator and sustainer of all life then you can rise above the adversity before you.


Go beyond the superficial.


Experience the world beyond the earthly bounds of time and space. 


See the larger picture.


Breath deeply…a sigh of relief. 


There is nothing to be upset about that G-d can’t make right for you. 


Face the challenges with a clear head, a brave heart, and follow your conscience.


Act with determination to speak out and right the wrongs you encounter. 


Remember, you are one with G-d and the universe, and all will be for the good. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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) 

Entering The Oculus Rift Matrix

So this was my first time actually experiencing virtual reality. 


Using Oculus Rift and climbing this mountain…


I’ve got to say how incredibly fabulioso this was!


It is absolutely an immersive and real experience. 


When I looked over the side of the mountain and down at the water and “realized” how far up I was, I was freakin out. 


My feet were grabbing the floor like I was about to fall off the mountain and then I eventually did. 


This is the next big thing!


You can literally be anywhere and doing anything with this technology.  


The real world is not there. 


And now I believe more than ever, that just like we enter the virtual reality body and start to move around and interact in that make-believe world, so too our soul enters our human bodies and we are present in this material existence to experience the worldly wonders all around us. 


But like the virtual world, this earthly world is the playground for our earthly bodies are just a temporary vessel for us to face challenges, learn, and grow.


When the time is up, our souls depart our bodies and return to its maker, just like when the virtual reality game is over and we are back here. 


G-d is the greatest game-maker of them all, and we are copycats in every sense of the word. 


The body is the vessel, and the soul is the essence. 😉


(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

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A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 


He connected to this week’s reading from Genesis in the Torah.


It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 


As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 


Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:


– Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden


– Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers


– Abraham and Sarah’s doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child


– Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)


 – Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau


– Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister


– Joseph’s brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery


– Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 


And so on. 


Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:


1) Context – There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 


2) Dysfunction – Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 


3) Responsibility – Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do–our actions.  We can’t just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 


4) Communication – In dealing with life and it’s challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 


The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it’s heroes and heroines–our ancestors–is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.


The bible doesn’t sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with–it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We All Have It In Us

 

superman-jpegSo this is a very cool sweat jacket with the Superman and all look. 


We all like to think of ourselves as possible superheroes. 


Whether we dress the role or not, the most important thing is acting it. 


Every day, we face circumstances and decisions and we have to decide whether we rise up to the occasion as the superhero or we acquiesce to what’s easy or lucrative and do the villain thing. 


From the time we are kids, we glorify the superheros not just for the awesome cool powers they have, but for doing something amazing to help people and the world with it. 


Somewhere from being a kid to a grown-up, many people end up letting go of that superhero dream as they face the harsh realities of life everyday. 


But deep down inside all of us is that superhero!


Good over evil is not just a story for children’s bedtime or imagination, but it is our battle to be fought and won–that’s what a good life is for those that never lose their fundamental beliefs. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)