The Meaning Of Pain

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Wow, I am so impressed with my daughter.


I spoke with her this evening and she has grown into such a smart, mature, and good person. 


We were talking about some hard times.


And she said to me so smartly (and I am so proud of her):

“The reason that we have pain is to avoid more pain.”


Wow…think about that for a moment. 


Everyone gets physical, emotional, and even spiritual pain in their lives. 


Even little things like stubbing your toe, getting a small burn, or a paper cut–these things give you a instant or more of pain…but it jolts you into attention of what to avoid and to action how to protect yourself to prevent further and worse pain down the road. 


A little pain now can fortunately save you a lot of pain later!


(Or in the gym they say, “No pain, no gain.”)


My father used to say about difficult life lessons:

“Better to cry now than to cry later!”


He was right–bad situations generally don’t get better with age. 


Continuing the discussion with my lovely daughter tonight, she said to me:

“A person becomes better when they struggle. I’ve become better by struggling.”


Again, like little pains, even larger struggles in life challenge us to learn, grow, and become better and stronger people. 


I remember as a kid–when we went through those growth spurts–it would actually hurt a little–some muscle aches here and some cramps there–whew, a few inches taller already. 


Growth hurts, but it’s kind of a good hurt that only someone with the emotional intelligence to understand maturity and betterment can really grasp. 


No, I’m not advocating for self-flagellation–just that we know when pain and struggle is a defining moment in life–like shaping and sharpening a great sword in fierce fire. 


It’s hot, but the heat is healing and necessary sometimes to grow as human and spiritual beings. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Lucky Cat

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So a retail establishment opened in the area.


They had all these cat symbols hung inside. 


I asked the owner what it said, and she told me:

“Lucky Cat”


Why a cat symbolizes luck I don’t really know.


But the bigger question is whether there is any such thing as luck in the first place.


We constantly wish people good luck on any and every aspect of their lives: from birth to bar/bat mitzvahs, engagements, weddings, graduations, new jobs, journeys, and basically anything we embark on. 


That’s what Mazel Tov means–good luck!


But I thought we believe in G-d and not luck?


We strive through prayer, charity, repentance, and all sort of good deeds to try and move the scale of justice in our favor. 


With the Jewish high holidays approaching next month–Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur–we do everything to atone for our sins and commit to being better in the future. 


We seek G-d’s mercy and his blessings. 


There is no arbitrary luck or fortune. 


Life is what we make out of it. 


What about the Massachusetts women who won $758 million in Powerball last week or the person that gets cancer or some other horrible tragedy–did they deserve it?


I suppose it’s impossible for us to judge why some people have amazing fortune and others have schlimazel (misfortune).


As it says in Genesis (18:25):

“Shall not the judge of all the Earth do justly?”


Surely, G-d has the bigger picture and the omniscience to know what is good for us and what is not. 


How he tests us and tries us and to what ends…that is a matter of faith and conviction–and we believe that it is all ultimately for our best. 


The judge of all Earth…please have mercy on us and bestow your blessings on us, your faithful children. 


As to the lucky cat–wave us some good vibes–all long as we realize that we all need G-d’s grace! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Look Down To Feel Up

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Listen, everyone has problems.


Whoever I talk to has something bad and fairly serious to complain about, and there seems to be new things coming all the time.


Just today, I heard from one person who went to the dentist with a tooth pain only to discover it had been silently infected for over a year, and was so serious that it literally could’ve killed him.


Another person told be about having a child with special needs and moving to an area with a school that could more effectively deal and help them. 


And a third person told me how they lost their husband many years ago at the age of just 39-years old and being left a widow. 


But people make the best of it!


They have to.


I remember my father saying when my mother got so sick with Parkinson’s Disease:

“We are part of the survivors club.”


It wasn’t easy to see her endless suffering while he selflessly tried to help her day-in and -out and cope with the physical and emotional pain of it all. 


When I was younger my dad would teach me about not feeling bad whatever the situation, and to always be grateful for what you have, and he told the story:

“There was a poor man who had no shoes, and he felt very bad…that is, until he saw someone else who had no feet.”


It doesn’t take much for things to get really bad in life…sometimes it can seem like we’re literally just holding on by a thin thread. 


But as G-d tests us and teaches us, we need to try to look on the bright side and be grateful that things aren’t worse….and yes, they can even get better again. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

It’s Not (Always) Easy

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Sometimes, we see people–especially on social media these days–and they look “all that!”–so happy, so loved, so rich, so with everything–so it seems (superficially). 


But there is definitely another reality out there, and that is that everyone has problems:


– Family

– Health

– Finances

– Work

– School

– Conflict

– Spiritual


Like Helen Keller said: 

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”


I remember as a child, if I felt sad about something, my dad at times would remind me about the children in the hospital, and to think about how we can help others less fortunate–and he was right!


What I see in life is a lot of people trying, but also so many challenges, failures, and suffering along the way…unfortunately, it’s part of the learning and growth equation, and in why we’re here. 


In college, I always remember one (English) professor who taught me from Henry David Thoreau:

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”


Sometimes, in our solitude or when we speak quietly from our heart with our closest loved ones, we feel and express some of those deep feelings of hurt, pain, and suffering from our lives.  


Those experiences, memories, and feelings are not all that there is of us, but it is certainly a part of all of us–although maybe only the brave will admit theirs.


It’s not shameful to feel, to cry, and to be human. 


It’s certainly not what Facebook and Twitter are all about. 


But it’s a genuine and critical part of us which recognizes as my dad also taught me that–life is not easy–and that we have to fight every day to do our best and to help others to do theirs. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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)