Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
GOOD MORNING! Did you ever wonder what really distinguishes a human being from an animal? Every human has four deep seated needs -meaning, pleasure, understanding and self-actualization. Cows don't have these needs. Dogs don't have these needs. Cats ... no way!
The renowned psychiatrist Viktor Fankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives... A public-opinion poll was conducted a few years ago in France. The results showed that 89 percent of the people polled admitted that man needs 'something' to live for."
According to Western ideology, there is no absolute purpose to life. Good and evil, meaning and meaninglessness, are matters of personal taste. Yet with all the "freedoms" this philosophy embraces, it disposes of the one and only ingredient that gives life profound and lasting satisfaction: a transcendent purpose - the recognition of a Creator who cares about man's actions. A Creator Who invests him with the ability to make choices that either further God's purpose or undermine it.
As vitally as he needs to breathe, eat and sleep, every human being needs to know that his existence matters. The philosophies of relativism and purposelessness, however, inevitably engender in man gnawing questions about the meaning and purpose of his life. "If nothing really matters, why am I making such an effort to be a good person? Is life just about killing time until death?"
Understandably, this creates a subconscious anxiety which many people dread uncovering. Better to convince oneself that life has no purpose at all, than to confront the tormenting realization that I have lived life in ignorance of that purpose.
Those who do confront the question often embark on a painful, protracted search for meaning. Frequently, they drift through the array of alternatives to Western values, such as Zen, Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation. The greater majority, however, accepts society's insistence that there are no answers, and tries to deaden their pain through various mediums of distraction.
Some lose themselves in the world of entertainment and illusion -television, movies and video games. Others dedicate mind and soul to "making it" in their careers. Many, in an attempt to relieve their anxiety, adopt the belief that there is no Creator, no responsibility, no accountability and no goals. Without a viable alternative to meaninglessness, these people have no choice but to avoid contemplating life too seriously.
However, despite the best efforts of distraction and rationalization, our souls long for meaning. And until the soul receives the nourishment (read: meaning and purpose) it so vitally needs, man will never find lasting tranquility. On some level (most often subconscious), he will continue to be plagued by disharmony between what he deeply craves and what Western ideology claims life to offer.
As Torah Jews, our inner longing to lead meaningful, productive lives is nurtured and guided. The goal is our relationship with God. Our tools are the mitzvot, the commandments. The framework for success and meaning is neatly laid out for us in the intricate structure of Torah life. Best of all, we need not struggle to find the goal. We are free from the start to focus our energies and resources on achieving it.
Through Torah, the most mundane and routine activities of life are elevated to a Higher purpose. While we may never accomplish all that we should, a Torah lifestyle removes the specter of meaninglessness that haunts so many lives. The Torah provides an internal stability, gained from the knowledge that life is purposeful and valuable. We are given ongoing opportunities to accomplish things that are meaningful - and the realization that our choices truly matter. This is tremendously empowering and reassuring.
(from the teachings of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, adapted from The Eye of the Needle by Rabbi Eric Coopersmith)
To delve more into making life meaningful, read Twerski on Spirituality, by Rabbi Abraham Twerski available from your local Jewish bookstore, at http://www.JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
For more on "A Meaningful Life" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, "Man does not live by bread alone ... but by all that comes out of God's mouth" (Deut. 8:3).
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? "Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours" (Deut. 10:12).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless the Almighty, your God, for the good land which He gave you. Guard yourself lest you forget the Lord, your God, and do not observe His commandments and His laws and His statutes which I command you this day" (Deut 8:10,11).
What lesson for life are we to learn from the juxtaposition of these two verses?
In the blessings we make after eating a meal, in addition to thanking the Almighty for the land of Israel, the Sages have included thanking Him for the Covenant with Him and for the Torah which He gave us. This ensures that we focus on a Higher level rather just the food and materialism - which would cause us to forget the Almighty.
Therefore, this is the lesson we learn from the juxtaposition of these two verses: If you will eat and are satisfied and bless the Almighty for just the land itself - then (verse 11) you must be on guard not to forget the Almighty and His commandments (Chasam Sofer; Toras Moshe).
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 30
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New York 7:56 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:26
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
If you want happiness - don't seek happiness.
With Deep Appreciation to
David and Stacey Epstein
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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