Three Spiritual Connections of Love.
How to build your world, even during difficult times.
We are living in challenging times and how we write this chapter, the story we tell, is in our hands. One day we will recount the tale of these days – how we reacted, whether we grew better or bitter, selfless or selfish – and that is our choice.
Fortunately, we have a treasure trove of wisdom to help us get through these difficult days. It is customary to study Ethics of the Fathers, a vast collection of wise sayings from our sages, during these summer months. One teaching says: "On three things the world stands. On Torah study, on the service of God, and on good deeds (Ethics 1:2)." Our world is like a three-legged table. If one leg is missing or broken the table cannot stand.
Each person is a world onto himself. Each one of us has the ability to build or destroy the world we live in. If we want to find the strength to get through challenge, if we seek the ability to bear the heaviness that difficulty brings, we must work on these three spiritual connections, these three legs, to sustain us.
1. Relationship to Myself
The first spiritual connection for us to think about is the connection to ourselves. Who am I, really? What is my mission in this world? How can I live my life better?
The path towards discovery of self is through Torah study. This is the first leg upon which my world stands; both my personal world and the universe itself.
When I discover the deep wisdom of Torah, when I live by these timeless values and ethics, I challenge myself to bring meaning into my days. My entire world is transformed. Even drinking a cup of water is elevated through a blessing into a spiritual moment. I take the physical and turn it into the sacred. I live truth. I work on myself to live higher. Bringing the Torah lessons I study to life uplifts the world and keeps it going.
When my great grandfather was about to leave this world, he motioned that he would like to be carried to his holy books to say good bye. He cried and kissed each one with his last bit of strength. These cherished books filled with sacred Torah teachings had given my Zaydie life. It was painful to bid farewell.
2. Relationship to God
We are given the gift of soul, but how do we nourish our soul?
Building a relationship with God allows us to nurture the holiness that God placed within each of us. We connect to God through the ‘second leg’ upon which the world stands: service of the heart; prayer.
When we pray we open up gates in the heavens above. We call out to God through the different seasons of our life. We express gratitude, ask for healing, and speak to God about any and every care that we have.
We can pray in any language. The prophets introduce us to Chanah, who prayed from the depths of her heart for a child. She whispered her words and taught us how to pray.
Just as newlyweds whisper softly to one another and have private conversations, so too, are our talks with God. Prayer is intimate, between myself and my Creator. We carry the world through prayer.
When I was a teenager I traveled to Israel and brought a book of Psalms back as a gift for my mother. Throughout my mother’s life I rarely saw her without this book in her hands. The pages are stained with her tears, frayed and cracked. I can’t begin to count the times I called, asking my mother to pray. Now this book is in my hands. It is my bridge to the heavens above.
We each have been given the power of prayer. It is up to us to connect to God through our heart and words.
3. Relationship to Others
Creating a relationship with others is the ‘third leg’ that we stand on. Chesed-kindness and good deeds are the means through which we build connection. As King David wrote, “Olam chesed yibaneh – the world is built on kindness."
We all need good friends and loving family. Loneliness is toxic. The world cannot survive if hatred eats away at mankind. Homes fall apart when we hurt one another and shut loved ones out. Our sages teach us the secret to keeping relationships and mankind alive: Chesed, loving kindness.
It's only when we give, when we dig deep inside and sacrifice for another, that we discover love.
We make a mistake and believe that the more we get from someone, the more we will love them. We ask, "What did you buy me?" "What did you do for me lately?" But it’s not about getting; it's about giving. It's only when we give, when we dig deep inside and sacrifice for another, that we discover love.
These days when we are spending more time at home, we have huge opportunity. Ask yourself: what chesed can I do today? How can I be a giver and not a taker? How can I think beyond myself? Who needs a smile, a good word, a hug? Who can I call to let them know that I am thinking about them? How can I bring joy to another?
If you are thinking to yourself, I can’t. I am too upset right now to think about someone else, then remember that the happiest people are those who give to others. You will pick up your spirit when you uplift the spirit of another. The world needs more kindness.
We are not able to control many things, it is true. But we do have the power to keep our world standing. We can either survive or thrive. Build spiritual connections. Discover Torah’s wisdom, build a relationship within yourself. Use prayer to build a bridge to God. Make a difference in the life of another, strengthen your relationship and do an act of kindess today. Keep our world standing.