I feel so hard done by. I hate feeling like this when I know that I have many blessings to be grateful for, like a great family and wonderful children. But no matter how hard I work, it always seems like others have it much easier than I do. They are left inheritances, win prizes, travel the world, and I just slog and slave to live a decent life. I harbor such negativity – it is unhealthy. How can I start feeling more grateful for my blessings and less resentful about my hardships?
Answer: I hear your frustration. Let me offer you some wisdom that I was taught this morning. I learned it from my baby daughter. She continued to sob, oblivious of my efforts to make her smile She has been unwell and very moody and clingy over the last few days. This morning, for no apparent reason, she would not stop crying – nothing I did would placate her. I made funny faces, dangled her dolly in front of her and rubbed it in her face, sang silly songs, and made strange noises by cupping my hand underneath my armpit. But she continued to sob, oblivious of my efforts to make her smile.
So I changed tactics. I sat next to her on the floor and started crying myself. It worked. She stopped crying immediately. First she looked at me a little surprised. But then, from behind her tears emerged a broad smile, and she started laughing. The more I cried, the more she giggled. She had finally snapped out of it, and we had some happy moments together for the first time in days.
Later I reflected on what had happened. What made her stop crying? Why was she laughing? Then it hit me. It is so simple. The minute we focus on someone else's pain, we forget our own. In her own babyish way, my daughter was doing what we all do sometimes, wallow in our own problems and feel miserable about them. This mindset is self-perpetuating. The more we think about our problems, the more miserable we feel, and the more we feel miserable, the more we focus on what we lack.
The best way to break this cycle is to look outside of ourselves and see if we can help someone else.She could now stop crying because she was freed from being stuck in herself As long as I was trying to take my baby daughter out of her sadness, it was her and her sadness that absorbed our attention. The second I shifted the focus and started crying myself, she was drawn out of her own sadness and became aware of my presence and my needs. She could now stop crying because she was freed from being stuck in herself. She was no longer the pitiful crybaby; she was the comforter and soother of a crying dad. So she laughed.
I think my baby girl is right. You may have good reason to feel down. But you need to stop soaking in self-pity and look around at what good you can do for others. Don't think of what you need, think of how you are needed. Don't look at what you are missing, see the gifts you can share with those who may be missing them. You have so much to offer and so much good you can do. Don't let bitterness and envy prevent your soul from giving forth its light. It's time for your baby to stop crying and start smiling.
This is going to sound weird, but it’s serious. I have a friend who is a very intelligent, beautiful and articulate young woman. She is also a conceptual artist. She has now announced what she calls her “ultimate artwork”—she intends to sign a contract with a company that will cremate her body after she dies and compress her remains to form a diamond. She is selling the rights to this diamond, made of her body . . . Needless to say, I was horrified when I found out. What can I say to change her mind from doing something from which her soul and body may never recover for worlds and worlds to come?
Answer: I have respect for your friend. She seeks immortality. She wants to transcend the limitations of a finite worldly existence and leave a lasting impression on the world long after her time here comes to an end. These are noble ambitions. But she is going about it the wrong way. Cremation is not the Jewish way.
The Jewish mission is not to become a diamond after you die, but to discover the diamond within yourself during your lifetime; not to make your lifeless body into a work of art, but rather to make your life itself into a work of art.
You have a soul, shimmering like a diamond Within your body, you have a soul, shimmering like a diamond in the deepest part of your identity. Your body temporarily encases your soul for the duration of your lifetime on this earth. The body can be either a hindrance to the soul by concealing its light, or a vehicle for the soul’s light to be fully expressed. It depends on how you live your life.
If we live a life of hedonism and selfishness, if our body and its cravings become the focus of our existence, then the diamond that is our soul gets buried beneath the body’s layers of physicality, and its light is prevented from shining. But if we live a life of purpose, doing what is good rather than what feels good—a life in which the desires of our soul overpower the demands of our body and we fill each day with acts of goodness and holiness—then the light of the soul is not dimmed by the body. On the contrary, the body becomes the vehicle for the soul’s light to shine. By refining our character, bringing light to those around us, and maintaining the purity and innocence of our soul, we become a living, breathing diamond, a divine work of art.
We are truly immortalized by the good that we do in our lifetime. Whether or not we see it, our every act of goodness and holiness makes an eternal impression. Even the most trivial act of goodness impacts the world for the better, and the positive energy we create through our good deeds resonates throughout the world for eternity.
Even if you have been neglecting your soul, it can always be polished and returned to its original shine. For a diamond may become covered in layers of muck, but beneath it all the diamond always retains its luster. As long as you are alive, you have the power to change, to uncover your soul’s power and let it shine.
To make a diamond out of a dead body is no great feat. To make a diamond out of yourself while you are still alive—that is a taste of eternity.
Should I be humble or should I be assertive? These are both supposedly good things to be, but one precludes the other, doesn't it?
Answer: There are many reasons for being humble. Here are some of the common ones:
You think you're kind of ugly and stupid.
You perceive that people like you better when you are humble.
It's just your nature to be humble and keep your mouth shut.
You keep on falling on your face, so what's there to be proud of?
You didn't sleep well last night, so you're kind of depressed.
There are also many reasons for being assertive:
You think you're real handsome and smart.
You perceive that people listen to you and do what you want when you assert yourself.
It's just the way you are.
Nobody but you knows how to do things right.
You didn't sleep well last night, so you're in a barking mood.
Looks like humility and guts are not compatible bedfellows. So that's not going to work. Is there an alternative?
There must be. Moses, the Torah tells us, was the "most humble of all men upon the face of the earth." Yet he had the spunk to stand up to Pharaoh and even argue with G‑d Himself. King David sang, "I am a worm and not a man." He meant it from the bottom of his heart, but you should have seen him swing that sword on the battlefield. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanus was known for his humility—he would never say a word of Torah that he did not hear from his teacher—yet he was in constant altercation with his colleagues and stood his ground to the end. The same with Rabbi Akiva, who was so humble he sat in a class of small children at the age of forty—and yet stood in fearless rebellion against the awesome Roman Empire.
So how did these guys manage to swing two opposite attitudes at once?
Turns out there's an alternative form of humility. A humility that has nothing to do with self-deprecation, sheepish nature or even insomnia. It also turns out that the same humility comes with a sense of power—but not the sense of power that comes out of ego, pushiness or indigestion. Quite the opposite.
It's the sense of, "Yes I know who I am, what I can do and what I can't. But I stand in the presence of something much larger than my little self, so much larger that there isn't any room left for any vestige of my own ego. Something before which a thousand universes are less than dust and from which all things extend. Something which is infinite, transcendent and yet pervades all things."
Sensing the presence of the Infinite is kind of humbling, just like, say, standing before some incredible genius, superhero type you really admire. Only that this is Infinite. That's big. Very big.
Sensing the Infinite is also very empowering. Because you can't sense the Infinite without becoming absorbed within it. And filled with infinite power, yourself.
There, in that space, humility and guts don't struggle with one another. There, all your faculties are united as one to fly high above any challenge, smash through the most impervious obstacle, take on the entire world without flinching. And yet, all of you is but a transparent window for the Infinite Light to shine into the world.
Like Moses, like King David, like Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva. Transparent heroes.
Before I Said “Yes” to Tefillin
In 1975–76, my senior year at the University of Washington in Seattle, I lived at the Chabad House on Campus. Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t observant in the least. My interview went something like this: Rabbi Samuels: “So . . . tell me about your Jewish background.”
Me: “I won the attendance award twice for the Temple de Hirsch choir. My I wasn’t observant in the leastfather drove me there every Saturday, even when it snowed.” Rabbi Samuels: “You’re in.”
And so I moved in. Chabad of Seattle, led by head shliach (emissary) Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin and Rabbi Yechezkel Kornfeld, had wisely purchased a former sorority house. So there I was, right in the midst of Greek Row, with a room of my own and dinner, all for $75 per month—clearly the best deal on campus!
Or so I thought. My first Saturday there, I was suddenly awakened all too early. “Please, please, John, can you help us out—we need you for a minyan.” “What? What are you talking about?” I exclaimed. Having been told by Rabbi Samuels that the only rule was to have my head covered while I was in the house, I was quite perturbed by this sudden inflation of expectations. They pleaded that all I had to do was to be there, to sit in shul. I told them I just wanted to read my novel. They said okay. So I sat there. They prayed. I read.
From then on, every Saturday morning, I would rise early and get out of there, determined to avoid the minyan. Have you ever strolled on a college campus on a Saturday at eight in the morning? No one is around, no one is up. But I was—because I wasn’t going to get trapped.
Rabbi Samuels never lost sight of his mission. He sold delicious tuna and egg salad sandwiches at the Student Union Building for a nickel less than what they cost in the cafeteria—anything for a Jewish student to eat kosher. He told me how special I was because my grandparents came from Yekaterinoslav, where the Rebbe was born, and that it was extremely likely that the Rebbe’s father officiated at their wedding. And then, when my stereo was stolen from my room one Friday night, Rabbi Samuels promised with absolute certainty that it would be found, because the theft happened while I was at the Chabad House Shabbat meal. Sure enough, two months later, the stereo was located. Rabbi Samuels, in his loving way, never let me forget that.
That year, the Rebbe had also sent yeshivah students to Seattle. To me, these fellows—who were about my age—looked like they were from another planet. They seemed totally out of touch with the earthiness, the humanist spirit, of the great Pacific Northwest. I simply did not relate.
However, two of the yeshivah students engaged me. One, Abba Perlmutter, talked with me relentlessly about baseball—whether it was Carlton Fisk’s dramatic home run just inside the foul pole, or Joe Morgan’s on-base percentage, Abba knew it all. And then, after our two-week nonstop baseball talk, without missing a beat, he asked if I knew anything about hockey, “because that’s the sport I really know well.” Go figure.
The other student, Mendy Gluckowski, talked politics with me, specifically about Ronald Reagan. In 1976 he predicted that Reagan really had his eye on becoming president in 1980 and ushering in a whole new wave of conservatism in America. I told Mendy he was completely crazy . . . but, it turned out, he was precisely correct.
Smart guys. Great guys. Guys who connected with me where I was at. But not when it came to tefillin. I must have been asked 60 times during that year if I would put on tefillin, and 60 times I said no. To me, those black boxes and straps made no logical sense.
As much as I admired Rabbi Samuels, Abba and Mendy, I held my own, steadfast in my conviction that humanism and making the world a better place simply had no space for such an ancient rite. Upon their offer, I would respond with a simple “no, thank you.” I wouldn’t debate, I wouldn’t get riled up. Just a “no.” A dispassionate “no.” An unfazed “no.”
None of this, of course, affected our friendship. But the tefillin remained untouched. Two years later, I had moved to the East Coast and was teaching history at a high school in Boston. One night I received a desperate call from my parents: “John, we’re very worried about your sister. She’s somewhere in Brooklyn, living with I received a desperate call from my parentsthat Chabad group. Please check up on her and, if you can, influence her to leave.”
And so, a respectful son, I went to Crown Heights. Lo and behold, my sister was happy and healthy as could be. The next morning, just out of curiosity, I wandered over to Chabad’s beginner yeshivah, Hadar HaTorah, on Eastern Parkway. As I stood outside, looking through the open doorway, I saw a bearded young man at the top of a steep flight of stairs. “Good morning,” he said. “Would you like to put on tefillin?”
I was caught off guard, speechless. He looked at me; I looked at him. Tefillin. Two black boxes with words of Torah inside. Two black leather straps. All made from a cow’s hide, transforming the physical to the spiritual. Tefillin. Submitting head and heart—in essence, self—to a Higher Power, to G-d. Tefillin. A connection to 3,300 years of Jewish history.
But none of that occurred to me at that moment. All I could think of was Rabbi Samuels, Rabbi Levitin and Rabbi Kornfeld, Abba and Mendy. I thought of their sincerity, their unabashed devotion. I thought about all they had given of themselves to settle in the exile of Seattle. I thought about the purchase of a huge former sorority house on campus just so fellows like me, who seemingly didn’t care, would have a place to eat kosher and a place to be (or escape from) on Shabbat.
I was suddenly filled with a feeling of resonance, a feeling of home. Shluchim may never know the impact they make, but, thanks to G-d, thanks to the wisdom of the Rebbe, they always do make an impact. It’s just that sometimes it takes time to sink in. Gently, the young man repeated, “Would you like to put on tefillin?”
I looked I guess I was readyup. After 61 loving requests, I guess I was ready. And I climbed those stairs.
(By the way, my parents never sent any of my other siblings to check up on me.)
How a Chanukah Menorah Changed My Life
My story is about one man’s search for buried treasure. Not the kind of treasure you can touch or see. Rather, an absolutely different kind of treasure, which is far more precious and valuable—it’s priceless.
That man is me, Shlomo Lewis.
I was raised as a secular Jew. I had anI was raised as a secular Jew excellent education; I went to a good school and university. However, unlike many of my peers, I did not become a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant. Growing up in the 1960s, I embraced the values and ideals of love, peace and some soft drugs. I felt that there was more to life than getting married and acquiring possessions. That wasn’t the life I sought—my drive was to transform the world.
Thus, I became interested in politics, taking the first step in what I thought was the way to make the world a better place. At the same time, I was aware that there was a spiritual dimension to life. But to me, it wasn’t religion. Religion simply had too many rules and regulations. I failed to see it as a way to become a more spiritual and fulfilled person. After some time, I started struggling with depression. I found it very difficult to hold down a job and earn a decent living. Eventually, in 1996, after living in the south of England for 15 years, I lost my job and my house and returned to my hometown of Manchester, living close to my elderly parents.
Broughton Park, the area where I was living, had a large Orthodox Jewish community. I felt I had nothing in common with them and even suspected that they looked down on me. Time passed and things only seemed to get worse. In December 2010, I lost my job again. I was on the brink. Then came Chanukah of 2011. It was late one afternoon and I was walking home from the doctor’s, where I had been receiving counseling for depression.
For some odd reason that I can’t explain logically, I decided to take a different route home, a route that was totally out of my way. This took me past what I now know to be the Lubavitch yeshivah. It was late afternoon and the sun was about to set. I heard someone call out to me, “Excuse me, sir, are you Jewish?” Curious to see who was calling out to me, I crossed the road. Standing there were two young men wearing black hats and jackets, the uniform of Orthodox Jews.
They introduced themselves as students from the nearby yeshivah. “Today is Chanukah,” they said. After speaking for a few minutes about Chanukah and giving me a fresh kosher doughnut and menorah kit, they invited me to come and learn some more about Judaism in the yeshivah. Intrigued, I accepted their invitation for that Thursday.
I found the session with my young “teacher” extremely interesting and enlightening. I told myself that I would definitely come back for more. Some time has passed since then, and I have been returning every Thursday evening, and at times even on Shabbat evenings, just to learn, pick up whatever I can, and even to observe their lively farbrengens (chassidic gatherings).
I have always been interested in spirituality. I had read books about Kabbalah, but not really understood them. At yeshivah, I studied Tanya, a chassidic classic that has made Judaism more meaningful to me. It is not enough to just read about spirituality; rather, we have a calling and divine mandate to become more spiritual. The greatest way of connecting with the divine is the performance of mitzvahs, I learned. This was all fascinating to me.
Most of all, I have been inspired by the dedication, belief, warmth, commitment and kindness of the students, and by their devotion to the Rebbe. I had heard of the great Lubavitcher Rebbe, but knew little about him. Now I am learning more and have come to appreciate what a truly remarkable and holy person he must have been to command such reverence and dedication from his followers.
I have found the treasure I was seeking Looking back now, I think to myself, how has my life changed since my chance encounter with the students? In many ways—from putting on tefillin daily, lighting Shabbat candles, affixing a mezuzah on my door, and going to shul on Shabbat—I have reconnected with my Jewish soul.
I have found the treasure I was seeking for so many years—and it was right in my own backyard all along.
I am writing these words from a different time.
The year is the same, the days are the same, but the months are different.
The time in which I exist today is neither solar nor truly lunar. It is a time quite individual—created by G‑d especially for me. Today is one cyclical month since my first immersion in the mikvah. This day, this time, is shared among only three: G‑d, my husband and me. Today I am brought back to the very moment of recreation of self that took place for the first time on the day of my wedding.
In the excitement and anticipation that preceded the wedding, I had counted the days, checking them against G‑d’s calendar and my own body’s. The rebirth for which I was preparing would take place in a home of sorts, under the chuppah (marriage canopy). My fiancé and I, often swamped with the details of wedding plans, finally began to focus more on the spiritual preparations we needed to make in order to escort the shechinah (divine presence) to our wedding and into our lives.
The most important part of this self-preparation was gaining the ability to slip ourselves into mikvah time. This step would prove monumental, for within the entire planning process there was nothing so full of potential and meaning for me as mikvah. Somehow I felt that only after I had experienced this immersion would I be able to understand the oneness that defines the relationship between husband and wife.
I walked to the mikvah on a beautiful Thursday, on a rosh chodesh (first of the month). I had spent the early part of the day preparing my body for immersion. Filing, trimming, scrubbing, soaking, combing and inspecting, I realized that this was the first time I had ever spent such concentrated time focused on my body. Yet, inherent in this moment of complete physical absorption was a palpably electric surge I felt run through me as I connected, for the first time, the spiritual and physical aspects of myself.
As I walked up the hill to the mikvah, a song came into my head and I stopped short. The song was Shir Hamaalot, a Song of Ascents, originally sung by the Levites as they stood on the stairs that led to the Holy Temple. The words of the psalm speak of the Jews returning to Jerusalem as if in a dream, filled with laughter and singing. And here I was, a modern Jewish woman, feeling that the boundaries of time had blurred. I walked on smiling, simultaneously there at that moment and a part of all time.
I approached the mikvah alone, and as I reached it, I saw the smiling face of a friend who said, “You shouldn’t have to go to the mikvah alone the first time.” My joy and nervousness blended with the comfort I took in the familiarity of her presence, and with a sense that I would never really be alone at the mikvah. I felt, as we entered, that there exists a collective neshamah (soul) shared by all Jews throughout history. The mikvah is the link of all those years, the container of that soul. The waters of the mikvah today are the same waters that have filled mikvahs since the beginning of time. I imagined that by immersing myself in those waters, I could, in that silence under water, hear the voices of my ancestors.
Later, as the shomeret (mikvah attendant) held my shaking hands in hers, the power of this process filled me with tears. For when I was completely enveloped by those waters, I had realized that this birth was not of a new me alone. The still voice of the mikvah told me that this was the birth of “we.” From now on, mikvah time would be counted by two. From now on, this merging with the collective Jewish soul would enable me to merge with the other half of my own soul, this man I love.
To our Teacher and Master, the Exalted Chief Rabbi of Guadalajara,
Shine light upon your exasperated students who stumble in the mind-boggling darkness, and reveal to us the true path out of this mess of confusion: Tell us how the Great Master, the Moshiach, shall be revealed.
Is it true that he shall suddenly appear on a main street in Jerusalem, a poor old man with a wild but angelic look, spewing forth wisdom and declaring the time of redemption has arrived? If so, why will they not lock him up?
Is it true that he shall be announced on all the media worldwide at 6 pm, along with offers for free El Al tickets? If so, who will finance this?
Master, we are concerned and troubled as this touches the essence of our souls and allows our weakened bodies no sleep: Is there truth to that which they say, that in those enlightened days there will be only study of Torah and no more reckless fun?
Pour forth your pity upon our farblungent souls! Have patience with our questions, though they may sound foolish! Is it true that the entire order of nature will change suddenly as the Anointed One appears?
Yes, definitely a case for pity. No (aside from the media announcements)--it's not anything like what you describe. The arrival of Moshiach and the accompanying turnabout in the World Order, is a very pragmatic ideal. In fact, much of it has happened already.
Of course, as Maimonides puts it, nobody really knows exactly what's going to happen--The Almighty-Master-Of-All-Plans-To-Whom-All-Is-Revealed is really concerned about the suspense factor here. But allow me to let you in on a few of the key details, as I humbly understand them:
1. The first thing Moshiach does is do away with bad marketing. That's the true villain that has held us back all these years. Ask any consumer electronics or computer engineer. We could all own household robots to do our work. We could be consuming less than 10% of the natural resources we consume now--if it weren't for those nefarious busy bodies who market quantity rather than quality. Given the true needs of most people and the productivity possible with modern technology, we should all be working an average of 2.5 hours a week. What's responsible for the other 60+ hours? Bad Marketing.
Moshiach's marketing people will get people's minds back on the right track. Thinking about real quality of life. About their relationship with the earth and with their bodies and their souls and the people around them. Once that's done, just about everything else we need to create paradise is here already.
2. The people will come up with a real wise individual and make him their mentor and leader--not the other way around like in the fairy tales. As you put it yourselves: how else can he avoid being locked up? This is stated clearly in numerous sources, for example, "They will search out David their king...", "They will make for themselves a king and rise out of the land". It just seems pretty obvious that it's the people who make the leader -- a self-declared leader is little more than just another nut-case.
Even the Kabbalists agree that Moshiach isn't planning on a sudden appearance. Rather, the people will slowly wake up to the fact that he's already here. Just not in places people generally look.
3. The arrival of Moshiach is not much of a greater miracle than the sudden fall of the communist dictatorship. True, there will be a couple of big Signs-and-Wonders-scenarios--some that'll make the Ten Plagues and the Crossing of the Red Sea look like kid's play. Like, how about the splitting of the Euphrates, for one? But, who says glitz makes a miracle? Personally, I think Moses would have been pretty impressed by the kind of miracles that happened in Eastern Europe and on the Internet over the last few years.
Fact is, nature itself is supernatural. Just that we're too busy to notice. After a bit of time studying with Moshiach, we'll be able to see clearly without the wool pulled over our eyes.
4. You appear concerned that the World to Come may be a rather boring affair. Actually, Moshiach is when the real fun starts. There will still be the same sports, entertainment, and good, clean shopping sprees. But kicking a ball or buying clothes will be a form of meditation on the Oneness of Creation. Come to think of it, so will all human activities.
5. Hi-tech is only here now as a preparation for the technological applications of the times of Moshiach. M.I.T., IBM, Xerox-Parc--you guys ain't seen nothin' yet! When finally we become masters over our own tools--rather than the other way around--we shall start to utilize them to discover the G-dliness within Creation and within ourselves.
Wake up! There has never been a time in the history of the Jewish people like this before! In 2000 years of Exile, the last few years have been the only time that Jews in every part of the globe are free to follow the Judaism of their ancestors. Sure, there are still those who cannot leave their place of exile, but compare this to the horrible oppression of past times! As our sages put it, "There is no difference between our world now and the times of Moshiach, except for the oppression by the nations." The greatest oppression remaining is that of the materialistic (un)consciousness of the modern world.
So who, pray tell, is stopping us?
The original hi-tech personal assistant
It was shortly before Shabbat that I pulled out my iPhone. One stroke downward and I see:
“The next thing on your calendar today is light candles at 5:54 PM, in 10 minutes.”
At that point I realized that my iPhone is the Primordial Snake from the Garden of Eden.
You thought the serpent is the epitome of no-good from the get-go, right? You might think it outrageous and heretical to say otherwise. I mean, what would your Sunday Hebrew-school teacher have to say if you made any other suggestion? But then, Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya (Sanhedrin 59b) shatters that myth: The snake, he says, was created to be Adam and Eve’s personal assistant.
And who wouldn’t want a snake for an assistant? Who could better stealthily spy on all the comings and goings of the garden? Be the best and clearest source of all necessary and unnecessary information? Provide cool entertainment and witty comebacks? And with voice recognition and audible verbal feedback to boot.
“The snake was the cleverest of all the beasts of the garden.” (Genesis 3:1)
A true visionary (visionaries often appear outrageous and heretical), Rabbi Shimon goes so far as to say that had the snake not received its curse, we would all have our personal ophidian assistants today.
So, maybe we do. Maybe the snake has returned, and I’m holding it in my pocket.
Which is fantastic. Really wonderful. G-d’s ultimate gift of hi-tech productivity enhancement.As long as the snake was listening to Adam’s instructions, and not the other way around, everything was great.
There’s just one small but crucial caveat. One we were supposed to have learned from history: As long as the snake was listening to Adam’s instructions, and not the other way around, everything was great. Which is where Adam blew it. Once that protocol was reversed, that’s when the whole mess began. That’s when the assistant became the master, and the master became the slave.
Has the snake learned its lesson? Have I, this great-great-grandperson and heir to Adam and Eve?
Personally, my ophidian assistant never desists in its ploys to reverse that protocol. On Shabbat, there’s even virtual buzz—I can feel it vibrating in my pocket when it’s shut down and stuffed away in my drawer. Now, that’s not nice. When will this creature ever give up?
Nevertheless, I love my iSnake. It provides me so many opportunities for growth. There are times of the day–like those when I could actually be productive, or contemplative, or just sit back and relax–when every thirty seconds I experience another compulsive limbic rush to check messages and emails. Or to look up what is the capital of New Brunswick. Or just to chat with Siri, since no one else is listening to me.
“C’mon, Tzvi—information tastes good! Keep collecting it, and soon you’ll know as much as G-d Himself! Besides, it’s a lot easier than all those other things you really should be doing.”
And I resist that urge. And I grow.
After Shabbat, there are a hundred messages waiting for me in the Alert Center. Too bad. They will have to wait. I am Adam—not the slave, but the master of this garden.
Woman 1.0 was a harsh and judgmental version, not at all user-friendly. The only hint to her in Genesis is Adam's enigmatic dual metaphor, "This time [she is] a bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh." The "bone of my bones"—her name was Lilith, with a personality as inflexible as a dry bone. Adam dumped that one fast.
"Flesh from my flesh" refers to Woman 2.0, a.k.a. Chava (somehow that became "Eve" in English). She was more easy-going, less critical, far more responsive—as flesh is relative to bones. This worked really well for a long-term relationship. (You can't say "user-friendly" on 2.0, since this is more of an interactive, client-to-client relationship. We'll get to that soon.)
1.0 relied on technology from the World of TohuThe two versions had much to do with the technology implemented. 1.0 relied on technology from the World of Tohu. That's a world, previous to ours, which is built on absolutes. Absolute light, absolute darkness, absolute kindness and...absolute harshness.
Tohu Technology was an all around failure, resulting in a major system crash throughout the cosmos. In the aftermath—and pretty much in response to that disaster—the World of Tikkun was formed.
In Tikkun, everything was balanced and harmonized in a holistic and relativistic system. Light was tempered with darkness and darkness with light. Kindness knew what it means to be harsh—and could even use that harshness if necessary to attain even greater kindness. As for Harshness, it lost its autonomous modality altogether, becoming no more than an adjunctive function to Kindness.
So it was with Lilith and Chava (Eve). Lilith was a woman of absolutes, intolerant of anything but perfection in her man and in his relationship to her. Not a great recipe for a marriage. Chava was ready to look the other way for the sake of the relationship, aware that things are never perfect, but love can make it work. She contained within her some of Adam and could feel his heart's rhythm within her own.
Woman was upgraded. The problem is, Adam wasn't.
The first sin of humanity can be traced to Adam's failure in response to Chava: According to the Ari (Rabbi Yitzchaak Luria, 1534–1572, supreme master of the Kabbalah), Adam was meant to wait until Friday night to have relations with Chava—which is the appropriate time for those relations. He failed in this regard, resulting in her loneliness, which allowed for that whole snake-virus invasion.
Woman was upgraded. The problem is, Adam wasn'tThis is how the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, 1789-1866) elucidates and illuminates this teaching of the Ari: When it comes to sanctity and getting things right, preparation is everything. In order to be involved in this relationship in a human, inner way, both parties need to prepare and wait for the appropriate timing. Shabbat night is the appropriate time for Chava. She is Shabbat. This is her time. Besides, she needs to first develop an emotional relationship with Adam. She needs to exist first as a person in his eyes, and only then can she truly bond with him.
So we see that Adam also retained remnants of the earlier Tohu protocol, namely its top-down hierarchy. Tohu was all about unidirectional data flow: Information descends from the Infinite Light to create and sustain a world—and that's where it stops. No dynamics for user feedback. Zero learning curve. Basically, the end client ("user") is treated like just another accessory to the hardware/software and I/O.
That's the way, after all, that the world was originally created. G-d spoke and it was. There was no interest in user feedback; you couldn't ask the created beings, "What do you think if we do it like this?"—because there were no created beings, no users, since that's what was being invented. So creation, initially at least, was entirely a top-down protocol.
All this was reflected in Adam's attitude toward Chava. He treated the relationship in a top-down fashion, as though she was no more than an accessory to him. Bad deal for Chava, not too good for Adam, either. Adam also needs time. His role is to be more than a seed-delivery mechanism. He needs to be the Provider and Protector of his family. When he charges impetuously into a physical relationship driven by his own hormonal urges, he effectively reverses roles: Chava now holds the goods and he's down on his knees begging for them. Or grabbing them and causing even more harm.
Adam was stuck in the old protocol. He should have learned from G-d's own modality-shift with him: Having created the world, G-d turned to Adam to initiate a two-way, interactive relationship. Adam awoke to a latent world, where life lay just below the surface of the soil, "for there was no Adam to work the soil." In this case, Adam was bright enough to figure out what was demanded of him. He prayed for rain, "and a mist rose to water the garden."
Adam was stuck in the old protocol. He should have learned from G-d's own modality-shift with himFrom that point on, the protocol had changed. If the initial act of Creation was a free lunch, the soup kitchen was now closed. From now on, nothing in the entire cosmos could receive without giving, or give without receiving. Not even Adam or Chava.
Ever since, this has been the greatest challenge of every man who has felt for a woman: the challenge to be a man and rein in his own one-way urge. The challenge to recognize that, hey, there's someone else here besides me, this is a person, an "other," a "not-me"—and maybe she's not in the same space as me quite yet. The challenge to wait and to share.
If he fails, he becomes a slave and in the long run, despised and used by the woman he believes he has conquered. If he succeeds, he unites with her and is respected by her. The children that are born from that union are granted peace between their own bodies and souls. In miniature, he has repaired the entire cosmos—and that itself is reflected systemically throughout all of Creation. Everything starts at home, even world peace.