Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get attitude!

Most people I know want to grow spiritually. Maybe we all have different speeds we'd like to travel at, but the general direction is the same.

It gets frustrating when you're trying to develop, but keep slipping back into old habits. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, three steps back.

Here are four attitudes to look out for. Each of them is dangerous to personal development. They're all culled from one of Judaism's most important historic dramas- the splitting of the Red Sea.

As the world's mightiest army bore down on the Jews, trapped by the sea, four reactionary theories emerged.

One group said: "Let's rather jump into the sea!" They felt it better to commit suicide than to contemplate reverting to slavery.

Another said: "Let us surrender!". They believed that life as a slave better than no life.

The third crowd argued for a last-ditch fight against the advancing army.

And the last group figured the best response to crisis would be to pray.

None was right.

G-d refuted each argument by telling Moses: "Tell the people to march on!"

What a lesson in spiritual growth!

Torah, the ultimate book of life-lessons, predicts the course of each of our lives. We will all be inspired to leave our personal "Egypt" and embark on a journey of discovery. No sooner have we done so, we'll feel uncertain of our decision: The way forward looks impossible, and old habits are quite comfortable.

At that stage, if we adopt any of the four attitudes, we don't stand a chance.

Translated into personal terms:

1) "Dive into the deep-end of spirituality and never return to normal life." Judaism does not believe in ascetism or living the hermit-life. We were put on this Earth to inspire the world, not to run from it.

2) "Become a slave again". A healthy Jew cannot live on auto-pilot. It's not enough to engage the world (including its dark "Egypt" alleys) because you have to (but you'd rather be meditating). A Jew must at all times be full of life and enthusiasm.

3) "Go to war". Sometimes it feels holy to nitpick and get stuck on every spiritual issue until it's resolved. It's a noble idea, but you'll never move forward.

4) "Pray". When it's time to challenge yourself to move, it's not time to defer to G-d. Sure, we need His assistance every step of the spiritual road, but we cannot simply pass Him the buck.

When in spiritual crisis, get the right Jewish attitude: March on! As long as you have your personal Mt. Sinai in sight, keep moving towards it.

You'll be surprised how the whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rabbi,

is it possible to get an audio copy of the shiur you did on this topic?

Rabbi S said...

With pleasure. I have it on mp3, and will happily get it you on CD... but I need to know who this is :)

Charlene said...

Thanks so much for giving this shiur, it was really inspirational as it is really difficult to "keep walking" when you feel as if you are stuck in your past and no matter what you do you can never be the person that you aim to be. Maybe you could do a shiur on the practical implications on how to make this work in your everyday life, because as motivating as the message that you delivered is, I feel as if I need ways in which to carry this concept from heaven down to earth:)Or maybe the point is to figure this out yourself, but how do we "just do it"? It's said that you should build a fence for the Torah but what exactly are these to be made of? If you could point me in the direction of a website or a book or something that could assist me with issues like this, I would be really grateful. Thanks again and I would like to mention that I hate sitting in shiurim but I always come away with something powerful from yours.

Rabbi S said...

Thanks for the feedback :)
Practical tips are what most of Judaism is about.
Maybe this week's shiur will have some insights. If not, remind me before the following week and maybe I'll dedicate it to that topic.