Meet Your Soul/ Living Without Hatred & Fear (A Rosh Hashana Sermon)
Today I want to talk to you about polishing our souls. And you’ll probably say – wait a minute! My soul is just brilliant! This is not for me! So let me tell you something about the nature of our souls. They are the shining light and the most powerful element of our existence. But at the same time, the most delicate one. So they can easily be covered or obscured. Because they are so deep in our beings it is sometimes hard to notice that.
So, When was the last time that you took your soul for a checkup? When was the last time that you even thought about the fact that you’ve got to check your soul every once in a while? And if you haven’t done it yet, then how can you be sure about where you are in your life? What kind of light are you projecting? Or even harder than those questions is: Who you are! Is that dust covering your light a part of your identity too? Or just the reminiscences of something that wasn’t cast away!?
Don’t despair! Today is Rosh Hashanah, and check up offices are absolutely open. If during the entire year they work 24/7, now they’re doing double shifts.
So understanding that there is no more time for procrastination, you finally gather the energy and courage and make the call.
Welcome to Soul self awareness network services.
Due to the large number of calls at the beginning of the month of Tishrei our waiting time is longer than usual….
Para espanol marque estrella….
For your financial status press 1
For your health condition press 2
For your emotional Complexities press 1234
If you want to learn more about the nature of your relationships press 5
To inquire about the where I am question and to verify your Identity press 7
Huh! That’s what YOU want to know! SO you go ahead and press 7 And then you hear the following question: Where are you? AYEKA? … And then silence, nothingness. You are filled with expectations knowing that something great may be revealed to you soon…. But there is nothing there… Until all of a sudden you hear a terrible noise, such a strong noise that it makes it impossible for you to hear. You can’t even think while hearing that horrendous noise. Then it stops and you hear the voice of the machine again: We are sorry, due to the level of noise in YOUR system we couldn’t access the information about the location of your soul. In order to get rid of the noise, we recommend that you check:
Your emotional complexities & The nature of your relationships.
For your emotional Complexities press 1234
If you want to learn more about the nature of your relationships press 5
At this point you still don’t have an answer but you know where to start.
What we want to accomplish is to be capable of establishing a connection without “noises in the line” and without “dust” covering what is supposed to be shining. It is about being capable of listening to our souls. And this idea of listening to our souls may sound familiar; this is the meaning of the Shema prayer! Listening, becoming one with God.
The Rabbis (Masechet B’rachot 11:B) discuss how one is to get ready for the Shema. Surprisingly for the Talmud, there is a consensual answer, and it is by perceiving abundant love. Ahava Rabah, as we recite in the morning before chanting the Shema.
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz says:
Love of God depends on one’s ability to be aware of Him, not in the sense of one’s knowledge of what is written in this book or another, but in terms of personal consciousness. One can love God to the degree that one is able to be conscious of Him or to feel Him.
All that is necessary is to understand and to sincerely inquire into one’s knowledge of that which is worthy of love, and the natural impulse, the love of God, is awakened.
We can close our eyes and surrender to the experience of oneness with God only when we are filled with trust and immersed in the waters of deep love.
Knowing that a strong link to our souls is developed through love and trust, we need to explore hatred, anger and fear as the elements that could possibly prevent us from making that connection.
Hatred, Anger, Fear.
Let’s start with hatred.
In 1957 Martin Luther King said: “…There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate… For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater”.
Hatred destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater…
And What about Fear?
A few weeks ago I came across the story of the ESSEX. The Essex was a whaling ship. In the year 1820 the Essex went on a voyage looking for whales in distant grounds in the south Pacific. The ship was struck by a big sperm whale who ripped a huge hole in it. The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try to fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side. In all, there were three boats and 20 men. They were 10,000 miles away from home and over 1,000 miles away from the nearest land. They calculated that the closest land was the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands. However, the crew had heard rumors that the islands were peopled with cannibals. They pictured themselves coming to shore only to be murdered and eaten by cannibals.
The other option was sailing south, a much greater distance to land, requiring more than the food and water supplies they had available. Debating the best solution, they ended up deciding to take the longer route going south. By the time they were finally found, less than half the crew were still alive, and ironically had survived by eating the remains of their dead crewmates…
The story of the Essex is by all accounts horrible. In choosing between two frightening options – heading out to a long journey without sufficient supplies which meant sure starvation, vs. going towards rumored cannibalism the crew chose the first. .
The novelist Karen Thompson Walker brightly explains in her TED talk that fear is like stories that we tell ourselves. These stories can sometimes save our lives and in some cases even predict the future. As a matter of fact, fear is recognized as an essential characteristic that evolved for human survival. But there is a problem with fear. Fear comes to our minds as stories with tangible images. As a result, we tend to experience greater fear for things that we can picture. In the case of the Essex, the fear that was more vividly pictured was the one that determined their choice.
The problem with letting fear lead our choices is that it can oppose our knowledge, our logical thinking and sometimes even the values that we hold dear.
The combination between hatred and fear has even more of a potential of obscuring any emanating internal light.
Think about our politics here in the US, if there is something that is bipartisan today it is the embracing of fear and hatred as an inherent part of our dialogue.
“They don’t care about the other!”
“They don’t understand what they are doing!”
“They don’t see the risk of their actions!”
“They are a threat to our society!”
The echoes of 9/11 haven’t ended yet. The constant terrorist attacks that we see all over the world keep feeding our fears on a regular basis. Real threats exist and watchfulness is an important value. Of course we need to have security in our borders and even right now at the gates of our synagogue. But if you let the poison of fear take control of your mind you will end up believing that more than half of the population of the world are your enemies. Can we really live in such a world? Do we want to live in such a world?
This applies also to fellow Jews that think differently, to different opinions of what is best for the state of Israel on the national level, on the civic level and so on.
The dialogue of fear and hatred brings our society to the binary division of either ‘we are in agreement’ or ‘you are a traitor and consequently an enemy’! It brings us to the terrible place in which we stop seeing each other.
The tragedy is that in this way we can hide the neshama, the soul, of an entire nation!
But I’d like to take a step away from the big picture of we as a nation to the higher resolution of me, you and our relationships.
What happens when fear and anger take over in our relationships with people that we know well and love…
Think about how many people you know that are strangers to some member of their families…
Think about when for some reason you are angry with somebody that you love and the anger comes again and again. It gets to the point that you stop seeing the other person and anger becomes the predominant feeling where once there was love.
And fear? In this context it comes as worry…. Sometimes we are so worried about something happening to a loved one, that the only thing that we can see is our concern. Of course we need to care about the people that we love. However if our fearful concern prevents us from seeing the individual standing in front of us then we are distancing ourselves. We see the irony of people that care about each other but can’t communicate because of fear.
When fear takes over, it creates alienation. It separates us from dear people and also distances us from our own souls.
We started this talk wondering about the location of our souls, thinking at the gates of a new year how to refresh our connection. Then we learned that the first step is “polishing” them. Through the formula of how to get ready for the recitation of the shema we learned that in order to become one with our souls we need to strengthen our trust and to focus on the abundance of love embracing us. In order to establish a deep connection we need to remove the dust that is obscuring the light emanating from our souls. So we start Rosh Hashanah with a Vidui, a confession, trying to come into account with things that we recognize and that we understand should not be there. Hatred, fear and anger.
So, When was the last time that you took your soul for a checkup? When was the last time that you even thought about the fact that you’ve got to check your soul every once in awhile? And if you haven’t done it yet, then how can you be sure about where you are in your life? What kind of light are you projecting? Or even harder than those questions – Who you are!? Is that dust covering your light a part of your identity too?
I’d like to conclude this talk with an idea that has the power to change your life and maybe the entire world…
When we start to see each other, we also start to see ourselves more clearly. When we recognize the divine presence in the other we renew the link to the divine presence in ourselves. We recognize that this world isn’t filled with enemies and traitors but with people, divine creatures just like you… Those from afar that you don’t know and those whom you know well and maybe don’t always understand, all of them, all of us, imperfect yet masterpieces…
Torah teaches us גַּם כִּי אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא אִירָא רָע כִּי אַתָּה עִמָּדִי Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me!
There is endless hope in this idea that You are walking with me. “You”, when I recognize “you” in a fellow human, and “You”, when I embrace “You” in my own soul, in my Neshama, You fill this entire world with light.
May this year renew for us the wisdom to recognize and embrace the light surrounding us and our internal light as one.
Shanna Tovah U’Metuka