Showing posts with label Ed Feinstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ed Feinstein. Show all posts

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Daily Life Lessons from Rabbi Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Mark Borovitz is a friend, teacher and mentor. His story is amazing. And he has a tremendous blog in which he riffs on a teaching from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whom he reveres, each day. I try to read them as they post. Yesterday's is a standout and I would like to share it with you. Please go to Rabbi Mark's blog to read more: Living Rabbi Heschel's Wisdom - A Daily Path To Living Well.

Daily Life Lessons from Rabbi Heschel
June 7, 2023
Year 2 Day 218

Rabbi Mark Borovitz
“What is decisive is not the climax we reach in rare moments, but how the achievements of rare moments affect the climate of the entire life. The goal of Jewish law is to be the grammar of living, dealing with all relations and functions of living. Its main theme is the person rather than an institution.”(God in Search of Man pg. 384)

Rabbi Heschel’s wisdom above says it all, to me. We are a society that is constantly seeking a new ‘high’, fulfilling a new desire, recapturing an old ecstatic experience. We are constantly trying to reach a climax, we are constantly trying to ‘win’, we are constantly moving to the next shiny thing, the next rung up on the ladder, the next ‘big score’, the next, the next, etc. I hear Rabbi Heschel calling to us to let go of this folly, to stop our incessant search for our next climax, our next success.

My Rabbi and friend, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, teaches that the day after Yom Kippur is the most important day. Rabbi Heschel teaches that “prayer will not save us, it may make us worthy of being saved.” 

Both of these teachings reiterate the teaching above in the first sentence. How does “the climax we reach in rare moments… affect the climate of the entire life of a person”? How has the climax of the Revolutionary War impacted the way we treat freedom? How does the rare moment of our experience at Mount Sinai affect our way of living? How does winning World War II impact our ways of being more human and more humane? How do all of our ‘top of the mountain’ experiences change our ways of living?

In the Bible, after the giving of the 10 Commandments/10 Sayings, we learn about how to treat indentured servants, we learn how to deal with one another in difficult times, how to honor the humanity of one another no matter what ‘station’ in life we are at. 

After the greatest spiritual experience in the Bible (Old Testament to some), we are given paths to living well with one another, we are told of the nature of human beings and how to overcome our nature to treat another poorly, how to get over our self-deceptions and our narcissism! 

We are taught throughout the Bible how to use our daily experiences to better our internal life, to mature our spiritual life, how to live well with one another in peace, in compassion, in truth, in justice, in mercy and in love. Yet, we continue to seek the next ‘high’, not paying attention to the lessons of this experience, not allowing the climax of a good job, a new insight, to grow our inner life, to “affect the climate of the entire life”! 

We are too busy amassing more and more, eventually finding out the truth of life; there is never enough stuff, high, even accomplishments to hide from our selves, to ignore the ways we achieved wherever we have gotten to, our own inner doubts, missing the marks, callousness.

We are witnesses to the dangers and pitfalls of chasing the next big thing, the next climax and not allowing the experience of our climactic experience to change us, to impact our sense of how to live well. We can look throughout our history and see how we have treated ‘those people’, how we have tried to use ‘them’ as enemies and gotten myriads of people to agree, be it Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc. 

We have and still do feel great when we ‘win’ and can dominate the minority, when we can win and get the minority to rule as we have seen in Germany with the Nazis, in Russia with Putin, in America with Trump, et al. It seems as if people are only learning how to make bigger and bigger ‘bets’ on how to satisfy their narcissistic desires, their inauthentic need for more authoritarian control. 

I am not talking about just the ‘leaders’, I am speaking of the people supporting them as well. Both the far right and the far left are spewing anti-Semitic tropes and ‘blaming the Jews’ for some troubles, both the far right and the far left are trying to push their agendas as ‘the only right way’ to live. When we are living in the extremes, we find ourselves unable to have a success, a “rare moment of climax” impact “the climate of the entire life” because we are so consumed with keeping our authority, staying in power, we are unable to learn from either success nor failure.

In recovery, we know we cannot afford to live in the extreme anymore, we know from the destruction we have caused and experienced the danger of ‘chasing the next high’. We take “One day at a time”, we go end our day with a look back so we can learn from our actions, the actions of another(s), we can repair our errors, make our amends, learn from our “rare moments of climax”. 

In recovery, we know that our recovery depends on the nature of our spiritual condition and we have to live our spiritual principles in all of our affairs, they are not etherial, they are our lifeline. God Bless and stay safe, Rabbi Mark