Jacob, a Role Model for overcoming a life of struggle

Jacob, a Role Model for overcoming a life of struggle

Some years ago I wrote an article on this week’s Torah Portion [Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4-36:43], around the issue of being distressed by the loss of life – see https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/11/30/distressed-by-the-tragedy-of-loss-of-life/

But I think this Torah Portion has a much more powerful message to share, and it’s that Jacob is really a great role-model for those going through struggles in the lives, which of course is all of us at some time!

And why is Jacob such a great role model in this regard?

I would suggest for two main reasons. Firstly, he epitomises fallibility and secondly, I think he epitomises someone with a diminished sense of self-worth.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states Jacob was “…The man who, more than any other, epitomises fallibility is Jacob…. His life was a series of struggles. Nothing came easily to him…

There are saintly people for whom spirituality comes as easily as did music to Mozart. But God does not reach out only to saints. He reaches out to all of us. That is why He gave us Abraham for those who love, Isaac for those who fear, and Jacob/Israel for those who struggle.

Hence this week’s life-changing idea: if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel … and the father of the 12 Tribes.

So while his life was a life of struggle, both with man; with his brother and his family; but also with God Himself, ultimately he saw great reward and redemption in that all his children stayed within the faith.

Sacks: According to the pain is the reward’ – Mishnah, Avot 5:23. That is Jacob.”

So while Jacob struggled he was eventually triumphant. This should encourage all who struggle – don’t give up, there is light at the end of the tunnel; it will be worth it; the pain will one day pass; the Olam HaBah (the Kingdom of God) will one day appear!

And how does a low sense of worthiness come into it?

I think that Jacob may well have had some sense of unworthiness, after-all he really knew that he was the 2nd born and that he had stolen the birthright of his older brother Esau. Not only did he pay a heavy price for this deception, his mother did as well[1], and surely this would have impacted him.

How does this impact and exacerbate the life of struggle?

I discuss this in my blog post ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ which highlights the work of the social researcher, Brene Brown.

See – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2017/05/27/the-power-of-vulnerability/

Her argument is that those who don’t feel worthy are more likely to fall for addictions; to feel dis-connected (which is not at all the same thing as enjoying solitude), to struggle to find joy and happiness. Someone who feels worthy is more easily able to be vulnerable, and in turn such people are more easily able to ‘hear’ the lessons that God gives us every day and grow from them.

A lack of a sense of worthiness in turn leads to placing barriers and walls which not only lead to disconnection but inhibit any openness to growth and learning.
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Perhaps Jacob also struggled in this way, and yet he persevered and broke through. You can too!

[1] I have written at length on this. Please see ‘Feeling For Rebekah’ – https://goo.gl/YtMqfi

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The Ten Happiness Principles – Facebook Live

Please find below a developing series of Facebook Live sessions exploring in some more depth, the Ten Happiness Principles.

First things first though – thanks Danny!
I decided to do these FB Live recordings after encouragement from Danny, a good friend who is an entrepreneur, Social Media wiz, Life Coach and International Businessman
– check him out below:

I created a Udemy Course on the Ten Happiness Principles a couple of years ago – accessible here


So I will post below the series of Facebook Live recordings as I work through presenting again, The Ten Happiness Principles!

Introduction:

fb live intro

Happiness Principle #1 – Give Thanks

fb live no1 thanks

 

And a little more thanks!

 

The Paradox of the Rebellious Child – an Impossible Outcome

This weeks Torah Portion, Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) has some very challenging passages – at least when first read on a fairly superficial level, but even perhaps still challenging after deeper reflection!!

It starts off with the narrative about the beautiful woman captured in wartime (Deut 21:10-14).

I love this answer as a great lesson in confronting our ‘evil inclination’, our Yetzer haRa, http://www.aish.com/tp/i/wbr/48922022.html

It goes on to discuss the ‘rebellious child’.

Rabbi Ari Kahn has a good explanation in one of his commentaries regarding the case of the rebellious child, who is to be stoned to death!
“Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death …” Deut 21:21
Rabbi Kahn states: “As the Sages see it, the rebellious child does not develop in a vacuum; he is the result of a dysfunctional home. … Interestingly enough, the Rabbis felt that there never was and never would be a “real” rebellious child.
 
This is not to say that such a child never existed.
 
Rather, the courts could never successfully prosecute and adjudicate such a case, due to the myriad conditions required for a conviction …”
Ari Khan shows here that the proper understanding of this passage is in what it actually teaches, and therefore in what should be avoided, and not in some strictly literal and seemingly incredibly harsh condemnation of a rebellious son.
A shocking scenario is painted with a consequence that very few would ever see as just or fair and certainly one appearing to display a total lack of true grace.
Yet this reality, this commandment, was never, and would never be enacted because it requires both mother and father to speak with one voice, and such unity of parenthood could not result in a rebellious son! (Read Ari’s article here for the full picture).

Thus those who dismiss the Tanakh and it’s teaching because of their rejection of a text they take in a very literal and simplistic manner are really shown to be both ignorant and arrogant in their approach.

I have also written briefly on this Torah Portion in an earlier blog post, ‘Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness’ here.

Dysfunctional Relationships by Rabbi Ari Kahn:  http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/54308942.htl

A shocking event: Abraham turns his back on the Almighty!

Thanks to a great insight from author Shalom Denbo:

In Genesis 17 we read where God and Avraham have made a covenant and Avraham has just been circumcised and the Almighty comes to comfort him.

So we read in Genesis 18:1 “YHVH appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest time of the day.”

Surely, most of us would consider a personal visit from YHVH, where He appears to us and talks with us would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to us!

Consider a less dramatic analogy:
Some great and famous person such as your country’s President or Prime Minister, or your greatest sportsman or guru comes to visit you and is sitting with you in your lounge. Surely, the honour and prestige would be so great that you would not get up and leave him/her?

Yet, this is exactly what Avraham does, and not just to the President, but to the Creator of the Universe!!

He gets up and leaves Him when he sees 3 strangers walking by; 3 strangers who may just be vagrants or poor travellers.

Read on from verse 1 to verses 2-5:
“2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing across from him. When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by and leave your servant.
4 Let a little water be brought so that you may all wash your feet and rest under the tree.
5 And let me get a bit of food so that you may refresh yourselves since you have passed by your servant’s home. After that you may be on your way.” “All right,” they replied, “you may do as you say.” – NET

Avraham doesn’t just leave God ‘standing’, he runs from Him!!

I had never seen this before or thought of what it signifies.

Is Avraham so ‘familiar’ with the Almighty that he can do this; or is he simply not aware of the great and awesome honour bestowed upon him to have YHVH in his presence, communing with him?

Denbo suggests another option.

He argues that we learn from this text that Avraham wishes to emulate the Almighty, that is to be godly.

To be godly is to wish to be like God and to take responsibility for the world.

Avraham sees the 3 strangers and cares for their welfare as they travel exposed to the heat at the hottest time of the day.

Avraham desires to help these strangers, to offer them refreshment and shelter for a moment from the heat of the day.

Avraham sees being like God s more important that being with God!

What an amazing lesson!

This is surely what God wants from all of us. Not to wish that the peak of our existence is to commune with Him, but the peak of our being is to be as much like Him, as godly as possible and as a result to undertake ‘tikkun HaOlam’, that is, to undertake to repair the world, to take responsibility to do all within our power to impact the world for the better.

To be Godly, to be Holy!

This insight from “7 Traits: How to Change Your World” by Shalom Denbo.

The Yetzer HaRa and Yetzer HaTov

In Uriel Ben Mordechai’s new translation of Romans (principally from the earliest extant version we have, Papyrus 46 – circa 170 CE), we see the use of the Hebraic understanding of our nature consisting of two ‘hearts’, that is, of a fleshly heart and a spiritual heart; an evil inclination (the Yetzer haRa), and a good inclination, (the Yester HaTov).

http://www.above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html#kosher_paul

For much more on this and other Hebraic principles or Hebraisms, please see my articles on the Hebraic Mindset as circumcisedheart.info as well as my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’.

Uriel essentially translates the Greek back into its Hebraic underpinning and perspective, and then into English (à la, Prof. David Flusser) so that the Yetzer haRa and Yetzer haTov are seen and explicitly referred to in Romans 2:17; 7:5; 8:4, 5, 6, 11,12,13, and in 8:26.
 Judaism understands from the Tanakh that man has two hearts, and two inclinations, an inclination to do good and an inclination to do bad. This Hebraic concept of ‘Yetzer HaRa’ and ‘Yetzer HaTov’ (the evil inclination and the good inclination) relates to the choice of the will to be faithful to God rather than follow the natural ‘lusts of the flesh’.
The origin of this understanding is that in Hebrew the singular for ‘heart’ (pronounced ‘lev’) is לב and the plural ‘hearts’ is sometimes spelt in more than one way such as לבבך or ֵלבבם or לבבות. If you look at the Sh’ma (starting at Deut 6:4) in a Hebrew Bible such as Hebrew-English Tanakh (Varda Books 2009) you will see the plural, לבבך in both verses 6 and 7.
This literally translates into English as: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your hearts, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your hearts …”
So some debate occurred within Israel religious scholars over the centuries about why the plural? The Talmud relates that their conclusion is that we have two hearts, a yetzer hatov and a yetzer hara (essentially a ‘fleshly heart’ and a ‘spiritual heart’). This is also clearly seen in the ‘Al Chet’ Prayer that is recited every Yom Kippur, where the 19th prayer is to pray for forgiveness “For the mistakes we committed before You with the Yetzer HaRa”.

Romans 8:4

Thus all who seek HaShem need to make the choice to follow the good heart rather than the fleshly heart. All who have ‘circumcised hearts’ are then aligning their ‘fleshly heart’ with their ‘spiritual heart’, and will inherit the Olam HaBah, the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul calls the Torah spiritual in a number of places such as 1 Cor 10:3 and Romans 7:14. So for example, when Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” he is speaking primarily on an individual basis of this choice that we all have – whether to be ‘born from above’, that is to follow our good inclination, to circumcise our hearts and have the ‘faith of Yeshua’ which is the ‘faith/faithfulness of Abraham’, or to remain alienated from God in allowing our ‘fleshly heart’ or evil inclination to lead us astray.
Mussar (Jewish ethics – see this short post for an introduction) teaches though that the ‘evil inclination’ is really also for our good because when recognized and alerted to, it can help us to recognize where our character falls short and what we need to correct to synchronize our ‘fleshly heart’ with our ‘spiritual heart’ so as to fully turn our whole being to HaShem.
So here is just two of the many references in Uriel’s translation:
Romans 8:4
“…so that the righteous verdict of the Torah can be satisfied in us who walk not in a manner conforming to “yetzer ha’rah,” but conforming to “yetzer ha’tov”.
Romans 8:
“6 The truth is that the perspective of the “yetzer ha’rah” is death, while the perspective of the “yetzer ha’tov” is life and shalom,
7 precisely because the mind bent on the tendency towards evil opposes G‑d with hostility. …”
Again, I strongly recommend Uriel’s version which can be purchased as a pdf from here –http://www.above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html#kosher_paul 

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The Power of Vulnerability:

Brene Brown is a social researcher. She has a very powerful message to share that she has found through her research.

She argues that human “connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

From her research she divided people into two basic groups; those who have a strong sense of love and belonging (and thus feel connected), and those who really struggle for it (and thus feel disconnected).

And here’s the kicker, here’s her revelation from her research:

“The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.” 

She found that these people are “whole-hearted.”

That they had a sense of courage, where she uses the original definition of “tell(ing) the story of who you are with your whole heart.”, and thus having the courage to be imperfect.

They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.

And “as a result of this authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.”

And they “fully embraced vulnerability.”

They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. This means that they have “the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees …”; the willingness “to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.”

Brene argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Yet, as she also discovered from her research we all have a tendency to numb our vulnerability, but the problem is “that you cannot selectively numb emotion.”

“You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, …”

Instead she argues that we need to accept our feelings of vulnerability because it means we are really alive, and we need to “believe that we’re enough.”

I strongly recommend you listen to her TED talk here.

In reflecting on this I see many ways in which our upbringing can predispose us to being in one group or the other.

With an upbringing by wise and loving parents we should grow into adults who have this sense of belonging and being worthy.

Yet there are many factors that work against this, not just our natural tendency to question and second-guess ourselves, and perhaps lack the confidence to be authentic due to peer pressure, etc., but a whole media push to constantly tell us we are not good enough without buying into the latest fad or getting the latest toy or gadget, etc., or being part of some special group that ‘has it all’.

Also, I suspect for many brought up in recent decades within a Christian environment, the false ‘Original Sin’[1] doctrine has been far from helpful here as it tries to convince people that they are at their core, and from birth, sinful and depraved beings with little hope of redemption without miraculous external support.

Rather Brene’s research rings so true with foundational Biblical principles. Consider the Sh’ma (Deut 6:4 …) for example and the two greatest commandments according to Yeshua.

 Sh’ma, Yisra’el:
“Listen, O’ Israel: YHVH is our God, YHVH is one!
You must love YHVH your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.
These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up…”


And Leviticus 19:18: …love your neighbour as yourself; I am YHVH.

You cannot truly love your neighbour unless you love yourself. True love and devotion to the Almighty should also being the revelation that you are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and you cannot hope to give your all in loving God if you find yourself unworthy.

But you can change!

You can grow in acceptance of yourself; in being more authentic; in being ‘whole-hearted’ so that you can give ‘whole-heartedly’ to God!

For more please see my article ‘You Shall be Holy’[2] and my ‘The Ten Happiness Principles’[3] on Udemy.

Note:  
The two groups of people that Brene refers to are not those who are very gregarious and love being around others, compared with those who prefer a more solitary life. This was not the distinction she was making.

I think in this respect, there is also a lot going for the ‘solitary life’ or at the very least for times of peace and quiet and times of reflection away from the ‘madding crowd’, including family, etc. But Brene was instead contrasting 1) those who believe they’re worthy of love and belonging with 2) those who don’t.

Her argument is that those who don’t feel worthy are more likely to fall for addictions; to feel dis-connected (which is not at all the same thing as enjoying solitude), to struggle to find joy and happiness. Someone who feels worthy is more easily able to be vulnerable, and in turn such people are more easily able to ‘hear’ the lessons that God gives us every day and grow from them.

A lack of a sense of worthiness in turn leads to placing barriers and walls which not only lead to disconnection but inhibit any openness to growth and learning.

[1] See this excellent article for more on this very damaging doctrine – https://goo.gl/HVrhiF

[2] https://globaltruthinternational.com/2015/03/21/you-shall-be-holy-introduction/

[3] https://www.udemy.com/the-ten-happiness-principles/

Raised for a time such as this – the example of Hadassah

We read through the Book of Esther for Purim yesterday.

Despite having read or listened to the entire Bible at least 20 times over the last 10+ years, there is always a number of new insights (or perhaps restored (i.e. had forgot, now remember!) ones.
I saw a few in the Book of Esther yesterday.
One of the great quotes of wisdom in Esther is this:
“ For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

I think this is a universal principle.

We are all given at least one, if not many unique opportunities in life to make a positive and significant difference. This situation (or situations) occurs where there is seemingly no-one else available to stand up and be counted, yet it always seems the situation requires a serious stepping out of our comfort zone, and most likely some serious risk to our job, our reputation, or relationships, or even our very freedoms.How many times might we even baulk and fail to make a stand. Yet the Almighty is most gracious. I believe He gives us another, and another, chance to show our true heart, to show that we really are His children, with His desire to see justice and mercy prevail.

And at the same time, the Almighty being all-powerful does not need us to make the stand, as He can always find another way. It is we who benefit, and perhaps as Mordechai states to Hadassah (Esther) here, perhaps we too face some serious negative consequences if we don’t ‘step up to the plate’.
So how do we prepare ourselves for this momentous times of challenge and times when we really grow to be all we were created to be. Hadassah had a challenging upbringing. Surely this helped her prepare for this moment. But she was also brought up in a household that clearly honoured the Almighty and sort to live by His Instructions (Torah), to be kind, respectful, gracious and holy. Surely this God-fearing environment helped her come to this moment in time and helped her to be ready to heed the call.
Another intriguing aspect that stood out was how the night before Queen Hadassah was to meet with her King and the evil Hamman, the King (perhaps under the subtle influence of the King of the Universe) could not sleep. With no TV and little other forms of entertainment, he decides to read the ‘Chronicles of the Kings’ (essentially the diary of the daily life of the King and his Kingdom).
Here he reads of the event where Mordechai saved him from the evil intentions of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the Kings eunuchs. This leads to the ‘tables being turned’ on Haman, who having expected to get a great blessing has to instead bestow it on Mordechai, a man who, as a result of Haman’s arrogance, he despises. What a sweet narrative for us to read – the good guy prevails!
And then note how, when Hadassah points the finger at the evil Haman, the King, rather than making a very hasty decision walks off into the garden to ponder the accusation and his response.
He must surely have been torn between his ‘right-hand’ man who had been for sometime his most loyal and trusted deputy, and this Mordechai whom he didn’t really know, but whom he had just ‘delighted to honour’.
So while the King paces in the garden, Hamman now recognizing out perilous his position has suddenly become, pleads profusely with Hadassah, to the point it appears of either getting on the couch with her or perhaps kneeling at her feet and laying his hands on her as he pleads for his life. The King re-enters and see’s Hamman before ‘forward’ with the Queen and assumes that he is in some way assaulting her.
… And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” Esther 7:8
 
And notice how quick the eunuch Harbona, presumably one of the Queen’s attendees is quick to stand up for her and state to the King that Haman had made some gallows with which he had planned to hang Mordechai, that could now be used against Haman. Perhaps this eunuch was more prepared to make a stand himself because he was witness to the good character and God-fearing nature of Hadassah.
This is a great story!
 If you haven’t already read it this Purim, I recommend finding the time to do so, and especially, if possible do it in company.