Searching for the Soul

Pesach/Passover and Easter are here and it’s Shabbat as well, so it seems a good time to reflect on Redemption, both in the story of escaping to freedom and to God, as well as seeking His Kingdom and righteousness through the power of His Messiah.
 
So as I pause from a very hectic last few months and contemplate the next few months that look to bring some very challenging times of both great loss and exciting new beginnings laid out before me, I wish to share a little from a book I am currently embracing.
In her great book ‘Einstein & the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul’, Rabbi Naomi Levy recommends we ask ourselves 4 very significant questions, and that as we seek to ‘find our soul’ we re-visit and ask these questions repeatedly.
 
1. What has my soul been trying to say to me that I have been ignoring;
2. What activities and experiences nourish my soul that I don’t do enough of;
3. What does my soul want to repair that my ego is too stubborn or fearful to repair;
4. What does my soul want me to reach for?
 
Firstly if you have not thought deeply and studied widely on the subject of the soul you may find these questions strange. Also for those of us who have a good grasp of the Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRa (the good and evil inclinations) we may instead see question 1 as the yearnings and calling of our Yetzer HaTov, and question 3 as the voice of our Yetzer HaRa trying to restrict our growth by being too heedful of our fear and anxieties.
 
However you come to these questions, and at whatever stage of your journey you are on, a journey that has its straight and easy paths, its steep hills, its backwaters of seeming stagnation and its roller-coasters or joy, I think these questions are well worth pausing to reflect upon and choosing to regularly revisit.
soul1
 
Let me unpack them a little, at least from my perspective though I do strongly recommend taking the time to read Rabbi Levy’s book.
 
Question 1 and 4 are clearly very connected. Your soul cries out to you, though extremely subtly, to face truths and circumstances that when confronted should lead to a much greater revelation of what your soul yearns for the most.
 
There is no doubt that we all long for security, for love, for great friends and family, for joy and peace every day and for little pain, yet each of us is unique and we have been given unique skills, passions and positions in time and place to do something worthy of being created in the image of God and becoming more united with the Oneness of the Almighty and the Universe through which we connect with Him and our fellow souls.
 
In seeking to answer question 1, assuming you are at a time and place where you sense its importance to you, try to meditate on what activities you find yourself most at peace in. When is it that you sense you are most connected with your world and most true to yourself.
 
Perhaps you can’t answer this question right now – perhaps you first need to give your soul the permission to speak more strongly to you so that you can begin to hear this call. And also then, what might be your higher calling, that is the work that you are called to be most involved in at this time to share in ‘Tukkin Ha Olam’ (repairing the world).
 
Please see the last two pages of my article ‘Amazing Grace’ (https://goo.gl/4y87Kf) where I discuss the fascinating story of Avraham and the burning Palace and how this leads to the great truth that we are all called to become partners with the Creator in ‘building the world with grace’ (Psalm 89:2).
 
Question 2 may be a little easier to answer, but even here, as you grow, as your life unfolds, this too may change.
 
For now though, try to be real with yourself. What really uplifts you? When do you feel most at peace, not necessarily most joyful or happy, but most connected to your environment and those people you share life with. It may even be a time and place where you are alone in some way so that you can first re-connect with yourself and with your God (that is with your current perception of the One True God, whatever that may be). Perhaps you need to be alone to properly and fully appreciate those who normally surround you – to see and hear their souls, their true deeper selves, their true hearts and not necessarily the external nature and behaviours you generally see which may be distorted by the daily challenges of life. See the soul within, see the person they can be and then in turn see the person you can be.
 
Question 3 may be the hardest of all. We have all damaged our souls. We have all done things that were wrong, that we regret, that may even be irreparable, at least in this life. Can we be honest enough with ourselves to see where we need to forgive, both others and ourselves. Perhaps especially ourselves.
 
We all think we could do better if we had a second chance. Yet in life we don’t always get second chances and perhaps even if we did, would we really do better – have we grown and matured enough to really choose a better path with better outcomes?
 
We really can’t go back in time, but we can make today and our future better, especially of we heed the lessons of our mistakes and our successes.
 
One of the things that can really hold us back is holding on to hurt, leading to bitterness and deep anger. For example, if we have been seriously betrayed in our past, and we still feel the pain from that betrayal I would argue that we have not truly forgiven either that person or persons who betrayed us or our ourselves.
 
I have written in more depth on the challenges of forgiveness – see my article ‘Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness’ – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2013/08/16/darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness/
 
So please consider these four questions and then make a note or set an alarm to revisit them in a few days and again in a few weeks. It may be best to record your initial thoughts each time and the you will be more able to see if your thinking has grown.
 
It is (almost) never too late to try to go deeper with your soul. It is never too late to look beyond the exterior of those around you and see their souls. Take a step back if you can, and appreciate ‘the heart of gold’ buried within – maybe only you can see it, even when they can’t. Maybe you have the strength, when no-one else seemingly does, to allow your soul to look beyond the exterior and connect with their soul and to some degree allow the two to become one.
soul3
 
Finally, as Rabbi Levy explains so eloquently, this truly is a process as we ‘search for our souls’. And it is a twofold one as well. We need first to allow the One True God to remove our ‘stony heart’, to reduce the power and control of our Yetzer HaRa, so that He can replace it with a heart of flesh – a heart and soul in tune with our nature, our uniqueness, our world and also our God.

” …and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26b

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The Yochanan Narrative Series

Below is a series of posts I am creating that highlight some of the amazing revelations that are being made from a re-translation of the Gospel of John:

Post #1

Uriel Ben Mordechai has made a number of ‘dynamic equivalence translations’ of selected NT letters and narratives based upon the earliest Greek manuscripts available e.g. Papyrus 46 [dating to between 170-200 CE] and Codex Sinaiticus [dating to about 350 CE].

These English translations, produced with a Jewish pro-Torah bias, have been published and distributed from the Eternal City just as the Prophet predicts… “…out from Tzion the Torah shall go forth, and out from Yerushalai’im, the Word of HaShem” [Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 2:3].

Uriel has now turned his attention to Papyrus 66. The manuscript contains John 1:1-6:11, 6:35b-14:26, 29-30; 15:2-26; 16:2-4, 6-7; 16:10-20:20, 22-23; 20:25-21:9, 12, 17. It is one of the oldest well preserved New Testament manuscripts known to exist.

The manuscript was found in 1952 at Jabal Abu Mana near Dishna (Egypt). There is debate over when this codex was produced with some arguing for as early as the middle of the second century (~ 150 CE), though most scholars now ascribe a date in the 3rd to 4th century (201 – 399 CE).

I would like to share a few details on Uriel’s translation of the first chapter of John’s Gospel (using the more appropriate terminology of “Yochanan’s narrative”).

Long before Uriel began this work a number of scholars including the late Professor David Flusser had argued for a very different translation of Yochanan 1:1.

I discuss this in some depth in two articles ‘The Torah Dressed Itself in Flesh’ (https://goo.gl/xMiGVm) and ‘John 1:1c – Arianism’s Fatal Flaw’ (https://goo.gl/fMmkbU).

 

Here is Uriel’s latest rendering of Yochanan 1:1-3 based on P-66:

Yochanan 1:1 “Essential for creation was the Torah, and the Torah was in the presence of G-d, and a godly object was the Torah”

1:2 “This object stood with high honor, in harmony with G-d.”

1:3 “All things came into existence because of IT, and outside of IT, not a single notion came into being that was fashioned.”

 

And with Uriel’s amplification for improved readability in square brackets:

Yochanan 1:1 “Essential for [or Before] creation [or With high honor] was the Torah, and the Torah was in the presence of [or befitting, or consistent in character with] G-d, and a godly [or godlike] object was the Torah [or the Torah was also a godly thing]!”

1:2 “This object [or element, i.e., the Torah] stood with high honor [or existed before creation], in harmony [or consistent in character] with G-d.”

1:3 “All things came into existence because of IT [i.e., on account of the Torah], and outside of IT [or apart from having the Torah in mind], not a single notion came into being that was [later] fashioned [by the hand of Ha’Shem].”

 

There is so much to unpack here in these 3 verses alone!Jewish Rabbi’s and scholars have long argued that it was the Torah that was with the Almighty before He created the Universe, that it was the Torah that was the blueprint for the Creation. Even Hellenistic Jewish philosophers like Philo (1st Century CE) argued for this understanding (for more on this also see my article here – https://goo.gl/CZUH2D).

I would love to hear peoples thoughts on these verses. For example, note that Uriel uses ‘IT’ in verse 3 where most modern translators have made what appears to be an unjustifiable inference and used ‘him,’ and even going so far in most cases as to capitalize ‘Him.’ The 1599 Geneva Bible however appears to have been more true to the original without introducing such inferences as this translation also used ‘IT’.

For those interested in observing Uriel’s progress as they translate P-66, I highly recommend consider joining him and his wife Adi, as they present their translation one verse at a time during their weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem. To register for the class, use this link:http://ntcf.org/register.html.

Post #2:

Many of us in reading our English translations of the Bible without any deep knowledge of the underlying Hebrew language and Jewish approach and idioms can so easily be led astray and totally misunderstand many passages.

One example that I have dealt with at length in the past is the Augustine’s doctrine of Origin Sin and the associated doctrines of Calvin’s TULIP principles, that I believe lead to some very harmful consequences in life and especially relationships.

A section from the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is often used to support these flawed doctrines of mainstream Christendom. That section is Romans 3:10-18 and especially verse 10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one …”

I discuss this section in pages 51-59 of my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’ – https://www.amazon.com/new-testament-language-mindset-hellenistic-ebook/dp/B009XO0NQU/ (Also available as a free pdf @ circumcisedheart.info)

The quote in verse 10, a quote from the Tanakh is taken out of context by most when read as to be a blanket statement that no-one is or can be righteous.

There are many reasons for this error as I discuss in my book, but I wish to highlight just one for now.

The Hebrew can quite often leave out a word, especially an adjective, that in English may be necessary to communicate the correct understanding, but that is simply not there in the Hebrew.

For example if Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:20 is translated directly we get something like: “For there is no righteous man on earth who does good and does not sin.

Yet, all  the Jewish Sages (i.e., Rabbinic scholars) will translate this as “For there is no righteous man on earth who does [only] good and does not sin.” – see for example page 9 of ‘Gates of Repentance’ by Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona.

Some English versions do get this correct, such as the NET and CJB, but for example the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ASV and ESV do not.

Rather than re-addressing the issue of Romans 3:10 though, I wish to use this as an example to highlight the need for greater humility from Christian students of the Bible in approaching the text, and also perhaps a greater reverence for the underlying understanding and wisdom of Jewish scholarship, of those who have an in-depth knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish thinking.

One such person is the Jewish translator, Uriel ben-Mordechai. Uriel has great experience in this area having already re-translated a number of books of the New Testament working from the earliest extant versions but approaching them with a Jewish mindset and pro-Torah pre-suppositional perspective.

Thus I think his translations should be given serious attention from all who see themselves as humble, but zealous, seekers of Truth.

In this post I want to touch on just 3 verses that Uriel has very recently translated from Papyrus 66 and the first chapter of Yochanan’s narrative (John’s Gospel).

As I have already intimated a lot of flawed doctrines within Christendom are often birthed out of just one or two verses. One example of this is the flawed doctrine of pre-existence and the related deduction than ‘Jesus’ created the Universe.

This is seen for example in John 1:10 where most translations essentially have Jesus/Yeshua ‘making’ (creating) the world (‘… the world was made by him …).

For example, the KJV translates verse John 1:10-12 has

“10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

 

Uriel instead has:

“1:10 IT was present within the world, and even the world came into existence by virtue of IT, even though the world did not acknowledge IT

1:11 In the midst of this one special people, IT ended up being deposited, especially to this one chosen people; the same which they embraced.

1:12 As many as did take hold of IT, IT gave them prerogative to emerge as children of G-d; to those who are trusting in His Name,”

And his ‘amplified’ version for greater clarity (i.e. adding words to make greater sense of the direct translation):

“1:10 IT [i.e., the light of the Torah] was present within the world, and even the world [itself] came into existence by virtue of [or using] IT, even though the world did not acknowledge IT [i.e., the light of the Torah].

1:11 In the midst of [or Contributing to] this one special [or distinctive, or chosen] people, IT [i.e., the light of the Torah] ended up being deposited [or given], especially to this one chosen [or distinctive] people; the same [object, i.e., the light of the Torah] which they [readily] embraced [i.e., welcomed, or experienced].

1:12 As many as did take hold of IT [i.e., this illumination from the Torah], IT gave them prerogative to emerge as children of G-d; to those who are trusting in His [i.e., Ha’Shem’s] Name,”

Clearly there is no way this version of verses 10-12 could possibly lead to any implications of ‘pre-existence and the related deduction that ‘Jesus’ created the Universe’!

Please read and prayerfully consider. I look forward to your feedback as well.

If you really wish to dig much deeper and learn how Uriel goes about these translations and get a greater perspective on the Torah-centric reality of the New Testament, then you may wish to consider joining Uriel and Adi’s weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem. To register for the class, use this link: http://ntcf.org/register.html.

Post #3:

In this the 3rd post in this series I want to touch on 4 verses that Uriel has recently translated from Papyrus 66 and the first chapter of Yochanan’s narrative (John’s Gospel) chapter 1:15-18.

 

First the translation and then an ‘amplified’ (i.e. some explanatory text in square brackets) version:

1:15 Yochanan was testifying concerning IT, and even shouted out, saying, “THIS was the very thing to which I had referred, which will go onward after me, has stood in existence before me. Because of that, IT has been most influential for me,

1:16 seeing that extending out from ITS abundance, each and everyone of us shall also express gratitude as a response to generosity,

1:17 in view of the fact that through Moshe this precious gift — the Torah — was given, AND THEN the age of truthfulness shall come to pass by way of Yeshua, Mashiach.

1:18 On G-d, not one has ever set eyes! G-d is unique! For the one who lives surrounded by the Father’s embrace — in that place He will reveal.”

And amplified:

1:15 Yochanan was testifying concerning IT [i.e., the Torah], and even shouted out, saying, “THIS [i.e., the Torah] was the very thing to which I had referred, which will go onward after [or subsequent to] me, has stood in existence [long] before me. Because of that, IT has [always] been most influential for me,

1:16 seeing that extending out from ITS [i.e., the Torah’s] abundance, each and everyone of us shall also express [or choose] gratitude as a response to [Ha’Shem’s] generosity [or goodwill],

1:17 in view of the fact that through Moshe this precious gift — the Torah — was given, AND THEN [the added benefit of] the age of truthfulness [or legitimacy] shall come to pass [or be realized] by way of [or as a result of] Yeshua, Mashiach.

1:18 On G-d, not one has ever set eyes [and lived]! G-d is unique [i.e., He is without equal, or unprecedented]! For the one who lives surrounded by [or absorbed in] the Father’s embrace — [there] in that place He will reveal [or poss. passive ‘…there He shall be fully revealed, explained and declared’].”

Clearly, the object being referenced here is not the same as in most translations, yet if considered without our common ‘Christian’ pre-suppositions I think it has an internal consistency and integrity.  That is, if this was being read for the first time as a Jewish text written for, and to Jewish readers familiar with the G-d of Israel and His Torah, then it mostly gives a message well-known and well-understood, while at the same time adding something new as a result of the revelation of the life and resurrection of Yeshua.

So, to reiterate, Yochanan has first extolled the great grace provided to Israel through the Torah. The Torah has brought true freedom (please see my article ‘Freedom and the Law’ https://goo.gl/XYGC8t for details on this aspect).

It has given the people of Israel (AHM Israel), a great foundation to their history, their uniqueness and their trials and tribulations but most importantly the Torah; in defining the Way (Psalm 119); in defining how best to live; how to get the most out of your life through loving G-d and your neighbour, it has given them a past, a present and a future.

Yet something was missing. Two thousand years ago AHM Israel was failing on two counts. Firstly, they were not being the ‘light to the Gentiles’ (for more on this please see my article on Isaiah 49 – https://goo.gl/d3Vy8b)  they were called to be. They were not, for the most part, introducing the pagan world to the Truth of the One True G-d and away from all the idolatry that the pagan Gentile world practiced.

And secondly, a large part of the reason for why this failure was occurring was the internal ‘hatred’ of Jew for Jew, or as the Rabbinic scholars have described it, the ‘baseless hatred’ that existed and was instrumental in the horror that was the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

So Yochanan was speaking into this reality with the ‘good news’ of the arrival of Yeshua to speak truth to AHM Israel, to call for their repentance and full return to the embracing of Torah so that they could in turn be that light to the Gentiles that was their central mission.

The Resurrection acted to convince and confirm to all open and willing to listen, that Torah really was ultimate Truth, the obeying the Torah because of a faithfulness (trusting) in the Almighty and His revelation was not only the Way to walk, but the way to convict the Gentile world of this Truth as well.

It seems to me that if the great majority of AHM Israel had been open to and heeded this message, then the Olam ha’Bah (The Coming Age, the Kingdom of G-d) truly could have fully dawned in the first century and the Temple could well have remained standing. Yeshua most clearly intimated such.

But Yeshua’s living example and his Resurrection instead may be viewed as a failure, if time were fixed and the future stopped.

However, hope still lives on, and the future still beckons. Yeshua, the suffering servant, the Messiah ben-Yosef still stands at the ready to return to our midst and, as Messiah ben-David, to usher in the Olam Ha’Bah.

Yochanan will be proven correct and “…the age of truthfulness shall come to pass by way of Yeshua, Mashiach.

Please consider this translation – perhaps your path has at this very moment reached the place where your heart and mind is open to Yeshua’s call to return to; or to learn of Torah and The Way. Perhaps today is the day and now the hour for you to reconsider the doctrines of your youth and time within the walls of your church and reconsider what and where Yeshua preached.

Also, if you really wish to dig much deeper and learn how Uriel goes about these translations and get a greater perspective on the Torah-centric reality of the New Testament, then you may wish to consider joining Uriel and Adi’s weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem.

To register for the class, use this link: http://ntcf.org/register.html.

 

 

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

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.

Marriage – Making It Work

Life IS school. We are always in school, we just don’t know it!

Our entire life lies before us as a great unwritten but very well designed curriculum, designed and presented by the greatest Teacher and Educator of all, the Almighty Himself!

Every day, the good, the bad and the ugly comes our way to help mold us (if we are willing), to be the unique people God intended us to be. This ‘curriculum’ is daily before us whether we consciously choose to engage with it or not. It is impacting our lives, and hopefully in a positive manner, whether we acknowledge it or not.

But learning of this ‘curriculum’ and being aware of its daily teachings can make the path to completing it, both smoother and quicker.

Surely, if we all realized we were in ‘school’ and working on a curriculum designed by the world’s best Educator (God Himself), to lead us to be the best person we could be, and that we were designed to be, wouldn’t we want to complete the curriculum as quickly and effectively as possible!?

jinni

Almost every character trait that defines humanity is in every person. Every single person has some character traits that they find more problematic than others, and that they need to work on more than others. We should not see these traits that we struggle with as bad or wrong or sinful, but as traits that need addressing so that ultimately they become under our control, and in the proper balance. As part of our personally and individually designed ‘curriculum’, the great Educator presents ‘lessons’, ‘tests’, and ‘practical projects’ to us, every single day, that we can embrace and learn from and move toward our ultimate successful ‘graduation’ as the full embodiment of the unique individual we were designed to be.

Or we can ignore the ‘lesson’, ‘test’ or ‘practical project’, and fail to grow, but instead be presented with the same maddening lesson over and over again, by the most patient and caring Educator ever!

For example, the person who appears in general to be an extremely angry person, still has some moments of calm and some circumstances in which he/she has control over that anger. But also the calmest person has some degree of anger in him/her, and some circumstances that really test his or her peace and serenity.

Anger can be bad, yet anger at injustice helps motivate us to try to correct that injustice. Thus, the character trait of ‘anger’ is not all bad, but rather a positive character trait when harnessed in the proper manner and at the right time.

What about the character trait of ‘lust’, especially ‘sexual lust’ (The person who has a ‘lust for life’ is simply a positive person with passion to embrace their life curriculum)?

A man with unbridled lusting for a women not his wife, is clearly acting in a sinful manner (it is breaking the 10th Commandment – … do not covet – lust after – your neighbour’s wife …), yet this very Commandment implies that a man should lust after his own wife!

acs-dinner-pic

What! Really? Why weren’t we men taught this? When we were teenage boys with raging hormones, why weren’t we taught that sexual lust was such a positive commandment of God (when directed at the appropriate object of desire)?

Why, when lust or intense desire is the true secret to a successful marriage.

A marriage where that intense desire for each other is recognized and knowingly cultivated and maintained is a marriage that will survive (and without being sexist, this should start and be led by the man).

Isn’t that what we all want? Surely the secret to a successful marriage can not be this simple?!

Yet, I believe it is.

I have read a great many books on marriage (and divorce). I have been to hell and back. I have been challenged to the very core of my existence. I have been suicidal. I have felt totally betrayed, full of despair. My world has seemed lost and bleak. My heart has been broken, and broken and broken.

But miracle of miracles, I have come out the other side. I have grown, I have submitted to my God and sought His direction (which was hugely challenging and totally counter-intuitive). He led me through the valley of death and out the other side. So after a great deal of pain and many years of heartache, searching and reading I eventually found what I believe is the very best book ever on how to make marriage work.

It is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Lust: Love is not the Answer’. In this book, Rabbi Boteach explains how and why ‘true love’ is not the answer but lust is.

When men lust for their wives, and act on this lust in the proper way, almost any marriage can be made whole.

Read his book and then help others by sharing its message.

For more on the issue of life’s curriculum and character traits please see my blog post You Shall Be Holyhttp://wp.me/p2HSTx-7C