I remember early on in my time in LA going to Rabbi Steven Leder’s house. The door opened to a hall of a modern art… Leonard Cohen on the stereo and Buddhist Monks in the kitchen. I was not in Jersey any more.
He believed firmly in knowledge, and that the more we had of it, including a deep understanding of other religions, the closer we would be to Judaism.
Rabbi Doniel Katz teaches us not to fear the secular world, but to learn from it. And so, as I travel on my path to discover my life’s true purpose, to become a better version of myself and to connect to spirituality, I find myself doing all of these things.
I pray every morning with Tefillin and traditional prayers, I read Tehillim and study Kabbalah… and I also meditate, studying the works of Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra and a new discovery, Peter Russell (thanks, Alan). I read books like The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, and I am attempting exercises in Manifestation, with some tips from another new discovery, Sarah Prout (thanks, Donna)… All to stay focused on what I want and how I can not only become a better version of myself, but on how best to serve Hashem and the universe.
And here’s the thing… Almost all of it sounds Jewish and it’s because of my studying and exploring Judaism that I have to come to realize this… Almost all of it IS Jewish.
The Torah… Kaballah… Pirkei Avos… is the basis for so much modern understanding… modern philosophy… and the Transformational, Self-Improvement, Self-Empowerment, Spiritual movements. People may not want to give us credit… or even deny it, but there it is… for all to see who truly wish to take the time to look.
Almost every one of these practices starts at the same jumping off point… with the knowledge of Oneness… or in Judaism, the third of the Six Constant Mitzvot… Echad… Know that G-d is one.
They may use the word “universe” in place of Hashem, but we know what’s what.
So the basis of these three posts stemmed from reading Rabbi Irwin Katsof’s great, little book How To Get Your Prayers Answered. He gives us five steps:
1) Pray like you expect results.
In the world of therapy, Manifestation and other “secular” forms of self-empowerment, this equates to living “AS IF”… We express gratitude for what we want, by stating it as if it has already happened.
2) Be shocked if you don’t get what you ask for.
3) Pay attention to what G-d is teaching you.
4) Re-evaluate your request
#s 2, 3 and 4 can be understood when we realize that Hashem knows what is best… and if it seems like our prayers are going unanswered, it is because Hashem needs us to see and focus on something else. Maybe we are off the mark, and asking for things that will not help us… or others.
This is a huge thing… as the ultimate goal should not be for our own gain, but for Hashem, for others, and especially for the world. Ben talked about this in his last post… a precept of Judaism and the imperative idea of Kiddush Hashem.
It starts with what WE WANT, yes… but ultimately it must be transitioned into “and how is this going to help others”… help the world…
There are so many ways to actually analyze what your life’s true purpose is… and don’t be afraid to use whatever you can to do this… from simple prayer and meditation, to actually creating your own lists and Venn Diagrams. There is a reason Hashem is giving us these tools.
5) Put in the effort
Where Atheists misunderstand Judaism, is that we are not waiting for some “spaceship” to come down and save us… we are working our tails off… we are making huge efforts to help with our own prayers…
Yes, we believe in Hashem… We have faith and hopefully Emunah… But we also know that we must make our own efforts and exercise our own Free Will. This is how we connect to Hashem… to G-d… and this is why it is a true relationship. G-d chose the Jewish people, but we also CHOSE G-d.
Therefore it is essential to maintain this Faith… this connection… through the perceived good… and perceived bad… and I use the word “perceived” very specifically and intentionally. We may perceive, but Hashem knows… and knows what is best.
It can be summed up in yesterday’s Omer Meditation (Tiferes ShebeHod) by Tzvi Freeman in his adaptation of the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
“Do you believe only when you can see with your eyes?
When your prayers are answered and miracles carry you on their wings? Or do you also believe when circumstances fly in your face?
If it touches you to the core, if it is a belief you truly own, if it is as real to you as life itself, then it does not change.
And if it does not change, then you are bound up with the true essence of the One who does not change.”
To say it simply… and this is basically the prayer preparation that Rabbi Denbo teaches…
Believe fully in Hashem and know that He is One… Know that He loves you… Know that He is aware of you.
Ask for what you want, but know that Hashem knows best.
Work hard for your dreams and prayers, and always and sincerely express gratitude, and thank Hashem for what you already have.
And always do the right thing, for yourself and others.
You may read or see this in other words, other religions, other philosophies… self-help manuals, guides, etc… but take pride and power in knowing it is all so Jewish.