“There are no coincidences. It is just G-d’s way of remaining anonymous.”
– Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky
So yes, this quote has been around… and some say it was Albert Einstein who originally said it… but since I got it from this Shlomo, there it is.
This proves itself over and over, especially when I am at a class or event and I hear EXACTLY what I need to hear about something I am going through right at that moment. Powerful.Last week I received lessons from two different Rabbis, that completely complemented each other, and gave me some much-needed calm and understanding. These learnings and teachings make me fall in love with Judaism. They make me realize how valuable and amazing Judaism is. It is a guide and a blueprint on how to live life, how to deal with adversity, and how to find fulfillment and meaning and purpose.
Just to be clear, this is a post/blog on Judaism and my (and Ben’s) journey into learning more, exploring more and growing within it. I think it needs to be said, that I firmly believe that amazing life lessons can come from anywhere, and I celebrate and applaud teachers and mentors from every religion, and every subject. I know that the lessons I have learned from Rabbis and mentors, and that I share here, can equally be shared by people of other faiths who have been given gems of wisdom from their own leaders and teachers. Learning and knowledge = Power.
Again, this is my experience, and while I will speak specifically of Judaism, for the most part, I have also received knowledge from a variety of sources. It is no coincidence when Hashem puts us on a path to learn, no matter where that lesson comes from. I will always remember Rabbi Steven Leder, who had an event at his house with Buddhist Monks, when he said that it was important to learn as much as we can about other religions and teachings, for hopefully that will strengthen our own Jewish beliefs and make our faith stronger.
It is only as an adult, here and now, that I have fully come to see how much Judaism actually is in so many of the things I attributed to other places… reincarnation, meditation, mindfulness, etc. All we need to do is study… read Kabbalah, Pirkei Avos, etc. and we will see how Judaism pre-dates many things we would never have associated with it.
I have heard Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld tell this story more than once, but it hit me so very hard at the event he moderated a few weeks back at the Community Shul. He tells the story of walking around the “Hood” with his daughter, hoping to meet and greet people and give her a valuable life lesson, wherever it may come from. As they walked by a bus stop, they happened upon a blind man. Shlomo, as he does with everyone, greeted the man with a warm hello. The man turned towards the sound of the voice and asked for them to come over. Boom! Hashem had set this lesson up perfectly. What was not expected was that the man then proceeded to talk to them for well over half an hour, detailing his life story, talking about his blindness, sharing details and specifics, etc.
As they walked off, Shlomo had a deep and powerful realization. It was NOT that this man could not see… it was that HE WAS NOT SEEN. People passed him by… gave him little to no notice… and so when a father and daughter showed him even the slightest attention with a kind hello, the floodgates opened and he felt like someone was finally seeing him… hearing him…
This is the beautiful, vital and so needed human connection. People… ALL OF US… NEED TO BE SEEN AND HEARD!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am in the midst of a test… of quite a few challenges all hitting at once. The lessons from Shlomo and what I am about to share were so very needed… and while my head is still spinning, I can at least say I am grabbing onto the rope and wrapping it tightly around me.
As Matisyahu says… “Ask Hashem for mercy and He’ll throw you a rope.”
Rabbi Avi Rabin was on a roll the other night… funny… charming, but also deeply insightful. Once the lesson came around… Yes, he likes to “off-road”… it was powerful.
The lesson was on how we must look to ourselves and love ourselves and not allow the anger or hate of others to affect us. It is imperative to understand where another person is coming from, and that the way they react often has little to do with us. Yes, we must own things if we are the cause of hardship and grief, but people all control their own reactions. To UNDERSTAND them is key.
The phrase that we must “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” came up, of course. Which reminded me of Shlomo’s take on that… “It is always good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” he says. “This way you are a mile away and have a new pair of shoes.”
Avi went on to say that often people ask questions, not for the literal answer, but to be heard and understood. Wow. This was a gut punch of realization… simple, but a cut to the core… WE ALL WANT TO BE HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD!
He said, therefore, we must remember this… DO NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION, ANSWER THE PERSON!
This goes back to the notion of KNOW BEFORE WHOM YOU STAND… but also, KNOW WHO STANDS BEFORE YOU. See the individual, hear the individual… understand their needs and what they are really asking of you… or telling you. Take the time to talk to people and to listen… understand yourself and others… the human lesson is clear… all of us… ALL OF US WANT TO BE SEEN, HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD.
This doesn’t mean we should not cut negativity out of our lives… distance ourselves from those who hurt us and cause us harm… or who are preventing us from becoming who we need to become… It simply means that it is our responsibility as a human being to understand the other, to try to find common ground and love… to see and hear… and be seen and be heard. That is all any of us want.