“There are no coincidences, it is G-d’s way of remaining anonymous.”
– Rabbi Shlomo BistritzkyLike any good Rabbi, Shlomo will say he got this from someone else, but I had never heard it until he said it and so I will always attribute it to him. The point, at least here, is how life’s lessons seem to comm in swarms and from many different sources… but often at the same time, and almost always when we need them most.
As I begin the powerful JLI course “From Worrier To Warrior,” both Rabbi Avi Rabin, who is teaching the class, and Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld have provided some amazing insights and wisdom. So did my friend and guide Howard Witkin in his Pirkei Avos class that I do not get to nearly enough. What I am sharing with you is my interpretation and understanding of their teachings. So again, thank you to the remarkable Rabbis and teachers in my life. And that leads me to…Shlomo Seidenfeld teaches us that “our lives and our experiences are our Rabbis.” In both good and bad there are lessons, some are obvious and some are hidden. We must learn from our lives, but at the same time, we must NOT try to “figure it out while you are in the throes of it.”
The goal is to work towards a Higher Purpose. That is always the goal… to go BEYOND OURSELVES. And that can be accomplished in a rather easy way… Well… easy on paper, but so difficult to always do and maintain…
One Mitzvah leads to another, and one negative thing leads to more negative things. “Our momentum goes in the direction of the thing we just did.” Boom! Great life lesson right there.Rabbi Avi continues… “Things are not happening randomly and no one is out to get you.” We need to realize that while life is a journey, “tomorrow is a day unto itself”and so we must “live every day for the day.”
When it comes to pain and suffering, Shlomo and Avi are on the same page… Avi says that pain comes, “but suffering is how you interpret it.” In the class last night, he went further and said that “suffering is when you don’t et go of the pain. Suffering is self-inflicted.”
And Shlomo says that “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” So therefore, there is a great deal that is up to us and our choices.
Avi also taught us about the dangers of Ego, which can be looked at as “Edging G-d Out.” And how we must not try to (and of course cannot) do G-d’s job. Faith in G-d is key, but it is “beyond believing in G-d, it is putting it into applications and action, applying that belief in a higher power.” We must never forget that we have Free Will, “Hashem gives mankind free choice.”
The lessons are clear. “There is good and bad in EVERY circumstance.” We do not “control the winds, but we can control the sails.” And the wisdom in Torah, Tanya, Kabbalah, Pirkei Avos and in Jewish learning and teachings in general are there to give us purpose and guidance. So we must do things for others and we must serve a higher power. And in this way, one good deed will lead to another, one Mitzvah will lead to another, and one thing leads to another.”
Musical cue: The Fixx.