I was not sure if I should say this out loud and publicly, though I have told a few people.
I guess my fear is what if I fail? On the other hand, by sharing this with you, it may keep me on the path and keep me accountable… so here goes…
I have started two major “projects.” The first is the annual cycle of the Tanya, and reading and studying one page a day… and the second is… breathe… the 7 1/2 year cycle of the Daf Yomi. On one hand, the latter is daunting only for the length of time and the commitment. But the fact is that I have wanted to engage in a regular, daily study for a long time, and this will keep me really focused. I mean really, really focused!
So far, so good, though I have to say I feel a bit lost at times with the Talmud, especially because I am studying on my own. I would love to do a class, class… but timing is not ideal, so I am reading the page on my own and supplementing it with audio and video lessons. There are so many great resources out there.
Here are some of the resources I am using:
REAL CLEAR DAF
Thanks to my cohort, Ben and Sal Litvak (The Accidental Talmudist) for some of these resources! In fact, it was Sal who inspired me. He and I were on the JMI Men’s Trip to Israel in 2014, and hearing his amazing story put this endeavor in my brain. I was not ready to jump in then, in the middle of a cycle… and was certainly not mentally ready. But I made a vow to myself that when the next cycle came around I was going to go for it!
Sadly, I did NOT win the iPad from ArtScroll that came loaded with the whole Talmud… I cannot afford the hardcover books and thought that would be fabulous. I really thought I had it, too. Ah well. Now, it made me a little nervous when a Rabbi I respect said he has tried it twice and didn’t make it all the way through… Say what???!!! But I am giving it the old Hebrew College try!
So… with all that said… What do I mean with the title of today’s post… Why?
Well… That is the crux of everything for me… and for a lot of people I know. If there is a G-d, why is He doing this? Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to the world? Etc., etc. I am suffering and stressed. I know friends going through horrific things. Why??? I do not always have a good answer. Though one of the things I have learned from dear friend Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld (in addition to the pure inspiration to learn and study and grow as a Jewish human being) is that you NEVER try to answer that question for someone else, especially by saying things like “G-d has a plan,” or “It’s for the best,” etc. There is no way I can know what G-d does and why, so…First, a grateful thanks to Rabbi Avi Rabin for the inspiration to delve into the Tanya and the amazing classes he, Chabad and JLI offer! I have become better about the notion that there are things I simply CANNOT know. Part of the first lessons of the Tanya are how our brains cannot in any real way fathom the things Hashem knows and does. We just don’t have that capacity, and in a way, neither do the highest Tzadiks. The more I learn, the more I am “comfortable” with this. Though it is a battle… an ongoing battle… why, why and why?
In the Talmud it is all about why… the Sages… the Sanhedrin… the ongoing and endless debates. It is overwhelming to study, but for me, it is also what makes Judaism so alive and magnificent. We all battle with “WHY.” And that is part of my journey. There is so much I need and want to know and I hope, even if just a little, I can get closer to why.
On a side note, I have also started a year long project on Facebook called 2020 Vision – Lessons For Living A Great Life.
As I study more and more Judaism, part of what makes me happy is how many things I thought came from other sources actually come from Jewish teachings. It is actually astounding. Kabbalah is the source for so much deep and powerful philosophy and thought! And my post today comes from none other than one of our most deep thinkers.
“Acting “As If”
For anyone who has studied acting, you know the famous term/technique “acting as if.” This simply means to fully believe in your circumstance and act “as if” you are really going through the things the character is going through.
This philosophy is even better for the real world, where by acting “as if” you already have the powerful attributes you are seeking, you can change your thoughts and attitudes and actually achieve your goals in reality.
What I did not know is that this actually comes from Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (1707-1746) in his remarkable and famous book Path Of The Just!
In the book Begin Again Now, Zelig Pliskin says Luzzatto writes: “If you want to be enthusiastic about doing a good deed and don’t spontaneously feel that way, act externally “as if” you were enthusiastic and this will create a genuine inner enthusiasm.”
It is my Jewish education… this path… the Tanya and the Talmud… and ALL OF THIS, that is getting me closer to either understanding why… or being able to realize that I may never know why, and that is okay as long as I have a deep, solid and strong connection with and faith in Hashem. After all, that is what this is all about… developing and growing a powerful, meaningful and personal relationship with G-d.