Monday, December 5, 2011

Only Blessings !

Tonight's both the birthday and anniversary of the passing away of phenomenally saintly figure in Jewish history Rabbi Dov Ber, the second spiritual leader of the Lubavitch Chassidic dynasty. They say that people who pass away on their birthdays have possibly achieved their full spiritual potential. Astrologically speaking, the birthday is an indicates a person's potential and the day of ascension is an indicates what the person did with that potential.

Rabbi Dov Ber's saintly father Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first spiritual leader of the dynasty, was accustomed to read from the Torah scroll every Sabbath for the congregation. One Sabbath, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was out of town and a substitute was selected to read from the Torah. That particular Torah reading included the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy, chapter 28. When Rabbi Dov Ber heard the curses, he was so shaken that sickness overcame him. His illness was sufficiently severe, that weeks later there was still a lingering doubt of whether he healthy enough to fast on Yom Kippur.

Close intimates asked, "You hear these very same curses read from the Torah scroll every year. What was different about this year's Torah reading that the very reading of these curses made you sick?" 

He replied, "When father reads I don't hear curses, only blessings."


To me it seems like Rabbi Dov Ber was speaking on two levels at once. On the simple level, he was referring to the comforting tonality with which his father conducted his public reading of the Torah scroll. Even when the subject matter sounded harsh, with his finely tuned tonality Rabbi Shneur Zalman was able to convey to his listeners the underlying message of divine love. However, on a deeper level, Rabbi Dov Ber was also referring to his Heavenly Father. Actually, in some sense both levels of meaning are the same. His earthly father was a truly spiritually advanced person. His earthliness transparent, a window to peer into the divine. He served his Creator selflessly, without a trace of personal ego. Therefore, when the sensitive youth heard him read from the Torah, he was able to discern the Divine voice echoing within his father's voice. 

His response, "when father reads I don't hear curses, only blessings", epitomizes a whole spiritual pathway to take in Torah and life in general. The words of Torah should sound and feel to us as they truly are - as words read to us by our Heavenly Father. When the sacred text of the Torah is read with this emotional flavor, then even what could feel like harsh words, at times, is framed in an entirely different emotional context. Our hearts taste the underlying love flowing in these words; Words spoken to us by a loving Parent, doing His very best to achieve what's for our very best.

The same can be said for the life in general. Since our lives and the world around us is literally the "Torah in action", whatever seems harsh in the world are merely events whose proper intellectual and emotional contexts are unknown to us. If the Creator gave us permission to see their true context, we'd see these events as total love. Our previous concern for their spiny appearance would instantly transform into a delightful vision of sweetness.  

Since the underlying stories behind life's stories are often withheld from us, how do we hear our Father's voice behind the events of our daily lives?  Following Rabbi Dov Ber's approach, it seems to me that he didn't attempt to achieve his tuning in by "having all the right answers" to life's puzzles. Such an approach would be impractical because there's a limit to what a human being is privy to. Rather, he attempted to be sensitive the divine voice echoing within the Torah and life's scenarios without expecting to understand, but, simply by trusting his Heavenly Father and delighting in the nurturing sound of His voice.

On one level or another I think that we can all sensitize ourselves to the Creator's voice in our daily lives by living a life of spiritual devotion, which includes seeking out spiritual guidance, prayer, meditation, Torah study, and frequent acts of kindness.  


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