Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Sukkot is the only holiday that is called the 'time of our rejoicing'"

"Assembly, meeting, and reunification characterize Sukkot.

Within ourselves we unite the scattered fragments of our identity, and at the Temple in Jerusalem there were seventy sacrifices to unite the scattered nations.

These were called peace sacrifices.

Peace, shalom, is wholeness, or shlemut. The seventy sacrifices at the Temple were aimed at bringing men together, and restoring the wholeness of humankind in a broken, disunited world.

Sukkot ends with another form of wholeness, since on Simchat Torah we complete the Torah readings.

Fulfillment only comes with tranquility and peace.

Unbridled, unrestrained joy only comes in fulfillment.

Sukkot is the only holiday that is called the 'time of our rejoicing' because all the forms of fulfillment are granted simultaneously -- earthly wealth, the concluding portion of the Torah, the uniting of the nations.

We are filled with an extraordinary sense of well-being.

Seated in the sukkah, we live in perfect harmony in the shadow of God, echoing the verse in the Song of Songs:'I delight to sit in His shade.' (2:3)

When I welcome the Seven Shepherds in my sukkah, I attain supreme harmony.

An invitation implies a willingness to receive.

By opening my door to the Shepherds I open the door of my being and say that I am ready to receive that part of my being that is in them.

I say to each, 'Enter within me with all you have to give and receive, with all that there is of me in you.' "

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Three Pilgrim Festivals" p. 277-278, in
The Seven Lights by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"God's embrace"

"The classic metaphor used to describe the Tishrei festivals comes from a verse in the Song of Songs:

'His left hand under my head, his right arm embraces me.' (2:6)

The customary explanation is that the left-hand, which is a symbol of rigor and judgment, designates Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

On Sukkot we are supported by God's right, the symbol of love.

God's two "arms" correspond to the architecture of the sukkah.

The law requires that the sukkah have at least two walls, plus the beginning of the third.

This is exactly the form of an embrace.

It is God’s embrace."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Three Pilgrim Festivals” p. 254, in
The Seven Lights by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Rabbi Josy Eisenberg


Sunday, September 27, 2009

"A real secret can be open and apparent to everyone"

"There are two kinds of secrets in the world, make-believe secrets and real secrets.

A make-believe secret is one that depends on its concealment; it is shrouded in mystery.

Such a secret relies on darkness and the unknown.

So long as it remains hidden, it arouses interest, but when it is revealed, the mystery vanishes and the secret loses its fascination.

Such is the secret of the trickster and the charlatan, a stage magician and the mystigogue; their spell lies in the undisclosed, the mysterious wrapping.

When the inner content of the trick becomes apparent, the magic disappears.

Such is not the case with the real secret.

A real secret can be open and apparent to everyone.

All can see the matter clearly and examine it from all sides.

Nevertheless, the more it is looked at and examined, the more of a secret becomes, profound and insoluble.

The story in the first part of the Book of Genesis is very well known -- children learn it at school, adults read about Adam in the Garden in many books -- and still it remains a secret.

And the more the extremely simple words of the Bible text are studied, the more numerous the aspects of riddle and mystery.

Thousands of interpretations have already been written on Genesis, all trying to explain, reveal, and decipher the story -- and still the secret remains inviolable, because the secret of the Torah is a real secret.

As greater illumination is turned on it, new facets of inscrutability become apparent.

Consequently, additional contemplation or study of the story in Genesis does not propose to reveal the mystery of the secret or to make it more simple and comprehensible, but rather to disclose it further, to reveal additional sides to it.

Every deepening of inquiry merely shows how these short, plain sentences lead to another intersection from which innumerable paths branch out, paths which a person can continue to trod all the days of his life."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From the Introduction to
In the Beginning: Discourses on Chasidic Thoughtby Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, September 25, 2009

"The pardoning of sins is like a wind dispersing the clouds"

"Yom Kippur, the 10th day of Tishrei, is a special day in the year, and in a certain sense, one might say that it is a unique entity, separate from all other days, and cannot be counted among them.

Although in the Torah Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shabbaton -- a Sabbath of complete rest -- Jewish law does not consider it the strictest day of rest, and its sanctity and honor are less than that of Shabbat.

Nevertheless, everyone recognizes that it is the most exalted of all days.

The Talmud tractate that is entirely devoted to the laws for Yom Kippur is called Yoma, which means 'the Day.'

Even among simple folk, it is known as 'the Holy Day.'

As indicated in the Torah, and expressed in prayer, this day is essentially one of atonement and purification from sin.

The atonement obtained on this Day of Atonement does not result from one's repentance and self purification but from its nature as a day of pardon and Divine revelation, emanating from God Himself.

The very notion of pardon and atonement contains a conception of reality that transcends the bounds of common rationality.

The recognition that there is pardon from sins means that, in some way, the past can be changed, that acts which were done, which existed in reality, may be considered as not having occurred at all.

Furthermore, the concept of crime and punishment is primarily based upon the assumption that they have a cause-and-effect relationship, and that, as the biblical verse says, 'Evil shall slay the wicked' (Psalm 34:21).

Forgiveness, therefore, is not only a change or reversal of the Supreme Law that defines good and evil but a violation of the laws of causality, and the elimination and cancellation of the past.

As it is said, 'I have carried away your transgressions like a thick cloud, and your sins as a mist' (Isaiah 44:22).

The pardoning of sins is not like removing a stain, which leaves a faint mark, but like a wind dispersing the clouds, leaving no sign of their having been there before.

Forgiveness becomes, then, the actual creation of a new temporal order in which it is as if the sin never existed.

Moreover, it is as though by the very power of repentance 'sins have become merits'(Yoma 86b), and the past is a rewritten according to another scale of values.

The sages say that repentance preceded the creation of the world, which means that repentance transports a person above and beyond the realities of the created world, with its order of time, forming, as it were, a new creation.

And since Yom Kippur is the day of Divine pardon and forgiveness, it is the revelation of a Supreme Essence that transcends the limits of the whole world.

The commentary on the verse 'I, I alone, am He who wipes away your transgressions for My sake' (Isaiah 43:25) places the words 'I, I alone' on a higher level than the 'I' with which the Ten Commandments begins (Exodus 20:2).

This revelation, which transcends and cuts through the boundaries of the world, is the essence of this day, and its power is defined in the words of the sages as 'the very day itself atones' (Yoma 87a)."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "Days of Awe", in
A Guide To Jewish Prayer, p. 195-196, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, September 24, 2009

"A basic misunderstanding of God's greatness"

"For many clever men, the difficulty that is an obstacle to understanding God comes not from His greatness but from a basic misunderstanding of His greatness.

The person who thinks that God is justifiably concerned with the vast affairs of the galaxy and is not concerned so much about my reciting a blessing before eating a chocolate bar does not really see the greatness of God.

To the Divine Omniscience, there is no large or small, significant or insignificant detail in the infinity of the universe.

This is the justification for man’s saying: 'I am ignorant and do not know'.

But as with all the other creatures of the world, God replies, 'I am with thee always.'"

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Intimacy with God” p.323 in
The Long Shorter Way by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The caterpillar does not become a butterfly in a single act"

"Though the
ba’al teshuvah may wish to see himself as one reborn and to begin his spiritual life with a sense of wholeness, it is important for him to recognize that even in spiritual rebirth it is not possible to take on everything at once.

The People of Israel, in accepting the Torah, did not receive it all at one time.

Rather, the process was a protracted once, from the early preparatory stage of the seven Noahide laws to the acceptance of additional mitzvot in Egypt, at Marah, and at Sinai, to the full revelation that that followed.

Similarly, a child raised to be an observant Jew takes upon itself the full yoke of the mitzvot only after long preparation: years of training and the gradual, step-by-step assumption of responsibility according to it s intellectual readiness and practical capacity.

The essential point is that living beings do not undergo sudden, complete transformations.

The caterpillar does not become a butterfly in a single act but as a result of a gradual process, governed by certain laws."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "All or Nothing: The False Dilemma" in
Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Each mitzvah in a sense includes the whole"

"One of the cardinal principles of Judaism is that the mitzvot are all of a piece, parts of a single whole that is in its essence complete, the details being knit together into a unified fabric.

Yet the inner connectedness of the mitzvot has another significance.

Just as the failure to perform a single mitzvah diminishes the whole, each mitzvah in a sense includes the whole.

In the prayer “For the Unification,” recited before the performance of many mitzvot, one prays “to fulfill the mitzvah in..all its particulars, and the 613 mitzvot that depend upon it.”

All 613 are in a sense compressed into each individual mitzvah."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "All or Nothing: The False Dilemma" in
Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, September 21, 2009

“In times of soul-searching the very roots of existing reality must be explored”

"Our sages used a folk saying to explain how great disasters might befall the nation:

'When the shepherd is angry with the flock, he blinds the eyes of the leading ewe.'(Talmud, BK 52a)

And woe to the flock whose leaders are blind!

These things hold true in all the ages, because even in times of peace and plenty we must check things out, be aware of dangers to come.

How much more true is this in times of soul-searching, at a time when there is a need for fundamental examination of our lives, when the very roots of existing reality must be explored.

Such exploration must be made not only in terms of existing assumptions, but on a review of the most fundamental values, and at such times it is essential that the eyes of the community see far and clear and penetratingly.

In ancient Israel, the prophet was defined as 'Scout of the House of Israel,' the one who saw from afar and who, in simple speech, was called "the shepherd."

A nation needs its guides and shepherds, its scouts and leaders of the flock, who will carry out the function of leadership:

The ability to feel and the power to think."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Soul-Searching,” p.22-23, in
The Strife of the Spirit by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, September 18, 2009

"The New Year is a gate for each and every individual"

"A year is a rather long period, and it is always filled with activity and events.

But except in the lives of young children, life is not full of significant occurrences every year.

Surely, people get married, have children, do things, earn or lose money--but only in special years are there public or private events that give people a new life.

In many ways, the passing year was--if not a year of crisis--at least a rather taxing year.

Among its may events, there was no new dawn or new sunrise.

And so another year goes by; we sum up our income and our taxes, recall both happy and sad memories--yet go on living as we did in the previous year and in the years that preceded it.

For all this we have the two days of Rosh HaShanah.

These days are not meant to be glorious or agitating in and of themselves; rather, their purpose is to be a gate for life, to be days in which we can build the life of the coming year so that it will contain vitality and renewal.

For this purpose we should do our moral stock-taking, introspect and pray for the renewal of time--that though today may look like yesterday it will contain a spark of new life.

We should pray for a year in which even the daily routine will have an aura of hope and of experiences.

The New Year is a gate for each and every individual. But, as more and more of us participate in this introspection and renewal, the year will be one of renascence for all of us."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From a letter sent by Rabbi Steinsaltz, Rosh HaShanah Eve, 5770


Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Is the return to a more religious life really a path to self-renewal?”

“The essence of repentance is awakening the potential for renewal, awakening one’s ability to return to being oneself instead of a reflection:

A reflection of media images.

A reflection of neighbors.

Or even a reflection of a younger, more authentic self.

Certainly this might seen doubtful:

Is return in repentance (in the sense of return to a more religious life) really the path to self-renewal?

Isn’t religion itself, with its thousands of prescribed mitzvot and deeds, instructions of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not,” a piece of the same perpetual cycle and routine multiplied exponentially?

Actually this is not the case, for two reasons.

In truth there is an established routine of prayer, mitzvot, and good deeds.

However, this system does not simply carry on, concurrent with the other empty routines of life.

To the contrary, these routines clash ceaselessly.

Religious life disrupts the normal course of eating, drinking, and working in its tracks, and this disturbance of one type of continuum rouses it to transformation.

Practically, the minute interference of Jewish law into every detail of life rescues individuals from sinking into the mire of animal-like behavior.

For every action there is some small pause, saying:

‘For a moment, unleash from this race, shift for a moment to another paradigm—one of blessing, prayer, the ritual washing of the hands—that is neither connected to nor anchored within daily life.’”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay, “From Routine to Return,” (2008) by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"We open the gates of the year so that God may enter"

“On Rosh Hashanah we plead with God to go on running the world’s business and be our King.

Our little self-examinations and personal soul-searching are not for Rosh Hashanah.

We have the whole month of Elul, which comes before Rosh Hashanah, to devote to repentance and to return to God.

Rosh Hashanah involves something else.

Having finished the world’s annual stock taking, we are ready, through forgetting and remembrance, to start a new page of history and welcome God.

This is why most of the holiday rituals, including the shofar blasts, are designed to solemnly proclaim the arrival of the King and make way for Him.

This is the meaning of Psalm 24, which is recited often on Rosh Hashanah:

'O gate, lift up your heads! Up high you everlasting doors, so that the King of glory may come in.'

This is exactly what we do on Rosh Hashanah.

We open the gates of the year, so that God may enter.

To do so, everything needs to be in its place, the world must be worthy of receiving God.

This is the meaning of our collective presence at the synagogue.

By going there on Rosh Hashanah, Jews say:

'Last year was more or less all right, we behaved more or less acceptably.

But we want to continue.

Grant us one more year.’

In a way, the children of Israel go to the synagogue to reiterate their pledge of allegiance to their King and, beyond their shortcomings and expectations, to express the sole wish that God will, in turn, accept the crown from His people.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Days of Awe,” p. 30-31, in
The Seven Lights on the Major Jewish Festivals by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"The world below and the world above can be protrayed as a cosmic optical illusion"

"Just as we are convinced of the substantial existence of this world, so does the world above view us as a nothing, seeing itself as the genuine reality.

In illustration of which there are certain clever drawings with subtly shifting foregrounds and backgrounds; the viewer is never quite sure which is the real picture.

So too, the world below and the world above can be portrayed as a cosmic optical illusion each fitting perfectly into the other and providing us with either the real against the unreal, or the front against the back, constantly changing places in our consciousness.

It is not only the old problem of subjectivity of vision, it is a recognition of the existence of a higher and a lower, a world of the graspable and a world of the ungraspable, being and nothing.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz,
The Candle of God, “Implications of the Menorah,” p.341-342


Monday, September 14, 2009

"Developing the capacity to bless evil as well as good"

"There is a difference between theoretically knowing that God is always present and knowing it when one is crushed.

To be sure, there are many saints, and even ordinary men, who are able to bless the evil as well as the good, not only to receive it without complaint, but also to accept it with joy.

The capacity to do so is a function of deeper comprehension as well as of faith or certainty in the wisdom of the hidden workings of God.

Hence we understand the meaning of the verse: '“Happy is the man whom Thou, O God, chasteneth . . .'” (Psalms 94:12)."

-Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, September 13, 2009

"The right to be defended grows from deep roots"

From time to time Rabbi Steinsaltz particiaptes in the "On Faith" website sponsored by The Washington Post. Here is the Rabbi's response to a recent question:


Some New York-area rabbis are planning to bring weapons to High Holy Day services this month to guard against terrorist threats. In June, a Kentucky pastor invited his congregation members to bring their firearms to church to celebrate the Second Amendment. Do weapons belong in worship? Should clergy be armed? Do the Ten Commandments trump the Second Amendment?

Rabbi Steinsaltz responded:

For many generations, perhaps millennia, houses of worship were supposed to be immune from attacks.

The fact that they are now endangered is a very sorry reflection on the state of our society.

When such a threat is not a paranoid response but has some rational basis, it is an issue that needs to be seriously discussed with a community's leaders, security personnel and educators.

As for the question itself, traditionally, places of worship are not the right place to carry weapons.

In some faiths, this is very emphatically stated.

However, this is surely not a universal tenet of belief: in many faiths, religious leaders were also military leaders, and did not find any conflict between those two functions.

Even in Christianity, there have been several Orders composed of soldier-monks: the Templars and the Hospitaliers, among them.

If we live in times when a person in the house of prayer is prone to be killed, the right to be defended grows from deep roots.


Friday, September 11, 2009

"The shock of teshuvah"

"My father was an ardent Socialist, almost a Communist.

Once I visited the places in Spain where he fought in the civil war as a volunteer in the International Brigade.

I read Lenin before I read the Bible.

It wasn’t very fashionable when I became an Orthodox Jew.

Nor was it easy.

I felt like the character in the Kafka novel who wakes up one day and discovers that he has become a cockroach.

I had always despised those Orthodox people. I really disliked them.

I used to throw stones at them.

And then one day I woke up and discovered that I belonged there.

It was a shock.

I don’t know if I have ever really gotten over that shock."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, September 10, 2009

"There are two types of satisfaction in the world"

My friend, Pinchas Allouche, a rabbi in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a devoted student of Rabbi Steinsaltz, told me the following:

Rabbi Steinsaltz once mentioned to me that many years ago, he took part in a panel on religion in Spain, and he was representing the Jewish faith.

The representatives of each faith had to describe their idea of paradise.

The Christians, Moslems, Hindus all depicted a very materialistic image of paradise (some even included servants and maids, nice homes, good food, etc.).

When Rabbi Steinsaltz's turn came, he said that the Jewish Paradise is very different.

It is about 'souls basking in the infinite light of Hashem, and ascending closer and closer to Him with a never-ending thirst and quest to learn and connect to the Almighty...'.

At one point, a participant interrupted Rabbi Steinsaltz and asked: 'Why would anyone want to become Jewish, if your Paradise is so boring, tedious, and demands so much effort?'

After a short pause, Rabbi Steinsaltz replied: 'There are two types of satisfactions in the world: most people derive ultimate satisfaction from a good rest, on a good couch, with a good ice-cream or pleasures of that kind.

'Others derive ultimate satisfaction from climbing mountains.

They climb mountain, and immediately proceed to the next, and the next, and the next... Their satisfaction stems from their continuous climbs, higher and higher, from strength to strength.'

Rabbi Steinsaltz then looked back into the eyes of the questioner and concluded: 'We Jews are mountain climbers!'"


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"A being from another dimension of reality"

"All the articulated visions of prophecy are nothing more than ways of representing an abstract formless spiritual reality in the vocabulary of human language; although, to be sure, there may also be a revelation of an angel in quite ordinary form, clothed in some familiar vessel and manifested as a 'normal' phenomenon in nature.

The difficulty is that the one who sees angel in this way does not always know that it is an apparition, that the pillar of fire or the image of a man does not belong entirely to the realm of natural cause and effect.

And at the same time, the angel--that is to say, the force sent from a higher world--makes its appearance and to a certain extent acts in the material world, being either entirely subject to the laws of our world or operating in a sort of vacuum between the world in which physical nature is no more that a kind of garment for some higher substance.

In the Bible, Manoah, the father of Samson, sees the angel in the image of a prophet yet he senses in some inexplicable way that it is not a man he sees, that he is witnessing a phenomenon of a different order.

Only when the angel changes form completely and becomes a pillar of fire does Manoah recognize that this being, this marvel which he has seen and with whom he has conversed, was not a man, not a prophet, but a being from another dimension of reality--that is to say, an angel."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "Worlds" in T
he Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"A world can exist only as a result of the concealment of it's Creator"

"The various worlds are characterized as higher or lower in relation to the degree of their transparency to the divine light, which is their very light and substance.

As one descends in the system of worlds, materiality becomes ever greater: in other words, the beings of the lower worlds feel their independent existence with greater intensity than the beings of the higher; they are more aware of being separate individual selves.

And this consciousness of their separate selfdom blocks the divine plenty and at the same time obscures the truly unchanging essence that lurks beneath the individual personality.

In short, the lower the world, the more it is pervaded by a sense of the “I,” and consequently the more it is subject to the obscuring of the divine essence.

It can be said, however, that all of the worlds--and, indeed any separate realms of being--exists only by virtue of the fact that God makes Himself hidden.

For when the divine plenty is manifested in it complete fullness there is no room for the existence of anything else.

A world can exist only as a result of the concealment of it's Creator.

As one descends from high worlds to lower, with each new level of descent the separateness, the independence of the world from it becomes more pronounced and emphatic, while the divine plenty becomes more hidden.

Hence the creatures in the world of action may reach (as men often do) a condition in which they are not only unaware of the life-giving divine plenty, but may even repudiate its existence altogether.

On the other hand, as on ascends the scale of being, the worlds become ever more clear and transparent to the divine plenty."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "Worlds" in
The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, September 7, 2009

"Thank you for giving me an appetite"

"Rabbi Zusha was once reduced to poverty as to lack bread, and when he was very hungry, he turned to God and said: ‘Master of the Universe, thank you for giving me an appetite’ ”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Opening the Tanya, p. 283, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, September 6, 2009

"One cannot proceed from one point to another without losing one’s previous balance"

"When a person passes from one level to another, there is an increased danger of falling.

He is no longer secure in the previous level, and can easily fall before he gains a hold in the next level.

This is true for every change in condition or of level of existence.

For instance, when entering the water to swim, there is a moment when one has to lose balance, disconnect from the secure contact with the ground, and be neither walking nor floating.

Transition thus always involves imbalance and danger.

If someone who is learning some skill, either manual or intellectual, is put into a situation where there is a real difference of approach to the subject, it seems fairly necessary to advise the person to forget all that he had learned previously because it would only serve to confuse him.

He cannot progress to a higher level of performance without forgetting, letting go of what he already knows.

So that those people, for example, who are intrinsically unable to forget are also those who find it hard to progress.

The passage from one level to another demands a sort of leap, an abandoning of all that was solid ground.

It is a basic feature of human progress, resting on the principle that the interval between points or fields comprises a mode of nothingness, and one cannot proceed from one point to another without losing one’s previous balance, even if only for the briefest moment."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, September 4, 2009

"Kabbalah needs more than a smattering of knowledge"

"Personally, I am not for this new Kabbalah trend.

I think it is cheap and I think it presents a danger.

Not that people are learning too much Kabbalah, but that they are focusing only on the mystery and secret and magic and don’t address how people should change or become more Jewish.

Kabbalah is not a gimmick.

It is something holy and serious and it needs much more than a smattering of knowledge.

Imagine taking a six-week course in neurosurgery and hanging up a shingle.

It is not only fraudulent, but dangerous."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, September 3, 2009

"God weighs every person differently"

"The question is asked about the universal longing and aspiration for peace of mind and heart.

There are those who do not reach too high a decree of tranquility.

It is taught that God weighs every person differently.

Some are judged according to their achievements and others by their failures.

No one is weighed in the balance by the peace of mind he attained, but rather by the nature of his struggle and what was won in the battle."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Our goal is to always aim for greater heights"

"It is taught that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was unable to lead the prayer service one Yom Kippur.

His Chasidim pleaded with him but to no avail.

'Last year,' he told them, 'I promised God I would do complete teshuvah. And look, the year passed by and I still haven’t repented. How can I possibly lead the prayers again?'

Finally his son said to him, 'Father, last year it wasn’t true, but this time it will be!'

Upon hearing those words, the rabbi took heart and began the prayers.

Cultivating the self-awareness necessary for teshuvah is an incremental process.

Part of this process is acknowledging that we may not have lived up to our goals or promises from last year—or if we have indeed made progress, that last year’s teshuvah does not suffice from our new vantage point.

Who we are now is different from who we were when we repented last year.

If I did not fulfill last year’s promise, that does not contradict my ability now to promise sincerely.

What is important is not what has happened—or did not happen—in the past, but whether or not a person is prepared to accept it, learn from it, and go forward.

If we are not prepared to accept our past, including our sins and our suffering, it will come back repeatedly.

The Baal Shem Tov said that the penitent has the possibility of repentance when he is on a higher level of consciousness than he was at the time of the sin.

The sign of real development is that one’s previous level no longer holds true for him.

When one gen­uinely grows, his personal truth now must surpass all his previous truths so that, by comparison, they are not true at all.

Teshuvah demands that one pursue his individual truth at all times.

Yesterday’s heavens should be today’s earth, and we must know: there is a Truth still higher than this.

Our goal is to always aim for greater heights, to be constantly struggling and striving to do better and to be closer to God.

It is not enough to just be."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Using a certain skill of a wrestler"

"When a person has extraneous thoughts, instead of feeling despair, one has to resort to a certain wrestler’s skill, using the weight of the opponent to topple him and then slipping from under his grip by an ingenious clarity of purpose and will.

As Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Baal Ha-Tanya, says, there are two souls waging war against each other in a person’s mind.

And the prize for which they are fighting is the individual’s progress toward God."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz