#BlogElul Day 26: Create

Being referred to as an image of God carries certain expectations.

God has done so many things. How am I to decide how I should be His* image?

Before any advanced theories emerge, the one obvious meaning makes itself known. It’s Genesis Chapter One for God’s sake. God is the Creator.

So if at the end of the chapter it says He then makes human beings in His image, then the only thing it can mean at that point is “as creator”.

Well, that’s just great. How am I supposed to do that?!

The piece that is beyond us is the first of forty. That’s why in Halachic language, the full spectrum of human creative capacity is called “Forty minus One”. But the next thirty-nine steps are creative.

Each step takes something pre-existing and turns it into something else, something with a more advanced function.

I think a certain religion took this beautiful concept and took it in a very weird sci-fi direction. The base idea is wonderful.

As animals, living organisms, we are made to survive, replicate, and thrive.

The God’s Image part that is added to the matrix demands that we also create.

Writing is creating.

Taking something from your domain and giving it to the community is creating.

Making food, clothing and shelter is creating.

Taking something that was a primate, and making it more Godly and creative, is creating.

Making yourself in God’s Image is creating.

Doing Teshuva and starting all over is creating.

#BlogElul Day 25: Intend

The value of intention in Halacha is complex. Sometimes, halacha says that intent to perform a mitzvah is part of the essence of the Mitzvah itself. No intention=Meaningless act. Do it over, with a bracha, and intention.

Sometimes, having the intent is an addition praise-worthy component. If you had some good. If you didn’t, don’t worry about it; it’s all good and better luck next time.

Intention is better than no intention. One maamar Chazal (rabbinic expression) has it that if one intended to perform a mitzvah but was impeded by forces truly outside of his control, it counts as an actual deed.

Based on that teaching, the late Chassidic Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizensk advised people to intend to perform the Mitzvah of sacrificing one’s life for God. The fact that the scenario does not present itself is neither here nor there. Because your intent mattered.

At first, this might sound like some silly loophole-shtick. But the way the brainwaves move matter. Constant flexing of one’s Intention muscles enhances mental strength.

#BlogElul Day 24: Hope

For years, when I heard the name “Shprintza”, I thought, “Ech, typical, Yiddish-sounding Fiddler-on-the-Roof nonsensical name.”

Then one day I decided to see if it had any meaning. It turns out that it was the jargonization of the Spanish name “Esperanza”, which means Hope. That sounds rather pretty.

I would imagine that nowadays, any Israeli named for an ancestress named Shprintza would be named Tikva, one of the Hebrew words for Hope.

The Jewish Nation as a community has hope, and a happy ending promised to us. Each individual Jew is not given that hope.

That is why great people (Rav Yisrael Salanter among others) have advised that in order to do our part in securing a good destiny, individuals should bind ourselves to the community.

#BlogElul Day 23: Begin

I have begun many times.

Many notebooks that look so shiny and white in the store are bought, then a few pages into it I lose the oomph.

Beginning is such a great feeling.

I just wish they made notebooks with only eight pages.

This pattern of mine used to upset me. But then I thought that God does this every morning.

A very hopeful line, from Eicha of all places:
(Chapter 3)

כג חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ.

23 They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.

#BlogElul Day 22: End

A Land which The eyes of Hashem your God always [oversee], from the beginning of the year to year’s end.

Always includes “from start to finish”. There is no part of always that doesn’t subsume from beginning to end.

Divine Favor is always there, but all the more so at the beginning (Tishrei) and the end. (Elul)

From last year’s post, worth repeating:

There is something special, defining, about how something ENDS.
According to Daniel Kahneman’s research, which appears in his amazing recommendation-worthy book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, it is not the totality of an experience that is maintained in one’s real memory; it is rather an experience’s most intense moment and its conclusion that define how the memory will be formed.

We often focus on making things go well. That’s good. We should also focus, within that attempt, to make something END well in particular. This includes every day, which is why the pre-sleep hour should be planned well. Not having one’s smart phone for the last hour of one’s waking hours would be a great start. Of course, there’s Shema and the entire service of Krias Shema al haMita which works. Etc. You get the point.

This is also true of the end of any event:

* The end of Shacharis
* The end of dinner
* The end of a school day
* The end of a vacation
* The end of Shabbos

#BlogElul Day 21: Love

Love – Ahavah: A working definition.

Where n= a person, idea, or thing.

Love – Ahavah, A working definition: To appreciate the value of n so much that you derive enjoyment and pleasure by just thinking of n, or being in physical proximity to n.

Better yet:
Love – Ahavah, A working definition: To appreciate the value of n so much that you derive enjoyment and pleasure by giving any and every part of yourself to n.

#BlogElul Day 20: Fulfill

I am an adult. I was not deprived as a child in any sense of the word. I have experienced all the privilege that one could hope for. The male kind, the white kind, the Ashkenazi kind, you name it. My parents did not have all of that, and they worked hard and suffered plenty to get me my “privilege”.

Yet, would I have become a better person had they withheld all their blessings from me?
I don’t think so.
One never knows;
but I don’t think so.

I see way too many parents whose default setting in answering their children’s requests is “No.”

Danger is danger. And ruining one’s appetite is ruining one’s appetite. But parents should want to fulfill their children’s wishes, not only do “what is good for them.”

And if a parent has to say no, it should be painful for the parent, not a moment of self-righteous indignation.


#BlogElul Day 19: Judge

I think people should be more curious about the plethora of plain-speaking judge programs in the marketplace.

The People’s Court: Wapner, Koch, the other one…
Judge Joe Brown
Judge Judy

Perhaps there is a certain degree of wish-fulfillment on the part of the American public. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being a plaintiff or defendant in any court proceeding knows a little bit of what sort of Hell the Judicial branch feels like, in all its necessity. We want to feel that the basic concept of a judge just plainly ruling in favor of the good guy and yelling at the creepy bad guy still exists.

We all have that judge gene within us, and we use it, or wish we could use it, all the time.

There’s way too much “Judge not…” going on. That’s the brain’s version of the lungs’ “Don’t breathe”.

So judge, with caveats:

  • “Suspend Judgment until you get more facts.” (Avos 2:4)
  • “Judge slowly” (Avos 1:1)
  • “When uncertain, judge favorably.” (Avos 1:6)
  • “Unless it’s relevant to others, keep your judgments to yourself.” (All of the Laws of Loshon Hara)

But judge.
And this time of year, judge yourself too.

#BlogElul Day 18: Ask

ה וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ, וְכָל-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִצְמָח: כִּי לֹא הִמְטִיר ה אֱ-לֹהִים, עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וְאָדָם אַיִן, לַעֲבֹד אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה.

5 No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to work the ground;

The Gemara explains that the work that man was expected to do was ask for rain.

All he would be expected to do is ask.

Asking is working. If more is still required, then that’s more work. But asking is working.

Ask any fundraiser.
Ask any professional salaried grant-writer.

Asking is working.

#BlogElul Day 17: Awaken

I have heard modern-day baalei mussar, people with piety constantly on their minds, say that one of the great evils of modern technology is the Snooze button.

If you have to get up, then get up! Don’t delay it by nine minutes.

And if you can get up in nine minutes without any worrisome negative consequences awaiting you at home or work or school, then set your alarm for nine minutes later!

Awakening is like what I said about Change a couple of days ago: It’s bad. We want to live, but if we can do so by being at rest, we’ll opt for that. It’s only when we see that continued sleep will jeopardize our lives that we wake up. So all we need to do to help us wake up is to develop an awareness that we have to get up, or else!


Lifehack: Schedule things that matter a lot to other people for early in the day.