Divrei Torah

Rosh HaShannah 5774: An Etude on Attitude


An Etude on Attitude

Many people unhappily view their life as fraught on a journey eclipsed from stress to stress. They purposely stay stuck in their imagined emotional paralysis. I religiously believe that life is a privileged gift given by G-d directly. The word Yisrael classically means “struggle with G-d”, however, the spiritual sentiment in us feels absolutely the opposite. Instead of suffocating ourselves with struggle we should employ the core meaning in Yisrael, as Yashar, straight towards the Almighty. Never view life as a struggle. G-d straightens our zig zag confused wanderings. A Jew’s life objective is not to be in struggle with G-d, but to be in a lifelong struggle for closeness with G-d, called dveikut. Hassidic masters teach that life is about embodying infinite closeness, while rejecting the idea of Divine distance. They go further and teach that when spouses espouse their love and say “I love you” into the other’s deep deep core, the unstated corollary to that is that through your pupils, I see myself in you, searching for what you have found in me.  Soul finds itself mirrored in the eyes of the other, in each other’s dveikut. G-d is the glue within them. This too is dveikut; we are glued together, inseparable. After all, everyone in the world ultimately wants to know from each other “What is your solution to staving off the abyss?” “Do you have dveikut anywhere?” The truest answer is: Yes, of course, we are all capable of dveikut, everyone has dveikut through the will of G-d. No one is alone. We are all created in his holy image. Life’s reality is what we believe it is.

Avoiding the void seems to preoccupy nearly all. It presses in. Better to realize a purer pursuit – G-d’s light. To feel alive emulate godliness.The second sentence of the Torah declares that this abyss of eternal nothingness, this outer space, is the very material of creation. (“The earth was unformed and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.”) G-d hovers over the eternal emptiness, covering the primordial deep of endless space over the waters, called Tohu VaVohu.  There seems to be two worlds of choice: eternal chaos, in opposition to dveikut or G-d–eternal meaning. There is a tension between the two, seemingly a choice for us, in trying to understand why G-d created the world in the first place, why he imposed himself into the Tohu Vavohu with Ruakh Elokim, the breathing breeze of divine justice. What’s the ultimate purpose of creation? Judaism teaches that a life’s purpose is a quest to know G-d with pure clarity.

 There is a story of two brothers in the mid 18th century, who were Hasidic leaders in Europe, Reb Elimelech of LIzensk and Reb Zusia of Hanipol, both Tzaddikim.  Reb Elimelech once arrived to Zusia and found him sobbing.  “What’s wrong, my little brother?” he inquired.  “I just studied that everyone must relate to G-d in two opposite ways; one with fear and one with love. These, our mystics say, are the two wings to reach G-d. But I have no fear of G-d.  I wouldn’t know how to express it. I’m so frightened for myself that I will never reach the Eibishter.” Reb Elimelech said, “All right Zishale, I’ll pray for you that you should fear G-d.”  When Reb Elimelech finished praying, Reb Zusia was so bowled over that he hid in the corner and wouldn’t move. He was broken and cowered in pain. Reb Elimelech sensed so much of the loss that he wrought upon Zusia that he immediately prayed again to take away Reb Zusia’s fear of G-d.  Zusia returned to full dimension. Reb Elimelech said, “Zeiskeit, my brother, I now realize, it is evident that you are incapable of using fear to touch Heaven, you already have a double dosage of love of G-d.  These are the two wings you directly fly with to the holiest Centre of the Eibishter.”

I might have a breaking body just now, but I feel it replete with joy.  Everyday is a tremendous opportunity of growth and every moment is an accomplishment of love, of life.  Loving the life one is  given is a gift back to G-d. My struggle is only to thank G-d more purely. I fulfill for myself the aims of belonging to Yisrael. G-d speaks to all of us through the Torah, but we respond back to G-d through our honest, joyous, deep-core prayers. We must learn to receive our blessing but more importantly to teach all humanity to bless each other with this closeness that G-d lets us float in his heavenly air. By blessing others, I know that I personally feel blessed every moment of my life. This continuous interplay becomes my identity. The essence of life is to ever direct yourself to soar higher and beyond, Zishe. Moreso every blessing that is made towards me has concretia, a weight onto my listless body. Blessings directed to me take my limbs out of limbo. Prayer by prayer reaches cell by atomic cell and picks up my flopped-down skeleton. Invoking blessing unburies the earth pushing down upon me. These compounding prayers lift the fallen. I look skywards now from each prayer of healing when you invoke my name. You remind my body too that it is lofty. Thank you. 

May we together continue our highest love to the world through our dveikut with G-d because this is why we live.  Amen.

The Cahana Family wishes you a L’shana tova tikatevu u’tichatemu.

Rabbi Ronnie Cahana


3 thoughts on “Rosh HaShannah 5774: An Etude on Attitude

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