Shir Hamaalot

I have had struggles with my faith, with Judaism, over the last year. But now, even after the passing of the High Holidays, of Sukkot, of Shiminei Atzeret, of Simchat Torah, I find myself drawn back to the Torah, to the words of the sages, the commentators, the rabbis, and the beauty of living in the mercy of Hashem.

Because as we watch once more the walls of a civilization crumble around us, we are reminded that the kingdom of man is an illusion, and the only real kingdom is the Kingdom of G-d.

 

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

(Morpheus, from The Matrix)

 

I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

(Tehillim 121, 1-2)

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Be A Great Painter, Asher Lev

““Be a great painter, Asher Lev.” He was still looking out the window at the sun and the sky. “That will be the only justification for all the pain your art will cause.”

Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev

I often think about this quote.

As a Jewish man living in what appears to be the end-times of this particular iteration of Western Civilization, the call back to Torah, tradition, and communalism grows daily. Yet do I spend my life studying Talmud, living according to Halacha, or building synagogues or academies? Only to the tiniest degree: most of my waking hours are spent worrying about my family’s well-being, my clients, my colleagues, and my business.

I am sure that will not surprise you. What you may be interested to learn, though, is that this fact is the cause of a great deal of pain in my life, and probably pain in others.

I rationalize it by telling myself that, like Asher Lev, my urges and my G-d-given abilities have led me to succeed in this direction, so this must be a part of His greater plan, and I should not fight it.

And then listen to my soul. And I look at the world around me. And a voice out of the darkest depths of my genetic past calls me back to seferim, Yiddishkeit, and the people of my community.

And in hearing that voice I know a pain that Potok never placed in Asher Lev, but one that I know he must have felt: that the more blessings G-d gives you the greater your soul struggles.