Pleasure and Pain

There is a misconception which is extremely common among Americans, it pervades our culture and society on all levels.  This is the mistake that the opposite of Pleasure is Pain.  We want to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.  This assumption causes massive problems as we American go to great lengths to avoid pain and seek pleasure at all costs.

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Years ago, in Yeshivah (a Jewish school of Wisdom), my rabbi proved to us that the opposite of Pleasure is really not Pain.  The opposite of pain is no pain… comfort.
But pursuing comfort and shunning pain leads to warped values and wasting your life.  The ultimate comfort is what?  Zoning out, sleeping, death.  You won’t need to make any effort, there is no pain, no change, no growth.  Growth requires pain.  Anything worth accomplishing requires you to invest your energy, time, and talent.

Pain is the price you pay for Pleasure

Pain is the price you pay for Pleasure.  Remember this, use it as a slogan when you are faced with difficult decisions, tough workouts, choices that will bring you pain now and pleasure later.

My rabbi, many years ago, pointed out that valuing comfort had made American society decadent.  To seek comfort, to avoid pain, is decadence.  Avoiding pain means avoiding a hard job, dificult classes, points of view that challenge your own.  It is avoiding growth, conflict, change.  Decadence is weakness, avoiding pain brings stagnation.

Most Americans now avoid or delay marriage and having children, as these are painful.  Of course they also bring pleasure and meaning to life, but too much pain!   It’s hard to manage the relationships with a wife and children, to lead in those relationships, to be a worthy guide to next generations.  It needs a high level of competence, preparation, and all of your effort and dedication.  This is pain.
Interestingly, in Jewish culture, a man does not finally fulfill the entire commandement of “Be fruitful and muliple” until his own children beget offspring.  This means he has guided his family to become mature and successful, and to value continuity and legacy.  Any man can impregnate a woman, but to raise their children to share his values and continue his legacy is the mark of a real man.  This requires a high level of passion and commitment to your goals, to teach your children by your example.

Comfort does not equal Pleasure

Seeking comfort often leads to prioritizing pleasures now, and putting off the inevitable pain.  We all know the couch potato who is going to start dieting and exercising…right after this TV show…or after the next one.  Next week.  In January.  Putting off the pain leads to the need for a greater dose of pain to earn the pleasure being fit and healthy.  Choosing to continue the comfort may mean the ultimate pain of a premature death that was preventable.
You may be in a relationship that is not working, but it’s comfortable.  You are used to it.  Comfort.  Lobsters also get used to water coming up to a boil.  Comfortable, mmm, nice warm water… until it is too late.  For you, ending or deconstructing then reconstructing this relationship will be painful.  Seriously painful, with permanent consequences.  But it’s not working out.  The challenge is to see that your choice is NOT between comfort and pain, your choice is comfort or pleasure.  Getting to the pleasure will take pain.  What you you have to weigh is comfort without pleasure against pain now and pleasure later.

Pain is the price you pay for Pleasure

The men in the best shape are those who take the pain of exercise, of lifting heavy weights, with the awareness that this pain brings their pleasure, their growth, their muscles.  But it takes wisdom, you can’t just lift your max every day and expect to grow without injury.  You need to plan, prepare, warm up, lift, rest.  The men who win in competetive sports take the pain of pushing themselves harder and faster in training and races.  Again, they don’t just go out and kill themselves, they have a plan and prepare.  They are aware that their sport demands pain to win at high levels, and at least subconsciously they accept that pain is the price you pay for pleasure.

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Tool #1 become a student of life

Pirke Avot 6:6

Greater is learning Torah than the priesthood and than royalty, for royalty is acquired by thirty stages, and the priesthood by twenty-four, but the Torah by forty-eight things: 1 By study

The language of our sages is Talmud, translated as study or learning.  The word itself is in the ongoing form, implying by the grammar our sages mean constant study.

How do we achieve constant study?  Don’t waste any time.

Imagine you are taking a bus to a city a few hours away.  Across the aisle there is a man looking out the window.  After 10 minutes, he takes out his wallet, takes out a five dollar bill, and throws it out the window.  You are not sure what you just saw, was that real?  After another 10 minutes, he takes out his wallet, takes out a five dollar bill, and throws it out the window.  This guy must be crazy!  Again, 10 minutes later, out comes the wallet, the five dollar bill, boom, out the window. What kind of fool thing is he doing?

This goes on, until you get to the destination.  The man looks in his wallet. Empty. He looks over at you, in a polite voice says: “Pardon me, sir, could I borrow five dollars?”

Ridiculous. You’re laughing.  You would never throw five dollars out the window.

Brothers, did you ever throw five minutes out the window?

What did you accomplish during your last bus trip?  Looked at some scenery? Read the newspaper?  What did you learn? How did you grow?

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You saw some pretty scenery. And did something on your phone. Fine, it was just a few hours you wasted.  Hours add up to days, days to months, months to years, until you look back in horror at the loss of time and wonder what you could have accomplished.

If you want to be student of life, to grow into the best version of yourself, don’t waste a day, don’t waste an hour, not even a minute.  Life is your opportunity to make something of yourself.  And even if you are young and healthy (Thank God), you don’t know when this opportunity is over.

Does this mean you can never relax, never take a day off, never zone out?  No, some degree of unwinding is necessary to keep your equilibrium.  When you are resting or playing in order to have the strength to then learn and accomplish, even those activities contribute to your personal growth.  You can apply this concept to sleeping:  if you just conk out after a long day, your body is, hopefully, maybe, refreshed when you awake.  If you consciously choose to sleep in order to have power tomorrow, power to learn, to grow, to exercise, to build yourself…that is a different level of sleep.  Now you involve the soul, the mind, not just the body.  Your relaxation and recreation can fuel your personal growth if you are mindful.

Another aspect of this is long term planning.  You want to learn to paint? To really paint?   You can’t just decide one day, go buy an easel, canvas, and oil paints, and throw some paint on the canvas and see what happens.  You first study art, the history, the famous painters.  You go to the art museum and see what appeals to you, you ask established painters how they got started.  Maybe you watch someone paint, and think about the process.  You meditate on what makes the great painters great, and how to learn from their art but develop your own unique style.  This can’t be done in a short time, you need to determine the right path and be conscious of your study.  Any worthwhile goal or skill takes some planning and goal setting.

Continuous means when you choose to learn something, you focus on that. Your email can wait. Your life is more important.  Learning for 10 minutes without interruption is better than 2 hours of learning while multitasking.  Plus, you get used to focusing on one subject, and can build your concentration.  This is a lost art today.  Start with 10 minutes of focus, build up to an hour, and you will be shocked how much you can accomplish in one hour.

Continuous also means consistent.  Again, it is better to study something for just one hour a day than to try to cram 8 hours in once a week.  You develop a rhythm and make it part of your routine.  This gives it a power and makes you more likely to continue.  Consistency even works for activities you may not do every day.  Think about lifting.  You wouldn’t lift every day, but your rest days are a key part of the process of building strength.  Don’t take extra days off, but be conscious that your rest days are part of your training.

Continuous requires commitment.  Review what you learned. Keep it fresh, add new insights to old material.  You may have a great insight and lose it the next day. If you learn an important lesson about people, relationships, life, yourself – write it down! Don’t lose it.  You are the product of everything you have learned in your life.  If you learn a valuable lesson from experience, but then go home and zone out with TV or games all night, and forget your lesson, then friends, you never learned.  Don’t waste your life experience, every situation in your life is a chance to learn and grow.  Your study of life should change you.

My rabbi explained the seriousness of personal growth like this:

Imagine a 1 year old baby.  He is crying, crawling, exploring, grabbing things on the floor.  He’s beautiful.  If you came back and the kid was now 3 years old, but doing the exact same thing as when he was 1, you know what that means.  A tragedy.

Imagine a 5 year old bow.  He’s playing, laughing, running, not a care in the world. Beautiful.  If you come back and he is 10 years old, but doing the exact same thing as when he was 5, that is a tragedy.

Imagine a 10 year old boy.  He is reading, playing baseball with his friends. Beautiful.  If you come back and find him 20, doing exactly what he was doing at 10…Tragedy.

Imagine a 20 year old, maybe he’s in college, maybe learning a trade. He’s trying to get somewhere in life.  You come back and find him 30, still trying to get somewhere.  Tragedy.

Imagine a 30 year old, or imagine yourself….if you come back in 10 years and you are doing the same thing, the same people, with the same ideas, the same life as before.  What is that friends?
It’s a tragedy.

Who are you going to be 10 years from now?  It is never too late to reassess yourself and decide to use your time to learn, to grow.

If you choose to be a student of life, you will learn from everything that has happened so far in your own life, and learn from those around you, and from the wisdom of people who came before you.  You will learn in order to apply wisdom to improve your own life.

Choosing to be a student of life means choosing not to waste time. Time is, after all, what life itself is made of.

Sometimes you will make poor investments of your time and energy.  Some relationships are a drain on you instead of a mutually beneficial partnership.  Don’t just keep doing what you have been doing and expect it to magically get better.  You may have to cut your losses and move on.

Your life isn’t a Hollywood movie where of course the good guy wins with dramatic background music.  You have to build yourself into the good guy in order to win at life.  I don’t mean the nice guy, trying to please other people.  The good guy does what is right because it is right, not to make people happy or avoid their wrath.

If you stop learning, stop growing, it means you are giving up on life, throwing away the chance you have to become whatever it is you want to be.  Worse, it’s a total lack of recognition of the gift God and your parents gave you, the gift of life itself.  The gift of opportunity.

My blessing is that you make yourself a constant student of life.

Father’s Day and Bible. Naso – Numbers 4:21-7:89

In just a few days, American culture will celebrate (maybe that is too strong a term) Fathers’ Day.  It’s not often that people consider the value of a father, of fatherhood, of a man raising his children, building his family and legacy. What does the Bible say about the role of the father and husband?

Tomorrow is the Sabbath and we Jews will read from our holy Torah scrolls the same portion all over the world, a section called Nasso. 

In this week’s reading, there is a famous, or infamous, ritual commanded by God to the Jewish people, which was performed in the time when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem.  The rite of the wayward wife, the Sotah in Hebrew, also known as the bitter waters.  This ritual was a way to clear a woman of guilt, if she had been behaving in an inappropriate manner.

You see, in the Bible there is zero forgiveness for a married woman cheating on her husband. Zero.  She cannot stay married to her husband, and when that marriage inevitably ends she cannot then marry the other man.  There is no taking her back, there is no option for her to enter the new relationship than began in sin.  If there were witnesses to her defilement, both her and the man involved are put to death by the court.

But what if she was behaving suspiciously, flirting with men, seeking their attention?  If she had been alone with a man and there was an opportunity to sin but there are no witnesses to any actual sin?

The Bible (Numbers 5:12-31) commands us to perform a detailed procedure to clarify her status. If there are witnesses that the married woman and another man were secluded together, but no witnesses to any actual intimacy, God Himself gives us a way to prove her guilt or innocence. The husband of the wayward wife brings her to the Temple, and she brings a guilt offering, and her hair covering is removed and her robe torn.  A special potion is prepared by the priests in the Temple, which involves writing and erasing curses which include the name of God into the water.  This is usually a grave sin (see the 10 commandments), but is allowed here to save this marriage.

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The wayward wife is urged to confess, and told she will be cursed and die if she was guilty but does not confess.  The wayward wife can choose divorce and the loss of all alimony, or she the test of drinking the bitter water. If she drinks and was guilty, she dies painfully in public humiliation.  If innocent, the curse turns to a blessing, and she returns to her husband and bears healthy children.

You see, one of the grave abominations that the Bible does not countenance is cuckoldry, a woman married to one man becoming pregnant from a different man. This act undermines her marriage, her family, her entire society.  It destroys the father’s connection with his putative children.  Therefore, if it were even possible that a married woman was intimate with another, she cannot stay married until we are sure that she did not sin.  The ritual of Sotah was something like a genetic test in our day, it would prove that a woman’s children were those of her husband only.  The Sotah test was even better: it also proves that she did not have intimate relations with any other man.  This is something that, without witnesses or an admission of guilt, only God Himself could know.
It is a great kindness to this woman that God created such a test to clear her, otherwise she would lose her marriage, her family, and her reputation forever.

Obviously that the women of that time would warn their daughters: Do not behave like so-and-so, who died from the bitter waters. Do not go behind closed doors with another man. Be loyal to God and your husband. Our sages teach us that people would curse others with this fate, and make oaths, as the righteous swear by the punishments that befell the wicked (Sifre 18).

The ritual of Sotah sends a stark message. When a wife has strayed, has been flirting and acting to attract other men, and has had the opportunity to become defiled, there is no forgiveness and reconciliation without divine intervention. A husband has to be 100% sure his wife is his, and 100% sure their children are from his seed.  That is the definition and prerequisite to being a husband and father.  Without certain paternity, the father cannot invest himself fully in his wife and family.  This is so vital a concept that God Himself instructs us of the Sotah in His Torah.

Now, one forgotten detail is that this whole ritual only gets off the ground if the husband of the wayward wife first warned her not to behave this way (5:14, Rashi, Sotah 3).  A husband who does not stand up against inappropriate behavior is simply not eligible to bring his wayward wife to the Temple to be tested.  The husband could be a spineless pushover and simply choose to believe her claims that she was innocent, it was nothing, he’s just a friend.  Naturally, this husband is not worthy of God’s help to clear his wife’s name and remove the doubts about his family.

The Bible is clear as day. If the husband, the father, does not stand up against the wrong behaviors of his wife and family, he cannot expect divine assistance in correcting them. God is willing to have His holy name written and erased to prove the innocence of this wayward woman, who is already guilty of flirting with and being alone with another man. God is ready to help, to give up His own honor, to save this family, troubled as it is. 

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Good fences make good families

But first the man has to take a stand and warn his wife and set healthy boundaries. If he won’t stand up for paternity and fatherhood, how could he ask God to stand with him?

Brothers, you can’t sit back and expect God to help you.  One of our ancient sages, Hillel, teaches: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? (Avot 1:14).  We have a rule in Judaism, God helps those who help themselves (and even more those who help others).

There is a classic story to illustrate this: A massive storm and flood is coming, evacuations are ordered.  Jimmy is a firm believer in the Almighty, he feels God will save him.  The deluge begins, thick rain.  His neighbors say “Jimmy, get in the truck, let’s go!” Jimmy says “I believe in God, He will save me!”
The waters start rising. A small boat comes by, the men say “Hey you, climb in!” Jimmy is steadfast in his faith: “God Almighty will save me!”
The flood waters deepen, gushing into the house.  Jimmy climbs up on his roof to await divine salvation. Suddenly, the roar of a helicopter above.  A rope is lowered from the chopper, it’s dangling right in front of Jimmy.  Over the bullhorn the confused rescue crew yells: “GRAB THE ROPE!” Jimmy shouts back “God will save me!” He waves them off.
Soon, Jimmy is no more.  His soul ascends to above.  He is a bit surprised by this.  He asks the first angel he sees: “I am a man of faith! Of conviction! Why didn’t God save me?!”  
The angel sighs, and softly says: “My child… The Lord sent you good neighbors. He sent you a boat. Even a helicopter. Just for you. All you had to do was take the rope to merit salvation”

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Photo by Ian Turnell on Pexels.com

 

Brothers, divine love and mercy are endless. God will help you.  When you begin to help yourself.  Do what is in your power, and pray for what is not in your power.  Sometimes confronting family members directly causes more harm than good, ask Him for the wisdom to be effective in guiding your family relationships. 
Set healthy limits on the behavior of your family.  Do not tolerate evil because it is popular.  God values strong fathers and husbands, God wants you to be confident and sure of your paternity.  This is no longer an important value in (what passes for) Western Civiliation: sadly, almost half of children are born outside of marriage.  But fatherhood is so important that God is willing to have His holy name erased to prove paternity and loyalty.

A Father’s Day blessing to all readers: become a strong father, stand up for what is right, walk in the true path and enjoy blessings from above.

The world behind the world

We live with our eyes closed, our inner spiritual eyes which have vastly greater powers of perception than the physical ones. 


First, realize there is a spiritual world.  You don’t need to believe in God or in miracles to sense that there is something deeper at work in the world, some realm that lies hidden from regular observation.  Some people believe in ghosts, or a cosmic energy linking all things together, or aliens.  Others simply feel like the repetitive rat race is just not fulfilling, and think that can’t be all there is to life.  Of course you have felt this yourself at times.  We all know that there must be more to this world than what we see on a superficial level. 

Second, open your inner eyes.  You won’t see anything at first.  The spiritual world is felt through experience and reflection.  You can develop your sensitivity, much like how a newborn develops eyesight.  When they are born, babies have 20/400 vision and can only see about a foot away.  This is perfect to allow them to see their mother when nursing (not a coincidence).  We are so used to only using our physical eyes that our spiritual eyes cannot focus yet.  That is natural, developing your inner life is a long process.

One way to start feeling spiritual energy is to notice how your physical energy changes in response to your spiritual situation.  We all have those mornings, you know, you got plenty of sleep and are (Thank God) in good health, but you just don’t want to get out of bed.  The energy is not there.  This is a palpable lack of physical energy. 


A change in spiritual energy can fix this.  Imagine you were up until 1am packing for an amazing trip.  Maybe your first trip outside the country, or to meet up with a childhood friend you have not seen in years, or to your loving grandparents who may not have much longer. 
Your alarm goes off.  You roll over.  The clock says 4:30am.  Right now your physical energy is low.  Your body wants to stay under the warm blankets.  Then you think about the trip.  Your soul wants to move, to go, to accomplish.  Your soul suddenly injects energy into your body, via your thoughts and emotions.  “4:30!” you say “Wake up everyone, it’s time to go! Out of bed!”

Wow, how did that happen?  The soul took over from the body. The soul realized it was vital to get the body to move, and immediately injected the spiritual energy into the body to get you moving.

You can create this experience any day. Sleep is one of the most body driven activities we perform (and on a mystic level sleep is 1/60 of death). But the soul can master even sleep. Before you go to sleep, you can reflect: why am I sleeping? I have so much to accomplish tomorrow, I need my energy and health. I’m not going to sleep because I am lazy, just the opposite, I am busy and important. Therefore getting proper sleep is important..

You can end the struggle of how to get up in the morning. Simply go to sleep with a sense of purpose and joy and you wake with purpose and joy. The energy to get out of bed is a soul energy. You can put the soul in charge of the body

Naturally, becoming aware of this reality, that the soul brings the energy into the body, allows you to begin working with your soul to optimize your life every day.

Fathering and Mothering; an introduction to Pirkei Avot

img_20190417_173309.jpgAmong the most famous wisdom in the Torah is Pirkei Avot, Chapters of the Fathers.

Pirkei Avot (pronounce peer-kay ah-vot) is a collection of ancient wisdom from Jewish sages, part of the Mishnah, in the Oral Torah.  PA is not a source of Jewish law, but a source for values, morals, and good conduct.  We study PA to remind ourselves about the meaning of life and benefits of proper behavior.  Often the sayings are pithy, such as the famous statement by Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? (Avot 1:14).

It is practical advice and philosophical musings from wise men to their students, and students are considered as being children to their Rabbi.  These sayings were recorded for posterity.  The oldest statements are about 2500 years old and the most recent about 1900 years old.  But they are timeless.  Any statement recording in the Torah, Written or Oral, is meant for all time.  We know there were thousands of prophets who prophesized, but very few prophecies were written down.  Those written down are for all time.

Pirkei Avot is often translated as Ethics of the Fathers, or Wisdom of the Fathers. I would suggest that this translation is not entirely correct, as the second word “Avot” lacks a prefix that means definite “the”.  So, Pirkei Avot means Wisdom of/for Fathers or simply Father’s Wisdom.  Now, the sages who spoke the wisdom in Pirke Avot are the spiritual fathers of the Jewish people.  So, the traditional translation Ethics of the Fathers is appropriate too.  My literal translation Wisdom for Fathers works because the wisdom contained in PA is meant for all of us, as we are the fathers of the next generation and responsible to guide our families.  Not only that, but in our time, we often have to serve as our own fathers to guide our own spiritual growth (ayen Hovos haTalmidim, introduction).  This is especially difficult for those who grew up without a father, or with an ineffective father, or in a secular society that tells us to discount fathers (Lamentations 5:3).

Avot means Fathers, not mothers. (Some Hebrew words in plural include both the masculine and feminine).  If you are lucky enough to be a woman, don’t run away. Pirkei Avot is still relevant and will save you from a lot of sorrow. 

 

Parenting is both Fathering and Mothering

 

A short background: Mothers try to build children into adults through affirming their essence as they are now.  Fathers build children into adults through telling them they can improve on what they are now.  Example: child comes home with a 93% score on a test.  Mother: WOW! I’m SOOO proud, you are so amazing!  I’ll give you a double serving of dessert.  Father:  Not bad kid, next time study harder and get the last 7%, I know you can do it.

Think about the key difference. Naturally, the mother affirms the child as they already are, protecting and building their self esteem.  This is vitally important to confidence and the sense that someone loves you no matter what you do.  The father affirms that they can improve on what they are, this is a judgment not an affirmation.  But, when the child does improve, they learn that they can build their own self esteem.  In a deeper sense, the mother wants the child to feel good, the father wants the child to do good.  The mother gives her child’s self esteem a fish, the father pushes the child to learn to fish for himself.

The effect is that with only a mother, the child gets the affirmation from her, acquires self-esteem.  Great.  But he doesn’t learn to build himself up and make his own self-esteem. In contemporary American society, the whole culture has begun to tilt dramatically toward mothering people.  Think about the messages culture sends you, through school, media, magazines, psychologists.  Messages like:  Everyone is a winner.  Everyone gets a participation trophy.  You are perfect just the way you are.  Everyone is a special snowflake.  Accept yourself.

All of these messages are the mothering aspect.  There is a cultural focus on self acceptance and avoidance of criticism, to the extent that the underlying message is: you don’t need to improve yourself.  I’ll take it a step further: encouraging people to make themselves great and be their own focus, their own source of self esteem is perceived as dangerous.  It may create selfish people, this is considered harmful.  So, the fathering aspect has been removed from general society.  Since it’s hard to do it correctly, we can’t just go back to full bore fathering on a whim.  Fathering in a harsh manner can lead the child to cry and feel bad, and culture now frowns on hurting feelings, even if that is for the ultimate good of that person in the long run.  So any less than delicate or unconstructive criticism sends a child running for mother, for mothering, to avoid the pain of feeling a need to improve. (Pain is the price for pleasure – that will be another essay). 

So fathering has been drastically reduced in our society and replaced by an exaggerated mothering.  Without strong fathers to help children grow, mothers or female teachers, administrators, or therapists a forced to sometimes act as fathers.  Kids will need discipline, that is inevitable.  Parents will need to control the children and set limits.  When women are thrust suddenly into fathering, the judging and somewhat critical role, disaster can occur.  First, they are not used to it, and it requires careful application.  Second, the mother figures in a child’s life are sorely needed to affirm their self concept.  If the same person affirming the essence of a person is also saying they need to improve, they are saying the child is flawed.  So, they temper the fathering critique or control message with more mothering: you can behave better…but I accept your how you are.  Huh?

Sending a contradictory message to children leads to them doubting their self esteem, or growing into an adult with a sense of selfish entitlement (from the excess mothering) but internal emptiness (from the criticism coming from the same source giving the acceptance). Avoiding this problem is one of many reasons why children succeed much more with a mother and father.

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This conflicted fathering/mothering doesn’t affect girls as deeply, since the modern culture tells girls they are great, but tells boys they are, well, less than great, or that they are flawed girls who need to sit still. We have all heard Girl Power, but never Boy Power.  So giving a girl a little flawed fathering won’t kill her, since the world tells her she is great.  Boys are ironically more delicate in this regard.  A lack of fathering can turn a boy into a narcissist, while mixed up and combined fathering and mothering can smother his self esteem and leave him without a clear path to self fulfillment.

So, if you are a father, or mother, or plan to become one of those, or even a teacher, a mentor, a friend, Pirke Avot is relevant.  Pirkei Avot simply teaches how to live better, with more depth, and to grow into a balanced adult.

We can translate Pirke Avot as Wisdom for Fathering.  Tools for sculpting young souls into brilliant diamonds. Really, fathering is not about the father/mother/teacher sculpting.  It is giving the student the tools and the passion for sculpting themselves.  Since fathering is a lost art nowadays, turning back to the ancient wisdom is a key to success.

 

The Other Red Pill

I have mentioned that when I became religiously observant, men in my Yeshivah (an institute of traditional Jewish learning and self development) used the metaphor of the Red Pill to describe the process of opening our eyes to see that there is a spiritual world hidden but accessible with effort and dedication. We jokingly said we had “unplugged” from the crazy secular world with its goals of getting money and prizes and mindlessly pursuing pleasure and escape because there was no lasting meaning in money and prizes.  Now our eyes were opening to the value of understanding our heritage, refining our character, and doing the Will of God.  Things that are heavy, accomplishments that are meaningful, acquisitions that our eternal.  No longer content to build bank accounts and keep up with the Joneses, we were building spiritual accounts and yearning to keep up with Moses.

 

Those were heady days for me. Up early to pray and learn, study Jewish law, debate philosophy with friends and roommates, learn Jewish songs on the guitar. We had a gym with a weight room, and on the wall a sign said “Build Torah Muscles”.  We ate in order to learn.  We slept in order to pray with concentration.  We jogged through the holy city and lifted weights to have the strength to discuss the intricacies of Torah for hours on end.  Everything physical was in service of the spiritual.

Even dating and getting married was with the intent that we were doing the will of God. I got that message strong, maybe too strong, and tried to get married asap.  That meant praying for a wife, making connections with people, dating girls, focusing my energy on finding a match.  And it worked.

 

Time went by, I was out of Yeshivah and in grad school, and I was less energized. I was doing more physical for the sake of physical.  Going to school to get a job.  Working a job in order to eat.  Eating in order to live.  Living in order to…?  To go to work of course.  Yeah, I was still learning and growing and developing intellectually.  You can’t fall off the learning wagon when you commit to study every single day.  But I wasn’t feeling the fire as much.

 

Then I had some problems with the most important person in my life. My wife.  For a long time I took her for granted, and she was getting fed up.  She demanded more help from me and more time for her to pursue her own interests.  I obliged but not always without resentment.  Sometimes I was passive and let her push me around, because it would give me a reason to feel resentful and not help her.  Sometimes I was cruel when she needed kindness.  Other times I was too kind when she needed firm boundaries.

 

I read a lot of books. There are excellent books about building and keeping peace in a Jewish marriage.

These do help, really. I felt that it was hard to entirely accept their advice, much of it was variations on “be nicer”, though there are some deeper concepts in some of the marriage books.  My problems was sometimes I was too nice, then would get upset about being disrespected, and get too mean.  I was inconsistent, my soul was fluctuating too wildly (your soul should fluctuate, but not in an extreme way), so I was not living up to what I could achieve as a husband, as a rock.

 

I did what most people do when looking for answers, I asked Google. I read a lot of marriage advice, analysis, and self help material.  Eventually I found the “Red Pill” community of men, I don’t think it was even a community then, just some blogs and forums and guys trying to sell various programs to fix your marriage.  Eventually I found TRM, and he wasn’t selling anything. He was trying to explain and understand the big picture of how the genders interact.  A lot of the advice was not applicable to a married religious man.  For any advice you get, especially online, you have to think carefully about how to apply it to you.  You are not the most special person in the world, the author didn’t write it just for you, you have to be smart and use what works for you in your own situation.  Some of the advice could apply, and did.  Examples:  Be the best version of yourself.  Don’t try to make your wife happy, make yourself happy and she will go along, she wants to be with a happy person.  Make yourself your mental point of origin – this one I adapted into make God your point of origin, your motivation.

 

To vastly oversimplify, the message RM gives to men is don’t live your life in subject service of women, they won’t appreciate it anyway. The key message I adapted was to live life in service of God, He does appreciate it, and good things will come from that.  Now, part of serving God is developing a peaceful and mutually supportive relationship with your wife.  You need to be reliable, caring, and giving, yes.  But you never put a woman above God.  That is idolatry.  Instead you realize that God wants you to build yourself up into a stronger and better man, a better husband and father.  That brings honor to your Creator and peace to your family.  Sometimes you need to be firm and set boundaries with your wife and children.  That is hard when society tells you to just be nice and if that doesn’t work be nicer. (We have a wise concept in Judaism do not be kind to the cruel or you become cruel to the kind. Turn the other cheek is not in the Book).

The key similarity between Jewish Red Pill and masculine Red Pill is the self improvement message. Be the best version of yourself.

BTW, Key to life:

If you are in any religion, club, program, gym, or social group, anything… and they are not giving you the message to be the best version of yourself… then get out. It’s a waste of your time and energy.  Either that group doesn’t believe in self improvement, or they do but are not giving you the message loud and clear enough, and you need to get that message in a different way.

We live with our eyes closed

IMG_20190407_193043We live with our eyes closed, our inner spiritual eyes which have vastly greater powers of perception than the physical ones.

First, realize there is a spiritual world. You don’t need to believe in God or in miracles to sense that there is something deeper at work in the world, some realm that lies hidden from regular observation.  Some people believe in ghosts, or a cosmic energy linking all things together, or aliens.  Others simply feel like the repetitive rat race is just not fulfilling, and think that can’t be all there is to life.  Of course you have felt this yourself at times.  We all know that there must be more to this world than what we see on a superficial level.

Second, open your inner eyes. You won’t see anything at first.  The spiritual world is felt through experience and reflection.  You can develop your sensitivity, much like how a newborn develops eyesight.  When they are born, babies have 20/400 vision and can only see about a foot away.  This is perfect to allow them to see their mother when nursing (not a coincidence).  We are so used to only using our physical eyes that our spiritual eyes cannot focus yet.  That is natural, developing your inner life is a long process.

One way to start feeling spiritual energy is to notice how your physical energy changes in response to your spiritual situation. We all have those mornings, you know, you got plenty of sleep and are (Thank God) in good health, but you just don’t want to get out of bed.  The energy is not there.  This is a palpable lack of physical energy.

A change in spiritual energy can fix this. Imagine you were up until 1am packing for an amazing trip.  Maybe your first trip outside the country, or to meet up with a childhood friend you have not seen in years, or to your loving grandparents who may not have much longer.

Your alarm goes off. You roll over.  The clock says 4:30am.  Right now your physical energy is low.  Your body wants to stay under the warm blankets.  Then you think about the trip.  Your soul wants to move, to go, to accomplish.  Your soul suddenly injects energy into your body, via your thoughts and emotions.  “4:30!” you say “Wake up everyone, it’s time to go! Out of bed!”

Wow, how did that happen? The soul took over from the body.  You can feel your soul in action.

I understand what you are thinking now, you think: well that was not my soul, that was my mind, my emotions. Now, the soul is complex and we are not so experienced at using it (Jewish mysticism reveals that there are actually various aspects and levels of the human soul, each with their own attributes).  When your mind tells your body to go, it is sending electrical and chemical signals throughout the body.  Even if you made the conscious decision “I need to get up and go”, that doesn’t send the signals.  You may not even make a conscious decision, but the energy is there.  The soul, the real hidden you, wills you to start moving, triggering the mind, body, and emotions to respond appropriately.

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Every electrical or chemical signal in your body, every thought, each daydream, the depths of your emotions, these all make physical imprints on reality. Electrons jump across synapses, hormones and

These are information. Now, information is never destroyed (okay, a black hole might in theory destroy the information of anything that enters it.  Or it may convert that to holographic form, and perhaps the entire universe is a hologram right now).

So every thought, urge, feeling is imprinted from your body into the universe, as information. Which can never, in classical physics, be destroyed.  So in a way, you are already eternal.  What I suggest is that your thoughts, actions, feelings also make an imprint onto the spiritual universe.  You create your soul with every thought, feeling, word, and movement.   You wield a tremendous power.  Open your eyes and start using your soul.