School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
Reality Check for the Rosh HaShana Holiday
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
In our Jewish tradition, the annual Judgment Day, Rosh HaShana is only days away. During this two-day holiday, most religious Jews will be praying their long, drawn-out prayers from the literally hundreds of pages found in the traditional prayer books.
Very, very few individuals ever pray all their prayers with true devotion, concentration, and intent. For the most part, synagogue prayer services are a well orchestrated performance, which makes the participants feel that they have accomplished something important in God's eyes, whether or not they have indeed accomplished anything at all.
On these special holidays, most participants care little for sincerely thanking God for all the good that they have already received. Instead, most are far more concerned with praying for their own personal wants and desires, asking for more and more, and saying a sincere “thank you” even less and less.
Most people are not very concerned with the world at large, and how they can contribute to making it a better place, Most care little for anything more than that which affects their immediate surroundings. This is true of most people, and it is a terrible shame.
How God hears the prayers of such self-centered individuals, and answers them is a matter known only to God. We can wonder with awe how God even tolerates religious superficiality and hypocrisy. But God does tolerate the insincere. God is patient with them, and God is patient with us. But let us never mistake God's patience with the insincere as an acceptance of their shallowness.
Praying to God by rote out of the book,
just to blend in with the crowd in synagogue might look like a good thing in
your eyes, and in the eyes of your neighbor. But, God also sees, and God is not
impressed with insincere devotion.
Prayer is not just the words that one
babbles out of one's mouth. Real prayer is composed of the thoughts that one
thinks, expressed in words or not. God reads our minds, and knows exactly
who we are, what we are, what we want, what we need, and above all, exactly what
is going on inside us. To God there are no secrets. To God, there is no
conscious or unconscious mind. God sees all, and knows all, because God is all.
There are no secrets, and no way to impress God, or to bribe Divine favor.
In Kabbalah speak, our physical world is the Domain of Action. In order for anything to get done in this universe, it has to be performed physically. Sorry, but all the good thoughts, good intent, and well wishes, don't get the necessary jobs done. In others words, anything other than you actions count for very little in the real world.
There is a saying of the Sages that God
looks to good intentions, and counts them as if they were good actions. But this
statement is misunderstood! The Sages said this only within the parameters that
the given good actions are impossible for the individual to accomplish, such as
offering a sacrifice in the Temple (that needless to say no longer exists). Yet,
if one is able to act, but for whatever reason does not act, then God looks at
that for what it is, a failure to accomplish good. No good intentions are
counted when good action is possible, and necessary, but gets left undone!
God knows us. He knows our minds, our true intentions, our laziness, and every justification and rationalization that we can ever think of. The more we try to rationalize and justify the unjustifiable, the greater the distance one places between oneself and God. God never turns His Face from us. It is we who turn our faces from Him.
In Scripture, one thing is clear, God
hates lying! God hates it when we lie to others, to deceive and harm them.
God hates it when we lie to ourselves, never realizing our own personal deceit,
and self harm.
God is more zealous to protect us, that
we are ourselves. This is why the greatest punishment that befalls us is not
from the Hand of God, but rather is a creation of our own doing! Yes, for the
most part, we create our own hell on Earth, all because, for whatever
reasons, we fail to act properly, to do the right things, the necessary
things, at the right times, and in the right ways.
It is easy to assimilate into a
religious community, and play the game, “follow the leader.” Do what everyone
else does. Do not deviate. Do not stand out! Do not think for yourself. Just
follow and obey, “this is what God wants from you.” This is what some religious
leaders want from you, and what they want you to believe comes from God. It is
this type of brainwashing that is the very contradiction of Torah and Judaism,
and yet sits at the core of much today that is taught as Torah and Judaism.
We have a very serious problem, when
what is taught as Torah Judaism is indeed no such thing, but rather a perversion
of it. But who cares? It's just easier to fit in, play follow the leader, and
blindly follow. Why should one care what God thinks as long as one's rabbi, and
community is happy. If they are happy, then surely God is also! Right? No,
Much to our collective misfortune,
history has shown us that this type of blind faith group-think is not acceptable
in God's eyes. God gave each one of us an intelligent mind, and we are obligated
by both God and nature, to use the intelligence, and common sense that He has
instilled within each of us. God gave each one of us free will, and the ability
to choose, therefore, we must chose the right path, and walk it. No more
We must do the right things, even if we do them for the wrong reasons! God smiles on our actions. When we do the right things, even if for the wrong reasons, God allows our actions to bestow upon us the blessings of our activities. This is how we create Heaven on Earth.
So, look around at your lives. See what
you are doing. Ask yourself, and be honest with the answer, are you creating
for yourself your own personal Heaven, or your own personal Hell? Remember,
God knows, God is watching. God is trying to wake you up to the truth that He
already sees. How hard must God shake you in order to wake you up? This choice
always belongs to us!
The Day of Judgment is upon us. On this day, God will not have to be our judge, we will be judging ourselves. Our own inner Higher Selves, our own inner Voice of Conscience, will stand before God, and either speak our praises, or cry out our hypocrisies.
We cannot run, and we cannot hide, from our own Higher Self, and inner Voice of Conscience. True, we can block it out, and rationalize it away. We've become very good at this. But God still sees! God still knows! And God will act to awaken us from our slumber, and do what it takes for us to hear, and to listen to our inner Voice of Conscience, which is whispering to us always, “do the right thing, and this is what it is.”
The meaning and purpose of blowing the Shofar is to represent the awakening of the mind to pay attention to the needs of the heart, to motivate us to act in the right, and proper manner. Hearing the Shofar blasts is one thing. Understanding why we need to listen to them, and what they are supposed to mean is another. Just hearing the Shofar with one's ears is not enough. One also needs to hear the Shofar with one's heart!
On this Day of Judgment, learn to listen, to contemplate within your heart, and to understand within your mind what it is that you need to do for your own personal sake, and then how to contribute to help make this world a better place. Obey not the outside voices of conformance that seek you keep you locked up. Obey the inside voice of truth, intellectual independence, and justice. Let the sound of the Shofar free you from mental bondage, even as it freed our ancestors from physical bondage.
When you listen within, you will hear God's silent Hand moving within you. It is time to pay attention, or face another year of Divine shaking, trying to again wake you up. As always, the choice is ours!
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.