This is a thought-provoking question and one that is not thought deeply enough about before parenthood. While we are commanded in the Torah to be fruitful and multiply the question is why did G-d want to give the act of creation and nurturing over to humanity. What is the reason we were commanded to have children?
Before proceeding, we must understand that we cannot fully comprehend the essential reason why G-d did or does anything. However if we are to live fulfilled and meaningful lives G-d offers us reasons for some of the commandments. What we do understand and where we are permitted to explore is where Hashem Himself has revealed Himself to us through the Torah and His interactions with creation.
So we now need to go all the way back to creation itself and attempt to understand the purpose of creation. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his work Innerspace explains that Hashem created the world with the purpose of bestowing His goodness on creation. He became the ultimate giver who created the world whereby if mankind were to follow the instructions and manual provided they would be in sync with the Divine and experience the ultimate pleasure of attachment with the source of goodness Himself. The issue that arose from this is that for there to be a giver there also needs to be a receiver. For people to have an attachment to something or someone there needs to be compatibility, a common ground whereby the individuals involved are on the same ‘wavelength.’ We emulate those people with whom we feel an affinity. Chassidim, for example, continue to wear the traditional garb of their ancestors even though it may not be practical in the sweltering heat of the countries in which they reside. However, they do so as an external expression of an internal desire to remain connected. Therefore, when Hashem created mankind to receive His goodness they became the opposite – a receiver. Hashem understood that this would be a problem and therefore created a space that mankind could fill by also becoming givers. Rav Ashlag coined the term, “mekabel al menas lashpia” I will take as much as I need to become a Giver. In that way, mankind was given the opportunity to reach attachment with Hashem by emulating His ways.
The greatest expression of giving is bearing and raising children. As parents, we know that waking up at all hours of the morning is arduous. That giving up my hard earned money to buy clothing, feed and educate my children will mean that I will no longer afford to receive certain pleasures but will sacrifice it and transform by receiving to give to my children. Herein lies the spiritual dimension of parenting. For parents who run there homes according to Torah principles become the ultimate givers and therefore reach the highest possible levels of spirituality accessible to mankind. And this is why we have children. It is the greatest gift that Hashem can give you…and that is the opportunity to become a giver yourself.
There are days that I don’t want to get up. There are days that I don’t want to teach. There are days that I just want to get into my car and drive to that cottage on top of a mountain with a view over-looking the ocean and just sit there. I don’t want to be distracted by emails, phone calls, bills, problems, children, news, meetings etc. These are days when I feel a deep desire to reconnect with my inner being and not have much or anything to do with the outside world.
And as I meditate on this imagined bliss I wonder if in fact I would truly discover the “I” that I am searching for in my escapist temple. Or perhaps the truth is that the real “I” is the father that heals his daughters wound, the husband that comforts a loving wife, the teacher who inspires his students to be more then they think they can be. Perhaps the true “I” is actually in the fusion of my spiritual aspirations and my physical desires rather than escaping to a mirage where neither really exist.
And yet as I tread down the path of my life I am often seized by fear…the fear of failure. And I resist. I resist doing what I know deep down needs to be done. I know I am here on a mission. I know that G-d put me here with a very specific role to accomplish and that He has waited 5775 years for that to happen and yet part of me lacks the faith to break those illusory chains of fear that have bound me for so long.
As I approach Rosh Hashana this year the fear of failure looms over my entire being. I tremble as I look back on missed opportunities and wasted chances. However I am not one to easily give up. I call out once again to G-d, promising that in the next year I will actually seize those opportunities that are granted to me. I dig deep and resolve that the coming year is going to be different. That this year is going to be the year that I will bring “naches” to my Father in Heaven. I take upon myself to dedicate every fibre of my being to lighting up His beautiful world no matter where He may choose to place me. Whether I am struggling with a group of unmotivated and stubborn students in a classroom or experiencing inner bliss while meditating in a cottage on a hilltop, I commit to doing everything I can to fulfil His will and coming genuinely closer to mine.
I listen, over and again to the poetic song of the talented Israeli musician Yishai Ribo “Gam Ki Elech” based on chapter 23 of Tehillim. The melody and the words provide me with the inspiration to call out to G-d for assistance and rely upon Him at all times. I encourage you to listen to this beautiful song. You can find the words and their translation below.
My friends in these remaining days of Elul we all need to dig deep and discover why we are here. In just a few days G-d is going to judge us not so much for who we are but rather for who we are going to become. We can choose to be passive bystanders or commit to actively taking action in our unique way to heal and bring light into our world.
Many chose to escape reality thinking that they will find meaning and comfort by disengaging from the world while others find G-d and themselves deeply embedded in the world.
גם כי אלך
לא אפחד, כי לעולם איני בודד
I will never fear as I am never alone
לא אאבד, כי לצידי תמיד עומד
I will never be forsaken for besides me always stands
אל גדול ונורא אשר במוצא פיו ברא
an awesone and great G-d who uttered into existence
עולמות ונשמות ואת ארצו היחידה
worlds, souls and his precious land
גם כי אלך בגיא צלמוות, לבדי
Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, alone.
לא אירא רע לא אפחד כי אתהעמדי
I will fear no evil for You are with me;
שבטך ומשענתך המה ינחומני
Your rod and Your staff…they comfort me.
ולא אהיה יותר ירא כי שומר עליקוני
I will fear no longer for my Creator is my protection
לא אכנע, מכל מכשול מכל בחינה
I will not yield before every challenge and trial
אושיע נא, כך אקרא בעת צרהלעזרה
Please redeem me I will call out for assistance in times of trouble
ומחילה, מאל שומע תפילה
And forgiveness from a G-d who hears my prayers
אם נבקש ונתעקש תעלה תפילתנוכעולה
If we plead and demand our prayers will ascend life a sacrifice
On the walls of shules throughout Europe the words אין יאוש בעולם - there is no despair in the world, were engraved. These words carry a message of hope that have inspired the Jewish People throughout its journey. These words were whispered by Jews in trying times as they marched to a world beyond ours. These words were shouted by Jews who could have or perhaps should have given up but believed that so long as their heart beat in their chest they would remain faithful to G-d, come what may.
Yet we often find that when confronted with challenges we tend to despair. We feel that we are trapped or imprisoned in a reality that we know not how to escape from. And when that occurs our energy is sapped and we are left drained, numb and vulnerable. While at times we may crumble under the pressure as we accept our fate and choose to ignore our destiny.
Inevitably throughout our lives we will be tested. We will be pushed to the limits our our perceived potential as the Master of the World beckons and hopes for us to achieve what we were sent here to accomplish. At moments on challenge we have a choice. We can choose to rebel, resist or delete the messages being sent and succumb to a life of 'could have been' or we can choose to see beyond the façade and allow those messages to permeate our inner essence and awaken us to realize our inner beauty, purity and mission.
Times of despair and hopelessness are opportunities to recognize that perhaps we have reached complacency in my spiritual development. Perhaps we have become over self-sufficient and independent. And while independence is an admirable quality it must be fused with a dependence on Hashem. In G-d's infinite love and desire for us to remain close the nisayon is sent to wakes us out of our spiritual slumber and live.
The Jewish People were formed upon the altar of hope. When Sarah was told of the impeding birth of a son she laughed internally at the apparent impossibility. And from that moment on Jews have continued to be born and reborn. From the pogroms and inquisitions, from the shame, expulsions and hatred, from the gas chambers and from the trials that have followed our people, the words אין יאוש בעולם, were and are, forever on our lips and in our hearts.
And now on Yom Kippur if and when despair enters our hearts and minds as we feel our fragility let us recall the infinite love of Hashem. Let us awaken the inner child, pure, innocent and sweet who yearns for the embrace of a parent who loves and cares.
Hashem we are your children...al tishchainu...never give up on us!
The Flash of Inspiration
Imagine trekking through beautiful terrain. Over the hills and some distant paddocks your destination is in sight but you fail to accurately calculate the day light hours remaining. As darkness quickly sets in, your path is obstructed by thick foliage slowing your progress, your heart beats. With no sun, you lose your bearings travelling deeper into the forest you become confused, disoriented and begin to panic. You know that your destination is within reach but you recognise you are lost with no idea of which way to turn. It begins to rain, at first a light shower then thicker and heavier. Growing wearier with every step you begin to lose hope. At that moment you whisper a silent prayer. You ask for a sign, for salvation but instead the rain becomes torrential and thunder shakes every fibre of your being and the darkness absorbs everything. Your silent prayer becomes a silent scream, an audible cry. Suddenly a flash of lighting illuminates your world, you see your destination and know which path you need to take. You are charged with newfound energy confident in your ability to reach your destination.
You see my friends we are all trekking through life. Some of us are keenly aware of our destination but inevitably enter periods of darkness that disorient and confuse, leading to despair. At those times we lose hope of ever escaping the abyss into which we feel we have fallen. It is usually at moments like these, when the darkness is deepest, that we call out to our Creator. We ask for a sign, a message, something to rescue us from our current predicament and deliver us to our destination. And then it happens, in that moment of absolute darkness there is a flash of light, a spark of Divine inspiration and we remember who we are and where we are going.
That spark of inspiration is always temporary, often surreal. It is simply intended to motivate us, to move us towards our purpose. If we are complacent in the pursuit of our dreams, if we fail to catch the spark, to see the light, ignore the call and fail to act upon it, then we remain lost in the darkness of our struggle. Ultimately it is up to us to engage in the search for our true inner calling, to align ourselves with our true purpose.
As we begin our journey to self-discovery together it is imperative that we acknowledge what it is that inspires us and how we intend to respond to that inspiration. Will you create the vessel and then wait for it to be filled? Will you idly sit back in anticipation of some heavenly guidance? Will you misread the call when it comes or fail to act upon it? Are you open to the inspiration, able to create the vessel and then convert the energy of inspirationm into real and positive change?
Internal versus external inspiration
In an intimate diary entry, the legendary Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira ob”m reflected on the inspiration he felt at reaching his 40th birthday. The Rebbe recalled feeling similar bursts of inspiration at various points in his life, such as his barmitzvah and his wedding and how this inspiration had “melted like snow on a summer’s day.” He goes on and undertakes a very personal self-examination, teaching a profound lesson in what inspiration is and what it is not. He compares himself to an intricate portrait where every detail is vividly manifest but the inner spiritual heartbeat is missing. This culminates in him emotionally expressing a desperate desire to convert and become a Jew! Oh, of course he is already a Jew but views his Judaism as only having been lived ‘externally’. Now he beseeches the Creator for the ability to transform his inner yearnings, passions and desires into a manifestation of his true essence, to live in service to Hashem.
There are two forms of inspiration that the kabbalists, like the Rebbe, discuss:
Extrinsic inspiration: This is referred to as “isreusa deleilah” an awakening from above. This is the inspiration that comes from something outside of me. It usually involves a promise of a reward or a prize. The person remains passive waiting, hoping and expecting someone or something to wake them out of their slumber. The danger here is that while we may feel uplifted by the sudden burst of inspiration, unless transformed into real action, it “melts like snow on a summer’s day”.
Rav Kook in Oros HaTeshuva refers to this level of inspiration as teshuva pisomis (sudden reflection) and says that unless a person makes an immediate vessel upon receiving this inspiration it will have little effect.
2. Intrinsic inspiration: The chassidic writings refer to this level of inspiration as “isreusa de’letata”. It is when the individual is able to awaken within the self a deep desire for transformation. This level of inspiration is not dependent on external stimuli but rather arises when the individual comes to an internal recognition of where they are and where they want to be and then proactively takes steps to live that dream. We admire intrinsically motivated people as trailblazers, courageously making real and long lasting changes in their lives. These people often radiate and inspire others to change as well. Rav Kook refers to this level of inspiration as “teshuva hadrogis” - progressional teshuva that will effect longer lasting and more genuine transformation.
Hashem is speaking to us, inspiring us constantly. He cannot do it openly for if He does we loose our freedom, our free will, and that would defeat the purpose of creation in the first place. Nevertheless, in the cry of a child, the words of a spouse, the rebuke of a boss, the rustle on the trees or the train that you missed, messages are being sent to you and only for you. Open you heart. Failure to hear is not an option.
Hitoreri is the hebrew word for "awakening". We all possess a potential that is way beyond our awareness. At Hitorahri we believe that with some inspiration and motivation we can awaken our inner self to live a more meaningful life. So subscribe today to benefit from the wealth of hitorerut (inspiration) that ancient Jewish wisdom has to offer.