True Love is Never Blind

“The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.”

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

imagesLike so many things in life, the email over promised and under delivered. Snagging my attention with the subject line by Ticketmaster, “Your Personalized Event Line Up,” I assumed that this was a select and targeted list of local events I would find interesting and therefore, might want to attend. I am out of the loop when it comes to the entertainment options in my city, and so I opened the email with a bit of excitement to see what curated fun looks like.

Putting aside for the moment the fear I should have of the Big Eye in the Sky that records and logs for eternity each preference, purchase and Google search I ever made, I was willing to sacrifice my privacy for the sake of the convenience of algorithms that know me better perhaps than any human being.  With a very wide and eclectic range of interests, I was curious: “Oh holy data gatherer who sees all, when you look at me, what do you see?”

As I started to scroll down the suggested list of entertainers, I was puzzled: never heard of ‘em, never heard of em, never heard of em. “Peppa Pig’s Surprise,” which I assume is a show for children, or for butchers, or maybe a twisted animal revenge theme, is playing on a Friday night (Shabbat) in a theater about two and a half hours from my home. Three strikes. I continued to scroll down the email to see ads for boxing, football, and other attractions you couldn’t pay me to see; obviously, this list was not tailored to my tastes whatsoever. Offended by its false promise, I deleted the email and unsubscribed from the site, frustrated that my inbox seems to fill up with impersonal mass marketing emails faster than I can delete them.

The Need to Feel Special

After the flash of self-righteous indignation passed, I felt a little bit pathetic. Ugh. Wounded Child strikes again, looking to be acknowledged as a unique individual rather than a commodity – even by an innocuous online marketing service. Says clinical psychologist Edward A. Dreyfus: “The need to feel special is common to human beings. We want to know that we matter to others; we want to be seen.  We strive to achieve some special status in the eyes of others; how we are viewed by others matters to us.”[1]

To See and Be Seen

In Abraham Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, after our basic needs for shelter and safety are met, human beings have psychological needs, such as belonging and love, which are satisfied by intimate relationships and friends. Intimacy, best understood as the oft-quoted phrase, “Into Me See,” can only exist when others truly see us. To be truly seen, however, depends on the courage to be vulnerable. The willingness to disclose our inner selves, in the face of fear of rejection, is nothing short of an audacious act of bravery. This takes real love, genuine connection, and sincere empathy. Unless you sincerely know someone, how can you truly see this person? And without seeing, how can you say you love him or her?

What Do We Se

“Re’eh” means “see,” where Moses is telling the Jewish people: “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” While we may think the difference between a blessing and a curse is obvious, it is not.   First, we don’t have objective eyes that see reality clearly, in that we constantly filter out sensations and billions of bits of information per second. Our attention is discriminating, and therefore, we can fail to see what is in front of our face. Take the Selective Attention Test and see for yourself.  Second, we have biases that shape those bits of information into personal meaning. We all watch the news. We all see the same videos. But each of us processes the information according to our values and standards. And with a predisposed bias, we see what we are looking for – 100% of the time.

Looking with Godly Eyes

In the words of author Brad Meltzer, “There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” So it’s not a coincidence that the biblical term for sexual intimacy is “to know.” True knowledge, however, requires the commitment of time and investing in the relationship. But unless we look at the people we love with the right lens, our vision is faulty. We maximize the bad and minimize the good, sometimes to the point of no longer seeing the positive – even when it is in front of our face. Whether you see a challenging situation as the blessing of growth-waiting-to-happen, or a bitter disappointment depends on you. Therefore, God exhorts us to see reality – not with our eyes – but to train ourselves to see reality with Godly eyes. For when we fail to see and appreciate our blessings, then we are truly cursed.

[1] http://docdreyfus.com/psychologically-speaking/the-need-to-feel-special/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

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How Warriors of the Heart Get It Done

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“The difference between peak performance and poor performance is not intelligence or ability; most often it’s the state that your mind and body is in.”  Tony Robbins

Grit. Moxie. Holy chutzpah. And now this – “Sisu” – one of the latest terms making the rounds in Positive Psychology circles. Sisu is a Finnish word that has no direct translation but embodies the qualities of bravery, empowerment, inner strength, and the crazy recklessness that inspires someone to take on something in the face of incredible odds (kinda like Pinchat the Zealot – before zealotry got a bad name).

I know this is not exactly an academic source, but I liked the definition I came across in the Urban Dictionary: “It doesn’t take Sisu to go to the North Pole; it takes Sisu to stand at the door when the bear is on the other side.” Unlike resilience, hardiness and the search for meaning – which are long game ventures – Sisu is urgent, the bold undertaking of a mission that could be kamikaze, were it not for a micro slim chance of success. Sisu is the very opposite of analysis paralysis. But don’t get me wrong; it’s not a fool’s errand, but rather a heroic and noble gesture for something quite worthy.      

Don’t Do This at Home

This week’s Torah portion is named Pinchat, after the man who acted heroically at a crucial time when the leadership was frozen with indecision and inaction.   In killing Zimri, who was engaged in a flagrant shocking public display of sexual immorality, Pinchat risked forfeiting his own life, for he acted without authority, and Zimri was the leader of his tribe.   There was neither punishment nor retaliation, however, for Pinchat’s brave and selfless act stopped a plague that God had brought against the Jewish men (for their complicity), and Pinchat was inducted into the lineage of the High Priesthood.

Unfortunately, some can misconstrue this episode as validating violence for a so-called “sacred cause.” The caliber of Pinchat’s character, his selfless agenda, and love of the Jewish people raises the bar way above most of our heads. There is an applicable lesson to be learned, however, for there are times when the elements of Sisu and the traits of Pinchat can serve us very well.  

Do This at Home – The 5 Second Rule

How many times have you had an instinct to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, felt the urge to do an impromptu act of generosity big or small, thought of   telling the stranger at the checkout line that you thought her haircut was fabulous or wished you could have interrupted the person who was badmouthing a friend? How many times do you wish you could have acted, but didn’t, and then the moment was over, and the opportunity gone, sometimes forever?

Often, when we get the urge to do something (good, that is), our brain starts to come up with excuses or reasons why not it’s not a great idea, or no biggie if we let it go. We pass the homeless person on the street and while our first inclination may be to drop a dollar in his bucket, we know we don’t have easy instant access to cash, and really, it’s not a good idea to start to root around in one’s purse or wallet, after all, when you’re walking in the city you should never display money out on the street, I mean one’s purse or wallet could easily get snatched if you get distracted, and come to think of it, that homeless guy looked a little drunk or high, and…and…and by now you’re halfway down the block anyway. Oh well. You meant to help.

In an interesting book called “The Five Second Rule” by Mel Robbins, Robbins posits that the moment we have the instinct to act on a commitment or goal, we have a 5 second window of opportunity before the brain shuts us down. When we hesitate to act, the brain interprets that as danger or uncertainty, and it devises ways to be protective. When inspiration hits, states Robbins, before you hesitate you should immediately count backward 5-4-3-2-1 and then move physically. The backward count (as opposed to forward, where you can keep adding to the numbers) is finite and acts as a “pattern interrupt.” The point is to interrupt the ingrained patterns of thinking that keep you from acting and to train your brain to act while disconnecting from feelings that drag you down. After all, no one really feels like acting outside his or her comfort zone. And by moving, the change in physiology disrupts the inclination to remain inert.

I had drafted an email to someone asking for feedback on one of my blogs. Because I considered this person to be way above my pay grade, I was afraid to send it, and the email sat in my drafts folder day after day, where I would edit and revise it, ad nauseum, waiting for the bravado of perfect words.  An insomniac, I was listening to “The 5 Second Rule” as an audio book, and all of a sudden, I thought of this email and I got fired up with the courage to send it. Before my brain could convince me to wait until morning to send it (and then never), I counted 5-4-3-2-1 and then I immediately got out of bed, went to my computer and pushed send (without further reading or revising).  

Sisu the Moment

Emilia Lahti, who studies Sisu and how it applies to our lives explains: “It is not so much about achievement as it is about facing your challenges with valor and determination….Sisu provides the final empowering push, when we would otherwise hesitate to act.” The instant I sent that email I felt a sense of exhilarated freedom, because at that moment the power resided in me, not in someone or something else, and whether the individual I sent it to will ever read my writing or respond to me is pure incidental gravy.

Chances are something is popping up into your mind right now as you read these words and it doesn’t have to be heroic or death defying. It could be the apology you’re embarrassed to make, the medical procedure you’re delaying to schedule, or words of love you don’t have the courage to say. Before your brain can convince you of all of the reasons not to act, count 5-4-3-2-1 and then get up and do the thing your heart tells you that you need to do.

If he had thought about it even for a moment, Pinchat could have come up with lots of reasons to stay under the radar and steer clear of the conflict. After all, the conflict was neither his responsibility to fix nor his mess to clean up. Jewish history is filled, however, with people who followed their instincts without having the time to think it through, and they just did what had to be done. Had Pharaoh’s daughter not reached out the instant she saw Moses’ basket floating by in the Nile, he could have been lost forever. Had Nachshon not jumped into the Sea of Reeds, the sea may never have parted and we could have been slaughtered on the shore by the Egyptians.

Says Robbins, “The moment you move is the moment you discover your strength. The best time to do it is when your heart tells you to. Life becomes harder when we hold our greatest selves back by listening to fears and convincing ourselves to wait.”

Never leave something important unsaid or undone. With a little Sisu and the ability to count from 5 to 1, little acts of heart-based courage and instinctive acts of valor could transform your life and relationships in a big way.

 

References:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sisu.

Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work and Confidence With Everyday Courage, (Mel Robbins, 2017).

http://jamesclear.com/sisu-mental-toughness.

The Jewish Paradox of Standing Tall and Being Small

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself;

it is thinking of yourself less.”

– C.S. Lewis

The Desert

The Torah portion, Bamidbar, which means “in the wilderness” or “in the desert” is always read before the holiday of Shavuot, which is when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The classic commentary on this is that the best state in which to receive Torah, is when we make ourselves into a desert, meaning that we nullify our egos and enter into a state of total humility. 

This makes a lot of sense. After all, the desert is an appropriate place for encounters with the Divine (think Burning Bush) as well as the setting for many spiritual journeys. In the desert, there are no material distractions, no cultural noise, and no exits from its stark reality.  

The opening line of the Torah portion is: “And God spoke to Moses in the desert.” The word “midbar” (desert) anddibur” (speech) share the same root, and so the relationship between the desert and speech – Divine speech – is beautifully correlated. For starters, speech represents freedom.  The First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, is considered fundamental and integral to a free society.   Slaves, on the other hand, have no voice. They are silenced. Their opinion is irrelevant, as they are not seen as people, but as property.

On Passover, which is the holiday commemorating the exodus from slavery into freedom, we read from the “Hagadda.” The word Hagadda derives from “lehagid” which means, “to tell,” and so integral to that transition is the telling of a story, that we re-tell every year. In her TED talk on vulnerability, shame researcher Brene Bown defines courage as the ability to tell the story of who you are – with your whole heart.

But speech only works when one is able and willing to both talk and listen. And to listen, and truly hear what the other is trying to say, requires patience, focus and humility. Therefore, the desert is the ideal location for the Jewish people to be open to this Divine speech for there is no distraction.

We don’t have to be physically in a desert to consciously strip away the layers of egocentricity that distort our clarity. By shutting out the noise that distracts us, we can transform ourselves into an appropriate desert of open receptivity. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe stated: “Without question, the material world and your everyday needs distract you from living meaningfully.” While this is the theme oft-repeated in this Torah portion, in my opinion, it’s only half of the picture. Focus on that idea alone (as great as it is) and we’re missing out on a really great paradox.           

The Jewish Paradox

The first line ends with God’s command to Moses to take a census. Rashi, the medieval commentator, teaches us to understand this to mean the following: that God loves us and counts us, just like we like to count our prized possessions. We are not counted by ability, wealth or status, but by identity – signaling that we are unique, precious and beloved. No two people are alike, no one can contribute to the world in the same way, and so, we are singularly purposeful.

On the one hand, we are elevated, each soul, a precious and unique possession, and yet on the other, we should be lowly, like a barren desert, indistinguishable and insignificant as shifting sand. So which is right? The Jewish answer is, of course, that both are right. It’s a Jewish paradox.

In fascinating research done at the Stanford Business School, Jim Collins was able to provide answers as to why some companies are visionary and successful and others are not.  It seems to depend on the companies’ ability to chose between contradictory concepts, and the ability to embrace both sides of the coin, adopting a strategy known as the “genius of the and” and rejecting thinking characterized as “the tyranny of the or.”  Being limited by either/or thinking isn’t good for corporations and it certainly isn’t good for people either.

When it comes to receiving the Torah, we must humble ourselves, create the space to take it in and learn, at times, to focus on our collective identity rather than our individual identity. As Marianne Williamson says, “When the ego steps back, the power of God steps forward.” But when it comes to living the Torah, we must stand tall and be counted and know who we are. We are created and yearn to reach our highest possibilities. Being a light unto nations and repairing the world is simply not a job for wimps. 

The paradox is that we must always be simultaneously embracing both sides of the coin if we are to understand either side of the coin, and that is a lesson, not just in preparation for Shavuot, but for any time of the year.

Internalize & Actualize:

  1. Write down five things that take up the majority of your time on a daily basis. Now, write down five things you would do and focus on if you had the time. This week, cut out ten minutes of each day to focus on one of those five. By the end of the week you will have spent more than an hour on something you find meaningful that you had previously not made time for.
  1. Think about someone or a situation that silences you–where you feel you had no say or that no one would listen to your opinion. How does that make you feel? Now write down what you want to say to that person or in that situation. Can you think of some practical ways you can begin to get that message across and reclaim your voice?
  1. We all struggle with our ego at times. And more often than not, it leads to avoidable problems. Where in your life could you use more humility? What do you think would change if you could lessen your ego?

 

Emor – Lighten Up!

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“Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life.”

                                                                                           – William Blake

On any given day, the news reports a story of someone being indicted for some white-collar crime. I wait for the name of the alleged perpetrator. Not Jewish? I breathe a sigh of relief. Whenever Jews, and especially religious Jews, make the news for dishonest, criminal or other bad behavior, I cringe and feel sullied in the core of my Jewish collective soul.

Maybe it stems from this week’s Torah portion, “Emor”, where God charges the Jewish people with the task of sanctifying His Name here on earth. One way of doing that is to act in a way that causes people to revere God, which is called a “Kiddush Hashem” (sanctification of God’s Name). By standing for and becoming living embodiments of holiness, we become God’s emissaries, as it were.

Sadly, however, the reverse is also true, and when we act in unsavory and hypocritical ways, so as to garner contempt, it is called a “Chillul Hashem” (desecration of God’s Name).

Standing Up for God – Really?

Sounds like a very tall order – “sanctifying God’s Name.” Furthermore, we are told, that “God’s honor is at stake.” How is it even possible that we mere mortals can have any effect on an infinite and perfect Being?

The Jewish people – and the world – had just witnessed the destruction of the most powerful civilization on Earth, along with the toppling (literally) of its many gods. The God that redeemed the Jewish people brought the plagues, turned nature on its head, split the sea, etc.   This unimaginable reality was a new paradigm for our understanding of God. How can we affect God’s reputation? How could this Deity need anyone or anything to sanctify His Name?   How could this Deity even have any “needs” period?

Furthermore, this command comes at a time when the Jewish People were barely out of Egypt. Had I been there, I could imagine my reaction: “Seriously? Am I supposed to be Your emissary to make You look good? I’ve been a slave all my life. And as you know, God, I have post-traumatic-stress disorder, my self-esteem is in the pits, and my inner child is wounded to the core. No offense, God, but Your expectations of me are completely unrealistic.

What Lights You Up?

One way to answer this lies in the first sentence of the Torah portion, “Emor,” which means, “Speak.”   God tells Moses, “Speak to the “Kohanim” (the Priests)….and warn them to educate their children.” The Hebrew word “to warn” is “l’hazeer” and it is related to the word, “Zohar,” which means “light.”

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

                                    – Socrates

Predating by thousands of years a contemporary idea one would find in any spiritual parenting book, the Torah wants us to understand that the purpose of educating our children is to “light them up from within.” It is no coincidence that we use the term “to enlighten” to impart knowledge. True enlightenment is not about acquiring knowledge, however, but about gaining wisdom. Being enlightened is not an external process; rather, it’s the revealing of our inner essence and wisdom, our divine truth.

And so Moses was “warning” the Priests that the process of educating children is not just the external downloading of information but the internal cultivation of their character to reveal their inner greatness, because the essence of parenting is to build a child, and in so doing, to fill the child with light.

Similarly, the essence of the Jewish people is to build this world.   All Jews – not just the “Kohanim” – are charged with being the Priests of this world and being a light unto the nations.

Stepping into Greatness

But where does it start? It is the responsibility of each person to build him or herself. When we understand who we are at our core, and when our external behavior is congruent with this inner reality, then we could never act in any way   other than sanctifying God’s Name.   And then, embodying holiness, so as to honor God’s Name, would be effortless and natural. In a very familiar quote by Marianne Williamson, she says the following:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  

We are all children of God, and so, this all-powerful Deity has a relationship, a personal connection with each and every one of us. In “Emor”, however, God is further redefining the relationship and ups the ante. If we think of ourselves as dependent children who can only “take,” it limits us and forces us to “play small.”

And so in “Emor,” God asks us to step onto the bigger playing field, where we become God’s real partner in Creation. To do that, we must become givers. Then, we are capable of sanctifying holiness. And then God returns the favor. Says Pat Conroy: “Honor is the presence of God in man.”

In giving us the Torah in the desert, God was freeing us not just from the reality of slavery, but also from the mentality of slavery. May we all embrace our divine charge to be builders and enlighteners, and to live in the paradigm where everything and everyone is illuminated.

Something To Ponder:

  1. When you internalize your own holiness and power, what becomes newly possible for you?
  1. What would be you doing differently?
  1. What does the most enlightened version of you look like?
  1. Who and what situation changes for the better when you act from your enlightened self?

Ki Sisa – How Solid Is Your Sense Of Self?

imagesIn the aftermath of a scandal having to do with embezzlement from a charity, a woman wrote an article chiding people who responded with moral outrage, suggesting that none of us can be sure how we would act under similar circumstances, and therefore, we should not be so self-righteous and judgmental. I thought that idea was ridiculous. I know myself pretty well, and I couldn’t imagine any set of factors that would induce me to act like that. Embezzling from a charity? No way! And so my moral outrage stayed intact, thank you very much.

This week’s Torah portion, “Ki Sisa,” chronicles  the sin of the Golden Calf. I would like to think that I would never have participated in that terrible spectacle. If you have ever seen the movie, The Ten Commandments, where Charlton Heston calls out, “Whoever is for the Lord, join me!” and a woman’s voice cries out from the crowd, “I will!” – I would like to think that I am that kind of girl.

I would like to think that in any situation, my highest best bravest self would guide me, injecting me with the fortitude to do the right thing, no matter what. But that would be naive thinking.

Historically, psychologists used to believe that what matters most is the nature and character of the individual, and that “we are who we are,” and who we are – for better or worse – doesn’t vary, and we don’t quickly change our spots. Trying to change a character trait, they thought, was as futile an endeavor as an attempt to be taller, for example, and so little attention was paid to the environment or situation in studying character. In the last few decades, the social sciences offer a different view of the solidity of the self and the infallibility of character. And when you hear the studies, you might get a little uncomfortable.

The Shock “Ouch!”

In a landmark experiment which shook the world of the social sciences, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who was instructing them to commit acts against their personal conscience. He was testing the theory of whether people are inherently evil or situationally evil. Could a so-called “normal person” be induced to commit an immoral act and if so, what would it take?

Test subjects who participated in a study were told it was to understand the effect of physical punishment on memory, in which they were to administer escalating electric shocks for mistakes. So they would conduct progressively harder memory tests to someone hooked up to a machine that would deliver higher and higher levels of electricity when the person failed to recall a string of words.

The test participants didn’t know that they were the actual test subject. The test participants thought they were assisting a memory study on the person in the chair. In actuality, it was the test participants who were the object of the experiment, which was to study how submission to authority could induce an otherwise reasonable person to inflict cruelty.

At 150 volts, the person would be yelling to be let out of the experiment. At 450 volts, the person would fall silent, presumably dead. In between 150 volts and 450 volts, the person would be begging, crying, convulsing, etc. The machine was fake, the victims in the chair were actors, but the real results were “shocking.”

When the actor in the chair would beg and cry, and the participants would look up to see whether they should keep going, the “authority figure” – who held nothing more threatening that a clipboard – would simply and calmly say, “please continue” or the experiment must go on”. They weren’t threatened or coerced in any way to inflict pain.

Before the study, the prediction was that most people would stop at 150 volts, and a minute fraction of the test population (one-tenth of a percent, which roughly corresponds to the statistical probability of sociopaths) would administer an electric shock at fatal or near fatal levels. Boy did science get it wrong! A whopping 63% of the participants were willing to deliver shocks at near lethal levels!

As a result of this and other experiments (which were repeated in other guises but with similar results), researchers started looking seriously into the effect of groups and external environments on behavior. And so now current theory claims that the greatest predictor of behavior is the situation, the circumstances, and the context – hence, the phrase: “situational-press.”

Perhaps this helps to explain the incident of the Golden Calf. It is simply too easy to dismiss all of the participants as being the riff-raff that tagged along with the Jewish people when they left Egypt. It’s too easy to look at them as “unworthy,” “less than,” “and not like you” so that you can keep your moral outrage intact, and assume you are invincible.

The Power of Environment

Our environment influences us a great deal more than we think. Whether we get married, whether we smoke, whether we do a host of things, depends a lot on our social network and the people around us, because “social power” can exceed “will power.” Of course, Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) said as much when the Rabbis advised that in picking where to live, you should make sure that you have a good neighbor.

But like any force, “situational-press” has its negative as well as its positive applications. Some situations and people bring out the worst in you; but the reverse is also true, bringing your best self to the table.

Once you realize the power of “situational-press,” you can consciously create the environment, the social network, the physical surroundings, the activities and partners that are healthy, that support and reinforce your goals and aspirations. You can use “situational press” to surround yourself with that which inspires, uplifts and elevates you, rather than that which brings you down, undermines and sabotages your real goals.

Take an inventory of who and what you allow into your space, into your head, and into your life. Is it conducive to bringing out the best in you? Are you being inspired, elevated and motivated? Or is it bringing you down?

When you understand and use “situational-press,” or the “power of the situation,” to your best advantage, you can forge your own identity and shape your greatest destiny. In so doing, you will create such a solid sense of yourself, and no matter what challenges face you, you know for sure what kind of person you will be, what kind of choices you will make and you know for sure what you stand for.

The Mindset of Abundance: Heart-Inspired Living

generosityIf you have ever been solicited by a charity (or cousin out of work), you may have been told outright – or made to feel – that you should “give until it hurts.” In this week’s Torah portion, “Terumah“, we see how giving is not about “hurting” but about “healing.”

In the story line, the Jewish People left Egypt, stood at Mount Sinai, received the Ten Commandments, and then, in one of the worst fits in our history, thinking that Moses was dead, we built a golden calf to be his replacement.

After those responsible had been duly punished, God decided that what we needed is a good building project to boost morale. He commanded us to build the Mishkan, which is the portable tabernacle that we carried with us in the desert that housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

In order to build this portable tabernacle, a lot of building materials and precious metals were needed. Imagine how challenging this must have been for a slave population suddenly made free, suddenly going from rags-to-riches, now being asked to part with their newly acquired possessions.

Unlike any other financial levy that had ever occurred in the ancient world, however, God told Moses to collect these offerings from “every heart-inspired person,” leaving it up to the dictates of each person’s heart not only how much to donate, but whether to donate at all.

In a way, discretionary giving can be harder. For people accustomed to having no choices, being told to give a certain amount is probably not too difficult. But what personal experience could the Jewish People draw on to make this type of decision?

Perhaps the deeper lesson that God was teaching the Jewish People was that in becoming givers, they would not only become free, but happier as well.

Living From Abundance

In freedom, there isn’t always a script or a set formula. It’s the sum of your choices that makes you who you are. And unless you have the right to say “No,” what is the real value of your “Yes”? A defining moment for the Jewish People—the exercise of giving freely (or not) – allowed them to transition from being a slave to a free-willed human since the nature of a slave is not to be a giver or a decision-maker.

The Jewish People in the desert responded to this challenge and gave and gave until Moses had to tell them to stop. Their generosity did not necessarily stem from the fact that they suddenly had something to give. Have you ever known someone who experienced depression or lived in poverty as a child, and then, despite how wealthy the person became later in life, his or her worldview never changed?

Perhaps – and this is just a suggestion – the feeling of closeness and connection that the Jewish People had with God at that time, allowed them to tap into their Godly essence – an inspired heart, which means living from the place of abundance. As Wayne Dyer points out, “Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tap into.” And that creates joy because giving makes us happier.

The Joy of Giving

People who give money to charity are vastly more likely than non-givers to say that they are “very happy” about their lives. It’s not always about giving money either, as research shows that volunteers are much happier as well. A Harvard Business School study concluded that giving not only increases happiness but happier people, in turn, give more and that these two relationships may operate in circular fashion. It should come as no surprise that doing good correlates to feeling good. So doesn’t it make sense to be on the lookout for ways to increase your own happiness, as you are increasing happiness in the world?

Don’t worry – I would never suggest that you become a doormat or give indiscriminately. Giving from the heart doesn’t mean that we leave our brains out of the equation. I am suggesting, however, that we take a cue from “Terumah” and understand, as Eckhart Tolle pointed out, “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

So as you go through your week, notice when you are giving – whether it’s writing a check, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, giving up a parking spot, throwing a quarter in a stranger’s expired meter, or giving someone a shoulder to cry on. Make a conscious effort to honor a request from a loved one, give some space and breathing room to a partner, hold back a zinger, or find a way to say the right word at the right time.

And pay attention to the many gifts and blessings that you receive as well. And in so doing, may you feel more inspired to live from a “heart-inspired place.”

Questions to Ponder –

Think for a moment about what enslaves you. What makes it hard for you to be generous or to let go?

What would it take for you to shift from a feeling of lack to a feeling of abundance?

What would happen if you went through life asking yourself – what does this person, this situation, my community, or the world need from me – whether it’s giving up resources, time, a need to control, a need to be right, a need to judge, or a need to look good?

Could that increase your sense of freedom and joy?