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Avinu Malkenu

September 10, 2014
Daily Dose Of Emuna
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avinu malkenu


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During the High Holidays, we say in our prayers the words, “Avinu-Malkenu” (Our Father, Our King). Avinu Malkenu represents the covenant between the Jewish People and G-d. The reference to G-d as “Avinu”, our Father, emphasizes the closeness and compassion of a father towards His children. Thus, G-d is our Father and we need His guidance. Yet, we must also remember that we are in the presence of the King of Kings and serve Him in awe. Thus, the title “Malkenu” or our King represents our sense of awe of our G-d, like that of a nation towards its king.

‘Avinu’ is the term representing Hashem’s love – the close, loving, compassionate, nurturing intimate parent who will forgive us because He loves us. ‘Malkenu’ is the distant, strict, stern ruler who metes out justice and can forgive us because only He has the power to do so. Our relationship with G-d should be predicated on both love and fear. Loving G-d without any fear may cause one to be neglectful in his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. It represents a self-centered or egocentric form of service. Yet, fear that is not balanced with love may cause a lack of happiness and leave us serving G-d out of rote.


Referring to Hashem as Avinu reminds us that our Creator loves us and that everything He does is for our best. There are no bounds, constraints or legalities. It focuses on the love aspect of our relationship with Him. The word Avinu awakens us to repentance through love – it breaks our heart and motivates us with a desire to be forgiven of our sins because we love our Father and He loves us. Even if our Father is the greatest of rulers, ‘Father’ is a cry – a child’s yearning for closeness. We want to connect out of love. We ask that he notice our good deeds. We come to Hashem in our brokenness and seek healing for our moral failings. Throwing ourselves on Hashem’s compassion is our best hope for salvation. ‘Hashem help me become a better me, even when I mess up, even in my brokenness. This is my prayer.’

Referring to Hashem as Malkenu serves as a reminder to us that G-d is in charge, and that only He has the unlimited power to save us. He can annul bad decrees and has access to unlimited resources to help us.  This title represents the reverence aspect of our relationship with Him.

On Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish New Year, G-d sits with the books of judgment open before Him.  This reminds us that we are servants in the King’s court; a measure of honor and distance reflected in this physical world.  We function in this world with this apparent separateness, a world of detachment. Our body creates a barrier encasing our souls and causing us to feel as a servant serving its master.

We thus approach G-d and are motivated to do teshuva (be remorseful) out of our awe. We realize that G-d is the ultimate king Who controls life and death.  We are completely dependent on Him and we need to do repentance because He rules the world.

Though we need to relate to G-d with both love and fear, in these days of the coming of Moshiach, our sages teach that it is more vital to focus on the love aspect of our relationship with Him. The Holy Baal Shem Tov brought to life this pathway of coming close and cleaving to G-d by performing mitzvot with warmth and joy. The Baal Shem Tov would repeatedly say, “If tears open up the Heavenly gates, joy absolutely demolishes them!” The pathway of Chassidism is to do everything through happiness.

We can even do teshuva through joy. This may seem difficult to accept because doing teshuva is generally associated with distress and criticism. However, when viewing the bigger picture, the repentance process can envelop us in joy because it enables us to view where we are heading and how we can create a more meaningful relationship with our Creator. There can be no greater joy than forgiveness resulting from atonement.

Separation causes sadness.  However the Torah teaches “…Every moment G-d renews the world.” This is a revitalizing and reassuring idea that no matter what has happened in the past, the re-union that occurs via repentance mends our lives.  The act of repentance reunites us with our true purpose in life – recognition of our G-dly spark. It realigns us with the rhythm of life and renews our strength.  In addition, we increase our love and attachment to G-d. Our heart is emptied of weighty transgressions and then we have room for feelings of affection and closeness.

Our journey through life involves repeated movements of separation and return – from a broken fragmented existence to a yearning of Oneness and wholesomeness.  By praying with both the terms Avinu and Malkenu, we are essentially directing our prayers through two different avenues, reminding ourselves that there is a need for both love and respect our relationship with ourselves, others and our G-d.It also reminds us that the very same G-d Who punishes us is the One Who loves us. This all-encompassing reality offers us a chance to start fresh every day, to and repair whatever needs repairing in ourselves, in our relationships and in our lives.



Afraid of the Truth?

January 27, 2014
Daily Dose Of Emuna

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Original article published on


Getting to know your higher self, your soul, is of great value to human life. Material significance is prized when we pair it with our spiritual objectives. We each hold a prized possession; it is our birthright to get to know that God and us are one.  Belief in God also applies to the belief in ourselves, that we hold within us a spark of Godliness – a particle of our Creator.
The great journey of fulfilling a life of self-actualization and searching to better understand our reason for living is a captivating passage.  Seeking God in the world at large and personally in our lives though does incur hindrances along the way.
Let us explore three major impediments that we may confront along the way to self-awareness and improvement:
1. A closer look at life may reveal that we subconsciously refuse to know:
Many of us simply do not wish to acknowledge that we hold within us a Divine spark.  In fact when we hear of a person who decides to change their lifestyle after becoming aware of the knowledge that they hold a part of Infinite nature, we are outright surprised.

A person does not have to believe that they carry within them an eternal spark of Godliness, however entertaining the possibility and going through the process of discerning the truth is the only way to consider whether this option exists.  Why live a life of maybe when we can search for our true self and live life the way we were meant to?
There is a clash that goes on in every mind; a battle to establish harmony of thought.  A flow of wavering beliefs flood our mind and cause a storm of confusion. That which we believe in will come out through our actions.  The book of Proverbs (23:7a) writes, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he”.  As we chose to explore further into our true purpose of living we conquer and control our thoughts thus dismissing rising doubts. In due course as our mind apprehends the truth our actions will follow.
It is advisable not to compromise on this step and not to settle on perchance as life and society tends to slowly wear us down.  It chips away at our heart and soul and causes us to lose interest in pursuing our spiritual goals.  We get so caught up in tangible reality and get swallowed up by the rat race of life.  Nonetheless, we should hold on to our inspiration and pressing desire to get to the bottom of why we are alive.
The first step towards acquiring spiritual knowledge is to choose your teachers wisely so that they may guide you in your path of study. It is valuable to surround yourself by people, reading material and possibly attend classes that will remove the overcast of confusion and bring you to fully attain the truth behind your purpose in life.
2. How can I live in both the spiritual and material worlds at the same time? What will happen after I find out?
There is a common misconception that if we assume a spiritual lifestyle we will not be able to enjoy the material world as well.  This is incorrect.  As we discover our spiritual purpose we attach ourselves to an entirely new system of values and priorities.  Consequently our course of thinking and action shifts to better suit this renewed outlook.
This adjustment to our life’s path is not viewed as compromise rather a restored life filled with renewed significance.  Yet we can still enjoy the best of both worlds with this newly found awareness.
Living life with your Divine essence in the forefront links all moments to a higher purpose.  The commitment to develop spiritual goals directs our thoughts and actions and enriches our life here on earth.  It means living a life with awareness of every word, thought and deed that builds spiritual integrity and clarity of mind.
Once again this doesn’t mean that we must renounce this world, but if we choose a spiritual path our mind will most likely be attuned to a different track of thinking and living.  It is so easy to live life solely by its surface appearance but our spiritual awareness will allow us to perceive more deeply into the essence of everything. Coming into contact with the core of people and events is an elevating experience. We can live and enjoy this world while readjusting our consciousness.
3. Are there any spiritual shortcuts?
It is highly unlikely that any spiritual accomplishments will be born overnight.  In this world of instant gratification we wish to attain a spiritual high in a spur-of-the-moment.  Nevertheless we cannot jump the gun. Just as there is no quick fix to muscle building, weight loss or forming a meaningful relationship, when it comes to something so significant the work is commensurate to the reward.
We must stay on the path for as long as it takes to reach that place where we wish to be.   Comprehensive knowledge and spiritual understanding is a process of awakening.  Each stage on the trail is likened to going from living on automatic pilot to living with a keen awareness of life. The journey is bejeweled with illuminating work and filled with enthusiasm.
Pursuing one’s own legend does not end in reaching the final goal; the search for the treasure is exciting in and of itself.  The transformation cannot occur without the trip and the treasure may be waiting for you under the same tree you have been passing all of your life and never noticed was there.
We owe it to ourselves to know who we are, why we are here and what we came here to do.  The search begins with a zealous will to free ourselves of suspicion of what might be true.  This can only come about through studying those texts which come into question. Living a life of deep perception and connecting to a higher reality that unites everything is worth traveling the road.

Believing vs.Knowing

January 20, 2014
Daily Dose Of Emuna
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Written by Orit Esther Riter of the Daily Dose of Emuna


How do we accept something as truth?  Do we live with a belief system? Or do we work an idea or belief intellectually using our minds until it becomes so part of our essence that it is accepted beyond a shadow of doubt?  Transferring this question to religion and God, do we believe that God exists or know that He exists?

Ignorant Bliss
Emuna is an innate gift gifted to every Jew – an inborn belief system tied into the core of every Jew. However, contrary to popular belief, living a life of emuna – that is with a keen awareness of God and being faithful to the Torah teachings – does not mean living with blind faith.
A mass experience can trigger a belief to be accepted as a historical fact.  God’s existence became universally broadcast through the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Yet, this is only the beginning phase of getting to know God.
We need to enhance our national belief in order to develop it – shifting it from an innate sense of truth to a committed recognition of truth. As the great medieval legalist Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides (1135-1204), writes in the opening to his detailed work of Jewish law Mishneh Torah, “… the foundation of foundations and the pillar of all knowledge is to know that God exists.”
Maimonides is teaching that we must probe and inquire into God’s existence, and not simply confess our belief. Exerting intellectual effort is a necessary precondition of this process. Though we start with belief and curiosity, the Torah observant Jew must not be satisfied with this belief alone. He must engage intellectually with his belief in order to advance it to the stage of concrete knowledge.  It is only possible to make an impact in our life if we act upon this intrinsic sense and probe it with intellectual rigor.
Belief is the stepping stone that tweets the curious mind to want to know more. As is written in the Mishneh Torah: “It is through attaining apprehension that we as Jews can imbue the world with the realization of God’s existence and His supremacy over the world.  It is through apprehension by each of us within the people of Israel that we can truly become, ‘a nation which knows God.”

Proof and Knowledge
Science is a method of proving a phenomenon to be true through observation and experimentation. It starts with a theory (or belief) but must go through the steps of being proven in order to be accepted as truth.  Yet even science theories constantly change, requiring them to be examined over again; they are not accepted as absolute truths. Anything that can be intellectually proven can also be questioned and altered.
Thus, arguably even science has limitation when it comes to proving something beyond doubt. In his book “Letters to a Buddhist Jew” (Targum Press, 2004) Rabbi Akiva Tatz writes, “No knowledge, indeed no experience, is absolutely reliable.  You have only to think of the convincingly real experience of a dream to realize how flimsy our convictions about reality can be.”  Yet he goes on to say, “The appropriate standard to demand is not absolute proof, but rather sufficient evidence.  What we need, indeed all we can ever have is sufficient evidence” (evidence that is good and clear enough).
The human mind regularly succumbs to very educated conclusions.  For instance we may conclude with almost certainty that there was a car accident upon hearing the screeching of tires on the road followed by a ‘bang’, even though we did not personally witness the incident with our eyes.
We habitually make educated assumptions in life in order to survive.  Nevertheless, depending on the importance of the matter at hand we will make a decision to continually probe into the matter or simply accept our educated conclusion.

Hard Intellectual Work
The Torah observant Jew challenges his faith, seeks to understand his emotions, wishes to gain understanding of what is good and evil and is not satisfied with instinctual nature. His moves are driven by his knowledge. He strives to get to know God through studying the infinitesimal details of the Torah laws.
Life does not offer outright clarity on any issue. However, through the desire to seek greater understanding of the Torah and its message, we may be better able to grasp the inner workings of God’s wondrous universe.  It is this process of investigation, the intellectual rigor, the sweat born of questioning, rejecting, researching, thinking, and questioning some more that is required of us if we truly want to internalize this belief in G-d.

Belief, Knowledge, Internalization
But can we really stop at knowledge? Religion is not just intellectual it does not just involve the mind. It involves the soul. The soul differs from science. The Jewish soul contains abilities beyond reason since it stems from the infinite.  It is the only place where we can attain absolute knowledge.
With a greater depth of understanding, we are able to bind our initial faithfulness to God’s Torah into our own essence.  This level of knowledge involves intimate association; closely binding to our beliefs until we allow them to be grafted to our essence. After intellectualizing our original belief, we may reach a place of attaining true, inner, soul knowledge. An internalization of our original belief; an end result borne of hard work.

Intellectualizing again!
Once we have achieved this unwavering internal soul knowledge, then we are able to return and question and play with our knowledge. When a person knows something with certainty, he is not afraid to ask questions since he is loyal to the deep inner truth he has internalized.  There is nothing like the calm conviction that radiates with clear comprehension – a place where no doubt rises even when questions appear.
For example a child who undoubtedly knows that his mother loves him will not hesitate to ask, “Do you love me, Mommy?” because deep down he knows the answers.  He may simply be seeking verification, reassurance or attention; but he knows.  The child that is too insecure about that love will not have the courage to ask.

The path of knowledge begins with a tickling of the senses which drives us to seek a deeper understanding.  The emuna seeds which were planted in the core of every Jew lie dormant until each of us begins to water them.  The mitzvah to know God is to open the emuna seed planted within and allow that knowledge to blossom in our heart and penetrate every fiber of existence.  Ultimately, our lives will blossom with the flower of that knowledge. 

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