Posts Tagged ‘Zohar’

Published Article in the Jewish Link Of Bergen County With Link

October 7, 2014

“Place” of Change

Gandhi, the founder of civil disobedience who ultimately led approximately 300 million Indians to freedom in 1947, famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Hundreds of books are dedicated to the idea of change and there are just as many written about the difficulty in achieving it.

Two giants, one in the scientific and one in the rabbinic arena, touch on this issue. In a more passive type of change, Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In such a scenario one need only refrain from unwanted behavior to effectuate change. Some desire, however, to add new changes to their repertoire (this time of the year some people believe that merely adding on to things you already do well is more likely to succeed than taking on totally new behaviors, i.e., if you already greet your co-worker, next time ask them how they are doing).

Depending on whether you want to take a more passive or aggressive approach, the Rambam (Hilchot Deot 1:7) gives the roadmap on how to bring lasting change. After discussing certain Deot he asks how one can instill them as permanent. He answers that one should repeat the same action or behavior continually until it becomes easy to perform. The key to the Rambam is repetition, the only remedy to reach a place of easy action.

The fundamental question, though, is, why should we change? As someone once said, look for the reason and you will know why. Based on passages from the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, a phrase has emerged–“Meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazal”–“Change your place and you’ll change your luck.” Besides Makom meaning place, it is also one of God’s names. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 68:5) explains, “He is the place of the world, and the world is not His place. God is not found in any particular location, rather, God is immanent in all places.”

We can therefore suggest a new interpretation of the expression: If you change your actions towards Makom, a God that is above time and place and found everywhere, it reasons that your fortune will change as well.

This can explain another Mishna (Avot 3:10) where the word Makom is used. “Rabbi Chanina the son of Dosa would say: “One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to God. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to God.”

Therefore, it may be suggested that it is specifically the God who is Makom that lives above time and place and exists everywhere that takes pleasure in the case where a man has changed his actions towards his fellow man to the extent that he is viewed well by everyone. This means the person is more on the level of acquiring a good name where it’s said in another Mishna (Avot 4:17), “Rabbi Shimon says there are three crowns: the crown of Torah and the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship (civil rule)…and the crown of a good name rises above them all.”

There’s another reason to change and it’s based on two related ideas. Firstly, the idea that God, Torah and Israel are one is brought down in the name of the Zohar (see Rabbi Luzzatto’s commentary to the Idra Rabba). Secondly, there is another idea of the Zohar (Zohar Chadash, Song of Songs 91b), that says each person in Bnei Yisrael has a letter of the Torah that his neshama is connected to and the roshei tevot of the Hebrew spelling of the word Israel (there are 600,000 letters in the Torah) a number that corresponds to the number of souls in Israel. This being the case, when an individual person makes a change in his “letter” this impacts the other letters and God Himself who is wrapped up within the Torah. That’s what the Gemara (Eruvin 13b) means when it states, “These and these are the words of the living God.” Everyone has his own letter, and each speaks the truth through his own experience. In essence there’s a symphony taking place and this is why the Torah, as mentioned in last week’s parsha, is called “Shira.” Every change, thought, and nuance that man assumes is transforming an organic Torah that is evolving based on human experience.

I believe there is no greater example of change than making a shidduch. One can make claim that at creation Adam didn’t have to really run after Chava for she was created out of him. After the sin the world has become more categorized by the verse, “For man is born to toil” (Job 5:7).

However, there is no greater chance to change yourself than by going through the dating process.

Thousands of interactions between “letters of the Torah” are going on week to week. People are learning how they don’t want to be–following the Einstein model–while some are impressed by what they see and choose to adopt new behaviors. No matter how it turns out, people are changing and so are their “letters in the Torah.” No one says it doesn’t involve heartache, but in being a part of this phenomenon, one is showing God that he wants to change by learning from others which in turn will allow God, Makom, to initiate change in return.

A few months ago I went out with a very nice girl. She told me my name isn’t Steven anymore but Shlomo Yosef (my Hebrew name). It took me a little time to process, but I appreciated the thought, after all one’s essence is tied to his Hebrew name. Not long after it ended, I was inspired to write an article about Shlomo HaMelech. Whether I was consciously or subconsciously affected, something inside of me was touched and it manifested itself in an article about my namesake.