Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks speaks at annual Chabad emissary (shluchim) conference. He talks about being inspired to be a leader by the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. He also speaks about getting wise counsel from the Rebbe on a number of occasions.  This video is a must see.

Parshat Bo and the Foundations of Prayer and Spirituality

Parshat  Bo and the changing of one’s mindset in anticipation of the new. Developing a deep rooted understanding in what G-d wants of us in terms of prayer and spirituality.

This past week I was studying the Torah portion of  Parshat Bo.  I was thinking and learning about mindset change, one of many themes in this week’s parshat.  While in my mind I was connecting my thoughts to to being a baal teshuvah, or returnee to traditional Judaism and increased spirituality,  I got a twitter link from a prominat Chabad Rabbi, Rabbi Pearl who had written about mindset change and spirituality. This was quite a pleasent surprise to me, that a Rabbi of such stature would be writing about the same topic I was contemplating, and making some of the same connections as well.  I later thought that maybe G-d, in his mysterious way,was indicated to me that my thinking was indeed on the correct path by giving validation to my thoughts by showing me that a more knowledgeable person in Torah, a Rabbi, had similar thoughts as I. 

Soon after, borrowing a thought or two from Rabbi Pearl and another great Rabbi, Rabbi DovBer Pinson, I formed my own conclusions and wrote a D’var Torah which I gave in Shul on Shabbos.

With minor adjustments, this is what I said.

The people in this week’s Torah portion are in a constricted place. They are slaves with little freedoms, if any. But with G-d and Moshe (Moses) moving towards releasing them from Pharaohs enslavement the Jewish people would have to change their mind to new possibilities and a new way of living.  It is not good enough for the Jews of Egypt to just follow Moshe and G-d out of Egypt to freedom. They had to change their mindset and way of thinking to new responsibilities needed to accommodate their pending freedom.  G-d knew that if the mindset of the Jewish people was not changed they would still be trapped by old ways of thinking and old habits.

When one is stuck in old ways or habits and wants to change, one must initiate a destruction of the old mould. One must recognize the need for a change and then start to break the old mould by taking a first step towards the new structure.  As a second step you must begin to see new possibilities then believe in the power of those you want. The third and final step is creating a new way of being and one must begin to apply “new possibilities”. One must now start to create new behaviors.

In this week’s Torah Portion, G-d commands the Jews to bring their sheep into their homes for four days before prior to sacrifice. The Jews needed four days to change their mindset. They had to come to terms that they would have discard what the Egyptians had show them, through ritual, to be sacred, like an idol.

Today, many times, people just jump headfirst into something new. While this can be a great way of breaking the mould, more often than not people forget to change their mindset in order to fully accept the new. Usually this method of going from the old to the new doesn’t create a sincere bonding with the new.

In terms of spirituality, many people dive into going to Shul and try to participate in prayer. Some people even try to learn, or study, prayer of liturgy.  While for some this method works, but for the vast majority of us it lacks a foundation that helps us change our mindset and thinking in order to appreciate and understand new spiritual realms in prayer and worship, and what true spiritually brings and teaches us.  After diving head first into prayer and liturgy, some people end-up not returning to Shul as often as they would, should or could. Others of us end up with a different path to some-sort superficial fulfillment through other branches of Judaism and yet others say: “This did nothing for me and it did not inspire me.” then they become drop outs.

Why does this happen?  I believe that one did not change their mindset in order to fully appreciate the nature of traditional spirituality, worship and prayer.

How, then, can we properly change our mindset? While there are probably many ways to do this I believe that the best way is through study and learning. One can study prayer and liturgy, but I don’t believe that this will give you a fundamental grasp of what G-d wants of us as Jewish people, for it does not open oneself up to a new way of thinking. In order to develop solid foundations and actually shift one’s mind towards the new, one must study Torah in all its forms Zohar Kabbalah, Tanya and Chassidut.

This will give you the proper foundation of knowing what G-d wants of you and how to sincerely worship the Aibishter.