May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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A Glimpse of Gan Eden

I have no clear idea of what Jewish society will look like once the Moshiach arrives and we enter the Messianic Age. But I recently got a small glimpse, a preview, when my wife and I attended a Shavuot retreat in Parsippany, sponsored by a kiruv organization named Gateways. There were about 800 Jews in attendance, covering the entire gamut of the Jewish world—from Chassidishe men wearing shtreimels and Chassidishe women wearing sheitels to Reform and unaffiliated Jews, with Modern Orthodox and Conservative in between. Outwardly very different, inwardly exactly the same—desiring to come closer to Hashem and His Torah.

While the main target audience of the program was those seeking kiruv, everyone who attended felt uplifted. Everyone had moved from his or her entry point to an exit point that was closer to Hashem. The speakers were able to teach, inspire and enlighten, and thereby guide each one of us on our respective journey.

The event demonstrated how striving to get a better understanding of Hashem’s Torah can unify us into His Nation, and make us an “Am Kadosh.” That was what I witnessed 800 Jews do over 48 hours. The entire time, all we were doing was striving to obtain a better understanding of what it means to be one nation, with one Torah, with one Creator.

Even though we may have looked and dressed differently—and may have had different sources for our traditions—and while some of us may have had very minimal knowledge about Judaism, we shared that common goal: to get closer to the Source, the Creator and His Torah. We were all heading in the same direction. That’s what brought us together.

I found myself thinking on several occasions during those two days, “Wow, if we can do this for 800 Jews, imagine 8 million Jews looking at each other as brothers and sisters, without any preconceived notions or judgments.”

The Challenge of Being Nonjudgmental

As many of you know, for the last several years I have been talking about the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a brain-training program where we try to teach our brain to pay attention: 1) on purpose; 2) in the present moment; and 3) nonjudgmentally. While attending the Gateways program that last component, being nonjudgmental, took on new meaning for me. The people in attendance could have looked down at those who were different from them in a very judgmental way, but we didn’t. Instead, we all seemed to unite in a common goal.

The Impact of Being Nonjudgmental on Mindfulness

But what is the key to becoming nonjudgmental, and how does it impact mindfulness? In order to illustrate its significance, I will start off with a little dvar Torah. As I mentioned in previous articles, part of my exercises in mindfulness is focusing on davening. The more I pay attention to it, the more things I see that blow me away.

Over the last year, one of the things that I noticed is that after we say “Borchu” in Shacharit and we all bow down together to our One Creator, we say this bracha that describes how Hashem creates light and darkness, brings peace and “He creates everything.” But surprisingly the actual pasuk (Isaiah 45:7) does not conclude with “He creates everything,” but with “He creates bad.” However, the rabbis who formulated the text of davening did not feel that that was the message we wanted to put into our minds at that juncture, so they changed it to “He creates everything.”

And then shortly afterwards, in the next paragraph, we say that “God in His goodness, every single day perpetually brings in new change.” God brings good, He is Mechadesh, He “renews” the world every single day in His goodness.

When I realized what I was saying, a new realization hit me. I was under the impression that Hashem created the world once, 5781 years ago or even a million years ago, and that was it. On the seventh day He rested. Done! But as far as renewing the world perpetually each day? What does that mean? It does not mean that this universe was created many years ago and then Hashem left the scene. But rather, Hashem is involved in the world every single day. That means He, in His humility, can look down and say: “Something needs to be tweaked today. I’m not going to leave the world the way it was yesterday.”

We Also Can Renew Each Day

In our effort to emulate Hashem we can do that as well—renew each day for the good. Now what does that mean? It means that when we wake up in the morning, everything is new. My wife is new; I am new. The people are new; the world is new. We now have the opportunity to look at the world without judgment and with a new perspective. We can stop looking at things and people the same way we saw them yesterday. We have the freedom to stop holding the grudges that we have held for years.

People who don’t forgive can’t possibly be mindful. It’s like living with post-traumatic stress. They are holding onto something from the past that doesn’t free them to be able to live nonjudgmentally, in the present moment. When we live nonjudgmentally, we are able to recognize that people can change. I can change. We all can change.

That is what I experienced at the Gateways program. I saw people acting without judgment. I saw 800 souls look at each other and see our similarity, rather than our differences. To nonjudgmentally embrace each other spiritually. The focus was on being able to unite, to become one nation, with one Creator. I believe in my heart of hearts that if we, as a nation, can achieve this “achdus,” unity, for one day, and replicate what I saw during those two days, then maybe we will be zoche to bring Moshiach in our time.

Rabbi Sam Frankel, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist for over 40 years and has had a teaching career at Yavneh Academy for over two decades. He has made numerous presentations on mindfulness and how it can impact your mental health and enhance your tefillah as well.

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