June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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It Is Time for a New Approach

Recognize/Identify

Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, panic ensued and reports of an impending Japanese invasion spread throughout the United States. Guards were set up at bridges and tunnels across the country. The first lady called her daughter urging her to evacuate San Francisco since it was reported the invasion was to begin there. There were even reports that the Japanese were going to invade Kansas. Fear had overrun the country.

On my walks to shul with my father on Shabbat, he’d occasionally tell me about his experiences in World War II. He told me the most dangerous thing in war was a soldier who panicked. Indeed, in the Torah the Cohain addresses the men prior to battle and orders those with fear in their heart to take leave. As my father said, “Fear and panic can spread like wildfire.”

Fear is used as a powerful tool to sell us a variety of things: life Insurance, medical procedures, medicines and mouthwash. (Do you recall the Listerine commercial from the 1970s?). Years ago while attending sales training I learned the term “FUD” which stands for fear, uncertainty and doubt. We were told if you can instill these in a prospect, you’ll get them to buy.

Fear is unabashedly used in politics to influence how and for whom we vote. In 1800 when Thomas Jefferson ran against John Adams, one of the scare tactics used was to say, “Hide your bibles because if Jefferson is elected, he’ll take them away!” You can replace “bibles” with “guns,” “women’s reproductive rights,” “undocumented immigrants” or “weak on crime.” These are just some of the hot-button triggers used to ramp up fear and influence our thinking.

But the biggest peddlers of fear by far, are the news media … and the fear they feed us today is on steroids.

Fear, panic and stress actually make us dumb! When we are in these states, we tend to go into “fight or flight” mode which disengages our neocortex, and control switches over to the amygdala. In this state, we are unlikely to think of creative and elegant solutions; instead we resort to the most ancient tactics of survival.

 

StopBreatheThink

To counter those who use fear to change our mental state or exert control, we must first be aware of what is being done. Once we are aware, 1. We can identify who is spreading fear; 2. We can determine what their goal may be; 3. We can determine if the information serves us in any beneficial way; 4. We can decide to accept or dismiss the information; 5. We can decide and plan a meaningful and productive course of action instead of just emotionally reacting.

I was overjoyed in 1977 when we received our first Jewish Weekend paper. It was fun reading about the Jewish events and the goings on. But after a few weeks I noticed I would feel jittery after I read the paper. I realized that every antisemitic act, near or far, was reported. I was a teenager and realized that reading the paper was unnerving me, so I decided to stop.

Recently, I had to unsubscribe from an organization which monitors antisemitic acts. Their weekly summary is emailed on Erev Shabbat.

The problem with reading about antisemitism and Jew hatred is that it makes us feel helpless and frustrated. We question ourselves as to what we can do better or differently, but we are not the ones who hate! We are passive participants. Then we spiral down into depressed thoughts and finally turn away from the information, which compounds the problem because we think we are burying our head in the sand … and the cycle begins anew.

 

A New Strategy

The time has come for a new and far more proactive approach in dealing with Jew hatred. Instead of being passive and feeling like sitting ducks, or reacting with anger and frustration, we need to—and can—be more proactive. The strategy I suggest is not only consistent with our faith and values; it was developed and successfully used by our forefather Jacob.

When Yaakov prepared to meet his fearsome brother, he did three things, 1. He prayed; 2. He prepared gifts; 3. He prepared for war. Note: The first thing he did was pray!

Prayer has long been somewhat of a mystery, and throughout my life I have endeavored to understand how to do it best, how it works and what we can accomplish with our prayers. Prayer is a lifelong study. But wherever we are in our capacity and skill to pray, as Jews we are attuned to prayer, some may even suggest we have an innate ability to pray and the famous adage “HaKol Kol Yaakov!” (The voice is the voice of Jacob!) sums this up best.

We need to be clear that our greatest strength as Jews is using our voice. Praying to God should always be our first choice. Physical confrontation is an option and sometimes required, however, and as Yaakov teaches us, it is not the preferred opening move. But, we need to focus on our target and get clear about what we are trying to accomplish with prayer.

Throughout our history, we have looked at Jew haters as villains. Understandably, we wish their names and memories to be blotted out and will do anything to belittle them. But my very challenging question is: Has this truly helped eradicate Jew hatred? We have survived the onslaughts, but has the hatred subsided or withered? Unfortunately, not. What we have been doing is focusing on symptoms and not the root cause. As with cancer, focusing on removing the tumor is treating the symptom and not the cause.

Here is the innovation I propose: Instead of seeing haters as villains, we must see them as sick individuals, for their hearts and souls are infected with darkness and hate. We need to understand that these individuals or groups have been hijacked by dark forces, the Sitra Achra, and cannot help themselves to get over the hate that has infested their souls. Instead of hating back at these people, we need to pray for those who hate us. This may be an anathema to some, but hear me out.

Let us analyze Father Jacob’s strategy. He prayed to attain a high level of spirituality and connection with God. Then Jacob gave “gifts.” I suggest that in addition to the physical gifts, Jacob gave his brother “spiritual gifts” by directing and channeling God’s powerful energy of love into Esau, which healed his darkened heart. As a result, when Jacob and Esau meet, there is brotherly love between them. The enmity had been displaced by Jacob’s prayer, which infused Esau’s heart with God’s love.

Since we are dealing with God’s infinite energy, understanding the operation of a solar farm can give us an idea of what we are discussing. There are solar energy farms in which numerous arrays of mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto a target on a tower, raising temperatures to thousands of degrees.

A material inside the tower is superheated and when put in water, creates steam which turns a turbine and creates electricity. By appreciating the enormous energy of the sun, which is reflected by the mirrors, we can begin to appreciate the enormous power we Jews have to redirect God’s infinite light and love to the target of our choosing to obliterate darkness and hatred.

When our Cohanim bless us, they are channeling the ahava, the love of God through them, into us.

God has called us “a Nation of Priests.” As a nation of Cohanim, we channel God’s light and love into the world. Just as the mirror arrays reflect the sun’s brilliant energy to a single point, we can do this with God’s light, greater than a billion suns! No darkness can withstand His infinite light. By focusing our intent to shed God’s light onto and into specific individuals, groups and geographic regions, we can lessen if not eradicate hate.

The Meshech Chachma explains the power of precisely focused prayer as a bow and arrow striking a faraway target. The power of kavanah has been experimented with and scientifically studied for over a decade. Lynne McTaggart has been running “The Intention Experiment” and “Power of Eight” groups. In these groups, they focus on specific people for healing and they have done the well-publicized “world-wide peace project,” where they had people across the globe focusing on specific issues, trying to heal the world. The results are more than stunning, they are miraculous.

It is time to add a new approach to our way of davening. Instead of seeking the worst for an adversary, we need to pray for their healing. I am the first to admit that when seeing images or hearing reports of slander or violence against Jews or Israel, it is difficult to think of anything other than retribution. But we must inhabit our role as Cohanim and remain steadfast.

 

How We Do It

We can use the information from the Intention project to bolster our own prayers and give us new ideas. Achieve elevated states of spirituality and focus God’s light to heal the hatred and banish it. We can do this by ourselves or gather in groups to do this work. Perhaps after davening, take a moment or longer to focus on specific individuals, countries or regions and imagine a beam of light exiting your forehead and radiating and filling who or what you have focused upon. Perhaps after finishing the Amidah or when you lie down to sleep and say Shema, take a few moments to focus your attention and direct God’s energy to the people and places in need of healing.

In summary, instead of skulking, being depressed, dejected and afraid, we must utilize the power and ability we have within us to channel the most awesome force in the Universe, God’s immense light, to dispel the darkness and hatred from those within whom it resides.


Rabbi Donn Gross is the rabbi of Congregation Bet Dovid in Caldwell.

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