This past Rosh Hoshana, I wanted to be able to give over the general framework of Judaism in a short time. So, I wrote this piece. Thanks to David and my brother-in-law Bruce for their editing efforts. Please help me further enhance this piece with your questions and comments below. Thanks.
The Plan (Derech Hashem)
– The nature of one who is good is to give.
– G-d, who is the ultimate goodness, created man in order to give to man pleasure.
– The greatest gift possible for man is to have an awareness of, and a relationship with G-d.
– In order to increase the value and pleasure of this gift, G-d wanted man to develop this awareness and relationship through man’s own free will.
The Environment and Means (Mesillas Yesharim)
– G-d created man with an eternal soul, that is the part of man most G-d like and most capable of goodness.
– G-d also gives us a strong sense of self in the intellectual realm and strong sensory facilities.
– G-d created the physical world as the place in which man would develop the soul.
– The goal is to increase our awareness of G-d and develop our character/soul through our choices and mitzvos.
The Problem (Avos: Three things take us out of this world…)
– Our sense of self and accomplishment often makes us honor ourselves instead of G-d.
– Physical pursuits mask our awareness of G-d and lead us towards a physical existence instead of a spiritual one.
– Self-centeredness makes us envious and possessive and inhibits strong personal relationships by focusing us on ourselves rather than the other person.
The Solution (Avos: The world stands on three things…)
– The Torah and the mitzvos enable us to go beyond physical egocentricity towards a spiritually centered existence.
– Acts of Kindness help us focus on other people thereby reducing our self-centeredness.
– Prayer reduces our self-centeredness by giving us a G-d centered orientation.
– The Jewish people were chosen to implement the solution at its highest level with the 613 mitzvos.
– The rest of the nations have 7 mitzvos to best develop their G-d awareness.
Implementation (Six Constant Mitzvos)
– We must align our thought processes with our emotions, since the emotions are the prime influence on actions.
– We must increase our belief in G-d, not believe in other forces and realize that “good” and “bad” both come from G-d.
– We increase our emotional connection to G-d through love and we increase our respect for His greatness through awe and fear.
– When our emotions are properly aligned, our actions will follow suit and we will fulfill our personal and global missions.
Fundamental Beliefs (Rambam: 13 Principals)
– G-d, the Creator of the universe is: complete, total unity, non-physical, eternal and the object of all prayers.
– G-d communicates with man. Moshe’s prophecy was unique. The entire Torah was given by G-d and is unchangeable.
– G-d knows our thoughts and deeds and will reward and correct us appropriately. The Messiah will come to help bring the world to its completion. The dead will be resurrected in a new world of physical and spiritual perfection.
Focus (Avos: Who is Rich..)
– We should become wise by learning from everybody.
– We should consider ourselves rich by appreciating all the blessings we have.
– We should consider ourselves powerful when we rule over our own desires and not when we control others.
– We should avoid honor and instead look for the greatness in every human being and acknowledge and praise it.
Other Ideas(Various Sources)
– We should distance ourselves from anger.
– Our focus should be on our individual mission and we should avoid comparisons with others.
– When we meet any person we should ask ourselves two questions: 1. What can I Give to him/her? 2. What can I Learn from him/her?
– Pleasure comes from our appreciation of the unity, completeness and connection of all the things in this world.
– Happiness comes when we work on completing ourselves and help bring the world closer to its perfection and unity.