On Tuesday evening, May 5, Rabbi YY Jacobson, well-known speaker, shared an enlightening live-streamed shiur on behalf of Emet Outreach. The shiur delved into how to develop a personal relationship with G-d. “We have to remember in Judaism that every crisis is an opportunity.”
He added, “What a pity it will be for Jews and humanity if we don’t emerge from this crisis more expansive and more authentic.” He taught that we learn a vital lesson from the incident in the Chumash when Yaakov meets the adversary at night and the adversary dislocates his hip. Dawn breaks and the adversary says, “Let me go because dawn broke. Yaakov says, “I can’t let you go until you bless me.” Why would Yaakov ask for a blessing now? You would think he would be glad that the adversary is departing. Why detain him longer? Rabbi Jacobson imparted we learn a timeless lesson from this: “Whenever you face adversity in your life – an obstacle or formidable enemy, ghosts or demons from the past, etc. – it is not enough to extricate yourself from the grip of the adversary. Hashem sent the adversary to accomplish more. The perspective of Judaism is that at the end of every long night we look the adversary in the eye and say: I won’t let you go until I emerge more blessed, and deeper.”
He elaborated that we want to seize the opportunity to come back more in touch with core lessons. The Jewish community wants to emerge more committed, more authentic, wiser, and deeper. “I want to emerge from this crisis as a wiser person, more authentic, and with more connection to Hashem. We have to say, ‘I won’t let you go until I become more blessed from this.’”
Rabbi Jacobson acknowledged that we have lost family and friends, mentors and Torah leaders, from this virus. We in Queens and Brooklyn, and in Jewish communities all over New York, were struck very hard. We lost some of our best, sweetest, and holiest. Yet we have to always remember in life to emerge more blessed.
He shared that after his father died, a nephew said something that resonated with him: “The end of an era can be the beginning of a new one. We know that when one window shuts, another will open. What we are experiencing now is one for the history books. What we are going through now has affected the whole world. From this microscopic invisible enemy, the whole world was changed.”
We have to ask ourselves: Do we just go back to normal after something like this? “There is potential and light embedded in every darkness.” He repeated the idea, “I will not send you away unless I come out more blessed.” We need to absorb this important lesson.
He then spoke about how our lives have changed and how we can use this to develop a closer relationship with Hashem. We retreated to our homes. We can’t pray together now, so we are alone with G-d. This is the time to develop a personal relationship with Him. He shared how from difficulty we can grow cynical, or we can grow deeper and discover our innermost light and get in touch with it. “Open yourself to that opportunity. Ask yourself: Do I have a personal relationship with Hashem?”
He quoted from Jeremiah: “Let your heart pour forth like a water current in the presence of G-d.” Prayer is the meeting place and time between us and Hashem. First, we must have an understanding of what prayer looks like. There is a basic Jewish idea that we believe at the core of the Universe there is love. Our loving Father is not deaf to our pleas and our experiences. “You were conceived in love and created with a mission.” We have to realize that Hashem wants us to share with Him what is happening in our lives. Rabbi Jacobson taught about a man at the Kosel who was speaking to G-d about something that was happening in his life, and then he said, “Oh, I already told you about that yesterday.” He was having a conversation with Hashem about his life, because he knew Hashem wanted to hear. We have to know that Hashem loves each of us unconditionally and wants a relationship with each of us.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that G-d craves a personal relationship with you. We have free will because to be meaningful, you have to have choice. Rabbi Jacobson likened our relationship with Hashem to a marriage. You can’t just speak with your spouse and share your life with him/her once a month. To keep a viable, strong, close relationship, you need to spend time together and share what is going on in your life every day. A relationship so powerful needs to be fed and nurtured on a daily basis.
This relationship with Hashem gives men and women resilience and hope. It doesn’t eliminate pain or struggle. It does mean that somebody cares and there is somebody I can talk to. We see this in T’hilim, where King David pours out his heart and shares his feelings and thoughts through each crisis in his life. He shares his fears and traumas and all of his experiences. He sees and feels that Hashem is not deaf to his cry.
Rabbi Jacobson spoke about our current situation. “Seize the moment, cultivate the moment, and connect.”
He went on to teach that the root of the Hebrew word for prayer, t’filah, is imagination or anticipation. And l’hispalel means I am going to imagine. The Hebrew word chazan, the prayer leader, has the same root as chazon, which means vision. “I’m going to envision or anticipate something. I am going to open myself to a new idea. Prayer in Judaism is about visionary thinking. It’s the ability to not just see oneself as a struggling entity. It’s about cultivating the vision of yourself. Imagine yourself as an ambassador of G-d in this world. You are an extension of the Divine.”
He explained that prayer gives us the ability to step away from serving ourselves to understand who we really are – a complete partner with Hashem. He added, “Nobody can extinguish your light. Everyone has a unique way to manifest Hashem’s light. Hashem sent us to this world to change the world from darkness to light.”
May Hashem lift this darkness now, and may we all be more blessed from this crisis. This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.