April 29, 2014

60 Days of Growth – Intro (Day 1)

NCSY’s 60 Days of Growth is an opportunity to celebrate NCSY’s 60th birthday through growth and learning.

Take a step away from your normal routine and into a new experience. Stepping away from our routine has the potential to be an amazing opportunity to grow and turn our lives around

Each day for the next 60 days, if you follow along, you will have the opportunity to learn something new and think about things that are important in your life. Everyday I will give you a Jewish mission to accomplish and teach you the deep meaning behind it. Try your best to spend some time thinking about the mission and accomplishing it in the best way you can. I guarantee, if you spend some time on this every day, you will have an awesome, transformative and inspirational ride.

So join the movement, change the world, change yourself, and join NCSY’s 60 Days of Growth!

Let’s not waste any time! Here we go:

shutterstock_73551043In this parshat Balak, we are told a story of Bilaam, an evil man who is contracted to curse the Jewish nation in order that Balak, an evil king, would be able to destroy them. But, there is a, seemingly, strange anomaly that occurs in the text of the Torah, the simple reading of the words in the Torah make Bilaam, who we know is an evil man, out to be a nice guy. It seems, from the simple reading, that Bilaam only wanted to do the will of God and the right thing. What merit does Bilaam have that could give him this great honor? Why does the Torah regard him with kind words?

Toward the end of the parsha we see the answer, Bilaam attempts to curse the Jewish people twice, each time he attempts to use enchantment and sacrifices to get his desired result and each time God changes Bilaam’s words from a curse to a blessing, but the third time is different…The third time, Bilaam has an epiphany, the Torah tells us, “וַיַּרְא בִּלְעָם, כִּי טוֹב בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה לְבָרֵךְ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְלֹא-הָלַךְ כְּפַעַם-בְּפַעַם, לִקְרַאת נְחָשִׁים; וַיָּשֶׁת אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, פָּנָיו – And Bilaam realized that God wanted the Jewish people to be blessed rather than cursed, and he did not act the way he had acted previously, turning to enchantment, and he turned his face to the wilderness.” Bilaam subsequently blesses the Jewish people from his own heart and soul.

So what is it that gives Bilaam his merit? It is his ability to listen to the messages that God sends us and change easily. He had invested a lot in the way he was acting, and a lot was riding on it (Balak had offered him TONS of money and other stuff) but he was able to realize that it was not correct and change the way he was acting. Like it says in Pirkei Avot, “הוי קל כנשר – Be light as an eagle [ready to change]“.

But why does Bilaam turn to the Wilderness? We are taught that the Jewish people received the Torah in the wilderness and Bilaam was referencing this message. In order for a person to truly change and improve themselves, in order for a person to really grow, they must step out into the “wilderness”, they must step out of their usual routine and their usual life and go to a place where they can restart.

Each and every one of us spends our days going through the motions, waking up, going to school, coming home, doing homework, playing sports, going to sleep and starting over. We are locked into our schedules, our routines, and this makes change very difficult. But we are, now, all presented with an opportunity, in celebrating NCSY’s 60th Birthday, a welcome break from our routines, an opportunity to break out of the everyday and into the wilderness. The wilderness of growth and self-improvement.

This is a time when you can explore your own connection to Judaism…spend some time each day developing a connection to a new aspect of your Judaism and growing as a person and as a Jew!

That is what this is all about, each day, starting today, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, for 60 days I will post a short article that includes a small action that you can use to break out of your usual self and improve yourself, grow and change. Somethings may be easier than others, but I promise you they are all possible and they will all change you for the better.

That is today’s Jewish mission, be ready to change and get ready for an amazing 60 days ahead!