Rabbi's Article

Do I Believe In Visions?  

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazoin, Shabbat of Vision, after the opening word of this week's Haftorah, "A Vision by Isaiah..." However, according to the mystical teachings of Chassidus, the deeper meaning of the name of this Shabbat is that on the Shabbat before the Fast of Tisha B'Av, the day on which the Holy Temple was destroyed, we each receive a vision of the third Holy Temple, which will descend from Heaven when Moshicah will redeem us.


So tell me, quietly, when no one is listening, do you believe in visions? For real? Or do you deep down feel that it is for the weirdos, New Agers, and few remnants of the 60's that overdosed once too many? You can be open with me, like really, tell me what you really think...


As for me, I see myself like such a mixed up schizophrenic in total dual confusion about this. One the one hand, I really am a spiritual person, really tangibly believing in spiritual visions, guidance, and abstract realities. On the other hand, my stomach really starts turning as my cynicism exudes from every orifice of my being when I start hearing and seeing the Tikun Meyster, spewing spiritual intuition, donning the cloak of a holy baba, telling people who their correct soul mates are... I can sometimes barely contain myself from standing up and putting my hand on the radio, crying out, "I have been saved! I have been saved by the spirit of enlightenment!! Halleluyah!!!" Oh no... I am getting nauseas again...


They say, "He who believes that the stories of the Baal Shem Tov all really happened is a fool, and he who doesn't believe is a heretic." I guess my schizophrenia makes me a foolish heretic. What is real about these visions and what is not? What spirituality am I supposed to believe in, and which spirituality is a white collar criminal to stay away from?


Once upon a time, one could rely on the civility and Jewishness of his intellectual mind to humbly sense which is a fool's tale and which is Jewish spirituality to be reckoned and believed in. Today, things got so out of hand as dysfunctionalism has seeped through all walks of Jewish life. The verse speaks of, "As days of Heaven upon earth," upon which my mentors have taught me to walk with my head in the sky and my feet on the ground. Somehow people of all calibers seem to have lost this. Sometimes with feet and head in the sky, sometimes with head and feet on the ground, and sometimes just simply flipped upside down. Because of all this turmoil, everybody became their own mayven, taking guidance from no mentor, becoming each unto himself as his own G‑d, deciding what is superstitious, what is weird, and what is okay, in the realm of spirituality.


Then, because of my work in counseling and guidance, I came across the 12 Step recovery program. It fascinated me, and drew me into itself. I read, listened, and eventually submitted myself to work through the steps. Gosh, I never realized how painful it is. As they say in the program, "The only thing you need to change about yourself is everything." The thing they don't say is that first you have to give up your anesthesia, which is any chemical or behavioral drug of choice you may have, that kept you from feeling the reality of life. Yes, you have to be conscious and aware, allowing you to feel it all, as you go through this transformation.


Well, this program, from its very conception, states that one who cannot find spirituality, cannot find recovery. Wow! Suddenly, spirituality isn't a luxury, or an opium. Rather, it is a lifeline for practical painful long term sobriety, and true inner recovery. These guys aren't playing. They are searching for a spirituality, which as real as the total insanity and uncontrollable urge to act out again. Of course, when you hear a "Newcomer" who found spirituality and is 'saved,' but keeps on relapsing, you get the cynical willies. However, when you find an "Old-timer," a "Dinosaur," who has decades of sobriety, recovery, and has totally transformed himself from an inmate to a functioning and valuable member of society, just for today, well, that is a spirituality I could live with.


What is this spirituality, and how do they obtain it? It is to surrender the sickened selfish mind to an openness and willingness to be relieved from the prison of a selfish self, and to be able to live, just for today, with a vision of divine selflessness, of forgiveness to self and others, and of a Higher Power with a Higher purpose for self. The work here isn't to entice and seduce a Higher Power and enlightenment to descend upon you, and make you rich. It is the hard work to surrender self, clean up house, and prepare ourselves to be a vessel for selflessness. Simply, to be humble and forgiving on the I-95 when coming home from work during rush-hour. Yes, that is real spirituality. That's a spirituality I can fully embrace. It is a vision of who I am, and who I could be, if I am willing to do the work of being humble, honest, and willing, one challenging experience at a time.


This is the vision I look forward to see this Shabbat. To really see that I can be, and live within, an eternal Holy Temple, waiting to descend, as soon as we are ready to do our work, and clean up our side of Temple Mount.