Friday, April 19, 2013

Putting G-d First

In Iyanla Vanzant's video, she talks about putting yourself first because you are the representative of G-d in this world in YOUR life.

This a very powerful message.

And putting oneself first  certainly means being healthy, taking care of ones' needs, etc. It reminds me of what is done during the Shabbat Friday night service of Kiddush. Jewish custom during Kiddush is to make blessings over wine to sanctify the day and to testify that G-d, Creator of the world rested on the seventh day/Shabbat. Typically, as the cups of wine are passed around, I was taught to drink the cup that comes to you first, rather than pass it on the next person. Why? When I get a chance to do a mitzvah or Torah commandment, don't pass it up! Do it as fast as possible! That is, take care of yourself first.

I think that is a message that a lot of people would like.

But what are we giving ourselves?

If we are use to junk food, abusive relationships, negative self talk, thinking negatively, unsupportive and condescending friends, etc. etc. that's gonna be a pretty sad story!! Maybe this video is merely an affirmation to continuing giving the self the crap it's been getting, but this time I come first?!!


But certainly not.

We should only give ourselves good. And it's not so hard to figure out what that 'good' is. And believing that good is possible is part of the work.

Well, with work, bills, going to the gym, trying to be the best we can be, connecting with supportive friends, prayer, picking up some items at the health food store, who was time to put others first, second, or third?? Just completing this assignment takes up a lot of time and a lot of energy, doesn't it?? (Do you know how long it is to twist my hair up at night??)

And yet, what about the story of Avraham Avinu when he went to sojourn in the land of Gerar? The king of Gerar, Avimelech had Avraham's wife taken. As punishment, G-d had "restrained every orifice of the household of Avimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Avraham."
Genesis/Bereshit 20:18.

Avimelech, hastily returns Avraham's wife to him and asks Avraham to pray for his healing. And Avraham does. And in the very next chapter, we find that Sarah, who had been barren for years, finally conceived.

From this, our Sages teach us that when we genuinely pray for another, we are answered first.
When we put another person before us, G-d takes note of our humility and not only does He tend to the person being prayed for, but He takes care of the one who prayed FIRST.

So, do I put another person first or not??

I learned from an amazing and wonderful rabbi,  Rabbi Shoff the following: It is good to be selfish in the 'self-ful' way. It's important to give ourselves good. But the challenge is including others in that intimate circle we call 'self.' To understand that although I don't need to give every penny and time to my fellow, that sincerely caring and praying for his welfare when he's in trouble is crucial to the fabric of humanity!!

If a fellow is down, lend a hand. And that doesn't mean helping out a drug addict who has years of criminal record in his pocket.  It doesn't mean giving hours and hours of time away from one's own children to hear the same old complaint of girlfriend Missy.

There has to be healthy borders.

A Torah Sage named Hillel the Elder once said, "if I am not for myself, then who will be for me? Yet, if I am for myself only, what am I?"

I think when life becomes G-d centered rather than self-centered, it is easier to find that balance. I am not the center of the universe. My wants and whims don't determine everything. There is a bigger picture. Yes, I must take care of myself in appropriate ways, and yes I must take care of others in appropriate ways.

I love hearing Iyanla Vanzant speak.

G-d bless!!!

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