Subjectivity: Enemy or Ally?
a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - April 16, 2000
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Good evening and welcome back to Toward a Meaningful Life with yours truly,
Simon Jacobson. Its always great to see the dynamic
of an interactive experience, where you dont really
know in which direction its going to head. I often start
with a script or with some ideas that I want to share, but
then the calls take it to another level entirely. I really
want to thank the listeners; its just a demonstration
of what a collaborative communication can truly be like. If
we open up our hearts and speak openly, spiritually, about
things that really matter and are meaningful, all kinds of
surprises can take place.
I invite you to call in at 212-244-1050. But, as emcee, Ill
try to define the context of the show and that is, since its
holiday season, the holiday of freedom, particularly Passover,
a season that is celebrated by many people of different backgrounds
and different religions, I thought it would be appropriate
to take a unique angle on this issue of freedom: what really
makes us free and how does one experience freedom?
first thought of titling the show, Emotions: Are they
our greatest enemy? It reminds me of someone who recently
came to me to consult about certain personal issues and, of
course, whenever were dealing with a personal issue
we get involved in it and it becomes something that were
invested in. Because we have feelings about it, when we get
emotional, our emotions have the ability to entangle us and
we were speaking, I was trying to point out to him that there
are different ways of looking at thisthis may
be your view, there may be another perspectiveand
it became very obvious (there are those moments when things
become very clear, very crystallized) even to him, and he
said, you know, this thing called emotions; I wish we could
get rid of them. It would just make life so much simpler,
so much clearer.
emotions, on one hand, are very much a part of our experience
(not only a part, but an intrinsic element of human experience).
We feel things. We like something, we dont like it.
Love. Pain. We have sensations. If we were just minds, intellects,
computers, we wouldnt be able to experience life.
the other hand, because of the subjective nature of emotions,
they can entrap or blind us. The Bible puts it very clearly.
It says that bias, which is shochad in Hebrew, a bribe, blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts
the tongue of the tzaddik,
the righteous person.
we know the power that the emotions have, in a moment of
obsession where you get totally consumed with something. And
I thought it would be appropriate to discuss this at Passover
time, because its the holiday of freedom and many of
you may be at a Passover seder, which is supposed to be a
I always ask myself the question that I ask people whom I
speak to, which is, do you really feel free during the seder
or free after the holiday? Do you really feel free of your
psychological demons, of scars that you carry? As a matter
of fact, someone just told me that she feels more enslaved
by Passover than any other holiday. The cleaning thats
done before the holiday; following the letter of the law with
such precision can sometimes seem to be an unfreeing type
I thought it would be important to address, on a very personal
level, what is freedom and how can we really use the holiday
as an opportunity to become free.
angle Im taking here is that I believe that freedom
is very much connected to human experience and to human emotions.
The fact that we experience things also means that we become
enslaved to them. We become attached to them, for good or
for bad, in healthy and unhealthy ways; the biases and denial
that it creates.
the first question that I pose to myself and to the listening
audience, and as I like to do is to open this question up
to all of your comments as well as to share my thoughts: What
kind of role do emotions play in human freedom? How would
you define freedom? How do we balance the two? Can we create
a situation where we take advantage of the benefits of an
emotional experience and at the same time minimize the risks
of being blinded to the point of self-destructive behavior
or destructive behavior toward others? And ultimately, how
does one really learn to become free?
course this comes down to the definition of what freedom is.
We live in a country today, a democratic country, where freedom
is considered to be the epitome and highest objectivethe
land of the free and the bravebut are we truly free?
We live in highly prosperous times, with technology, development.
Civilization is getting more cultivated and more evolved and
advanced. Are we freer people because of that? Can we say
that were freer today than we were 100-200 years ago?
And how do emotions play into this, psychologically?
me give you my definition of freedom, and I invite your rebuttals
or opinions on the matter. If you ask most people what the
word free means, their knee-jerk reaction is,
Freedom? I can do what I like. I can go where I like,
I can read what I like, I can meet whom I like. Thats
sound good initially, but if you think about it, thats
really a superficial and meaningless, hollow response because,
as youll see
in a moment, I know people wholl do anything they feel
they like and theyre more enslaved than anyone Ive
the other hand, there are people who can sit in a disciplined
way and for 3-4 hours concentrating, meditating, studying,
reading, busy at workseemingly, they are completely
controlled by their environment, but its their choice,
and they are there willingly.
I would define freedom, and of course the antithesis being
the opposite of freedom, slavery, as the following: that when
you do something, you do it by no imposition from outside.
No one imposes upon you to do something. Its a true
free expression from within, which basically means, if a five-year-old
child is allowed to do anything he or she desires, like cross
the street, thats not freedom. Because in their ignorance,
they may choose something thats completely not healthy
or self-actualizing. They need to be disciplined; they need
to be instructed, educated.
freedom is learning how to access your own inner self. How
to be able to make a choice that is not affected by, or imposed
upon by society, educators, community, peer pressure. A choice
thats truly yours and yours alone.
is how I would define freedom. So when you look at it that
way, can we really achieve freedom in a world like ours? Remember,
we do live in a very great media age, where were exposed
and inundated by media all the timeimages, identity,
labeling, and all the branding that they try to impose upon
us. So how does one really find and discover him or herself?
this touches very much on the element of emotions, because
when someone comes to you, or theres peer pressure (people
dress a certain way, you want to feel accepted), thats
an emotional reaction to becoming part of a group, which clearly
biases you from being able to stand up and take a position.
sad to say, but when you look at statistics, what people will
do when theres a group pressure, a mass mentality, its
freedom means discovering who you are, which immediately implies
that freedom requires some type of education, knowledge. Knowledge
makes us free; knowledge is power, because it gives you options.
first thing that any Fascist government does when it establishes
power and control, is to control minds. They cannot give people
the ability to have a free-flow of information because information
allows people options; they see there are other ways, alternatives,
and alternatives creates open ideas in their mind, which is
a threat to a Fascist totalitarian regime.
the other hand, in a country that we consider to be free,
as Thomas Jefferson once said, If you had to choose
between a free press and a free government, you would choose
a free press, because without a free press, free expression,
theres no free government, theres no accountability.
freedom is very much connected to what you know, the perspectives
that you have. It reminds me of one of my favorite stories
from the city of Chelm (Ive recently been telling you
some Chelm stories). If you listen to the show weekly, youll
soon be Chelm experts. So Chelm stories have these unique
insights into the human psyche. Theyre somewhat outrageous,
even farcical, but they have quite interesting insights into
was a small town in Poland that they say was inhabited by
very wise people, but the neighbors were resentful so they
created this whole folklore and parables of the foolish people
you hear a lot of stupid jokes about the people from Chelm.
In one, there was a farmer in Chelm who had a small farm,
but this farm was special to the farmer because it was his
baby. He inherited from his parents and grandparents, and
he catered to it, cared for it, knew every grain of soil on
day he gets a letter from his cousin from a big-town farm
in lets say Texas whos coming to visit. Hes
very proud that his cousin is coming to visit him, and the
day his cousin comes, he shows him around, showing him every
part of the farm. They finally sit down to dinner and the
small-town, Chelm farmer says to this big-town cousin: So
what do you think of my farm?
big-town farmer thinks to himself, What should I say?
So he says, Well, its nice and cute, but its
Chelm farmer is taken aback, insulted, and asks, How
big is your farm back in Texas that you call this small?
the Texan farmer is looking for some point of reference and
he tells him, Well, it takes me all day to travel with
my tractor from one end of the farm to the other.
the Chelm farmer, with deep empathy and compassion, says to
his cousin, Ah, cousin, I once had a tractor like that
if you ask this question to yourselfwell do an
on-air surveycheck this box: are you close-minded (narrow-minded)
or open-minded? Are you subjective or objective?
dont know if theres a person out there who would
check off: Im close-minded, narrow-minded, and subjectivethe
reason being that part of being subjective is that it makes
you think youre objective. Thats what subjectivity
means; it doesnt let you see clearly.
this Chelm farmer was also objective. He wasnt malicious.
He just never could envision a farm larger than his own. When
he heard that it took an entire day to travel from one end
to the other, he thought to himself, it must be the vehicle.
He remembers that he once had a jalopy like that too, once
upon a time, that took him all day to crank up to go from
one corner to the next.
that was his subjectivity. He couldnt even see a broader
horizon. This is an example of subjectivity that is not malicious;
however, its clearly subjective and limited based on
we are as objective as our perspectives allow us. And thats
where freedom comes into play. Thats why any true free
state, free government, has to provide equal opportunity in
education, situations where people can access the knowledge
necessary to be able to see broader horizons, or else they
end up with a perspective that this farm is the only farm
in town. And we all have our little farms.
I believe, is what the true celebration of freedom is about.
How do we get beyond that perspective? How can we see broader
horizons? How do we get out of the tentacles, the trap of
our own emotional view on things? Because interestingly, of
all traps, of all enemiespeer pressure, social pressure,
parents, community, media, even real criminals and enemies
outside of usnothing cannot compare to your own enemy
within, the enemy of subjectivity.
I must say, as a disclaimer, subjectivity per se is not an
enemy. Its what protects us. Protects our young. We
protect ourselves because we are subjective. Thats fine.
Self interest per se is not a crime.
it becomes an enemy is when thats all there is. When
youre so invested in being right, in winning, that you
dont care what the truth is: Dont bother
me with the facts, type of thing. Dont distract
me. Where your own subjectivity biases you from being
able to see clearly. Accountability. Many businesses fail
because the owners pride doesnt allow him or her
to live up to the fact that he had a mistake that year, and
maybe wasted some money.
true freedom requires accountability, and accountability requires
one to step back and look at oneself, explore, assess, to
be able to look at ones life and see if theres
another way of looking at it. That requires stepping back,
it requires knowledge, and it requires objectivity, the key
to freedom. Thats why emotions play such an important
today is a special day for me because its the birthday
of the Rebbe, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel
Schneerson, who besides being my great teacher, was also a
major forming force in my personal life, and as a result inspired
me to write the book Toward
a Meaningful Life which in turn has inspired this show.
Interestingly, the Rebbe is a man dedicated to freedom, to
finding truth, and paying whatever price it takes to become
free. And that, as I said, requires being able to look at
ourselves from the outside and not ever feeding into our own
little comfort zone and insecurities or maintaining our positions
just because theyre our position.
a major lesson that the Rebbe inspired me with, who himself
was a selfless person like that, and inspired so many in that
going back to the topic of emotions, I think the first step
is to be aware of the traps in our lives, and the single greatest
trap is our own narrow view of things, being invested in a
certain way we look at things. If you take any particular
situation, if you get into a fight with your spouse, or youre
having difficulties with your children or you cant get
along with people at work, or just in general, rest assured,
theres always an emotional issue involved. Emotions
are always right there being part of the culprit.
problem is that we dont want to eliminate emotions,
we dont want to eliminate human reactions: emotions
play a critical role in our lives. We dont want to be
machines. Yet, at the same time, we have to be able to look
at ourselves and really be able to assess wheres this
is coming from.
me say this. When we talk about emotional subjectivity, as
I said, being subjective makes you think that you are being
objective, but it requires looking at ourselves, and examining
our motives when it comes to any particular situation.
isnt an easy thing to do because it requires a certain
dedication to truth. Theres a statement made about Abraham;
Maimonides writes something that has always moved me deeply.
When he writes about Abrahams dedication to truth, his
dedication to G-d, to freedom, he writes that Abraham is called
which means Abraham, My beloved. Why is he My
beloved? G-d says, because Abraham was dedicated to
truth because it was true (Avrohom oseh es haemes mipnei shehu emes).
was dedicated to truth because it was true; not because he
gained from it, not because he benefited either spiritually
or materially. It wasnt even an issue of gratification.
It was really an issue of loving truth, being committed to
truth because it is true.
requires deep selflessness, and as Maimonides puts it, this
isnt something we all can achieve quickly. But just
to know that theres a person like that out there, that
there were people in history with such dedication, puts things
in perspective. Many times I see that we sometimes justify
our own subjectivity by saying, Hey, everybodys
subjective and everybodys doing the same thing.
just tends to make us feel less guilty, but to know that there
were people were really committed, who were ready to pay the
price, is very inspiring.
we go to Kathy on the air.
Hi. Its Kathy from Stanford. Its a pleasure listening
to you. The four glasses of wine at the seder. Usually when
youre at a party and they give you a glass, you try
to find a potted plant and dispose of the alcohol.
Thats called cheating!
Well, if youre driving. Would you discuss the wine in
the seder and how much can you sip without going below the
Okay, thank you for the call. Although Kathys question
doesnt seem directly connected to what Im speaking
about, I will connect it. Kathys asking, for those who
may not be familiar with it, on Passover, theres a seder.
A seder means a traditional meal, but its more than
a meal, its an entire experience with a large focus
on children and education, of recreating the Exodus experience,
the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt 3,312 years ago. During
the seder (upcoming Wednesday and Thursday nights this year)
there are many traditions, including eating matzah which is
unleavened bread, like crackers, that are not allowed to rise,
and drinking four cups of wine, which is what Kathy is referring
question is a technical one, which really requires speaking
to a local rabbi, but I will respond. Of course, barring health
considerations and other issues, four cups of wine are required
to be drunk, but if you drink three-quarters, youre
doing pretty well. However, if someone has health issues,
that clearly changes things.
the significance of the wine, in the context of what were
speaking about here, and the matzah (the bread that we eat
throughout the year represents the inflated ego, while matzah
represents humility), is the key element I was addressing
here, I just wasnt using the traditional language, that
the first step to freedom is ceasing to see the farm
in the way that youre so accustomed to, and that requires
humility. It requires searching out people or books that can
teach you that there are broader horizons. It requires getting
out of your own subjectivity. So matzah represents the experience
the other hand, humility on its own, as I mentioned earlier,
is insufficient because you can become so subjugated that
your personality is missing. So the drinking of the wine represents
that. Coupled with humility, wine represents the drink of
the wealthy. Wine is a rich drink, so it represents the idea
that we also taste, and we dont completely annihilate
does not mean self-annihilation, it means focusing your emotions,
recognizing theres subjectivity with humility, and then
channeling them in the right direction. As I stated, emotions
happen to be a necessary driving force in our lives.
that type of passion, commitment, your subjective belief in
something, we would all be blasé and very complacent and indifferent.
So emotional experience is something that is to be encouraged.
What we need to take care of is to make sure that we dont
get trapped by emotions, that we dont allow it to consume
us, that we allow it to be a tool for true freedom. And that
requires the humility of the matzah.
going back to the subject at hand, discovering that type of
opening requires two things, and this is across the board.
If youre having an argument with a friend or a spouse
or a child or someone at work, or youre just stuck in
a particular situationpatterns that you cant get
out ofhow often are we inspired to make a move (Im
not going to make this mistake again), and then we go back
and go back to the same old pattern.
an example of an emotional habit that you just cant
get out of. You get accustomed to the way you deal with things.
People who may have short fuses, get angry quickly, thats
an emotional reaction. These are all examples of emotional
traps that hold us hostage. So how does a person truly free
himself? Thats what I call freedom. I cant tell
you how often I hear people who sit at a seder table with
children and guests and friends and strangers, and they see
that the people who host it are the same obnoxious people
they know all year round. And they dont experience freedom.
They see the same old people doing things by habit, by roteand
my intention here is not to be critical, but to make a point,
that you can do many things traditionally, and not necessarily
be a freer human being.
Passover experience has to be one of freedom. Two things are
required and necessary if one is to achieve a freedom outside
of ones own subjective self. The first thing is knowledge.
Knowledge comes in two forms. It can come in the form of a
book, information; it can come in the form of a teachersomeone
who exposes you to something outside of yourself.
long as its an extension of yourself, its you.
Its like that doctor who once told the patient, Ill
tell you when you need a second opinion. Thats
not a second opinion. When the doctor tells you, Ill
tell you when you need a second opinion, youd better
find yourself another doctor. Because if hell tell you
when you need a second opinion, it means its his opinion.
The whole point is that you want to have another view.
number one is a teacher or a body of knowledge, a book that
opens you up to another perspective. It may be different from
yours, it may enhance yours. But dont be afraid of truth.
Thats what growth is all about.
second thing thats required is being able to examine
your emotional side. Am I subjective in a particular area?
Is there a way that I can get beyond it? And you may need
that body of knowledge or that teacher to help you get to
briefly, those of the two elements, and Ill try to elaborate
more as we go along.
have Mary on the air.
Hi. I wanted to say that I enjoy your program very, very much
and just one little quick point. I so agree with you that
you need your emotions. I agree with you that you need to
have knowledge, you need to learn. But the most important
thing, I think, is to apply that knowledge. So many people
have a lot of information but they dont apply it to
their lives. Its always separate. They have their studies,
they have their knowledge, and then they have how they really
think the most important thing is to incorporate that into
your life. And make it real in a way that makes sense to you.
I completely appreciate that point, Mary, and my question
to you is, how do you go about doing that? As an example,
there are people who are intelligent; they understand a certain
situation very intellectually, but they just cant bring
themselves to do it. How do you get over that hurdle?
Thats the challenge. I was having a conversation with
someone the other day about that and I said, You know,
theres this prayer Love G-d with all thy heart
and all thy soul. Can you imagine how it would
change your life if somebody really lived it for a week? I
dont know a lot but the little bit that I know, I put
into use. In other words, when I have a problem, the challenge
is for me to see how would the information that I have, the
knowledge that Ive studied, how would I then make it
work for me in solving my problem. Its not a separate
thing. If you love G-d with all your heart and soul every
day, youre a different person. So Im saying I
think its so important to just live it. You dont
have to know so much, but whatever you know at every point
make it work for you. Personalize it. People think that ideas
are very lofty and they sound wonderful, but they dont
know how to bring them into their lives.
But Mary, heres the problem. Sometimes a person is invested
in something for healthy or unhealthy reasons. And even if
they understand that theyre doing the wrong things,
theyre just locked. How do they get beyond that emotional
Well, you said it. Its ego. You have to realize that
you have to let go of that inflated ego that made me all puffed
up with my own pride and thinking I was right. You have to
eat matzah, in the sense that you have to reduce yourself
and see what else is available. So you really gave that answer.
Okay, thank you, Mary. We have Bill on the line.
Good afternoon Rabbi. Im reading from a book here and
I have a question that sounds like what youre talking
about. Can I read it?
Whats the name of the book?
Its by Aryeh Kaplan. Meditations
in Kabbalah. You must be alone when you do this. Meditation,
a state of rapture so as to receive the Divine influx which
will bring your mind from potential to action. Isnt
that what youve been trying to say?
Its very appropriate and very well put and I think its
an important element. Actually, its a point I had not
made and Im glad you brought it up, and that is a need
to be able to create a space and just silently look at yourself.
Sometimes when we get so caught up in the merry-go-round of
life, the emotions really take over because were on
the move. When you have to pause and take that step back,
it allows you to really see yourself in a more objective way:
Do I really like what I see? Do I really like how Im
behaving? Is this the best I can be? Is it what makes me proud,
my family proud, my children proud? I think thats a
very important point.
Like refreshing yourself spiritually.
Exactly. And creating that space. Where did you pick up the
book if I may ask?
I picked it up at a New Age store in Nyack, down in Rockland
County. I was very fascinated over the years. Im trying
to find an instructor now.
Do you live in Nyack?
No, I live in Spring Valley.
Well, when you get off the line, if you leave your phone number
with Steve (our engineer), well try to put you in contact
with someone who can help you, if you like. So Bill, thank
you for the call and thank you for bringing that insight into
point is really well taken, and I particularly want to mention
what Mary had said, because it brings to mind the story of
Bertrand Russell, who was once behaving unethically. He was
a professor of ethics at Cambridge, or whatever university
he was at, and someone asked him, How can you behave
in such an unethical way when you teach ethics? And
he answered very simply, I also teach mathematics and
Im not a triangle.
means, essentially, though some academics are very proud of
that statement, you can teach something, be knowledgeable,
be an expert in it, erudite, and yet not be it. You can be
expert, know it, but not be it.
for me, captures the trap of emotions, because you might think
that that sounds like a very objective teacher; hes
knowledgeable but he doesnt act on it because he remains
objective. But no, thats an emotional choice.
have spoken to many people who have difficulty with faith,
with G-d, not for intellectual reasons but for emotional ones.
They may have been hurt by a religious establishment or religious
experiences, or, which is even more common, they are afraid
of personal responsibility.
is not a simple matter. If you accept G-d, it means that you
accept a certain personal responsibility. But no one is ready
to get up there publicly and say, Hey, I dont
want to be responsible!
we have all kinds of reasons. We say, Well, who says
theres a G-d? Maybe its survival of the fittest.
You see the wicked prosper. Theres no justice.
And that basically gives us the license to do what we like.
And I speak to myself as well. If most of us are able to weasel
out of a situation, and you have good excuses, and if youre
intelligent enough you always come up with brilliant excuses,
were invested in that, because basically, you can do
what you like. Youre not accountable, you dont
have to answer to anyone. And that is, in a very interesting
way, perhaps the most powerful statement of subjectivity.
what stops a person from having an attitude like that? Thats
what I was referring to when I asked Mary the question. Why
would someone not have
an attitude like that? Thats a very difficult question.
Ive struggled with it and Ive asked many people.
youre alone in a room, theres no one around, no
one will honor you for your altruism, why would you really
behave in an ethical way or in a truthful way if you can get
away with it and theres no fear of law enforcement,
cops, or shame?
it comes down to internal integrity. Your own inner integrity
and your own being true to yourself. Honesty is something
that cant be taught to someone. Its what I mentioned
earlier with Abraham, when you just have that sense
Abraham was committed to truth because it was true. Why some
people can have that commitment and others are completely
obliviousthey dont really care whats true,
whats rightthey will just forge ahead and step
on anyone they can step on. Thats how powerful subjectivity
controls you to the point that everything else doesnt
matter. Intellectually, you can sit that person down and hell
admit, No, we need to be kind to each other. I
mean, most people believe in some form of justice. But when
it comes to behavior, our own personal choices, we dont
want to be told what to do. We dont want to have that
type of accountability.
that is, as I said, a powerful form of subjectivity, and humility,
and the matzah we described, is the key to being able to get
out of it.
to sum up what I was saying earlier about reviewing our own
emotions requires a teacher, an objective person whom you
trust, that is also sensitive to you, not judgmental, but
sensitive, who can help you look at yourself in a different
way. Its what we do anyway, in business, before you
make a decision: you usually consult with one or two people
if you want to make a correct decision. In business the stakes
our personal life, one of the beautiful key things that the
Torah recommends, is that each of us has someone whom we can
talk to: a mashpia,
a rav (assei lecha rav) someone who you can talk to objectively about
your particularly situation that helps you get beyond your
own way of looking at it; it gets you beyond your own farm,
and we all have our farm.
go to Mimi on the air.
Hi Rabbi. Im not Jewish, but I love your program. Youre
so wise and Im having a tremendous problem with emotions
and with G-d.
Those are the two top issues.
My husband died about three years ago and one of the things
thats making me really crazy lately is older men, especially
one I know, who is very cruel to his wife, and then his wife
died. And I say to G-d, why did You do this? You take my lovely,
lovely husband and leave this man here? This man who is so
wicked! And I get very angry at G-d and that scares me.
Mimi, I share your feeling and sometimes we dont understand
the mysterious ways of G-d. But I dont think anger necessarily
will help. They key is to look at yourself and see whats
productive, what productive results come out of your anger.
I mean, your husband I assume was a very fine man.
He was the love of my life. He was like my twin.
That is beautiful to hear. That itself is worth the call.
I think its important that you focus on how to share
with others the inspiration and the message that your husband,
your twin, experienced, because we need more of that in this
world. You know, the way to combat evil and cruelty, I believe
is always through light.
if you have a direct influence on that gentleman, its
one thing. But to focus your energies, instead of directing
your anger at G-d or to others, how do you bring that message
that your husband was so dedicated to, to other people, whether
its family or friends?
you have children?
So theres the next generation, and Im sure you
have other friends and people you associate with. Thats
the key. Ive always believed that when people are angry
about something, theres always a way to channel angry
energy into something thats positive and constructive.
It may be difficult, because its easier in a way to
say, How could that person be alive when he or she is
so cruel, when my husband isnt, but theres
no benefit in that. And I think you want to do things that
have to think of it this way. How would your husband have
behaved had he seen a person like that? Would he have gotten
He didnt like him either!
Great. Well, thats what twins are like! So I guess your
husband would have liked this radio show. Maybe he hears it
somewhere up there.
Oh I hope so. I kind of believe that and I certainly hope
Well, I thank you for the call and thank you for your kind
words about the show.
Youre welcome. Its lovely. I just love listening
Thats very nice of you; you sound lovely yourself and
I hope this show brings some comfort to you in your situation.
Really, our goal has to be to bring light into the world in
every way possible. So thank you for that, Mimi.
have Matthew on the line.
I saw in a seder book that the Lubavitcher Rebbe seemed to
say that ultimately there was never any kind of exile. That
ultimately freedom is inherent in us in some way, and I wonder
how this plays out in a religious life. I mean, is it like
a secret that you cant tell as youre mourning
Okay, let me explain your question. Matthew is reading in
a Haggadah, which is a commentary on the prayer and the traditional
service said on Passover, from the name of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe whose birthday is today, by the way, that freedom has
become an inherent thing.
the exodus from EgyptIll just elaborate on what
you saidthe Maharal of Prague actually writes (if you
look up the source, the Maharal of Prague, a scholar in the
17th century) that the freedom from Egypt wasnt
just a one-time event, but it actually infused the human race
(the Jewish race) with inherent freedom; that they no longer
would ever be enslaved to another people.
that of course is an inherent quality that needs to be accessed.
We can still choose to be enslaved. I see people who are enslaved
to money, people who are enslaved to employers and people
who are enslaved to other passions and drives and lusts and
what the Maharal of Prague is stating, and what is cited by
the Rebbe, is that there is a power in each of us to truly
be free, and we have to cut away the impediments and allow
that freedom to emerge. Thats part of what were
discussing on this show here, how one gets away from emotional
subjectivity and the things that lock us and allow that freedom
to be accessed.
the message of hope is that everyone has the power to be free.
All men are created equal. All of us have an image or an aspect
of G-d within us. And that allows us to experience complete
Well, I read it as ultimately that there never was any kind
of exile, that ultimately reality is freedom, like this radical
freedom. Is that true?
Well, I would explain it as being that internally we truly
are free people, but the fact is that we celebrate Passover
every year to access that freedom. So even though its
inherent, there are many things that are inherent, Matthew,
in you and me, but we still need to dig for it. We need to
get rid of the impediments. But the word inherent
means that its in there somewhere. Its not something
that we need to acquire. We dont need to go buy freedom.
Its in your power to be free. Its in your power
not to worship any force outside of yourself and G-d.
thank you Matthew for the call.
announcement about the book The
Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer here including
information on how to contact Rabbi Jacobson: email@example.com, or his website at www.meaningfullife.com, 1-800-363-2646
(1-800-3-MEANING) or at the Meaningful Life Center, 788 Eastern
Parkway, Suite 303, Brooklyn, NY 11213.)
a follow up to the freedom of Passover, comes 49 days of personal
refinement, which is really the original 49-step program.
Before there were any of our contemporary 12-Step programs,
there is a 49-step system that allows people to take each
day and look at our emotions, something I will address more
at length on next weeks show, and that is, its
one thing to say, Okay, I have emotional subjectivity.
Thats a very general statement. The real question is,
how do we look at our particular emotions, whether its
anger, jealousy, love? How do we balance it in a way that
taps and excavates the powerful, positive forces of the emotion
and eliminates or discards the negative subjectivity that
may bias or blind us.
really requires a more detailed examination of who you are
and what your emotion is in a particular situation.
traditionally, theres a 49-step process that begins
the second night of Passover and concludes, interestingly,
50 days later with the holiday of Shavuot, which is the revelation
at Sinai. And these 49 days are a traditional 49-step program
of looking at different elements of your emotions. The Kabbalah,
which documents the DNA and the framework of the human psyche
and of the cosmos, spells out that a human being has seven
we say were emotional, it can take on many different
forms. Theres the emotion called love, theres
an opposite emotion called fear. Theres an emotion called
compassion, theres an emotion called fortitude, ambition.
Theres humility and theres bonding, and finally
discuss those seven emotions next week in detail, and I welcome
your calls and e-mails regarding that show because in that
show I would like to address, what do you actually do in a
particular emotion situation. You can even call it an anatomy
of our emotional psyche and how we can look at ourselves in
a particular situation, and see which areas are strong, where
we are weak. Some of us love too much. Some of us love too
little. Some of us are too ambitious and we dont know
how to temper that. Emotions can be very positive but if theyre
in excess, they become unbalanced and then they become subjective
and can become destructive.
its a question of really looking at that whole spectrum,
and Ill do that next week in detail.
Passover is right around the corner and its message is a universal
one, to Jews and non-Jews, and that is the ability and the
power for us to be free; how we free ourselves from our emotional
tentacles. Its not just a question of going through
the emotions, its also an issue of introspection. To
use the seder as an opportunity for discussion, where we speak
to each other and discuss this.
you eat the matzah, dont just eat the matzah. Think
about it. Say, this is the food of humility. How can I implement
humility into my life? Where am I subjective? How can I free
myself of subjectivity? How do I free myself of the farm
that we are so often held entrapped by?
are things that each of us can think about, and Passover is
a perfect opportunity to do so what better example
to set for our children, our families and friends, when we
do that. I also would encourage everyone who does not have
a seder to go to a Passover seder, to find a friend, and if
you have a difficulty, please call me. Ill be happy
to help connect you with a seder in the area where you may
well go to Robert on the line.
Hello Rabbi. Im from the Bronx and Im interested
in some guidance. I am a candidate for conversion to Judaism
and I have difficulty with letting go of some of my past,
including friends and many of the things I used to do, which
werent necessarily bad. Where would I find guidance
on that, besides from the Rabbi whos sponsoring me at
If you leave me your number, Ill speak to you afterwards,
because I think it would be wiser to do that, so I can hear
more about your situation. Okay, Robert?
we go to Shani.
Hello. I was wondering how much emotions play a role in relationships
in finding your beshert.
Well, its probably the number one force in our lives.
Is it more important to be rational or is it more important
to be emotional?
Well, Shani, Ill repeat your question for those who
dont know what beshert means. In finding your soulmate, Shani is asking the
question, how important a role do emotions play and how important
is it to be rational?
would say that in the initial stages of dating, being rational
is more important than emotions because sometimes we can get
swept away by externals; we can be desperate or we can feel
nurtured or affirmed. But I think its important to have
a rational, sober view, however, at the same time, to lock
ourselves up and become too rational about things can also stop
you from being spontaneous.
think its really a question of balance. Its a
perfect example of how important it is to use a friend or
a wise person whom you can consult with that helps you see,
Am I being too emotional? Am I being too rational?
hard to answer. I dont think its one or the other.
Its really a combination and finding the right chemistry,
the right balance between the two.
lets go to Ruth.
First of all, happy birthday to the Rabbi.
Yes, Rabbi Schneerson.
I visited his grave and you mentioned it on the radio and
I just turned on the radio
I want to wish you a happy
and kosher Passover.
Thank you Ruth. Youve been listening to Toward
a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. Well be on
next week continuing the discussion on emotions, its trap,
how we look at particular specific emotions and I want to
wish everyone true freedom, internal and external freedom,
this Passover for all of our listeners of all backgrounds
and all faiths. Thank you very much.