We don’t need to roll in the snow or fast- just a few simple activities a day can greatly increase our awareness of our loving Father who wants to be close to His children!
Posted on 21.02.20
When you are trying to improve health and vitality, you’ll engage in a program of regular exercise and conditioning. In a similar manner, there are many exercises that you can do as part of an overall spiritual conditioning program to strengthen your emuna and closeness to Hashem.
Here are a few ideas for activities that you can use to achieve this goal. Make sure that you take a few seconds before you start to visualize your goal – strengthening your emuna and coming closer to G-d.
1. When you say a blessing before washing your hands, lighting Shabbos candles, or a host of other mitzvot, concentrate when you say “Asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav” (Who has made us holy through the commandants). Just think what this means! Through doing this physical action, you are becoming more holy, closer to Hashem, and earning eternal merit!
2. Make a conscious attempt to link small pleasures to Hashem. These can include a whole host of items including tasting your favorite food, sitting on a comfortable couch, feeling of freshness after you take a shower and put on clean clothes, etc. Then, say “thank you Hashem!” for those items and the pleasure they give you!
When you tie all of these pleasures to Hashem, you will surely not take them for granted. Moreover, you will start to experience just how much Hashem loves you. You will also notice yourself becoming happier and more relaxed.
3. Read stories of hashgacha pratit – Divine supervision. When you read these true stories, it will ingrain within you the reality that Hashem controls everything and orchestrates events for our ultimate benefit. One great source of these stories is the book I Said Thank you and Saw Miracles by Rabbi Shalom Arush. There are also lots of stories in his other books including The Garden of Gratitude and The Garden of Healing.
4. When handling money, remember the first syllable of the word “money” sounds like “mon,” the Heavenly food that Hashem sent to the Jewish people in the desert. This is exactly what money is, our personal efforts notwithstanding. Look at the back of the dollar bill and be sure to read “In God we trust.” This will remind you that we receive money not as a result of the might of our right hand but by the loving grace of Hashem, as a free gift.
You should also concentrate on the words in Birkat Hamazon – the blessing after a bread meal – in the first paragraph: “hazan et haolam kulo b’tuvo – who feeds the entire world in His goodness.” G-d does not need to feed us or provide for our needs, but He does – not because of our good deeds or otherwise, but only because He created us, and sustains us in His mercy, as a free gift. Remind yourself of Rabbi Arush’s quip: “He who gave us life, will continue to feed us and give us life!” Everything depends only on your level of bitachon – trust in Hashem – not your merits, or lack thereof.
5. When you put on your tallit (prayer shawl) and wrap it over your head, feel yourself being surrounded by the love of your Father and King.
6. When you look at your loved ones, especially around the table on Shabbat, contemplate that they are in your life as a result of the compassion and benevolence of the Creator.
At the Shabbos table, ask everyone to say a couple of things from the past week for which they are thankful. This will elevate your individual and collective feelings of wellbeing and gratitude to Hashem.
7. Say blessings with concentration, joy and vitality. One of my teachers said that it may be hard to do this with every blessing. Therefore he suggests making one blessing a special interest item each day. For example, when he has his first cup of coffee, he says the blessing with special joy and devotion. I've tried this, and it really creates a big impact!
8. Think of some of the amazing aspects of the human body. For example, your heart is beating tens of thousands of times a day without you even thinking about it. Read books about anatomy and physiology. In this way you’ll become more aware and grateful for all Hashem does in a miraculous manner for you every minute of every day.
9. Bow with concentration. For example, prior to saying the blessing Modim in the Amida, have in mind something that recently that happened for which you are very grateful. The physical act of bowing combined with this explicit memory will make your prayer more powerful and meaningful, and ingrain the appreciation deeper in your psyche.
10. Pray before embarking on each trip – walking, driving or riding. In fact, Rabbi Arush says that it is important to say Tefillat HaDerech – The Wayfarer’s prayer – before every time you walk out of the house to go somewhere, even in your neighborhood! It is that dangerous to be out on the street. Just say the blessing without Hashem’s name (ie without saying the blessing itself): “Baruch Shomeah Tefillah.” Thank Hashem for the successful completion of each journey as you are nearing your home also.
When you do this He will be with you throughout the trip and you will not take for granted a safe and successful arrival. Keep track of near-misses that occur while you are out and about. Thank Hashem for each one of them and compile a list. Review these frequently and you will understand how many times you have been saved from potential calamity and come to a deeper appreciation of His protection.
11. In the Tanya Chapter 46 the Alter Rebbe says that when a person studies Torah it is equivalent to receiving an embrace from Hashem. Feel Hashem hugging you while you are learning Torah, especially when studying something that's difficult for you.
I hope that one or two of these strategies appeal to you. If I struck out, that's okay. Hopefully this article will stimulate you to develop some regular practices that resonate with you.
These exercises may seem small, but the truth is that the small things influence our lives in a much more meaningful way than the big things. Emuna is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger you become. We were put into this world to learn emuna and become closer to Hashem. We don’t need to roll in the snow or fast once a week – just a few simple, enjoyable, free focused activities a day can greatly increase our awareness of our loving Father who just wants to be close to His children!
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