The “Natural” Approach to Birth Pangs

Dear Friends,
According to the advocates of natural childbirth, it is better for the mother to be awake during the birth pangs so that she can become a partner in the process of giving birth. As indicated in previous letters, Jewish tradition favors this natural approach with regard to the birth pangs of the messianic age. Rachmana - the Loving One - wants us to be spiritually awake during the birth pangs so that we can participate in the process of giving birth to the new age of enlightenment, unity, and shalom. And this process begins by developing enlightenment, unity, and shalom within ourselves. We should therefore focus on activities which lead to this goal such as Torah study, prayer, deeds of lovingkindness, sharing our resources with the needy, improving our character traits, forgiving others, and making peace with those we have quarreled with. In addition, we should strive to avoid words and deeds which harm or degrade ourselves and others.  
We can easily get discouraged and despondent, however, when we witness the power of evil in the world. We may wonder if our individual and collective attempts to give birth to a new world will ultimately succeed when we witness the enthusiasm and the strength of those who call for jihad and celebrate death.
There is a danger that such discouragement can lead to passivity in the face of evil. After the attack on the World Trade Center, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Horowitz - known as the “Bostoner Rebbe” - addressed this issue, and I would like to share with you an excerpt from the talk of this Chassidic leader:
“As we reflect on the evil of terrorism and the destruction of the World Trade Center, it is essential to focus on the concept that good is more powerful than evil; that each of us has a greater power to build, and to heal, much more so than those who might succeed in destroying and killing.”
The Rebbe adds: “Our Sages, of blessed memory, tell us that the force for good is 500 times stronger than the power of evil. If evil by the hands of a few people can create so much suffering, pain and devastation, just think how much more opportunity there is for the multitude to do good, to move in the opposite direction from evil: comforting, healing, and building. Each and every one of us possesses such a great potential for good to contribute to civilization and the world. This is a powerful message. We are therefore the bearers of not just a good message, but of an action plan to build a better world. Our inadequate feelings and emotions have to be put aside at times, in order to direct our energies to creating a better world through building a better community, a better family, a better self, through attaching ourselves to our Creator.” (Jewish Observer, Cheshvan 5762, October 2001)
This message can help us to understand why we should not depend on the  media for our sense of reality. The media tends to focus on the “sensational” news of scandals, conflicts, and violence, while the good and loving deeds which add life to the world do not usually get the same attention. In addition, the reports in the media are not always accurate, and they can reflect the bias of the one presenting the news or commentary. We should therefore not become addicted to getting the news from the media, so that we can maintain a balanced and healthy perspective on life.
Another reason to avoid an addiction to the media is because it leads to the illusion that we are involved in the “action”!  This addiction causes us to become spectators of the birth pangs rather than participants in the natural process of giving birth to a new world. The observance of Shabbos can help to weaken this addiction, for on Shabbos, we put aside the newspapers, and we close our computers, radios, and television, in order to communicate on a deeper level with our own souls and the souls of others.
The above insights are especially relevant for the new month of Ellul which begins today. Ellul is the month before Rosh Hashana, and it is a month which is devoted to “teshuvah” – spiritual return and renewal. Ashkenazi Jewish communities blow the shofar at the end of each weekday morning service during this month –a reminder to awake from our slumber and become active in the life-giving process of teshuvah which will hasten the birth of the age of redemption.
Have a Good Month, and a Shabbos of Shalom!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)
Related Comments:
1. Hazon participant, Sarah Shapiro - a noted and gifted writer - wrote a moving article on how she overcame her addiction to checking her e-mail first thing on the morning. In one paragraph, she writes:
If, indeed, I was then greeted by the news, "You've got mail," proving that there were People Out There who thought enough of me to send me messages, I was reassured of my existential importance.
In this article, she tells the fascinating story of how she found a more meaningful way to start the morning –  a way which helped her turn even the most difficult encounter during the day into a positive and growing experience. Her article, “I Got Mail,” appears on the website, and the following is a direct link to the article:  
2. Our previous letter, “Birth Pangs,” appears in the archive on our website. The following is a direct link to this letter:  

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