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Single minded determination

August 2, 2013

I noticed the following quote on Twitter a few days ago and thought it was a good Blog topic – “Your mind will quit 100 times before your body ever does. Feel the pain and do it anyway.”

This week’s Torah Parsha (portion), Re’eh (Courtesy of – ), begins a series of three Torah portions (Re’eh, Shoftim and Ki Seitzei) that contain the majority of the commandments found in Deuteronomy.

It opens with Moses declaring, “See, I present before you a blessing and a curse.” This statement was Moses’ exhortation to the Jewish people that the choice of whether or not to accept the Torah is nothing less than the choice between blessing and curse. It was followed by a formal, national declaration of this understanding on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.

Moses next warned that upon settling the Land of Israel, the Jewish people had to commit themselves to an unrelenting campaign to wipe out every vestige of idol worship. Related to this is the commandment banning private altars, even if used in service to G-d. Instead, the nation had to focus its service only at designated locations prior to the building of the Temple, and then in Jerusalem once the Temple would be built.

Even after the nations and their gods had been cut down, the Jewish people could not even learn more about their practices, for fear that they would be drawn into their evil forms of worship.

Similarly, Moses warned against falling prey to false prophets that may arise among the nation. Even if the prophet is able to perform miracles or other extraordinary acts, he must be utterly rejected and put to death if he attempts to convince the Jewish people to go against the Torah or to follow other gods.

This is true on national level, and it is true on a personal level as well. Should a brother, a wife or close friend try to entice an individual to stray from the path of serving G-d, he or she must be shown no mercy. Should an entire city go astray, that city must be destroyed and left as an “eternal heap,” never to be rebuilt. Such is the tremendously powerful need to maintain the sanctity of the nation’s commitment to G-d.

Re’eh continues with an explanation of many of the laws associated with kosher animals. Animals must have completely split hooves and chew their cud to be kosher; fish must have fins and scales. As for foul, Moses listed the birds that are forbidden.

Moses also established a seven-year tithing cycle. After the Kohen’s portion has been taken from produce, and the Levite’s tithe has been taken, the owner must take a second tithe. In the first, second and fourth years, that portion is either taken to be eaten in Jerusalem, or it is redeemed for money, which must be spent on food in Jerusalem. In the third and sixth year, the tithe is separated for the poor.
The seventh year is the Sabbatical year. All produce is declared ownerless and permissible for anyone to take. Additionally, according to Torah law, all personal loans are forgiven in the seventh year. (Over time, the Rabbis saw that people refrained from lending money to the poor. They therefore instituted several corrective measures to protect lenders and ensure that the poor could still obtain loans.)
Re’eh also includes the commandment regarding the treatment of Jewish slaves upon their release. The master is required to make sure that his former slave is able to get a proper new start. He must give him cattle, produce and other generous gifts. This Torah portion concludes with the requirement to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the three Festivals, Passover, Shavuout and Succot, and to bring offerings in honor of the occasion.

As mentioned above the Parsha says – “See I place before you today a blessing and a curse… “(Deuteronomy 11:26) Moses enumerated to the Jewish nation the blessings they would receive for fulfilling G-d’s commandments and the curses they would receive if they didn’t.

I understand this to be talking about free choices that we can make, understand (some of the commandments are not easy to understand) and make sense in the context of our religious beliefs and life in general, but there are other choices that are much harder to make.

20130801_093758_e61f8c8a9eThis week on Twitter (yes I am a fan) I was following the Tour of Poland bike race and a young cyclist Taylor Phinney had a lead on the peloton. Taylor went on stay in the front of the peloton and wins the stage. In his Twiiter quote he says – “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to win a race like that. Went w/my gut, put my head down and never looked back. Thank you for all your messages! #tdp2013”.

How did he manage to stay ahead of the peloton and win?

This week in my reading and podcasting I have some answers:

  • I am currently reading the Life Story of Aharon Margalit – “As long as I live”. The sheer will and determination of a very sick boy to recover from severe polio, survive cancer scares and to make such a success of his life is unbelievable. How he had the “mind” and will to survive while lying in a paralysed state in a sanatorium. On hearing he had cancer he started to cry. After realising he was crying he said to himself “suddenly I felt ashamed of myself” His Inner Voice said “you’ve had enough opportunities in your life to justify self-pity, yet you never gave into them. And now you giving up?,,,,Be true to yourself and your principles” – the strength of mind!!;
  • I read an article in Triathlon 220 Magazine on world champion triathlete Mirinda Carfrae on how she beats and plays tricks on her mind to get through tough training and races; and
  • I listened to the story of John Joseph (McGown) on the Rich Roll podcast. His story is just unbelievable. “John Joseph McGowan has been a lot of things in his life, a drug dealer, brawler, crack head, scam artist, hardcore legend, cult member, spiritual pilgrim, storyteller and more. He’s hated by many in the New York City scene and loved by perhaps an equal amount. He’s opinionated, honest and unwilling to compromise his beliefs. He is also the author of one of the funniest and most disturbing punk autobiographies in recent years.” Ben Conoley ( John is an Ironman triathlete and is the author of the book “Meat is for Pussies,” on vegan nutrition, training, and the healthy lifestyle. In the interview he does not mince his words and swears like a trooper, but it is worth listening to On the podcast he talks about how his “conversations” with mind saved him while in abusive foster care, in prison and doing triathlons. One of the quotes he said in the name of Bhagavad Gita “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” Another of his quotes – “The True Code of the Warrior is Never Give Up”.

The mind is like any other part of the body and it needs to be trained. John Joseph says you need to slap it with a stick. I am not sure what Rabbi Yisrael Salanter would say about that in teaching Mussar ( Jewish system for personal growth, specifically in the realm of character improvement). Your mind helps you make choices, but it also gives you the strenthgs to succeed and overcome difficulties. We all need to be strong!

To end a quote – “You can either throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face”

Post writing this Blog – James “the Missile” Magnussen won the 100m swimming world title. James the favourite in the Olympics last year came second and has been treated really badly by the Australian press and public. After winning the World Championship he said – ” The last 15 metres, I really used the last 12 months of experiences that I’ve gone through.” James could have easily given up, but used the past to see him win again!

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One Comment
  1. Mom permalink

    Loved the quotes, good on you for hanging in and never giving up. well written xxx

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