"The Secret Life of God"
May 25--Spiritual teacher and author Rabbi David Aaron says that if kabbalah is a secret, then the secret is out. But, he says, the true secrets of kabbalah are experiential. Itís like the taste of chocolate is a secret, nobody can tell you what chocolate tastes like my book is just a menu. Itís not the meal. You can read the menu and it can sound delicious, but if you eat the menu it tastes horrible, he says. Aaron may be offering only the menu, but his newest book, The Secret Life of God: Discovering the Divine Within You (Shambhala; $21.95), will whet the appetite for the entire meal.
On June 7, Aaron will be visiting Chicago to present his book at a lecture sponsored by the Torah Learning Center in Northbrook. Though he will discuss what he says can only truly be understood through experience, Aaron possesses a talent to present existential concepts in a concrete and applicable way.
Regarding his book, Aaron says, It is deep but it is simple Iím not interested in sounding spiritual or mystical, I am really interested in whatís called píshat, the simple meaning in life which is really the deepest.
Aaronís newest book is certainly not his first effort to spread what he describes as universal and relevant ideas. He is the founder and dean of Isralight, an organization with centers and programs throughout North America and in Israel, a frequent guest on radio and television, and an author of several books. He hopes to create a library of Jewish inspirational literature and has already written four more books that have yet to be published.
The Secret Life of God deals with age-old questions that speak to people of all faiths: Who or what is God, Why is there suffering in the world, and Does God need me. Aaron says the book is everything you wanted to know about God but were afraid to ask.
What makes Aaron so successful at reaching his audience is that he sees his teachings as a result not of research, but of his own life experience. I think one of the reasons why people feel really comfortable with me and why people find a lot of satisfaction in the answers that I share is because their questions are my questions, and I have struggled with these questions probably as much as most people have.
The issues Aaron seeks to address are questions that every individual tends to ask at some point in life but doesnít always have the time or persistence to answer. For Aaron, these philosophical questions gnawed away at him at a young age. As a child, I was intensely aware of pain and suffering in the world because my mother is a survivor of the Holocaust, and though my mother never spoke about the Holocaust, I was very aware that a there was a group of people that very intensely wanted to kill us. And I felt that had I been born a few decades earlier, then I too would have been a victim, he says.
Aaronís questions eventually led him to embark on his own spiritual journey with the help of several great teachers of Torah and kabbalah. Thatís why Aaron says his book is really a book about himself. The book is my life itís the way I view life, the way I believe Judaism views life What inspires me is finding a life that is meaningful and purposeful Purposeful means I am committed to a purpose created in myself, but that doesnít mean my life is yet meaningful, because I havenít found a way to live my purpose that is meaningful, whereby my life becomes a means to some greater end.
The book speaks to the numerous people who Aaron says are becoming more and more disillusioned with modernity and are searching for greater spirituality. The progress is great, but it wasnít meant to be the answer to our soulsí problems. It was meant to set the stage so that we could be more free to address our soulsí issues Thereís a certain disillusionment when once you finally get what you thought was going to be the answer and find that itís not, then thereís this upsurge of renewed search.
Though Aaron believes his message is essential, he admits that not everyone would agree that kabbalah should be taught to such a wide audience. This book is in a certain way going out on a limb, because what I am sharing here are teachings that are not really being shared I think weíve come a long way from Hebrew school, and the God I met at Hebrew school doesnít satisfy me today in my adult life.
People are reading some very sophisticated stuff of other religions and teachings, and Jewish education has to be ready to open up its brightest light.
Ultimately, Aaron says his book, and his teachings in general, are only a means to the end. The reader can gain the knowledge he presents in its pages, but to live according to its lessons takes work. On various levels, I wouldnít want to say that one who does not live a Torah life is not a good person. I do believe the guidance of Torah enables us to be even better. When a person wants to be a master pianist, they realize that in order to do that, there is much investment of learning, practice and guidance. I am interested in enabling people to become outstanding human beings, and I donít believe becoming an outstanding human being is any less of a challenge than becoming an outstanding pianist.
Rabbi Aaronís lecture will take place Monday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Chicago North shore Hotel, 933 Skokie Blvd. in Northbrook. Tickets start at $10. For more information, call (847) 272-7255.
Revealing the secret oneness of God
"The Secret Life of God"
"There are lots of books for sale on kabbala and Jewish mysticism," says author and speaker Rabbi David Aaron.
"And when you are finished reading them, you are indeed mystified, unable to figure out what the author is talking about."
Not so with Aaron's books on kabbala. The popular author is back with his third book on the subject, The Secret Life of God: discovering the divine within you. Readers will discover that, like his other books, it is a blend of humor and insight, and offers clarity on a subject that can often be mystifying indeed.
The Secret Life of God is the result of the author's 25 years of research on a quest to "heal myself of theophobia - to free my soul from a pervasive fear of God and to find personal enlightenment and happiness." He found what he was looking for in kabbala.
Kabbala, explains Aaron, is the mystical interpretation of the Torah that exposes the secret life of God and our ultimate purpose on earth. It answers questions like: Why do I exist at all? Am I free or is life predetermined? What difference do my choices make?
Answering some of these questions may take only a chapter while others require a lifetime, the author notes.
God lives His secret life through us, if we let Him, maintains Aaron. "To live for yourself does not provide ultimate fulfillment and happiness. But when you make yourself into an instrument for God and make choices for God's sake - then you experience heaven on earth."
But don't assume the latter statement means your life will be a cakewalk. "Some people," he says, "look to religion to provide them with instant inner peace, spiritual contentment, and tranquility for their troubled souls." According to kabbala, just the opposite is true.
While the commandments make life more difficult, if you keep in mind that the theme of life is rising to the challenges, "then you can appreciate how the challenges raise the ante in the game." He uses the analogy of football - the rules make it more challenging, but also make it more fun and, ultimately, more fulfilling when you win.
On the flip side, a spiritual journey is not a grueling path of tediously observing endless thou shalts and thou shalt nots. In fact, says Aaron, one of the tools necessary for a spiritual journey is a good sense of humor. With humor, people can "get beyond their take on the situation and see it within a greater context, from a higher perspective."
Life is like a game of hide and seek in which we are seeking God's oneness, says the author. "To 'reconnect' is the real purpose of any authentic religion." In a game of hide and seek, the person is right there, but you simply can't see him or her from where you are standing. To find God, we simply need to change our angle of vision.
Too often, dynamic speakers come across as dry in their books, or authors who write with mesmerizing vision and clarity seem dull when they lecture. Aaron is both an energizing speaker and captivating author.
Rabbi David Aaron will speak on the subject of the secret life of God on Tuesday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandel JCC, cosponsored by Aish HaTorah and the JCC. Admission is $5. For more information, call 216-327-7277.