Reb Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks: The Meaning of Life… both sweetness and bitterness

IMG_20190827_095142Excellence Reporter: Reb Brian, what is the meaning of life?

Reb Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks: Let’s look at Deuteronomy, 11:26-28

רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה
“See, I set before you today blessing and curse” 

This is the message to us in every moment: life is both blessing and curse, pleasure and pain, sweetness and bitterness, fullness and loss. 

אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ … אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙
“Blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot … that I command you today, and curse, if you do not listen…”

Both blessing and curse are ever-present features of outer experience. Nevertheless, there is an inner potential for either blessing or curse in how we relate to our outer experience:

“If you listen… today” – that is, if you can be present with both blessing and curse, receiving it as mitzvah, as commandment, and surrendering to the truth of your actual experience, then you can notice: beyond the sorrow and joy, there is a blessedness that comes from simple openness to the moment – a blessedness which is awareness itself, which is knowing yourself as this awareness. Then, even the curses are like blessings, because through awareness of the curses, you can come to know yourself as blessedness. 

“And curse, if you do not listen” – that is, if we don’t receive the present moment as it is, with its mixture of blessing and curse, we forfeit the deeper blessedness which is our birthright and our nature. 

וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם
but turn away from the path that I command you today…”

The path is always present before us, if we would turn toward it rather than resist it.

לָלֶ֗כֶת אַחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְתֶּֽם –
“and run after other gods, whom you have not known…”

When we turn away from the present moment, “running” in our minds after the blessings we want, or running away from the curses we don’t want, we sacrifice the Real for the imaginary, worshiping the idols of thought and ignoring ever-present Reality. Then, even the blessings can be like curses – taken for granted, missed meetings with Reality. 

So, embrace life as it is: blessing and curse, pleasure and pain, sweetness and bitterness, fullness and loss, and uncover the deeper blessedness of Being – the blessedness which is not at all separate from the vast openness of awareness that you are:

וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֞ לִפְנֵ֣י ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ
“And you shall rejoice before Reality, your own Divinity…”


~Reb Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks is a Jewish spiritual teacher and musician. He has been teaching the practice of Presence (meditation, mindfulness) and Judaism since 2006, and founded Torah of Awakening in 2007. Reb Brian Yosef received s’miha (ordination) as Minister of Sacred Music (Reb Yosef Briah Zohar, Menatzeiakh, Ba’al Tefilah) from Reb Zalman z”l (2012), Spiritual Teacher and Awakener of Souls (Morei Rukhani uM’oreir N’shamot) from Shaykh Ibrahim Baba Farajaje (may his secret be sanctified) and Rabbi SaraLeya Schley (2012), certification as Teacher of Jewish Meditation (Moreh L’hitbodedut) from Dr. Avram Davis (2004), and holds a Bachelor in Music from the Eastman School of Music (1991).

Copyright ©2019 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Awakening, Judaism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.