You can tell where Rabbi David Aaron's coming from, as we '60s kids liked to say, just by looking at the titles of his books: Endless Light, Seeing God, The Secret Life of God, Inviting God In and Living a Joyous Life. Add in the fact that Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, which his publisher describes as "an international organization dedicated to inspiring a renaissance in spiritual life" through programming in North America, Israel and South Africa, and it's clear what the rabbi focuses on in his life and extensive writings.
His newest book, published by Trumpeter, an imprint of Shambhala Publications out of Boston, is titled The God-Powered Life: Awakening to Your Divine Purpose, and it continues the theme he has pursued in his previous works. He begins as he has done in the past by using a personal anecdote.
He says that there are times when he comes home at night and feels really hungry. He makes his way immediately to the refrigerator, but after rummaging around for a time, nothing there calls to him: not the leftover tuna casserole or the easy-to-zap soy burger — not even the really delicious homemade stuffed cabbage.
So he closes the refrigerator door, only to make his way back to the very same spot within a matter of minutes. He tries again, as if somehow in that brief period of absence the choices may have changed.
Aaron states that we've all had this sense of hesitation at the refrigerator, which, though full to busting, winds up having nothing inside that might appease our hunger. And that's because, he posits, it's not food we're looking for. "The soul feels hungry," he writes, "and we confuse the soul's hunger with a hunger for food and hope that we can satisfy it."
Of course, we can't, no matter how often we try. Sometimes, we resort to food, then to a new outfit or a car, or to some sort of new-fangled gadgetry. We keep trying, hoping that somehow the emptiness inside can be filled with things, even though we know deep down that it will never work.
Sometimes, we get a temporary respite, a little lift from these pleasantries, these distractions, but then the "gnawing emptiness" returns. And we have no idea how to address the problem.
Full From Within
As Aaron sees it, The God-Powered Life is a book that will assist readers in comprehending why they feel this overwhelming hunger and help them to learn the best way to respond to such persistent emotions. The work is about finding something to quell the hunger "by tapping into our deepest resource for personal fulfillment and genuine self-worth."
The rabbi tells readers early on that they may be truly surprised to find how full they already are — and full from within. He writes: "Most of our problems are rooted in our narrow perceptions of ourselves and our lives. We are selling ourselves short and ripping ourselves off. Indeed we are all infinitely greater than we think we are, and our lives are intrinsically more meaningful. The way to connect to and fully appreciate this fact is by discovering our eternal and internal connection with the Great I — God."
According to the writer, finding a way to feel and express the connection to God is the most vital kind of work we can do during our lives because only through that connection can we truly be fulfilled, happy and at peace with ourselves.
Aaron states that to live a God-powered life, we first have to understand who we really are. "According to the Kabbalah, the mystical understanding of the Torah, each and every one of us is no less than an individualized expression of God — the Great I and Ultimate Self," states the rabbi. "The more we live up to who we already are in essence, the more we connect with God's endless wisdom, creativity, love, power, and goodness and serve as a unique channel for the Divine Presence on Earth. This is the secret to personal fulfillment and self-actualization."
As the rabbi maps out this journey to knowledge, he explains how interested parties must first get beyond their egos and look the whole notion of "existential loneliness" squarely in the eye. Every human being, he asserts, has two conflicting sides — the sacred and the creative — that need to be integrated before progress can be made.
Once that integration is accomplished, he says, we can feel divine self-worth and our lives "become a profound synergy of creativity and stability. We are filled with dignity, having achieved mastery over our environment, and we experience spiritual completeness, having achieved mastery over our inner self."
But the moment we start feeling such ecstatic heights, the rabbi warns that this signifies a danger point in the entire process. We must take a step back, gain some objectivity, and realize that the "awesome grandeur" we're sensing within us has not been personally generated, but comes from God. If we don't acknowledge this, our egos will use these powerful feelings of self-esteem to alienate us from our true selves, which are, of course, rooted in God and can be accessed "only by living our divine purpose."
'Good and Whole'
And yet, what constitutes this divine purpose?
According to Aaron, the Kabbalah teaches that although God is "good and whole," there is an aspect of God that wants "to justifiably achieve goodness and wholeness through struggle, choice, and hard work. We are that aspect of God. All our flaws, weaknesses, and problems are absolutely essential to fulfilling our divine destiny. Our divine purpose on earth is to overcome the bad and boldly choose to become good, whole, and godly."
By serving God's purpose, we achieve serenity, inner peace and happiness. This occurs, states Aaron, whenever we choose goodness over evil, love over hatred, truth over falsehood, and trust over despair. When we react this way, everyday life seems no longer full of petty detail, but becomes "full and momentous." As the rabbi puts it: "Happiness is always a matter of choice when we see in every challenge an opportunity to serve and grow toward our greater goodness, wholeness, and godliness."
God, in fact, asks us to be holy in the Torah: "You shall be holy, because I, your God, am holy." Holiness means we feel wholeness — being satisfied with who we are. When individuals choose love and do good deeds because of their intrinsic value and not because they expect some future benefit, argues Aaron, "then every fiber of our being is alive here and now and filled with God's presence. The Kabbalah offers us a clear road map directing us in how to become whole; how to align our individual self with the Universal Self and serve to channel God's presence into everything we think, say, and do."
In the end, though, Aaron has to admit that healthy and happy souls remain "forever lovesick for God" because the more we are aware of our soul's desire to live up to our divine purpose, the more sadness we feel over the lack of greater connection.
Paradoxically, argues the rabbi, our happiness lies precisely in the extent of that sadness. It is what keeps us moving forward in our spiritual quest, motivating us to seek more. It's the guarantor that the journey toward goodness and love will never end, and that we will continue to move ever closer to what he calls our "Divine Endless Self."
As Aaron writes: "Remember, life is not a race but a journey. And God is with you every step of the way." The God-Powered Life lights that path with a spirited clarity.