(by Christopher Fredrickson from Brutal Planet)
Last night I got home from work, I did my live Garden of Peace teaching for the international affiliate and I decided to wind down with Netflix. Now I have had this documentary in my instant cue for a few months and never sat down and watched it but I really meant to. Well last night, I curled up in bed started the documentary titled "Don't Stop Believing" about Arnel Pineda the new lead singer of Journey. With my popcorn and diet Dr Pepper in hand. I was tired but I was blown away by this guy's story. And I made this connection through watching this documentary about something I had been teaching for a while on the Garden of Peace, which is the concept of gratitude. What does this have to do with the film? Well I remember in the 90s when Steve Perry rejoined Journey and they released a new song entitled "When You Love A Woman" it was an incredible song, got lots of airplay. But soon after the success of the Greatest Hits package that included that song, Steve Perry disappeared once again to do his solo thing. And I remember outside of "Oh Sherrie" Steve Perry never had a hit without Journey. So why would he leave this band that took him to the height of his career? From hearing interviews with Steve Perry when I was younger, you really get the sense that Steve is rather an egotistical guy. He really didn't appreciate all he had received and what his fan had given him. He had this ideal that Journey was nothing more than a backup band for his voice. We will get to why this is spiritually significant in a moment.
After more than 10 years without an official lead singer, Journey started to drift into obscurity. Neal Schon, the guitarist fir Journey was looking for a new permanent lead singer for Journey and ran across Arnel Pineda on YouTube of him singing "Faithfully" one of Journey's biggest songs in the 80s. He saw that Arnel had that something that the band needed and contacted him to fly him out to the United States for an audition for Journey. And Arnel's story is rather interesting as you will see in this YouTube clip below: (But I would encourage you to check out the documentary "Don't Stop Believing on Netflix)
One of the things you notice in these clips of his story, is the amazing gratitude and humility that is within Arnel. To be able to sing with people he has great respect for and whom he looks up to. And I saw the look on Arnel's face all through the Netflix documentary and I said to myself, this is how our face needs to light up with the gratitude we have towards Hashem, and for one's wife. Because the stories are very similar.
I remember in the episode I did on gratitude (which actually went into several episodes) Rabbi Shalom Arush said for a person to write down all the little things one's wife does for them. No matter how small or how minute it may seem, one should grab a note book and document every time she makes dinner, every time she takes the children to school, every time she does his laundry, every time she offers a kind word, every time she does the smallest thing and you will see how much gratitude your wife deserves.
Gratitude is the key to resisting and starving the yetzer hara, it is what brings a man from egotism to humility, and in the case of Arnel Pineda, blessing is also very humbling. Cause as our sages say in Pirkei Avos, "be not like a servant who serves for the sake of receiving a reward, rather be like a servant who serves not for the sake of receiving a reward". This principle is embedded deeply in the words of our Melech Messiah Yeshua, when he said, "if you want to be greatest in the Kingdom then you must be a servant". When we see gratitude first hand and when we provide for someone who isn't able to provide for themselves, we make that connection with Hashem and we see the humility and the thing we learn about becomes real, and it becomes something that sticks with us, and becomes a part of us. Thus when one gives and is a servant to one's wife they are indeed being a servant unto Hashem because they acknowledge whom had given them their spouse. Praise to Hashem is then given and the systematic order of the world makes sense. And we realize how Hashem is at work 24/7 in our lives, through providing the oxygen that we may breathe, by providing the animals and the plants for us to eat, the rain for us to drink etc. This is a very Chassidic thing, the ideal of acknowledging that God is constantly at work and constantly providing for us.
Instead we tend to focus on the knowledge and becoming smart. Yet the right path of Torah observance is not really written in a manual, it is not stereo instructions. This is why each year when I have done the Chumash Hashavuah readings in the Chumash (Torah) Hashem shows me something different depending upon what is going on in my life that time. The same message is not given year after year yet we are reading the very same thing year after year. We see there is complexity but the ideal is not to fill our heads with knowledge as to what it all means but rather how it is we apply and experience and also how it is we adjust to bring shalom bayis. The absence of ego allows that, it is through being grateful and taking the next step of observance in shalom for the sake of Hashem as opposed to for the sake of self.
We can look at Arnel's story and say this is a story about a man who went from poverty to fame and fortune. I think that is a very linear way of looking at it and an incorrect way of looking at it. Instead what we should see is a man, who was provided an opportunity that was life changing, and as you can see in the clips....he is grateful. Now one might ask, with the egotistical ways of Steve Perry, if he were to rejoin Journey when they were looking for a new singer....would it have lasted? Chances are it would have been like the last time and lasted a year and then he would be gone again. Now the question then becomes given the humility of Arnel as you can see in these clips, do you think he would ever leave Journey to pursue something else and think he was too good for Journey? Chances are no. He has found his home and he is grateful. This is also one of the issues we see in the Hebrew Roots and how we see television stations, online ministries, terrestrial ministries, radio stations etc destroyed because we have too many Steve Perrys and not enough Arnel Pinedas. Our first and foremost message should be of the inner battle between the yetzer hara and the yetzer tov, as opposed to "Is Torah for Today", let us all start at step one. Let us purify ourselves before we step into the Bayis Hagmigdash, let us come to Hashem with a pure heart before we think it is our time to teach Torah. Let us be grateful to Hashem for all He has done, let us be grateful to our spouse then....we can learn Torah because then we can properly apply it. Cause Like Arnel, Journey wanted to make sure they could work with him, he could have had the greatest voice in the world, but the thing the band members wanted most, was someone they could work with. Be that person someone can work with and you will be blessed, your marriage will be blessed and every aspect of your life will be blessed.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)