Torah teaches us that everything is an emanation of Hashem coming from the sefiros through to this physical world. When we accept that Hashem’s love is surrounding us and filling us even though we do not perceive it, and when we accept that value means lasting value, which is Hashem Who is eternal, we have real tools to help us in moments of fear, anger, sadness, pain, and loss.
When we are in the throws of fear, anxiety, anger, depression, loss, jealousy, or anything that is causing us to feel disconnected, how does it help to accept that Hashem is all loving and that He is the real value to which we desire to connect?
It seems to us from our circumstances and our logical mind that there are many confusing pieces to the situation and many of them may be totally out of our hands, and it may even be life-threatening or heaven forbid fatal. How do our survival instincts and all the rational thinking that our experiences tell us could be powerful in producing the desired results EVER come instead to realize that Hashem is surrounding us with love in this very moment and that all we want is to reveal Hashem?
The primary battle of our lives is for what inclination will run our hearts, generating our speech and deeds. Will it be our life coach yetzer hara, who is evil through and through and desires to dominate our heart so he can accuse us in the heavenly courts as the Satan and then as the Angel of Death, take our lives chas vshalom for sinning? This is the natural progression of our self-intersted thinking if we do not wake up to something else. We want something, we are frustrated, that stress tempts us to be aggressive and chas vshalom commit an aveira out of self interest.
Or will we wake up to what Torah tells us, that there is Hashem, and not to serve any idols, and that He is One, although he appears as many different forces. Intellectually we submit to the truth of His Oneness, but how do we get that into our hearts, into our emotions? All there is in the world is Hashem although He is Elokim, manifesting in many myriads of forces and creations, including us! He is animating our body and circumstances as well as giving us the breath of life. How do we get our self-interest out of the way so that our hearts willingly and lovingly choose His Lovingkindness to shine into the world through our speech and deeds?
Let’s talk about our hearts.
How many of us have felt things as if they are happening and know that it is not happening enough to not react? How many of us understand that if we feel something hurtful, what is hurtful is our interpretation? Do we realize that a thought pattern has been triggered in our mind that has something false obstructing the sefiros that comprise our higher soul? The obstruction is in our heart’s memory, having had an experience and developed a bad habit or coping mechanism. How many of us realize that it is a kindness from Hashem that the thought pattern has been triggered because part of our soul, the sefiros that Hashem creates our lives with, has been captivated unwillingly and animating false beliefs and “idols” within our hearts and is yearning to be healed and reconnected to Hashem? What if we have been “this way” for our whole lives? Do we realize that the very thought itself that is causing us pain is vitality and strength that desires connection to Hashem? The purpose of the yetzer hara is for us to pass the test so its vitality and strength do not dissipate into nothingness, despite the yetzer hara’s truly evil intent to destroy us.
Our unconscious is aware of two basic true lackings. We are lacking awareness of Hashem’s surrounding and ever-present love. We are lacking in the capacity to be as compassionate as Hashem, because He is Hashem and we are only creations made in His Image, capable of emulating Him but never being able to be Hashem. We are lacking the love we need, and we are lacking the value that comes from being contributory to the world community as Hashem is, compassionate, merciful, patient, true – the thirteen attributes we cry out all of Elul. Our unconscious knows these two shortcomings – the lack of love and value – are true but it does not relate where those emotions come from back to Hashem. Instead, we project the apparent cause of these lacks onto the people and circumstances around us, falling into despair, frustration and aggression and possibly sin.
Despair is the handiwork of the yetzer hara, of its evil intent to destroy us with its tests. When we know for certain that all there is in the world is Hashem and His Love is constantly with us by virtue of us being alive and in the physical world and that He is Value because He exists eternally, we can pass our test. Our test is to comprehend deeply these truths, turn in relationship to Hashem Who is before us at all times, and tell Him that we do not want our hearts to bind our soul to the images of the yetzer hara that are bringing us to despair and tempting us towards aggressions that may be sins. Rather we only want Hashem. All we want is Hashem, to reveal His Compassion and, in so doing, to be connected to eternal value, to His Value, by choosing to see ourselves as small and beloved creations that are not autonomous and independent but rather as creations here to cry out in prayer to Him. Hashem is the source of all love, care and protection – no other! That is the effort we are here for. To call out the despair with love in our hearts because our emunah tells us that He is all love and we wish to cling only to His Truth, His Value, His Protection. All we want is Hashem and we ask that what obstructs Him from being present in the world be made translucent within us, that the place in our hearts that feels despair and is obviously blocking a revelation of His Lovingkindness and Value be filled instead with a revelation of His Lovingkindness and Value. How? By our removing our emphasis on our self-interested ego and natural survival instincts in favor of emphasis on prayer, Torah learning, mitzvahs and emulating Hashem’s 13 attributes and emunah and bitachon. THIS is value because we use free will to attach to Hashem Who has lasting value.
Once we accept as true that our unconscious knows our lacks – lacking awareness of Hashem’s love and lacking the ability to be Hashem – and once we accept that the yetzer hara is empowered by Hashem to test us – to produce false imagery for our imagination and survival instincts to build one thing from another from these two lacks, we have the knowledge and wisdom to field our impulses and negative reactions. We understand how it is possible to feel something is true when it is false – the yetzer hara has created an image that has triggered our neurology and so it feels real, but it has a faulty basis. The falseness is hidden from our conscious mind – it is the investigation into the subconscious and unconscious and the wisdom from Torah that we need to raise our conscious mind to the false imagery of the yetzer hara.
Is what we feel rooted in lack of love or lack of value? If so, the yetzer hara has been exposed! Why? Because we are NOT lacking in love, we are only lacking in sensing the love that is there. And we are not lacking in value, we are only lacking in the ability to be Hashem Himself, not in the ability to connect to Hashem by emulating Him and doing His Will. THE IMAGES OF THE YETZER HARA THAT BOTHER US ARE NEVER TRUE.
With that in hand, we can investigate our reactions. Negative beliefs fall into one or the other or a combination of lacks in love or value.
And once we see it is a test, do we despair? Or do we now pray to Hashem, call out in relationship, Hashem I see where the trap is and I do not want this in my heart anymore. I only want You. From this part of my thinking, I wish to reveal You. Please help.
And that is what we are here to do. When we do this, we remove the obstructions that conceal the sefiros – we make our hearts a vessel for Hashem – and our speech and deeds bring more light into the world.
May we all use free will to just want Hashem and may the joy we experience in Adar grow and grow so much from the clarity we can achieve and the inner peace that we can feel that we soon see a new light in the world.
From Kol Toda for Adar THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
Purim is drawing near when we read the Megilla. As the story of the Megilla unfolds, things look bleak for the Jewish nation Haman, the villain, plots to annihilate them, and the king, Ahashverous, does his bidding. The tables start turning when the king asks for his “Book of Remembrance” to be read before him. This was a book in which people who had done favors to the monarchy were recorded. This was a turning point in the Megilla, and it has practical ramifications – the reader, when reading the Megilla, is required to raise his voice at this point. It is the point where the miracle begins to unfold What is the significance of this “Book of Remembrance” instigating the salvation? What is the secret of Haman’s great power? The Gemara in Chullin (139b) asks: “Where is Haman alluded to in the Torah? In the verse ‘Have you eaten from the tree’ [Heb: “Hamin Ha’etz” – “Hamin” same letters as “Haman”].” This apparently hints to the fact that Haman was hung on a tree. But it is really deeper than that. Haman symbolizes the Evil Inclination, the Yetzer Hara, whose root is in the primordial Serpent, as the Maharsha tells us – the root of Haman is from Eisav and Amalek who draw their power form the primordial Serpent. Who is Haman? Haman is a loyal son of a nation that is characterized by ingratitude. Chazal in Mechilta Beshalach tell us: “Amalek, a nation of ingrates, brings retribution on a nation lacking in gratitude.” Haman had everything he could want – sons, wealth and honor. He had it all, but it was all valueless in his eyes, he didn’t even see it. Why? Because one man didn’t bow down to him. His very name alludes to this – he is Haman, he wants hamon – lots and lots, and nothing is ever enough for him. Where is the root for this unquenchable thirst and bottomless pit of desire? From the Tree. Adam and Eve had every single tree in the Garden of Eden. One tree was all they could not eat from, and it was from it that they ate. The serpent caused them to doubt G-d’s benevolence and convinced them to eat from the tree by narrowing their vision to focus exclusively on the one thing that was prohibited to them. All they saw was what they didn’t have. The Evil Inclination to this day, employs precisely the same tactic. He narrows our vision and works hard, to pull a shade over our eyes so we don’t see the incredible gifts and countless blessings that fill our lives.
This is the root of Amalek. The power of closing our eyes to the good that we receive and surrounds us has the potential to seriously impair the course of history and the fulfillment of the plan of creation. It is what caused the first Sin (as we are told in Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer chapter 7), caused the Spies to slander the Holy Land, caused people to see the negative in each other in the Second Temple, leading to its ultimate destruction and our current long bitter exile. It is the very root of all pain and trouble as we are told in the Torah (Devarim 28, 47) “For you didn’t worship G-d your Lord with joy and goodness of heart from abundance of all.” Our mission and destiny in the world is to correct this primordial Sin, and erase the root of Amalek. When we work hard to keep our eyes open, to remember and see G-d’s goodness and focus on the blessings that fill our lives, we are rectifying that sin, and bringing the world to its ultimate objective. Therefore it is most appropriate that at the very moment that Ahashverous opens his “Book of Remembrance” and starts reading the favors people did to him in order to demonstrate his gratitude to them, that is the moment that marks the beginning of Haman’s downfall. Similarly, when one is in need of salvation, the most propitious way of achieving it is to “open our ‘Book of Remembrance'” and recall all of Hashem’s kindnesses past and present. This is the master-key that opens the Heavenly gates of salvation. Remembering G-d’s favors to us is not only a Biblical commandment (see Sharei Teshuva 3:17), it is also a great eye-opener – it helps us become aware of G-d’s magnanimous generosity, His supreme love, and to realize the extent of His amazingly considerate providence. Man is like a vessel filled with blessing that rains down on him from above. A vessel, can only be filled if it is intact. When the vessel is riddled with holes, holes of ingratitude and displeasure, no measure of blessing can fill the vessel – it will always be lacking. But someone who focuses on Hashem’s kindnesses is filled with gratitude and love of Hashem. His Vessel is filled and overflows – “You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows!”(Tehillim 23:5).
Dedicated to the elevation of the souls that lost their lives in the unforgivable Florida high school shooting and for somehow for Hashem to find a way comfort the tragic and horrific loss of life that has resulted, may we see a new light in the world soon and no more death or sadness.
Despair is intended for us to break through the illusions of self-interest and re-connect the strength of the despair, a spiritual energy that is part of our soul and trapped in the despair, to the true reality. We do this with wisdom from the Torah, emunah and bitachon that help us break through the the self-interested illusions generating the despair, despair built on false beliefs that we are lacking in love and lacking value.
We cry out to Hashem to heal the place in our heart that is feeling the strength of overwhelming pain and hurt and ask from wisdom and out of love for Hashem that He should help us become purified. We ask that this thought chain generating pain from our heart become instead a place that holds only Hashem. He who comes to be purified will be helped. Through such loving submission we reach the perspective of ourselves that Hashem desires. Our ego – as normal and healthy as it may be – is the obstruction blocking His Mercy from being perceived, our ego that thinks naturally about our self-interests, may we see a new light so that no one ever need to undergo a test of loss as tragic as we have been seeing.
It is His Will that we are here to reflect Hashem into the world over our natural instincts of survival and natural urges.
By investigating our thinking and finding where our pain is rooted in feeling a lack of love or a lack of value, we can spot the false beliefs and realize the yetzer hara has lured us with natural self-interest and survival instincts into the dark. In that moment, with wisdom of the Torah and comprehending consciousness and free will, we beseech Hashem with sincerity that all we want is Hashem. In that moment, we move past the constraints of the images of the yetzer hara that naturally lock us into ego and self interest and instead come to see that we are something far more than that lowly egoism, that we have made it to “nothing”, meaning that we see our mortality, our flesh, as creations who can reach eternal life by choosing connection over an egoistic sense of complete autonomous independent existence and finding our actualization in connecting to Hashem. This turn around IS our full actualization for this world and builds eternal identity.
Here a description of someone who tragically lost his family in a fire, Rabbi Gavriel Sassoon. He talks about this dissolving of despair and finding the reality of the world.