With great gratitude for being alive and for having an existence through which my choice to reveal Hashem’s love and mercy has an ability to be expressed, it is becoming more and more clear that we are a spiritual being that has a body. Just as with any complicated machinery, like a car, a body that does not follow the manual (mitzvahs and middos) from its Creator can do damage.
Each year we try more and more to bring mitzvahs and middos authentically into our will, thoughts, speech and deeds. What can help us authentically desire, though, to bring more and more mitzvahs and middos into our will, thoughts, and deeds?
Learning Torah surely does. However, what if a person is not yet inspired to go and learn? What is it that can be said to help such a person consider exploring that option?
When a person is unfamiliar with Torah teachings, when there is an emotional challenge or a life challenge and a person contemplates, a person checks inside to find answers, where do the answers come from? The answers are coming from our survival instincts and from the best we can figure out based on material and physical reality. From the perspective of survival instincts, what is right and wrong become very relative. There do not appear to be absolutes, other than, perhaps, civil law to set boundaries on our choices.
How do we come to feel about ourselves? Do we measure ourselves by the outcomes of our efforts?
I remember Rebbetzin Jungreiss, of blessed memory, told a story about a friend who lost everything and did not want to live. The person was measuring value based on material and physical possessions and power and felt that identity wiped out. The story has a happy ending though.
The happy ending is to realize that when we consult only with our survival instincts, we are having a discussion with only the surface layer of our existence. The good news is there is far more.
There is a Creator Who creates us and our circumstances. When we have difficulties and we turn to the Creator, and tell Him about what we are experiencing and ask for help because we wish to reveal our true essence, our tzelem elokim, and not the messages of our survival instincts, we are having a dialogue that brings us closer to Him and fills us with light rather than despair, no matter what happens. The more we feel the survival instincts trying to dictate our conduct, the more we cry out to Hashem that we wish to bring His Love and Mercy even to here…to this part of our survival instinct…because we know that our survival depends only on Him and we trust in Him alone for our salvation. We know that everything He does is good even if it does not make sense in a moment to moment sequence. Dialoguing with Hashem along the sequence is how we keep ourselves from darkness.
Rabbi Nivin tells a story about the Steipler Rebbe who was in the Russian army and it was Shabbos and he did not have proper outer wear for the climate. In order to stay alive, he knew he was allowed to violate the Shabbos. Each moment, he kept asking himself if he needed to take the action that would violate Shabbos, was he that cold, or was he able to remain alive. Somehow he made it through alive without violating Shabbos. He was in constant prayerfulness with Hashem. Our survival depends on Hashem alone, not on the beliefs of our survival instincts based on knowledge of material and physical reality.
Who are we consulting in our moments of crisis? Are we huddling with our survival instincts whose intelligence comes from nature that is headed by the Soton, or are we connecting with the Creator in prayerful trust, with emunah, beseeching Him to help us?
Perhaps this is the question to inspire. Are we getting the very best advice we can and is it improving our lives and bringing us inner happiness, joy and simcha?
Good erev Shabbos and may these words help us ask the questions to lead us to a meaningful Elul and a shana tova of redemption b’ahava.