In order to show the quality of their line of merchandise, Payless Shoes opened a boutique store in a wealthy area and called the store Palessi Shoes and sold the same shoes as sold at its Payless stores, only marked up 1800 percent. People bought them. The store interviewed them and heard their impressions and pleasure with the shoes, and believing they have the value. When they were told these were Payless shoes, the people could not believe it and the company refunded the difference, but now with a new customer for Payless shoes.
What is our trust in finding happiness within the material and physical world costing us? Hashem is the One providing everything. We cannot take even one morsel of food without His help. Yet we use our imagination to inspire ourselves far beyond serving Hashem and doing His Will to the point where we loose sight that Hashem is providing it and we believe it is our inspiration and our imagination that is accomplishing the outcomes.
Teasing apart these distinctions becomes vitally important in a two world picture. What are we working for, to experience the simcha of being a bridge through which Hashem’s Will is manifest or a lower and transient pleasure we derive from His saying yes to the use of the imagination and intellect that Hashem allows us? These may not sound different at all. Yet one is real eternal pleasure and the other is a simulated counterfeit that actually robs the bank of holiness within our soul and feeds it to sustain darkness, keeping us confined in our urges with compassion trapped in self-direction.
Try for a moment to think of a pleasure in each category. Perhaps for the first, did you have ever a good davening? Or, did you ever have a close call and feel grateful to Hashem when you realize that He saved you, that something helped beyond what you understand? It is easy to think of the counterfeit pleasures, although we probably have not considered them counterfeit, but the Payless shoe experiment of the happiness of the customers with their marked up shoes is a great example.
Sit with the look and feel of these two pleasures.
Deep down, we have the real free will to make choices regarding our pursuits. Are we intellectually interested enough to consider expanding our definition of who we are to approach a path of pursuing a joy from becoming holy? We each have a life force that is hewn from the throne of Hashem Himself. The value of a life is because it is holy. What shall we do with that potential? Shall we make an effort to give it voice and expression and direct compassion towards others? It requires that in the moment of challenge we go beyond the reason and understanding of our urges and self-directed compassion. Instead we trust Hashem, with confidence that He is with us and that we will survive and that the challenge in front of us is part of the way Hashem will provide for us what we need to reach our goal of serving Him.
It is up to us. Start by becoming aware of the look and feel of each path and being inspired to find out more about going beyond the natural thinking of our instincts and urges.
For those who experienced trauma and alarm when young, it is possible to bring healing to where it is needed when we apply the wisdom of the Torah. Torah is true and all its paths are peace. We can learn and apply what Torah teaches to our deepest wounds. Hashem loves us. He awaits our initiation because we have real free will. After we fall and fall again in the pursuit of goals that seem to draw our urges for self-directed compassion, with that broken heart, we begin to realize that we are not in control and that is the beginning of understanding, that there is a higher wisdom, Hashem, and that we are creations. With that awe, we are able to begin to push beyond our reason and understanding, which has thus far not “delivered” good results.
One insight that may help regarding why we hold onto our stories is that although painful, whatever falsehood in it was positively reinforced and, at the time of forming, was associated with the caregivers involved. Even though the messages are hurtful, they were set within the environment set for our nurturing, for our dependency needs to be met. If it was broken then, at least we clung somehow and survived. And herein lies the ingrained reliance. We can let go of the falsehood and absorb the compassion intended, even if delivery by caregivers was inadequate. Our nefesh elokis can be redeemed from its confined place and our persona can properly reveal compassion.
On Chanukah, nine months after Passover, we are eating donuts instead of matzah, but the message of emunah and miracles is apparent. Matzah is the bread of emunah. The eight lights are the miracle Hashem granted to reveal for all generations until Moshiach that the emunah of the Maccabees sweetened the judgment against us so that the temple could be rededicated.
May we be reminded of emunah on Chanukah and remember Passover, the time of our redemption. And may we soon see the redemption, with singing and dancing and the coming of Moshiach speedily.