The Vilna Gaon tells us that if it were not for the opportunity for us to break our nature and correct our character traits, there would be no reason to be alive in this world.
The existence that we have is woven closely with our initial thoughts and emotions which, unfortunately, we do not truly see. What we think and feel is a visceral reaction somewhere after that initial thought!
Torah teaches us that because we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we are confused regarding our first allegiance – our awareness of Hashem is obscured by our survival instincts and concern for subjective goals. What we do not realize is that this confusion and our strong interest in subjectivity is a diversion of our spiritual life force from awareness of Hashem to self-absorption. To us, it does not feel like we are self-absorbed or involved with matters that are unworthy of the amount of energy they take. We are interwoven with the confusion, and Torah teaches us how to take that confusion itself and recognize Hashem so that we may redeem the Shechina from where it is concealed the most – in our nature.
We are familiar with commandments of the Torah that teach us to give the benefit of the doubt, to not bear a grudge or take revenge, and to not think of ourselves as better than someone we are finding fault with. Yet when we are emotionally feeling these things, telling ourselves the words of these commandments brings little comfort because the thoughts and emotions that are flooding our system argue with the simple truthful connection these mitzvahs are designed specifically for us to access when our nature confuses us.
The real challenge is to find a way for us to calm ourselves and move ourselves to follow these commandments sincerely. How can we stop shaking with anger or fear? How can we avoid feeling better than someone we have disdain for, someone we see doing something outrageous and mistaken?
The key is to remember that we are being given these circumstances specifically to redeem the Shechina from where it is hidden in our nature. If we remain focused on the circumstances, the thoughts and feelings we have argue with the mitzvahs and we look for a way to bend them so we can do what we feel naturally. The glue that keeps us connected to our nature is very strong however, that very glue is filled only by Hashem. That is the real free will that we have, to recognize our Creator, to realize we are a creation. We can develop the spiritual awareness of Hashem and what He desires of us in the moment. Recognizing Him as what fills the matter IS awareness.
And what does Hashem want? He wants a being that can recognize Him, that asks for its needs, upon whom He may bestow the good He desires to give us. He gives us real free will to participate in the process of receiving the good, a good that completes our soul, releasing something of His Infinity from being in exile, and brings us to spiritual maturity. Our true “self,” not our self-absorbed self. We need our natural, self-awareness as we develop from babies to adulthood, just like a banana needs it peel until it is ripe. How else would we comprehend what a “self” is? But once we begin to find more spirituality, we can start the process of spiritual maturity, one layer at a time, for a lifetime. We can dig down to below our natural reactions, lovingly and gently, yet with determination to unify our soul by receiving what is hidden in our nature into our hearts in a way that brings us to be a stronger receptacle and channel for bringing compassion into the world.
When our emotions are flooding us, we are being given the opportunity to bring a root element of either water, fire, wind or earth, or a combination of these root elements, from imbalance to balance. How? By loving Hashem and recognizing that His Power is filling all of what we experience.
We recognize that what is blocking our awareness of Him is our confusion, and that the confusion itself can be filled only by Hashem’s Power. Only Hashem can conceal Himself. With emunah, we recognize our Creator. There is no other Power.
Love Hashem and remember that His Love fills all the world and that He is Giving and loving and compassionate. This is a channel of love we open through which His Love embraces us as we empty our emotions into His Love, with the pleading that the infinity of His Power that animates our pain be given to us as a gift in a revealed form, as His Compassion.
Notice and name all of what we are feeling. Each strong thought and emotion that comes to mind, see its potency as being filled only by Hashem. Ask that the potency glue us to awareness of His Compassion and not to what we are experiencing, the confusion of our subjectivity and personal circumstantial goals.
This takes emunah to do. But more, it takes bitachon to know that Hashem will complete it for us. Hashem desires a being that can recognize Him, sincerely choose to be connected to Him, and to receive the benefit from the relationship. The simcha of experiencing that infinity in our hearts is a completion that is the greatest joy a person can experience, far greater than the outcomes of reaching any subjective goals.
Hashem knows our hearts. He knows our circumstances because He orchestrated them. Our focus at all times on awareness of Hashem and bringing imbalances in the root elements of fire, wind, water and earth in our system involves us with the purpose for our existence. This level of understanding – a mature understanding that brings Torah and Hashem’s Compassion into our understanding and into our heart – makes it possible for us to build our eternal identity.
The mistake we make if we are unaware of this could be that we make choices to make sure that our natural instincts are satisfied and gratified. We may be involved with mitzvah observance too, but, as stated by the Vilna Gaon, the whole goal of life is to break our nature. Doing mitzvahs helps us to break our nature – chesed, charity, brachas and more. Hopefully, our love and awe of Hashem lead us to getting closer and closer, bringing Hashem more and more into our hearts.
Nullifying our natural reactions gives us greater and greater pleasure in this regard and cannot be understood properly unless approached. There is much confusion in this regard. Yet each year we tackle our next step in making Hashem King over something in our nature. As we are soon going into Passover, the benefits of nullifying the ego are in the time zone itself. Perhaps we will experience that simcha of closeness to Hashem, and perhaps that will lead us to want to nullify the next set of confusing emotions that come up as well.
Nullifying makes us whole. Our confusion diminishes. We look at the mitzvahs of giving the benefit of the doubt, not taking revenge, and not feeling superior to those we discern are making errors differently. These mitzvahs then truly express who we desire to be for all eternity. We no longer argue with the mitzvahs because the power of the confusion has been absorbed and unified in our heart.
Our yearning is to reveal Hashem. To do so, we have to nullify what blocks us. We have to nullify the power in what argues with the mitzvahs.
And all we have to do really is recognize that the power in our arguments are filled with Hashem’s Power, concealed in our subjectivity and instincts. Once we realize it is His Power and not “our true self” that is in the confusion, we ask for that Power to glue us to awareness and compassion so that we may reveal His Compassion.
Movement within us can traverse and impact worlds.