Whatever circumcising the heart otherwise takes, when people have undergone abuse, trauma or tragedy, often there is an extra covering of tuma, a veil that conceals Hashem’s presence even more than normal, a layer that obscures the feeling of Hashem’s love and mercy in our hearts. Abuse and trauma are obviously not everyone’s experience, but, given the centuries of galus, as a people we surely have acquired more layers covering over our hearts that often keep us from remembering that we have an image of Hashem within that is of real value and is our essential identity.
We have real free will and the creative power of speech with which we may make a prayerful effort to respond to our life challenges out of a desire to connect to Hashem, to be glued to and interincluded with His attributes of love and mercy. With emunah, because we truly know Hashem is there with us – despite our nervous system’s reactions – we have the tools to take the first step. The first step is to make an effort to awaken the latent love for Hashem that is embedded within the innermost part of our hearts. Usually when we are struggling, we are NOT feeling love for Hashem, right? That is why it is the first effortful step.
How do we know that within our hearts we have a latent love for Hashem? We know intellectually that we have a latent love for Hashem in our hearts because intellectually, we know the truth is that we are an emanation of His love and mercy. It is because, with emunah, when we know that everything in the universe is filled with His absolute Oneness and He only creates good because His root characteristic is love and mercy, then we have that within us and although it is latent (hidden) and we are not in touch with it, we have the ability toknow intellectually that we have the power of prayer with which to “blow” our speech in personal prayer and weeping over the coals of our heart using free will and turn firey and often painfully passionate burning embers of shame and hurt into compassionate connection.
What stands in our way are our survival instincts. Our soul that has innate shame in not being Hashem Himself becomes further covered over when we have a naturally triggered negative response to some circumstance, That innate shame which misidentifies our identity as our material and physical image then energizes the judgments made by our intellect, and all that creative energy lodges in the covering over our pure and holy soul, mistaking the covering of the “me” for its true identity. In other words, that covering is our ego, our kelipa, and which feels like our very identity.
Thus, it is important to keep in mind that our identity and intellect have been “stolen” by the yetzer hara due to the confusion of mind that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil produced. In true reality, we remain with personal powers that are given by Hashem – tools of real free will and the creative power of speech – with which to fulfill the purpose of the creation – to interinclude all spiritual energy back to His Oneness even if we do not comprehend that we have these personal powers.
What does it feel like when we feel lack? Something hurts! We are shaking. Disempowered. Angry. Insulted. Reactive. Feeling shamed. We want to defend our honor or our property. We want to lash out.
Let’s call this what it is. A part of our soul is animating a part of the kelipa that we falsely believe is the real “me,” and we are ready to take strong action to defend ourselves from having whatever it is that we perceive is being taken away from us remain intact. That is our survival instinct. Rabbi Nivin teaches how to identify these false beliefs, about ourselves so that we can substitute true beliefs, with emunah and Torah as the guide.
Being able to begin to recognize the look and feel of the survival instincts and how the yetzer hara is deceptively interpreting for “our good” is the very first step. This can take a great deal of time. Introspection on our deceptions is the topic of elul, the time when we look inside to find what we choose to work on within ourselves, to bring ourselves out of slavery to freedom on Passover of that year.
It is important to remember that whomever may have triggered us probably was responding to a similar survival oriented feeling…and so we are able to understand how the clashes between people are really symptoms of not being able to inter-include one view with another. These are signs of the tohu that is embedded in our subconscious, the tohu that we are here to bring through our hearts to rectification. What does it feel like? It feels like we are swimming in a pile of gook and thrashing around to do whatever we can to save ourselves/protect ourselves/ annihilate the cause of being a flood of negative reactivity. What we forget is that the other person may also be exhibiting these same symptoms. Understanding the overall picture helps us to remember Hashem and bring Him into the picture along with the innermost purpose of our lives…which is to inter-include everything back to Hashem’s Oneness. We can “hold space” for the other person who may have lashed out and thereby help ourselves regain our footing as made in His Image rather than having a shame response. We can pray and ask Hashem to please help all of us connect to Him and that the dross we unintentionally express and amplify should all fall off.
On Rosh Hashana, we ask for another year. We tell Hashem that we understand the design and where our soul is trapped in corrupted kelipas. In elul we find the high Torahs that Hashem is One, all compassionate, the King in the field. On Rosh Hashana, we ask for a good year and we understand and accept that we are here to bring the holy sparks of tohu embedded in the kelipas and unable to otherwise interinclude with other holy sparks, through our hearts to tikkun, to rectification. We wish to remain loyal all year to the understanding of Hashem’s absolute Oneness as a lovingkind and merciful Being. How do we demonstrate this loyalty? We demonstrate it through our speech and deeds that reveal His love and mercy. We ask Hashem for a good year of health, money, and to have all our dependency needs for ourselves and our families and our community and people met so that we are supported while we go about the effort of re-assigning the spiritual energy embedded in what conceals Hashem’s presence that causes us distress into strong, transparent windows that reveal His love and mercy, which as explained above, are latent in our hearts.
How do we do this?
When we are upset, we realize the opportunity at hand. Our choice is connection, clinging to Hashem and the abstract spiritual reality over the drives of the survival instincts and ego-driven thinking.
Make an effort to awaken the latent love for Hashem that is embedded within the innermost part of our hearts.
Speak out loud to Hashem, knowing that He is truly here. “I love You Hashem and I understand the design.”
I am not feeling Your Love and Mercy. Describe this “galus” to Hashem along with all the negative consequences of having our soul trapped in thinking that covers over His love and mercy, concealing from us the feeling of being in His loving arms.
Tell Hashem that we do not wish for the consequences of the covered over thinking. Instead we choose geula – make the effort to do the mitzvahs of loving Hashem and recognizing the design with awe, that Hashem creates everything just to give us this opportunity to be G-d- like, to use the latent love and mercy in our hearts as the starting point to speak from and to our broken hearts, weeping. We are making this effort to resist the natural drive to express our pain. The effort to feel love for Hashem and recognize the design does not come to mind naturally, However, the more we do it and see how there is a positive effect that helps us not fall into our natural drive, the more natural it becomes. Our emunah grows and is more accessible in the moment. The “look and feel” of being in the survival instinct and seeing its futility and that we have a real choice we are given powerful free will and speech to make. Once that inner movement which is the effect of the prayerful effort is felt, we have more trust in the process.
We ask Hashem to please grant that the creative power of speech from our heart be accepted. We ask that Hashem re-form all the spiritual energy into an eternal identity for us as choosing to respond as someone made in His Image. We ask that the spiritual energy trapped in the kelipa, that wants to fight back, to lash out, to hurt in order to protect, instead become the doorway through which the absolute truth of His Love and mercy be seen in the world. We ask that our speech and deeds reveal Hashem’s love and mercy and not our natural drives.
How will this doorway reveal Hashem? When Hashem grants success, the dross falls away and the life force that was animating the pain is now free to shine in its true form, a spark of Hashem’s absoute Oneness filled with love and mercy, that is no longer hidden and covered by survival instincts. What we falsely thought we had to do to protect ourselves falls away as the true self is now free to shine its true identity as made in Hashem’s image.
By using free will in this way, we basically are creating our eternal identity within love and mercy and by acting like Hashem – doing the mitzvahs of love and awe of Hashem – we inoculate ourselves from the bread of shame, that after 120 years we will remember that we did act like Hashem and use the creative power of speech with the free will choice He gives to be loving and create loving spiritual entities out of raw material.
Still feeling the distress, thank Hashem. Tell Hashem that we are not feeling HIs love and mercy in the deepest part of our nervous system, our survival instincts, and that we want to reveal His Love and Mercy so that we may serve Him, but in order to do so, we need to feel His Love and Mercy. Ask Him to please help – our role is effort, and that is closeness. We love You Hashem. We understand how You have made us and why, we understand the design. We know success is only up to Hashem.
“ I love You Hashem and understand the design. It is my choice to live connected to the abstract spiritual reality of the world, that Hashem is One and all good. Please help me move away from the drive that is my survival instincts that wants to express itself with lashing out and physicality according to the material and physical world. Instead, I wish to reveal Your love and mercy. Help me take the strength from this distress and connect it to You through my love for You and my awe in the design. Please give me that strength as a bonding to feel Your love and mercy so that i may reveal it in the world.” Keep breathing with all the negative emotions side by side in the heart with real love for Hashem and with real awe for Hashem. Holding all the emotion in the heart with yearning to reveal Hashem’s love and mercy and asking to feel that love and mercy to do so, keep breathing and speaking out loud to Hashem.
Something “chemical” happens in our heart. It might feel for a split second like an opening. Hopefully, there will be a calming, AND a healing. the positive spiritual energy animating the negativity “jumps ship” to the real love for Hashem and awe we feel in our hearts and the dross falls away. By feeling love for Hashem and awe for Hashem, we were like Hashem, Who is all lovingkind and merciful. We start the ball rolling, so to speak, in order that we make a causative act – prayer – knowing that there will be some beneficial effect, because prayer is causative. prayer is built into the creation as a natural cause for an effect.
When we do this, we are forming positive spiritual entities that are there for us the next time that situation presents itself and the hope and prayer is that we can remain loving and not revert to survival instincts and lashing out and negativity as solutions. and our survival instincts become reliant on Hashem for our survival which is the real emes.
We are enough to serve Hashem and make our lives meaningful. We have powers of free will and speech to discover and use more and more. We peel off layer after layer – lovingly and gently as Rabbi Nivin coaches the chaburas. We build our eternal identity through our choice to make this effort, an effort that is 100 percent within our free will to chose..
May our efforts bring us out of galus and may the geula soon be revealed.