We come into the world and begin learning how to walk, talk, and do. Our parents and teachers help us to shape our thinking and our personalities form and develop.
At some point, hopefully, we begin a search to comprehend more about our inner being. Unfortunately, this may not be so easy. Our natural path does not lead us to the quiet, covered over spiritual path hidden within our lives.
There are so many people – Rabbis, Rebbetzins, trained Torah educators and more – who are attempting to help people ask the first few questions and sharing their journeys to explain why it is worthwhile.
We have real free will though. Hashem does not force us to pursue love and awe of Him.
It is enough to accept ourselves as we are, if we do. But would it be true to say that we are very hard on ourselves? And as a result, are we hard on others? Does that path feel powerful but out of our control?
A basic truth is that all there is in the world is Hashem and His Torah.
How do we understand our existence in relation to such a seemingly incomprehensible statement of truth? What are we not seeing regarding our lives that could help us strive toward living in a way consistent with that truth?
We have real free will. Yet our natural setting is for us to interact with the world based on our perceptions and our natural responses to those perceptions. And this is, indeed,the platform from where we begin to have the ability to connect Heaven and earth.
Our unconscious mind is under the realm of nature, not under the realm of the basic truth that all there is in the world is Hashem and His Torah.
We have thoughts that are in our unconscious mind that trigger our emotions, speech and deeds.
What if we came to understand that thoughts themselves, as deep within us as they feel, remain part of the natural world to which we may apply free willed choice to uplift the force with which we experience it from our subjective perspective to the truth that all there is in the world is Hashem and His Torah? We have free will to do just that. It is spiritually atomic energy. Our emunah is the key ingredient in the process of releasing our souls from the bonds of nature to receive and reveal Hashem’s love and Torah.
If something here inspires a look into how to begin a journey to bring more joy and light to existence, there are many places to turn. Please see resources at the bottom.
If, however, there is resistance to beginning such a journey, ask if you would benefit from receiving more love in your life? If there is resistance to saying yes even to that, just keep in mind that there is somewhere to turn if at some point that has appeal.
For those who might be interested in a journey but want to know what insights might come from it that will really bring more joy to life, here are a few:
We are a bridge between heaven and earth
Our hearts can receive and reveal immense love by being like and with Hashem because we are made in His Image to have a relationship with Him where we experience the love as we reveal it here, in the natural world, through our thoughts speech and deeds. The darkness in our life comes from natural unconscious thinking from which we can reconnect the strength of the darkness to become a connection that brings joy through us and to us. We have real free will and are made in Hashem’s Image and can therefore be like and with Him feeling more and more joy.
Althoughit may take awhile, we do not have to be resigned to living with pain and suffering or believe that our circumstances and/or coping skills are all there is.
Comprehending the role we can play in releasing from the confines of natural thoughts tremendous hidden love changes our understanding of who we really are in the most profound way.
Education helps to lift us up by broadening our understanding of how we are created and what our true mission is, both individually and collectively. Every single person has a soul and the real free will to choose, although we may not know where to apply that free will or understand deeply what is holding us back.
Emunah is the muscle we can grow to actualize the education. It is imperative that we find the emunah we have inherited from our patriarchs in order to actualize free will.
Rabbi Itamar Schwartz, author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evnah has many teachings for free available in English and Hebrew on finding our inner being and developing our true selves.
Devorah Yaffa Singer has a series of classes called Lights of Emunah that provide vital information to anyone interested in more on how to do this. Rabbi Aryeh Nivin has personal growth chaburas to provide a community and a variety of digestible tools to go through a personal journey. Rabbi Tzadok Cable teaches with great articulation and depth Torah to ground every step of the personal journey in truth. Tzipora Harris teaches from her own life experiences how to gain more and more clarity. There are many people sharing – Orit Riter, Rabbi Shalom Arush, Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburg, Gedale Fenster, Rabanit K. Sarah Cohen, and many many more.
The quote in the video above from Bilvavi is from this newsletter: Bilvavi.Shavuos.Newsletter
Although it may sound counter-intuitive to work on receiving Hashem’s radical acceptance of us when, in reality,, we are attempting to do teshuva on being distracted from G-dconsciousness, realizing that Hashem loves us and that we are in a relationship of love with Him IS a form of teshuva.
We tend to think that we have autonomous existence and that our existence is essential. These are the qualities that fell into this world from the broken world that collapsed because of these qualities. These qualities cause friction between entities and a false belief and use of powerful and damaging actions to “ensure” survival. Moving toward receiving radical acceptance from Hashem opens us up to realizing we are not alone nor are we essential. Hashem is essential and we are a part of Him. This is teshuva, a start of teshuva.
One might think, teshuva where I can take? Sure that sounds great. But in order to receive radical acceptance, we have to tell Hashem what our flaws are. Should we make the mistake of thinking Hashem will pour love upon us radically without our turning our face toward Him first, we would then probably be connecting our soul to distractions that are taking us farther away from Hashem’s radical acceptance of us.
Thus, speaking out loud to Hashem and telling Him how we are feeling and asking for His radical acceptance is a form of teshuva….it is an acceptance by us of the relationship itself. That is true whether or not we take any further steps to improve ourselves. However, if we have moments of seeking Hashem’s radical acceptance, perhaps we will build up more emunah and bitachon, faith and trust, to take another small step on the teshuva journey.
Bilvavi.Shavuos.Newsletter In the Shavuos Newsletter, Rabbi Schwartz explains how to really live a life of Torah
“If you want to visualize a perfect picture of what life should look like – what is the driving force in our life that will help us reach this perfect picture? It is to have a goal of reaching such a kind of life, in which there will be nothing in our life other than Hashem and His Torah. That is what a person should want, and that is what he should be enjoying. If one keeps reflecting on this point, he can eventually reach a point where he will want this to continue without pause. If he can envision such a thing, he is touching upon a “resemblance of the World To Come” in the soul. For how long will he be able to remain in such a space in himself? It will depend on how connected he is to this.
If he has a connection to this, he can already experience a “resemblance of the World To Come” here, in his own soul. (A higher level than this to become a “ben olam HaBa” (destined for the World To Come); here we are talking about the first step, which is to experience me’in olam haBa, a resemblance of the World To Come). It is to imagine a life in which you are totally removed from everything on This World, and you are perfectly content with all that you remain with [nothing but Hashem and His Torah]. This is a truthful visualization to imagine, and one who has da’as (mature understanding) and who desires true life will visualize this many times. Slowly as a person gets used to this visualization, he will see what his current level is, and think of how to get to the next step. It will be a journey in his soul. This imagination exercise is but one example of how you can personally connect yourself to the Torah (and it is in addition to what we said before about learning about the importance of Torah study). Anyone who desires to be a true ben Torah should try the above imagination exercise.”
….Print out the newsletter from Rabbi Itamar Schwartz (Bilvavi) on Shavuos Bilvavi.Shavuos.Newsletter
For more, from Bilvavi, go to www.bilvavi.net
Shavous – 023 Test of Shavous
The Test That Returns Each Year
Shavuos is the time of the giving of the Torah. Consequently, it is now the time to prepare to receive the Torah. In order to ‘receive’ the Torah each year we can gain inspiration from reflecting on what the Jewish people did to prepare themselves to receive the Torah.
When Hashem came down to Har Sinai, He revealed Himself to the Jewish people. The entire nation trembled at the awesomeness of His revelation. Moshe Rabbeinu had to reassure the people that they had nothing to fear, and that Hashem was merely giving them a test.
A difficult test is called a nisayon. The days of Sefiras HaOmer occur during three months of the Jewish calendar – the second half of the month of Nissan, the entire month of Iyar, and the beginning of the month of Sivan. The word Nissan is rooted in the word nisayon. In other words, this first month of the sefiras ha’omer, the month of Nissan, contains in it a nisayon – a test. The “test” is how we will prepare for the Torah.
The word Iyar (the month which follows Nissan) comes from the word “yirah”, awe. This alludes to how the month of Iyar contains the power of yirah which can help enable us to prepare for receiving the Torah.
Thus, the months of Nissan and Iyar both serve to help us prepare for Shavuos. The “nisayon” (test)of Nissan requires us to prepare for the Torah, and the month of Iyar aids us in having the proper yirah, which are both necessary in order to receive the Torah.
The word nisayon comes from the word nes, which means to “run”; if a person “runs” away from the nisayon, he fails to grow from it. Alternatively, the word nes also means “miracle,” which uplifts a person. The hint of this is that a nisayon can either cause a person to run away from it, or become uplifted from it.Thus, every nisayon we endure serves as a test of our power of free choice – we can choose to elevate ourselves through the nisayon we are presented with, or run away from the message and fail to grow.
When the people heard the voice of Hashem at Har Sinai and all the thunder and lightning that followed, they had a nisayon. They were faced with a choice – they could want to run away, orthey could choose to become uplifted. Their first reaction was to want to flee; only then did Moshe Rabbeinu calm them down and reassure them not to flee in fear. He was really teaching the people that the purpose of this nisayon was to uplift them.
The Test At Har Sinai and Each Year
What exactly is the nisayon which the Jewish people faced in receiving the Torah? What did they find so difficult?
The Mesillas Yesharim writes that everything in this world is in a nisayon. No matter who you are and what your situation is, one is always facing a nisayon.
The first nisayon at Har Sinai was whether we the Jewish people would really accept the Torah when it was offered by Hashem to them as an option. The second nisayon occurred at the actual time of the giving of the Torah and was a much deeper but more subtle kind of test. At this point the Jewish people had already reached the apex of perfection, standing at Har Sinai and seeing the revelation of Hashem. Their test was whether they were willing and courageous enough choose to hear the Torah directly from the voice of Hashem.
Did they pass the test?
The Torah tells us that they did not pass the test. When the people heard the voice of Hashem at Har Sinai, they were afraid that they would die from hearing Hashem’s voice. In their fear, they requested to hear the Torah from Moshe’s voice instead. The Vilna Gaon teaches that this deviation from listening to Hashem was the seed that ultimately led to the sin of the Golden Calf. The Jewish people were supposed to be on the level of being willing to die in order to hear the voice of Hashem. From this we learn that we actually need to serve Hashem on the level of being prepared to die just to listen to Hashem’s voice!
But surely we would be forgiven for wanting to live and give up the opportunity to hear Hashem’s voice, rather than hear Hashem’s voice and die? What is the problem with choosing to live rather than hear Hashem’s voice? The answer is that to live without hearing the voice of Hashem’s is not really a life!
Admittedly, the people’s fear of Hashem’s voice did not signify idol worship. However, the sin lay in the fact that their fear of dying (which they associated with hearing His voice directly) surpassed their love of Hashem. The people’s fear of dying led them to settle for hearing the Torah through Moshe instead of directly from Hashem’s voice. However, the people failed to realize that life without hearing Hashem’s voice is meaningless.
When Adam sinned, he was ashamed in front of Hashem. He said, “Your voice I hear amidst the garden, but I am afraid and hiding.”  He ran away from hearing Hashem’s voice. At Har Sinai, we reached the purified state of Adam before the sin and were tested once again to see if we would listen to Hashem’s voice or run in fear. However, we failed to pass the test.
All of us were at Har Sinai, for our souls were there in a previous lifetime. Thus, we all failed to pass that test – we were afraid to die. However, we have a chance every year to pass this test again every year at Shavuos time. Are we ready to die to hear the voice of Hashem?
Before we accept the light of receiving the Torah which returns every year on Shavuos, we are first tested again to see whether we have reached the level of choosing to listen to Hashem’s voice and risk dying. At Har Sinai, the test was overt. In contrast, the test of our current day is not as clear to us, though it is the same test. And though we are not on the same level as we were at Har Sinai, Hashem still sends us the same test to each and every one us each year [to see if we will pass].
Striving For A Relationship With Hashem In Our Daily Life
In practical terms, what is our “test” that returns to us each Shavuos? In order to understand the essence of this difficult test presented to us each year on Shavuos, we must first understand that there are two totally different ways to live life.
When faced with a difficulty, one kind of person will continue to learn Torah and do all the mitzvos, visit tzaddikim and give tzedakah. He may also daven by kevarim (and even talk to Hashem a little when he is there). In contrast, the second type of person who meets with challenges will talk to Hashem about them all the time, and share with Him all his problems.
The first type of person is missing the point of life. Of course, there is something special in visiting tzaddikim. There is certainly a concept of segulos, but relying on spiritual charms is not enough!! We need to have a constant relationship with Hashem, including regular interaction and talking to Him, so that when we face a challenge we will naturally talk to Hashem directly, without wanting or thinking we need someone else to do it for us!
When we daven to Hashem in Shemoneh Esrei, we must realize we are speaking directly with Hashem. We can choose to ‘hear His voice’ and have direct contact with Him. And this is not just limited to our Shemonei Esrei. Our entire life can and should involve Hashem in this way. We should strive to always feel that Hashem is in front of us. As we learn from the Mesillas Yesharim, we should talk to Hashem “as a man who talks to his friend.”
For instance, imagine that you need something urgently. There is something very specific that you personally can do about it. Talk to Hashem! Davening to Hashem is not a “segulah.” Rather, it should be natural to you. This mindset and practice affects our entire life. Tefillah is the art of a Jew, which we received from our ancestors. We can ask and thank Hashem before everything we do.
However, since many of us are unfamiliar with this regular practice, we do not feel that closeness to Hashem. Therefore, it is only natural that we would be less likely to be prepared to die for Hashem. There is no relationship, so we would be less inclined to sacrifice anything for Him. There has to first be a relationship with Hashem. Only once we have fostered and ignited a close and loving relationship can we ever hope to reach the level of being prepared to give himself up for Him.
Every year, Hashem approaches us on Shavuos and offers to speak to us again so we can hear His voice. The question is – are we prepared to listen to Him? The truth to this question lies deep in your heart. We must try to reach a level whereby we truly should be willing to and want to hear the voice of Hashem.
Of course, if you ask anyone if he wants to hear Hashem’s voice, he will respond, “Of course! What spiritual bliss that would be!” But as soon as he told that he will have to give his life for it and die for it, he turns back and runs away. At Har Sinai the people did not want to hear Hashem’s voice. Instead they chose to hear the Torah from Moshe. It is harsh to say something like this, but the same thing is likely to happen at the time of the Moshiach if one did not develop a strong enough relationship with Hashem. At the time of the Moshiach, we are taught that we will learn Torah. But from whom will we hear this Torah from? We will have a choice to hear it either from Hashem directly, or from Moshiach.
If someone never spent his life talking with Hashem, then when Moshiach comes, he will not be able to suddenly run to go hear Hashem’s voice teaching the Torah. He will reject hearing the Torah directly from Hashem Himself, in favor of hearing it from Moshiach!
The Sages teach that one must exert himself over the Torah, and must “kill himself in the tents of Torah.” Why it is indeed necessary for us to ‘die’ for the Torah? On a simple level, this is a euphemism for sacrificing all materialism for the sake of ruchniyus, and a greater connection with the Torah. However, on a deeper level, we learn that just as the Jewish people were supposed to die in order to hear Hashem’s voice, so must we be prepared to die in order to hear Hashem’s speaking to us through the Torah.
And so, the question we must ask ourselves each Shavuos is: Are we prepared to die for the Torah?
Imagine if Hashem came to us again and asked us if we wanted the Torah. Imagine if we heard His voice and felt our souls leaving us, just as the souls of the Jewish people left them with each word of the Torah they heard from Hashem. What would we do? Would we be willing to continue listening and sacrifice our soul? Or would we say, “I don’t know about this. I have to ask my wife. Also, I have kids at home. If I die, they will be left without a father.” All kinds of excuses….
Preparation for receiving the Torah is really all about being prepared to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of Torah and to hear Hashem’s voice. And, this must be a true willingness in one’s heart, and it will not suffice as a mere utterance of the lips that is superficial.
Preparing For Shavuos: Making A Self-Accounting
Practically speaking, in the three days leading up to Shavuos, everyone should actively carve out some time of quiet to make a self-accounting and ask himself if he is ready to accept the Torah or not. Is he willing to stay and listen to Hashem’s voice at the risk of death? This is the question that each Jew should ask himself every Shavuos: “If I would be standing at Har Sinai right now, would I be on the level to receive the Torah directly from Hashem’s voice?”
People may assume that such willingness to sacrifice our lives for Hashem was only relevant and appropriate for previous generations, and that we surely cannot be on the level of standing at Har Sinai. They may react, “What do you want from us?? These words are not for this generation…”
But such an attitude reveals a rejection of receiving the Torah. Whether or not we are there yet, we must at least strive to have a yearning to reach that high level, and we must not remain complacent with a low spiritual level.
This willingness to die for Hashem and His Torah should not be limited just to Shavuos. It should carry over into the rest of the year as well – to life a life of connection with Hashem, all day, and not just when we daven three times a day. Every day, each person should actively consider deeply about his relationship with Hashem, and how much he is willing to sacrifice to get closer to Him.
The Torah says, “Remember the day in which you stood before Hashem, your G-d, at Horeb.” Don’t just remember that you stood at Har Sinai – remember that you stood in front ofHashem at Har Sinai.
These words here will ring true for anyone who searches for a true kind of life. It is the true way to prepare for receiving the Torah. I hope that the words here are not new to you; to the contrary, I hope that they are quite familiar to you. We must separate ourselves from the mores of our generation to become souls of the Creator of the World.
May Hashem merit all of us to accept the Torah before Shavuos, and to be ready to give ourselves up in order to hear Hashem’s voice and His Torah, all year.
Hisbodidus brings us a sense of emunah and a clarity.
Let’s take a zoom in on what exactly happens when we talk to Hashem openly in His Presence.
When we speak to Hashem and tell Him what we are afraid of, what is worrying us, what we want, why are feeling like something is wrong, why we did what we did or said what we said, what we feel, what is triggering our anger or sadness, what has hurt our feelings, we are placing on an invisible canvas a picture of all the forces within us as we conceptualize their meaning. Through our conceptualizations, we speak and act with these forces yet we may be disconnecting ourselves rather than connecting ourselves to truth and peace.
Consider that the forces within us that we are conceptualizing and then speaking and acting from a distraction from our goal of truth and peace!
It is unhealthy to minimize or suppress these forces, for within these forces lies something very powerful indeed. Yet the drawing that we make, the conceptualizations, literally become vitalized by the forces of our soul, and this is not necessarily leading us to truth and peace.
Key here is to comprehend that whatever those circumstances are, we have exactly 0 power over them. That is correct. 0. There is no effort that we can make that is guaranteed to have a result. We may indeed make efforts that have likely been effective in such circumstances, such as driving carefully, studying for a test, taking medication, and more. In the end, success is up to Hashem. Putting our faith in conceptualizations then is obviously not a guarantee to success, regardless of our every day practice of planning and doing the best we can.
It is crucial to understand that the area that we have control over lies somewhere else, somewhere internal to us, somewhere that we call behira, our free will point. That is the place where we have 100% control, should we make the effort towards self-control. That behira point, that free will point, is in relationship with Hashem, with the degree we associate with Him, the feelings of love and awe that we hold for Him.
What do the forces we are feeling vitalize – conceptualizations that we have no control over, or prayerful effort to reveal Hashem’s love and kingship into the world?
Hisbodidus helps us to break down our pain into its component forces so that we may see how to enhance the ability of those forces to reach their true expression – to be unified with Hashem’s Name, to be unified within our soul, and to become the forces vitalizing speech and deeds that reveal Hashem’s love and kingship in the world.
This is a deeper understanding of what can be accomplished regarding our will when we do hisbodidus, engaging in a personal dialogue with Hashem.
The conceptualizations and the forces vitalizing them feel to us like the real
“me.” It feels like our will, like what we really want. Yet when we take them to dialogue with Hashem and speak them out, we can ask ourselves deeper questions about what we want until we see the slippery point we went over into the dark….jealousy, desire or honor are the three slippery points. Once we see this, we see the fingerprint of having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of the ingestion of forces that conceal Hashem’s love and kingship.
The forces within that are vitalizing our conceptualizations truly want to serve Hashem. When we spot the “scam”, we see our behira point. THAT is where we have 100 percent control. The question is, what will we do? We have real free will. Hashem does not force us to serve Him!! We can sit with our inner forces in pain holding our conceptualizations, OR we can verbally tell Hashem that we wish for those same forces to reveal His Love and Kingship. Should we do the former, our soul spills into the goals of destruction and nothingness. Yet if we comprehend that with a few words and a heart yearning to bring these forces under Hashem’s roof, into His Palace of love and kingship, we are capable of receiving heartfelt insights that bring us to conduct ourselves in a way that shines truth and peace, love and kingship.
What we really need to know is how patient Hashem is with us. He is on our side. If we are not ready to let go of our conceptualizations, He waits patiently. He may wait our entire lifetime and excuse us for not doing it due to the circumstances that might have been too painful. Yet our soul has to come back over and over again until we complete the mission, the mission being to bring the forces that focus on the conceptualizations that have to do with “me” from those conceptualizations back into the fold of Hashem’s love and kingship, revealing Hashem in this world.
It is up to each of us.
Do we feel offended? Disappointed? Let down? Isolated? Infringed upon? Ganged up on? Jealous? Hurt?
Have we made judgments about ourselves, others or Hashem?
Hisbodidus helps us to see what is happening without anyone else around who might blame or shame us. Hashem already knows everything so it is totally safe to describe everything in great detail. He put it there for us to find! He wants us to bring the forces from the conceptualizations back into full love and awe of Him.
To the degree we experience abuse, neglect, or trauma, the process of letting go of the conceptualizations of things being unjust, unfair, wrong, horrifying, etc is made harder. What that means is that we have more “force” at play to bring across. Nevertheless, we have the real free will to do the work.
When we talk to Hashem, we have access to His Torah and wisdom. With this wisdom, we can see how best to tolerate, control and appropriately express our true self, our true soul that wishes to do Hashem’s will.
Our feelings can be explored. Hashem does not judge us for our feelings – He gave us a soul that has concealments on it in order for us to find it and bring these forces from within the veils back to Him. So no need to judge ourselves or feel badly for how we feel. We have real free will to make an effort to choose love and awe of Hashem and bring our unified soul to reveal His love and kingship, unifying His Name.
It is up to us. The question is do we see how our relationship and behira points play such an important role? The choice is ours.
To highlight the importance of bringing forces within what conceals Hashem back to Him, please listen to Rabbi Arush on this teshuva
Blog articles related to peel, heal and reveal
A starter set of articles on ratzon, on will, from www.bilvavli.net
1874 reads Ratzon Is A Constant Power Ratzon has the same gematria (numerical value) as the word mekor , … shows that the source of all personal development is our ratzon . Hashem created a person in a way that that there is always some …
… on our desire for it even more. The more a person’s ratzon has in it ohr yoshor – in other words, the more he wants to do … increased, and his very actions will then strengthen his ratzon for it even more. It is not enough to develop our ratzon …
… – “It is our will to do Your will.” Our soul has a ratzon \will for closeness to Hashem, to be attached to Hashem and to give a … retzonos ” (desires) in our heart which are not a true ratzon to get close to Hashem are just called “ retzonos ” as a …
… The first part in changing our heart is to change our ratzon (will). Elul is called “ Days of Ratzon” , days of will. Rosh HaShanah is the head of all changes, thus, the …
1719 reads An Intense Ratzon: “Their Hearts Cried Out To Hashem” The aspiration of every … out to Hashem.” We need to have a strong, burning ratzon inside us so much until we get to a point in which our heart’s …
… well as an inner reason. The stronger a person has a ratzon (will) for something, the stronger his anger will be when his will is opposed. The weaker a person’s ratzon was, the less anger he will experience when this ratzon is unmet. …
… of how to wear and remove your soul faculties. Using Ratzon To Remove Emunah The highest soul faculty (after your very … bechirah ) in a person, which stems from the faculty of ratzon (will). If so, ratzon is the opposing force to emunah . So when …
… soul. Summary of Detaching from Emunah, Taanug and Ratzon The first soul faculty we discussed was emunah . Emunah is generally removed through using ratzon . The second faculty, ta’anug (pleasure) is removed through …
… from earth within wind-of-earth. This happens when the ratzon (will) of a person is not met. When a person has a ratzon (will) for something, when he “wanted” to “want” – but he …
… Thought As we have already clarified, the power of ratzon is like the other of our soul forces: it has an outer layer and inner layer. The outer layer of our ratzon is to desire superficial things, while the inner layer of our ratzon
……The innermost point of all that we have been describing is to work together with Hashem! We must keep repeating this point, because it is the most truthful point from anything we have said here.
In other words, we need to talk to Hashem about everything we have learned here. Talk to Hashem about any minute detail here – one can say the following:
“Ribono shel olam, You gave me an inner ratzon to do Your ratzon. You also gave me external desires which seek to do the opposite of Your ratzon. I know that my external desires are getting in the way of my inner ratzon. I am trying to hold back from those desires and instead reveal my inner ratzon to serve You. Please, help me succeed!”
Without doing this, a person ignores the most basic point. It’s possible that a person, all his life, is only involved in a life of Avodas Hashem, and he does wonderful things – yet he’s just “serving” Hashem, and Hashem isn’t even on his agenda at all, rachmana litzlon (May G-d have mercy upon him!)
This might sound very strange, but it’s true, and it’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when they seek to improve in their service toward the Creator: it is possible that a person is serving the Creator his whole life, yet he has no connection with the Creator…he might be a “servant” of Hashem, but he lacks an actual bond with Him.
First Develop Your Individual Strengths, Then Unify Them All Together
To summarize our avodah: First, we need to think about these matters, and then we need to talk about it with Hashem (and still think into it as we daven to Him).
After some time, we can begin to actually change our actions; but we still have to think as we do those actions of change. Our whole psyche must be involved in what we do – action, speech, and thought. As we said, this is a step-by-step process, and we cannot improve our actions, speech and thoughts at once. We first need to change our thoughts, then our speech, and then our actions. We must go in these steps, or else we will not succeed.
This is actually the general introduction to our entire inner world.
What do we mean?
The abilities in our soul each stand on their own, but they are all part of one conglomerate. Our avodah is to build our soul – first by building each faculty in our soul separately, and then, to combine them together. Without combing our soul abilities together, we remain with a bunch of scattered parts of our soul.
There is also an opposite problem, in which a person only seeks to combine the parts of his soul together, but he never developed his individual strengths to begin with. He will lack a properly developed soul if he works like this.
We want our soul abilities to come together as a proper mixture, not as a mess thrown together. We can compare this to mixing different foods together – one way is a random mix which will lead to a horribly tasting food, while another kind of mix is planned out with an order, resulting in a delicacy.
So first, we have to recognize what each ability in our soul is, one by one. As you learn about each ability, focus just on that ability, and don’t try to see how it connects to another ability in the soul; then you’re mixing it up too much, because it will just confuse things.
We can give a simple example that explains this. Two of our middos are atzlus (laziness) and kavod (honor-seeking). Laziness comes from our element of earth, and honor comes from our element of fire. First, a person needs to know what laziness is and what honor is. Then, he should see how they can oppose each other, and then he needs to see how they can work together. But they must be seen as two separate abilities.
As an example, many people want to begin improving themselves immediately by trying to avoid honor. (Anyone with an able thinking mind realizes that seeking honor is a bad thing, and if someone doesn’t feel that way, his feelings are deadened.) But it’s a mistake to begin by trying to avoid honor. First, one has to know what the concept of honor is! After knowing what something is, only then can we either build upon it or break it down.
A person should think: Do I want honor or not? If I do want honor – what kind of honor am I seeking? What does it give me, and what do I feel from getting honor? What are the things that give me honor?
A person is apt to think that he doesn’t need to think about this, because he already understands that honor-seeking is a negative trait. But if that is his attitude, then he doesn’t even understand what the concept of honor is.
There are actually three reasons why a person should know what honor is:
1. In order to honor others, we need to know what honor is.
2. In order to break the desire for honor, we need to know how to fight it, so if we don’t know what honor is, we won’t know how to fight it.
3. The neshamah (soul) is called kavod\honor.
We have only given one example of the idea, but the inner point is one and the same: we have to recognize what every middah is. It is simple that we have to know what the good middos are, but even bad middos we need to recognize.
This is always the rule, and it doesn’t change – whether we are trying to develop a positive ability in our soul, or whether we are trying to break a negative ability in our soul. The avodah is always one and the same: we must know the structure of each ability.
The same goes for the middah of ratzon: we need to build our ratzon as a proper structure. First, we must develop our inner ratzon, mentally, by thinking and reflecting about it. Then, we need to verbalize it, and then we need to actualize it in our life. But we have to go in that order, and we cannot work on all three areas at once.
May Hashem help us stabilize our service to Him and give ourselves structure in how we serve Him, and then we can receive Heavenly assistance to change how we act; and may we merit to always be close to Him throughout our life as a result.
 There are thirteen basic faculties of the soul, and this is explained in Getting To Know Your Soul of the author. Ratzon is the fourth highest faculty of the soul.
In the preliminary prayer service every day, we thank Hashem for the soul within us.
“The soul that You have given me is pure. You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me….”
According to Rabbi Chaim Vital, the Arizal taught about this prayer that the soul is pure in the world of Atzilut. As it descends to the world of creation, it acquires influences from the coarse shards of the world of tohu that collapsed. And, as it descends into the world of formation, even coarser shards attach to the soul, until the soul, with layers of coarseness, receive another influence of the forces of tohu as the soul is breathed into our bodies in the world of asiya, the world of action.
Should we be distracted by attempting to vitalize the forces of tohu we are intended to uplift, our souls become busy with actions that are conscious of our own survival instincts and self-preservation, for this is the hallmark characteristic of the world of tohu. Yet, despite knowing this, our minds are naturally attracted to this more immediate and compellingly felt distraction as if it is the real self, which it is not. Understanding that the only Being that is alive is Hashem can help us comprehend this, although it takes a great deal of pre-emptive thinking and hisbodidus to feel as true.
Notice, however, the powerful influence of the thoughts we are magnetically drawn to naturally. Just think…were you insulted this week? If so, on a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly did you feel it? How many times did it bother you? Does it still hurt? If so, how much…the same or less? How quickly does the part of you that wishes to take action cling to ways to do so? Is the intensity growing or getting less?
Chances are, the feeling hurts just as much and is just as distracting as the first day it happened.
Instead of thinking about what to do in response, let’s try something else. Erase the circumstances but keep the spiritual energy present, meaning, hold the emotion in the heart but as emotion on its own, as if it has been taken out of context and could be bottled. On a scale of 1 to 10 how potent is it? Now let’s describe it to Hashem – can you see from describing it that it is concern for the self even though totally natural and understandable? This is important in order to comprehend the process of tikkun we are being asked to take to bring the fallen shards of tohu back to Hashem. PEEL. Submit.
Without the context, the spiritual energy can be experienced as being void of the feeling of love for Hashem and void of experiencing His Kingship. Through the free-willed use of prayer, we can ask Hashem to feel His ever-present love and constant kingship even to here, that it is our desire to feel His Love and Kingship in this dark place because we wish to reveal His Love and Kingship and not have our souls serve the context that is so distracting from doing so.
With emunah, we understand that whatever happens next will be something far better than following the dictates of the presenting circumstances. We may not know what we will feel. However, it is our role to unify the spiritual force which we decontextualized from the circumstances and prayed to feel connected back to Hashem. This is how we serve Hashem, by unifying His Name and our soul. Heal, separate.
Once we feel the spiritual energy absorbed by the feeling of Hashem’s love and kingship, the pain of the circumstances will dissolve and a heartfelt action that reveals Hashem’s love and kingship will surface in our minds. REVEAL, sweeten.
Hashem is real. Torah is true. The ability to serve Hashem is only in this temporary lifetime. The reward is eternal bliss. And the feeling of being closer to Hashem in this world is the pleasure for which we are created.