Rachel July 17, 2016 at 7:02 AM
Why is it so hard to internalize that Hashem will help and we have nothing to fear? I seem to keep having to reinforce myself every single day and be reminded that what's happening in the world won't necessarily apply to me personally if I stick with Hashem. I get to the point where I am calm and then the next day a part of me forgets. And something happens in the world and I get terrified because I am not in a position right now to uproot my family and make Aliyah, as much as I might want to. Yes I pray. And read something from you and re-convince myself that somehow it's going to be ok. I guess what I'm asking is how to better maintain it without backsliding.My response:
I have two answers for you. One is from my Psychology and Sociology background, which is an answer from this physical world; and, the other is from my study of scriptures, which is a spiritual answer.
Human beings are basically lazy people, who try to do everything as easily and comfortably as possible. We take every shortcut we can to do the least possible work to accomplish a task. I have mentioned that we are spiritual beings with physical clothing needed to live in this physical world (actually to do the commandments that Hashem gave us to perfect ourselves). Being aware of the physical, means that most events in our lives are handled in the physical realm with very little, or no, regard to the real us, the soul. Internalizing the absolute truth of Hashem becomes a very difficult to impossible task if we live only in the physical world. Since our physical world is an upside-down fantasy world of lies and deceit, to try to do the best we can for ourselves is very much hindered by the clouded way we see the world. That is why trying to experience Hashem as a physical person is so difficult.
Hashem created us with a very interesting system for us to use to develop and perfect our soul (the purpose of our lives on planet Earth). He gave us a heart that physically has two ventricles (each of the two main chambers of the heart, left and right). In the left side dwells the Yetzer Harah, the evil inclination, and the right side is the Yetzer Tov, the good inclination. Everything we do and say becomes a battle between the two inclinations in us. Why did Hashem design us in such a way? He did not make us as robots that would just be programmed to always do the right thing, but as beings, in His image, who would be able to see the two sides, and grow by making our decisions. Very often we make mistakes, but that is a big part of the growing and perfecting that we must experience.
More specifically: How does it work? The Yetzer Harah always points out you physical side and tells you to do what I described above. “Don’t work hard, be lazy, do the least possible effort to accomplish a task and do what you want,” is the advice of the Yetzer Harah. The Yetzer Tov says: “Don’t work hard, work smart.” “Be aware of what our mission is on Earth and get it done.” “Hashem’s instructions are the true ticket to happiness and success in this life and for eternity, simply follow those instructions and succeed.”
One might say doing Hashem’s instructions is not always so easy. That is the Yetzer Harah talking. The fact is we are creatures of habit, and if we get into the correct, good habits of life, we see the success and have a much greater incentive to continue on that path. There is nothing like success, happiness, peace of mind, etc to encourage us to want to get even closer to Hashem.
Let me give you one example that you can see the clear physical to spiritual advantage. This is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in the world: Shabbos!!! Our Yetzer Harah tells us it involves many restrictions that are uncomfortable and unnecessary. Our Yetzer Tov tells the truth, it is the greatest gift from Hashem that we could receive. We don’t admit it, but during the week we are slaves to the world. We have developed such a dependency, a slave mentality to devices. We have to turn on a TV or computer to be entertained; we have to prepare our meals to eat; we have to use all kinds of devices to live. We can’t see it, but we are very weak slaves to our environment. On Shabbos, I have everything and much more, but without being a slave to it. My meals are already prepared; my entertainment is reading and my family comradery. I don’t even have to turn on a light switch, the lights go on and off by themselves. It is also a great day of peace since the world goes away. I do not have to be bothered by what terrorists are killing people. I don’t have to worry about financial matters, bills, loans, credit cards, etc. The only thing to be concerned about is enjoying the freedom of the day, the getting away from the tense, chaotic world.
If you asked a non-Jew or a secular Jew in the US what day of the year is the most enjoyable day of closeness to family, good food and relaxation, they would answer: Thanksgiving Day. Observant Jews celebrate 52 Thanksgiving Days a year (actually more when you include Holidays). Shabbos is Thanksgiving plus. We don’t occupy ourselves with the TV as a way to entertain ourselves and ignore our families. We sing; we talk Torah; we earnestly enjoy the company of our loved ones more than any other society ever has or could have in this world.
Why is the divorce rate so low in the observant community, why do children have two parents, one male and one female, to love them and nurture them in life; why do families argue so little, with very little sibling rivalry; why are many of society’s problems not even a thought in observant communities (drugs, teen pregnancy, fights, child abuse, broken families, crime, this is too long a list for here); why are families so close to each other and do so much for each other; why are friends and neighbors helpful and so caring about each other; why are women so respected and not treated so viciously (most people who have never lived in an observant community will disagree with my last statement out of pure ignorance; I have lived many years in both secular and observant communities and can guarantee that there is no comparison), etc, etc, etc.
If you are thinking: I knew an observant family that had so many problems, that I just described as virtually non-existent, than I would have to say they were not living a true observant existence, but a deceptive secular life and only thought they were doing the right thing. I can’t walk into a hospital with a white coat and a stethoscope around my neck and say “I am a doctor.” I have to go to medical school for many years and earn it. I can’t say that I am an observant Torah Jew, because I dress a certain way; I have to live the commandments of Hashem with complete conviction. If a man is not nice to his wife or children, he should not call himself an observant Torah Jew, no matter how impressive he looks.
Something very important is to never think you are doing everything correctly. The only way to truly improve in this life is to have doubt that you are doing things correctly. The study of Torah is to constantly seek ways to improve. When Jacob went to meet his bother Esau, Hashem told him not to worry. Yet, Jacob, split his camp, sent angels ahead of the group, brought gifts for his brother. Did he not trust that Hashem would protect him? No, he did not feel that he was so worthy of Hashem’s protection. It is always us evaluating ourselves and wanting to improve. Hashem’s system on Earth is perfect and we can have it all by just living the system, but we always have to humbly look to grow and continue the mission of perfecting ourselves. Anyone who tells you “I do enough Teshuvah” is a lost soul who does not even know what Teshuvah is. Anyone who tells you: I know Halacha, Jewish law. Run from that person, since ten lifetimes would be needed to start to fully understand Halacha well.
If you don’t understand the gift of Shabbos, or the great advantages of keeping Kosher, or knowing that prayer works when done correctly, or knowing how to behave around your fellow human being, don’t pretend that you are on the side of your Yetzer Tov, when in fact you are living the physical weakness prescribed by you Yetzer Harah. Hashem gave us all the ability to have it all. You decide whether you want happiness and success in life or think you know better and throw it all away. Just do it quickly, this is a limited time offer about to disappear forever. Don’t argue with success, take advantage of it. Turning to Hashem is always the right answer (actually the only right answer).
By the way, one of the saddest moments of the week is saying the prayers to separate us from Shabbos. If you can’t make that statement, you are doing Shabbos incorrectly.
Did I answer your question (I said it wouldn’t be a one-liner)?