This posting is not intended to, in any way, belittle or trivialize the struggle that is outlined below or to leave the impression that all can be repaired overnight. On the contrary, it is because the challenges are so serious, painful and real that one might tend to give up and believe that there is no solution and that he will always live with a sense of pain and loss that is likely to become more prominent over time. My hope is that anyone who is under that impression will, after reading this, entertain the possibility that there is a solution and have some idea how to begin to pursue it.
Life is supposed to be challenging and even turbulent. It is not by accident that much of each person’s storm originates from within that individual1. Oftentimes a child who was raised in a wholesome environment and took for granted his own pure faith in Hashem, is startled to suddenly feel a desire to break-out and experience more. I once heard a presentation from an educator who had first-hand knowledge of some of the more cloistered Brooklyn Jewish communities. He pointed out that the contrast, there, is even more striking. The children are raised with an exceptionally beautiful and simple acceptance of all things real that leaves no place for even the most remote trace of anything tainted or unholy. As they get older, they are no longer satisfied to live with such a simple outlook, despite its purity. They feel a need to seek out challenges. Someone recently pointed me to a heart-wrenching blog written by a woman from that community who reached that point of dissatisfaction only after marrying and having a child. In the blog she described her feelings as she accepted the get that she felt compelled to acquire despite still loving her husband, and, no doubt, much of what she was leaving behind.
That drive to seek a challenge, to conquer the world is also no fluke. A Jew is blessed (!) with an inherent drive to climb or run regardless of his background2. Regardless of where it can lead along the way, that yearning comes from a holy place3. Perhaps I will elaborate regarding that emotion in a future blog-especially focusing on how a holy desire can lead one to violate Hashem’s own desire.
After the initial honeymoon period as the thrill and excitement wear off, a new “reality” sets in. Whether as a teen or later on in life, one “heading out into the world”, for the first time often arrives at a state of confusion and frustration, or as a Twitterer whom I encountered put it, one may describe herself as “lost, confused and a bit disappointed with my life”. Notwithstanding all of the typical temptations that are part of the mix, even in an extreme case, the biggest problem is not feeling what one has been raised to know he should feel. That is where a tool that is part and parcel of Torah despite what its antagonists will claim, offers the only ‘one size fits all’ approach. The vehicle is called Chassidus. One of the tools it offers through extracting the essence of all parts of the Torah is the presentation of practical step by step approaches that work. Solutions compiled by experts for the layperson. (Unlike Kabbalah which is geared toward experts.)
So applying a dictum drawn from Kabbalah4, Chassidus offers the following practical approach for when one has soared beyond the limitations of this world5 (regardless of whether one got there by staying on a holy course and has literally reached a state transcending the physical or more likely, in this context, where one has followed that drive to run to a place where it becomes more and more difficult to believe; to follow mitzvos): One must contemplate6 the following: There is an aspect of Hashem that is referred to as Sovev Kol Olmin –a level which transcends creation; transcends any limitations. It says in the Torah7 “Do I not fill the Heaven and the earth (equally)?” i.e. There is no higher or lower, as far as Hashem is concerned; the loftiest and the most mundane creations are equally non-existent to Him. So in reality, there is no place to run to; to ascend to—we are already here. This is where it is at, where we can make a difference by revealing Him in everything we do.
The10Tzemach Tzedek notes in one of his discourses: “On Tuesday of parshas Balak 5562 (1802) our master, of blessed memory, said to his sons as follows: To understand the problem posed by the astronomers, that since the earth is round and spherical like an apple, why do not those people who live ‘down below,’ on the side of the globe opposite ours -in America11– fall?… Their answer is not the true12 one… Our master, of blessed memory, said that the answer lies in explanation of the Etz Chaim13 that the Nine Spheres14 are nurtured by that state termed Egulim, ‘Circles,’ and in a circle there is no above or below. For this reason those who live opposite us, ‘down below,’ have their heavens high above them arching in continuity with the heaven above us, and the earth there is below, parallel to the heavens over it.”
Internalizing and taking to heart the above (purple font) by regularly contemplating that for Him, there is no above or below is the secret to going full circle; to continuing on a journey that leads back to a lifestyle that may look similar to one that was left behind. This time, however, it is the real and heartfelt choice of the traveller.
1. לק”א פל”ה וקו”מ וכמה מקומות↩
2. קו”מ מ”ו↩
4. ספר יצירה פ”א מ”ז או ח’ ↩
5. לקוטי תורה פ’ חקת רד”ה וידבר הוי׳ וגו׳ זאת חוקת התורה ולהאיר בהשג”פ נכתב “ונדפס” הבלוג הזה בהימים אחרי ש”פ חקת תשע”ב↩
7. ירמיהו כג, כד↩
8. לקוטי תורה פ’ נצבים ד”ה אתם נצבים היום כלכם וגו’ ובכ”מ וכידוע↩
9. By using words like contemplate, muse and the like instead of meditate, I am attempting to avoid the connotations assigned to that term by other sources; the need to focus deeply on the concept for as long as one can concentrate, however, stands as indicated in note 5 above.↩
10. היום יום י”ד תמוז-ולהאיר בהשג”פ נכתב “ונדפס” הבלוג הזה בי”ד תמוז תשע”ב↩
11. LOL! How many 200+ year old stories of tzadikim mention America? -Also approprite for the (Gregorian) date that Hayom Yom fell on this year and the date this blog was published.↩
12. לענ”ד נראה שהכונה שהם מתעסקים למצא איזה ביאור איך שזה יכול להיות ע”פ טבע אבל האמת היא הסיבה למה שעשה קוב”ה כן↩
13. שער עגולים↩
14. רמב”ם הל’ יסודי התורה פ”ג ה”א↩