Chapter 1 The Attitude of Gratitude
In life, it is not what we have that makes us happy, it is the attitude towards what we have, that does.
Mr. Behr was a sweet elderly gentleman who would often take his vacation at the home of a congregant of mine – whose marriage was not too hot – during the time that I was the Rabbi in a resort town in South Africa. One day as he came into Synagogue, he shook his head sadly and told me, “I don’t understand why young people don’t get along these days. I was married for over forty years and I never had a single argument with my wife.”
“Wow, that’s impressive,” I thought, so I asked him, “What was the secret to your happy marriage?”
“When I was a young man,” Mr. Behr replied, “I once asked my boss to lend me a crown so that I could buy a lotto ticket. My boss replied, ‘Do you know when you will win the lotto? When you walk down the aisle to your Chupah (marriage canopy), that is when you will win the lotto.’”
In other words, Mr. Behr was teaching me, that the reason he had a loving, respectful and good relationship with his wife was because he had always felt like he had won the lotto by marrying her!
The Jewish Sages teach, “Who is wealthy? One who is happy with what s/he has.”
My cousin, Yossi Alpren, a Rabbi in Brazil, took a group of very wealthy Brazilian children on a tour of the United States. When they came to the largest toy store in the world, all the children were excited to be able to spend their parent’s money on the latest toys, and games. However he noticed that the young daughter of a billionaire banker was sitting miserably in an aisle. “What’s wrong…?” my cousin asked her. She replied sadly, “I have all these toys already.”
People who get a new lease on life, look at life very, very, differently.
One woman I know, told me, that after being confined to a hospital bed for a few months, one morning as the sun rose and she looked out of the window, she said to herself, “If I ever get out of here, I will never complain for the rest of my life!” And indeed, she is perhaps one of the cheeriest people you could ever meet.
People who have survived potentially fatal accidents or illnesses often come out of their experiences with a very great appreciation for the greatest gift of all, the gift of life itself.
The Gift Of Life
The fact is that this world is no accident.
The more science we discover the more we realize that our world is built on a series of miraculous phenomena which by virtue of their consistency deceive us into seeing it as natural.
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus / Modern Jewish Mysticism taught, “The first time we see a miraculous phenomena in nature we call it a miracle, the second time, we call it, nature.”
Nature is in fact anything that is miraculous but repetitive.
Take the famous equation of E=MC2. If you had “x-ray vision,” you would see that everything you are looking at, is really made up of atoms; and what E=MC2 means, is that every atom corresponds to an incredible amount of energy (which is the mass of the atom squared by the constant speed of light, 186,000 miles per second).
Now, if you had an even greater “x-ray vision,” you would be looking at energy and you wouldn’t see anything physical at all! You can get an idea of how much energy there is when you realize that an atomic explosion is one of the main energy sources for electricity in our world – supplying millions, if not hundreds of millions of households with electricity – all coming from the energy released when the tiny atom is “split.” And as Einstein writes, the energy released in an atomic explosion is actually just a fraction of the energy contained, (like a wealthy man giving away a thousand dollars, to use his own example.)
So where did all this energy come from? Is it possible that it simply exists? Obviously not, for the other side of E=MC2 states that all of the energy ever used can be converted back into matter.
In other words, energy is interchangeable with physical matter, which is bound by time and space and is thus one of The Creator/Manager’s creations.
As a creation, matter needs to have a beginning.
In the study of Kabbalah, we are taught that The Creator/Manager “spoke” the world into existence.
This means that The Creator/Manager’s “speech” creates our reality – the trees, rocks, water, and everything that we see and take for granted.
However, there is a fundamental difference between what The Creator/Manager makes and what man makes. What man makes, is in fact, only a change of status of material properties, so every component in your “brilliant” computer is in fact taken from something that was already created by The Creator/Manager; from the silicon to the gold, from the plastic to the metallic parts etc. There isn’t a single component in your computer that doesn’t actually come from the ground.
Please go to my website www.kabbalahinfo.org (or kinformation.org) to see a Multi-Media presentation entitled “Discovering How The Universe Is Constantly Being Recreated,” or on YouTube.
In fact Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov teaches that we will never cease to discover benefits from the amazing myriad of natural metals and minerals that our Loving Creator placed within the earth’s crust.
The earth’s crust, including all that is within it, did not exist prior to creation; Therefore, the earth must continually be recreated in order for it to exist.
For example, imagine a strange alien for a moment.
As long as you imagine the alien, it exists, however the second you stop imagining it, the alien ceases to exist; for it is only in your imagination that it exists. The alien doesn’t exist in this physical world. So anything that doesn’t inherently exist, needs another creative force to continuously create it, in order for it to continuously exist.
If you were to take away the building blocks of matter – The Creator/Manager’s “speech” – there would simply be nothing, and we would be unable to make anything at all; So all of our technology is dependent on a far greater technology – The Creator/Manager’s “speech” – which is continually recreating reality! In other words, The Creator/Manager is always speaking/imagining the world into its present natural format.
Every atom ever created needs to be continuously spoken into existence. Although we are given the ability to manufacture computers, rockets and the like, this does not change the fact that continuous creation is necessary for these secondary products to exist; For without the raw atoms constantly being spoken into existence there would be no materials to create the secondary products.
In fact physicists have proven this and we can now witness that atoms are continually popping in and out of existence as you can see on the documentary “What The Bleep Do We Know.” The Kabbalah wrote about this process thousands of years ago and called it Rotzu Vshuv; that the creative energy emanates out of the Creator’s desire and continuously creates everything and then returns back into Him, in an ongoing cycle.
In fact the words Abra Cadabrah come from the two Hebrew words, “Ibarah C’dabrah” which means “I create when I speak.”
In other words, when we say the Creator/Manager creates through speech, this is a euphemism, for speech is the methodology to reveal what is in your own thoughts to another – we are the other, to whom the Creator/Manager “reveals” a universe to, through his speech.
Another good example to help us understand continuous creation comes from screens.
Depending on the type of screen you have, every single second the picture on your screen is refreshed/redrawn a few hundred times. This is why you need a screen saver, for if the computer refreshes the same screen for long periods of time, sometimes the picture gets imbedded into the screen. This means that every time you look at the Recycle Bin in your computer it has been redrawn thousands of times.
In other words, your Recycle Bin is a functional tool in a two dimensional computerized world as it allows you to throw away the garbage, whereas the garbage can in your kitchen works in a three dimensional world; They both, however serve the same fundamental purpose - getting rid of garbage; And they both need a higher technology to make them continuously appear, giving you, the user, a functional tool.
Thank The Creator/Manager
This being the case, it is only right to Thank The Creator/Manager for what we already have!
For it is merely due to his great ongoing kindness that our universe, continuously exists.
The Creator and Manager of the World is very different from human beings whom mainly seek to gain. The Creator/Manager is looking to give – as the Jewish Sages teach – that the reason why The Creator/Manager created the world was in order to have people to give to; for in their words “It is the nature of a good (person) to give.”
We must realize that The Creator/Manager has already given us so very much!
When we are aware of these gifts, we start realizing that there is a Being who loves us unconditionally, gives to us unconditionally, and only desires what is good - for our sakes - and not for His sake.
Someone I know was once going through a severe financial crisis. He called up his wealthy father who bailed him out. I asked his father, “How come you didn’t help your son earlier?”
“Because,” he replied, “he didn’t ask.”
So it is also good to ask The Creator/Manager for what you want!
Write a list of all the good things in your life – all the things which you would miss if you no longer had them – and then list the things that you want but do not have. Say, “Thank you Creator for the blessings You have given me; please Creator, give me the things I want.”
Bonus: It should be mentioned that the wisest prayer of all - according to Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov - is that The Creator/Manager should give us what He knows is best for us. One lady I know, whom The Creator/Manager had always given her whatever she requested, stopped praying for what she “thought” she wanted and prayed instead for what The Creator/Manager knew would be good for her. She realized that what she thought would make her happy often led her into misery. The Creator/Manager’s plan, however, always led her to happiness.
Big Bonus: The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn explains a truly remarkable thing. Although of course The Creator/Manager needs to recreate reality for it to continuously appear as mentioned above, nonetheless, as He is Infinite, He could have simply imbued matter with enough energy to last as long as he wanted it to. The reason He chose continuous creation is so that we could always feel grateful for this great gift, for gratitude equates to happiness. When you are doing nothing, after every breath you take say, “Thank You, Creator, For Everything.”
Chapter 2 Divine Destiny
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov explains that what comes to us from The Creator/Manager is actually a reflection of our own mood.
If we are full of joy, kind to others, merciful and compassionate, then The Creator/Manager will bestow joy, kindness, mercy and compassion upon us.
Why is our mood so important? I think our attitude reflects our fundamental beliefs. By being happy we are essentially saying that “I believe that The Creator/Manager is good and therefore He will give me what I need.” However by being sad, depressed, or despondent we are essentially saying, “The world is a negative place and I believe I will not receive my needs.”
The reason we get into a negative space is unfortunately due to negative experiences.
The Wheels of Justice
“What goes around comes around,” is a true saying, albeit with a time delay involved, which results in our failing to recognize the truth of it.
The reason for this delay is as follows: if we were immediately rewarded or punished for our wrongdoings we would never do anything wrong.
What’s so bad about that, you may wonder? I recall that as a child I once asked The Creator/Manager to punish me whenever I did something wrong, for then I would know that The Creator/Manager existed. This is, in fact, the only real reason why we question The Creator/Manager’s existence.
How can it be that a good person suffers while an evil person prospers? There are many explanations for this. For example, sometimes The Creator/Manager gives a “reward” to a bad person in this world, but this so-called “reward” is actually a negative payout, for it prevents him or her from receiving the great bliss of Heaven.
Sometimes The Creator/Manager brings suffering upon the righteous person for infractions in this world, reserving for them the reward of everlasting bliss in the world-to-come. In fact our sages teach us that a drop of suffering in this world erases mountains of pain in the next.
Furthermore, we are taught that we can have “karmic debts,” which means that if I owed someone a sum of money in a previous lifetime, that money may be forcibly taken from me and restored to its reincarnated owner in a future lifetime. There are many stories from the Jewish mystics that prove this.
The essence of the story is, “what goes around comes around,” both for the good and for the bad.
But more importantly, it is extremely wise to be happy, joyful, loving, grateful, giving, sharing, compassionate and helpful, for we are by so doing, creating our own future destinies!
Our lives on earth are not predetermined, but rather based on the energy/input we give to Heaven, which is then mirrored back to us!
Freedom of Choice
You may not know this, but Heaven was created for earth, and not the other way around.
Everything that is above and below is part of the Divine plan to give you the freedom to choose – without being forced to – between goodness i.e. selflessness, compassion, sharing, caring etc. and evil i.e. selfishness, insensitivity, arrogance, and caring only for oneself while disregarding others.
In groundbreaking research Dr. Emoto shows that water crystals react to our prayers, intentions, words, and emotions. This is not new to Kabbalah.
The Tanya, one of the classic books of Jewish mysticism, written over two hundred years ago by the great Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, clearly describes three basic zones of reality: 1) Good 2) Neutral 3) Evil.
Included in Zone 1 (Good) are those things that we make blessings over – such as when we thank G-d for the food we eat – or when we use food for good deeds, such as giving food to hungry people. So at that time, our energy comes directly from The Creator/Manager.
In Zone 2 (the Neutral zone) are most objects that are currently untainted (positively or negatively) by humans and are thus waiting for us to elevate them in order for them to receive energy directly from The Creator/Manager.
In fact Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov teaches that neutral water will eagerly await hundreds of years or even millennia for a good person to thank G-d for the water they are about to drink.
Zone 3 (evil) contains the negative forces, which include anger, revenge, harming others, etc.
In other words, if I eat an apple and then use the energy it gives me to insult someone, at that time those atoms are energized via the demons, because G-d Himself refuses to sustain negativity directly.
Perhaps the famous teaching of Kabbalah that man can be controlled by one of three “organs:” Mind/brain, heart/emotions, liver/ego can be subdivided into these three zones.
In other words, ideally – the good zone is our minds, as Rabbi Bechayah teaches “always consult your mind for you will find the correct behavior in it.”
The neutral zone is our hearts, the seat of our passions which combines both selfish and altruistic desires hence the goal would be to ignore the negative and only focus on the positive passion.
Zone 3, evil, is in fact ego, which ironically is usually a sign of low self esteem (for as Rabbi Josef Isaac Schneersohn teaches, just as a person only feels their hand if it is sore, similarly a person feels their self importance when their self esteem is low, as the ego is trying to compensate.) In the last chapter we explain why ego is the worst place for man to be.
Incidentally, kosher food corresponds to these three zones. Kosher food begins in the “neutral zone” and takes on a positive energy if used for something positive, such as when one uses the energy from the food to help someone else.
Non-kosher food in Hebrew is also called “Assur,” which means locked up. As it is locked up in the third negative zone, therefore it cannot be elevated even if one uses the energy for something good.
Those foods that did not get elevated – since no one used the energy for anything meaningful after eating it – remain in the neutral zone they started out in. If, however someone used the energy from the Kosher food for something negative – e.g. to harm another, G-d forbid – then the atoms get energized via the negative demons.
The above is an extreme simplification of an incredibly vast world above us, which G-d uses to engage, create, modify, influence and record everything that goes on in this world!
By tuning into good energy – by being grateful for what one has and trusting that things will get better – one creates good destiny and hence a better future.
Bonus: Even by just imagining that The Creator/Manager will help you, i.e. telling yourself just that, “G-d will help me,” creates this as a future reality.
Big Bonus: Additionally it is very powerful to hand over your problems to The Creator/Manager, as the verse states “Throw your package of problems to The Creator/Manager, and He will carry them.”
I think that as a loving parent The Creator/Manager enables us to choose our own mistakes as He does not want to force us into anything, however, just like a loving father would, He steps in and provides when we say, “Sorry, it is too hard for me to handle.” [The only thing we need to be careful about is to not take our problems back from The Creator/Manager after he has successfully handled them. Human nature is such that we like to think that we deserve the credit. However the way the trust-system operates, is that The Creator/Manager allows whomever you trust – including yourself – to be the provider. So by taking your problem back, you then actually recreate the problem. As Einstein states, “We cannot solve our problems using the same mindset we created them in.”]
Chapter 3 Giving
Meaning In Life
According to Albert Einstein, the meaning in life is found by, “Giving to those whose existence is the cause of your happiness.”
This theory is very much in accord with the Biblical instruction to, “Love your friend as much as you love yourself.” According to Rabbi Akiva, this is in fact the whole point of the Torah (Bible), to teach us how to “Love your friend as much as you love yourself.”
Happiness, True Success, Joy, & Recognition
Many books could be written on this subject, for it represents not only the fundamental reason for our existence, but also the key to our own happiness, success and joy in life, and the key to our ability to attain the recognition that we all so desperately crave.
Rabbi Hillel and the Gentile
I was recently reading an interesting Judaic article that asked the following question: There is a well known story that a gentile once came to the great Rabbi Hillel, the foremost Jewish leader of his age, and asked him for the guiding principle of Judaism, to which Rabbi Hillel replied, “That which you do not want others to do to you, do not do to them. The rest of the Torah/Bible is the amplification of this principle.”
The question was subsequently asked, why did Rabbi Hillel frame it in the negative – “That which you do not want others to do to you, don’t do to them” when he could have framed it in the positive – “That which you want others to do to you, do to them!?” Additionally this would seem a more accurate description of the Biblical injunctions, such as loaning money interest-free, giving charity, etc.
However, Rabbi Hillel was teaching everyone an extremely important lesson. Why is it that when we do something wrong it doesn’t seem to bother us at all? Or, if it does bother us, we still manage to love ourselves, to care for ourselves and feel compassion for ourselves; but when someone else does something wrong we are often ready to jump down their throats, “How could you possibly have done such an evil, vile, rude, inconsiderate thing?”
How come we act so “schizophrenically,” seeing other people’s faults as genuine problems, yet at the same time characterizing our own faults as nothing. We view our own misdeeds as nothing more than things we shouldn’t have done, but they do not alter our fundamental self-love. Why? The reason is very simple, yet exceptionally profound.
The reason we don’t see our own faults, or our own faults do not cause us to alter our positive self-image, is because our innate self-love covers over and conceals our faults. In other words, because we love ourselves, we are not extremely concerned by our own faults.
I am sure you have heard the saying, “Love is blind,” which is certainly true. In Judaism – in Proverbs – the saying goes, “All faults are concealed by love.” In other words, it’s not that we do not recognize that we have faults, rather, our love is able to shield us from seeing them as issues that should prevent us from unconditionally loving ourselves.
In truth this is a very good thing, for in order to love someone else you must first love yourself, as usually the love one person extends to another is due to indentifying with them - hence siblings who realize their shared background have greater love for each other than strangers do; but most importantly if someone (perhaps a depressed person) doesn’t love themselves they might G-d-forbid commit suicide. So self-love is great (obviously in moderation, lest we forget about the rest of humanity in focusing only on ourselves) but the lesson is, that just as our own self-love manages to conceal and bury our own faults, so too our love for our family and friends should be so strong that we don’t see their faults.
A Mirror Image
Furthermore, this is exactly how The Creator/Manager intended things to be for the following four reasons:
# 1) The fact that you do see a fault in someone else is only because you have that fault in yourself, for it is impossible to see a fault in someone else if you do not have it in yourself. The Baal Shem Tov teaches, that our friend is like our mirror - it is only when there is dirt on our own face that it will be “reflected” and hence seen in our friends! So when we find something wrong in someone else, in fact The Creator/Manager is showing us an area in which we need to improve.
I said this once in a class and a psychologist present confirmed it. “When we get upset by other’s misdeeds it is only because it is hitting a concealed raw nerve of our own,” she said.
# 2) Additionally the fact that one can see faults in another can also lead to good, because it allows one to gently, privately, respectfully and honorably explain to the other how much better it would be for him or her if they choose a better course of action.
[Interestingly Rabbi Schneersohn - The Lubavitcher Rebbe the Jewish leader of our generation – explains, that if one feels bugged/irritated by the negative in another it is a mirror image as mentioned; however, if our mind immediately comes up with methods of how to help the other, then chances are it is something related to improving and assisting someone else.
In fact, whenever The Creator/Manager allows us to see a solution to a problem – so for example say you are aware that someone is G-d-forbid ill, and you also know that there is a doctor who specializes in a treatment for that illness – The Creator/Manager is in fact actually giving you one of your life’s missions! If this wasn’t your mission a. you wouldn’t have become aware of the problem and b. you wouldn’t have known the solution.
Please see my book “How To Find The Meaning Of Your Life” for more info. on this.]
Love, And Only Then Educate
There is a commandment in the Bible to teach, or even reprimand someone else if one knows it will help, but interestingly this commandment is preceded by the all important commandment to never shame another. Thus the Jewish Sages deduce that before one educates another, one must make quite sure that one’s motive is love, and that one can never insult another in the process of educating them.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches “Even if there is a situation where one needs to try to prevent something negative from their fellow – the very best manner (i.e. method) to achieve this, is through influencing the fellow in a pleasant and peaceful (i.e. loving) manner.”
In other words, the only way to assist someone else is through showing them the positive path, not their negative.
What’s The Message?
Additionally, the Baal Shem Tov teaches that everything we see in life is in fact a message from The Creator/Manager on how to improve ourselves.
So when you see a good behavior from someone else, it is shown to you so that you will emulate it; and when you see a bad behavior it is shown to you for the following two reasons: A) [#3] So that you will be repulsed by it and hence decide to not act like that; and B) [#4] So that you will be proud of yourself for behaving wonderfully.
Whose Existence Makes You Happy?
Now I would like you to take Einstein’s suggestion, and decide whose existence gives you happiness.
You will notice that you will most probably choose people who are close to you and have impacted your life in a perceived beneficial way.
What you need to do is to stop bartering; you need to decide to love those people unconditionally – meaning no matter what they say or do to you.
Love and Happiness
Only through this will you find happiness, for when you love you release loving chemicals (serotonin) through your blood stream, which makes you feel good. It is a drug that only gets stronger with time.
The Love/Fear Seesaw
The Kabbalah teaches that there are two primary emotions that govern our lives: Love and Fear.
Every thought we have, everything we say, and everything we do, is either out of love for someone or something, or due to a fear from someone or something.
LOVE = ATTRACTION
FEAR = RETRACTION
Love creates an attraction - a desire to unite with the person you love, or to attain that which you believe will be pleasurable for you (say, a cup of Coke.)
Fear, creates an avoidance/retraction from a person you are afraid of (whom will perhaps shame you) or from something that which you fear will be painful to you (say a bee.)
It is for this reason that, unfortunately, people sometimes develop social phobias; For example, if their mothers used shame to manipulate their behavior, so they are (subconsciously) afraid of doing anything that will cause someone to shame them (often called Perfectionists.) The only way to overcome this, is to realize that most people are not psychopathic, and hence also desire your love, (and as such will never shame you, for then they will not receive your affection. A psychopath has somewhere along the line decided that people are evil and hence only uses people).
The state that you need to work towards is a state of unconditional love, when you love these people as much as you love yourself.
However, fear causes a chemical takeover in the brain, reducing our ability to think, and we are left functioning on the level of little children with purely instinctive reactions.
The Power of Fear
At such moments, gone are all our wisdom, understanding and knowledge, along with everything that we think we should do and who we want to be (i.e. kind, compassionate, considerate, nice etc.)
We simply become like animals whom react only instinctively, namely the flight/fight instinct; [Additionally there is a freeze instinct (like a deer in headlights) and in human behavior it sometimes translates into stonewalling.]
The part of the brain controlling our fear (the amygdala nuclei region) is a part that overrides rational thought, literally bypassing the source of our rational mind – the prefrontal lobes – creating only instinctive reactions. If you are in a “state of fear” (i.e. worried, anxious, stressed) you cannot be in a “state of love.”
Rabbi Bechayah the author of an incredibly wise Judaic classic, called “Duties of the Heart,” writes, “The heart cannot hold both fear and love (of people, excluding The Creator/Manager) at the same time.”
For this reason we will mention the primary reasons why most people become fearful – based on the classic book of Jewish mysticism, the Tanya – and the methods that it advises to eliminate fear.
The first cause of fear is a person’s personal worries, be they financial, health-related or related to their children (i.e. something or someone they love.) The only way to eliminate this anxiety is to remember that The Creator/Manager is good; In fact The Creator/Manager doesn’t have a “bad bone” in His “body.” There is simply nothing but goodness in The Creator/Manager, so if “creating positive intentions” (lesson 2) and “praying for good results” (lesson 1) haven’t worked for you, it is only because, according to the Divine plan, you really are receiving assistance, not a hindrance.
The story is told of three great mystics (including the author of the Tanya,) who were discussing a war where there were unfortunately many casualties. The first two mystics said, “If I were The Creator/Manager, I would have created fewer casualties,” each one choosing the side on which they would have created fewer fatalities. The third and greatest mystic said “If I was The Creator/Manager, I would do exactly the same thing, but I would understand why.”
There Is A Master Plan At Play – And It Is In Your Interest.
In other words, try to understand that despite the pain you are in, there is a master plan at play and the same way, a child cannot understand how come his parents are forcing him to do his homework instead of playing in the fresh air, so too our minds simply cannot conceive of everything that The Creator/Manager’s mind can.
Personal Pain Vs. Other People’s Pain
Now an important point needs to be clarified.
While we may trust that what The Creator/Manager is doing in our own particular case is for the best, we should always take the merciful approach, pleading with The Creator/Manager for grace, kindness, and compassion, and do the same for someone else in need. As we explained in the second lesson, this then becomes our own destiny from The Creator/Manager and furthermore, if you were G-d-forbid suffering, the last thing you would want is for someone to rationalize your pain by saying that it is the best thing for you!
In my mind, the classic book on human suffering is “The Book of Job.” The essence of the book (in my humble opinion) is that when Job’s friends try to justify The Creator/Manager’s (seemingly irrational and unjust) behavior towards him, he replies to them, “Everything that you know (about The Creator/Manager) I do too.” In other words, “try to comfort me over my losses; don’t try to make a believer out of me while I am suffering and in pain.”
This is not to say that it is not beneficial to help someone who is sick or in need, to trust in The Creator/Manager; for usually that is the very best medicine possible. However if one does take this approach, it is not in order to create a believer, rather to help the person who is in pain and usually people are smart enough to tell the difference.
Can We Understand?
Interestingly, in The Book of Job, The Creator/Manager finally answers the poor man.
And all he really does is give him a list of scientific phenomena such as light refractions, constellations, the science of the formation of earth, animal biology and many other factors understood by The Creator/Manager but not to man. Thus Job realized that it is literally impossible for a finite man to understand an Infinite G-d. [Einstein often stated “What's incomprehensible (about reality) is that some of it is comprehensible.” In other words, it is amazing that we understand anything at all, and as Einstein said “My religion is the tiny bit of reality (the Creator) allows me to understand, of which I am in awe of!”]
The Rebbe Writes
“As you surely know the questions you ask regarding G-d’s ways etc. are already asked in the Bible and its commentaries for they are natural in times of stress.
One general answer, which is really self-evident, though hard to accept in a state of emotional upset, is that it is surely illogical to limit The Creator in His Designs and actions to conform to the understanding of a created human being.
I have often had occasion to cite a simple illustration to the effect, that no one can expect an infant to understand the ideas and actions of a learned professor; although the professor was once an infant himself, and the present infant may have the potential even to surpass the professor in due course. How much more so, and incomparably, when it comes to the Infinite Intelligence of The Creator visa-à-vie the finite and limited intelligence of a created human being.
This will, of course, not be a revelation to you; only, as the Torah says, it is difficult for a person to accept consolation in a time of grief.”
Who is The Creator/Manager?
Now sometimes people have the wrong idea about The Creator/Manager. An atheist once told a Rabbi, “I don’t believe in G-d.” The Rabbi replied, “In The G-d that you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.”
People have a tendency to anthropomorphize G-d. They see The Creator/Manager as a very great human. Thus they figure that The Creator/Manager desires power, but the truth is that if we can compare The Creator/Manager to anyone at all, it would be to the love of a mother for her tiny newborn baby, AN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!
G-d created human emotions and only He can inform us of what He loves, and the verse states “I love you, said the L-rd!” After all are we not all his creations?!
Understanding That We Can’t Understand Everything
It is when we expect to understand, and believe that we can, that we get frustrated when we don’t. However, if we understand that we can’t understand an Infinite Plan, so then just like a child gains security by trusting in his parents, so to we can remind ourselves that it is quite possible for something beneficial to take place in our interest without us being capable of understanding how.
The Creator and Manager of the World is Good
So in summary, we need to understand that The Creator/Manager is good – and although we do not understand why what is happening is good – nonetheless we can have the wisdom to trust in The Creator/Manager’s wisdom and this will take the stress and anxiety out of the situation.
The second and most common reason for feeling fear, is actually anxiety over if we are doing the right thing or not.
In order to explain this fully we need to clarify that within each and every one of us there is a Yetzer Hara – a demon – a little devil, whose job it is to get us to be depressed and sad, so that we will be unmotivated in being good and giving people.
As the Baal Shem Tov teaches, “More than the Yetzer Hara desires that you should sin, he desires that you should feel guilty that you sinned.”
The Yetzer Hara – demon - little devil, employs guilt as its primary weapon of offense. Although guilt seems like a good thing, a wise psychologist told me today that “Guilt, is the biggest energy waster in the world,” and she is right. After studying Jewish mysticism and realizing that this is how The Creator/Manager designed the world, I stopped feeling guilty for all of my negative desires, for they are part and parcel of the Yetzer Hara which puts them into our minds. (I can prove the Yetzer Hara’s existence but it’s not for this short booklet; this is more about factual information and how to help yourself than about proving its existence.)
What really helped me was realizing that The Creator/Manager does not expect us to have only positive desires. Our bodies and the Yetzer Hara instinctively produce negative desires such as those for arrogance, anger, laziness, enjoyment over other people’s downfalls, pleasures and so on.
There is nothing wrong – again, nothing wrong – with having these desires. There is something wrong, however, if we are constantly angry, or are constantly arrogant, or are constantly lazy, or constantly mock others, or only seek out our own instinctual pleasures.
Getting over Guilt
The key to not feeling guilty is as follows: Firstly, you need to know that The Creator/Manager is good and is looking to reward you for being good (as mentioned in the second lesson). Secondly, you need to have practical expectations of yourself.
In order to understand this you need to actually study the Torah, the Bible and its commentaries. (I have written “Meditations for the Soul,” a booklet encapsulating – in a concise and modern format – most of the applicable Biblical laws and good suggestions for leading a happy, fruitful and productive life.) You need to study the Mitzvos (the Good Deeds) of the Torah/Bible, because what the Torah teaches us is never impossible. For example, one religion writes that if a man looks lustfully at a woman, it is as if he has committed adultery. Now this is ridiculous, for the innate instinct in a man is to lust after a beautiful woman. As one elderly professor told me during the Monica Lewinsky story that when he sees a young attractive woman he naturally lusts after her.
In the Torah (the Bible), what is important is not committing adultery or other deviant sexual behavior, so it is not about the desire in the heart but rather about the action of the body. Even if someone doesn’t desire to give charity, but controls themselves and gives charity anyway, they have then successfully done a good deed! To a large extent it was The Creator/Manager’s will that we should be challenged by this demon – little devil - and give The Creator/Manager and ourselves the moral satisfaction of conquering it.
As Rabbi Josef Isaac Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe writes, one cannot compare the pleasure a farmer would get from the produce reaped from a perfect field in the perfect climate to the satisfaction he would get if he managed to take a barren dessert and give it life.
Thirdly, a person must have self-control, for if we do not have self-control we will never live up to our own standards, for we know what we should be doing but practically we do not have the ability to do it.
Self-control can take a long time to achieve, but the surest method was described in a book on education by Rabbi Josef Isaac Schneersohn. He writes that because of the manner in which The Creator/Manager made us, we have the ability to order ourselves around. By telling yourself what to do, you gain the ability to control yourself.
The following graph shows how behavior through self-control leads to happiness.
Thoughts = Thoughts
Speech = Speech
Actions = Actions
Thus we need to ensure that we have the self-control to do what we ourselves know is right, and to refrain from doing that which we ourselves know is wrong. If we do not, our own internal judge will automatically compare our behavior to our morals, and we will thus feel guilty for not having done the right thing. So we can also avoid unpleasant feelings of guilt by exercising self-control and doing the right thing in the first place.
If however, we find that we are feeling guilty, despite living up to our own standards, such as incessant feelings that one is not living up to their ideals, we can be certain that this is only a ruse of the Yetzer Hara, which we can eliminate by saying to ourselves, “Now is not the time to feel bad about my misdeeds; Repentance takes a dedicated and set time.”
The Yetzer Hara is like a KGB informer, first he pretends to be your friend in order to gain your trust, so everything he says appears to be holy (as our sages teach us, the Yetzer Hara begins with false holiness, but slowly slowly leads one to the worst sins possible, things unfathomable to you; but more importantly) the Yetzer Hara then becomes the informer against you and not only that, when you are being judged in Heaven, he is there advocating for the worst possible punishment.
On the other hand, The Creator/Manager and your Yetzer Tov/desire for goodness and kindness and generally speaking your rational mind itself, is your friend. So never worry about the inane comments, fears, worries, stresses, about how good or not good you are. Tell yourself, “Life is about actively pursuing good, if I will be worried all the time if I am doing things one hundred percent correctly, this will take me away from fulfilling my mission in life and then the agent will advocate against me in the Heavenly Court of Law. I will dedicate time at night for repentance but now during the day (or whenever) is exclusively positive time.”
One of the fascinating relevant statements of Kabbalah is, “The strength of the body/instinctual desires counteracts the strength of the soul’s desires.” In other words, if you were running in one direction but at the same time you were being pulled in an opposite direction – based on how strong the pull is, will determine whether you will be going forward, at what speed, and perhaps if you will even be compelled to go backwards.
Ironically, although it appears to us that our instinctual desires are what we want, they are not! Everyone would like to be remembered positively by their family and friends which only comes from unconditionally loving them, and hence giving to them; However, to the extent that we are selfish i.e. follow our instinctual desires, is directly proportionate to the extent that we are not running in a selfless - diametrically opposite - direction.
This takes places subconsciously, so in other words, automatically we are born with selfish instincts, and to overcome them we need to use our souls and minds.
Bullying the Bully
Now there is another teaching from the Zohar/Kabbalah on how to overcome something that challenges spiritual seekers often and that is that for some reason their soul or mind is incapable of altering their behavior. As mentioned – when a person orders themselves around they gain self-control; however sometimes we find that the body simply refuses to listen to the soul or mind. The reason for this is because the Kelipos (negative demons) controlling the atoms energizing the body are being arrogant (for as mentioned, everything gets energized through either 1. directly from The Creator/Manager, or 2. two forms of intermediaries, see chapter two;) So it would be like a bully blocking your ability to enter a door. The Zohar teaches that the method to overcome this “dullness of heart,” is to break the barriers surrounding the heart. It gives an example of a large log that someone would like to use as firewood. If you try to light the log on its own, it will not catch fire. However if you chop it up into small pieces it will burn nicely.
So another way of gaining self-control is to humble yourself. (For as the person to a large extent identifies with his body/instincts, hence the humbling of self, causes the humbling of the Kelipos as well, allowing you access to your heart.) So think about all the bad, vile, rude, narcissistic things you have done. The greater your list, the more humble you will become. As this is a common problem, perhaps it would be a good idea to designate a time when you do this and it truly will allow for your soul or mind to gain dominance over your instincts.
Self-Control In The Mind
The truth is that we should also endeavor to control our thoughts – and this is in its own right, a very important concept, for by controlling our thoughts we then gain self-control. If our thoughts are just governed by what is pleasurable and what is not – i.e. “I only think about what makes me happy” (and unfortunately in “reverse psychology,” for example after trauma, “I only think about not encountering the fearful situation,”) then we are never really thinking; we are reacting to instinctual desires that percolate up into our minds, and our thoughts are merely part of the reaction.
For example, if someone upsets you, you can either have an argument with him or her, or simply choose not to think about them, waiting for time to heal your wounds. Obviously, it is nobler to forgive the person, and according to one study I read, people who forgave others while hooked up to blood pressure monitors proved that the simple act of forgiveness caused an immediate lowering of their blood pressure by a whopping 30%. Conversely, holding onto a grudge is exceptionally harmful to you.
Changing The Airwaves
It will probably take you a few years to gain complete control over your thoughts, but without such control you are walking in a jungle, at the mercy of whatever stimulus comes your way. With the ability to control one’s thoughts, even someone in a prison labor camp can be free and sane. As Dr. Victor Frankel writes, that though what the Nazis did to him was not under his control, nonetheless his reaction to their monstrous behavior and his thoughts were!
Again, through using the method mentioned by Rabbi Josef Isaac Schneersohn you can gain mastery over your thoughts. Although your mind is always producing some kind of thought, what you think about is under your control. If you tell yourself, “I will think a positive thought,” or “I will go listen to some music or read a book,” you can change the “station” playing in your head, and eventually you will reach the point where you will be talking in your head, and your head will not simply be reacting to whatever stimulus your eye sees, or that comes your way.
I marvel at the many Holocaust survivors who went on to build quality lives, getting married again (sometimes after losing their entire families) and often creating successful businesses, and sometimes even business empires. Obviously if they had focused on what the Nazis did to them, they would have never made it. We in the Western World, who have so much good (including freedom) tend to harp on minutiae that people in the East would find meaningless.
My grandmother luckily/miraculously managed to escape communist Russia. She and her siblings lived in the upstairs attic of a Synagogue for many years (having been thrown out of their home by the Communist Government for being religious Jews.) She told me that people in the west would have committed suicide if they were subjected to their torturous lifestyle.
The Prince in the Navy
Now this demon is actually a little devil given to man by The Creator/Manager to test man’s devotion to The Creator/Manager i.e. goodness and kindness. The Zohar, the primary book of Kabbalah, explains that this is like a king who desires to test his son’s morality, and so he sends his son to become a sailor in the navy. At the ports the sailors frequented brothels (this is an olden day example,) so this sailor-prince was approached by a gorgeous harlot who had been hired by the king to see if his son had the moral fiber to withstand this great test. Similarly, the soul in Heaven is basking in The Creator/Manager’s Light and is like the Prince at a King’s table. Then the soul is sent into a body and on top of that, the king hires a beautiful, exceptionally adept harlot to try to get the son to stray from the moral high ground, and his true self.
Another Thought To Beat The Guilt Induced By The Yetzer Hara
You need not feel any guilt over negative desires, you should rather feel proud, that precisely because you are thinking, speaking, and doing good, the Yetzer Hara (like a boxer afraid of losing a match,) is working “overtime” by giving you these thoughts; trying to prevent you from fulfilling your mission in life.
The Surest Method of Beating the Yetzer Hara
Incredibly, the best way to beat the Yetzer Hara is actually by being happy. This can be compared to two wrestlers. One would assume that the stronger wrestler will always win the match; however, it is often not the stronger wrestler who will win, but the happier one; for if the other wrestler is sad or depressed he simply won’t put up a real fight.
So by being happy you give yourself the energy, motivation, vim to fight; however, if you are sad it will be very easy for the Yetzer Hara to beat you in his constant vigilance in tricking you to sin, and then to feel guilty about it, and then getting you to look for a temporary “high,” to compensate on your current extreme disrespect for yourself.
Another analogy would be of two people who are trying to climb a mountain, one full of hope; believing that he will make it to the top, and the other who is slightly depressed or does not trust in his ability to summit. The optimist will succeed, for despite setbacks he is hopeful and believes he will make it, while the pessimist will take the setbacks as a confirmation of his miserable luck, lose hope and give up early in the game.
The Baal Shem Tov gives us a good analogy on the Yetzer Hara’s belligerence. Once a man bought a beautiful home; now a conman thinking “how can I get this for free?” - but of course having no money - came to the man and asked him to sell him the home (i.e. the Yetzer Hara giving you negative desires;) so the man said “its not for sale,” so he came back and requested “can I possibly rent a room in the home?” Again the man said no; then he came back a third time and by now the man was exasperated and the conman requested one simple thing, “can you give me a hook by the coat-stand?” Sensing this would finally rid himself of the pest he said “yes!”
Ceremoniously, every hour on the hour the conman would come in and out of the house to hang up something on his hook. Completely exasperated the owner finally said “here, take the stupid house!” In other words, by not fighting our Yetzer Hara we are inviting him to completely control our lives.
Choose to be Happy
So in simple words, the key to really achieving what you want in life is through choosing to be happy.
The Creator and Manager of the World Wants You To Be Happy
There was an issue of Newsweek magazine devoted to analyzing the latest research regarding children. A poll had been sent out with the following question: “What do you want for your child?” The greatest desire of parents was that their children should be happy. The Creator/Manager’s desire – as He is our parent – is that we should quite simply be happy.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe once told Rabbi Yoel Kahan, author of the Chassidic Encyclopedia “the world assumes that the road to G-d is through seriousness, but I say it is through joy!”
Specify a few people who you want to start loving unconditionally (with no expectation of reward whatsoever).
Chapter 4 Forgiving
The Seesaw of Human Relationships
Imagine human relationships as a seesaw. As a child, you begin life with the feeling that you are lower than the adults (as you are dependent on them). However, with your peers you feel equal, so then the seesaw is level. Finally, as an adult you feel superior to children younger than you. This takes place subconsciously, so don’t feel bad about it.
If someone offends you, depending on the traits you picked up from childhood you will most likely be passive as children learn not to fight with adults, since they are dependent on them. What you will probably do is harbor an inner resentment.
Resentments, Illnesses and Healing
Resentments have been linked to major illnesses, while healing resentments (forgiving people) has been linked to immediate recovery.
Research has shown that we actually store emotions in our cells, and sometimes a negative emotion will cause a cell to go haywire, resulting in disease.
As one friend of mine who came down with a terrible illness told me, disease is from the word dis-ease. Dis-ease can often cause disease.
Fear Causes Illness
The Baal Shem Tov calls anger “negative fear.”
And research into the field of psychosomatic illnesses indicates that all illnesses – and certainly mental ones – are founded in fear and anxiety.
Forgiveness and Healing
One friend of mine had a thyroid problem for two years. He tried regular and alternative medicines but nothing helped. Finally he went to a spiritual healer, also an M.D. who told him that he should discover what had happened in his life that had caused the illness. He realized that around the time of contracting his illness he had had a fall-out with a very close friend, and after forgiving that friend he immediately began to feel better.
Forgiveness and Cancer
Brandon Bayes wrote a book called “The Journey,” about how she caused a massive tumor to slowly disintegrate and actually became cancer-free within a month-and-a-half by forgiving certain people (from a childhood memory). She has successfully taught many others “forgiveness therapy.”
Deepak Chopra, an M.D. who spends a lot of time investigating such phenomena, reports as a scientific fact that forgiveness works. However, he feels that some people have an ability to access forgiveness in their inner hearts, while others unfortunately don’t know, or haven’t learned, how to.
In addition it pays to mention that all research (e.g. the China study – the largest study in history incorporating over hundreds of millions of people) indicate that eating healthy foods and not becoming filled from unhealthy non-nutritious food is the key to not getting sick in the first place (for the immune system is constantly killing cancer cells and these foods give a person the ability to do so.)
I recall that when I was a child, an adult once shouted at me for what he perceived as wild behavior (he was a very anxious individual.) Now many years later when I was a young man, I happened to return to the same city where this adult lived. We happened to meet and, remarkably, this guy asked my forgiveness for shouting at me when I was a kid. I don’t know how he even remembered. “You probably don’t remember…” he said to me, but amazingly in point of fact I did remember the incident and while I did not bear a grudge (after all he was somewhat justified in my mind as he was the adult,) nonetheless. there was certainly some sort of barrier between us in my mind.
Since his asking for my forgiveness and my forgiving him, whatever subconscious animosity existed between us was replaced by my everlasting admiration for this man.
The same applies in a parent/child relationship; when a parent says something harsh as a reprimand, it is vital that later the parent does something affectionate to show the child that the relationship is back on track. Ironically what is a causal remark by an authority figure is taken as an absolute truth (and hence unnecessary feelings of shame and hurt ensue) by a subordinate, child, or student.
Additionally it pays to mention that I saw on a video of when the Lubavitcher Rebbe would receive thousands of visitors every Sunday for a blessing and advice, how a lady once asked the Rebbe for educational advice, to which he replied “Be a good role model.” The lady was shocked – perhaps she was expecting something more complex – and you can see how she remains standing there dumbstruck, just looking at the Rebbe. So the Rebbe responded, that the advice was “Simple, but effective.”
Forgiveness Vs. Revenge
The benefit of forgiveness is that essentially, you do not allow yourself to feel lower than the person who has harmed, insulted, disparaged or mocked you. It is only natural to feel “put down” when someone insults you, but remember that what happens when you begin to feel lower than someone else in the seesaw model, is that our human instincts tell us to take revenge. Revenge is about getting back “on top” of the other person so-to-speak, to re-correct the imbalance in the seesaw.
Obviously it is a never ending cycle, for even if you do get revenge, the person will then desire to lower you. Thus it becomes a never ending cycle, which unfortunately happens often in relationships.
Let me share a story with you. This is a story about an incident described by the great Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov as the hardest personal challenge The Creator/Manager ever gave to anyone since Abraham was asked to bind his son Isaac on the altar.
In the olden days, a man once traveled to a distant town, when such a journey took many weeks of crossing difficult terrain. He came back home with his prize – an Esrog. (The Esrog is a fruit used by the Jewish people during the holiday of Sukkos.)
Now this man could ill afford to spend money on an Esrog, and he had saved up for an entire year to afford this fruit needed for the festival. His wife, seeing that he had spent his savings on an Esrog and not on the family’s needs which were dire, became enraged, and bit off the top part of the Esrog, rendering the fruit useless – as the fruit needs to be complete to be used in the tradition required by the Torah for the festival. Imagine having worked for many years, saved up a lot of money, and bought your dream car and then, in a fit of rage, a friend of yours takes your car for a drive, ignores the “low oil” symbol, and allows your car to overheat; Your engine is now ruined. How would you feel about your friend’s senseless drive? You would no doubt be livid. The owner of the precious Esrog, however refused to get upset with his wife. The man said to himself, “It’s bad enough I don’t have a beautiful Esrog, should I also sin by becoming angry.”
In other words if we can control our emotions we can control our temper.
[There is an interesting movie made in Israel with international acclaim called “Ushpizin” which is a modern rerun of this story.]
The Bible teaches us that one may never verbally insult another person, and the Talmud (a commentary on the Bible) explains, that verbal insults upsets The Creator/Manager to the point that He ensures that justice is served. In other words “you get what you give” and “what goes around comes around.” A person should not upset The Creator/Manager by getting angry or taking revenge; he can, and should, leave it up to The Creator/Manager to settle the score.
Revenge Doesn’t Work
Look at what Zidan lost by getting angry with a player during the final part of the 2006 soccer World Cup. By taking revenge he eliminated himself from the game, which probably cost the French team the World Cup.
At the end of the day, holding onto a grudge only hurts you. Forgiveness only helps you.
Try to think of all the people who insulted you and all of the times you were slighted. If need be, write them down and write, “I forgive these people.”
Either Forgive or Confront
If you cannot forgive them, then confront them. Don’t hold it in. Write to them or tell them that you are upset with them for the wrong they have done to you. Firstly, it allows them to defend themselves if there was an appropriate cause, and secondly, it allows you to so-to-speak “balance yourself out” with them – for after the confrontation you no longer feel victimized and therefore “lower” than them.
It is important to remember that, as an adult, no one (not even your boss or your spouse) has the right to treat you with the slightest degree of emotional or verbal indignity. You have the right to challenge them and you should challenge them if you cannot find it in your heart to forgive them.
Who knows, maybe you will be helping them as well by so doing!
It also pays to remember that many people feel stressed out, and as such, although perhaps they themselves wish they could be nice nevertheless when things don’t follow their schedule, they can turn into monsters. All of this is because in childhood they were either/or emotionally, verbally, or physically abused, and they never want to get abused again. As such, subconsciously, they believe that if they are in control (not a victim) the bad stuff will not occur. So it pays to take the criticism of such people (sometimes called control-freaks) with a bag of salt.
Anger is never about the infractions of another rather the perceived injustice to oneself - so by recognizing that though what others have done may appear to be unjust - but as all comes from a just Creator and Manager of the world, hence his evil is actually a kindness which is either a material (for sometimes you need to be fired from one job for a better opportunity to have the chance to begin) or a spiritual benefit (for sometimes pain and suffering remind us to reevaluate our life hence reprioritizing that which we truly desire i.e. making a meaningful difference in this world.)
The bottom line is, that if we get angry, upset, faribled, resentful, it is because we are attributing power to a human being WHO IS ALWAYS ONLY A MESSENGER FROM G-D.
Try to think of all the people who have insulted you. If need be write them down and write, “I forgive these people.”
Bonus: If something bad has occurred to you, write down as many positive benefits that you can conjure up that have come from it.
Big Bonus: Instead of feeling anger and resentment, try to feel compassion for the low spiritual state a person who is denigrating or harming you, must be in.
Big Big Bonus: Every night before going to bed do the first exercise.
Big Big Big Bonus: Every night before going to bed ask yourself “what acts of kindness and growth have I achieved today?”
Biggest Bonus: When bad people make fun of you—even if they come up with convincing arguments—you should not only ignore it but see it as a message from The Creator/Manager to continue your efforts to the point that it doesn't even bother you.
Chapter 5 Gratitude
It is also true that our thoughts influence our day. If we believe we will have a good or a bad day, reality will follow suit.
The Awakening Thought
The first thought a person has when he or she wakes up sets the mood and tone for the day. By being grateful in the morning you will create gratitude, joy, happiness, and tranquility in your day. This will enable you to have a positive day.
Some of the best times in my life were when I took a few minutes in the morning to think of the blessings I have been given and to compare my blessings to others who lack them – thus concretizing the fact that they really are worth being grateful for. This early-morning activity made me feel on top of the world, and whenever I do it, it works.
I am sure you have heard the saying, “He woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” This is a true saying, for if we wake up anxious, chances are that the rest of the day will be an anxiety riddled day. However, if we consciously create gratitude in the beginning of our day, we will create the mechanism for a happy, grateful and joyous day.
Modeh Ani – Gratitude for your Soul
Religious Jews say the following prayer immediately upon awakening: “Modeh ani l’fanecha melech chai v’kayam she’hechezarta bee nishmasi b’chemla raba emunasecha.” This prayer actually goes all the way back to the time of Abraham. In English it translates as, “I am grateful to You, living and eternal King (i.e. The Creator/Manager) for graciously restoring my soul to me, you are very trustworthy.”
The Kabbalistic belief is that every night the soul ascends to The Creator/Manager and there it gives an accounting of its deeds during the day. This is consistent with what our Sages teach us, that The Creator/Manager does not only judge man once a year on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but in fact, judges us daily.
Change The Same
A story is told of an elderly water carrier who once asked the Baal Shem Tov to bless him, as his job – carrying buckets of water across his shoulders – was unfortunately causing him much physical strain. The Baal Shem Tov blessed him and saw by Divine vision that his blessing would work. However, when he met the man a year later, the man was still carrying water. Yet the man came rushing over to the Baal Shem Tov, very grateful and full of optimism and joy in life.
“Thank you for my blessing,” he said, “for although I am old, I am self sufficient. I do not need to rely on anyone to take care of me.”
The Baal Shem Tov then said, “I now understand what it means when it states in the Talmud that a person is judged daily; for although his circumstances did not change, nevertheless his appreciation of his circumstances did, which gave him joy, gratitude, and happiness in his life!”
Finding Good in Bad Actually Transforms Bad to Good!
I should mention a powerful teaching of the Baal Shem Tov which is very worthwhile to practice: If a person is in a difficult circumstance he should try to find the good in it. For example, I went through a very traumatic experience with an individual who suffers from a particular personality disorder. People suffering from this disorder believe that they are better than everyone else, due to what is called “artificial morality,” rules they create in their minds and follow, believing that this makes them superior to everyone else, while their real objective is often to shame other people, preferably in some kind of public forum.
Although I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, my experience at the hands of this individual strengthened me and I would not give it up for anything in the world. It taught me more about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, haughtiness and humility, than any other experience could have. So, by finding the good in the bad, the experience becomes good and you continue your life with joy, happiness, and gratitude.
Blessings We Take For Granted In The West
I think that we simply don’t appreciate the blessings that we have in the Western World, because we haven’t experienced the pain of not having them. If we were to live like the majority of the world does for one week, we would thank The Creator/Manager every morning for our healthcare system, for our freedoms, for an abundance of food, for our ability to have leisure time, for the luxury of staying warm or cool in the winter or summer respectively, for the gift of long life, for advanced medical care that ensures low infant mortality, for the prosperity that allows our children many years of education, for democracy that lets us take part in legislating the laws that affect us and the list goes on and on.
East Vs. West
I once worked with Russian immigrants in America, and I would often ask them, “How are you?” and invariably they would always reply with the Yiddish phrase, “Abi Gezunt,” meaning, “as long as we’re healthy, we’re happy.” Now these people had suffered many, many years of persecution under the Communist regime; they had left everything behind in Russia, including their status, and were living in small apartments off government stipends, and yet they were happy as long as they were healthy. Their attitude in life was one of gratefulness for the blessings that they actually had.
So if you need to, let your mind’s eye see the difficulties of the past or the deprivation of many in the present, and then you can truly be grateful for what The Creator/Manager has graciously bestowed upon you today.
As you wake up, read the list that you made in Suggestion # 1 and say, “Thank you Creator for …” (If need be, you should think of people who do not have these things and it will strengthen your gratitude for what you have. This does not mean feeling superior to them; in fact by becoming happy you will be enabled to become a more giving person.)
Bonus: Additionally it pays to mention that before we go to sleep we should ideally a. Read our gratitude list B. We should account for our actions, speech, and thoughts during the day. Many Chassidim – disciples of Modern Jewish Mysticism spend hours, literally making an inventory of all of their thoughts, speech, and actions – seeing if they were good or not and furthermore planning good behavior for tomorrow. C. We should say the verse (part of the bedtime prayers but the most important theme of it) “I hand over my soul to you (G-d) Please care for it, G-d of truth.” [This is very important, for the Kabbalistic belief – as mentioned – is that the soul goes into heaven at night and depending if we did the above three things is how high it will ascend. The higher it goes – the more The Creator/Manager cares for it, protecting it from demons which pain a person at night through nightmares – hence the more refreshing and beneficial is the sleep and the subsequent day.]
Chapter 6 Unconditional Love
Sample: Barbara decided to unconditionally love her two children, Miriam and Jonathan, her husband Michael, her parents, Bob and Sara, her sister, Esther, and her stepson Josh.
Now that Barbara knows who she will love unconditionally, she needs to re-evaluate her relationship with those people. Is she a good mother, daughter, wife and sister because she believes this is the correct way to live? Meaning, that as she will give, she will receive in return?
Conditional Versus Unconditional Love
Incidentally, a psychiatrist told me that most of his patients are women who cannot come to terms with the fact that they give so much to others while others don’t give back to them. According to the psychiatrist and me, their giving was based on conditional love. In other words, there was an expectation of a return, and while this may be appropriate, nevertheless such women become depressed when their conditions are not met. If a person loves another unconditionally, they will not become depressed even if they receive nothing in return, for they are happy just to love the other person.
The Talmud gives two examples for the comparison and differentiation of conditional versus unconditional love.
Amnon was a half brother to Tamar, both children of Kind David, and he desired her; so his friend advised him to concoct a story that he was ill and ask the king that she should serve him his meals. There he unfortunately raped her, but the Bible (Prophets) teaches, that the moment after he raped her, he then hated her with as much passion as he previously loved her; for his love was not for her, rather for something he could achieve from her! And the moment he achieved it, he in fact, perhaps then resented his dependence on her and therefore, despised her.
On the other hand, true unconditional love is like the love between Jonathan and David prior to his becoming King. In fact, King Saul, the first Jewish King realized that David was destined by fate to be the next King, and hence desired to eliminate him and it was Jonathan – the Crown Prince! – who actually saved David’s life.
I recently saw a mother of a child with special needs speak with the greatest respect to her child. She believes that her son has a special soul and thus in the most kind and honorable way, she always teaches him what he can understand – and as a result he is a loving, caring child. It is precisely when people are normal and we believe that we can get something out of the relationship that we subconsciously resent giving without receiving.
One interesting study indicates that the happiest people on earth are married men, while the most miserable are married women. While this is obviously a generalization it is often very true, for the man usually has his needs met while the woman – who also has needs – finds that her needs are not being met; (as men are less adept at noticing women’s needs, as women are at noticing men’s.)
One of the best ways to understand another person’s needs, is to identify with their level of need. For example, if a man doesn’t want to spend a vacation at his in-law’s home, it is important for his wife to think about how she would feel about spending a vacation at her in-law’s home. If she wouldn’t have a problem with that, then she should think about spending a vacation somewhere she really wouldn’t want to go, and then she can identify with the level of her husband’s displeasure when considering a vacation with her parents.
This point is brought out in more detail at the end of my booklet, “How To Find The Meaning Of Your Life.”
The Final Hurdle
Another very important point is that just as the division of all matter is Air, Water, Earth, Fire (which also follows the kinetic theory that all matter will change from solid to liquid to gas based on the heat applied to it) there is also a spiritual counterpart in each of our souls corresponding to these four levels.
Earth, refers to man’s innate drive for laziness, as earth is heavy and stays in one place; Earth also includes our innate tendency to feel sad – and even depressed – when things don’t go our way.
Fire, refers to man’s innate tendency to enjoy supremacy over others. This character trait is unique to the human “animal,” as other creatures will fight only for hunger or other instinctual and survival related needs. They have no pathology that leads them to desire supremacy over others, which was the aim of kings and queens for thousands of years. It is only in modern times, that the concept, that no man should lord over others has come to the fore. Needless to say, this tendency is still very much innate within people – although it is frowned upon in democratic societies.
Air, refers to our desire for “fun,” comedy, jokes and other frivolous activities. Most of what we see on television or in the movies today falls into this category – it is mindless entertainment meant to squander our time on something that is “there but intangible” containing no real value for you – or anyone else for that matter.
Water refers to man’s innate drive for pleasure, through eating, listening to good music, intercourse etc.
We all have elements of earth, fire, air & water in us; however, each person’s soul has a predominance of one of these elements. For example, thankfully, I innately love helping people and I have strong feelings of compassion towards people (which is a real blessing for this characteristic has to be developed within those who lack it naturally, and it is not always an easy task.) Unfortunately, I also have an extreme tendency to laziness/earth. If I do not conquer my tendency to be lazy it will wipe out my tendency for compassion, for compassion requires going out and doing something to alleviate another’s pain, and laziness abhors action.
Overcoming Our Innate Weakness
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that if we can discover our innate weakness, and conquer it, then all of our other weaknesses will fall like a house of cards.
According to one of the greatest Jewish scholars, the Rambam, the method to conquering a person’s weak trait is for him to constantly oppose his tendency. For example, if one is innately lazy, one must make an effort to be active and do things; and the more one is proactive and occupies oneself with productive activities, the more each and every action will help one to succeed to break this negative tendency.
The same applies to someone who is addicted to pleasure, making it his god. The more he refrains from pleasure, the more control he gets over his life.
The person who is always a comedian should become more serious and realize that life is not a game; it is about doing acts of goodness and kindness. (Naturally one can help someone else through comedy, but is the focus on helping another or on comedy.) The more serious the person gets, the less he will feel compelled to be frivolous and waste away his life.
The final innate negative desire is arrogance or Fire, which is to some extent the greatest evil of the four, for arrogance immediately precludes feeling compassion for others. For as you feel superior to others, you cannot feel compassion for them, much as you don’t have compassion on an ant that you step on as you walk down the sidewalk. The arrogant person must try to be humble, constantly telling himself that everyone else is far better than he or she is and that even if he has achieved, he should attribute that success to The Creator/Manager.
Moses was, according to the Bible, the humblest man who ever lived, and yet he was a great leader, a great ethicist, and in fact the person endowed with the most prophecy ever according to the Bible.
So how did he maintain his humility? The Jewish Sages teach that Moses believed that The Creator/Manager granted him great gifts; however, if someone else had had the same gifts, the other person would have surpassed his goodness and kindness.
Truly, we can never know if we are really living up to our potential.
Additionally never think you are greater than the people you are in charge of, for without those who receive from you, well you basically have no purpose to your existence.
In general, whenever it comes to acts of goodness and kindness we should never grow conceited which would probably make the act a failure rather than a success. Rather, we should look up to the saints of the world who do endless acts of goodness and kindness and realize that we have just begun our journey into holiness, and the road is endless.
In summary: The main thing is to love, for then you not only do good for others, but you do a world of good for yourself!
Overcoming our innate weakness is the greatest possible achievement, far more difficult than scaling Mount Everest, building a company, or any scientific or intellectual endeavor. For when a person surmounts obstacles in a journey, every obstacle is seen as the antithesis (a boulder in the road) to the goal. However, when one is conquering one’s own innate tendency, every time he fights himself he is at a crossroads – should I do the right thing, or follow my instinct? To conquer oneself, to gain self-control is the purpose of life and what makes all subsequent achievements dear and valuable to yourself, to society, and most of all to your loving Father in Heaven!
Resolve to love unconditionally the people you have chosen, and try to do acts of goodness and kindness during the day for them.
Bonus: I was giving this course in a Corporate Headquarters in Manhattan and the Rabbi who introduced me to this company made the following practical relevant and concise suggestion on how to actualize acts of goodness and kindness for those whom you unconditionally love daily.
1. Think something positive about them once a day.
2. Say something positive – like call your wife or husband or child or best friend and say – I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you.
3. Buy them a small present, for it shows them (especially your wife) that they mean the world to you, for you have taken some of your time, which you could have spent selfishly and instead acted selflessly.