Are You Sure?


Your Unshakable Essence

Are you indecisive? Do you vacillate? Are there important decisions in your life that you are postponing – and with very good excuses which you may rationalize as “reasons”?

None of us are immune from inertia. As mere mortals we have our different fears and insecurities. Mood swings and circumstances don’t help. Often, life’s overbearing pressures simply wear us down, leaving us with little strength to break out of patterns and “make a move.” The silent, lethargic power of habit should never be underestimated.

And even when you finally make a “decision” to move, how often does that decision turn into an extended process that, years later, still awaits resolution? It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s quite another to maintain and implement the inspiration.

As we dig deeper into the psyche, this weakness exposes a more fundamental human flaw: Do we have unwavering identities, or are we products of the changing winds around us?

The only thing consistent about me, a friend jokes, is that I am inconsistent. Or as another poet put it, the only thing we knew for sure about Johnny was that his name was not Johnny.

And finally, this brings us, no doubt, to the biggest issue of all: Commitment. Are we able to remain committed – and when I say committed, I mean real, unconditional, commitment – to someone, to a cause, to ourselves, to anything? Is there anything that you are absolutely certain of? Or are we doomed to limited and conditional relationships, which change like the weather, or a bit less often?

Justified or not, human beings are creatures of change and instruments of habit. No matter how much we seem to try, our past haunts our future, and even when we resolve to chart a new course and establish a true commitment, the ever-changing human vacillator constantly shifts like a ticking clock.

That’s why we humans have created the pressures of deadlines and cut-off points, to force us to act and arrive at a resolution.

Now, you may be wondering: Who really cares if I don’t have a solid connection and absolute commitment in my life? Moreover, I am unconditionally committed to myself, to making money and satisfying my needs. Beyond that, what else is there?

Yet, there is a nagging voice inside each of us that doesn’t quite feel comfortable with that last statement. (Not to mention, that commitment to one’s need is hardly absolute; it changes in direct proportion to the immediate need).

First of all, there is love – the need to give and receive love. Is there anyone out there that actually feels that it’s quite alright if our mothers and fathers loved us conditionally? Is there a child on this earth that does not deserve to be nurtured and cared for, with no strings attached and no limits? And can we honestly say that when we are deprived of such absolute love, we will not be dramatically affected for the rest of our lives?

Every building must have a solid foundation to stand upon. How much more so the fragile human being, who is subject to the emotional forces of life (our own shifting emotions and those of others)? If our foundation totters, the entire structure is at risk.

Giving love, like receiving it, also demands an element of unwavering commitment. True love is not about taking, but about giving. A mother that stays awake all night with her child in pain does so not because the child cares for her and, therefore, it’s “worth the investment.” Love is unconditional, absolute and forever.

Then there is the matter of transcendence. We all, some more often than others, have ideals and dreams that we absolutely believe in. Even if some of us don’t feel it, we identify with the concept – and the idea resonates with us. We also admire those non-conformists, who did not take no for an answer, and stayed with their dreams, and innovated – and changed the world in the process.

Where does such certainty come from? And can we all access it?

The answer is given to us in – what may seem to some, a surprising place – a Chassidic discourse, studied by many people during this time of year.

Over sixty-years-ago today (the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat 1950) my mentor’s mentor (The Rebbe’s Rebbe) ascended on high. His name: Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth Chabad Rebbe. The last publication printed in his lifetime was a Chassidic discourse issued for study that very day. The discourse, titled Basi L’Gani, Come to my Garden (a verse in Song of Songs), consists of twenty chapters.

When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, assumed leadership of the movement, he began his first discourse with the same verse, and elucidated on the original discourse. Every year hence, on this day, Yud Shevat, the Rebbe would focus, in consecutive order, on another one of the twenty chapters of the discourse, in 1952 – chapter two, 1953 – chapter three, concluding with chapter twenty in 1970. Then he began the order again. Based on this cycle, this year, 2008 (5768), corresponds to the 18th chapter of Basi L’Gani.

What is the theme of chapter eighteen? You guessed it: Unwavering fortitude and commitment in face of the ever-changing human personality.

Esoteric in tone, this chapter, when deciphered, is as practical and relevant as any message you will ever hear.

Briefly, the chapter discusses two states of Divine energy. Sometimes we find that G-d has, so to speak, a “change of mind,” as when “G-d regretted that He had made man on earth, I will obliterate humanity” (Genesis 6:5-6), and then again, “G-d smelled the appeasing fragrance, and G-d said… ‘I will never again strike down all life as I have just done’” (8:21). Seemingly contradicting this is another verse: “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie nor change His mind, for He is not a man that He should change His mind” (Samuel I 15:29).

Explains the Rebbe: As the Divine manifests in the “image of man” and the structure of existence, there are changes corresponding to the shifting forces in existence. But the Essence of the Divine is beyond this structure. This level is unwavering and absolute, unaffected by any change.

The human soul too contains both these dimensions: Areas in life where one is affected by and undergoes constant changes. But then at the core of your soul, we have an unwavering power to overcome every challenge.

The soul accesses this absolute power through the battle against the adversarial forces of life. When we fight to live virtuous lives in a corrupt world, when we stand up for justice and morality, when we combat selfishness, our own or others, this battle evokes the deepest Divine, spiritual resources.

As demonstrated with the example of an actual war: When a leader is threatened and goes to battle, the drive of victory causes him to open up all his most precious treasures and resources, ones that have never before been seen, in order to overcome every challenge.

The challenges of life, thus, become catalysts that detonate the deepest resources within us and within the Divine. The greater the adversary, the more powerful are the forces of certainty we awaken and the more determined we are to succeed.

Complacency is the root of much uncertainty. By contrast, when we feel that our spiritual identity is threatened and we fear betraying our own highest aspirations, this stimulates new energies and will power, which access the unshakeable core of the soul rooted in the unwavering Essence of the Divine.

There is no greater gift than the gift of certainty: The absolute conviction of knowing that you are precious and indispensable; that you are on a mission championing a cause; that the place and time in which you find yourself is exactly where you belong; and that you have the power to make your unique mark on the universe.

So the secret to access inner strength and resolve is by looking at our own doubts and procrastination as an “enemy.” Define the enemy and then muster up all your inner strengths to go into battle. Your inner soul, fed by the indomitable Divine, will carry you.

May this be the only battles we ever fight.


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6 years ago

this article came into my inbox at the best possible time. It captured exactly how i have been feeling, but now i feel like i have the tools to overcome this. “So the secret to access inner strength and resolve is by looking at our own doubts and procrastination as an “enemy.” Define the enemy and then muster up all your inner strengths to go into battle. Your inner soul, fed by the indomitable Divine, will carry you.” Amazing. B’h

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