Chana Naparstek, Brooklyn, NY
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
Life comes with challenges, and we all try our hardest to ride above the waves.
Meanwhile, we struggle, as we feel victim to circumstances that envelop us. We work hard with hopes to see a pay off. The issue is that, often, our efforts don’t meet with success. The realization that we cannot always assure a smooth outcome for ourselves can leave us feeling shaky and vulnerable. No one wants the feeling of being a victim to our surroundings- it’s an unsettling feeling. People work their whole lives to try to gain this elusive control. They hope that with enough time and effort, they will begin to see success. They hope that they will regain footing, and that this will bring them At least, over their time, money, and efforts, and even over how others will behave and react towards them.
But is this even possible? Is the way to achieve true stability, by working to control ones surroundings and self? Or is there perhaps some healthier and more effective way to deal with our humanistic need to be managers over our lives?
Mr. Fisher has a reliable job as supervisor in a well run company. His paycheck has never been too high, though, and so too often, he and his family have had to pinch to make ends meet. At the beginning of this year, Mr. Fisher made a firm decision. This year would be different. Unlike in the past, he would now budget all of his expenses carefully. According to his calculation, his family would be fine. Yet to his dismay, Mr. Fisher finds himself in debt once again. This year, it is because he must miss work and pay extra medical bills for a sudden medical issue recurring in his leg, after 15 years of quiet. He is now stuck in a wheelchair at home, missing work, and obtaining debts.
Baila’s eldest daughter is named after her grandmother. Holding her as a baby, ten years ago, she imagined all the things she would teach her child. Instead, her daughter Kayla is sullen and unwilling to participate in anything.
The Weiss family sits nervously by their fathers bedside. Mr. Weiss’s condition is critical, and the family is falling apart from worry. All medical intervention has not helped, but, may G-d have mercy, have harmed him further. Now the family can do nothing but sit.
The Toll It Takes
After all the times of not succeeding, where is one left? There are those who will lose trust in themselves, and stop working so hard. Others will stubbornly charge on, insisting that they just didn’t try hard enough. They are convinced that perhaps if they work harder, they’ll finally succeed. And so they work even harder. When they see there are no options left, they fall into hysteria, and frantically ponder to themselves why is it that all of their efforts didn’t lead anywhere.
Both of these reactions don’t lead anywhere good. They both come from an unhealthy belief; a place of thinking that one has a power which they really don’t have. This type of fake empowerment can help only for a while. Because as empowered as one may be, there will be times where his most genius solutions will meet failure. If one trusts in the power that he has, he will ultimately be disappointed, because who could be in charge of what life throws his way?
Mr. Fisher’s money isn’t coming to him as hard as he tries. Baila tirelessly works to help her daughter, who only daughter only retreats. All of Old Mr. Weiss’s medical staff work hard to heal the frail man, and his health just dwindles. A new realization hits…there is nothing they can do, because they have zero control.
An Issue Of Trust
Okay. Now we are in a great place. The outcome is that no one can trust themselves, because we are all sitting with hands tied. We not only have no control of what others do, but even our own actions can’t be assured success. We can’t rely on ourselves for shelter, safety, health, or sustenance. Neither can we rely on our parents, spouse, children, or friends. Both they and you are not in control, because really, our actions
don’t accomplish anything at all.1
This thought may intimidate us. Admitting to our lack of control leaves us feeling vulnerable. We all want to feel that we can take care of ourselves. How will we otherwise survive? But thinking that we are in control is useless. Before we discuss what will help us and our struggle for control, we need to know we are powerless. It must be clear to us that we can’t trust others, and we can’t trust ourselves.2
Where does that leave us? Knowing that it’s just G-d who is in control.
“People are not lacking livelihood; they are lacking trust.”3 It only makes sense that we mess up, when we try to do things on our own. If we want G-d’s blessing, we need to trust just Him. This requires us to relinquish control. We need to take a step back and realize that we have absolutely no dominance over over future. It is only G-d.
It is late at night, and Mr. Fisher is sitting over his bills. He sees that his careful accounting didn’t help him at all. He is in debt, with no ready solution. Yet he is calm, because he knows that G-d, who is the Creator of, and therefore above, numbers, is taking care of the situation. He forgets about statistics, and trusts solely in G-d to relieve him of his burdens.
Every method in the child rearing books have failed Baila, and her teachers give hints of sending Kayla out of school, but Baila does not despair. She knows that she was not and is not in control of her daughter, and when G-d sees it a fit time, He will show her the way to reach Kayla.
The Weiss family gathers by their father’s bedside, in hope. Not hope towards the doctors, but hope to G-d, who is in control of the situation at all times, and completely capable of turning it around. There may be no visible solutions to this problem, but they trust G-d, and knows that His help comes out of nowhere.
So they all wait, secure in knowing that it is just G-d who is in charge.
Knowledge Of A Higher Power
Just G-d? Is that something small?
Is being forced to depend just on G-d going to leave us fearful in our dependence? No! G-d is the source of good, and will naturally only bestow good upon us.4 Letting G-d be in control is the biggest comfort possible. Our plans are silly anyways. How many times do we make plans that completely flop? Don’t rely on them, because they don’t keep you safe.5 When we recognize that the Master of the world is in control, and not anyone else, we are in good hands. If one trusts in hims6elf, he is on his own. But if he he trust G-d, he can be sure that G-d will take care. G-d enters into your life wherever you allow. The more one trusts in Him; not his handiwork, brains, wit, talent, or brilliance; the more he will find success.7
When a person small in rank is trying to make a move up the ladder, he wants an important person at his side, vouching for him, or writing for him a letter of recommendation. Having G-d always at your side isn’t only like a letter. It is going straight to the Boss. It’s giving up reign, so that the G-d of the the world can do for you what is done best by Him.
With this new mindset,” Baila says, “I suddenly feel a lot more calm about my Kayla. I know that G-d is in control, and that He’ll help me help her.”
The key to releasing stress and anxiety is letting go of any illusion of power one may feel. Instead, hear what G-d asks of you. He says: Trust me! Have absolute faith in my power. Relinquish control; and let me take care of you!
Realizing how absolutely powerless we are leaves us humble, and free to depend on G-d; free to trust Him to bless our every effort. For when He knows we are relying on Him, He won’t let us down. A mother will always be there to save her baby, which is why the child will do risky things, such as jumping off of a chair. He is sure that his mother will catch him each time. Likewise, the mother knows that her child depends on her to save him, and that’s why in even crazy situations, she pulls through. In the same way, G-d will always be there for us, and so we should depend solely on Him.
Yosef, a poor and hardworking Jew, would always buy fish to honor the day of Shabbat. This money was often at the expense of some other household necessity. But Yosef was a humble and G-d fearing Jew. He wasn’t about to calculate if he could afford the extra expenses. He’d just buy the fish, and leave the calculations to the One who is really in charge. One Friday, as they opened up their shabbat fish to prepare it for shabbat, they saw that it held a valuable diamond in its belly. Who would expect his salvation to come from a place like that? This gift was completely unexpected. No one can predict where G-d’s help will come from, but one can always be sure it’ll come.
When things go well, there is great temptation to trust one’s actions and self, as a source of stability. It is not an unheard of philosophy. In the world of psychology, the professionals are all talking about the need for healthy esteem, and they claim it comes from recognising your abilities.
The Rebbe’s of Chabad have a different approach. They say that the healthiest esteem comes from realizing you are a nothing. Recognise the greatness of G-d, and your minuteness next to Him. The realization that one is nothing, yet G-d loves him like an only child, is humbling, yet also empowering. With this in mind, one is granted success, and demanded to always remember where it is from.8
When there is no hope in a material sense, we turn to G-d. But we don’t need to wait until that point. Instead, turn to G-d at every moment. Depend on Him for all good. It’s Him, not your brilliance, which will give your work success.
Actions Of Humility
Make plans, and trust G-d to bless them. If He doesn’t, still trust, because the same G-d who helped before, will also help you now. All that is demanded is a little more trust. Continue to do, because that is what G-d demanded. This is what will bring Him to bless you in all that you do.9
A parachuter takes flight, holding onto all of his valuables- his cash, keys, cards, and diplomas. The weight of his possessions causes him to lower towards land, until he begins to drop down, into a pit. When he almost reaches rock bottom, it suddenly hits him where he is headed. In a moment of panic, he let’s go of everything, and suddenly, he’s rising again, upward.
Drop the sense that you have control, and you will rise. Let go of all externals, and realize that it is only G-d Who can cause our success. G-d will take care, if you only depend on Him.10 11 Realize that it is G-d Who blesses you in all that you do.
Whereas Mr. Weiss would’ve been a frazzled mess, had you spoken to him a few months ago, now, he is calm, is he navigates out of his financial struggle, as well as his medical journey. Sure enough, G-d doesn’t let him down, and his leg shows to need alot less attention than he thought. As he struggles to to get back onto steady footing, with his wheelchair pulling him along, he feels G-d’s providence, constantly helping him and his family along the way.
Baila, mother of Kayla, relaxes, as she realizes that G-d’s in control, and all that He wants her to do, is to try her best. She removes the stress and worry, and just does her best. Progress is slow, but slowly, she sees how Kayla begins to open up to her, and respond to her care.
While the Weiss’s hopes were pinned onto the dedicated team of doctors helping their father, they made no progress. Now, at a significantly greater awareness of G-d’s watch over their father, they calm down, and pin their hopes on Him instead, and search for a cure, with a sense of trust in G-d’s total control. Out of nowhere, a professor they’ve been in touch with for a while, contacts them with a new cure to try. The Weiss’s grab the opportunity, and soon, their beloved father, the elderly Mr. Weiss, is on the road to recovery.
Humans naturally want to feel in control of their lives. It brings a sense of security and power which we all crave. Yet the quest for control leads to anxiety, especially when things don’t work out well. It takes a leap of faith to realize that we not in control of our future, nor is any other person- no matter how much hold they seem to have on our future success. It is only G-d. This thought is liberating, because who do we want to be in control of our lives, and taking care of it’s every detail, if not for G-d, who knows us best? With the knowledge that G-d is in charge, one can truly relax, because he knows that he is safe and in good hands.
1 Devarim 8:17, “Kochi viEtzem Yadi Asah Li Es HaChayol HaZeh.” We tend to think that it is our talent that brought us success, and here, Moshe warns the Jews against this.
2 Maamer Biyom Ashtei Asar, where the Rebbe talks about the power which forces other then Hashem seem to have. It is all an illusion, and not long lasting. The only One Who has real power is Hashem. A wise person is blessed with the wisdom to place his trust in G-d.
3 Sefer HaMaamarim 5626 (1866), pp. 168- 170, by the Rebbe Maharash.
4 “Teva HaTov LiHeitev”
5 Chovos Halevavos, The Gate of Trust In G-d.
6 The Kotzker Rebbe; a Rebbe of CHaGaS Chassidus.
7 Chovos Halevavos, The Gate Of Trust In G-d.
8 Tanach, Shiras Ha’azinu. There, Moshe Rabbeinu reminds us not to become haughty when we are blessed with good, but instead to remember that this too, is a blessing from Hashem, not your own handiwork.
9 Tanach, “Uverechicha Hashem Elokecha bichol Asher Taaseh”.
10 Chovos Halevavos Shaar Bitachon.
11 Ois Hei of Shemos 36, Sicha #1.