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Satisfying Our Emotional Void


by Bracha Polter

MyLife Essay Contest 2015

Suicide. Drugs. Alcohol. “Remedies.” Yesterday someone was found dead as a result of recklessly drinking alcohol the previous day. Today someone was rushed to the emergency room because he overdosed on drugs. Tomorrow someone will jump off the Manhattan Bridge to end their life. And the day after there will be news of another one’s endeavor to hurt themselves.

Why is it that these have become the answers to which many in our society turn to when in need of a relief? What are we running from and what are we trying to reach? And are we truly leaving that which is causing us so much discomfort, by the use of these deceptive cures? The one simple answer to all of these questions is no. We are not escaping the problems and we are not finding the answers. What we are using is just a fix. It’s a band aid that is covering a wound that is much too big for it and therefore the pain is only increasing because the infection has not been treated at its root.

We live in a society of confusion. We as people; young and old, married and single, of every kind are getting swept up in a wave of turmoil within ourselves, deep in our very hearts. It’s an emotional void that is causing all this, and we are unsuccessfully filling it with physical things. Things, just things. Things are physical, they are material and tangible and therefore they can never, ever satisfy those emotional cravings. So then what can?

G-d created the world with a handbook on how to live life on this earth. That book is called the Torah, providing eternal life to all those who live by it. It is in here that we find the answers, not just to the questions we have asked previously, answers to the question of our existence. To the existence of each individual, his purpose here, and to life’s struggles and failures.

The Torah begins with narrating the creation of the world. Regarding the formation of Adam, the verse states, “and He blew into his nostrils a soul of life (Genesis 2:7).” G-d bestowed man with a soul that provides life to the physical body, that without this spirit the body would have no power of its own. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, explains in his publication called Tanya that every single person has a piece of G-d within him which remains pure and holy, unable to be tainted.

Before the soul enters this world, it resides in heaven where it is enveloped in utter holiness. There comes a time when G-d brings the soul down into a body on the earth. Indeed, G-d chose YOU to come down into this world, to be born to your parents, into your family, and all for a reason. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said on this, “Birth is G-d’s way of saying, ‘you matter.’” So yes, you matter. There are times in life when the going gets tough; the days when it feels like the pain will never end, when the alcohol and drugs look like the best option to obscure all the painful reality. But it’s only a fix; tomorrow, after the drunkenness dissipates, the pain returns like a dam that has been under pressure for much too long. There has to be an understanding deep within one’s heart, that although life can deal us harsh blows at times, “G-d chose ME to be here today, here and now. And it’s all for a reason.” Because everything in this world, every situation and event, happens as a result of Divine Providence, G-d’s will. And therefore, it should never be one’s reality that “no one cares” or “what is life anyway,” because if you are in a certain situation, whether it is comfortable or not, G-d wants you there to utilize it and emerge from there with the most positive result.

So then what is our purpose? This question can only be answered with a short explanation about the existence of this world. G-d created this world because He wanted to reside within a physical cosmos. G-d is greater than the limitations of the word spirituality, and the mission we have is to perform the actions which bring this spirit of G-d into the materiality of this world. In doing so our soul is satisfied since it has been connected to its G-dly source, as discussed earlier. To illustrate how this is done practically, a person can eat unhealthy sweets to satisfy his palate’s desires or he can eat a nourishing meal that will fill his stomach and give him the necessary energy for the day. If the person chooses the first option, he is eating the food for personal pleasure. When a person eats food by first saying a blessing in thanks to G-d, and then uses the calories to provide himself with energy to perform good deeds, then he truly satisfies his soul; he used physical food for the intention of G-d. This was the purpose for which G-d created the world and put us here to accomplish.

There is a famous discourse in Chassidus that elaborates on this idea. The prayer of the shema recited at specific times during the day begins with the verse, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one. “Commentaries say when saying the word one, one should meditate on the meaning in the letters of this word. The Hebrew translation of the word one is Echad- אחד.

Each letter has a numerical equivalent; א is one, ח is eight, and ד is four. The concentrate should be on the mission one has to bring the singularity (oneness) of G-d down through the seven heavens and one earth
(in total, eight). The last letter, equivalent to four, symbolizes the idea that a person has a responsibility to do this no matter where he is, in all four directions and corners of the earth (based on the Discourse, Oneness in Creation, by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson). Consequently, no matter where a person is, physically or emotionally, it is one’s duty to fulfill this charge. There are times in life when we feel angry, “why is this happening to me? Why have I been placed in this situation?” The answer: you have a purpose to fulfill right here and now. Don’t allow this opportunity to disappear with something to cover up the uneasiness. Search for meaning in the moment and then seize it (though it can be hard). You will emerge
with a feeling of true satisfaction because you satisfied the cravings of your soul with the boost it was searching for, and not with a physical substance that just superficially numbs the longing.

But still, putting so much effort into climbing our spiritual ladder, there are days when we feel like we have fallen back a rung or two. Hitherto we were walking with the current, but now it feels like it has reversed and is pushing us back to where we began. There is a verse that says, “seven times a righteous man falls, and after each time he arises.” We must recognize that perfection, is for G-d, and effort is for humans. When we’ve been achieving so well and then we slip, it’s NOT all over. Each and every day G-d recreates the world like He created it in the very beginning. So if yesterday’s blunders seem to feel like they will overwhelm the possibility for change today, remember, that today is a new world with new possibilities; it is a world completely unrelated to yesterday. And therefore, no mistake from the past should have any effect on the actions we take today. Today CAN and WILL be good, if we just remember to arise from the previous day’s fall. There might be a couple of scratches, even some deep wounds, but staying in the past will only sustain them and allow them to grow larger. If we get up today and do something meaningful, it’s one step closer to recovery, one rung higher on our ladder.

Don’t forget that the day you were born was a holiday since G-d chose you to come onto this planet. He assigned you a task to draw His presence into the world and complete the purpose for which the universe exists. So no matter what situation you find yourself in, you have the opportunity to either fulfill this mission or to let it pass because the effort required to overcome yesterday’s failures seems too much. Don’t let the moment vanish in a blur of sub-consciousness, never to return. The “fixes” and “remedies” cause precious hours, days, years, and even lifetimes to disappear like feathers in the wind. What must be done is to take one moment at a time and fill it with something special; it’ll be forever imprinted with your special touch, never to be lost.

That’s true fulfillment.

Does Judaism have the answers to my personal dilemmas?

MyLife: Chassidus Applied

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