Sara Malka Fox, Pretoria, South Africa
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
The many waters came gushing at him, each one with a heightened force and each one with an ominous name. His arms were flailing as the waters encompassed him. Financial issues, lack of self-esteem, inadequacy, each tidal wave punched him in the stomach and filled him with despair. Drowning. He felt himself succumbing to the mighty waters. Waters more powerful than he. He felt incapable and questioned how he, a small, simple man, could conquer the gushing waters. He succumbed.
There are multiple issues mentioned in the above scene. The person described is overwhelmed with financial worries which is difficult as he has a family to feed, clothe, educate and shelter. His lack of self-esteem leaves him feeling inadequate and second class, and therefore his social interactions and feelings of security are compromised. He may be flooded with many other justified issues, however the main issue is being overlooked. The core problem is that his perspective is befuddled, he feels like a weak man who is victim to his problems and is incapable of overcoming them. He views and defines himself in a skewed way, forgetting who he truly is and the unwoundable power that he contains within.
This essay will answer the question as to who we truly are, the capabilities that we have and why these problems compliment us in the most affluent way. This will be expressed through Chassidic concepts from Tanya, the maamor Mayim Rabim, the Maamor Ein Hakadosh Baruch Hu and other Chassidic ideas.
These words are some of the most common words heard by parents, teachers and friends. If you think back to your day you can probably think of multiple times when you uttered these words, or at least held them like a niggling worm in your mind. As human beings we often sell ourselves short and stunt our growth, simply because we don’t believe in ourselves and hold ourselves up to the bar that we truly are on. As we repeat the words “I can’t” in conversation they begin to cloud our thinking abilities and begin to take form in reality.
In the book of Bereishis G-D instructs Abraham “lech lecha,” to go out and leave his homeland, his birthplace and his family. He is instructed to leave his comfort zone, the place which he is familiar with and follow G-D’s guide. The holy sage Rabbi Moshe Alshich interprets “lech lecha” to mean “go to yourself” – to connect to the essence of your being and the root of your soul. What is this essence that is so powerful and can enable us to remove ourselves from the dark situations?
In order to get out of the rut we put ourselves in, we need to change our mindset and start seeing ourselves for who we truly are – the way G-D sees us.
It was the 6th day of creation. Through His mere speech, G-D had created a world of beautiful creations, from the heavens and planets to the earth and all its creatures. The scene was set, in its all glory, waiting for the actors for which it was created. And then the world was completed. G-D created man in His image and then He “blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” G-D’s innermost essence was implanted within every Jew for all eternity.
G-D calls us His children. Just like a parent passes on DNA to their child, so too we share DNA with G-D. This makeup enables us to be able to conquer all that may come our way.
The soul of a Jew is a literal part of G-D. The Omnipresent who is above finite and above infinite. The Creator of the entire world who created each creation with a master plan, each for a specific purpose. The G-D who is constantly recreating the world every second from nothing. And a simple Jew has a vibrant part of G-D within him. Would you disagree that he is invincible?
As soon as G-D created Adam, the first thing that Adam did was name the creations. By G-D doing this, He taught us the most valuable lesson; we are in control of creations and not that the creations are in control of us. We are above our circumstances and t we have the ability to fix things. He put the power of situations into the hands of man. Therefore, when confronted with problems we should remember that through being connected to our soul and our source – G-D, we have the capability to conquer all.
Why me – yes you!
People often feel self-pity and despise the situations that they constantly find themselves in. The question “why me” is asked through a voice thick of depression and desolation, by a person who has had enough of life’s negative surprises. The person’s thoughts and feelings are clouded with confusion and despair as they wonder what wrongdoing caused them to deserve this.
By asking the question why me, a person is viewing themselves as a victim to negative circumstances rather than as a person who is viewed by G-d as someone who contains immense strength.
There is a saying that “G-D only gives a person that which he can handle.” Therefore, when a person is swamped with choking difficulties, rather than seeing himself as a submissive punching bag, he should recognize the true message. G-D is giving him the biggest compliment and is saying: “You are cool, I believe in your strength and so I am handing you this package. Only you, because you are the only one that I hold capable enough.”
The Rebbe once said in a letter: “You ought to consider yourself very privileged to be considered worthy of tests like Abraham.”
G-D is not requesting that you exhaust all resources in order to find the strength to deal with the struggles. He implanted this power within you. The proof of this is from when G-D gave the Torah to the Jewish people. There it says that He gave it with strength. It does not tell us that He gave it with His strength, but rather with strength. Meaning he gave it with the strength for each Jew to be able to accomplish Torah, commandments and the struggles of daily life.
In addition to the compliment that a person receives through challenges, he also merits a deeper connection with G-D. As it states in the 26th chapter of Tanya that struggles come from the world of concealment which is connected to the higher level of G-D’s name.
You are your struggles:
Your struggles define you. They represent your fiery soul and the extent of its strength. They represent the faith and trust that G-D has in you. They signify the tools that G-D has endowed you with. They allude to the depth of His hopes for you. This portrays a person’s greatest attributes in a way that no other thing can express. This is because his strength is not recognized by society, but rather by G-D Himself.
Your struggles become you as it is those specific struggles that cause you to become the person that you become, who is strong in whatever area it may be.
A similar idea is brought in the 7th chapter of Tanya where it explains how a person’s sins can become the driving force for his merits and therefore they become merits themselves. This is analogous to the struggles that a person encounters in his life. When he is victorious, they become the stepping stone to molding him into a greater person. The victory will remain as a fuel for him to leap to greater heights.
Take for example a relationship between spouses. A couple is going through a very difficult time and are on the verge of divorce. A fight blows up between them which leaves them each feeling embittered as they remembered the beautiful relationship they once had and dream of maintaining that relationship. Therefore, after their major fight they decided to sit down and work through things in order to fix their marriage. They did that and from then on their marriage continued to improve daily. The major fight that they had which nearly caused them to end the relationship constantly remained in their minds as this was what transformed their marriage to become what it was.
You are Not Alone:
All the above describes an amazing perspective, yet one that is enmeshed with a task that seems superhuman to achieve. As human beings, we contain multiple emotions and it takes an immense amount of effort for the correct mindset to affect the emotions. Struggles are difficult, and as complimentary as they are, no one is begging for them. However, G-D did not just hand this mission and leave you to deal with it yourself. He gave you the tools and the guide. G-D is forever bound with you and is constantly holding your hand, there with you on every step of the journey.
The date was the sixth of sivan 2448. The world was filled with an absolute stillness that was thick in intensity. A small smoking mountain trembled, in harmony with the trembling of the pure people at its foot. The sound of the ram’s horn permeated the stillness and increased in deafening volume. And then the most empowering statement was uttered by G-D Himself: “I am the Lord your G-D.”
I am the Lord your G-D who took you out of Egypt from the house of slavery. Anochi – I, the absolute essence – the creator and orchestrator of all life is Elokecha – your personal G-D.
Even in the darkest of times, when a person feels at their absolute low, alone in the world just him and his problems, he should not despair. A Jew is never alone, he is constantly engulfed in G-D’s loving embraced. G-D loves a Jew infinitely more than a father loves an only son born to him in his old age. G-D’s love never wavers, and your love for G-D can never cease, it is always there, at the core of your soul.
The above concepts empower a person with the knowledge that he has the power within him to conquer his situations as he is a literal part of G-D. However, even with this positive perspective, the negative situation still remains.
It says in Parshas Reah: “G-D will bless you in all that you do.” This saying teaches, that in order to overcome the struggles, a person needs to make a vessel and put in effort to extinguish them. Once a person has the knowledge that he can, he then has to connect it with physical action.
To put it practical:
- A person should take five minutes every day to concentrate on who he essentially is, the bond he has with G-D and G-D’s infinite love for him. The more a person contemplates it, the more it becomes a reality to him.
- The Lubavitcher Rebbe stressed the importance of having a spiritual mentor. When a person is in a situation of crisis he often is incapable of thinking rationally and objectively. It is easy for him to fall into despair. A spiritual mentor will help him make the right decisions and focus on retaining the correct mindset.
The many waters were gushing full force towards me, each tidal wave representing a different struggle. Life is no lake, but rather a stormy sea. The fierce waves seem mighty and powerful and I am intimidated, it is difficult. But I am in control. I take out my surf board, place it on the sand, take a deep breath and start swimming. It is calm and then a big wave comes, at first pushing me down, but I regain balance and ride the wave. The same scene happens again and again, they are mighty in their power and suffocating in their intensity. Yet despite all this, I am higher, I am a soul, who can control these waves and cause them to uplift me. The stormy waves define my soul, and I am not afraid. I am surfing with G-D.
Chapter 2 Tanya
Chapter 7 Tanya
Chapter 26 Tanya
Maamor “Mayim Rabim”
Maamor “Ein hakodosh Baruch Hu”
Parshas Yisro 19:18-19
Parshas Yisro 20:2
Parshas R’eah 14:18
Letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe