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Parashat Shlach

Not listening to music in  Sefirah is something I have difficulty with. I need music to relax while driving, to block out noise when writing in my house, and so I asked a friend what he listens to in Sefirah. He pulled a disc out of his car, a CD of R Shalom Arush. The name of the disc was, Stop Complaining. תפסיק להתבכיין. My friend told me that he had listened to this disc more than 5 times. And it has helped him tremendously.  In this disc, R Arush asks a question. But, he precedes with a fact. The fact is, the Torah is not a story book. The Torah is a way to live. And we need to take each Dvar Torah and ask ourselves how it can affect me, personally. I liked this introduction, because that is why I started Thinkingaboutme. Because I believed that all the answers to the questions of life, all the self-help tools of the gentiles, are to be found in the Torah, on a deeper, and truer level. We just need to pay attention to them, to apply them and appreciate them.

In this week’s parasha, the Jews got the worst punishment ever. Until today, we are suffering from it.  During forty years, the whole nation from age 20 up, died on Tisha B’av because of their having spoken in a derogatory manner about Eretz Yisrael, for their having cried over their situation. And, until today, we still suffer from this Tisha B’av mistake, ourselves. Why were the Jews punished so severely just for crying about their situation, or just for speaking negatively about Eretz Yisrael? How could it be that just for crying about their situation, the Jews were punished more severely than they were for serving the Golden Calf at Har Sinai?!?

The answer R’ Arush gives is a life-changer. He says that when a person cries about his situation, he is doing the worst thing possible. Hashem gives you so much; did you thank Him for what you have, as much as you cry for what you don’t? Why do you believe that you are so deserving? Who are you, anyway? Just because others have something and you don’t, does that mean that you were not dealt with fairly? This is the root of all sin, as we say in Tachanun, ולא שוה לנו, that we regret feeling that life is not fair. According to R Natan of Breslov, the reason why we are still in Galut, on a public level and on a personal level, is because we never fixed this root of negativity that we have about life. And it won’t be fixed, says R Arush, until we take out half an hour a day, and do Hitbodedut, to meditate on thanking G-d for all the things that he has given us. Only when we learn to be, to really be, appreciative, will we have a real Geulah.

I said to myself, “I feel that I, myself, am not appreciative of all that G-d gives me and does for me . You know what? Let me try that Hitbodedut thing.” And so, I went to the Jerusalem forest, for a half hour. No cars, no people. I looked at my watch, to make sure I was doing my full half hour of meditation, as prescribed by R Arush.  I sat alone, with G-d. I said, Thank You, Hashem for giving me… Thank You Hashem for giving me… I waited for any thoughts that were not about thanking G-d to pass. And then, got back to thanking Hashem. Thank You Hashem for giving me…

I felt more serene than I have felt in months. I looked at my watch. Only 7 minutes have passed. What ?!? I started looking around. Maybe someone is coming, and they will think I am Breslov? I suddenly realized that there were mosquitos that wanted to join me in Hitbodedut. I felt uncomfortable. But that experience was a powerful one. I did not want to totally give up R’ Arush’s advice. Instead of sitting in the forest, I would walk through the forest and thank G-d for what he has given me. I found that this is one of the greatest stress- relievers I have at my disposal, in my arsenal. Connecting with G-d.

Then, I realized that there are other things that I could meditate on that could help me be a better me. I realized that I could meditate on all the things that I was wrong about. Most people would rather die than admit they were wrong about something. But to admit to myself, is a lot easier than admitting to other people. This is another thing we are trained to do in Tachanun: to get used to saying, everyday, I was wrong.  So, I decided to give up all the excess baggage – all those fears that turned out to be nothing, all the assumptions I had, all the unrealistic expectations. The silly belief that I am in charge. The ridiculous belief that I have to do more, to be more.  I started to realize that admitting openly to myself where I was wrong calm me to a new level. Because one of the biggest reasons that we keep on doing wrong things in life is that we have done those things for such a long, long, time, without admitting to ourselves how wrong they were. We continue to support our old beliefs, for the sole reason that we naturally don’t want to admit we were wrong.  For this reason, the Yetzer Hara has such a strong hold on us, because he was with us 13 years before the Yetzer Tov. Just admitting I was wrong separates the Yetzer Hara from us, so that we can deal with him more effectively.

Another meditation I had on one of my walks was about all the greatest things that could be in my life. All the great things that I could change, that I could achieve, and that I could be, and how I would feel if I became the ”Me” I wanted to become. This one activity, going for walks, and meditating on a single, positive pathway of thinking, helped me deal with and overcome things I  was never able to deal with before. And most importantly, it brought me closer to My Creator.

It is amazing how one single Dvar Torah, if you live it, can change your life. And bring you a real, personal Geulah.

About the author, Yosef

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