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The Self Help Addict
There is an obvious question regarding Birkat Kohanim. If G-d wants to bless the people, why does He need to do so through the kohanim? Why does He need messengers? How could it be that a Gadol HaDor who is a Yisrael needs to be blessed by a Kohen who is a simpleton?
The answer is in the words of the Kohanim. May Hashem bless you and watch over you. The Kohanim are teaching us two things. They are telling us that we are blessed. And they are telling us that our blessings are from G-d. There is so much of G-d’s blessing in our lives that we are not even taking notice of.
Recently, my mother sent me a chizuk quote. Remember the days you prayed for the things you have now. That is a great suggestion, because it really makes one realize that he is really blessed! We get so used to we have. We get so used to asking, wishing and praying for what we don’t have. We get so used to wanting to be who we are not, and not just being thankful for and accepting who we actually are, that we forget about all the blessings we have. We forget that G-d loves us. We need to internalize that peace; we need to realize that we are blessed, that we are loved.
Our Rabbis teach that the best vessel to contain and retain beracha is shalom, peace. (Uktzin 3;12) In order to hold on to a beracha that you are given, you need to have a “container”. Blessing is not a one-way street: the one being blessed must have – or, more accurately be – a vessel that can contain the blessing. He must be at peace with himself. This is very deep, and can be very tricky. The reason why people don’t access G-d’s blessing in their lives is because when a person does not accept himself as he is, when one is not at peace with one’s own self, when the inner voice says, “I don’t like myself”, “I do not like what I have” one cannot accept the blessing.
I have a relative who is anti-self-help. I used to think of them as “old- school”, but this anti-self- help person is actually living a life of inner peace. She is not constantly busying herself with self-help. I never understood her. What could possibly be wrong with making an effort to be smarter, more successful, thinner, healthier, more productive, richer, and more satisfied with life? But recently, some new books came out with studies that the self-improvement industry can sometimes does more harm than good. They believe that many self-help people are setting up unrealistic expectations of themselves, which leads to bitter disappointment. Contrary to the message in Yaakov Shwekeys amazing song, “I Can Be”, you can’t be just anything you want to be. We have limitations, and all this is part of G-d’s blessing.
Why be hard on yourself? Who says you are not OK the way you are, right now? Who says you are not blessed? Even working on self-acceptance is something that we need to question, if that is making a person feel that he is not ok. Even working on self-acceptance is making inner noise that can be blocking out the words of the Kohanim, You are blessed.
Let me ask you a question. If we did not split the Kotel with a Mechitzah between the genders, but rather between the people who come to ask for what they lack and the people who come to express their thanks for what they got, which side would have more people on it? I’ll bet it is the people who are coming to ask! Why is it like that?!!! Why are we like that?!! Because we have too much noise in our heads of what we want. And not enough echo of the words of the Kohanim, You are blessed.
The Birkat Kohanim is an introduction. It is an introduction to the downfall of our people in the upcoming Parashiot of Sefer Bamidbar. All of the problems begin when we don’t realize that G-d is telling us, I love you. I bless you. You are blessed. There is a double meaning to the letters of the word Midbar. It means desert. But it also means that G-d is Medaber. In the desert, you can hear G-d talking to you, because G-d is heard only in silence. When there is silence, you can hear your mind think. And you can hear G-d’s voice saying that you are blessed. But this sound can only be heard when you silence all other sounds. When you are in a desert, when you don’t see anything, you do not want anything. You do not want to be anyone else.
After 8 years of writing on self-help concepts from the Torah, I realize that we need a balance of self-help and not an overdose. If you cannot shut off the self-help switch in your brain, it could be that it is hurting you more than it is helping you. Because self-help is something that is constructive only after you realize that you are blessed by G-d. Many people who are very effective in life, very happy in life, very successful in life, do not spend more than 20 minutes a day on Mussar and self-help.
Remember the days you prayed for the things you have now. The best way to help people who complain about their problems is to first ask them to count blessings, and then we can hear all about the problems. How many things are going right? Do you trust G-d that He has been taking care of you all of your life, even when you were not able to take care of yourself? G-d does not need you to self-help. He helped you, even when you were not self-helping yourself.
People who are too busy with self-help are too often oblivious to the people in their lives. Sometimes self-help is just a way for a person to give himself a lot of attention, an expression of haughtiness. Humility dictates that instead of being busy with so much self-help, realize that there are people out there who can use your help.
Why do we need to live life with the mantra that I will be happy when…? Why can’t we just be happy now? Isn’t now the then of yesterday?! So, how much longer do we need to wait to feel blessed?
SELFIE STEPS to break away from Self Help Addiction and to contain G-d’s blessings.
- Write down all that you have in life. (This is something that Gedolim actually take out the time to do!) Enjoy the simple things. Be grateful for them.
- Write down the names of all the people that you love in life. Make time for them. Accept them for who they are. Write them thank-you notes, even if you can’t bring yourself to hand the note over. Even if you just read them out loud to yourself. When someone benefits you, say out loud, “Hey, so and so did something for me.”
- Stop the “I’ll be happy when” thinking. And start remembering the day you prayed for the things you have today.
- Become deeply engaged in work, family life or other activities, but don’t multi-task. Become devoted to an institution or a cause greater than oneself. Pray with fire. Learn with an unquenchable thirst for G-d’s word.
- Write down the good years in your life, and why they were so good. When you achieved, when you received, when you enjoyed, when you realized the truth.
- Most of all, be present and focused during Birkat Kohanim.