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THE ART OF ALIGNMENT
Affirmations can help us go through difficult times. Here are the affirmations that helped me in my difficult times. “I trust the journey of my life and believe that everything is happening for my highest good. I am constantly growing and evolving, becoming the best possible version of myself. I am at ease with uncertainty and embrace change as an opportunity for growth. I forgive myself and others, letting go of the past to embrace the present. I am resilient, and I bounce back from setbacks stronger and wiser. I am in control of my thoughts and emotions, and I choose to focus on the positive. I am confident, capable and ready to overcome any challenge that comes my way.”
What is interesting about affirmations is that you have to know how to use them for them to work. Affirmations do not work if you don’t believe in what you are saying – if you are not mindful of what you are saying, or if the affirmation is unrealistic. Affirmations need to be made on a consistent basis, and one needs to be persistent with these affirmations whatever the circumstances. Most important, for affirmations and self-talk to work, they need to be aligned with your personality, character and behavior.
If you say “Ein Od Milvado” all day, but you really rely on other factors to protect you, those words alone will not give you the Emunah you want. Affirmations that I personally used above are all just “Emunah talk”. Emunah in G-d, in His Torah, in Reward and Punishment, Emunah that G-d is aware, involved and cares. But Emunah does not work against you. It only works with you. Allow me to explain.
We find this misalignment concept taught by R’ M.H. Luzatto, the greatest life coach of all times. In his Messilat Yesharim, he teaches that there are a few things that hold one back from Hassidut, from a deep and meaningful connection with G-d through learning His Torah, through prayer and doing His Mitzvoth.
No. 1. Overworking. Too busy, being busy.
No. 2. Overthinking. Worries.
No. 3. Overindulging in material drives and worldly pleasures.
A person needs to know that G-d gives him his exact portion, regardless of the amount of his hishtadlut, so long he is doing a fair amount of hishstadlut. Overworking is like trying to take more money or pleasures than G-d is giving you as a result of your normal Hishtadlut. That type of gain does not last.
Only when a person is not obsessing, overthinking, overindulging can he connect with G-d and enjoy a relationship with Him. Avraham Avinu knew this. Despite the fact that Avraham was able to be Mekarev the whole world, he could not be Mekarev his own nephew Lot, whose flock was consuming grass of the Land that did not belong to him.
The Mishna in Avot tells us the difference between being a student of Avraham and being a student of Bila’am. The Mishna stresses that there are specifically three things that make you a student of Avraham, and specifically three things that make you a student of Bila’am.
To be a student of Avraham you need to have:
No. 1. A good eye. To be content with what you have, to manage with what G-d is giving you, and not want what G-d is not giving you. Avraham did not want to take anything from the King of Sedom after winning the war for him. “If G-d wants me to have something, I don’t need to take it from someone who will say they gave it to me.”
No. 2. A lowly spirit. “I am like dust and ashes.” I know that my strengths were given to me by G-d, and it is my responsibility to serve G-d with those strengths. I know that I have weaknesses and shortcomings, and I am only human.
No. 3. A low Nefesh. Avraham did not follow his worldly desires. Bila’am, on the other hand, was never content with what he had, prided himself whenever he could and was a lustful individual who guided others to be lustful, like himself.
What is strange about all this is that it does not say that in order for you to be a student of Avraham, you need to have Emunah. You need to pray. You need to do Hessed. You need to ace the hardest tests of life. All you need, in order to be the student of Avraham, is to be on the path to mastering these specific three. And vice versa. You do not need to be the monster that Bila’am was, you do not need to do his monstrous deeds, in order to be his disciple. All you need, in order for you to be his disciple, is the three that are mentioned. How could that be?
The answer is, that Hessed, self-sacrifice, fervent prayer and all the other things that Avraham Avinu exemplified, exist only in a space of these three traits.
Contentment. Humility. Self-restraint.
When you are Content, you don’t Overwork. When you are Humble, you don’t Overthink, because you know how small your problems for such a great G-d to solve. And when you have Self-restraint, you don’t overindulge.
Eliyahu Hanavi taught that we should ask a question every day of our lives. לפיכך יהיו אומרים כל אחד ואחד, מתי יגיעו מעשיי למעשה אברהם יצחק ויעקב Each person should ask, when will my actions reach the actions of Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov? (T”D Eliyahu 23) We pray that G-d help us, protect us and save us, from not being successful in going in their ways, three times a day. מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגן. That is why we mention those words in the first blessing of Amidah, the blessing of our Forefathers.
The word for character traits is Middah. The same word means “ a measurement”. Your behavior will be measured by your character. If you try behaving like Avraham Avinu, but do not have the “Avraham Avinu” character, there will be a clash. You can’t be a great host, if you are not content. You can’t be getting up early in the morning to win your life tests, if you are overindulging. You can’t have faith and slaughter your future and career for G-d like Avraham was willing to slaughter his son Yitzhak, if you overthink and never mastered humility.
Once you are aligned to be a person who is content, humble, and not materialistic, you will automatically achieve feats that are Avraham Avinu-type feats. The Mishna was super clear about this, that all you need is these three. How so?
If you are aligned in your character to be mindful enough to stop focusing on yourself, to stop the three O’s, overworking, overthinking, and overindulging, something amazing will happen. You will stop hyper-focusing on yourself and will free up some focus to think outside of yourself. You will notice the world you live in, which will help you focus on G-d, and ultimately on other people who are in the Image of G-d. As R’ Moshe Shapiro zt”l would say, There are only two states of mind: אין עוד מלבדי, There is nothing but myself. Or, אין עוד מלבדו , There is nothing else but G-d.
So, if your behavior is dependent on your character, how do I change my character? Through affirmations, through Emunah. Your Emunah is the affirmations you constantly tell yourself; but in order for those affirmations to work, they need to be aligned with your character and behavior. It works in a cycle, and it takes time to get the cycle going.