“Limited Time Offer: Try this Miraculous Secret…”
Guest post by Aliza Green
Our core essence wants it desperately. We invest so much in making it happen. So many initiatives, so many gatherings, and so many calls to action…yet, overall, are we that much closer towards our yearned-for state of “like one man with one heart”? Can our beloved Creator really make it so hard for us to achieve this supposedly reachable yet sublime aspiration? What is the nature of the obstacles to genuine achdus? Is there a specific segulah to help us in this quest, especially when recalling all the heart wrenching devastating mageifos that cut down countless Yidden in their prime throughout our history? Is it even possible that our own efforts towards achdus, can effect the necessary teshuva for the lack of it that caused the Churban Bayis and all the senseless tragedies since?
“Z’chor y’mos olam, binu sh’nos dor vador” ( Dev 32:7 )…learning from history is our Divinely provided underappreciated segulah. As a well established fact of life, history repeats itself and we’ve got lots of it to learn from. Being that is the case, could we have the absolute clarity derived from our 20/20 hindsight of our many “stories”- if indeed, we’ve essentially been through it all already? Could this be the “simple segulah” to our individual and collective geulah? Problem seems to be the tendency to fall for our human nature to complicate matters as Koheles reveals: “…asher assa Ha’Elokim es ha’adam yashar, v’heima bikshu chishbonos rabim” ( Koheles 7:29 ).
We often “buy” the ready illusion that learning Torah is challenging enough, but actually internalizing it – just seems to “far out” for many. Yet, Moshe Rabeinu reassures us that whatever we need to learn in order to achieve successful unity together with our Abba, and our longed for geulah is right at hand “Kee karove ailecha ha’davar m’ode…“(Dev 30:14 ). There are no coincidences in this world, so notice the location of this passuk “l’yad” in Sefer Devarim.
It was only after my official school years that I personally began to study to understand what REALLY are our collective and uniquely individual missions in this life. I worked hard to really grasp the seemingly self explanatory concept of “unity” that we proclaim over and over in the “Shema”. It takes constant mindful inner work to internalize the crucial insights of the baalei mussar as I did together with my precious chaburah.
As I incorporated the lessons into my daily habits, I watched my physical self willingly “syncing” with my soul’s purpose towards actually emulating Hash-m in all my middos. Certainly, there is no greater pleasure than inner growth and, understandably, it comes with many valiant victories over our struggles, as well as the many more inevitable defeats. Knowing that self-refinement is ratzon haBorei – I’m gratefully aware of the perpetual hashgacha pratis I receive in this quest.
So, I wasn’t that surprised when my boss called me into her office one day. “Your heart’s in the right place and everyone knows you mean well, but it’s getting back to me that you expect too much of your coworkers. You’re coming across too harsh”. Wow! As hard as it was to swallow that tochacha (it always is), I was so appreciative that I got stopped in my tracks doing something hurtful when that was the furthest thing from my heart.
It seemed right to rebuke my coworkers when fellow teachers worked with their young students like it was a government job. Okay, so essentially we did work in a “government program”, but, weren’t they working with precious neshamalach? So, who really likes being reminded that they’re obviously slacking off? While it was hard to keep my peace after that scenario, I began to work on finding ways to express myself to more gently influence others.
During that busy chapter in my life when I taught all day, went to school at night, and BH enjoyed a busy household – I decided to try a novel idea. Since I now won’t have time to learn properly, I would “learn” in my t’feel’ah. Every time I davened, I’d choose a piece that I would question and find my own personal insight to grow from.
When I reached the section before the Shema that describes the heavenly qualities of the malachim and how they interact, I certainly questioned why I need to daven about the malachim. I know that I’m not a malach, I’m clearly human with all the frailties that I’m put here to work on. As I contemplated this mystery – it became clear to me that the message is – YES! This is exactly what I was searching for! Learning about the malachim could truly help me on my journey to improve my bein adam l’chaveiro.
Feeling particularly drawn to the description of how the malachim relate to each other, every day I contemplated as I davened how the malachim are “nosnim b’ahava rishus zeh lazeh l’hakdish l’Yotzrum, b’nachas ruach, b’safah vrurah, u’v’neemah”. Each day I would view that phrase with new eyes and find additional insight that, todah la’Kayl, follows me in all my social interactions. When I last shared this insight, I was asked to commit it to writing. So here it is:
Whenever it seems necessary to set someone straight with proper tochacha, whether it’s a child, my spouse, a friend, anyone really, or even my very own self – it must be crystal clear that those words and delivery are completely surrounded and cocooned with love and the patience that accompanies true unconditional love. The love-like expressions are “nosnim b’ahava”, “nachas ruach”, “u’v’n’eemah” – meaning: lovingly giving, tranquility, and sweetness, respectively.
“Rishus” is permission – which I understand to mean: accepting and respecting the person’s b’chira, no matter what that person chooses.
Zeh la’zeh – I take as referring to others and, just as importantly, to myself.
“l’hakdish l’Yotzrum” – every single human is here on a mission to sanctify his/her own Creator in their myriad ways of expressing their thoughts, words, and deeds in their individually unique way and in their own timeframe. Every individual has his/her own one-of-a-kind way and time line to climb their very own ladder to connect to and sanctify his/her Creator, which I now calmly respect.
“B’nachas ruach” – means tranquility. Who doesn’t want an inner sense of peaceful tranquility? It’s actually the best medicine for all that ails us. I brainstormed about how to acquire this seemingly elusive quality. I thought of common notions that are not exactly tranquil ideas and recognized that they’re not even true. In trashing the following erroneous beliefs, I achieve the inner tranquility necessary before sharing words of rebuke, and hope that you do, too:
First, the thought that it’s my job to “fix” (read: control) this person or s/he will suffer and be harmed by their “sins”. What a relief that I articulated that false idea – It is absolutely not my job! It is my job to be my best and be the role model gently influencing others without a hint of a controlling attitude.
The second mistaken belief is that following the Torah way is crucial and good for you, but if my loved one finds it too restrictive, burdensome, and bitter, I have to push it or the person won’t “get it” and I will be culpable that they were punished by Hash-m. False notion, again, because we know that there is no sweeter, more meaningful spiritual AND physical pleasure in all the world and therefore – if I demonstrate and gently influence my fellow Jews lovingly and patiently – they will want it as well.
The third idea is that the concept of Torah and G-dly service is so outside of people and therefore they must be pressured to care about doing them. Well, we know that Hash-m implanted us with truth as we each learned the entire Torah in the womb. It’s right there, close to our hearts, “Kee karove ailecha ha’davar m’ode…“(Devarim 30:14).
“B’safah v’rurah” – with articulated and clear, non-politically correct language. When I’m filled with love and tranquility and am ready to express “tochacha” with sweetness AND I’m intuitively understanding that it’s the right time and place to “say something” even if it’s not truly appreciated in the moment – I will now say it very differently than before recognizing the priceless treasures that I have found in this t’feel’ah. True tochacha that is delivered this way will certainly “tingle” for some time, perhaps, but will clearly resonate with the honest receiver of the message.
This has been a very powerful tool for me to address issues that I couldn’t before or if I did, there never were as successful outcomes as I’ve been blessed to experience regularly now, b’ezras Hash-m! Knowing that it’s ALWAYS painful to receive rebuke, no matter how cushioned and knowing that I’ve prepped the receiver by expressing my care and faith in him/her – I’m aware of the process that happens….the person will still be on the defense, somewhat upset, and, though it make take some time, will assimilate the message and accept the rebuke.
The more spiritually aware a person is – the faster s/he will accept the tochacha and be appreciative for it. With lots of practice over the years – I can now confidently and lovingly share the most sensitive topics certainly with those who are truth seekers – even with the most challenging person – myself!
So how is this a “limited time offer”? We could only make use of it while our feet are on the ground. “Miraculous” – because we break our human nature to control or look the other way to emulate the “unnatural” angelic way of lovingly relating to others. A “secret”? Hidden in plain sight! Can incorporating this in your life lead to meaningful achdus? Who knows – but it’s definitely worth trying.