One of things that worries me the most is that I’m not really keeping God happy.
I’m a frail human.
Frail humans sometimes can’t get out of bed on time to join the Rav at the morning prayers. Sometimes, they don’t even feel like saying their morning brachot.
There are times when frail humans fall down the rabbit-hole of Youtube, and start watching pop videos they last saw when they were 13. And then, they want to find out “whatever happened to that celeb I was so jealous of, back then, for being everything that I wasn’t?”
Like popular, thin, cool, well-dressed and ‘successful’.
And then the frail human finds out that this person is still everything that I’m not, but now things have switched around, because the aging celeb is single / divorced; badly-dressed, and basically nebuch, a really sad case with very little reason to wake up in the morning.
And then, that makes the frail human being feel like ‘Yesh!!!! I made the right decision when I turned my back on that cheap, shiny, superficial, ucky world, to follow God into the wilderness!!!!”
Which is probably helpful, right?
And which is probably better than being that externally very pious person who lives with that awful doubt for decades, because they never found out that all the ‘teen idols’ they used to worship either turned into drug-addled nebuchs or died young.
But the frail human being isn’t sure if this is really what God wants, and if this is really part of keeping God happy, and so the fight continues.
And it’s mainly focused on finding the motivation to continue to serve Hashem to the best of your ability, when your day is just chock-full of spiritual failures, backsliding and an apparent inability to make any progress.
The last three months, I’ve set my alarm for 6am almost every single day, with the firm intention of getting out of bed early enough to come and pray with the Rav at the morning prayers. I’ve made it down there maybe once a week.
(My attendance rate is even worse when it’s raining…)
Surely, I should just get the message already, and stop even hoping to make it?
Shouldn’t I stop lying to myself every night that ‘tomorrow, I’ll go and daven with the Rav?’ Because tomorrow shows up, and again I have no desire to really wake up, get out of bed, and go and do what I know is the right thing to do.
But strangely, I know giving up on my holy aspirations is not what’s going to make God happy, even though it definitely seems like the most sensible and practical route. When I talk to God about what’s going on in my hitbodedut, I get a lot of reassurance that even just wanting to do the right thing counts for so much, in 2018.
“Remember that story from Rebbe Nachman?” God tells me.
“Remember, when Rabbenu said that in the generation before Moshiach comes, a simple man who simply does nagel wasser correctly, and washes his hands when he wakes up in the morning, will be considered like the Baal Shem Tov?”
And then, I discover that according to the Shulchan Aruch, I’ve even been doing nagel wasser the wrong way, for the last 30 years.
Of course, it’s never too late to fix these problems, but man, was Rabbenu right!
(Rabbenu is always right).
Even doing these apparently ‘small’ mitzvahs has got so hard recently, and I don’t really know why.
I really do want to do the right thing. I really do want to keep mitzvoth to the best of my ability, and to never go online ever, ever again, and to dress tzniusly, and to not speak or read a word of lashon hara, and to say three Tikkun Haklalis every single day, and to make God happy.
But so often, I’m stymied by circumstances and my own lack of motivation.
Today, I set the clock for 6am again…. And I woke up at 6:50.
And then my kid asked for a lift to school.
And then, there was huge traffic jams because it was raining, so I had to kind of cram my hitbodedut in to my drive back home, as I could see it was going to take an hour.
And I started to feel like I’m just a bit of a spiritual waste of space again, because none of my plans and intentions to improve, and move forward, and to develop better habits are really getting anywhere.
I manage to lift it up for a day, two days, three days, and then it all comes crashing back down again.
“What’s the point?” I started moping. “What’s the point of trying? What’s the point of carrying on, when I just keep failing all the time?”
And then, I came over to Rav Berland’s site, and I read THIS article – but it could have been any other article on the site – and I just started to feel happier again. I started to regain some spiritual energy, some motivation to carry on trying, and to carry on trying to make a difference in the world, however imperfectly.
We can’t do it by ourselves anymore.
Even the most spiritually-motivated amongst us is staggering under the strain of everyday life at the moment. The only way to keep going, happily, is by connecting to our true tzaddikim.
And as long as I’m doing my best to stay connected to the real tzaddikim, I know that – all my failures notwithstanding – I’m still keeping God happy.
- You can read more of Rivka’s musings on her blog: https://rivkalevy.com/