Our thoughts can transport us to the highest of heavens. Or, they can pull us down to the depths of the abyss. The more we "ruminate" about our flaws and occupy our minds with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, the more bitter we will be. But the more we exit our bubble of self and keep ourselves and our minds 'busy' with good deeds, the happier we will become.Rabbi Allouche
“If you go to sleep like a dog, you’ll wake up like a dog,” my dear mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, once told me. “But if you go to sleep like a lion, you’ll wake up like a lion!”
His message was clear. The way we go to sleep at night is the way we will wake up the next morning. If we go to bed at night in a jubilant mood, with an inspired heart, and an enriched mind, we will, most likely, wake up with that modus operandi. But if not, our next day may start off on the wrong foot.
Following my mentor’s wise advice, I decided to read excerpts of Jewish texts before going to sleep, every night. This custom has brought light and joy to my mornings (- you should try it too; I promise, you won’t regret it.)
Recently, as I prepared to bid farewell to yet another day, I stumbled upon a moving letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was addressed to a person who was complaining about his inability to shake off his “bitterness” and his “melancholy.” The Rebbe’s words are profound:
“It seems that the principal cause of your situation is that you ruminate about your situation constantly. The more you take your mind off of it the better it will become, and the medical avenues you are trying will be more successful.
In order to make this easier-you should keep busy with something completely different, no matter what it is (a job, studies, and the like.)
If you take your mind off of it completely – within a short time you will be healed.”
How resoundingly true: our thoughts can transport us to the highest of heavens. Or, they can pull us down to the depths of the abyss. The more we “ruminate” about our flaws and occupy our minds with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, the more bitter we will be. But the more we exit our bubble of self and keep ourselves and our minds ‘busy’ with good deeds, the happier we will become.
Take a look, for example, at a young child running around and enjoying life (-I am blessed to have a few of those at home :)). Now try this: sit that child on your lap and ask him or her: “So tell me, dear child, do you feel good about your identity? Do you feel valued? Are you happy?” The child will most likely gaze at you strangely, and think to himself, “What do you want from me? Who’s thinking about me? I’m busy living!” That is because children are not preoccupied with themselves, and with the way others may (or may not) look at them, so they are free to enjoy life, engage with the world, and consequently, be happy.
Sadly, as we grow, we become more and more self-preoccupied. It’s not our fault; after all, we must take good care of ourselves, of our education, of our profession, and of our lives. But some of us get stuck with the “I.” All some people think of, is me, me and me — my problems, my wishes, my dreams. But this self-preoccupation quickly turns into self-absorbedness, and this self-absorbedness then turns into moans and cries on how miserable life is.
Perhaps, this is why G-d tells us, in this week’s portion, that, “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; G-d is with them, and the shout of a king is in them.”
It’s not that Jacob and Israel do not have iniquities. But G-d does not “observe” them. And He is certainly not consumed by them. Instead, He prefers to focus on the “king” within us, and its infinite opportunities to share its ‘shouts,’ its music, its light, and its goodness with its surroundings.
If that is G-d’s choice, shouldn’t it be ours too?