Wednesday, December 24, 2008

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I Talked Myself Out Of It

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Remember when we talked about Holocaust Remembrance Week? Well, I hate to admit it, but it really got me down. I just couldn’t get that beautiful, young Jewish boy’s face out of my head. He was maybe 14 years old, totally innocent, looked like any nice Jewish kid you would meet on his way to school with what should have been a beautiful life in front of him. But they murdered him instead. I cried and couldn’t get him out of my thoughts.

Why I hate to admit it is because being down is against my religion. For some time now I have lived a totally happy life. Once you get it into your head that you want the goal more than anything else in the world, and you continually remember that the goal is the revelation of the Shechina (G-d’s revealed Presence) and it finally sinks in that the Torah [i] really means it when it says that this experience can come only in joy – well, joy becomes your religion.

Remember now - the joy that we are talking about here is not the joy of pizza and basketball. It is the true joy that comes when you finally realize what is actually happening when you do a mitzvah. When you think about the immense privilege that it is to be an actual instrument of G-d, a servant of His, doing something that is beloved to the Creator of the Universe you find the true joy that the Torah is talking about. And since you thirst for the goal so much you keep this holy joy before you all day long. But, as I said, after seeing that picture, I couldn’t shake that young boy’s face out of my thoughts and I came down.

Then, a couple of days latter one of the more colorful local characters walked by. He is a really nice guy but as I said, colorful. For instance, he wears a turban instead of a yarmulke. He stopped me on the street and offered me a cup of wine. Obviously, the less colorful of us do not stand on the street and drink wine. I told him that I was fine and passed on the wine. I asked him how he was. “Are you happy?”

“How can I be happy when the Moshiach is not here?” he answered, smiling, but also serious.

“But he is getting closer.” I reminded him. “Every day the Redemption is coming closer and closer.”

“That’s true.” He had to agree.

“And we have the Kotel now, which we didn’t have just forty years ago. Okay, so it’s not the Temple Mount, but it hasn’t been that long ago that we couldn’t even get into the Old City let alone pray at the Kotel,” I said.

“Yeah, you’re right …” He was about to say “But” and go on to remind me of some of the major things that we don’t have but I jumped in.

“More Jews are learning Torah today than ever before. Some forty years ago forty percent of all Israelis claimed to be totally secular. Today only twenty percent say they are. For Israelis to change in this way – that’s amazing! Do you realize that within just a few more years the majority of the Jewish people in the world will again be living here in Israel? This hasn’t happened since the exile began two thousand years ago! This is a tremendous thing.”

“Yeah, you know… you’re right.” he had to agree.

I saw that I was beginning to pick him up, and you know what? I listened to what I was saying to him and I talked myself up too. I convinced myself to look up again.

This is our only hope today. We can either look at the downside of things or we can look at the upside of things. Both are right here all the time. We choose whichever side of things we want to look at and then we go on to live in that side of the room.

This doesn’t mean that we ignore the things that are wrong that we can fix. We have to fix what we can. But when it comes to judging how life is going, we better be happy or we are going to have to come back to this very place again and again until we get it right. We will face the same circumstances again until we figure out that the Creator wants His creation to enjoy His creation.[ii] That’s why He made it in the first place.

“Think good and it will be good.” Try it. You’ll see.

[i] Shabbos 30b

[ii] Mishna Brura, Mincha Yom Kippur discusses a man who refuses to repent. The Be’er Hataiv comments, “He must repent or he will have to come back to this world again and again until he does repent.”

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