You ever get a feeling of dread and a pall of anxiety shroud you? You ever experience pain in the pit of your stomach from fear and despondency?
You walk around in a haze. You worry over the next day. You look to Heaven yet you neither feel or see any support. Surely it’s there! You’ve been taught that all your life. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains and wonder from where will my help come? My help,” affirms the Psalmist, “will hail from G-d, Maker of heaven and earth!” Yet, knowing all this, you strain your eyes in vain and see nothing positive appear over the edge.
No doubt, when you dig deeper within yourself and you poke at your inner-voice and intellectual side you realize perhaps it’s you who is blind and deaf. It’s you who cannot see what is right there in front of you.
You ignore the blessings. Perhaps if you worked just a little harder. Went that extra mile. If you’d have shown a bit more kindness. If you only trusted G-d just a smidgen more. None of these doubts and fears would be plaguing you.
But then comes a stark rejoinder, a haunting thought and a clanging bell tolls in your head: I do know! It still does me no good! I’m still depressed. I cannot do it alone. I can’t emerge from the quagmire.
And why should I have to? If G-d truly loves me and if I really matter why must I always do JUST a LITTLE more?! Why must I go out of MY way to experience His “Divine Presence”? Why can’t He guide me to the light? Why can’t He grant me clearer vision? Why do I continue to flounder in darkness?
What if I can’t do it on my own? What if I can’t find my way out of this foggy maze? Must I remain at the bottom? Must I always be a loser? Must I wither away in melancholy?
Ironically, as one thinks about this another question haunts me to this day. When we read the second half of this week’s double Torah-portion Behar-Bechukotai, we come to some of the most harshest warnings and admonitions from G-d to His precious children. It’s hard to read and even harder to understand. No matter the tilt and angle you ascribe to it, in it’s unvarnished and bare translation it is impossible to misinterpret let alone to accept and even worse to believe. G-d seems to be showing us an ugly side unseen anywhere else. A dark underside. All of which, He warns us, leads to an ever-present fear and paralyzing morbidity.
It reminds me of a horrifying story in the Talmud: When Moses viewed the unfolding drama of history to the End of Times, a gift granted to him by G-d, he paused the movie at a very haunting episode. He witnessed the very cruel and painful death of the great Rabbi Akiva at the ripe old age of 120 at the hands of the Romans. And even though Rabbi Akiva relished his pain and smiled in death for being given the gift of fulfilling the ultimate Mitzvah of self-sacrifice to G-d, in his anguish, Moses cried out accusingly: “This is Torah and this is its reward?!” To which G-d responded simply and unequivocally; no twists, no tales, no explanations, no excuses or prevarications: “Discontinue this line of questioning or I will turn this world back to its original primordial nothingness!”
Really?! Is that it?! Is that all He can muster? Does this not go against everything we’re taught about reward and punishment? G-d’s kindness and love? His Infinite wisdom?
Yet, in this seeming riddle lies the response to all of our problems and self-inflicted wounds. It satisfied Moses and calmed him down. In it is the balm for each of us if we heed its harsh message.
When we realize who we are and who G-d is it becomes soluble in a universal sense. It’s not pretty. It’s not necessarily logical. It’s not meant to be and even Moses couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it.
Whoever you are, and you’re JUST you, G-d is all and everything!
Yet your nothingness is the basis for everything you can be and become!!
We really don’t know why. We also have the right to question and even complain. We can argue and wonder. But that’s as far as it goes. Try more and you’ll find yourself even more tortured then before. Once the complaint is lodged for the record and once the Judge notes your objection the trial must go on. You may not like where it’s going and even object. But in the end you await a verdict and then you have a chance at the appeal. And as Gd tells us “nothing stands in the way of the appeal!” Furthermore, if you avail yourself of your rights you can overturn the original sentence and come out way ahead of where you were before.
So how will you prepare? What do you see in the darkness and pain?
King David actually tells us that one day, “We will thank you G-d for Your anger against us!” There is a second act. The curtains wait to be drawn. It will be a time of healing, understanding and awareness.
Until then we must continue plodding through the fog and shine a light through the haze until we find our way back home. The only choice is how you want to make that trip.
The severe Admonitions we read are not here to actually torture you. They’re here to tell you life can be and is ugly. We don’t always have the answers and it seems so haphazard and unjust.
To the naked and finite eye it is. Remove the smudges and dirt and the Alter Rebbe says you suddenly espy a different picture. You can catch a glimpse of it from the Infinite telescope within you. Suddenly you see from afar that there is no darkness and evil but only light and good.
Yes, the unvarnished facts says Torah are bleak. Life is scary and even depressing and painful if you allow it. If you wish to remain stuck in that corridor, unwilling to look deeper and farther you will come to an ignominious end. Why? I don’t know. You don’t like it? Don’t waste the time complaining. It’ll do you no good even though Gd loves you. He just can’t explain the Infinite to you.
If you realize there is something beyond this horizon, a second chance, a verdict waiting to be overturned something much more wonderful and incredible awaits you.
But you must dig deep within yourself and allow that Infinite Light from within bathe you with its warm rays and lift you out of your mundane, dreary and hollow life.
All of a sudden surface admonitions and punishments actually catapult you to the most wondrous blessings and gifts. Only out of darkness, if managed carefully and lovingly nurtured, can one experience the brightest light. Ultimately, that will be fully recognized when the Redemption comes and all our questions and puzzles are solved.
So the next time you get bogged down by the burdens around you. Look within and let the Infinite Spark enlighten and enliven you.