Do you pay attention to bumper stickers?
Well, many bumper stickers, especially the political ones, are boring. Yet once in a while, you see an interesting one that makes you feel, “hmmm… they have a point!”
This is what happened to me this week.
The bumper sticker read: “Don’t get over it, get through it,” and it resonated with me.
You see, the phrase “get over it” sounds very dismissive. When someone tells me to “get over it,” they usually minimize what I am going through. It always feels as if the complete unsaid sentence is: “come on, this is no big deal. Stop being a child and just get over this already.”
I am sorry, sir, but I can’t just press a button and “get over it.” Whether the challenge is big or small, authentic or imaginative, it feels significant to me. And to just dismiss it with “get over it” doesn’t help me one bit.
On the other hand, “you will get through it” is much better. It insinuates that “yes, it might be a challenge, but it can be done, and you will be okay.”
So: don’t get over it. Get through it!
Sounds good to me.
Except… is that all?
I felt that something was missing. There has to be a higher level, a more profound insight that will help me deal with challenges.
Suddenly I realized what I was missing: l’chatchila ariber!
If you read this and say, “l’chat– what? Keep on reading.
And welcome to the world of one Chassidic saying that can change our lives forever.
L’chatchila ariber is the short version of a saying in Yiddish coined by the Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Rebbe of Chabad. Arguably, it is among the most famous Chassidic phrases of all time.
Here is the saying in Yiddish:
Di velt zogt, az oib men ken nisht arunter, geit men ariber; Un ich zog, az men geit L’chatchila ariber!
And here is the not-perfect-but-good-enough translation to English:
Most people say that if you can’t crawl under it, try jumping over it. And I say: jump over it in the first place!
Before discussing this saying, let’s agree on some self-evident truth. Very often, we can be our own worst enemies.
It’s not that life is perfect and “it’s all in our heads.” It’s not in our heads. Until Moshiach comes, everyone faces challenges in their life of all types and sizes.
Still, challenges alone will not determine what our lives will look like. The way we react to these challenges is what will make our lives better or worse.
And so, the Rebbe Maharash noticed how most people will react to challenges.
They crawl under them.
They try to survive, let the wave pass, and find a way to be okay until things get better.
For the Rebbe Maharash, this is not a way to live our lives.
“I say” – he said – “jump over it in the first place!”
Jump over it. Double down. Become bolder. Go further.
When you hit a metaphoric bump in the road, you can say, “oy, there is a bump on the road!” Or you can say, “This is not a car that I am driving. This is an airplane. I can get over it and reach much higher”. You are not ignoring it or minimizing the challenge, but you maximize your ability to respond to it.
Now, the Rebbe Maharash was addressing first and foremost holy matters: how to approach our relationship with G-d and what type of attitude to have towards doing Mitzvot.
Without L’chatchila ariber, we might be satisfied with a mediocre relationship with G-d. And if we ever meet a challenge while trying to do a Mitzvah, we will make do with the minimum necessary. With L’chatchila ariber, nothing will deter us from being connected to G-d and fulfilling his will.
But L’chatchila ariber can easily be applied to all areas of our lives.
Without L’chatchila ariber, we say, “can I? Will I succeed?” With L’chatchila ariber, we dream big and do big. Because when we encounter an obstacle, we turn it into an engine of growth.
Interesting to note: a wordless Chassidic song (Niggun) bears the name L’chatchila ariber. If you listen to it, you might hear the same determination to soar higher in the face of adversity. (You can click here to see Chassidim singing this Niggun at the Rebbe’s Farbrengen).
So back to the bumper sticker, I think it should be reworded:
Don’t get through it! Jump over it!
I don’t fool myself that I will always be able to have this L’chatchila ariber attitude. I know that I might fall back into the crawling position many times. But I’d hope that this message will remind me to keep trying.