Hold That Thought


The only reason I can admit that I do this is that some of my family members have admitted they do it, too. When something annoying happens to me, an indignant voice inside my brain scrambles automatically to figure out whose fault it was.

You know how it goesI tripped because HE was rushing me, because SHE left her shoes on the floor.

It’s predictable, almost laughable (unless of course, what happened wasn’t even remotely funny).

Either way–and it doesn’t always make it easier to know this–nothing in the world happens unless G-d wants it to happen. This thought isn’t supposed to make us passive about our own lives, quite the opposite. But wherever we find ourselves, it’s because G-d wants us to be there. For that moment anyway. The immediate question to ask myself is supposed to be, what do I do now? rather than, whose fault is it?

As a Jew, it’s hard to think about why G-d has allowed certain things to happen to us as a people, so I try to hold those thoughts. It’s also not easy to understand the reasons behind our personal struggles–basically, there are lots of thoughts to hold. I know that I’m not supposed to understand His ways, at least not yet. When Moshiach comes, our minds and our senses will perceive G-dliness in ways we can’t even begin to imagine now, which also means we will have new perceptions of what our struggles truly accomplished. For now, I know that to fulfill my purpose in this thing called life, my time is best spent trying to do what He has asked from me as a Jew, learn Torah and do mitzvos.

Learn Torah, do mitzvos. It’s the mantra, the answer for everything.

But now I can tell you, it wasn’t always easy.

I mean, I knew it was what I had to do, but after the initial honeymoon between me and Him (Sure, G-d–kosher, Shabbos, mikveh–You name it, I’ll do it), I became indignant that He had so poorly prepared me for the challenges in my life as an observant Jew.  I knew too little too late, and was too emotionally hampered by the thought patterns and experiences of my early life.  I felt like I would be forever suspended between two parallel universes, comfortable and happy in neither. The only thought that kept me going was that I knew I didn’t want to go back to the world I came from. I had to keep plugging, even though I sometimes despaired at the difficult road I had chosen to take.

Why couldn’t I have been happy like everyone else?

I knew there was no benefit to thinking that thought–it was G-d’s will to create me as He did. What I needed to do was to keep grappling to do more than accept, to actually know that G-d custom-made me, and everyone, as an amalgamation of gifts and challenges. It took years of thoughtful effort to internalize that my true mission is to weave the entirety of my life into a G-dly gift to return to Him. I am still a work in progress but, it is a huge relief to finally think like a grown-up.

Now, before I start growing down, I need to spend my energy wisely. The current situation in Israel adds to the urgency to the right thing, right now.

It’s tempting (boy, is it tempting) to point fingers at who’s to blame for the world’s problems, and it’s easy to share Facebook articles and petitions that make us feel like activists. But I know that what G-d really wants is more from me in the realm of–what else?–Torah and mitzvos.

I just learned a way to make prayer more meaningful. That’s actually huge for me, since formal prayer has always been the weakest link in my spiritual chain. Between the language and the protocol, it’s always seemed to be more efficient to just talk to G-d in my own words and in my own time.

But here’s what I just learned from the book, To Pray as G-d Would Pray:

Every prayer recited by a Jew gives voice to an arousal from below that evokes and draws down Divine light that transcends the standard limitations of the spiritual cosmos and thus brings about change within our world.

I haven’t prayed the same since. Why I didn’t understand this earlier, only G-d knows. I’m just glad I know it now.

About the Author
Lieba Rudolph, her husband, Zev, and their young family returned to observant Jewish life when they were both over thirty. Now, after spending equal time in both worlds, she shares the joys and challenges of her journey, answering everyone's unasked question: why would anyone normal want to become religious?
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