What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Stop Yourself from Stopping Yourself
Fruits are some of the most beautiful things in this world. They are magnificently packaged gifts from G-d filled with health, wellness, nutrition, and the most incredible flavors. We celebrate them with the charming holiday of Tu B’Shvat, marking the New Year of the Trees.
More than just a Jewish “Arbor Day”, our mystics tell us that fruits are a profound metaphor for our lives. Just like the delicious fruit comes packed inside of a hard shell or thick peel, our lives too are densely packed with blessings from G-d, neatly tucked into a thick skin that hides the goodness within. It would be absurd for someone to consume a banana without removing the peel. In much the same way, we must first peel away the husk before we can enjoy the goodness that G-d has given us in every part of our lives.
“It is the nature of G-d to do good. It follows therefore that everything that happens in G-d’s world, which He alone controls, must by definition contain within it at least a hidden good. It is up to the person to think the situation through and then, even when the good is hidden, they will surely discover it…. It is all dependent on you to search diligently and you will surely find it and you will see the good even in the seemingly bad thing.” —The Rebbe in a sermon on February 9. 1987
When we have the courage to see the world through the lens of the fruit—where everything is good wrapped up in bad that must be discarded—we are filled with a supreme sense of confidence and enthusiasm, encouraged by the awareness that G-d is always with us and that we have nothing to fear.
When we do encounter hardship, challenge, or suffering, it’s critical for us to be aware that, like the peel to the fruit, the purpose of the bad is to help bring out the good. Whilst we can’t control what happens to us, we always have the power to control our perception of it. People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
When a young Jew who had recently rediscovered his faith experienced shame and guilt over the errors of his past, the Rebbe encouraged him to divest all sadness and channel the pain of his past to spur the passion of his present spiritual journey. Instead of seeing his failings as a depression, the Rebbe urged him to see it as a lever, that serves to lift something higher the more it is pushed down!
In most cases, we can find the hidden good within every challenge. If we just know that it’s there, the Rebbe assures us that we will find it. Admittedly, this isn’t always easy, especially when it involves human mortality. Here’s one example of how we can shift our perspective on the bad things that happen to us:
When a young woman attended a Torah dedication ceremony in New York with her friends, she suddenly experienced a brain aneurysm and died without warning. The grief-stricken host asked the Rebbe how it was possible that such a terrible thing could happen during such a special event. After expressing his condolences and admitting our inability as mortal beings to fathom the depths of our Creator’s ways, he suggested that the host consider the holiness of the environment in which this precious soul returned to her maker: “it is possible that one of the true reasons why G-d inspired you to donate the Torah was to allow for the tranquil ascent of this young woman’s soul, and that it occurs in a Jewish home, a home that is protected by a Mezuzah whose first words are “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One. (Likkutei Sichos 35: 345-346)”
More than just a feel-good, seeing-the-cup-half-full attitude, this paradigm shift of our perspective is vital to our health and wellness. When we are joyous because we choose to see the fruit beneath the peel, our gratitude draws G-d’s blessings upon us. When we are miserable because we choose to see only the peel and ignore the fruit within, our anxiety repels any further blessings of G-d from us!
In a letter dated January 17, 1956, the Rebbe says this explicitly to a Jew who complained about all the troubles in his life:
“In response to your letter…in which you write about your current situation and that throughout your life you have not experienced any good……It seems that you don’t sense the contradiction in your letter. For a man who G-d has blessed with a wife and children to say that he has never seen any good is ungrateful to an alarming degree. … Hundreds, even thousands of people pray every day to be blessed with children and would give everything they own to have a single child, but have not as of yet merited this.
But you, the recipient of this blessing, which it seems came to you without you having to especially pray for it, don’t recognize the wealth and happiness in the blessings you have, and you write twice in your letter that you have never experienced any good!
Most likely, this attitude of ingratitude is the reason for the lack of health and financial well-being that you are experiencing, since you choose to completely overlook the wondrous blessings that G-d Almighty has already bestowed upon you in the most critical part of your life—your family. When we fail to recognize the blessings that G-d has given us, especially when you choose to express your ingratitude in such disturbing terms, there is no surprise that G-d has chosen to withhold from your other blessings as well.”
A close analysis of Jewish history will show that the most successful Jews in our ancestry were also the most joyous. Whilst Jacob was suffering employee abuse from his conniving father-in-law, Laban, he composed the famous “Songs of Ascents”—fifteen Psalms of praise that have been incorporated into much of our liturgy—because he was fully conscious of the great benefit that lay in store for him right behind his sorrows. At all of his public gatherings (farbrengens), the Rebbe would enthusiastically encourage the large crowd to sing and dance with ever-increasing passion, because our attitude of joy and gratitude to G-d is what will unleash the free flow of His blessings upon us.
Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your actions. Joy is what happens to us when we choose to see how good things really are. You didn’t come this far to only come this far.
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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