Headlines »

May 18, 2024 – 10:56 pm | Comments Off on Are We Equal?9 views

Are we truly equal? We all know someone smarter, wiser, more capable, industrious, resourceful, or creative, than us. We also know people less wise, capable, industrious, resourceful, or creative than us. So, are we truly equal?
The answer is yes, but not because we are all equally capable. Our skill sets …

Read the full story »
Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life

Concepts

The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » K'doshim, Life Is Beautiful

Heal Your Fractured Self

Submitted by on May 4, 2024 – 10:39 pmNo Comment | 89 views

We all have two dimensions: the inner wholesome, beautiful self that is a fount of integrity, honesty, determination, and love. Then we have the outer fractured self that is filled with cravings, greed, lust, flightiness, envy, unhealthy competitiveness, bias, anger, resentment, insecurity, etc. The goal is not only to transition from the outer fractured self to the inner beautiful self but also to heal the fractured self.

In the Torah (Leviticus 19:23–24), we learn that fruits that grow on a tree during its first three years are forbidden. The crop that grows in the fourth year is permitted if we consume it in the sacred city of Jerusalem. Only in the fifth year are we permitted to partake of our crops locally.

This requires a great deal of discipline. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to plant a tree. It takes years for a tree to grow enough to produce fruit. But even then, we must hold off for three full years. It is easy to chafe under the burden and feel resentful. It is my tree, on my land, planted, watered, nurtured, and harvested by me. For goodness sake, why can’t I enjoy the fruit of my labor?

There are many explanations. I will share one by Rabbi Mordechai Kohen in his commentary, Siftei Kohen Al HaTorah: Holding off for three years atones for the first human sin. Our mother, Eve, committed a terrible sin because she did not wait three hours. We atone for it by waiting three years.

Shortly after their creation, G-d instructed Adam and Eve to partake of all the fruit in the Gaden of Eden, but for one—the tree of knowledge. In his commentary, Rabbi Kohen reveals that this decree was only ineffect for three hours. Adam and Eve were born on Friday afternoon—the sixth day of creation. They were informed of the decree three hours before sunset. Had they waited three hours, the sun would have set, Shabbat would have begun, and the fruit would have been holy and permitted.

They could not wait three hours, though this was their only prohibition. They could not wait three hours despite the enduring impact of their transgression. You are not Adam or Eve, but you are their child. Therefore, G-d gives you a chance to atone for their sin. They could not wait three hours to eat their fruit, but you will wait three years. In the fourth year, you will bring your fruit to Jerusalem, which will be holy, like an offering. Just as Adam and Eve’s fruit would have been holy and permissible once Shabbat began.

Why They Failed
Looking back, it is hard to imagine that Adam and Eve, G-d’s own handiwork, failed at such a simple task. However, when we look at our own behavior, we can sometimes recognize them in us. After all, we are their children. Not to borrow a bad pun, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

When tempted by something forbidden, we lose all reason simply lust after it with all our hearts. The calm, cool brain warns us of the detrimental long-term consequences and encourages us not to succumb. The objective brain tells us to back off, look the other way, distract ourselves, and just say no. But the heart boils over like a roaring cauldron of unrelenting passion. It wants to succumb now.

All the arguments in the world fell short at times like this. Arguments are products of the mind, and in the throes of passion, we are in the grip of the heart. It doesn’t matter if this is our only temptation. It doesn’t matter if the pleasures that await us at home are greater than what tempts us on the street. We are besotted. Aflame with temptation.

Adam and Eve were in the grip of their cravings. It mattered not that they could have had the object of their desires in only three hours. It mattered not that the consequences of failure would be profound and enduring. They were not listening to reason. They were in a headlong rush toward disaster.

You Are in Control
The truth is that the only power the heart has over you is the one you allow. You can always say no. You can always step away. It feels like you can’t because you don’t want to. But unwillingness is not inability. I once asked my son to pass a pitcher, and he replied that he was unable. Someone asked him, “Are you unable or unwilling?” We often conflate the two, but they are different.

We can always control ourselves, but we are not always willing. This is why our sages (Sotah 3a) declared that we only sin when consumed by a spirit of folly. It is foolish to think we are unable to withstand our cravings. Our brains know better. We are always in control. We choose to surrender.

The solution is to recognize where the cravings come from. Forbidden and unhealthy cravings do not come from our healthy, beautiful, enduring inner self. That self is G-dly and holy. It is happy and joyful. It is eternal, beautiful, and powerful. These cravings come from our fractured, obsessive, outer layer. In the terminology of Chassidus, this is called our animal soul. The beast inside us is roaring, but the beast is only our outer self. The beast is not our true inner self.

Recognizing that these passionate cravings and powerful urges belong to us and that we are not in the grip of a foreign power enables us to take control. The fractured outer layer is susceptible to lust and forbidden desires. It is conducive to greed and dishonesty. It is inclined towards anger and resentment. It is filled with insecurity and compulsion. These are not our true selves. They are our broken outer layer.

We might have been fractured by youthful experiences that shattered us, and these indulgences are our only escape from painful memories. We might be fractured simply because we are a product of this world where very little is perfect. Only G-d is perfect. And the only part of ourselves that is perfect is the inner soul, the spark of G-d in us. The outer fractured self is not perfect. It is part of G-d’s imperfect creation.

Healing Your Fractured Self
G-d gave us this fractured self so we could heal it. If He gave you the task, He also gave you the power to succeed. Talk to your cravings, resentments, and anger, and soothe them. Tell them you understand where they are coming from and why they feel this way. Validate their feelings but put a stop to them.

Tell your feelings that they are not real. This craving will not bring you the satisfaction you seek. This anger will not bring you the relief you desire. They are broken shards of an outer shell that need not be indulged. They don’t help us; they break us. They form barriers between us and our true inner selves—our sacred core, G-dly, perfect, and powerful.

Tell your cravings, greed, or anger that you have their back. Tell them to trust you on this: I’ve got you. We don’t need to indulge in these cravings to get ahead. We don’t need the resentments and entitlements; we can let them go. We will be happier when we do. Give me a chance to show you. I will help you find your path. If we stay your course, we will be miserable.

Talk yourself off the cliff and back away from the foolish choices you are about to make. Walk away from the spirit of folly that results in failure and transgression. You will be happier and more fulfilled.

You then take the reins and make yourself do the right thing. Call the person you resent. Walk away from the craving and do something worthwhile instead. Force yourself to give a sizable donation rather than holding on to greed. Banking the fires of temptation will leave you feeling better about yourself. When they come roaring back, and they will, you will have a track record on which to rely. I steered you toward happiness last time; you can trust me to do it again.

This is how to crawl away from the brink. This is how to heal your fractured self.

Tags: ,