A couple of weeks’ ago, my oldest daughter started to complain that her tummy felt very sore and bloated. I tried to ignore it (and her…) for a couple of days, as this particular kid has a ton of food allergies and sensitivities, and it all comes out in her stomach, in one way or another.
But a week past, and the stomach was still hurting her and all puffed up. I started to feel a bit worried.
That same week, I had an appointment scheduled with a faith healer (the one that saw a vision of the Baal Shem Tov in Medzibozh, on my latest trip to the Ukraine in the Summer), to try to figure out why I’d been feeling quite lousy all year, in various ways.
The faith healer told me I had ‘amoebot’ – (also known as stomach parasites) – and put me on a very strict diet for a month. I decided that the rest of my family should join me on the no sugar-no dairy-no white flour- no potatoes, and hoped it would help my oldest daughter’s stomach.
Within a day or two, I already started to feel much better. My youngest daughter started to feel much better (she’d been finding it hard to breathe at night, probably due to all the milk products); but my oldest daughter? Sometimes yes (enough to get me to stop worrying it was something ‘serious’), but sometimes, still no.
Sometimes, particularly at night, her tummy would bloat up again, very uncomfortably.
One of the main lessons I learned this year is that the physical symptom, issue or malady is always rooted in the spiritual world. I could make my daughter drink Grapefruit Extract for the next 50 years, only feed her raw carrots and water from the purest spring in the world – and if I didn’t get to the spiritual root of what was really causing the problem, we’d still be stuck with it.
I decided to do six hours of hitbodedut (personal prayer), to try and find out what was going on.
I’ve just started reading Rav Arush’s latest book in Hebrew, about child education, and one of his key points is that children are our mirrors: they show us what is really going on in us, and to get us to really pay attention, they often magnify ‘our issue’ a thousand percent, to make it easier to spot.
This particular kid is very clearly my mirror. She says the things that I only think; she has the same secret worries; and she always responds to the teshuva I try to make for myself.
So I took myself off to my garden, and I asked G-d: “Hashem, what’s going on with all the bloated stomach stuff? What do I need to look at, or work on, or fix, for my daughter’s stomach to feel better?”
Most of the time when I’m doing six hours of praying, I get my insight towards the end. This time, I got it almost immediately: the problem was my arrogance! OK, that felt right. But G-d, I’m still so arrogant about so many things; what thing in particular is this connected to?
Again, I got the answer almost immediately: it was the arrogance of thinking that I could do anything, even sin, against G-d’s will.
This is a very controversial subject; it’s a very ‘fraught’ point, because it’s rooted in all the mysteries connected to free choice, which Rabbi Nachman teaches, cannot be understood as long as a person is still in their physical body. (There are no exceptions to this rule; if you can’t understand how this ‘works’, it’s because you are still alive…)
In a nutshell, before we act, we have 100% free choice and will be held fully accountable for our actions, both good and bad. After the event, though, we have to believe that everything was 100% how G-d wanted it to be. Ein Od Milvado. G-d did, does, and will do every single thing in the universe.
As I’ve been learning more and more about how G-d really wants me to live, I’ve been collecting quite a big bag of suppressed guilt feelings about things I used to do, and mistakes I used to make.
Baruch Hashem, G-d has helped me to fix a lot of them. But when I think back to how ‘unspiritual’ my wedding was, or how ‘unholy’ so many of my behaviours were, I can’t help but feel bad that my kids have been at least partially ‘tainted’ by their exposure to my bad habits and bad middot.
Every time my kids have an issue, I’ve been feeling it’s my ‘fault’ for not being perfect – and of course, in many ways it is. But what happened this week is that I realized that all that ‘feeling bad’ is firmly rooted in arrogance!
Just as G-d is giving me the ‘ups’, G-d is giving me the downs.
This week, I realized that part of the reason I have so much to say in these articles is precisely because I’m very far from perfect, and I’ve come from such a ‘dark’ place, spiritually. I have made tons of mistakes – and I continue to make tons of mistakes. But without all those mistakes, I never would have had the impetus to learn more about G-d, or to talk to Him so much, and ask Him to help me fix it all.
I was listening to a Rav Arush CD this week that really brought the point home. Rav Arush was explaining that the people who want to be ‘there’ already, who want to get past all the confusions, the difficulties, the problems, the rollercoaster ride – those people are completely missing the point.
Because the point is not to get ‘there’; the point is to talk to G-d every single day. And the more confusions, difficulties and ‘issues’ a person has, the easier it is to have a relationship with the A-lmighty.
Yes, I did a lot of things that were ‘wrong’, and that had some apparently ‘negative’ consequences. But that was exactly what I needed to teach me the value of talking to G-d. Without all those mistakes and errors and issues, I would be sitting somewhere thinking I was doing pretty well, and what the heck was wrong with all those lunatic Breslovers who went to the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana?!?!?!?!?
My mistakes were a present from G-d. My sins were a gift. The consequences were exactly what I needed to get me to here, to a point where I write this stuff down and share it with you; and talk to G-d for an hour a day.
Even more, my mistakes are exactly what my kids need – Hashem is also giving them the tailor-made environment that they need to get close to Him, and to fix their own souls.
Do I want to continue making those mistakes? Of course not. I ask G-d to help me all the time, that I’ll do better, and clean up the mess I’ve made. But once something’s done, it’s what G-d wanted.
I felt really serene at the end of that six hours, and really grateful for everything.
All the ‘downs’ I’ve beaten myself up over for years were from G-d, and without them, I would have never had the ‘ups’.
That was two days’ ago. Since then, my daughter hasn’t had any more problems – and that’s despite the fact she went to a birthday party and ate a whole bunch of stuff on the ‘banned’ list.
Now that I’ve worked out that I was bloated with arrogance, her bloating has completely disappeared… with Hashem’s help, hopefully for good.