One of the greatest and most beloved of Israel’s Rabbi’s in recent generations, the Chazon Ish, said that if someone is publicly desecrating Hashem’s name and you just walk past it like it is not there - it is like you are walking past a public desecration of your own father – Hashem is our father! And we are commanded to defend his Honor.
The truth is that Hashem has never been under greater fire than He is today. In recent years, we find that many of the books on the New York Times best-seller list, for example, are based on the theme that religion is a major source of evil in the world. Three such books are: God is Not Great: Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens (who writes for the Wall Street Journal); and by Richard Dawkins of Oxford University: God's Delusions, and The Devil’s Chaplins. Both Dawkins and Hitchens are self-declared atheists.
Renowned scholars such as Hitchens and Dawkins certainly wield a wide influence and are guilty of diverting many people from the Truth; yet their hatred of Hashem is so obvious that people can combat them more easily than the enemies of Hashem who are more subtle and discreet.
Jordan Peterson is a research and clinical psychologist who taught at Harvard – he writes about what is called positive psychology on the subject of happiness – but don’t expect to be happy if you listen to him! Peterson outwardly promotes many of the same virtues that we do such as humility, love, commitment and fairness - but beware – the way Peterson speaks about these terms has nothing to do with the Truth.
According to Peterson, today’s world is depressed because people have not awakened to the fact that the “universe” is “harshly indifferent to the needs of people and all living things”. Accept it - “Life is suffering,” says Peterson - and if you are under the delusion that G-d cares enough to relieve you of your suffering – you are in for even greater disappointments. According to Peterson’s view, the only way to gain relief from the “universe’s harsh indifference to people and all living things” is to accept his ‘reality’ - namely that G-d is a sadistic being who created the world just to make us suffer while he sits back and does nothing about it. Hashem have Mercy.
In his book, “The Garden of Wisdom” (soon to appear into English, G-d willing), Rabbi Shalom Arush, presents quite a different approach to achieving happiness. Rabbi Arush tells us that not only is there a Loving and Merciful G-d in the world, but His greatest desire is to share his Benevolence with us.
*Instead of blaming Hashem for our suffering, we thank Him for it because through showing gratitude for what we cannot understand, Hashem brings us even closer to Him and showers us with His Blessings. Peterson’s whole thesis is based upon blame. We seek to never blame others or ourselves for what we perceive as “failures.”
*We strive to be equally happy with our own deficiencies and setbacks as we are about our external successes ; We are always happy because even when life is not externally going the way we want it to; our acceptance that Hashem is directing our lives for the best enables us to be constantly growing internally which leads to joy.
* We accept that everything that happened, happens, and will happen is for the very best because it's from Hashem. Instead of adopting Peterson’s paranoid perception of Hashem, we remain loyal to Hashem regardless of when He chooses to alter the external circumstances of our lives. Our faith that Hashem will never hurt us by making us successful before we are spiritually ready to handle the success leads us to a deep feeling of inner-peace.
* Our emuna-orientation gives us a purpose which is to love everyone, even those like Peterson; and by spreading the Light of Torah we emulate Abraham, our father, who was a Light unto the Nations.
*The paranoid perception that G-d is “harshly indifferent” is merely a projection of Peterson’s own cynicism and hostile indifference to the world. If he would join us, even he would want goodness and success for everyone; he would feel a responsibility to the world and pray for its welfare. Instead of using his G-d given intelligence and oratorical skills to spread fear amongst people, he would show them how to be happy with what they have and always judge people favorably.
*We rejoice in the success of everyone and strive to help everyone become successful – not just through intellectual oratory, but through reaching out and providing the knowledge, support and everyday tools that people need to change their lives.
*A student of Rabbi Arush can achieve complete confidence in himself regardless of what others think about him; since he knows the Truth, he is not bothered in the least if others criticize him or laugh at him. Such a person has absolutely no need to impress others and therefore never compares himself to or competes with others.
* Men like Peterson have been diverted from their true purpose; because they reject Hashem they lack humility and therefore make public statements about the world that are based on their own flawed, and literal human understandings. We rather seek to sensitize ourselves to the multi-dimensional meanings and hints that Hashem sends us through all reality. We recognize that even our own thoughts, speech and actions as well as the thoughts, speech and actions of others are being orchestrated by Hashem. Hashem sends to us, through these mediums, a constant stream of messages about how we can live more happily.
*By working to understand what Hashem is telling us through our thoughts, we are led to joy because the numerical value of the words “thought” and “happiness” in Hebrew are the same.
*Through our submission to Hashem’s superior intelligence and morality, we achieve humility which leads to the greatest happiness.
* We believe that Hashem is the only reality. There is only Him. The world and everything in it belongs to Him therefore everything that Hashem gives us is an expression of His great generosity and love for us. We do not dare to attempt to override the basic reality of life which is that Hashem is running, supervising and making decisions about His world in His own way.
*Finally - The foundation of our humility and therefore our happiness is based on following the advice and teachings of Hashem’s appointed leaders, the Tzaddikim - and not the advice of self-proclaimed “experts” with university degrees. May it be so.
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Zev Ballen, LCSWhas been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: firstname.lastname@example.org call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line). See the new blog at: www.zevballen.com.