Dr. Zev Ballen has been talking a lot recently about all the decisions that the yetzer hara - the evil inclination - is taking on our behalf in our unconscious minds, where we have no idea what he's really up to.
All we know is that our conscious mind decided to stay away from chocolate cake, and here we are eating our third slice, and feeling terrible about it.
How does this happen? Because without hitbodedut, or personal prayer, we simply don't know what our 'bad voice' is telling us to do - all the time - so it's very hard to fight back.
But once we start talking to G-d regularly, aiming for an hour a day, then we start to shine some light on that 'inner dialogue' - and that's when the fight really begins. Because up to that point, there really is no fight. We might think that we're the holiest thing on two legs; the most ethical person we ever met; the saintliest human being to ever walk the earth - but until and unless we are running our deeds and our thoughts and our speech past Hashem on a daily basis, we haven't even begun to realize just how bad it really is, or how much work we need to do.
In his book on personal prayer, In Forest Fields, Rav Arush writes (page 274): "One who does not practise an hour of daily hitbodedut, yet claims that he is still assessing his deeds, is fooling himself. He will have a rude awakening, at some point during his lifetime."
It's not a secret that Hashem hasn't blessed me with any more children for coming on for 10 years' now. Baruch Hashem, I have two lovely girls, and neither of them came the 'easy' way either.
I've written about this subject a lot in other places, but one of the things that I always assumed, at least until very recently, was that I actually wanted to have more kids. I was desperate to have more kids! (wasn't I?...) I sent my husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana the first time, just so that we'd have more kids… I did six hours, a couple of times (four years' ago…) to have more kids… I've cried rivers about not having more kids (I felt so sorry for myself)… I've gone to so many holy graves and asked for blessings to have more kids…
A couple of years' ago, I stopped making any more spiritual effort to have more kids, for a lot of reasons. I made my peace with the idea that two kids was enough, and that I wasn't in a 'big family competition' with my friends and neighbours. I also started learning Rav Arush's Garden of Education book, and I realized I'd been stuffing my children up so badly, that I had a massive job just to fix the mess I'd already made, without adding to it.
And I guess a bit of me got to 'happy yeoush' (despair) stage, where it was easier to be happy with my lot if I'd stop yearning for my lot to change. But of course, I always thought that I myself really actually wanted more kids…
Until this morning.
This morning, I was experiencing yet another monster 'battle of the kishkes', where a whole bunch of previously hidden emotions and ideas had bubbled up again, and were slogging it out in my intestines.
Again, I've been experiencing this sort of stomach discomfort and 'stress' for years and years and years, but what's new now is that I actually hear the internal sound track that's playing out alongside it.
On one side, was the 'good voice', personified by Rav Arush and Rabbi Brody, telling me that G-d wants to give me more kids, and that we're going to hear good news soon, Bezrat Hashem. On the other side, was the 'bad voice' replaying over and over again things that I used to hear continually from my childhood: "You don't deserve to have things, because you don't look after them!" "You're so selfish, you only ever think about yourself!" "You couldn't even look after a hamster!"
(When I was eight years' old, my hamster died from starvation and neglect. I felt guilty and 'evil' about it for years and years…)
What does this have to do with me not having any more kids? Great question! When I tuned in to that internal conversation today, I realized that that negative voice has been berating me, 24/7, for decades, over how 'bad', and 'selfish', and 'lazy', and 'worthless' I am.
This is how it's been playing out:
Conscious mind: "I'd love to have more kids!"
Subconscious mind: "You don’t deserve them; look what you did to your hamster; you're not good enough; G-d will take them away from you because you're such a bad, selfish, lazy, evil mother. I'm vetoing the whole process. No conception for you this month…"
The truth, that I realized just this morning, is that of course I don’t deserve my kids! But G-d gave them to me anyway, as a free gift, and it's not conditional on anything. I don't have to worry any more! Just as He gave me two free gifts already, He could certainly decide to give me a third, or even a fourth, because He loves me so much, and He's so merciful and kind to me.
Rav Arush is teaching me - Hashem wants to give you! Go and pray for it, go and make the vessel to hold the blessing, and He'll give it to you ASAP!
But I haven't been making the vessel. Or at least, even when I've been trying to make the vessel, my subconscious has been poking a whole bunch of holes in it, without me even knowing what was going on. Psychologists call this 'self-sabotage', and a lot of people do it, especially if they grew up in very negative environments.
But as of this morning, I'm on to that sneaky, nasty 'bad voice' that has been pulling me down for years. Now, the battle is going to move out of my kishkes and into to my prayer: G-d! please help me to shut those horrible voices up, once and for all! Please help me to start to feel good about myself, and to internalize how much You love me! Please help me to turn the page on all the nasty opinions, and nasty putdowns, that have been lobbed at me non-stop for years!
The things that parents say to their children, for good and for bad, have a profound affect on them. If a kid is constantly told that they are good, and that they are precious, and that even when their hamster dies, it's not a punishment or 'proof' of their evil, but just another life-lesson - that kid will grow up with great self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, inner happiness, and the strength to give to others, to love whole-heartedly, and to build the world.
If a kid is constantly being blamed for their mistakes (and other peoples'…); and constantly being told that they are 'selfish' and 'lazy' and 'bad' and a 'trouble-maker' - and who knows what else - they will struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. They will struggle - for years - to believe that Hashem, or anyone else, could love them; they will struggle with inner demons that are so huge, every day feels like a duel to the death. And really, it is.
Because that 'bad voice' has been trying to kill me for years; it's been destroying my chances of having more kids; it's been making me down and depressed; it's been behind a lot of my 'judgement' and fear issues. No more. Now that I'm on to him, now that he's had to come out into the open, I am going after him mercilessly, with Rav Arush's teachings: I am good! Hashem wants to give me! Things can change and improve! I don't have to listen to evil opinions or thoughts any more! I can choose happy! I can choose holiness! I have Rabbenu backing me up!
And if that nasty voice doesn't like what I'm telling him, he'll just have to pack up and leave.
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Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush