6 Teves 5779 / Friday, December 14, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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Coming Clean    

Coming Clean

I arrived to Breslev teachings so chock-full of misery and darkness, that if they can work for me and my life, they can certainly work for anyone else out there...


Hands up, who's spotted that the last few months I've been going through probably the biggest amount of emotional turmoil I've ever had in my life? Who's spotted that instead of only writing 'uplifting' and 'inspiring' and 'resolutely optimistic' articles, I was actually also just being truthful…
When you go through a test, especially big tests, even when you know all the stuff about 'not judging others' and 'seeing the good in everyone' - it is still excruciatingly difficult to hold on to that knowledge when everything in your life is pointing in the opposite direction.
Emuna, real heart emuna, not just intellectual 'head' emuna, is forged in a crucible of tremendous doubt and fear and confusion and anger and sometimes, hatred. When you get to the level of Rav Arush, you can probably skip that stage and go straight into thanking G-d profusely for the hardship. But I'm not Rav Arush.
When you're being tested, fundamentally, on a whole bunch of 'truths' that you built your whole life on; your whole persona on; your whole belief system on, you can wobble. You can crack. It can happen that a whole lot of bitterness and dark emotions can come out of you - and that's a good thing. The bitterness and negativity wasn't 'new', they were just buried so far down that you didn't know what was really in there.
You didn't realize that every time you were yelling at your kids, you were really yelling at your parents; or that the sick feeling you got in your stomach was a bunch of very old, very frayed, nerves (over)reacting, again, to a stressful situation or person. You had no idea that subconsciously, certain buttons were being pressed that could shred your self-esteem and happiness in less than a millisecond and spin you out into the blackest of black depressions.
But G-d knew.
So G-d, in His kindness and mercy, arranged for a big, massive test that would clean out the system. Out came all the 'hidden' truths about my real relationship with my parents, and a bunch of other people, too. Out came a massive splurge of despair, or yeush. Out came a whole bunch of judgement calls that may well have seemed 'harsh' or 'unfair' or 'bitter' to onlookers who had no idea what was really going on, but which for me, were my lifeline and my guidepost and my light in a very murky world of lies and actors.
I'll admit, it was probably not so 'uplifting' or 'inspiring' or 'optimistic'. What it was, was incredibly cathartic and very painfully true. Sure, I could have skipped all the 'heavy' stuff, written fluffy pieces about seeing Hashem in every cloud, and then a year later, go back to actually writing from the heart.
Would that really be doing anyone a service?
I write these things, at least partially, to share my journey of trying to grow and develop my emuna; and trying to be a better Jew; and trying to deal with my challenges and tests in the ways prescribed by Rav Arush and Rebbe Nachman.
I am a great experiment, because I arrived to Breslev teachings so chock-full of misery, and depression, and soul-sickness and darkness, that if it can work for me and my life, it can certainly 'work' for anyone else out there.
But as the experiment unfolds, I have had some very long, very hard days, and recently also weeks and months, where my emuna, and the support of my spiritual guides, were the only things carrying me through. Remember, emuna is not 'knowledge', it's belief. As Rabbi Brody has said on countless occasions, emuna kicks in when the brain kicks out.
My emuna had to kick in when I was faced with situations where I really didn't know what G-d wanted from me. Situations where so many people's opinions of what was 'the right thing to do' simply didn't square with what my own soul - and ultimately, also what my spiritual guide - was telling me. I had a battle raging inside me between my yetzer hara, which was telling me 'don't judge' and 'put up with it' and 'don't rock the boat' and my yetzer tov, which was whispering the exact opposite.
It was heavy. It was harsh. It may well have been very bitter, and angry, too - because I was. But not any more. Thank G-d, acknowledging those feelings was the key to getting them to disappear, and much faster than I would ever have guessed.
Thank G-d I didn't carry on pretending to be what I'm not, or pretending to not feel what I actually did. I am not a finished product; like you - and everyone else reading this site - I'm just aspiring to be someone with emuna. I'm not claiming to have all the answers, or to be perfect, or that I always react to the things that happen in my life in a text-book 'acceptable' way.
I know it makes some of us uncomfortable to read things about 'nasty people'. Maybe it feels a bit too close to home. Maybe, it trips the switch in our head that always just assumed that 'we're ok' whatever we're doing or saying to others.
But maybe we're not? Maybe one day, someone we've hurt very badly will turn around to us and tell us they don't want us in their lives any more, regardless of our excuses and rationalizations and self-justifications? What a scary thought.
It's one that I've had myself, many times, over the past few months. That thought, that what I think I am and what I really am may be so out of kilter, that I may be destroying my children and husband without even realizing it, has motivated me to do hours and hours of personal prayer, to try and get clarity.
I am a real person. I'm not a scripted 'inspirational emuna character' that only writes about the 'optimistic' and 'uplifting' experiences in my life. Baruch Hashem, I have and continue to have, so many of them. But that's not the whole picture.
The whole picture for me - and for all of us - is that life is a struggle. It's a challenge. It's a test. I've been tested a lot over the past year, and it brought out a lot of issues that I'd thought I'd resolved, and a lot of pain, bitterness and heartache. Then.
Now, thank G-d, I'm feeling so much better, so much happier, so much more optimistic.
But the two halves go together: darkness and then light; despair and then hope; anger and then acceptance; incredible sadness, and then genuine happiness. The downs may be tough to read about - but they are much tougher to live through. If you don't like to read about it, if it makes you uncomfortable, skip them. Wait a few months until the good times roll again. But I don't have that option. It's my life, and I'm live-blogging developments.
Bezrat Hashem, it'll be inspirational and happy and fluffy and acceptable again. But even when it isn't, I'm still happy with it. It's the life G-d has given me to lead. It's the insights that He puts into my head, when I sit down to write. And whatever He chooses to give me, good or bad, inspirational or otherwise, who am I to complain?
* * *
Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush

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