3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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Mind Games    

Mind Games

Our daily dialogue with G-d are reveals the illusion of the “bad thing” that we’re suffering from; with Hashem, we understand that the “bad thing” is good…


For much of my life I had a problem with anxiety, although I didn’t realize it until recently. My suffering ranged from a general feeling of uneasiness to fear and sometimes panic attacks that occurred when I was sick.  By the time I was a teenager these feelings seemed to have disappeared. Then, when I was a new mother, they reappeared with a vengeance. I never felt the need to turn to psychiatrists or medicine- I knew they weren’t going to solve the core issue of what was going on. Thank G-d, I found Breslev and Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, and after months of begging Hashem to help me overcome these imaginary fears, I have made tremendous progress. However, over the past few days, I have experienced some recurring anxiety and general unease at times.
So of course I turn to Hashem to help me overcome these trying moments. I always feel better and reassured after talking to Him. What inspired me to write about this was the last time I asked G-d to help me get the nudnik anxiety out of my head. As Rav Arush explains in his insightful book, In Forest Fields, a person should put forward his best arguments as to why Hashem should help him. Well, while doing this, I had an interesting realization.
Many times I have heard the story of Matan Torah, and have marveled at how the Israelites could be so ungrateful that they built the golden calf a mere forty days after all of the unbelievable miracles they experienced. Anyone that had any physical defect was healed and perfected in order to receive the Torah. The entire nation of Israel were as pure as angels and on a tremendously high spiritual level. It is written that even the lowest handmaid had a spiritual vision on the same level as the greatest prophets of later times. So I wondered, how is it possible that these people could be so ungrateful and forget about all of the miracles they had experienced since they were taken out of Egypt? What about the miraculous ten plagues?  What about the manna that Hashem provided for them every day while in the desert for forty years? What about the clothes and shoes that grew with the children and were mended and washed by the Clouds of Glory for the over two million Jews in the desert each day? What about the fact that no one had to worry about making a living???
I admit, I used to look at this generation and be a bit smug and say to myself, “If I were of this generation, I could never forget all of the miracles Hashem did for me. What ingrates.” Well, I have realized that I am no less of an ingrate myself, and I have been fooling myself the entire time. Yes, I do hitbodedut. Yes, I know Hashem is intimately involved in my life. Yes, I feel that Hashem loves me. Then how do I dare have anxiety?
I now understand that these moments of anxiety are here to show me that my emuna is weak in certain areas. It’s easy to thank Him and appreciate that everything He does is for my best until, of course, I encounter some challenge. Then the Other Side tries to shove that anxiety back in my head and convince me that what is happening at the moment is not a good thing.
What is the root of anxiety? In one word, it is doubt. Doubt is the reason we suffer when we go through tough times. It is the root cause of many, if not all, mental ills. Sadness, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. - they all stem from a doubt within ourselves that we may not even realize exists. Most people doubt the existence of a Creator; how in the world are they supposed to overcome their mental blockages? It’s difficult for me, and I have a foundation for understanding that G-d is very much involved in my life.  What is the best way to overcome this crippling mental disease of doubt?
The Torah states in Samuel, “The Lord said…Now go and strike the people of Amalek…Do not spare them….” What does this mean? How is this relevant to us today? Kabbalah explains that when two words have the same numerical value, or gematria, they also have the same essence. The gematria of Amalek is equal to “suffek”, or doubt. Therefore, we have a message encoded in the Torah- wipe out the doubt from all aspects of your life. When King Shaul is commanded to kill everyone, even the women, children, and animals, the Torah is saying that we must eradicate doubt from every fiber of our being. Doubt is a sneaky enemy, and it will hide patiently within the deepest parts of your mind, waiting for you to let your guard down. Just like the snake, it will strike when you least expect it. Our greatest external battles sometimes don’t feel as intense as the war in our heads. Who is in control of our minds?  Why is it not us most of the time? What can we do about it?
Rebbe Nachman answers that there is only one thing, and the Torah has stated it right in the previous verse from the beginning of time. Hitbodedut, or talking to The Creator in your own words, is the only way we can win the war with Amalek. There is just no other way- especially not in our time, when the challenges of life feel insurmountable.  To really get the full benefits, Rav Arush recommends that we speak to G-d for one hour each day.  It is like a one hour session with your most trusted confidant. This is your time to unburden yourself. I personally like to break up the hour into smaller time blocks in the car, doing dishes, or any time I have to myself. Don’t worry about talking to Hashem in the car- if no one sees a phone by your ear they’ll just think you’re on speaker phone. If you catch them looking strangely at you, just smile at them and point towards the sky. That will make them stop looking for sure!
Think of G-d as a loving parent who longs for His child to be close to Him.  As soon as you open your heart to Him, you will already feel less mental stress. I especially notice this after I have an anxious moment, and I just ask G-d to help me calm down and strengthen my emuna. Within a few minutes I am already feeling better. Tell Him about your day; what went right, what went “wrong”.  Let Him hear what’s bothering you and what you appreciated that day. Yes, He already knows exactly what you feel, but remember, this opportunity is for you to get closer to Him. Tell G-d about your hopes for the future, and ask for every blessing possible. This is also the time to do a daily “cheshbon nefesh”, or self-accounting. Review your actions, positive and negative, from the day. If you find that you behaved in a way you are not proud of, ask Hashem to help you not behave that way again. Then, commit to being better next time.
There is one caveat, though. Do not complain about your current situation. This is a very important part to understand. Rav Arush says that complaining brings upon a person harsh judgements. Why? Because that person is not recognizing that everything is coming from The Creator and that it is for his best. Honestly, we have no idea what is for our best. We can’t see the big picture. This is why emuna is the most important thing. Without emuna, we are doomed to ride the stormy waves of life in a little inflatable canoe without paddles. What kind of a life is that?
One of the greatest aspects of hitbodedut is expressing gratitude for everything we have. I have become a much more humble and appreciative person simply be expressing my thanks for every little thing. When was the last time you thanked G-d for your washer and dryer? Much of the world’s population don’t have our modern conveniences. The more you thank G-d for your blessings, the more you will appreciate every little thing in your life. This is the biggest blessing there is. Your appreciation will strengthen your emuna, and from there you are unstoppable.
Only through our daily dialogue with G-d are we able to see past the illusion of the “bad thing” that we are going through. Once we make Hashem a part of our lives, we will then understand that the “bad thing” is really a good thing, and there is no reason for us to doubt that everything is for our best. Don’t expect an overnight fix, though. Like mastering a fine art, this takes practice, practice, and more practice. However, with each session, you will feel a gradually increasing spiritual awareness and a closeness with The Creator that you have never known. Slowly but surely, the doubt and anxiety that plague you will begin to fade away, and you will begin to feel an inner strength growing from deep within your being.
Hitbodedut is the greatest gift you can give yourself and those close to you. This is the best way to clear your head after a hard day, to find the solution to a dilemma you may be facing, and to overcome any and all negative character traits. As an added bonus, your family and close friends will notice a positive change in you, and they may be inspired to change as well. I can personally say that it has saved my life, and being a balanced, happy mother is one of the best gifts I can give my children. Just knowing that G-d is right there when I need Him is the greatest reassurance. Don’t let doubt be in control anymore; do hitbodedut and win the mind game once and for all.

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  silent meditation as part of hitbodedut
Anonymous,1/21/2011 7:14:13 AM

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