2 Cheshvan 5781 / Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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Coming Closer to the King    

Coming Closer to the King

Progress is not achieved by traveling on a smooth and clear road without any obstacles. It is not the result of an unbroken string of success...


In a recent article by Rabbi David Ashear, he explains that a person working on emuna, yet feeling a lack of progress may become discouraged and even want to give up. Yes, he understands the principles that there is no one but Hashem, that everything He does is for the best and everything is for a purpose. Nevertheless when it comes to actually applying this knowledge he has many setbacks.


Progress is hard to see


Despite all the efforts to grow in emuna, he may still get upset over the smallest inconveniences and blame others. He gets upset and angry when stuck in traffic. He may worry about the competition, worry about the future and second-guess the past. After a while he can become disheartened and wonder if it's even worthwhile to continue.


When it comes to working on chesed, one can see the fruits of his efforts. He can see how he's helped people and measure the amounts that he's donated. When it comes to learning Torah, one can see how much he’s learned and how much time he has invested. But when it comes to something like emuna it's not easy to see the improvement that would give a person the encouragement he needs to continue.


Rabbi Lugassi explains that we have more control over areas that are physical. For example, if a person wants to start coming to minyan he can just get up and go. However, practicing emuna is the service of the heart. To get the heart to feel the thoughts in our mind is extremely difficult. That's precisely the point. Because it is so difficult, even the smallest improvements are meaningful and so very precious to our Father and King.


Rebbe Nachman says: “A little is also good.”


A person used to explode when he didn't get his way, and now he rarely gets very angry and doesn't yell as much. That's very significant progress. If someone who used to worry all the time now worries a little less, that's a big step forward. Even if a person still gets angry the same way he used to but now he feels bad about it, that's also an improvement. He's making a self-assessment and regretting his behavior. This too is precious to Hashem.


Inch by inch life’s a cinch. Yard by yard life is hard.


I once spoke to a person who had experienced a serious accident and was badly injured. He had to undergo many months of arduous and difficult rehabilitation. He told me that for weeks at a time he wouldn't see any noticeable progress and became discouraged. Then one day he would suddenly sense some small but perceptible improvement and this would give him the strength to carry on. Eventually he was able to make a full comeback and now gives advice to other people who are undergoing rehabilitation. Often they too become dejected and feel like throwing in the towel. He shares his personal experience and tells them to keep trying and never give up.


The same principle holds true for spiritual rehabilitation and especially building emuna. To use a football analogy, progress does not come from a 90-yard touchdown pass or even three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust. It comes from small advances, an inch or two at a time. Each little step forward is meaningful and over time can result in significant advances.


Sometimes we get tackled in the backfield for a loss. By picking ourselves up and making a new beginning, setbacks can become part of the teshuva and growth process. Nothing is as precious to Hashem as our yearning for emuna and asking for His help. Rabbi Arush teaches that Hashem sees us not as we are but as we want to be.


How to find the King


The Baal Shem Tov told a parable about a commander looking at the array of troops and artillery of the opposing army. Viewing the battlefield scene, where you see the heaviest concentration of troops and firepower, that's where you know the king is to be found. Emuna is our primary mission and is exceedingly difficult. It is there however, that we will find and come close to our King.


Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem is within every obstacle. Every obstacle is created by Him with love for the purpose of enabling us to come close to Him. Progress is not achieved by traveling on a smooth and clear road without any obstacles. It is not the result of an unbroken string of success. Progress is a result of struggle, losing some battles but persevering and winning the war.


Rebbe Nachman says there is no room for despair.


Remember that feelings of discouragement and thoughts of surrender are emanations from the Dark Side. The Evil Inclination desperately wants us to resign in despair because it is precisely within our most difficult challenges that we make the greatest gains. Rabbi Arush teaches that if we leverage our difficulties to build desire and pray extensively to Hashem, the Evil Inclination will be the one who feels like resigning!


May we build strong desire, and never despair. In this way we can build emuna, overcome our obstacles and get close to the King.

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