15 Cheshvan 5782 / Thursday, October 21, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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Living for Real

Why are so many of us being 'blocked' from developing a relationship with G-d? That's exactly what this series will be exploring over the next few weeks...


Part 1 of “A Holy Nation”
When we're connected to G-d, we have an answer to every single problem in our lives, be it financial issues, health scares, problem marriages, problem kids or a nuclear Iran (to name but a few).
But when we don't have - or don't feel - a connection to G-d, our internal issues and external problems can literally drown us in a sea of unending misery, sadness and despair.
So then, the $64,000 question is: what is stopping so many of us from being connected to G-d? Why are so many of us apparently being 'blocked' from developing a relationship with Creator of the World? That's exactly what this series of articles is going to be exploring over the next few weeks.
The Big Four
For the purposes of these articles, there are four main areas that result in people becoming 'disconnected' from G-d, themselves, and the people around them. This type of disconnection happens when:

People are lying to themselves, and to others, and refusing to accept or live truth;

People have bad character traits, like jealousy, anger, worry, or arrogance etc;

People don't keep the mitzvoth as set out in the Torah - 613 mitzvot for Jews, and the seven Noachide commandments for non-Jews; (and last, but definitely not least…)

People get disconnected when they engage in sexual immorality, which is probably the biggest problem of them all, as we'll soon see.

Let's work through this list, to see how the 'disconnect' occurs in each case.
1. Living a lie
The soul is the 'real' us, our authentic self. The trouble is, so many of us these days were raised in homes and environments which were either 'empty' of G-d, or worse, were outright 'anti'-G-d. As a result, many of us have been cut off from our 'authentic selves' (ie, our souls) from a very young age, which is a prime reason why so many people feel disconnected and 'plastic' and superficial.
Some people got disconnected because they experienced some seriously messed-up parenting, with no conditional love and lashings of guilt, manipulation, cruelty, control and criticism.
Other people got disconnected because they had some very painful experiences as a child, like being hospitalized for six months; or losing someone very close to them; or being terribly bullied in school etc. But whatever the prime or main cause, the result was that we 'disconnected' from our true selves, and switched off our real feelings.
Hashem's seal is truth. When we are lying to ourselves about what we really feel about ourselves, our parents, our spouses, our kids etc, we not only cut ourselves off from our 'real' self and go into superficial 'plastic' mode, we also cut ourselves off from Hashem.
Today, when you ask someone how they are feeling, they will usually respond that they think that they are feeling such and such emotion. But that's not feeling, that's thinking. When people don't know how to relate to their own feelings, they find it very hard to connect to anyone around them, including their spouses, their kids and G-d.
There are a few key ways to repair this type of disconnect, where the emphasis needs to be on re-establishing a connection between the person and their 'authentic self', or soul. Top of the list for fixing this problem is hitbodedut, or personal prayer, where people talk to G-d for an hour or day.
Each hour of personal prayer will uncover another deeper, level of your soul, and make it easier for your authentic self to shine through. Developing a connection to the true righteous people, or tzadikim, of the generation also helps tremendously, because they see us as we truly are, and can help us to rediscover our internal reality and beauty 'from the outside in'.
And lastly, we have to ask G-d to help us to start telling the truth about what we're really feeling about our life, and ourselves, and the people in it, at least to ourselves, even when it's very painful to face up to that reality.
2. Bad Character Traits
The second reason we feel 'disconnected' from G-d and from ourselves and others is because of our own unacknowledged bad character traits. (Incidentally, all of these categories are interconnected; for example, a person who is living a lie will be in complete denial that they have bad character traits, yet all of us have these bad traits, whether it's anger, jealousy, arrogance, fear, worry, sadness etc.)
If we didn't have any more work to do on ourselves, there would be no reason for us to continue to be down here in this world, and G-d would call our souls back to everlasting bliss in the Garden of Eden. If we're still alive, it's because we still have work to do - and there are no exceptions to this rule.
If we aren't doing some serious, truthful soul-searching every day, and really trying to examine our thoughts, words and deeds as objectively as possible to see where we need to improve, we have no idea how bad we really are, or how much trouble we're actually bringing on ourselves.
When we don't do this sort of regular soul searching and introspection (usually, as part of our daily personal prayer), we lie to ourselves that the problems in our lives are all everyone else's, which causes three things to happen:

Firstly, other people (including family members) disconnect from us - because we're very unpleasant to be around;

Secondly, we have no real interest in being connected to G-d - because then, we'd have to own up to all the things about ourselves that are actually not very nice, and we'd have to make some effort to change, repent and improve; and lastly

We become disconnected from reality. 'Reality' is that we all have things we need to work on and fix, and that these bad character traits are usually the prime cause of our own issues and interpersonal problems. If we don't accept that reality, we start living superficial, plastic, 'unreal' lives.

As soon as we try to make teshuva for our bad character traits, and to accept we have them, we instantly connect back to ourselves, to G-d, to good, and our lives start to make a 180 turnaround.
Remember the mirror principle!
If something is bothering us in others, it's because we still have work to do in that same area within ourselves.
Also, Rav Arush and others teach that where there's no derech eretz, or good character traits, there is no Torah. It's like trying to build a palace on no foundation - it's dangerous and it will collapse with the first gust of wind (or the first real test of faith.)
Next week, we'll look at how keeping mitzvoth and sexual purity helps us to keep connected to G-d.
* * *
Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush

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