17 Sivan 5779 / Thursday, June 20, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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A Slave to Something    

A Slave to Something

What's your brand of slavery? Your need for recognition? Your need for a feeling of importance? Appreciation? Food? Physical desires? Ego? Must we all be slaves to something?


Over the past nearly two years I’ve been suffering from an intensely passionate love/hate relationship with carbs. I’m what you’d call an equal opportunity carb-lover. I love carbs in all their forms, from sugars to simple carbs, to corn syrups, processed toxic carbs, fake carbs (whatever that means,) and complex carbs. I love carbs in my coffee, carbs in my donuts, carbs in my pasta, carbs in my pumpkin pie.


But I don’t love carbs on my stomach. I hate it when those pesky carbs start grabbing on to my waist and hugging me as if their lives depended on feeding off my fat. I hate it when those carbs follow me to the gym and stare at me in the mirror. I can see them giving me googley-eyes from under the lining of my shirt.


And one day, it dawned on me.

I’m a slave.

I’m a slave to my stomach.

I’m a slave to my taste buds.


Isn’t it interesting? As spiritual as I try to be, I’m still a slave to my physical body.


But that’s the challenge of being human. Trying to make the spiritual master over the physical.


Not so easy, is it.


At least I can take comfort in the fact that I’m in good company.


Because in reality, we’re all a slave to something.


What are you a slave to? (Hint: you can pick more than one answer!)


Are you a slave in your need for attention? Your need for recognition? Your need for a feeling of importance? Appreciation? Food? Your physical desires? Your ego? Your emptiness? Your need to be liked? Your need to control? Your wife?


Whatever deep needs and desires we have, don’t you sometimes feel like they’re running the show, and not you? They’re the ones that drive our actions, our decisions, and our reactions. They’re the ones that make us behave the way we do.


And for some reason, we have almost zero control over these feelings. We’re programmed to want what we want, and it’s very hard to free ourselves from their control. As much as we may want to, we can’t just make them go away.


So it’s fair to say that much of our behavior is based on a complicated mess of conscious and subconscious needs.


Even the situations that happen in our lives are beyond our control. Whatever happens to us is because Hashem allowed it to happen.


So I have a question: If we have no control over what drives us, and we have no control over what will happen a second from now, where is our free will?


It’s in one tiny little place in our tiny little brains.


That place, hidden deep in our frontal lobes - that’s where our free will is hiding.


In this magical and mysterious place is our uniquely human ability to reason, control our reactions, and control our behavior. It’s the place where we have the potential to separate ourselves from the animals and use our higher powers to handle whatever life throws our way with dignity, grace, and common sense.


Unfortunately, more times than not I fail to separate myself from the screeching chimpanzees swinging freely from branch to branch. Hey, I just thought of something! How cool would it be if I put a whole bunch of gymnastics rings in my ceiling?


My kids could use them to get their energy out and I could use them as anger management therapy because I’d swing through them instead of running after my kids when I want to chase them. Plus, I’d get crazy ripped arms in the process.


Where was I?


Right, free will. So where is it again? Right, in our evolved and civilized monkey brains.


Our free will is in our choice of how to handle our slavemanship. Just wondering - was that offensive? Should I have said slavepersonship? Or slave(fill in the blank)ship?


All of us, in reality, are slaves to Hashem. He created us. We owe our lives to Him. He is the one that gives us the situations we need in order to grow and connect to Him.


And the wonderful gift He gave us is the ability to control ourselves.


Controlling our reactions, holding back from making rash decisions, stopping to think before speaking, these are incredibly liberating and empowering abilities. They are truly miraculous.


Gosh, I wish I had them.


Is there a secret hack to accessing these supernatural powers, especially if we’ve spend our lives in indentured servitude to our animal selves?




It’s called gratitude.


Gratitude is the end-all and be-all solution to everyone’s problems. It is the only thing that can override our limited perspectives and help us recognize that there’s a bigger picture. It’s the only thing that can help us see outside of ourselves, both in arguments and in being more sensitive to others’ needs.


Gratitude is the one thing that keeps us from yelling, blaming, hating, regretting, even wishing harm on another person.




Because it’s the only way we truly internalize emuna. It’s the only way we really know that Hashem is running the world. When we have emuna, we realize it’s not the person that caused our troubles. It’s Hashem Who gave this person a dirty job to do.


Gratitude keeps us from feeling like helpless victims.


It’s the most empowering emotion and thought we can have.


Everything is in Hashem’s hands. We are His slaves.


And by the way, it’s not something that you learn once and forget about it. Oh, no. Gratitude is something you constantly have to work on. Every. Single. Day.


Don’t wait until Pesach to get liberated. Read The Garden of Gratitude  now, and free yourself from, um… yourself.


I, on the other hand, am going to continue my indentured servitude by cleaning the toilets.





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Feel free to send Racheli your questions, particularly in the areas of marriage, dating, child-rearing and women's role; write her at racheli@breslev.co.il

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