12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Direct Relationship    

The Direct Relationship

The next time you send off an email question and get a one sentence answer that’s a bit hard to work out, remember that G-d wants a direct relationship with you....


Before I met a bona fide Breslev Rabbi, I tried to avoid involving Rabbis in my business. Now and then, I’d have to check the status of a milky spoon that had gone into a meaty pot; or check what to do about giving charity at the door; but on the really BIG issues, I felt as though I knew myself better than my local Rav, and that my husband and I weren’t dumb. We had as much of an idea as the next ‘frum’ person what we should be doing and how.
And then, we moved to Israel and everything started to unravel. All the decisions that I’d thought were so sound and sensible turned out not to be. All the pride I’d taken in my common sense and intelligence rebounded back on me in a really painful way, and my self-confidence in my own decision-making collapsed.
It got to a point where I was so sick of suffering from making the wrong decisions (and clearly antagonising Hashem…) that I was willing to skip my own ideas completely, and just get guidance straight from my Rav.
It helped that I’d found a Rav who was so insightful, so clued-up, so ‘plugged-in’ Upstairs, that I knew that any advice I’d get would work out for the best. And initially, before I started to make G-d a part of my own life and to talk to Him every day, I got a lot of guidance.
But then, as time went on, the guidance got more and more murky. Straight answers were replaced with cryptic hints, or even, no answer at all. And I started to wonder, what was going on?
I got a bit of a clue when I was listening to one of Rabbi Brody’s emuna CDs, when he mentioned that once people started talking to G-d about what teshuva they needed to make, they wouldn’t need to keep asking their Rav what to do next.
I could see for myself that the more effort me and my husband put into talking to G-d, the more clarity we had, and the more confidence we regained in our decision-making process.
But a part of me really wanted the easy option. A part of me wanted to just send off a quick email question and be told what to do, when, and how. Bingo! No more terrible mistakes. No more dumb decisions. No more huge consequences for failing to read Hashem’s signs properly.
But my Rav simply refused to be used as the ‘short cut’ to G-d. And while I kind of understood what was going on, I was still a bit confused by it all.
Wasn’t it a good thing, to check back with the Rav? Wasn’t it a good thing, to run ‘big’ decisions past him for the ok? How else was I meant to know if I was doing the right thing? Like everyone, I have a very cunning evil inclination, and it always dresses up stupid ideas as the mitzvah of the century. Without my Rav double-checking my decisions, how was I to know if I was really taking a wrong turn?
This continued to niggle me, until I heard a shiur by Rav Erez Moshe Doron, where he was talking about the mistake Am Yisrael made by sending spies ahead to scout out the land of Israel.
The spies came back with a terrible, biased report of the land, and the planned entry into Israel got pushed off for forty years as a result, and was not the ‘perfect’ conquest it could have been, if the Jews had followed G-d’s original plan.
Rav Doron asked the question: why didn’t Moses just tell them not to send the spies? He knew it was going to end badly, so why not just circumvent the whole thing, and tell them to stop being stupid, and just to enter the land without sending spies?
The people relied on Moses implicitly. They hung on his every word. If he’d intervened and told them not to send spies, they wouldn’t have sent them. Full stop.
Except; except….that would mean Moses over-riding the free will of the people. And the whole of creation only occurred in order for people to have free will, and to have the ability to choose for themselves to do the right thing.
Once I heard that, I suddenly realized why it can be so hard to get a ‘straight answer’ out of our holy people. It’s not that they don’t know – they do. It’s not that they don’t want to tell us – they do. It’s not even that we don’t want to listen – most of us know truth when we hear it, and we are usually happy to obey a clear command from a revered religious leader with a track record of being ‘right’.
But if they told us what to do, they’d be taking away our ability to make mistakes. And if we can’t make mistakes, we can’t grow from them. And if we can’t make mistakes, we can’t make the effort required to try to fix them. And we’ll have no incentive to work on our own relationship with G-d, and to work on our own character traits.
In short, we’d be perfect people living perfect lives – but we’d be a million miles away from what G-d wants. G-d wants us to choose for ourselves. Yes, we often choose wrong – and there are often big consequences for doing so. But every time that we choose ‘right’ - ie, we choose to do what G-d wants us to do of our own accord – the rewards are simply unfathomable.
Every time I choose ‘wrong’, it encourages me to talk to G-d more, and to make more effort to figure out what’s ‘right’.
It’s not easy. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of soul-searching, a lot of scrutiny of what’s really going on ‘inside’ – but it’s what G-d wants.
So the next time you send off an email question and get a one sentence answer that’s a bit hard to work out, remember that G-d wants a direct relationship with you. Our holy people are there to guide us and help us – and they do a tremendous job of it. But they aren’t there to do all the hard work for us. They can’t live our lives. They can’t decide everything for us. And they can’t ‘earn’ our spiritual reward for making the right choices.
Only we can do that, with a lot of prayer, a lot of patience, and a lot of help from the One Above.

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Ha ha, so true.
yehudit11/14/2011 2:46:33 PM

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