Thursday, January 3, 2008

Feeling Guilty?

Here's a recent chat that transpired between Micha and one of our friends abroad. We're posting it with his kind permission, just in case anyone else has been feeling really guilty or anxious lately.

Remember: Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Chatting About Guilt...

Question (AG): What does the Torah say about guilt?

MG: Rav Nosson of Breslov says that guilt is almost never productive. The reason why is that usually a person doesn't sustain positive action for long because of guilt. On the contrary, one tends to sink and doesn't move forward at all. This is the worst spiritual fall, the fall of despair. Why is it so bad? Because whatever one may have messed up or fallen into can be corrected…unless one gives up.

AG: I think that it may move some people to do more, but perhaps only short term. How do you suggest I deal with my guilt? It usually turns into anxiety for me.

MG: Sometimes the truth itself can be damaging. This kind of truth should usually be ignored until one is ready to deal with it positively.

AG: Wow. That’s amazing.

MG: I think the best way of dealing with guilt is to realize that right now I need to focus on connecting to G-d. Guilt simply distances me from Him.

AG: That’s beautiful.

MG: This is why one of Hashem's names is Makom, “The Place,” since every place is a reflection of G-dliness and in every place one can find G-d. Furthermore, Rebbe Nachman said that one needs to merit to feel the damage done by sins in a balanced positive way. It’s sort of like trying to take out the garbage; there’s no need to lament about it or focus to much on it. Just do your best to notice the trouble’s EASILY corrected and act. This is not meant as an excuse or an atonement out of guilt, an excuse not to have a conscience. It’s just a way to really connect to Hashem from exactly where I stand spiritually. Breslov is filled with encouragement—it’s a big emphasis.

AG: What about stress or anxiety?

MG: Well, you need to realize that there are a lot of ways of relieving stress. You will probably find that one way may help at one time while at a different time you may find that a different way is most effective.

AG: Yes.

MG: It is important to diffuse the stress. This is done by following the paths to happiness and joy and takes a lot of willingness and open-mindedness. In a nutshell… You can pray about it, you can talk to another person about it, you can try and find a good point in it.

The psalm states, “A mizmor (song) of David regarding his son Avshalom…” The Talmud asks, “Shouldn’t it say a lament rather than a son, seeing that his own son was rebelling against him!” The answer given is that David said to himself: “At least it’s my son. If it would have been a stranger he may have killed me. My son will not likely be so drastic.”

Rav Nosson asks, “What does this mean? It still sounds like it deserves to be a lament.”

AG: Yes.

MG: He explains that when things seem impossible the best way to counter this is to pray. But who can possibly pray? One needs to find something good about the situation in order to be able to open up to Hashem in prayer. That is way David did. He found a seemingly tiny advantage and sang about it to enable himself to pray to G-d earnestly. This is also a strong way of praying when things seem impossible.

AG: Wow.

MG: There is so much more… Another powerful method is crying out from the deepest depths to G-d, "Where are you???" In Hebrew its “Ayeh???” This reveals a very powerful spiritual illumination and picks one up to the highest places. This is because the world was created with ten sayings; nine of “vayomer Elokim” (“and G-d said”) and one hidden utterance within the word Bereishis, “In the beginning.” The hidden Divine utterance gives life to those who are distant from Hashem (all of us are at some point, although not always in the same way). The moment one can't feel the G-dly character of the world one is distant. The solution is to search for Hashem with all of one’s might. To cry out, “Where are you, G-d? Ayeh???” This draws down the hidden G-dliness that gives life in such places.

MG: Another way is to realize that there is always a way to call upon Hashem. The trouble is that one feels spiritually in the dark and can't find the way out of this because the darkness hides the exits. By calling out in truth, even not so powerfully (like Ayeh which is like a kind of searching shout) but on one's level even asking in a whisper for goodness or connection or whatever, this reveals Hashem. This is because it says that Hashem is close to all who call Him in truth--this means any kind of true call.

The example I heard from my uncle of this call is the guy who comes to the Kotel and wonders if there is really a G-d up there, so he decides to put it to the test by saying, “If You’re really there, send me a sign.” At that moment he feels a hand on his shoulder and someone says, “Would you like to spend Shabbos with a family, or the day in yeshiva?”

This guy wasn't searching for Hashem by crying from his deepest depths, he was just doing what he easily could. But that’s enough because Hashem doesn't want from us what we can 't give, only what we can easily give.

The little steps add up to very many steps until we get where we need to go.

There is a lot more but are you up to it?

AG: Wow, amazing. Please go on if you have time.

MG: I can make some more time with pleasure!

The next concept is the importance of every good desire

We believe that every sincere desire is not lost. Sorry by the way for not including sources, but it is just chat.

Most of what I say is from Rebbe Nachman or Rav Nosson, but there is a lot more…

So when one does something good it is forever! The only exception is when one is not sincere. So if one realizes how precious every good desire is that is also a very powerful way to become joyous even when things are difficult.

The Talmud tells that Rav Eliezer said he hoped to die on the way to doing a mitzvah.

The obvious question is why not “having done it”? Doesn’t he sound like an “almost made it” kind of guy?

AG: Hmm…

MG: The Maharal explains certainly one who does a mitzva gets the spiritual lift from the mitzvah, but one who is on the way to a mitzva and then another and another and focuses on this is at one with what he is yearning for. In this case, Hashem. The Ramchal actually says that one who yearns for Hashem achieves a direct line to Him, as the word for hope, Kivuy, comes from the word line, kav. He even says that one who hopes to Hashem will not be embarrassed even if he hasn't done so much good. He says that the main purification of a ba'al teshuvah is his hoping to Hashem, the opposite of guilt and stress.

So feel better!

AG: Thank you so much.

MG: Hope to hear from you soon!

AG: You really energize me.

MG: Very happy to hear it. Make sure to rest enough and try and take it easy! Shalom and have a complete recovery!

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