Despite the difficult situation we all find ourselves in with Coronavirus, suffering is still optional
Day 20 at the Kotel today, and Baruch Hashem, there were a few more people there than yesterday – like maybe 18 women in the whole, massive plaza, as opposed to yesterday’s 13.
This whole test is about controlling our fallen fears, and developing some genuine yirat shemayim, or fear of heaven, which basically boils down to having emuna that God is running the world.
In the middle of all this, it’s impossible to fake what you really think and feel about what’s going on. If you are still sleeping OK at night, if you aren’t consumed by worry, then either you are:
Still living in total denial about what is actually going on at the moment
You have a lot of genuine emuna.
Here’s a quick way to figure out which camp you might actually be in: if you already stocked up enough food to last you over the next few weeks, including buying at least the basics required for Pesach, then you are probably in the last camp.
And if not….
Stocking up with some essentials is part of how to get through the madness in one piece.
But a much more crucial part of how to not lose your marbles over the coming weeks can be found in lesson 250 of Likutey Moharan.
There, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us:
“Know: the sole cause of all types of pain and all suffering is a lack of daat (deeply internalized spiritual knowledge), for whoever possesses daat and knows that everything is ordained by God – that “God gave, and God took” (Job 1:21) – does not suffer at all, and experiences no pain.”
“….pain is very light and easy to accept when one is clearly aware that everything is ordained by God….[pain and suffering] will not be felt at all if one possesses daat, for pain and suffering are mainly on account of one’s daat being taken away, so that one should experience the suffering.
“This is the essence of Jewish pain in the exile: all on account of their falling away from daat and attributing everything to nature, circumstances and fate. This is what causes their pain and suffering.”
It’s a profound lesson that is speaking mamash about what we are seeing occur all over the world right now with Coronavirus hysterical panic (which so far, seems to be far more infectious and dangerous than the actual virus itself…)
Later on in Lesson 250, Rabbenu explains how the Jewish people are above nature, and how our prayers can mamash transcend nature and change it, and then ties all of that in to bringing an ‘end’ to non-Jewish nations, and remembering the Jews who are sunk in exile within them, still.
Well worth a read.
But for today’s post, let’s come back to this idea that suffering and pain really only happen when we forget that God is in charge of the world, and is ordering everything that is happening to us and around us.
What lessons can we learn from Rabbenu, about how to deal with the Coronavirus madness we all find ourselves caught up in?
Here’s where I’m holding with things:
I’m working on my emunat tzaddikim and emuna.
That means that whenever I start having a self-induced panic attack because I’ve read things by fearmongering heretics about this whole saga lasting for another 6 months, or lo alenu even more, 18 months, I remind myself that Rabbi Berland is working hard to sweeten this, and he said it will be over by Pesach.
And then, I go and say the Rav’s prayer to be saved from Coronavirus, or I go and say a Tikkun HaKlali, or I do a bit more hitbodedut, or I dance around for a bit and clap my hands – and like magic, I start to feel way, way happier again.
I’m trying to avoid sites written by heretics and fearmongerers
People are strange. We have this peculiar pull to hearing bad news, and watching horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, even though we know they are going to disrupt our sleep and give us nightmares for the next 2 months.
And this Coronavirus matzav is bringing that tendency out very strongly.
I realized a few days back that when I’m not reading doom-and-gloom predictions about economic collapse, 5G zombification and 50 million people dead, I’m actually pretty happy on a day to day basis.
Also, I can’t see any justification for these awful predictions in my dalet amot. People aren’t dropping dead on the street, I don’t know anyone who is seriously ill, and despite Bibi’s massive hysterical fit, the public ‘mood’ really isn’t so hysterical.
On some level, I think so many of us can feel that God is hiding behind this whole Coronavirus thing, and that however bad it looks, looks are currently very deceptive.
But reading news sites and blogs written by hysterical atheists (some of whom are pretending to be ‘religious’) gets me super antsy, super-fast. So, I’ve stopped visiting sites which are full of fear, emotional manipulation and ‘blaming statements’ about chareidim having blood on their hands just because they happen to still be davening in a minyan and learning Torah.
My main response to this matzav (apart from panic buying essentials…) is teshuva and prayer.
On Shabbat, I did another six hour talking to God session, which really helped me to feel way, way calmer about everything, and way more connected to Hashem.
I’ve also started saying a prayer every single day to avoid speaking lashon hara and rechilut, and I’m trying very hard to let go any bad feelings I have about people, as per the instructions of Rav Kanievsky.
When I have energy, like on Shabbat, I’m trying to do 7 Tikkun HaKlalis on behalf of the Rav. When I don’t have that much energy (i.e. most of the time…) I made an agreement with my husband that we’ll split the 7 between us, and whoever had more koach and headspace will do more.
I’m also trying very hard not to go bonkers at my kids, and let’s face it, that’s probably the biggest test we’re all having, day to day.
Trying to keep bored teens busy enough and happy enough that they don’t start ripping your house to shreds, or tearing holes in their parents, siblings and themselves is a massive challenge.
Like today, I saw that one of my kids left paint brushes full of diluted mahogany wood gloss on the new, white, downstairs sink. And we’re renting. I had a rant to myself for half a minute about how retarded teenagers can be, rushed off to clean it, then worked really hard to not hold a grudge against my kid in my heart.
In Israel, we’ve been in partial lockdown for 10 days already, and that’s a long time to share space with teens.
But I know it’s all coming from God, and that it’s just a test of my middot and my emuna, and that’s really helping me to deal with this whole situation so much better, and to remain so much calmer, and to turn the work inwards, into prayer and introspection, as much as possible, and far less into rants and unrealistic expectations about how other people should be acting and reacting.
The last thing I’m trying to do is to just live in the moment, and to stop trying to peer around corners.
Right now, I have enough food to get me through Pesach. I have enough toilet paper. I have enough interesting projects to be getting on with. I have enough space that everyone can do their own thing without being in view of others 24/7, Baruch Hashem.
I’m going to the Kotel every day, which I’ve never done before in my life.
I’m taking the opportunity to smell the roses, and to stop being online all the time.
I’m baking cookies for my families, and even starting to plan a new painting.
In short, life is good.
God is in charge of the world, not me. And the more I can remember that, the less I stress and worry.
There is a lot of stress and yeoush rushing around the world right now. It’s so easy to get caught up in the panic and the fear, and to forget that God is the only One pulling the strings, here.
When that happens, we start to suffer terribly, and then the situation can become overwhelmingly painful and scary.
But we Jews are above nature. Our prayers can literally change reality.
God is locking us all down right now so we stop acting like the non-Jews, and stop panicking about face masks, hand sanitizer and staying 2 metres away from each other, and turn back to God wholeheartedly. This is part of the whole process of leaving galut, both physically and spiritually.
And as soon as we really put God back into our picture, our pain and suffering will stop.
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