Wednesday, December 13, 2006

There have been times in my life when I've felt so strong and positive, where I've been on a real growing path. I've felt myself getting more connected and inspired and it motivated me to keep growing and developing my relationship with Hashem.

There have been other times, however, that I've felt disconnected, unwanted, locked up in spiritual solitary confinement. At its worst, I’ve described it as G-d ‘closing the door on me’ (ch'v) and leaving me out in the cold. I’ve felt detached, doubtful and generally disconnected and I’ve had a really hard time understanding why that happens.

Some of those times have come after not having been so involved or dedicated to my avodat hashem, and so i always assumed it was related. But it recently happened unexpectedly - from one day to the next, I've felt like I couldnt relate and couldnt connect anymore.

I've been working hard to try to make sense of it.

We keep saying that if we try harder

daven with more kavana
stay focused on our goals..
we’ll connect to Hashem better and feel more inspired.

As if it's in our hands and we have control over how close we feel to Him.

But why should that be? We know that G-d works on the 'efforts' system. He doesn’t expect results from us, he expects effort. The results are in His hands. All I’m responsible for is my effort, for doing my best, trying my hardest, making correct decisions, but the results are not in my hands. Whether I get the job/get the guy/pass the exam/ get sick, is all in His hands. I do my best, I follow His "suggestions" but He decides what I truly NEED (not what i deserve) in return.


Of course my responsibility is to try, to put in the hishtadlut, but my successes and failures are not directly correlated to my efforts. Anyone who tries to live according to strict cause and effect quickly becomes very disappointed. It just doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes we get hand-outs we don’t deserve, and sometimes we work hard and don’t get results – and as torah observant jews we can accept that - in the material world.

So why do we assume it’s any different in the spiritual world?

Who says that if you daven harder, you’ll feel more connected or you'll have more clarity? If you perform mitzvas with more love and devotion, you’ll have an easier time feeling closer to hashem? Of course those are the things G-d has asked us to do in order to get close to Him and so they do get us closer, but how can we presume to understand how His accounting system works, why do we assume we will FEEL closer?

Is it possible that just as Hashem decides that someone needs to be poor or ill - for their own good and their own growth - that He can decide that someone should have a harder time feeling a connection to Him. Maybe it’s for our benefit to feel distanced, or not to feel so inspired? But, and this is the big important BUT, that doesn’t mean that G-d is not approving of our efforts, that we aren’t actually closer to Him. It just means that we are not in control and we cannot pull the strings and decide how close we will feel, how clear His intervention will be, how strongly we will relate to the connection.

I read something the other day that I really loved (A Daily Dose of Wisdom from the Rebbe) - not so much because it was unusual or revolutionary but because it expressed so well how I’ve felt at certain times in my life.

The Invisible Prison

The worst prison is when G-d locks you up. He doesn't need guards or cells or stone walls. He simply decides that, at this point in life, although you have talent, you will not find a way to express it. Although you have wisdom, there is nobody who will listen. Although you have a soul, there is nowhere for it to shine. And you scream, "Is this why you sent a soul into this world? For such futility?"
That is when He gets the tastiest essence of your juice squeezed out from you.


This amazed me, because it’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. I’ve felt imprisoned. I’ve desperately wanted to get closer to Hashem, to feel more inspired, I’ve tried, I’ve cried… but it's just not working the way it has in the past.

My instinct is to think that I’m not trying hard enough, I’m reading the wrong books, not praying hard enough, behaving inappropriately, or maybe I’m being punished - maybe I’ve done something wrong and I’m not wanted anymore.. I don’t know..every possibility sounds more far-fetched than the last.. but I’m grabbing at straws because I just don’t understand it.


A friend of mine explained to me that sometimes G-d hides His light a little more than usual so that we crave it a little more. Sometimes it’s not our actions that interest Him as much as our desire to get closer. After all, the actions are simply tools to get close - sometimes Hashem wants to see how much we really want it..

It’s easy when you’re doing everything right and you feel that it’s bringing you closer to Him, but how many of us can keep doing everything right when we don’t feel closer, when we pray and our heart feels like stone, when we keep pushing ourselves and not seeing results. How many of us manage to stay focused and thankful to Hashem.. and how many of us start developing doubts and resentment?

The reason I liked that “prison” image is because it described my desire to be free, to want to feel alive, while feeling constrained, trapped in a contained space, feeling like I'm bouncing off the walls, desperate to let out energy. You beg and plead to be let out, you cry and question yourself, you pray with all your heart to be liberated, to feel G-d taking you in.. but it doesnt happen.

Being aware that I’m in this "prison" that I’m stuck between four walls, and that the door is locked from the outside and there's things nothing I can do but wait to be let out, is helpful in dealing with these feelings. I can accept the situation I’m in, stop fighting it – stop fighting myself, stop blaming myself - and instead focus my energy on trying to live in the moment, doing my best, trying my hardest. Showing hashem, the One I loved and felt so close to a few months back, that I’m still just as interested, still just as much in love, still just as desperate to feel close to Him, even when it’s dark, and I don’t see my potential being actualized.

It’s an amazing relief to realize that my ONLY job is to try. Instead of focusing on the results, on how close I feel to Him, I turns inwards and measure how much I’ve done, how much I’m capable of.

It’s easy to get lazy when you are under the impression that you control the outcome.
- If I pray well – I’ll feel this close, and if I pray quickly, I wont feel so close.
- So.. today I think I’ll take it easy, I don’t really feel the need to be close
- And today I really need His helping hand, I think I’ll daven harder.
It doesnt work that way.

But when you realize that you can pray hard, and not feel close, and that you can do nothing and get a big burst of inspiration, you start to pray with only one objective, to get close, to make Him happy, to make yourself happy. Regardless of the results. I think that in itself is a level, to be able to acknowledge that. It's not a place I want to be in, but like I wrote in the past - you use the clarity you gained when it was day, to illuminate your way in the dark. You trust that the feelings will come back, the closeness will return, and you do your best in the meantime to show Him how much you mean it and desire it.

32 Comments:

At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 11:26:00 AM, Anonymous awed said...

I love Chassidus..... ;)
There's nothing like it in the world.
Thanks for this post, anonym00kie!!!

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:00:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Wow beautifully writen and expressed. Of course you get rewarded every second of your effort regardless of your results. The actual struggle within yourself counts and is paid back.

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:04:00 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Rabbi Tatz says that spirituality comes in two phases; the first being wonderful and awe inspiring but that's a freebie because it's taken away leaving you feeling lost and empty. What tyhen happens is that you must actively seek it again. However, once you find that connection the second time- you've earned it and it's yours forever.

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:46:00 PM, Anonymous Ahmed said...

lefum tzara agra

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 11:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, but do we really want to be close to G-d, or him close to us?

It's one thing to say that Hashem should be satisfied with what we're doing, but a little satisfaction and return would be appreciated. Unless of course we're on that selfless level where we can be satisfied just in the knowledge that Hashem appreciates our work. But then, does he really appreciate it for what it is???

Oy, so many questions, seems almost circular sometimes.

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 11:04:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

wow...what a great post...
u have such an increbile neshomah..
You just keep doing doing doing...thats all we could do..

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 11:22:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

awed..
your welcome..
id love to learn some.. seems everyone loves it!

socialworker/frustrated..
thanks, im not so concerned about reward tho.. i just wish i could have more control over how much i feel connected..

kasamba..
youre re-using comments? :)
well then, ill reuse my response:
"kasamba: i used to think it was a one time deal. phase 1 and then phase 2 - but ive discovered its a cycle, a comfortable phase 2 turns into a phase 1 and leads you to a new level of phase 2.."

im curious tho, both times you said "rabbi tatz says.."
why isnt it kasamba who says it? if youve gone thru phase 1 and phase 2, you dont need to quote him, youve learned it from experience, and if you never went thru it (which obviously i doubt) then how can you know what hes referring to?

ahmed..
uh huh.. go get my mohamed!

Nemo..
thats your choice isnt it? some people want Him close, and some want to be close to Him. I definitely want Him to be close to me, but that has nothing to do with me wanting to be close to Him. i desperately desire being connected to Him.

i agree that a little pat on the back or some posituive reinforcement is nice. but ive felt it in the past, i know its possible..its just that when i dont feel it, i need to remember that im not doing it for that.
i dont think its about doing it to make Hashem happy. its like in any relationship, you connect and develop the relationship for both of you to benefit. its nto a one way thing.
and yes im confident He does appreciate it for what it is.. or else i wouldnt be living this life.

questions are good, enjoy them..

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 1:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how did you become frum?

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mooks,
Just wanted to say
wonderful wonderful post - you somehow always manage to portray emotion and intellect simultaneously..
a hard combo to be sure!

Thank you.
I needed to hear what you had to say..(on more subjects than one - lol)

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:34:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

anonymous.. heavy duty question! the short story is - i searched for truth.. and ended up here.
the long story - well.. this sounds like a good topic for a future post..stay tuned!

towik.. so nice to see you here :) it makes me happy when what i have to say makes sense and appeals to strong intelligent beautiful people like you.
..my pleasure :)

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 2:20:00 PM, Blogger Dovid said...

You know what I think? I think you're slowly becoming Lubavitch... Hehe...

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 3:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No way... I turned her off already!

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 6:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU'RE NOT CHABAD? hmm.. and little me thought you always were...

but seriously, can write up your story? People like you really inspire me. I always think, if they changed over their life, how can I neglect a mitzvah?

pls? pretty, pretty pls?

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 8:28:00 PM, Anonymous gibberrish spurts said...

loook u fooled me too. i , too, thought you were chabad. u belong there...

this is my first comment here.. but i am an avid reader! pls keep 'em coming!

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:14:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i wonder what that means that everyone thought i was lubavitch.. :)

(probably just means youve seen me on lubab blogs a lot:)

 
At Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:30:00 PM, Anonymous duby said...

hah! so i wasn't hallucinating! finally everyone is agreeing with me that the mookie is superbly incredimazing!

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 12:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its cuz you don't have a snaggy outlook. you are openminded, sincere, and philosophize

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 12:07:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i learned it from my snaggy rabbis :)

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 12:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seriously, can you pls tell us your story? why you playing hard to tell?

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 12:34:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

uhm.. im flattered you guys care so much..
i told u, ill post it on my blog one of these days.

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 12:43:00 AM, Blogger Dovid said...

From your snaggy rabbis who learned it from Chabad :)

 
At Friday, December 15, 2006 2:00:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Mookie, excellent.

I agree, results don't always automatically come but we need to keep making an effort because that's what counts.

You are a great role model for many people.

 
At Saturday, December 16, 2006 5:42:00 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

HA!
I knew I had stock answers!!! I am really getting OLD!!!!!
But M00ks I don't agree about reycling phases, I believe that once you get to phase 2, you might fight to get to another level BUT you never lose what you had- you only build on it!
Plus, I also think that since you desire a connection to Hashem so much- you must be at a greater level than you think!!!!!!

 
At Saturday, December 16, 2006 7:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

encouraging response, mookie..thanks

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

I can say this much...there have been times in the recent past where I've found myself davening wholeheartedly and crying to Hashem. Giving tons of tzedukah, helping people bring in groceries from the street. I mean I'm not saying that I was miss perfect but I was trying my best to just make things right for all the little mistakes. I ended up sort of screaming and say screw it after awhile when I thought to myself...some people never get a break. Now this is probably the most negative statement I've ever left on any blog...but I do strongly believe that certain people are desitined for certain things. For instance...there is the little guy. He's up every morning, davening and crying, and he's always just that...the little guy. There's the guy that barely makes it for 12:00 shacharis minyan and complains the whole time that it's taking too long and he's the big shot. We all have our destiny...But I must say there is nothing more beautiful in this world to me than waking up, washing and davening before I've done anything else. It gives me energy and a closeness feeling to Hashem that lasts me all day.
OK. I'm done writing my little book here lol. Happy chanukah. :D

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 5:44:00 AM, Blogger pint-sized said...

Read 'Living Inspired', and the chapter about highs and lows(sorry, can't remember thename of it).
But in the basic, it says that in this society, we've gotten used to constant stimulation, but you can't live on that- if G-d gives you a little inspiration, it's inevitably going to fade, but we play our part by working back up to that feeling, ourselves- G-d gives us a boost, but we'll just fall back down unless we try to hoist ourselves up! Feel better anyhoohstfn

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 10:41:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

Lvnsm27..
dont always feel like such a great role model, but thanks..

kasamba
maybe its true, maybe you dont lose it, but i have certainly felt like it was lost. then again if im still here, and growing but it wasnt lost.. just temporarily hidden :)

Sara with NO H..
thats the most negative statement youve ever made? :) not so negative.. i think youre right.. i definitely agree that it seems like some poeple seem to have it harder than others, some that try harder and get less in return. im just trying to work out in my life where i stand..

pint-sized..
read kasamba's comment :)
she said the same thing, from the same rabbi :)
i guess i just dont feel like this applies here. i cant really explain why, except that ive been through what he talks about and what im describing here feels different. its not so much about artifical inspiration, or a boos of inspiration coming from somewhere.
my question is - if we work hard to be inspired and to feel connected and it doesnt work, or it goes away, doesnt that imply that inspiration and feeling close are out of our hands? its something g-d controls, like sarah with no H said, some poeple work hard and get little and others work little and get a lot.. spirituality seems to work the same way..

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 12:56:00 PM, Anonymous ahmed said...

no way
lefum tzara agra

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 1:00:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

ok so get me my agra already!

 
At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 1:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking post.

 
At Friday, December 22, 2006 12:27:00 AM, Anonymous DS said...

m00kie,
You have GOT to learn chasiddus. Somehow, it has got to happen, for everybody's sake.
There is actually a ma'amer from the Alter Rebbe -the first chabad Rebbe, called Odom Ki Yakriv. It deals with EXACTLY the issues you discuss here.
It discuses the technical realities behind the things you said in your post, and helps you understand thoroughly why and how things actually work, and makes life as Ba'al teshuvah MUCH more manageable.
I can honestly say that that ma'amer is literally resposible for getting me through from the initial inspired passionate stage of Ba'al Teshuvahood through the subsequent crashes and allowing me to make it out in one whole piece, and all the better for th wear and tear.
Afetr the initial stages once the excitement and the glamour began to dissipate, when reality set in and I crashed out, and was REALLY struggling to keep on going, I learned this ma'amer and it literally got me through, and I live with it every single day. you can not imagine how pertinent it is to daily life. Especially that of a Ba'al Teshuvah.

As I was reading your post, I was planning on commenting with some thoughts from that Ma'amer, but by the time I had reached the end of the post you had reached all the conclusions on your own.
However I really believe that learning the ma'amer would make the things you have realised on your own (somehow) much clearer, and more concrete.

 
At Tuesday, December 26, 2006 4:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How inspiring,, a searching soul.. may eventually find the way. I don't know why I get the feeling of closeness reading your post

 

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