From Exile to Redemption (Chapter 4): Adding the Alef

By: Rabbi Dovid Markel

 

This corrects and alleviates many issues on many levels. Though it is impossible to address all of them within the parameters of this small article, nonetheless we will give examples of just a few. Bringing HaShem into our consciousness changes our lives on a personal level, a global level and on a spiritual level.

1. A personal level- the issue of self-esteem.

Many of us suffer from a problem of self-esteem. Many leading physiologists state that a lack of healthy self-respect causes much emotional turmoil and is a lead cause in the emotional unrest and turmoil that many people exhibit throughout their lives.

The question is, what is at the root of this problem?

The heart[1] of the issue is that there is internal conflict and a lack of alignment between who a person wishes to be and who he is in actuality. This causes inner tension resulting in a negative image of oneself, and there are many negative characteristics that are the fallout of this.

When a person is in a state of internal confusion, problems of self-esteem flourish. The dichotomy between who he ought to be and who he actually is causes imbalance and internal discord. This creates a lopsided sense of self.

Nathaniel Branden, one of the leading pioneers of the “self-esteem movement,” in his book, Six Pillars of Self-Esteem states, that self-esteem is the practice of maintaining alignment between one’s behavior and one’s convictions. He writes, “When we behave in ways that conflict with our judgment of what is appropriate, we lose face in our own eyes. We respect ourselves less. If the policy becomes habitual, we trust ourselves less or cease to trust ourselves at all.” (Branden, 1994)

If we have an image in our mind of what a good person ought to be and fail to live up to that image, it is difficult to live with any degree of inner satisfaction and self-respect. These two conflicting images cause an identity clash and the greater the clash, the lower the self-esteem.

Through adding the Aleph into our lives, the schism is healed. There no longer are two distinct personalities dueling with each other.  Now there is only one balanced[2] and homogenous individual.

2. The global level.

War also is a product of the “Shattered World Syndrome.” During all of history there have been precious few periods when there was not a war taking place somewhere in the world. However, constant war between nations is as absurd as a person who hits and wounds himself[3]. To use a popular idiom, it is like someone who cuts his nose to spite his face. The only one he is hurting is himself. Similarly, when the world is at war, the whole world suffers. This is only because we see ourselves as separate and competing entities rather than one organism in which each organ benefits the whole in its own unique way.

When each nation is only aware of itself and its own needs to the detriment of the needs of other nations, this leads to war. When we cannot recognize the humanity of others, it is a sign that there is something awfully wrong with our own humanity.  Each nation protecting only its personal interest leads to war to the detriment of all, including its own citizens. However, if we would bring the Aleph consciousness into the world and recognize that the world is one organism under one G-d, not only would nations not conspire and fight against each other, they would cooperate for their mutual benefit.

3. The spiritual level

The same principle is also true on the spiritual level. We have been conditioned to think that physicality and spirituality are two opposites at odds with each other. We cannot imagine how they could possibly co-exist in harmonious symbiosis. We have been led to believe that a person who is spiritually attuned cannot experience the physical as being anything but a distraction to his spirituality, or that a person who is aware of the physical cannot have true access to the spiritual.  However, Torah gives us a deeper view of the relationship between them. Not only is physicality not antithetical to spirituality, but on the contrary, the whole purpose of Creation was to homogenize the two, so to speak. In the words of the Medrash;

 

Text V

אמר רבי אמי נתאוה הקב”ה כשם שיש לו דירה למעלה שיהא לו כך דירה למטה.

מדרש תנחומה בחוקותי

Rabbi Ami said: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, desired that just as he dwells above, so too, He should dwell below.”

Medrash Tanchuma, B’chukosai

 

According to the teachings of Chassidus[4], this is the very reason for the creation of the universe. HaShem did not create the physical world as a prison for us to escape from. We do not need to rise above the world to find G-d. Rather, we can find Him in the world by bringing Him into our lives. Our true mission is to reveal G-dliness by making the world a home for HaShem. Creating this home through our Torah and mitzvos makes the world a place where G-d can feel comfortable, so to speak, and just as a person is the most “himself” specifically when he is at home, so too, HaShem is the most “Himself” specifically when we welcome Him into our lives.



[1] Nathaniel Branden, in his book, Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, posits additional reasons as well, but the essence of all his explanations  is a balanced self-image. 

[2] There are other examples that are closer to home as well. For instance, take the idea of dieting. The greatest problem that people have with obesity is that they are eating to feed the tongue, not their stomachs. If the two had a more balanced relationship, there would not be problems of overeating.

[3] See the allegory in Yerushalmi, Nedarim, Perek 9, Halacha 4, concerning loving your fellow Jew. We are borrowing the allegory here for all mankind.

[4] See the beginning of Hemshech Samech Vov.

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