Thursday, February 4, 2010

When we have a choice, and when we don't

In the musaf prayer of the Days of Awe, our existance in this world is described as a fleeting dream. We live under the illusion that we are supposed to be raised with two normal stable loving parents, with normal loving siblings, go to school, get an education, get a job, get married and have a loving, stable relationship, buy a house, have children who we train to love and honor us, age gracefully, and at the right time pass away to the world of truth. That is our manifest right, and when things don't go according to that scenario, injustice has been dispensed, right?

But when one thinks about it, is it not the ultimate expression of arrogance to assume that we call the shots and that we deserve all of the above?

On the contrary. The one thing we do have in this world, is choice. The choice that we are given even preceeds our birth. In the Kabbalah we are told that we are even given the choice of who our parents will be before we are born, knowing, as we do there, in the world of truth, that our job as we come into this world, will be to repair and fix what our souls need in order to complete the task that our soul requires to reach completion. That choice continues throughout our physical existance. And when our time is up, as it was in the case of my mom when she passed away a month ago, after 91 years on this earth, we return to where we came from, and must answer for the decisions that we made on a daily, yes, even on a moment to moment basis, during our lifetimes. Now Mom's free choice is gone, and all that she has is my Dad, my sister and myself to influence her eternity, by the Kaddish that we say, by the learning that we do, and by the good deeds that we accomplish.

The midrash tells us that, involuntarily we are conceived, involuntarily we are born, involuntarily we die, and involuntarily we must account for ourselves in the heavenly court.

The "Donna Reed" ideal sitcom families of the 50s were nothing but a fantasy, worse, a lie! The images conceived by writers encourage one to fantasize that someone else's reality is the way it really is supposed to be, it is really what I deserve, and if I am not given that opportunity, I have been dealt injustice. What a terrible thing it is for one to stop living themselves, and instead, to live vicariously in the never-never land of their imagination! When one does this, he stops growing, he stops appreciating the blessings that he has been giving, and he creates a chasm between himself and Ha-Shem. When one stops appreciating the sweetness of the blessings that he has been given, invariably he finds his existance, as it is, to be unbearable. And he does whatever it takes to kill the pain of what he perceives, he anesthesizes. His pain killer might be drugs, it might be pornography, it might be cumpulsive eating of food, it might be tobacco, it might be alcohol, it might be television, it might be sports, it might be music, it might even be vacations, but whatever it is, the common denominator is that the person is miserable with their existance and needs to run away.

But as I said before, WE DO HAVE FREE CHOICE, and we need not perceive our lives as miserable leaving us little choice other than to escape: either by way of anesthetic or by quitting: quitting our jobs, our marriages or our lives, Chas V'Shalom.

The first place to start is by looking at the many blessings we do have in our lives, and daily, give thanks for them--WITHOUT ANY BUTS. Period. Then we need to make every effort to make small changes that are absolutely available to us. Part of empowering ourselves is to constantly remember that we always have choices! It is our decision to choose not to overeat, for example. It is our decision to recognize the connection between our behavior and our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It is our decision to choose not to exercise. It is our decision to pursue helping resources to address emotional and physical tasks that we feel we can't resolve independently.

The internet can be an insidious, dangerous parasitic monster, but it can also be a tool, to connect to resources and receive support on a scale heretofore completely unheard of.

We are never stuck. Ha-Shem ALWAYS provides the remedy before we are disabled by illness. But we need to listen and we need to acknowledge that choice is always ours. But if we choose not to choose and remain in a state of inertia, than we need to know that we will involuntarily need to answer for ourselves when our time comes. The Midrash tells us that the greatest castigation and reproof we will receive is the defense we give to not having done right when we had the choice in this world. The prosecution will use all of our excuses against us, showing us how we wasted our lives, our money and our potential to do good. But then, it will be too late.

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