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Q&A: Terror Attack, Solving Problems

Translated from the Hebrew “Wonders” anthology, Parashat Vayeirah, 5784.

Q: Anxiety After Terror Attack: I Can’t Keep Myself Together After What Happened

Since the horrific terror attack in Israel on Simchat Torah, when I saw the face of unaldulterated, senseless evil, I feel that we are sitting on a barrel of dynamite that is getting bigger all the time (until it is even an atom bomb). I feel that we are on the brink of disaster, God forbid. In my mind’s eye, I see all sorts of horrors that can happen. All of this is causing me to feel down and pessimistic. I am having a hard time serving God, being a husband, father and teacher with the same vitality that I have always had. What should I do?

A: Proverbs 12:25 says “If there be anxiety in a man’s heart let him quash it.” (The Hebrew verb for “quash” is yashchena).” This is the way to deal with anxiety. The sages add that this can also mean to remove it from his thoughts (yaschena) or discuss it with someone else (yesichena).

The first thing to do is to quash the anxiety with great inner strength. After that, remove your thoughts from it completely. Remove your thoughts from any worry that weakens you and disrupts your service of God with simple sincerity and gratefulness to Him. Be grateful for every day that God gives you to live in this world. God runs His world and he controls the evil that He created. There are not two separate authorities, God forbid. Everything comes from the good and benevolent God.

 

Translated from the Hebrew “Wonders” anthology, Parashat Vayeirah, 5784.

How to Solve Problems

Q: When facing a problem that we don’t know how to solve and feeling helpless, what is the right thing to do? How can I know if my attempts to think things through and find a solution are creating a vessel for God’s blessing, or are lack of trust in Him?

 A: Once, the Lubavitcher Rebbe told me to relay to someone who asked for a blessing for healing, that he should follow the doctor’s orders, but place all his trust in God alone. We have to take action in ways that seem natural to us, creating a vessel for blessing. But primarily, we need to fill the vessel with the light of trust in the good and benevolent God, Who is good to all. We do not have to make our vessel too big, because then it can become “extra baggage” and prevent us from drawing light down into it, which is the purpose of making the vessel.

It is written “And Havayah your God will bless you in all that you do.”[1]  “In all that you do” means to make a vessel, but it does not have to be too big. The vessel is created with the power of the sefirah of netzach (eternity), which is active trust in God.  “For it is He Who gives you the power to succeed.” [2] It is God Who gives us the power to succeed, to make the vessel. Trust alone emanates from the sefirah of hod (acknowledgment) which is expressed by passive trust. Passive trust begins with positive thinking.

In the Shmoneh Esrei prayer, we say, “מכלכל חיים בחסד” (Mechalkel chaim b’chesed – He sustains life with loving kindness). Chasidut explains that the word Mechalkel means “He Who makes a vessel”. Making vessels (including making many vessels where they are naturally needed) sustains. The purpose of the vessels is to contain and draw down life from Above – the light of life and simple life, specifically by means of loving kindness. The primary way to make a vessel is to give charity and perform acts of loving kindness for others.

We now see that there are three factors in solving problems:

We put all of our trust in God alone, increase our acts of charity and loving kindness (this does not result in “extra baggage,” but rather, “the more, the more praiseworthy.”) and we follow doctor’s orders (and according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it is very good if the doctor is also a friend). As the sages say regarding the words in the Torah “’And he shall heal’[3] – from here we learn that permission was granted to the doctor to heal.”[4] This is an example of making a vessel by natural means. (We should not exaggerate with making vessels. Instead, we should fulfill God’s will to make a vessel for salvation by natural means). As a rule, it is enough to make a modest vessel.

The word mechalkel from the Shmoneh Esrei prayer above refers to many vessels. This is relevant to loving kindness. We should abundantly engage in the inner dimension of the vessel, which is the performance of acts of charity and loving kindness. On the other hand, we should not put much energy into the outer dimension of the vessel so that it will be “the small item that contains within it something great.” As is explained regarding the verse “In a multitude of advisors there is salvation.”[5] This refers to one rabbi or Rebbe who advises many. And the allusion: The verses or expressions “And I will trust in you,”[6]  “He sustains life with loving kindness” and “And he shall heal” = 969, which is the value of all the triangles from 1-17. This equals the numerical value of  “God is good to all and His compassion is on all His creations .”

[1] Deuteronomy 15:18.

[2] Deuteronomy 8:18.

[3] Exodus 21:19.

[4] Berachot 60a.

[5] Proverbs 11:14.

[6] Psalms 55:24.

 

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