Parshas Bamidbar 5780
Part I. Orderly Life
A Forty Year Arrangement
And the Bnei Yisroel did everything that Hashem had commanded Moshe; they encamped with precision according to their banners, and that’s how they journeyed, oeach man according to his families, by his father’s household (Bamidbar 2:34).
Although this possuk of a mere twenty words is passed over quickly by most of us, it actually contains one of the most precious secrets for a Jew who wants to be an oveid Hashem. The first thing we should make note of is that the Torah here is testifying not to an isolated event that happened once and was never again repeated. What we have here is the testimony of Hakodosh Boruch Hu that a nation of millions – men, women and children – journeyed and made camp for forty years with precision, according to a strict arrangement of degalim, banners.
The Stay In Place Order
It was a remarkable arrangement. Ish al diglo … yachanu Bnei Yisroel – every person … by the banner of his camp he should stay (ibid. 2:2). The nation was divided into four sections, and within each section every family’s tent was stationed according to its shevet and ancestral family.
Now, the camp of Yisroel was a very big camp; it was tremendous in size. There were at least two million people there, probably much more than that. And tents? There were at least 600,000 tents in the camp! And there were no streets there, no property rights. Anyone who wanted could pick up his tent and put it someplace else. Maybe the sun was shining too brightly in this corner. “I want to be over there where it’s shady.” Maybe it was more convenient someplace else. Could be that somebody wanted to be near his father or a girl near her mother. Nothing doing. Ish al diglo – Everybody stayed where they belonged.
Even though there were no fences or walls to separate them, there was no mingling – nobody left his or her appointed place to visit and see what was being done elsewhere. For forty years the Bnei Yisroel complied with this remarkably strict discipline of seder – they and their wives and their children lived “each one according to his flag,” at all times.
The Forty Year Lockdown
Now, that a nation should live with such unique seder hachaim is an event that is unequalled in history – it’s something that beggars the imagination. And so we understand that there was some great purpose here; living according to the command of Hashem with such a seder, ish al diglo, was intended as an eternal lesson for the Am Yisroel.
This remarkable phenomenon of an entire nation living al pi Hashem in perfect discipline and orderliness was an arrangement that was a most effective means of teaching the nation self control; living for forty years in the wilderness, the holy nation was granted an opportunity to prepare themselves to be the Torah nation forever, by training themselves in this great middah of seder. And even later when the camp dispersed and the Am Yisroel settled in their homesteads and communities in Eretz Yisroel, this trait of self control, of orderliness, continued just as it continues even today among all frum Jews.
Ah Gantz Yahr Seder
Today’s Torah Jew lives with order – everything is prescribed by a seder. As soon as he gets up in the morning, his habits are already prescribed. When he gets dressed, it’s with a prescribed seder. First he puts on his right shoe and then the left one. Then he ties the left shoe and then the right. And that’s how he lives all day and night. He doesn’t eat whatever he wants. He doesn’t put on clothing that he chooses at random. He doesn’t sit wherever he desires and he doesn’t go wherever he wants to go. He must daven at certain times and in certain places and with a certain dress. How he eats, where he looks, it’s all with a seder. Even his most private bodily functions are made with precision and orderliness. A frum Jew’s life is a life of self-control, a life ruled by order.
That’s actually one of the great benefits of the mitzvos. Everything is a mitzvah in Jewish life. Ratzah Hakadosh Baruch Hu lezakos es Yisrael lefikach hirbah lahem Torah umitzvos; we’resurrounded with so many prescribed ways of behavior, and each halacha, each mitzvah, gives a person eternal merit, a zechus la’ad u’lenetzach netzachim!
But besides for the fact that we gain immeasurable merit because of the great number of mitzvos, there’s another very important benefit and that’s self control. By means of the Torah, the life of a Jew is always under control. Every mitzvah he does during the day is prescribed according to specific details; each halacha with its own specific seder. Even little boys! The little boy asks his mother, “Is it six hours yet? Can I eat the ice-cream?” That’s already a tremendous achievement. He wants to pop it into his mouth, but he stops. A little Jewish child, a tot, already knows that he has to ask those types of questions: “Can I eat this?” “Can I go there?” “Can I look at that?” He’s already walking the path of a life of seder.
Navigating Stormy Seas
Even when our chachomim made decrees, we see in the gemara that many times they made takanos because of lo plug. It means that many takanos were enacted in order not to make a difference between one case and another, so that it should always be uniform, mesudar. Lo plug is a valuable stratagem in takanas chachamim and actually Tosfos (Bava Kamma 11b) says that the idea of lo plug you’ll find in dinei d’oraisa too. It’s a principle of the Torah that the Torah nation should live with seder all the time.
People who live by a prescribed order have happier lives as a result. Ratzah Hakodosh Boruch Hu l’zakos es Yisroel, it’s a zechus for us; it’s a great happiness to be governed by self control! You know there are people who are knocked over by every wave on the sea of life, every time something happens, they are discombobulated and knocked off balance. But those who follow the precepts of Torah aren’t flustered by the tests of life because they live orderly lives and therefore their minds are calm and serene.
The First Requirement
And that’s whatthe Chovos Halevavos says in the beginning of his famous Shaar Habitachon. He writes there as follows: Mah she’hu tzarich yoseir m’kol hadevarim l’oveid ha’Elokim Yisborach, what is most necessary for a person to be a servant of Hashem, hu habitachon alav b’chol d’varav, is to have trust in Him in all of his affairs. And, says the Chovos Halevavos, if you don’t have it, if your mind is always aflutter with worries and apprehensions, then you should know that it just won’t work – you won’t be able to make headway in your great career of avodas Hashem.
Now, why is that so? It’s because when it comes to building our relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the tool we’ll need most is our daas. Daas means wisdom; it includes awareness, clarity of thought and perception. It’s a mental faculty – the ability to understand and to think properly. And it’s only by means of daas that we can succeed in serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
We’re learning now that our first job as Jews, as human beings, is to emulate our ancestors in the midbar, and strive to be orderly and clear-headed. And it’s not just because Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to live happy and serene lives – that too of course – but even more so because a clear mind, a mind empty of extraneous worries, is the only type of mind that is prepared to serve Hashem.
Minyan – Made in China
It’s very important to understand that we don’t serve Hashem by means of our actions. Of course, we do; we’re busy all day serving Hashem by means of doing – but our actions aren’t the essence of our avodas Hashem. If they were, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu could have told us that every Jewish congregation should put together money and make an order from a factory that makes robots – we would order a hundred steel robots, and we would seat them in a synagogue. And they would have in their mouths some type of talking machine, a tape recorder, and then every day at exactly six thirty in the morning a timing clock would turn on all the robots, and they’d all start shaking and saying the words of the siddur.
Oh, it would be beautiful! It would be the perfect congregation. Nobody would come late, nobody would leave early, and all hundred robots would be shaking in unison. And there would be no talking; and no skipping either – because it’s all recorded, from mah tovu, the first page of the siddur, until the end. The hundred steel robots would be performing perfectly.
And meanwhile the people would be out doing whatever they want with good consciences, at peace because they know that the service of Hashem is being carried out in the very best way. Hashem is being served to perfection! All you need is that once in a while a janitor should come in and oil the robots, and see that none have broken down. It would be a perfect minyan of ovdei Hashem, all serving Hashem with their ma’asim.
Flesh and Blood Robots
Now, if the mind is absent, that’s exactly what’s taking place. Only, instead of a hundred efficient robots, you have a hundred poorly working robots. They’re coming late; they’re straggling in right before borchu, and then some are talking. They’re making unnecessary noises – besides for the noises they’re supposed to make on the recording. The flesh and blood robots are certainly not as good as the steel ones, so why not order the robots already?
The answer is that the service of Hakodosh Boruch Hu is entirely dependent on the mind. Our minds! That’s what Hashem wants from us. He says, “I don’t want robots. I don’t want steel robots and I don’t want flesh and blood robots either. I want you!”
Rachamana liba ba’ei – Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants your thoughts. It’s your mind that makes you who you are. That’s why when you apply for a job and you go into the boss’s office and he wants to figure out how much salary to pay you, he doesn’t say, “Get on the scale; let me see how much you weigh.” Nobody pays by weight! He wants to know how much mind do you have; what’s your ability? That’s what the boss cares about – that’s the most important part of you. And so, shaking, davening, mitzvos, learning Torah, it’s all wonderful; but remember, Rachmana liba ba’ei, the service of Hashem primarily means the service with the mind.
And so when you come tomorrow morning to the synagogue and you bring along your robot and park him in your seat – he’s all wound up and you’re ready to let him run – it would be a good idea to interrupt him in the middle and take over the controls for a minute. And you’ll speak to Hakodosh Boruch Hu with your flesh and blood tongue, and your flesh and blood heart, and your flesh and blood brain – and even if it’s for just a minute, then that’s going to be more important than the fifty minutes that the other part of you, the robot part of you, is sitting in the synagogue shaking and galloping through the davening without you being aware of what’s going on.
Guiding Your Horse
You know, every man is made up of two parts. On one hand, there’s what the seforim call the nefesh habehamis; the body and its desires – the heaviness and laziness of the guf. Everyone is composed partially of a beheimah; a horse. It might be a small horse, a pony; for some people it might be a bigger horse, maybe even a bronco; but whatever it is, it’s just a horse.
Only that there is a master in charge of the beheimah. Your intellect is like a man riding on the horse, guiding it at all times. By means of your mind, the seichel sends forth messages of reason and da’as, and now you can exercise your free will because your animal being is subject to your intellect. But all that is possible only when you have menuchas hanefesh, because suppose the master gets off the horse; let’s say he abdicates control of the horse entirely. So that poor animal, because the intellect is no longer riding it and guiding it, is ruined. A spirit of wildness seizes the animal and he begins to stampede – it makes a break for it and runs loose. The horse is as good as finished now. It’ll cut itself on the thorns and sharp stones; sometimes it might even plunge into a pit or walk off a mountainside and meet its end.
And that’s what happens to the body when the seichel, the intellect,gives up control over the animal part. When that poor horse of our body doesn’t have a master guiding it with ordered self control, when there’s no intellect to guide it, so the nefesh behamis reacts with confusion; a spirit of wildness seizes the thoughts of that man – his thoughts run loose, and he can no longer serve Hashem with his mind.
Part II. Tranquil Life
Rabeinu Bachya is Displeased
Now, we explained that a serene mind is the prerequisite to Avodas Hashem, but actually, when the Chovos Halevavos speaks about bitachon, trusting in Hakodosh Boruch Hu, as the most essential of all requirements of avodas Hashem, he’s talking there about a very high level of bitachon; he means complete confidence in Hakodosh Boruch Hu – trusting in Him constantly, continuously and implicitly. In order to be a noble servant of Hashem, then this confidence, this bitachon in Hakodosh Boruch Hu, is the most necessary requirement.
Of course, the bitachon in the sense that the Chovos Halevavos is describing there is a sublime achievement that’s very difficult to attain. Anybody who thinks that this bitachon that the Chovos Halevavos demands from us is a pashuteh subject, that it can be transmitted in a few words, then he never really studied it. It needs a lot of work – you’re going to have to meditate on the ways of Hakodosh Boruch Hu for a long time until you become saturated with the consciousness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu; with the paramount awareness that everything is under His control and that everything that He does is for good.
And that’s why if the Chovos Halevavos would be here tonight, he would most probably be very displeased with this talk of mine tonight; with the ideas and the eitzos we’ll be talking about here. He would want us to say and to feel that Hashem Melech tagel ha’aretz – Hashem is in control and therefore the earth should rejoice. There’s a happiness of the mind, a menuchas hanefesh of the highest level, that comes from the knowledge that everything is under control – and that it’s under the control of the All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Loving G-d.
“Boruch Hashem, Worse”
Like once somebody asked Reb Yisroel Salanter; Reb Yisroel was an old man and his health was failing so they asked him, “How are you feeling today?” And he said, “Boruch Hashem, a little bit worse;” it means, “Boruch Hashem, everything is under control of the One who knows best.”
The Chofetz Chaim too; when he was in his last days, things in Poland were going from bad to worse, so the Chofetz Chaim said, “It’s heading in the right direction.” That’s what he said: “Hakodosh Boruch Hu is taking everything in the right direction.”
And therefore the truth is that if we could rise to those heights that the Chovos Halevavos intended us to reach, we would be genuinely happy people. If you would have seen Reb Yisroel Salanter, you would have seen a most joyful man. And that’s because genuine bitachon in Hakadosh Baruch Hu is enough to give a person an all pervading sense of menuchas hanefesh.
Shortcut To Bitachon
But we’re not going to attempt that tonight. We’re going to try a shortcut to bitachon; we’ll approach the subject of attaining peace of mind on a simpler level – we want to achieve peace of mind any way we can because we can’t wait for it. We can’t wait until we’ve studied the Shaar Habitachon thoroughly and climbed to the top of the ladder. It’s too tall of a ladder and in the meantime you don’t have the peace of mind, the minimum requirement you need for avodas Hashem. Of course, we’ll climb the ladder of bitachon, we’ll do that too, but we want to get down to business first. We want to acquire this precious quality of menuchas hanefesh without delay. And that’s why we’ll take a few minutes to discuss some of the more “artificial” means to gain the menuchas hanefesh that’s necessary in order to serve Hashem.
Now, it’s not always possible to deal with the causes of lack of composure in a general way; menuchas hanefesh is best dealt with on an individual basis. However, there are some general things that will help all of us – some do’s and some don’ts that apply to most of us.
Stick To A Routine
Of course, the first thing is to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers in the wilderness who lived ish al diglo, all the days of their lives. They lived with seder, with impeccable orderliness, and that itself was the foundation for a life of menuchas hanefesh. The principle of self control in our seder hachaim, of sticking to a regular routine is of utmost importance.
As long as a person keeps to a seder more or less the flame of menuchas hanefesh does not waver. That’s why you get up in the morning and you do what’s necessary. You come to the beis hakenesses, you perform all the sidrei hatefilah, like the Jewish nation does. You follow a routine, and your seichel is in control. You come home. You go to work subsequently. Whatever you do is done with a plan because you follow the dictates of the Torah and you becomea man who is orderly and composed.
Now, if you would like to embark on this career of training your mind to be at peace and under control, it pays to study first which things might upset your serenity. It doesn’t happen willy-nilly on its own; there are certain things that agitate a person; and therefore it’s a good idea for every person to make a list of what things might upset his menuchas hanefesh. What might cause me to be disturbed in the home? What happens in my place of business that upsets me from time to time during the day? And you should study these lists whenever possible in order to be aware of these things and be better prepared to deal with them when they arise.
Here’s a man who was supposed to meet up with his wife outside the wedding hall at 10:30, and it’s already 10:37 when she comes out – without apologizing – and it knocks him off balance; already his mind begins to churn. Now, it could be he’s a wise husband and he won’t open his mouth but still his mind is in turmoil.
Hashem Did It
Now, if he had studied this subject of bitachon and menuchas hanefesh the way the Chovos Halevavos intended, this whole story would have passed by unnoticed altogether. He knows already that everything is Hakodosh Boruch Hu; he’s studied the ways of Hashem in this world and he knows that everything is kulo chesed; everything is good. Kol d’avid Rachmana l’tav avid – Everything Hashem does is for the good, and what doesn’t He do?!
And he knows that nothing really matters in this world anyhow; nothing in this world is worth losing your composure about. And so the real ba’al bitachon is always happy and serene and that means that his mind is available for avodas Hashem at all times.
But not everyone has achieved that sublime level yet, and therefore the best thing is to prepare for these eventualities; to pinpoint your weaknesses and plan to detour around them. A wise man takes out his list once in a while and reviews what he wrote there, and he reminds himself that when he is made to wait for a few minutes, or maybe if his personal item is taken without his permission, it might knock him off balance. And so he makes up his mind that even if he has to wait 15 minutes, even if his wife got a ride home with someone else and he’s waiting like a fool, or his files were taken from his desk and nobody knows where it is, his menuchas hanefesh won’t flicker in the least. He was prepared ahead of time for these eventualities and therefore it’s like water off a duck’s back. This man, by means of looking ahead has maintained his menuchas hanefesh and he is therefore able to continue to make strides forward and to accomplish what he came to this world for.
News Is Manufactured
Now, there are some people who instead of avoiding things that will upset their equilibrium, actively fill their minds with things that disturb their menuchas hanefesh. You know, there are very many people who clutter their mind with unnecessary things by reading the news. That’s why this should be on everyone’s list – don’t read the newspapers; don’t look at the news. It’s a very good piece of advice you’re hearing now because a big part of the crises of our lives are artificial ones. The newspapers are taking the people for suckers. How do they sell newspapers? By manufacturing crises. By making sensations out of nothing. If they had not printed these things, they wouldn’t have been sensations. Even if it had to be reported; but the way it’s done – they blow it up in order that people should buy the papers.
What will you lose if you didn’t know what happened over here or over there? And some papers have an axe to grind. Some papers have an interest in showing that there are disturbances in Boro Park. Some papers are interested in showing that. They want to make a big deal about hooligans, about a robbery. So they put big pictures on the front page. They play it up on the front page in a big picture, and they put a scare into people and Jews become anxious. For no reason at all, the menuchas hanefesh that you need to serve Hashem is upended. It doesn’t mean that you’re filled with anxiety, but just the fact that the news of the day is coursing through your mind means that your mind is occupied and it’s not available for what it was given to you for.
Are You Managing Our Affairs?
A person who doesn’t read any newspapers at all is going to gain a great deal of peace of mind. You don’t realize that you’re only a sucker — that the newspapers are constantly creating sensations to frighten you, to excite you, so that you’ll buy the paper again. “What happened?! I have to know.” And then after tomorrow too. And you’re continuing to help that newspaper make money at the cost of your nerves.
The same is, don’t listen to the radio. The radio is creating sensations and giving you what to think about, what to brood about, and it’s worthless. And the TV is a thousand times worse. They make their bread and butter out of your anxiety. People don’t realize that. So now you know all about what this person said, or what the President did – so what?! What do you need it for?! It’s just more ideas whirling through your mind; more clutter that encroaches on your menuchas hanefesh for absolutely no purpose at all.
Are you the one managing the affairs of the Orthodox community that you need your mind to be bothered by such things? Nobody cares what you think anyhow – you can leave that for the big minds who are actually responsible for the Orthodox community. The fact that you’re going to listen to television or read the New York Times is not going to help the management of the Jewish community at all. It’s only for your own amusement and your own entertainment that you’re doing it, and meanwhile your mind is always churning about nothing at all and your nerves are getting worn out unnecessarily.
Is Nuclear Holocaust Coming?
Do we have to experience the difficulties, the troubles, that took place in Los Angeles, in Hollywood, when the so called Symbionese army kidnapped a girl. What’s it our business? Let them all go where they’re supposed to go! We have our own problems here; we have to sit and learn Torah and make a living; we have mitzvos to do and we have to raise our children to Torah and yiras shamayim, and meanwhile that crazy stuff is exciting people here in Brooklyn and we’re losing a lot of peace of mind because of that.
Do you have to be worried now that there’s going to be chas v’shalom atomic bombardment, or whatever it is they’re saying this week?! The newspaper is warning you that there’s going to be a race war, race riots; or there’s going to be chas v’shalom a holocaust in America. Some people would like to have that, you know, because they want you to go to Israel. That’s why that fellow wrote a big letter once in the New York Times, a full page letter warning the Jews about a Holocaust. You know that fellow? The one who claims to be the savior of the Jewish people – he wrote in the New York Times that there’s going to be a Holocaust chas v’shalom in America. That’s the savior of the Jewish people?! He’s only giving the antisemites ideas and meanwhile he’s stirring up anxiety!
Trust me, you’ll live much longer, your blood pressure will be much more regular if you take all of that out of your life. Everything would be happier if you were not in contact with the troubles and imaginary troubles of other people. And therefore that’s a good thing to add to our menuchas hanefesh list. Don’t read the newspaper or listen to the radio and you’re going to gain a great deal of peace of mind.
Part III. Purposeful Life
Keep It Shut
Now, sometimes things come up in your life that are more important than what’s on the front page of the newspapers; things that do need to take up some place in your mind. And still, you must train yourself to not allow such things to cause a disturbance to your peace of mind. It might require some thinking, some deliberation, but it doesn’t have to cause the flame of menuchas hanefesh to flicker. And one of the most effective ways to accomplish that is by keeping your mouth closed.
I knew a man, a great man, who never spoke about his worries. This man kept everything to himself and not once did his wife and children know what was transpiring. And it was an interesting thing; all the worries disappeared. Sooner or later every single one passed by; and all the while his family never dreamed there was a crisis coming up, that it was going on, and that it passed away.
Even when the family did discover what was brewing, he forbade them to talk about it. “Don’t bring up the subject, forget about it. That’s all.” He strictly forbade them to discuss it.
And therefore, all his problems passed away without his family participating. And he had sometimes good cause to worry. He had enemies and he had difficulties too, but because he didn’t speak about it, to a great extent they were minimized – even in his own mind they became minimized.
Are You Paid Overtime?
It’s a good idea for us too. When somebody feels that he’s being disturbed because of something, whatever you do, don’t talk about it because talking makes it more prominent. Sometimes it might pass away quickly but by speaking about it, you make it set, and it becomes a permanent thing. If you ignore it, even externally, then internally it will more easily pass away. But if you make an issue about it, if you speak about it, you exacerbate it.
Something happened at work? Try to forget about it; when you leave the office, close the door and forget about it. It’s enough you have to come back tomorrow and worry about it. When you walk out of the place, leave all your worries. You’re not paid overtime for worrying. By talking about it you’re only magnifying the problem; now you’re disturbed and anxious. Are you going to be able to daven now when you’re nervous and agitated? Are you going to be able to appreciate the beauty of life and to thank Hashem for all of His chasodim, ifyour mind is churning? What kind of eved Hashem can you be without a mind?
Now, sometimes, lo aleichem, there’s a crisis in the family. Something happened and the father comes home and tells them that the business is about to collapse, chalila. Sometimes a very bad piece of news chas v’shalom is brought home about health. Sometimes some bad tidings about shalom bayis in the family are brought home. Now, what happens next is what shouldn’t happen. They sit up until the small hours of the night worrying about it. And the next day, they’re ruined! Their nerves are worn to a frazzle and the problem is still alive in their minds – only that now it’s a thousand times worse.
Whatever it is, go to sleep early! Give your poor deluded nerves an opportunity to recuperate. Getting a night’s sleep is very good for the nerves. It’s the biggest mistake to stay up late and to talk about it and rehash it and let it aggravate you more and more. Go to bed early no matter what! And when you get up tomorrow after a good night’s sleep, maybe you’ll recognize that it was sheker v’chazav. Or it’ll at least be alleviated somewhat.
The Bedtime Lion
Seder in your sleep habits is a must, an absolute requirement. Havei gibbor ka’ari – “Be strong as a lion, laasos retzon avicha shebashomayim – to do the will of your father in heaven” (Avos 5:23). Sometimes it takes the strength of a lion to do the will of Hashem. And the seforim say that among the things included in being strong like a lion is to force yourself to go to sleep on time.
Not only when you’re worried. Some people dawdle around after bedtime, they fiddle around at night doing nothing and they get up in the morning without energy, and now the whole day is a waste. Your davening will be without much energy and surely your learning. Your brachos aren’t brachos and your ben adam la’chaveiro is lacking too.
And so, you must force yourself to hit the hay on time. You have to be a zariz to get to sleep on time. That’s the way to prepare for the next day of achievement. Now, some tzaddikim are very strong and they can get along with less sleep. But don’t begin to suspect that you’re the one; don’t think that you’re the one.
Change Your Nervous System
If you start sleeping eight hours every night, and you do it for a long time, you will discover a great change in your nervous system. A great change! If you take my advice, and you’re consistent about it, you’ll never want to go back to your former sleeping habits. You’ll be a different person altogether.
And therefore everyone must make it their business to get enough sleep. In most cases you can plan your schedule to allow for a program of a proper amount of sleep. Even if your child is up at night, you can plan ahead and get the sleep you need. And if you can get someone to take over for a little while every day, you can sleep by day for a half hour. A half hour sleep by day is a yeshuah! Sometimes you can sneak in even more than a half hour.
It’s more important than food. It’s more important than vitamins. I can tell you from experience. I know so many people, so many fine people, young people, who ruined their careers of serving Hashem by not sleeping. They disturbed their menuchas hanefesh and that was the beginning of the end.
Keep Your Eye On The Ball
Now, more than anything else, the key to menuchas hanefesh, to the serene mind of an oved Hashem, is to not lose sight of your objectives in life. Let’s say something comes up, a worry, some disturbance to your peace of mind. So now is a good time to take your fingers and say, “What things do I want out of life?” And see, does this really affect my objectives? I want to succeed as an observant Jew in Torah and mitzvos. Is this going to have any affect on me? I wish that my children should grow up to be talmidei chachamim and yirei shamayim. Does this have any affect on that? Or, I wish to live long; will this have any effect on my life?
Count your objectives. And you’ll find that in most cases, what you’re worried about has absolutely no bearing on them. The fact that your neighbor is nasty to you means absolutely nothing. You know some people get into a tizzy because of a neighbor. And they’re nasty in turn and then things happen. And then it goes to court.
Ignore The Teenagers
I know one man who used to come here and he once visited me in my home. I said, ‘What’s the matter, Mr. so and so?” His eyes were twitching; he was a nervous wreck. I thought something terrible happened.
Well, he lived in Brighton. And next door he had a gentile neighbor who had teenagers that were making trouble for him. There was an easement between the two of them and they were encroaching it and doing things that were disturbing him. So he was scolding them and there was a big fight, with police, once and again, and they ended up in court. And now this man was so nervous, he was a wreck.
Now, this man had a position, a good job. He had a good home and a beautiful family. Everything was in order. If he would have made a list of his objectives and said, “What do I care what they do there? And if they do cut up and make noise, so what about it? Is that important enough for me to lose sight of my objectives?” If he had done that, he would have maintained his menuchas hanefesh and his sanity.
Keep Your Eye On The Check
Once you recognize your objectives in this world, you’ll be able to overlook so many things and maintain your menuchas hanefesh thereby. Let’s say you have a job. You’re not there to be a Romeo or a Galahad; you’re not there to be a hero. You’re there to bring home a check every week, and that’s all you want from that place.
So let’s say there’s somebody there who’s bossy. Or someone who’s a nuisance; what do you care?! You sit there and take it for eight hours a day and at the end of the week you get your check anyhow. So don’t lose sight of the objective. You’re not there to sit there in comfort. You’re there just to collect your check. If you’ll keep in sight your objectives, then most of these things will dwindle; often they’ll dwindle into nothing.
There are other ways too, more methods of maintaining your menuchas hanefesh. Sometimes you might need to comfort yourself with thoughts that help you put things into perspective. In case you want some consoling thoughts; first of all, you’re going to die anyhow. So it’ll all be over. How long can a man live in this world anyhow? It’s a very important thought, by the way. It’s a consolation — what do you have to worry about? It’s a serious thought. It all comes to an end. You’ll get rid of it sooner or later – you hope a little later.
Another comforting thought: leprosy is much worse. Think chas v’shalom what happened to that man who found a pink spot on his body. He didn’t understand what it was and so he went to a physician. He thought it was a small thing but the physician’s face turned grave. He said, “I have to send you to a specialist.” “A specialist? What for?! What kind of specialist?” A special dermatologist.
And then the dermatologist said to him, “I think you’d better visit me with your wife next time.” My wife?! What’s going on here?!” And he has to inform the government authorities, the Center For Disease Control, and now you have to move; you can’t stay home anymore. It’s a terrible thing, chas veshalom; you have to go to Carville, Louisiana, and you’re cut off from humanity.
So, if you got a parking ticket or even something worse than that, console yourself with the thought that whatever happens is better than leprosy. Think about that. It’s a consoling thought.
If that doesn’t help you, then think: no matter what happens in this world, gehenom is worse. And that’s serious. The Chovos Halevavos says like this: “The pious man says, ‘Ribono Shel Olam, my fear of You has made me forget fear of anything else.’”
There’s a big gehenom waiting. So if you have a tendency to worry, concentrate all your worries on that. It will take up all your time. Of course you won’t do it — but if that’s the case, you surely shouldn’t worry about these small things. A job? Jobs come and jobs go. And besides, people don’t go hungry in America; you’ll find work. And there’s always government programs.
The Serene Nation – Forever
Now, all of these things are just eitzos; it’s general advice that you have to think about and modify for your own situation. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to menuchas hanefesh but in general these ideas are helpful for everyone at one time or another.
But whatever it is, whatever path you choose, there’s no way out – if you’re going to be an eved Hashem then you’re going to have to acquire a calm mind. A mind that’s preoccupied with anxieties and worries will never succeed in the service of Hashem because the mind is what you need most. It’s only when a person lives with bitachon that his mind is calm and that enables him to concentrate on the important ideas of life, the great ideals of avodas Hashem.
And that was the great lesson that the Am Yisroel learned when they lived for forty years ish al diglo, each man by his banner, with a seder hachaim and a menuchas hanefesh that permeated every detail of his life, every nook and cranny of their mind. It was a nation of discipline that would be capable of dedicating their lives to the service of Hashem and that was the nation that deserved to be Hashem’s holy nation forever and ever.
HAVE A WONDERFUL SHABBOS