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ב"ה

My failings and me

Friday, 23 September, 2022 - 6:10 am

As the High Holy Days approach, I’m hearing more and more people expressing feelings of being downhearted: I’m not doing things right, I’m not moving upwards, I’m not good, I’m not worthy.

I hear these sentiments from friends who come to consult, as well as internally – that is, these are my own sentiments, about myself. I told a friend who said such things this week that I hear a confusion between the definition of the act and the definition of the actor, between the doing and the doer.

I have no problem with your examining your deeds, your actions, defining them as good or bad and treating them accordingly. But there is a big problem if you define yourself according to your deeds, and thus define yourself as good or bad and then treat yourself accordingly, which means, of course, self-flagellation – that is, general despair, which harms your desire and ability to attempt to fix and improve matters – because it is a futile effort, right?

Remember, our actions will never change the fact that Hashem chose us to be His partners in repairing this world. He chose us to be his partners in that we will be parents to our children – his and ours – and take care of their physical and spiritual needs. He chose us in that he gave us money, counting on us to use it for acts of charity and kindness. He gave us life and good health, and He trusts us that we will use these to do good in his world to His creations.

And if He trusts us, He knows what He is doing.

I trust Him.

It is not only important that we remember this – it is critical. Because sincere and true self-assessment is the foundation of our lives. Only if we assess ourselves correctly will we be able to recognize our mistakes and faults without falling apart completely as a result, and only if we recognize our faults will we be able to repair and improve ourselves.

It’s not me saying this – it’s the Rebbe who says this. Here is a quote from him, from slightly more than forty years ago, Sunday, the 6th of Tishrei, 5742 (1981):

When a Jew is busy with the labor of teshuva (repentance) and does his best to fill in whatever he has omitted from his labors, he must be careful not to let his spirit fail, chas veshalom, as a result of seeing the faults in his labors.

And, as the saying of our rabbis, our princes, goes: The same way you should know the faults, so too you should know your ma’alot (strong points).” And here there is a wonderful distinction: When speaking of the strong points, it’s “your strong points”, and when speaking of the faults – it is “the faults”, not your faults!

And the explanation of this is according to what it says in the Zohar on “And a soul that sins…” – read as a question:

A Jew in himself is not connected to sin at all, and even when he stumbles and sins chas veshalom – it is not a fault in himself, rather it is something from outside himself that has attached itself to him. In other words, since he is in this materialistic and corporeal world, and his role is to fulfill Hashem’s mission of “Fill the land and conquer it” – in other words, to do and act in the world – so when he is wrestling with the evil one, this materialistic and corporeal world, it could be that something of the materialism and corporeality of the world adheres to him. and therefore, even though it’s a fault, it is not his own failing, because this fault is not coming from him, but from the reality of the world around him. 

And therefore, he does not become dispirited, chas veshalom, as he knows that the fault is something external that has adhered to him.

(Torat Menachem, 5742, Part I, p. 53).


Wishing all of us success,

Shabbat Shalom,

Ktiva v’chatima tova, for a good and sweet year,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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