if you can't join em, beat em [2/2]

Coming back to the metaphor of eating and what we can learn from it, I think it would be wise to review Rebbe Nachman's lesson we learned a while back titled "let's eat in." (see: http://awaxingwellspring.blogspot.com/2008/02/lets-eat-in.html)

We see that in addition to the act of consuming food, it is easy for us to be consumed by something else, a feeling, an idea, an experience. When we say 'consumed by' we mean it literally. We are absorbed into that experience and become a part of its nature.

Here to what we learned in part 1 applies. When we are part of an experience we are either being absorbed, consumed, and changed by it, or we are consuming and changing it. It's eat or be eaten.

Sometimes when the experience is positive and good for us, we want to be 'eaten.' It refines and purifies us, as Rebbe Nachman teaches. These kind of experiences, visiting the Holy Land, visiting a Tzaddik, learning Torah, strengthening our Emunah, (our pure faith) we want them to consume us, we want to be remade into the material of the Tzaddik, the Land of Israel, the Torah, or Emunah.

Other times, we don't want experiences that might be negative or harmful to consume us. We don't want to become part of that bad experience. Again we can find analogs in the physical world: Unfortunately people subjected to abuse often become abusive themselves. These people have been devoured by the experience, their nature has become part of the nature of abuse. (This applies even to minor verbal abuse)

Basically, every encounter we have with anything outside ourselves has the ability to influence and change us. This is the basic tenet of the psychology called behaviorism. However, it is ALWAYS within our control to choose to influence that experience, rather than be influenced by it. Note the emphasis on the word 'choose.' We can always choose what we want, but our success is not assured. Life is effort, life is work, and sometimes (though it seems unfortunate) we have more to learn and gain from the loss than we do from the victory.

What is important to be aware of is that every loss (just like every win) is an opportunity to once again be affected and consumed, or to affect and consume.

This is at the root of Teshuvah. Teshuvah is the act of turning the experience from one that consumed us into one that we consume and change into a different, higher, and more refined nature.

This is also why I've stated in the past that Teshuvah applies to mitzwoth as well as aveiroth (sins) because we can choose in the here and now to allow that past experience of a mitzwah to consume us and affect us more fully. (Just as we can do the opposite with a negative past experience.)

The one caveat here is to understand that just as in Kashrut, there are some things that no matter how we may try, they will always consume us, because they aren't palatable. And for this reason, they are always forebidden; So too, sins (aveiroth) are actions/experiences that HaShem informs us from the start: they will certainly consume you and bring you down.

Neutral experiences can be brought to great holiness, in fact, that is a major part of our job here in this world. But non-neutral negative experiences (read: sins) cannot be brought to holiness through their performance. Only after the fact, if we slipped, then Teshuvah allows us, through super-human effort, to fix, consume, and change even these negative acts.

We need to strengthen these muscles. We need to recognize that every experience is an opportunity to come closer to HaShem, to experience HaShem more fully. Whether it is through deepening the experience by letting it overwhelm us, or it is by taking control of and modifying that experience.

All of these insights you can internalize through focusing on eating and what it does to you, and what you do to the food.

(maybe I should have called it, if you can't join em, eat em.)


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