the art of not screwing up

R' Shalom Arush, in one of his recent CDs explains a teaching in Likkutei Halachot: Basar b'Chalav. He describes two different intellectual modes with which to approach Judaism. Either (1) God is responsible for everything, or (2) you are responsible for everything. He says that you can't mix and match, when you try and operate from both perspectives at once that's like mixing meat and milk.

How do you apply them? When all is well, before you've fallen, you approach the world as if you are responsible for everything. Once you've fallen, you have to put your faith entirely in God and recognize it's all from Him.

The weekly Torah portion lately explains how Bnei Yisrael keep screwing up. (In the simplest sense. Obviously there are deeper things at play, but still it has to make sense to us at face value.)

Given Rav Arush's explanation of Rebbe Nachman's approach, it would seem like it makes a lot of sense why Bnei Yisrael repeatedly acted out in the desert.

Why do children act out and push their limits? (1) They like when you get actively involved in their lives. (2) It's a lot easier than doing the things that you expect of them that would elicit your happiness.

From Rebbe Nachman's approach it seems like we don't really need to explain BneI Yisrael's behavior: When all is well, we're left to our own devices, everything rides on our shoulders; whenever we falter, HaShem visibly picks up the burden and carries it for us. That's an amazingly beautiful revelation of Godliness, even if it does come with an admonishment or punishment -- we know that that punishment is coming from a Father who truly loves us so we don't have to fear that it will do any lasting damage -- and sometimes maybe it's worth the pain to see how much He loves us.

Children can be far smarter than their parents. Or at least more directly in touch with their desires. Whenever we acted out in the desert it was because we wanted to feel HaShem's presence in our midst -- we even say as much "haYesh HaShem bikirbeinu im ayin" - Is God in our midst or not?

The real challenge, and the reason we haven't broken free of the cycle of exile yet, is to pursue God in all things and without giving up, ever. This is the way of the Tzaddik, to always push forward because it's the only way to a deeper awareness of the reality of God's presence with us at all times.

We need to actively seek out HaShem's hand in all of the hidden blessings in our life. When we do so we can find a more mature more wholesome relationship with our Father, one more rewarding than just getting His attention by screwing up yet once more.

It's so tempting sometimes, to just give in, to screw up--just for a few minutes to not feel responsible for everything.


When we feel like that, maybe we need to cheat a little, and remind ourselves that HaShem is really propping us up, even now--pre-fall--when it's all supposed to be on us.


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