12 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 25, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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Spiritual Procrastination    

Spiritual Procrastination

Spiritual procrastination is when you have to do something really vital or challenging and you suddenly have the energy to accomplish everything on your...


The headlines of the past two weeks are not making me happy.  Olmert, a Jewish leader of the Jewish people, of the Jewish nation of Israel - the one created by Hashem for the Jews - offers up the holy city of Jerusalem, to assuage murderous bullies.  Rabbi Nachman’s gravesite is being coveted by sinister Ukrainian elements that worship power and money, and don’t care one iota for Rabbi Nachman or for the people who call him Rebbe.  And then this week, in case the other issues weren’t enough to make you weep, we learn that the chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about so lovingly in her diaries - that which gave her so much hope while she hid for her life in the famous ‘secret annex’- is scheduled to be torn down because valiant efforts to extend its life have failed.  And while it’s true that trees die, and we can not help this, the timing stinks. And it makes me want to cry.    
I really want to fix all of the people involved, past and present, in these messes. I think I know exactly what’s wrong with all of them, where they went off the path. I just need to sit them down, lecture them thoroughly, and make them do what I want.  Then it will all be fine.  I’m almost totally convinced of this. 
This past Wednesday night in the midst of a lesson on the book of Genesis, the Rabbi was talking about the human compulsion to turn outward and fix others.  He said that he often tells people, “If you want to save a Jew, the best Jew to save is yourself.”  I’m going to take the liberty of applying this concept to Bnei Noach as well, right after I fix all of the misguided people involved in the aforementioned fiascos. 
I’m going to work on them first, then I’ll get to myself.  I promise.  Think of it as spiritual procrastination: That’s when you have to do something really vital or challenging and you suddenly have the energy to accomplish everything on your to-do list except for that very important, challenging thing you should be doing.  I once worked with a woman who when faced with a daunting writing assignment was reduced to vacuuming her barn. I’m talking about the kind where animals sleep. That’s world-championship level procrastination.   
I want to work on everyone else first because I don’t like what I see. Rabbi Arush says in his book Garden of Emuna, and Rabbi Brody echoes this sentiment all the time, that the world is a mirror that Hashem is holding up to us so that we can see what’s good in us, and also what is bad.  So really, all of this is telling me that I need to do some serious soul reconstruction.  I need to lecture myself about my war-like short temper and the really mean things that come out of my mouth, even towards members of my family, the very people I should be protecting. About the way I will sometimes trash people who interfere with me, intentionally or not. About the way it too often becomes about me and my feelings above everyone else. 
I also need to do something about my greediness - how I want to hoard things that I won’t even use.  Just as long as they are there for me when I want them or to give away to make me feel like a hero.  It doesn’t matter that I know that Rabbi Brody is right when he counsels that people should invest in things no one can take away from them.  I will invest in those things. But I will do so after I’ve worn out my family working too much to earn the things that make my house look nice. Not to mention the expensive shoes I really need. 
To top it all off, I need to work on the fact that I still think I know almost everything, despite the fact that for years I have been humbled by Hashem.  He shows me constantly that I need to give all my problems to Him, thank Him for all of it, and remember that He IS knowledge and that I don’t really know anything at all, which is fine.  He shows me all the time, in powerful wonderful ways, which He is in charge - He owns Jerusalem. He owns the Ukraine and everything in it. He made the tree that Anne Frank looked at. He made her feel hope. He made the disease that’s eating it. He made the people who will reluctantly tear it down. And He will make the little saplings grow from the grafts that were lovingly taken from its weakened limbs, if that’s what is best for us. 
Hashem knows that when you’ve grown up in a rich and powerful culture like the US, you are primed for saving other people first.  I mean we can stay very busy with this.  Sure we have many flaws as individuals, as families, as states, and as a nation.  But just look at all of those really super flawed people surrounding us; despite this fact, I will take Rabbi Arush’s advice and work on myself.  I might feel better about myself.  I might be nicer to my husband because he will reflect back to me those good feelings.  We might be nicer to our friends and co-workers, which could make them feel a little more joy.  They might be nicer to their spouses, see something better reflected back at them, and enjoy a little peace. I’ll start- as soon as I’m done vacuuming the porch.

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