5 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bo
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A Matter of Life and Death - A New Light    

A Matter of Life and Death - A New Light

What if you were hanging off a tall wall by your fingertips? How mightily would you cry out for help? That is what every single prayer should be like!


Next in the A New Light Series 

Rabbi Arush instructs us to ignite a fiery desire to overcome our negative behavioral patterns and character flaws. This is a key to attaining our life mission and soul correction.  


Rabbi Arush says that when a person prays for his life, he is personally involved and he feels the danger strongly. He cries out from the depths of his heart for an urgent salvation. However, when praying for spiritual matters, a person may not feel a sense of extreme urgency. He does not see his spiritual danger as akin to death. 
Deep down inside he thinks, If Hashem gives, He gives, and if not, that is not so terrible. Life will continue. Therefore, his prayer is anemic and weak. 
In order to obtain the perfect work of the will, a person must acutely feel the spiritual danger. Rebbe Nachman said that we must pray for spiritual salvation like a person praying for help as he is hanging by his fingertips from a wall and at that very moment feels that he's about to fall to his death. 
The Midrash tells us that when the Children of Israel were trapped at the Red Sea, they made use of the skill of their forefathers and cried out to Hashem with all their might. Rabbi Yerucham Leibovitz asks, “What is the meaning of the skill of our forefathers?’” He explains that every time the holy forefathers prayed for spiritual salvation, they felt exactly like the Jewish people who were trapped between the Egyptians and the Sea, and who had no staff and no support, and no option but to pray and cry out to Hashem. The skill of our forefathers was that they knew to live and experience the spiritual danger lurking before them in every prayer.  


Visualize the Consequences 


At a time when the craving is not engulfing you, you must visualize the dangers and consequences of your addiction. If your perception is not vivid, your outcry will be weak.  


However, if you perceive in your heart the full gravity of the situation, you will be able to generate a powerful outcry that will help precipitate a swift salvation and great changes.  


Hence, the first stage of the work of the will is to arouse the heart to experience a sense of danger. If a person does not feel the danger, that means he does not have a sense of urgency. Since he is not in such a hurry to be saved, Hashem also isn't in such a hurry. 
Anyone who is working on any issue must engage in visualization. For example, if you are working on eradicating a sense of anger, you must visualize that anger is literally akin to death. That is because the Zohar states that when a person grows angry it rips apart his soul. Our Sages liken anger to idolatry. This is also true with regard to evil speech. You should remind  yourself  that the Gemara says that evil speech kills three people: The speaker, the listener, and the subject of the speech. Therefore, you should visualize that every word of evil speech is literally death. In this way you can cry out properly for G-d to help you to not speak even one word out of place! 
If a person does not recognize the spiritual danger he is in, it’s because he has sinned so many times that it seems permissible. He should cry out about this in and of itself. He has lost all of the basic sensitivity and awareness of the fear of Heaven and he urgently needs to beg Hashem to help restore this back to him. 

Though Rabbi Arush doesn’t mention it here, I think he would agree that you should also visualize the great benefits that will accrue when you overcome your negative character traits, lusts, and addictions. This will increase  your determination to persevere during the difficult struggle until the beautiful breakthrough finally comes. 

No Handouts 


Rabbi Arush says that the principal theme of your prayer must be obtaining will and not your request to be saved. Crying out to Hashem to be saved does not mean asking for a spiritual hand out. A person who asks Hashem to help him come straight to his spiritual goals may as well ask Hashem to free him from doing the work entirely. In other words, he says to Hashem: I want You to do Your part without me having to do mine. 


Hence, instead of praying for what we want directly - we must pray to attain the ability to truly want to get rid of a sin or craving. We must pray for Hashem to help us to do our work properly and quickly, such that then He can save us! We aren’t asking to be rid of our part, and our work on ourselves – only that Hashem should help us with that work, and to succeed in that work. 
Furthermore, when we tell Hashem “You must save me, we must bring receipts. There is no better receipt than a person's habituation to doing the work of the will at a set time every day. That constitutes the proof that he has true will. Now when he asks to obtain a strong and mighty will to overcome that Evil Inclination in whatever form, that is a request that is reasonable and pleasing. 
Victory: the Only Acceptable Option 


In summary, when we want to do the work of the will in a complete fashion and attain a salvation, we must use visualization to attain a deep and vivid sense of the danger. Only when we are aware of this truth can we truly cry out to Hashem with all our might. Until we reach that point, all of our prayers should primarily be a request to attain the strong and forceful will that leads to a true outcry. 

We must recognize how much our well-being in this world and the next depend on making behavioral and character changes. When we attain this clarity, stagnation and complacency become completely unacceptable. 


When one views this as a life-and-death struggle, there is no acceptable alternative to victory. This victory can only come through strong will and steel-like determination.