I was recently given the opportunity to lead a 12-week group on finding hope through spirituality. In my group this past week, I referred to a goal that I have, to become more religious through getting closer to God. I shared a metaphor about a child who wanted to become a concert violinist. To become successful, they needed to go through the steps of learning directions, such as holding the bow and how gentle or hard they needed to move it. In the beginning, many of the sounds were not pleasant and did not sound like music. With time, the child tried hard, overcame their challenges, improved their skills, and eventually became a concert violinist.
My first thought on spirituality always brings me back to Tanya. Tanya was written by the Alter Rebbe (Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi). In the first chapter of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe speaks about the animal soul and the Godly soul. The animal soul is the human side of a person, which attracts a person to the mundane aspects of life, such as eating, drinking, or listening to music. The Godly soul is the drive that a person has to get closer to God. A person can get closer to God through doing good deeds or mitzvos, elevating mundane activities by making them holy.
In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Bechukosai, we read about the blessings and curses that Hashem relayed to Moshe. Hashem said that if we do the commandments, He will award us material prosperity and the ability to dwell securely in our homeland. He also delivered a harsh “rebuke,” warning of the exile, persecution, and other evils that will befall us if we abandon our covenant with Him.
Whether I have a spiritual goal or a material goal I would like to achieve, the dreams come with challenges and a long road where I cannot give up. An example of this is if my goal is to get closer to God, I need to work against the instincts that I have from my animal soul and not give up. An additional example is if I want to become a concert violinist, I need to push through the horrible-sounding “music” to reach the goal. I often desire to give up because the challenge is too hard. Although, I need to stay focused to achieve the projected outcome.
There is always the desire to gain material prosperity and reach our goals, but it is not as simple as it sounds. Hashem said He would award us with fortune if we did the commandments. I believe that this statement was an award to motivate us. He did not say it would be easy, but no goal is ever easy.
Until now, I have only spoken about the challenges with no way to achieve any goals. So, how do we achieve our goals without getting overwhelmed or burned out by the challenges? My solution is to break down the challenges into smaller pieces and only implement what I can handle at that moment. Breaking the goal down would cause me not to need as much constant motivation because I am slowly and steadily increasing my effort as time goes on. For example, starting by praying once a month and then eventually doing it every day. An additional benefit of breaking the goals or challenges down into bite-size pieces is that I am not overwhelmed. I won’t give up as often. I hope that we will all see success in our goals as we elevate the world around us and transform the world.
All the best
Avroham Y Ross