(Torah Portion Va’eschanan) Will Power!
Someone once posed an unusual question to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m.: “I have a friend who gave me permission to speak Lashon Harah – ill speech or gossip – about himself. Am I permitted to talk about things that are derogatory to him?”
Rabbi Feinstein responded, “I don’t understand the question, the law is that one is not even allowed to speak Lashon Harah about themselves!”
We may wonder, “When would one speak despairingly about themselves?” Although in the past this was quite rare, today with the proliferation of social media and instantaneous communication of words and images, many a time, the subject, message, image or scene that is sent does not paint the person who is sending it in a positive light. The Torah, through the sensitive laws of Lashan Harah, precludes one from saying or spreading something that is disparagingly about himself! (Of course we are not talking about where one speaks about himself for constructive purposes, such as therapy.)
Here is a law that looks after, cares about and protects one’s self image!
Over the past eighteen years I have had the opportunity to serve as the Jewish Clergy liaison at Marworth Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Waverly, PA, where I conduct weekly sessions with patients struggling with addiction.
A major component of the 12 step program is the acceptance of a Higher Power. I have seen time and time again that Jews from all types of religious and non-religious backgrounds, have reconnected to G-d and to spirituality in beneficial ways, through their necessity to curb their addiction.
Following and maintaining the concepts of the 12 steps are beneficial to one without an addiction challenge as well. For it facilitates one to take a step back and focus on himself, family, relationships, spirituality and G-d, thereby yielding remarkable and enriching results.
Allow me to share an inspirational thought that I convey to the patients. Generally speaking we consider a spiritual connection to G-d when it involves positive actions, such as praying, believing in G-d, performing good deeds, studying, observing the positive rules and Mitzvos. We also consider it a spiritual connection and boost when we refrain from that which is forbidden. If we were ready to eat, use, or do something forbidden, and then refrain it is a fulfillment of a Mitzvah and we get reward for it.
But how about the entire time while one is in the midst of his internal struggle, while he is besieged with, ‘should I or shouldn’t I,’ and goes through the necessary steps to control and curtail the temptation; does he fulfill a Mitzvah for taking the necessary steps towards recovery?
The answer is yes!
We find in this week’s portion that the Torah commands each of us to watch and protect ourselves from bringing any harm. The process of protecting oneself from doing what is potentially harmful to his being or his soul, is in and of itself an act of spirituality and a fulfillment of a Mitzvah, and we receive reward for it!
Thus, the recovery process and exercising restraints that protect us from physical and spiritual harm are itself a fulfillment of a Mitzvah, and it forges a deep spiritual connection to G-d!
Since the consciousness of one’s internal struggle is only between that person and G-d, we are unable to recognize, grasp or know the enormity of the internal challenges or self control that led others to restrain themselves.
Based on this, we should ask ourselves if we can ever gauge or be judgmental of the level of another’s personal spiritual level.
When we leave judgment to G-d, and gear our focus on the positive and beneficial qualities of ourselves and of others, all the contrary societal forces that are out there, will gradually be eclipsed by the magnificent aura of spirituality and positive energy that we create!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks