Feeling No Pain
We are a generation that is quite adept at deadening life’s pains in a variety of creative ways - from popping pills to pursuing seductive pleasures. We reason that all our troubles will just go away with just a bit more alcohol, a few more puffs of marijuana, more online shopping, another vacation, or another Botox injection. We close our eyes to reality and open them instead to mind-numbing entertainment - from TikTok to Netflix to social media. We have become so good at distracting and fooling ourselves that some of us even convince ourselves that we love our lives even while everything is crumbling around us. But if we really loved our life, would we be running away from it?
What people mistake for “love” is the need for certainty. Change can be so terrifying that instead of facing life with open eyes and courage, we pretend things are ok by dulling our senses in a variety of ways. We keep hoping that our denial will prevent things from crashing in on us. But hope, my friends, is not a strategy.
We just don't want change and will avoid it by any means. But we are not born to stagnate, as we know even standing water breeds bacteria or fungi. We mustn’t let our comfort zones paralyze us; always keep moving—there’s always room to grow in our service and commitment to G-d, our community, and in all aspects of our lives. In fact, the first Commandment to man is to be fruitful and multiply -- not only by having offspring but by being productive, ever-changing, ever-refined conduits for Divine light. We are not supposed to go with the flow…. but grow with the flow. And for true growth, we often have to resist the flow.
When the lives we build seem to be crashing in on us, we should not be reaching for the vodka or the TV remote control, but rather asking, “What is G-d trying to tell us?” In fact, all of life is a conversation with G-d - not just with our mouths but with our entire beings.
We are antennas, and the only way we can pick up G-d’s frequency is by keeping His Torah. If we move the dial and step out of frequency with His will, our reality becomes filled with chaotic static.
Look at what is going on in Israel now. G-d didn't give us Israel so we can run to the beach and turn it into a secular playground. We have the State of Israel in order to serve G-d, and if we will corrupt the land with our misbehaviors, it will vomit us out. G-d's words not mine. If we are not united in a common vision with all eyes on G-d, we risk becoming irreparably fractured, sadly tearing ourselves apart, doing to ourselves what our enemies couldn't accomplish." United we stand, divided we fall, but we have to be united in keeping G-d's Torah. When we've tried to do otherwise through history, it did not work well for us.
The only way to better our world and our lives, to bring peace to Israel among Jews themselves, is to return to Hashem. We know that because He told us, and G-d is not a liar. “And it will be if you obey the L-rd, your G-d, to observe to fulfill all His commandments which I command you this day, the L-rd, your G-d, will place you supreme above all the nations of the earth…And all these blessings will come upon you and cleave to you.…” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
In this week’s Torah reading of Devarim, Moses reminds the Israelites of their errors throughout their 40 years in the desert. As Moses recaps their journey, we twice read how G-d told the Jews that it was time to move on: “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain,” and then, “You have circled this mountain long enough.”
These are not merely prompts to command the Jews to travel towards the Holy Land. They are rather messages to continually remind us to stop being comfortable with what we’re doing and who we are. We must keep moving, keep becoming, and never glorify any one spot physically or spiritually.
In Judaism, we believe that if one changes one’s place, one changes one’s fortunes. On a simple level, this refers to a change of physical location. On a more profound echelon, it means continually shaking up our spiritual realities. If we continually improve ourselves as people and as Jews, we will never walk in the same place twice but rather transform ourselves and the space we occupy. After all, we were not mandated to go silently into that good night, but rather to light the way.