Friday, January 27, 2017

Fixing Doubt

By Bilvavi

Amalek has the same gematria (numerical value in Hebrew) as the word “safek”, doubt, as is well-known. Amalek represents an evil force in Creation that can induce doubts into the Jewish people. But for every force that is evil, there is something else equally powerful on the side of good that can oppose it. Therefore, we can find holy doubts as well.

There is a statement in the sefarim hakedoshim, “There is no happiness like the clarification of doubts.” Doubts are the antithesis to being happy; it creates a situation of misery. When doubts cause us to be sad, then doubt is evil; such doubts are coming from the Evil Side of Impurity, making a person confused and tangled up in his doubts, resulting in a state of misery.

However, there is holy doubt as well, and this is when a person realizes: “From where is the doubt coming from? Is the doubt simply coming from my own self – or maybe Hashem put the doubt in my heart, and He wants me to have this doubt?”

When this is our attitude toward our doubts, then we transform the doubt into an increase of our Emunah. We realize that the doubt was really coming from our own Emunah – to believe that the Creator placed the doubt in our mind and heart; that it is Hashem’s very will that I should have the doubt. And since it is Hashem’s will that I should be feeling this doubt, I’m happy to be in doubt! After all, it is Hashem’s will from me right now to be in doubt.

This is how our doubts become holy – when they cause us to be happier, as opposed to becoming sad, chas v’shalom.

What is holding back people from feeling happy when they are in doubt about something? It is because people usually think that doubts are always a bad thing. People think that nothing good can be said about a situation in which a person has no idea what to do.

But this is erroneous; when we feel ourselves in doubt, it is an opportunity for us to realize that the doubt came from Hashem. The ensuing happiness we will feel after realizing this is an obvious gain.

When people find themselves in doubt, it causes inner anxiety: “I can’t decide…” or “I don’t know enough…” , and this is usually viewed as a sign of weakness. This causes us to become frustrated when we have doubts. The proper attitude we are supposed to have is to change his perspective about this, realizing that Hashem placed the doubt in his mind.

However, even upon realizing this, a person has to also think the following: “Why indeed did Hashem place this doubt in me? Of what gain is it to me?”

The answer is as follows.

The world was created from nothing - yeish m’ayin, “something from nothing.” The world will eventually return to the original ayin\nothingness, and this is the goal. It is the Jewish people who are able to bring the world to its goal, which is to return it to “nothingness” as it used to be. This “nothingness”, ayin, is essentially the future integration with Hashem, in which all Creations will return to their root, Hashem. Ayin is thus the holy root of Creation, and Creation will eventually return to this root – the holy Ayin.

However, everything good has something else equally evil to counter it. What is the evil ayin in Creation? This is the evil force of Amalek. Amalek also wants to bring the world to ayin, but its plan is destruction – an unholy kind of “ayin”. For this very reason, Amalek’s whole desire is to destroy the Jewish people. It wants to turn us away from holy ayin (the path toward integrating with Hashem) and instead turn us towards unholy ayin: the Evil Side of Impurity, destruction.

Amalek is thus the evil kind of ayin. It seeks destruction. To bring out this concept more, the lowliest sin in Creation is the sin of homosexuality, which the city of Sodom was rampant with. Sodom was a city that earned its own self-destruction – and the depth behind this was because they were full of homosexuality. What is the depth behind homosexuality? It’s really a kind of self-destruction, because it is a union that does not produce children. This is reminiscent to Amalek – the evil force in Creation that seeks to cause a person a self-destruction.

On a deeper note, a person who is confident in something can bear results. It is written, “The victory of Israel does not lie” (Shmuel I: 15:29). The Jewish people have an ability to be victorious – to fight confidently. We also allude to this power when we say in the piyut (liturgy) of Rosh HaShanahah, “HaVadai Shemo” – “He Who is Definite In His Name.”

But when a person is in doubt, he becomes too frozen to act, and his doubts hold him back from making any progress. When a person is confident, he will fight and do whatever it takes to get to his goal; but when a person is in doubt, he loses his power to fight. This is really the force of Amalek, an evil force in Creation that induces doubt into people, causing people to discontinue from their progress and to cause a person to have a self-destruction.

When Amalek attacked the Jewish people, the possuk says that the Jewish people questioned: “Is Hashem among us?” The depth behind this matter was that they were at the level of crossing over from material existence (Yeish) and enter the sublime existence – Ayin; that was precisely why Amalek came, for Amalek represents impurity, the unholy kind of ayin, and they wanted to prevent us from reaching holy Ayin.

Holy doubt is essentially when a person nullifies himself, when he comes to feel that he is nothing. In this way, a person can enter the holy kind of Ayin. When a person recognizes his human lowliness – but in a joyous way, from an understanding that it is Hashem’s will that he should feel like he is nothing and incapable – that itself nullifies a person to his Creator, and he essentially reaches Ayin. This is also known as hiskalelus – integrating with Hashem. It is accessed through nullifying ourselves, which is when we use our doubts for this holy purpose. In this way, our doubts become holy.

Just as Amalek, who induces evil doubts, is the root of all evil – so is it true about the converse side: using our doubts for holiness become a tool that enables a person to reach the absolute perfection and integrate with Hashem.

The Way To Deal With Our Doubts and Fears

Amalek is the evil force of doubt in Creation. It has the evil power to get us to doubt anything. The only thing we cannot ever really doubt is Hashem, because Amalek can only get us to doubt everything within Creation, but Hashem is above the bounds of Creation, and therefore Amalek’s doubt cannot reach there.

We explained before that the way to counter Amalek’s evil is through being happy when we are in doubt, with the understanding that it is Hashem’s will that we should be in doubt.

Since this is so, a person has to come to a point in which he really feels in doubt about everything – yet still be happy, in spite of all the doubts. If a person achieves this, he fixes the evil of Amalek in its entirety.

As long as a person doesn’t feel 100% doubtful about everything in Creation, he cannot come to totally fix the evil of Amalek. This is a very deep point.

It seems to us that we shouldn’t be in doubt, and that we have to know everything and be sure of everything. But it’s really the opposite. We are supposed to be in doubt – in fact, we should feel in doubt about everything we know of. And we are supposed to be happy with all of these doubts. That is the complete way of how we stop the entire evil of Amalek.

All of life is really full of doubts; we must always be afraid that maybe we aren’t acting properly. How indeed can we solve all these fears? The way is realize that all doubts and all fears come from Hashem. That is exactly how we fix our doubts, and our fears: “It is Hashem’s will that I should be in doubt or to be afraid.” With this realization, our doubts and fears will actually cause us happiness.

This is a great fundamental: that as we become afraid, we should be happy at the same time. We are supposed to always be afraid that maybe we are not acting properly, but we must also be happy at the same time that Hashem wants us to have fear. This is a very deep power in our soul.

Before the Torah was given, there we no mitzvos yet. It was one big situation of doubt, because nothing was clear yet. Before the Torah was given, each Jew’s avodah was simply to serve Hashem in his own way and give Him a nachas ruach (satisfaction), and each person had his own intellectual and soul understanding in how to serve Hashem. Except for the fact that everyone had to keep the 7 Noachide Laws, each person served Hashem in his own way; each person was in doubt about how to serve Hashem.

But after the Torah was given, this period of doubt came to an end, and now the 613 mitzvos told us how to act. (Although there are still doubts, as well as many arguments abound on what the Torah says, still, the giving of the Torah gave us all a definite guide for life). The Torah was actually a power that came from above the bounds of Creation. In Creation, there are doubts – the evil force of Amalek. But the Torah, with its mitzvos, revealed a wisdom that came from above Creation, above all doubts – that is the great power of Torah. It comes from above.

Understand this well….

Fear and Faith At Once

Everything in Creation is made up of an outer layer and an inner layer. The inner layer of each thing is the power of ahavah\love, (or chessed\kindness). The outer layer of each thing is the power of yirah\awe (or din\judgment, or pachad\fear). A person needs to take this understanding into his daily living, as follows.

Let’s say a person merits to receive something from another person. He has just witnessed an act of love and kindness – and he needs feel Hashem’s love through the act as well. By feeling Hashem’s love for us in the love and kindness we receive from others, we are feeling the inner layer of the kindness: its source of love and kindness that it comes from – Hashem.

However, at the same time, there must be an accompanying feeling of fear: maybe we are receiving our reward on this world, only to get punished in the next, just as Hashem deals with the wicked? This is the outer layer of what we must feel in something we receive: awe and dread.

We should mainly feel Hashem’s love and kindness in a favor we receive from someone, but at the same time, we should also feel a little of this fear. Since the inner layer of the act is Hashem’s loving-kindness, that is what we should mainly feel; but it should be accompanied with a little fear, as we said.

However, that is only true when we experience an act of kindness. If we experience something scary, we must react differently: we should first feel afraid of Hashem, because now He is acting with us with middas hadin (the attribute of justice). We must first accept this. Together with this, we also need to remind ourselves that everything Hashem does is out of His love for us, a total kindness. We need to feel Hashem’s love for us – precisely through this scary experience. This is the inner layer of the act – the love and kindness of Hashem which we can reveal through it.

There is a deep point here which needs to be understood. When we ever feel afraid of something, it must not come from a natural feeling of fear. Our natural fears that we are born with need to be removed through increasing our Emunah. After all, “Everything Hashem does is for the good.” (Berachos 60b). Thus, there is no justified reason to ever be worried, because everything Hashem does is out of His total love for us.

Rather, we are supposed to feel a different kind of fear when we go through a scary experience: that Hashem placed the fear in me, and this is His will. If Hashem is acting towards me with the middas hadin, then it must be that this is His ratzon right now, and therefore He wants me to be afraid.

By reacting like this to a fearful situation, a person uses fear as a way to reveal the will of Hashem through the act, and he is able to feel, “Hashem wants right now that I should be afraid.”

This is a deep and subtle point, and it needs a lot of internal understanding (avanta d’liba\”heart understanding). It is to be able to feel Hashem’s love for us even when we have pain or suffering – to feel that even this is good; and at the same time, for us to be afraid of Hashem that He is acting towards us with the middas hadin, and thus He wants us to be afraid.