Rabbi Lazer Brody
A baal tshuva – or any other person with aspirations – needs two primary spiritual resources: Belief in Hashem, and belief in oneself. With Hashem’s loving grace, we speak and write extensively about the former, but from we see and hear all the time from lovely individuals who torment themselves mercilessly, let’s talk about the latter.
Without belief in yourself, you can’t be happy.
What is “belief in myself”? Here are the basic seven parameters:
1. Hashem created me, as He did every other creature, with a unique trait of my own that no one else has, just as my fingerprints are unique; there is no exception to this rule.
2. The particular attribute, skill, or talent that Hashem instills in me enables me to accomplish my own very special mission on earth.
3. I can accomplish my mission on earth.
4. Hashem loves me, for He has no other child like me.
5. I am a person of worth.
6. I have the power to improve myself.
7. I can be happy.
If you're unhappy with your lot in life, chances are that you haven't yet tapped your own rich resources, and therefore are not yet fulfilling your own distinctive mission. If you have the talent to develop a cure for cancer, you won't be happy as a cashier in a drugstore. If The Almighty gave you a brilliant mind, you're wasting your potential wallowing in front of a television screen.
Imagine that Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, both blind from birth, had dreamed of being fighter pilots; their lives would have been a nightmare of frustration. Instead, they each developed their superb musical talents to bring joy to millions of people.
By strengthening your personal relationship with Hashem and doing an hour of daily personal prayer and self-assessment you’ll not only get to know yourself but Hashem will help you get to know yourself by illuminating your way and helping you find your designated path in life.
Please stop tormenting yourself and being so critical of yourself. It brings you down. Many people in the Torah world have a sorely mistaken concept about anava, or modesty. Hashem doesn't expect you to walk around telling everyone that you're gornisht, a piece of nothing. Those who do so, even if they are sincerely trying to rid themselves of arrogance – end up believing that they really are nothing. That's wrong. A soldier must know his capabilities in order to effectively utilize the weapons at his disposal. An F-15 pilot must be perfectly aware that the government has entrusted $60 million sophisticated airborne arsenal in his hands, including an array of ultra high-tech weaponry in order to get his job done. He can't say, "I'm a weak nothing," or else he'll be endangering the security of his country, wasting potential, and losing the war.
We have to fight a battle for every ounce of Emuna and Judaism. The Yetzer Hara – the Evil Inclination - has an array of weapons and forces at his disposal, to deter and discourage a person from making Teshuva or from finding his or her happiness and true path in life. The Yetzer aims to break the heart of a person who's trying to effectively become a spiritual, Torah-observant person with a strong individual relationship with Hashem. Like the pilot or the commando, you must believe in yourself to win. Once you do, you'll be able to wipe the floor with the Yetzer.
We are all called sons and daughters of Hashem, not because of our physical attributes, but by virtue of our neshamas – our souls, that tiny spark of G-dliness within each one of us. In effect, every Jew is walking around with a spiritual microchip in his or her brain, far more powerful that any nuclear reactor. This spiritual microchip – our divine soul – enables us to transcend nature and to perform superhuman feats. For example, a tzaddik that never speaks Loshon Hora possesses tremendous power that can literally change the course of nature; that's why people seek the blessings of a tzaddik.
No matter where you come from, you can achieve greatness if you believe in yourself. You must believe that Hashem listens to all your prayers, loves when you talk to Him in personal prayer, and gets tremendous satisfaction from your Torah learning (no matter whatever level you're currently holding). You must believe that Hashem derives untold nachas – gratification - from your mitzvas and mitzvah observance.
If you’re a Baal Teshuva, don’t let anyone give you the feeling that you’re a second-class citizen. You must believe that you are capable of using all the useful lessons you learned in the outside world (athletics, military, university, etc.) and apply them to Torah. You must believe that you have the tools for unlimited spiritual growth, for influencing others, and for making significant contributions to the Jewish people. You must believe that you are capable of being both a tzaddik and a scholar, and that your service of Hashem can and will move the earth.
I believe in you, cherished brother and sister – I hope that you'll start believing in yourself. That will hasten the day when we can go up to a rebuilt Jerusalem and greet Moshiach Tzidkenu together, soon, amen.