Saturday, April 1, 2017

Feelings Shmeelings - How Feelings Destroy The World

A close chossid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R' Shalom Hecht Shlita, related that many years back he asked the Rebbe how he was feeling. The Rebbe answered that it doesn't matter!! 

One who lives the Chasidic idea of bittul doesn't live his life based on "feelings". The Reb Shalom switched the phraseology and said "voos machst do" [approximately "How are you doing"] and the Rebbe said "BARUCH HASHEM"!!

This is a HUUUUGE idea. 

Many people in our world live their lives based on feelings. 


1] People who have unholy attractions decide that it is proper to act out on them because they have "feelings" [for members of the same gender etc.]. The Torah's [i.e. G-d's] insistence that it is an abomination is of no relevance to such people. I am attracted to men, they say, so how can G-d tell me not to act out on my feelings??!

2] People are married and don't "feel" like fulfilling their spousal obligations. 

3] People who don't "feel" like learning or davening etc.

4] People who are in bad mood so they don't "feel" like being nice and friendly.

5] People who don't "feel" like denying themselves unhealthy food or other harmful pleasures because they "feel" like enjoying themselves. 

6] Feminism - They "feel" left out. They "feel" discriminated against. One can respect those feelings and try to find a way to deal with them in a constructive manner. But this militancy that I often hear, the insistence that we change, edit or twist G-d's word, is unconscionable and scandalous. It is hard to talk to some of these women [and men in that camp - often they are worse] because they are so emotional about it. If one is dealing on a strictly intellectual, rational level then one has to defer to those who understand the sources the best. And NONE of those people are, or have ever been, feminists. The integrity of our Mesorah can only stay intact if we don't allow our "feelings" to determine halacha.

7] You are feeling sad today? OK. But remember, you have a MORAL and religious obligation to be happy. "Moral" because happy people are kinder people. "Religious" because the Torah requires us to be happy at all times. So we have to learn how to overcome our feelings. 

The examples abound and you can add your own.

I have been paying rent now for almost 23 years EVERY MONTH and I haven't missed one yet Baruch Hashem. I don't feel like it anymore. It is a great burden. 

The truth is that IT DOESN'T MATTER how I feel. If I don't want to pay rent, I can live on the street. [I don't plan on taking that avenue...]

I know children who are angry at their parents and cut off contact. There was no abuse. Nothing extreme. The kids are just angry at their parents because, you know, their parents didn't always relate to the children as they had expected. So the kids decided that they weren't their parent's anymore. 

Unbelievable!! That is it? There is no more 5th commandment because you are annoyed at your parent?? They didn't bring you into this world? They didn't feed and dress you [literally and figuratively] THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF TIMES? How does a child, who might "feel" anger towards a parent, cut contact off with parents, deeply hurting them??

Were your parents perfect in raising you? Is anyone perfect? Does a parent lose all of his rights because he was less than perfect [from the child's very limited perspective]?

Feelings shmeelings. There are rules in life and we have to keep them regardless of how we feel. We have obligations to our parents, spouses, siblings, friends, community etc etc.

In my neighborhood there is a very "assertive" tzedaka fund. They put up large signs everywhere reminding everybody that their first obligation is to give to the community. They hand out fliers. They go door to door collecting weekly etc. etc. Many people probably don't "feel" like giving. They want to be left alone. I have a proof. I am one of the gabboim and on those very rare occasions where I miss the people at home they don't come to me to make sure that they gave their weekly donation. They are ALL fine, generous people who give beyond their means but there is a a certain "feeling" that they want their money for themselves and their families. And then the local shuls pressure them to give as well..... 

But in the end they all understand that it doesn't matter how we "feel". Obligations are obligations.

The executive director of a yeshiva told me that he estimates that about 85-90 percent of all graduates don't give back a penny. Why? Maybe because they don't "feel" gratitude. But what about obligations??? A person received - he must give back. 

We are here in this world to do the right thing. To be kind. To be holy. If our feelings draw us in those directions then GREAT!!! But if not - then we do what is right ANYWAY. And with simcha. 

We honor our parents. We bestow endless love, time and care on our spouse. We are patient with our children. We pay our bills. We learn and daven [with a minyan] consistently. We control our desires, thoughts and passions when they are inappropriate. When we get into the habit of doing what is right regardless - the feelings will often follow.    

That all being said - OF COURSE one must serve Hashem with feeling. One must also be compassionate and sensitive to one and all. But feelings are only of value when they trigger and bolster proper behavior.