A Stress-free Guarantee
MyLife Essay Contest 2016
Stress is a serious condition. For example, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association, more than one third of American workers experience chronic work stress. The economic toll of this stress amounts to billions of dollars a year in lost work hours and medical bills. Psychologists have come up with many solutions, however they don’t get rid of stress, but rather try to deal with it. On the other hand, Chassidus presents a paradigm shifting approach to life that completely bypasses the need for stress management by eliminating stress at its core!
Yoni is a young married man with two kids who is trying to figure out how to support his family. He feels constantly under pressure which creates tremendous stress. He can’t get a handle on his life; he doesn’t have time to study Torah and always rushes his prayers in order to go to work. He is trying to figure out how to get ahead in life.
This young man is not alone; more than half of working Americans are stressed from work with at least 73% of them dealing with physical and psychological issues. More than $300 billion a year is spent in stress related health care costs. Hours of sleep are lost due to stress, and of course stress kills relationships since people get so caught up with their work that they forget about their friends and family members; they end up treating them as secondary figures in their life, or even worse fighting with them.
Many psychologists have recommended various techniques to deal with stress. Most well-known are:
1) Exercise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial.
2) Vacation. “Switch off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work by taking vacations.
3) Setting Limits. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner.
(It goes without saying that a very bad idea is to deal with stress in unhealthy ways such as by overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol, for that is just replacing one problem with another.)
These might be good ideas, but they all share a troubling premise: work is stressful, but there are techniques to balance it- i.e. stress management. As one business psychologist puts it “Work stress is part of work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming… Stress is part of life, but letting it consume you is not necessary.” So besides the fact that stress management might be very time consuming (e.g. yoga etc.); it doesn’t always help for the moments when you are in the middle of work.
Chassidus introduces a totally different approach to life and work that not only doesn’t require stress management to battle with stress but eliminates stress at its core by helping to create new habits evolving out of new perspectives on work and life
The following Chassidic concepts are discussed at length in numerous places in Chassidus. The following ideas are based primarily on a part of a Chassidic discourse from the Rebbe entitled “ויקהל” – Vayak’hel (5712)1, 2
The Rambam explains the reason that people started serving idols even though they knew about G-D was that they thought of Him as the G-D of gods, for since the sustenance that comes down from G-D passes through a channel of stars and constellations (מזלות) and they channel it to earth, people began serving these stars in order: 1) to thank them 2) to flatter them in order that they should give them more3 (for example – thanking a waiter for a drink even though the drink belongs to the owner, to be polite and maybe he will pour more next time)
But in fact they made a grave error, for since the stars and constellations (מזלות) have no free will, they are but an axe in the hands of a woodchopper, and serving them is acknowledging a supreme being besides G-d, heaven forbid!
Chassidus explains that – in a very refined way – those who place themselves in work more than necessary are making the same error as the people who served the stars. They are both acknowledging and serving a powerless mediator, ignoring the true power and source for success, G-D!
Indeed, the truth is “וּבֵֽרַכְךָ֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּֽעֲשֶֽׂה” (“and the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you shall do”) .4 It’s G-D’s blessing that gives one livelihood not the work; the need to work is just to create a vessel-receptacle for the blessing, and now since all we’re doing with our work, is creating a vessel, it is understood that there is no need to overdo it, for the minimum vessel is more than enough. What is important is to make sure one has G-D’s blessing by doing what he wants which is of course Torah and Mitzvot. (This is besides the fact that since we stand in front of G-D at all times as it is written: “הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא” (“Do I not fill heaven and earth?”)5, how do we dare work in front of the king of all kings?! The answer is that G-D himself gave permission”ששת ימים תעבד” (“six day’s may you work”) 6. But that’s permission to do work for only for what’s necessary. So not only there no need for overworking, it is actually forbidden)
With this, Chassidus goes on to explain the verse “שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֘ תֵּֽעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִֽהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה” (“Six days work shell be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the Lord”) 7 the terminology is precise: not תַּֽעֲשֶֽׂה “Taseh” -you shall work; implying one must be involved in his work but rather תֵּֽעָשֶׂ֣ה “Teaseh” work shall be done, implying that the work that one must do seems to be done on its own – meaning one should not be so overly involved and preoccupied in it. It’s only necessary for ones hands to be involved in ones work but however his mind and heart are locked into Torah and Mitzvot for that is what matters to him and even when one most use his head for business, it’s only for the bare minimum.
And for such a person the day of Shabbat is a day of “complete rest” (שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן – a double portion of rest) for in fact every day he is at “rest” (not being overly involved in work rather just doing what’s necessary) so the day of Shabbat becomes a day of “complicate rest”! Unlike someone who is overly involved and preoccupied in his business that not only he doesn’t get rest during the week (and it obviously disturbs his praying and learning, for one can’t concentrate with thoughts of business pouring in) he can’t even rest on Shabbat for he has no peace of mind!
To summarize: one must realize that his livelihood comes only with G-D’s blessing; working is just a vessel-receptacle for the blessing, so one must work only the bare minimum, and concentrate on important things: Torah and Mitzvot, but overworking (thereby believing that work is the source for your livelihood) is like serving idols G-D forbid! And it is simply foolish as it won’t add in the success of the business.
Here is an example to illustrate the above mentioned: You can have a slick stainless steel frame and it can even have a picture of an apple on it but if there is no computer chips inside of it then it’s not the IPhone, The case with the screen (“working for a living”) is just a tool that reveals the software (“G-D’s blessings”) so that the computer chips shouldn’t be limited to code but rather can be projected into images, messages etc. (=”the blessing shouldn’t stay in the spiritual worlds, rather actually affect the mundane business that we run”)
The blessings come as a result of our Torah and mitzvoth ( It’s not enough to just give a lot of Tzedakah (Charity) for one must have set times to learn Torah too9) Therefore, it pays to invest in Judaism for that is the only broker with a guaranteed return for a gain, but if you side step Judaism, working in your business day and night won’t help… it’s like having a low cost device that looks exactly like the iPhone but really has some cheap Chinese software, To have a good iPhone one must have it with iOS technology).
So back to our problem of work related stress, the stress stems from the wrong perspective that the work is the source for one’s livelihood, therefore making one invest all of his time and energy into it, trying new scheme’s to make more money… and to worry that it all should go well.
But with the Chassidic perspective that the source for one’s livelihood is only G-D and one must work only the bare minimum, why should there be any stress at all?! How can his business distract him from Torah and Mitzvot? For they are the source of success!
Now in Practical Terms
Everyone obviously believes in all of the above, but what’s needed is דעת (Da’at) not just knowing about it but pondering upon it deeply and connecting with it10 After one learns and ponders all of the above it should be implemented in the following way:
Business people: Should first make sure they have set times to Pray (three times a day…) , learn Torah ( at least a little bit in the morning and in the evening…9, 10) ) and only then should they build their work schedule, but making sure not to be overdoing it… and of course they shall give a lot of Tzedakah (charity).
Yeshiva students: Should invest all of their time in studying Torah [and not take off to study secular subjects…] as they shouldn’t feel pressured and stressed about their financial future…, for now they must do what G-D wants- “וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם” (“And you shall teach them to your sons and speak of them…”)12 and He being the one that sustains, will take care of them..13
Our Chassidic perspective that Success is G-D given can also be implemented in any predicament and crisis G-D forbid:
If G-D Forbid someone has medical issues/family issues/legal problems/ social and relationship issues/child-parent relationship issues etc.: should obviously try to the best of their ability to fix the issue by seeking doctors, lawyers, psychologists etc. However, knowing that all is in G-D’s hands, they will make an appropriate vessel by adding in Torah and Mitzvot, and charity – strengthening their firm conviction and trust in G-d, which won’t allow them to worry….
Knowing that all success really only comes from G-d and that overworking, worrying, stress, etc. doesn’t only not help but can be counterproductive; rather one should invest time in learning more Torah and doing Mitzvot, giving charity, as THEY secure G-d’s blessing and thereby insure a stable and even prospered life. Knowing this by constant learning, thinking and pondering about all of the above (as well as many other sources in Chassidus) – will leave a person with new habits (starting in one’s mind and following, hopefully, into one’s actions), then eventually becoming 100% Stress Free – Guaranteed!
1) Sefer Hama’amorim 5711-12, page 240
2) Also printed in Likkutei Sichos vol 1 page 187, (see also page 183)
3) See ביום עשתי עשר יום” – ” BeYom Ashtei-Asar Yom (5731) Printed in Sefer Hama’amorim melukut gimmil, page 97
4) Deuteronomy 15:18
5) Yirmeyahu 23:24
6) Exodus 20:9, Deuteronomy 5:13
7) Exodus 35:2
8) Like it’s written in the Torah: “if you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them …I will give your rains in their time…,
9) Shulchan Aruch HaRav hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1, also watch the Rebbe give this advice to a big philanthropist at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPU-pI9UbBI
10) The Rebbe many times encouraged business people to even “steal” time from their work to learn…. (See Sicha Tu B’Shavt 1971)
11) See Sefer Hama’amorim 5711-12, page 28-29
12) Deuteronomy 6:4
13) Likkutei Sichos 1 page 112