The Answer Within

Shmulik Fogelman, Worcester, Massachusetts 
Essays 2018

How to deal with life’s decisions, dilemmas and challenges!

Based on the concepts explained in Chassidus on: “Bishvili Nivro Hooilom”, MeHashem Mitzadei Gever Kononu” & “Teves – Choidesh SheHaguf Neheneh Min HaGuf”.

We often come across different dilemmas in life. We find ourselves needing to make big decisions. At times, it may be regarding choosing the right career, the right Shidduch (finding a life partner), style of education, how to raise our children, amongst many other choices we need to make. How do we know the correct answer to our quests? How do I ensure I am making the right choice that will lead me on a successful path carved out for my designated mission in life?

The Mishna in Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishna 5 states: “Man was first created as one person… Man is a whole world… Therefore, every person must say: “For my sake, the world was created”.

This Mishna tells us, the reason why G-d first created the first human being, Adam, to be alone in the world is to teach all generations to come a great lesson. Every human being is created with a special and unique mission set out just for him to accomplish. The world was created in a certain sense just for him to be able to fulfill his duties in this world.

(This goes without saying that one also has to realize that one is part of a wider creation, with myriad creatures and therefore one can not disregard the rest of the creations). (1)

Once one has realized that each one of us was created with an individualized mission and an individualized path in this world, we have to embrace it, deal with its challenges and succeed in reaching its goals.

There is a famous teaching from Rabbi Zusya from Anipoli that goes as follows: “After 120 years, when I will stand in front of the Heavenly Court, I will be asked: “Why wasn’t I Zusya? And I will not be asked: Why wasn’t I like the righteous men of the earth?” (2)

After you internalize this concept, you then ask yourself; Now what? Where do I start from? Where do I go from here?

King David writes in Psalms, chapter 37, verse 23: “The footsteps of man are directed from G-d”. G-d places you where you need to be able to fulfill your mission. Now its your task to execute your mission in that place! (3)

So now that you know that you are where you are destined to be, (at the moment you are there, as this can change throughout your life), with the capabilities and character traits you have, because that is where G-d placed you to do what you need to do, the next question arises. How do I know what my mission is? How do I know which choices I should be making?

In Meguilat Esther, chapter 2, verse 16 it is written: “And Esther was taken to King Achashverosh, into his place, in the tenth month which is the month of Teves (in the Jewish calendar)”. The Talmud, Tractate Meguilah, page 13a explains this verse as follows. Being that the month of Teves is a cold winter month, one’s body derives more pleasure from another one’s body because of the warmth the body generates. Rashi explains here that G-d arranged for Esther to be brought into the king’s chamber during this cold winter month so that King Achashverosh will be more likely to desire Ester. She will then be chosen as Queen, and will be in a position to save the Jews from Haman’s plot.

The antidote for a cold body temperature, is bodily warmth. The warmth of the body is by default the most pleasurable warmth. G-d created His world in this manner. The antidote to everything lies within the thing itself. For example, the cure to venom is found within the venom itself.

We derive from this concept, an amazing lesson and source of guidance in our lives. When you are faced with a challenge and we are in a state of dilemma, not knowing which way to turn, or what choices to make, the answers lie within yourself. Within the situation you find yourself in, G-d made sure to place the solution and answers to all your questions. You have to put yourself to it in order to figure it out. (4)

King Solomon writes about this concept beautifully in Proverbs, Chapter 14, verse 4. He writes: “A rich harvest comes through the strength of the ox.” Which means that the growth of rich harvest will depend on the strength of the ox working the field.

Your life’s dilemmas and challenges are uniquely yours to figure, override and triumphantly overcome.

There’s a famous story I once read about a certain fellow from Maryland who was facing a number of dilemmas in his personal life. In addition to all these dilemmas, he had his own questions of faith and trust in G-d, as well as some philosophical questions. He was in a state of uncertainty. All these questions had him depressed, and he was unsure what to do or where to go. He spoke to various close friends, and one of them — a Chabad Chossid— suggested that he visit the Rebbe. And so it was that he called the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s secretary answered the phone in English, with a simple, “Hello, who’s this?” Now as he was talking to the secretary, in the background — he recognized the voice of the Rebbe asking in Yiddish, “Who’s calling?” He replied, “A Yid fun Maryland— A Jew from Maryland.” He told the secretary that he has many questions which he would like to discuss with the Rebbe — questions about what direction his life should take, questions regarding his career, questions of faith… he explained that he was at a very uncertain stage in his life and he didn’t know where to turn. He spoke in English and, as he was talking, the Rebbe’s secretary was repeating and paraphrasing his words in Yiddish — so that the Rebbe should hear. And then he heard the Rebbe say in the background, in Yiddish: “Tell him that there is a Jew who lives in Maryland that he can speak to. Der yid hayst Veinreb— his name is Weinreb.” So he replied, “But my name is Weinreb!” And then he heard the Rebbe say, “Oib azoi, zol er visen zayn az amol darf men reden tzu zich — If that’s the case, then he should know that, sometimes, one needs to speak to himself”. (5)

However, you can not fully rely on yourself. (6) You need to discuss your thoughts with an objective party, be it a family member, friend or a  mentor. Those people will give you an experienced outlook or a more professional view. (7)

But the bottom line is, the last word and decision will be yours, based on your place, time, circumstance and character traits G-d created you with. For this is the purpose of the creation of the world, as the above-mentioned Mishna states: “For my sake the world was created.”

(1) Likutei Sichot Vol. 5 Pg. 293
(2) Likutei Sichot Vol. 21 Pg. 247
(3) Hayom Yom 10 Tamuz
(4) Likutei Sichot Vol. 15 Pg. 382 – 6
(5) – A Jew from Maryland
(6) Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin Pg. 9b
(7) Pirkei Avot Ch. 1 Mishna 6