Your Unshakable Essence
Are you indecisive? Do you vacillate? Are there important decisions in your
life that you are postponing – and with very good excuses which you may rationalize
None of us are immune from inertia. As mere mortals we have our different
fears and insecurities. Mood swings and circumstances don’t help. Often, life’s
overbearing pressures simply wear us down, leaving us with little strength
to break out of patterns and “make a move.” The silent, lethargic power of
habit should never be underestimated.
And even when you finally make a “decision” to move, how often does that
decision turn into an extended process that, years later, still awaits resolution?
It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s quite another to maintain and implement
As we dig deeper into the psyche, this weakness exposes a more fundamental
human flaw: Do we have unwavering identities, or are we products of the changing
winds around us?
The only thing consistent about me, a friend jokes, is that I am inconsistent.
Or as another poet put it, the only thing we knew for sure about Johnny was
that his name was not Johnny.
And finally, this brings us, no doubt, to the biggest issue of all: Commitment.
Are we able to remain committed – and when I say committed, I mean real, unconditional,
commitment – to someone, to a cause, to ourselves, to anything? Is there anything
that you are absolutely certain of? Or are we doomed to limited and conditional
relationships, which change like the weather, or a bit less often?
Justified or not, human beings are creatures of change and instruments of
habit. No matter how much we seem to try, our past haunts our future, and
even when we resolve to chart a new course and establish a true commitment,
the ever-changing human vacillator constantly shifts like a ticking clock.
That’s why we humans have created the pressures of deadlines and cut-off
points, to force us to act and arrive at a resolution.
Now, you may be wondering: Who really cares if I don’t have a solid connection
and absolute commitment in my life? Moreover, I am unconditionally committed
to myself, to making money and satisfying my needs. Beyond that, what else
Yet, there is a nagging voice inside each of us that doesn’t quite feel comfortable
with that last statement. (Not to mention, that commitment to one’s need is
hardly absolute; it changes in direct proportion to the immediate need).
First of all, there is love – the need to give and receive love. Is there
anyone out there that actually feels that it’s quite alright if our mothers
and fathers loved us conditionally? Is there a child on this earth that does
not deserve to be nurtured and cared for, with no strings attached and no
limits? And can we honestly say that when we are deprived of such absolute
love, we will not be dramatically affected for the rest of our lives?
Every building must have a solid foundation to stand upon. How much more
so the fragile human being, who is subject to the emotional forces of life
(our own shifting emotions and those of others)? If our foundation totters,
the entire structure is at risk.
Giving love, like receiving it, also demands an element of unwavering commitment.
True love is not about taking, but about giving. A mother that stays awake
all night with her child in pain does so not because the child cares for her
and, therefore, it’s “worth the investment.” Love is unconditional, absolute
Then there is the matter of transcendence. We all, some more often than others,
have ideals and dreams that we absolutely believe in. Even if some of don’t
feel it, we identify with the concept – and the idea resonates with us. We
also admire those non-conformists, who did not take no for an answer, and
stayed with their dreams, and innovated – and changed the world in the process.
Where does such certainty come from? And can we all access it?
The answer is given to us in – what may seem to some, a surprising place
– a Chassidic discourse, studied by many people during this time of year.
Fifty eight years ago today (the 10th day of the Hebrew month
of Shevat 1950) my mentor’s mentor (Rebbe’s Rebbe) ascended on high. His name:
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth Chabad Rebbe. The last publication
printed in his lifetime was a Chassidic discourse issued for study that very
day. The discourse, titled Basi L’Gani, Come to my Garden (a verse in Song
of Songs), consists of twenty chapters.
When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
assumed leadership of the movement, he began his first discourse with the
same verse, and elucidated on the original discourse. Every year hence, on
this day, Yud Shevat, the Rebbe would focus, in consecutive order, on another
one of the twenty chapters of the discourse, in 1952 – chapter two, 1953 –
chapter three, concluding with chapter twenty in 1970. Then he began the order
again. Based on this cycle, this year, 2008 (5768), corresponds to the 18th
chapter of Basi L’Gani.
What is the theme of chapter eighteen? You guessed it: Unwavering fortitude
and commitment in face of the ever-changing human personality.
Esoteric in tone, this chapter, when deciphered, is as practical and relevant
as any message you will ever hear.
Briefly, the chapter discusses two states of Divine energy. Sometimes we
find that G-d has, so to speak, a “change of mind,” as when “G-d regretted
that He had made man on earth, I will obliterate humanity” (Genesis 6:5-6),
and then again, “G-d smelled the appeasing fragrance, and G-d said… ‘I will
never again strike down all life as I have just done’” (8:21). Seemingly contradicting
this is another verse: “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie nor change
His mind, for He is not a man that He should change His mind” (Samuel I 15:29).
Explains the Rebbe: As the Divine manifests in the “image of man” and the
structure of existence, there are changes corresponding to the shifting forces
in existence. But the Essence of the Divine is beyond this structure. This
level is unwavering and absolute, unaffected by any change.
The human soul too contains both these dimensions: Areas in life where one
is affected by and undergoes constant changes. But then at the core of your
soul, we have an unwavering power to overcome every challenge.
The soul accesses this absolute power through the battle against the adversarial
forces of life. When we fight to live virtuous lives in a corrupt world, when
we stand up for justice and morality, when we combat selfishness, our own
or others, this battle evokes the deepest Divine, spiritual resources.
As demonstrated with the example of an actual war: When a leader is threatened
and goes to battle, the drive of victory causes him to open up all his most
precious treasures and resources, ones that have never before been seen, in
order to overcome every challenge.
The challenges of life, thus, become catalysts that detonate the deepest
resources within us and within the Divine. The greater the adversary, the
more powerful are the forces of certainty we awaken and the more determined
we are to succeed.
Complacency is the root of much uncertainty. By contrast, when we feel that
our spiritual identity is threatened and we fear betraying our own highest
aspirations, this stimulates new energies and will power, which access the
unshakeable core of the soul rooted in the unwavering Essence of the Divine.
There is no greater gift than the gift of certainty: The absolute conviction
of knowing that you are precious and indispensable; that you are on a mission
championing a cause; that the place and time in which you find yourself is
exactly where you belong; and that you have the power to make your unique
mark on the universe.
So the secret to access inner strength and resolve is by looking at our own
doubts and procrastination as an “enemy.” Define the enemy and then muster
up all your inner strengths to go into battle. Your inner soul, fed by the
indomitable Divine, will carry you.
May this be the only battles we ever fight.