a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - January 28, 2001
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Good evening and
welcome to Toward a Meaningful Life. Being as this is
Super Bowl Sunday, I was thinking about the subject of
sports. Nowadays we have the leisure to sit back and relax and
watch a game on television. But in the past, sports was much
more seriousa preparation for war or some other thing.
But there is one thing that did strike me. Whenever
you hear about religion, you always hear the expression religious
fanatics. Yet you say sports fan. I dont
know how many of you know that the word fan is actually
short for the word fanatic. But you never hear anyone
say sports fanatics and religious fans.
Just a comment.
So since everything is by Divine Providence, and
though the Super Bowl doesnt necessarily have any significance
in our lives besides the fact that its entertainment for
millions of people, theres a message in the fact that
so many people are consumed with it, so I think this show should
be dubbed the super meaningful show and well
try to find deeper meaning in life as we always do.
I decided to do a topic that has some connection
to todays event, as youll see. I recall once hearing
a talk that the Lubavitcher Rebbe delivered in 1980, and he
was talking about a sports game (he was discussing soccer, which
is called football in Europe) and he discussed the message and
metaphor it has for our lives.
Essentially, we all have two teams in our lives.
One team is called the Divine side of the personthe holy,
transcendental sideand the other side is the more narcissistic,
indulgent and selfish part of ourselves. The selfless and the
selfish. And theyre in constant battle. The battle is
whos going to bring the ball to the goalline of the other
side. In other words, each is trying to conquer the other persons
This is a fundamental concept in Jewish mysticism
and Chassidic thought: the perpetual battle between good and
evil, between dark and light, and between these two forces in
our lives, which is what life is about.
The Divine side in us employs many strategies
in order to conquer the other side, for the goal is not only
to annihilate but to transform the other territory into something
that becomes a channel for the Divine. On the other hand, the
other side or team is interested in conquering the Divine. And
each of us has that battle.
So we have our little Super Bowl going on in microcosm
in our personal lives, and it takes on many different manifestations.
I want to dedicate this show to one of those manifestations,
which is the issue of developing emotional intimacy, building
trust after theres been loss and pain. Because when it
comes to any battle in our lives, one of the biggest battles
that were fighting is not necessarily with enemies outside
of ourselves, but its with the enemy within.
The enemy within takes on many different shapes:
the shape of fear, the shape of depression, the shape of lack
of trust, both in yourself and others, and it manifests itself
in many different ways.
In my own years of teaching and traveling and
meeting people, I learn more and more how emotionally hurt so
many of us, I would say all of us, are today, in some way.
Its not a surprise because we live in an
existentially lonely world where we essentially are on our own.
If were blessed with healthy parents, theres some
form of nurturing, comfort and confidence thats built
that gives us the tools to be able to go out there and fight
the battle, to fight our Super Bowl.
However, many of us were not given that gift;
it was taken away from us. Because we live in a world where
careers and money and the various distractions always create
some type of insecurity, even for those who had healthy parents.
We live in a very insecure world, and this causes a deep erosion
of our inner security.
So we dont have to look far and hard to
discover our own battle that we have to deal with, and that
battle manifests itself particularly in relationships with others,
because when we dont trust ourselves we definitely do
not trust other people. Or to compensate for that lack of trust,
we overtrust people to the extremewe idolize others, we
create illusions of absolute trust.
There is an interesting parallel of this in the
Torah in that many of its metaphors compare G-d to a relationship,
such as to a spouse or a parent. Now, of course, you cant
apply any anthropomorphic principles and descriptions to G-d,
yet we have these metaphors, and one of the reasons for that
is essentially that we can learn much about our relationship
with G-d from our relationship with other people and vice versa.
From our relationship with G-d we can learn how
to project that onto our relationship with others. For many
people, when you hear concepts like faith in G-d, trust in G-d,
those are very religious terms. But in truth, if you really
think about it, its really about the issue of faith and
trust in general, because if you can develop a faith and trust
in a higher reality and in G-d, it helps a person develop faith
and trust in the people around them. Even though humans are
flawed, whereas G-d is not, nevertheless trust is not based
purely on perfection. I once read an appropriate line: Trust
is based not on perfection but on accountability. That
is critical in the building of trust and the way we develop
emotional intimacy with others and even with ourselves.
So in that context, I want to discuss for a moment,
on a more conceptual and more scholarly level, the concept of
trust and faith in G-d, and love of G-d. You hear those expressions
quite often in religious texts. What does that mean exactly?
G-d clearly is invisible. Can you love or stand in awe of something
thats invisible? How do you have a relationship with something
Its not on our terms. Yet in the Torah there
is clearly an oft-mentioned fundamental mitzvah to love
G-d. Emunah bHashem (faith in G-d), and bitochen
bHashem (trust in G-d), are all different elements
that when applied properly help actualize the human being created
in the Divine image, which is the foundation of Kabbalistic
thought, that we are not separated from the cosmic order. Our
structure, our infrastructure, our psyches, are shaped and formed
in the image of the Divine.
The Divine, essentially, is beyond any image obviously,
but as the Kabbalah explains, the Divine manifested itself in
an image that allows us to access it. So though you cant
say G-d is wise, what you can say is G-d is not not wise.
So we have a relationship with the Divine because
G-d manifested Himself in an image that relates to us and we
can relate to.
That image teaches us how to bridge the two
the human and the Divine. You find in the Torah the concepts
of trust and love, and when you create the parallel to our personal
lives what you find is this: that the development of trust or
faith in G-d essentially is confidence and security that were
not completely on our own. Thats the basis of what trust
is all about.
But one could ask the question, who needs trust
anyway? Why dont we just take care of ourselvesi.e.,
survival of the fittest. Why do we need trust? Because from
childhood on, and even as adults, we are drawn to people we
can trust. It gives us a sense of strength, a sense of confidence,
a sense of security, knowing that even when were weak
at times theres someone to lean on, knowing that there
are people who care for us, knowing that we wont be used,
knowing that we can be vulnerable.
So, in essence, love, trust and faith in G-d are
three different elements. Love, of course, is a close, intimate
relationship. Faith is more of an acceptance of something beyond
ourselves, and trust is a manifestation of that faith in the
sense that you trust that G-d will actually help you in a particular
situation, whether its a crisis or not.
In our own personal relationships, we also need
those three elements. We need love, we need faith and confidence
in the other person, and the trust that theyll be there
for us. Faith is more of a passive state, whereas bitachon,
trust, is more of an active one, where you actually know that
you can depend and rely on G-d, even in circumstances that seem
So looking at our relationship with G-d ultimately
teaches us if we have that confidence. I would make the argument
that if someone does not have confidence, trust, faith, in other
people, they probably dont have it in G-d either, and
vice versa. As Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi says, Love of
other people is an extension of love of G-d because if
you love G-d then you also love what G-d loves, and those are
His creatures, His children, human beings, men and woman that
live with us.
So the issue of trust is really the ability to
reach deeper inside ourselves and not feel embattled or afraid
to be able to look at and say, as Hillel said, Im ain
ani li, mi li, If Im not for myself,
who will be for me (thats one half of it) but to
also have the strength to say the second statement, If
I am only for myself, what am I?
Due to losses, fears, disappointments, and vulnerabilities
in our lives (being exploited, relationships that didnt
work, etc.) we have created a certain type of island to protect
ourselves which erodes our sense of trust.
People who grew up in homes where they could trust
those who loved them and were not disappointed by them on a
consistent basis, are people who have the confidence that they
can trust others as well, because they learned to trust themselves.
It really comes down to trusting a force inside
of us that is deeper and more than just your survival tools.
So in that context you see that G-d and humans have very many
parallels, because in this area, it comes down to the same type
of fears, and on the other hand, the same type of courage and
strengths that are required.
Im laying the groundwork here for the topic,
but tonights subject is how you actually develop emotional
intimacy with another person, particularly after youve
been hurt or in your mind you feel that you could potentially
be hurt. Vulnerability is something that most people are not
comfortable with, and you see that every creature is created
with defensive mechanisms, protective tools. They say that the
porcupine, with its sharp needles, has the softest underbelly
of all creatures. So G-d, in a sense, gave it those needles
to protect its softness and delicateness.
Each of us does need defense mechanisms but the
question is, have we become trapped and are we victims of our
defense mechanisms? Is there a time or place, or a person with
whom we can allow our vulnerabilities to emerge, where we acknowledge
ourselves to be truly intimate and trusting?
In some way I think thats the ultimate,
the epitome of the Super Bowl in our lives, the battle of overcoming
fears and learning how to trust. It doesnt mean trusting
the other team, obviously, because theyre adversarial,
but rather to learn to trust yourself and have the confidence
to be able to go out and fight.
You see that in sports as well as in real life,
that when you go with confidence, it boosts your morale. Any
good coach does this. There was a custom in the old days, when
they would go to war, the soldiers would sing a song of victory
when they went into battle, even before they began the first
battle. People would ask, how could they sing victory songs;
they havent even begun fighting? But it was a sense of
confidence that needed to be infused at the outset.
In the Vietnam War, for example, the soldiers,
the armies, did not know what they were fighting for
and definitely were not confident that they could win, so it
became a demoralized battle.
So battle requires some type of boost and therefore
a confidence and trust in yourself, in your teammates, in the
people around you, your family, and those who can help you fight
the battles of life. G-d should help us that we should have
minimal battles, but each of us has our battles, our territory,
our turf to conquer.
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Jacobson: I think to put things in context,
its wise to begin by discussing what trust is exactly.
We described earlier that its a form of accepting something
beyond yourself and recognizing the need for your own growth
and self-actualization, to be able to have more in your life
than your own little survival space.
Now the question is, are we born innately with
trust? If you look at children, they have a natural trust for
their parents, adults and those around them that love them.
They dont have to acquire that trust. After nine months
of pregnancy where it was completely dependent on its mother,
a newborn child doesnt even have a choice. It cries, it
expects to be fed, nurtured, and taken care of.
We dont really even know what a child is
thinking in the newborn stage, and it may not be consciously
thinking about trust, but its accustomed to receiving
its needs. So trust is developed and established right at the
As the child grows, and there is a conscious sense
of parent, at whatever age this occurs, where a child knows
that it can run to its mother or father, trust is continuously
developed and cultivated further, consistent with what the child
experienced in the womb and what the child experienced in the
early stages outside of the womb.
So trust is really something that we are all entitled
to and should inherently have in a healthy environment. As long
as parents in the early stages continue to provide for their
child in a healthy way, the trust continues to be fed. When
trust is contaminated, when the first disappointment comes (now
none of us remember that first disappointment because it may
have been very subtle and we may have been too young), we only
remember when the disappointments begin to accumulate and they
begin to become a factor, an issue, in our lives.
The first disappointment is when a parent does
not provide something or an expectation is not met. Again, I
dont mean an expectation thats unhealthy, I mean
the natural expectation that a child has from its parents.
Then, of course, the child grows older and begins
to go out into the world, but in the world it doesnt expect
the same type of provisions it expects at home. Nevertheless,
if the child has good friends, family, community, school, and
schoolmates, if theyre healthy, they can continue to feed
Trust is something that needs to be fed and reinforced
throughout our early stages in life. The longer that lasts,
the healthier that child will grow, because as they grow older,
they have an arsenal of trust built up which gives them trust
in themselves. They can begin to pick and choose whom to trust,
because theyve seen what real trust is. By contrast, they
see whom they cannot trust.
And once you grow into an adult, you have the
tools that are essentially fundamental and critical in determining
a spouse, or someone you can trust in business. Obviously mistakes
can be made, but you have the confidence and the fear is not
there to the same extent.
This perfect picture that Im depicting may
not be realistic for most of us, but, as I often say, when you
study art you need to have a backdrop that is as perfect as
it gets, so you can then juxtapose a the actual situation and
compare the two.
So its valuable to look at the situation
at the optimum level and then compare it to your own life. Now
well go to the other extreme where that reinforcement
did not take place, where after leaving its mothers womb,
the child did not feel wanted, or the reinforcement stopped
or never began.
Most of us fall in between these two extremes.
So what happens is, the child, who had a natural
sense of trust and expectation, suddenly deep inside begins
to stop trustingnot trusting others, not trusting itself
because the message became quite clear. All this is happening
on a very unconscious level which makes it so profound; if it
happened consciously then you could always correct it and say,
okay, you cant trust this person but you can trust that
But once the scar is embedded in the childs
psyche, it becomes a very profound scar because its something
that cant even be talked about. The child begins to create
its own way of trusting, or better put, its own way of survival.
A child like that may move around a lot and not
be comfortable in one place for too long. A child like that
may not develop healthy friendships because he or she always
has to be fearful that it wont work. And, of course, a
child like that who grows into an adult is always going to find
it increasingly difficult to trust another person in its life
and have real emotional intimacy.
Now of course this is a deep therapeutic analysis
thats required case by case, but the fact is, understanding
the deeper causes helps us then to look at what the remedy is,
because everything has a remedy.
As a matter of fact, the Talmud says that preceding
any illness is a cure. And thats why doctors and researchers
are completely confident that a cure will be found for any newly
discovered illness. How are they sure? Perhaps some illnesses
wont have a cure? But humans have a certain confidence
that there will be, and that confidence comes because G-d built
it into the system, an immune system, the ability to heal.
Lets take an average situation where a child
has not been completely abandoned but subtle disappointments
have taken place, so you grow into an adult where theres
a certain amount of trust because you had some experiences that
reinforced it, but you also had experiences that undermined
In that type of situation theres at least
some type of rationale thats working, where the person
says, okay now I have to pick and choose. Some of us may be
extremely careful to find the right person to trust because
we are not totally sure of ourselves and others, but there isnt
the same compelling powerful force that, for instance, a child
who has been abandoned has, G-d forbid, where they dont
have any trust at all.
I will try to address both of these issues, but
heres where the key element to this entire picture comes
into play, and thats what I mentioned earlier about G-d.
If we lost complete trust in people around us,
then the question is, what alternative do we have? Do we just
continue living a life of survival and basic distrust, trusting
minimally just for particular needs, for a livelihood, a boss,
for very quick instant gratification, not sticking around for
too long, no long-term commitment? Thats one option, but
Im not going to accept that option here, because thats
resignation and fatalism, where youre a victim of circumstances.
Option two is creating some type of alternative
way of accessing trust. Here there is no choice but to turn
to G-d or what well call the Divine soul. Its recognizing
that beneath or beyond transcending all the experiences you
had at home, transcending all the disappointment, the fact that
youre alive means that theres a purpose, a design.
You have a soul. You may not trust it because your environment
didnt allow you to access that soul, but it is
critical that you recognize your soul as your foundation, your
anchor. Without it you will remain a victim.
Heres where the faith, trust and love in
G-d is so critical in learning how to have faith, trust and
love in other people. Because ultimately anything that is temporaryincluding
our parents, friends, and community, even when they are trustworthy
and they have nurtured usits still temporary quantitatively
and qualitatively relative to what they are able to do.
They are human beings. And if one day they turn against you,
does that mean that suddenly the rug is pulled out from under
you? No, because parents dont give you your soul. What
they do is help create an environment in which you can trust
So the idea of having a soul in this context is
not even a religious issue. Its not religious fanaticism,
its a religious fan because its about
having the confidence that you can do it.
There are football players now playing a game
(the Super Bowl). The fact that they excel at what they do is
because theyve learned through their training, through
their experience and through their raw talent, that they can
do it. Theres an element of experience.
Any trust we have in ourselves is based on two
things: a talent that you recognize and the confidence that
you can access it. There are many people who have talents but
theyre afraid to access them. They dont know whether
they can do it well.
Thats why you need the experience. Both
together create a powerful force that allows anybody to really
have confidence and trust. So what is it in us that we have
to look for to gain confidence? Is it a talent? Those are
not bad, but theyre fundamentally not necessarily going
to create confidence because you see people who are extremely
talented and dont have any confidence. Somebody had to
be there for the persona mentor, a parent, a teacherthat
had to say, youre good at this. Do it.
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that not
only do you have a talent, but you have a soul. You have a purpose.
That purpose manifests itself in your talents and your skills,
and thats yours and yours alone. Without the awareness
of your own power and the experience of actualizing it (using
your soul, to influence or inspire others for instance), those
two things develop the type of confidence that creates trust.
That spills over to how we trust other people as well. So
the element of creating emotional intimacy and trust is very
much connected to our spiritual side.
Now, in a strange way, people who do have trust
in parents, family, and community, may in some ways be more
insecure than those who dont, and Ill show you how
the tables turn after the break.
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Jacobson: Unfortunately, the eclipse of
the sun often teaches us more about sunlight than sunlight does.
The fact that some of us grew up in secure homes may give us
a healthy sense of security, but ultimately the bottom line
fear is that it was given to you by other humans, which means
in a way, that they can take it away.
In a strange, ironic twist, people who did not
have security from the home, or who had it minimally and were
hurt by those who were supposed to love them (which creates
even more distrust than being hurt by a stranger), have a unique
opportunity because for them, the only thing they can turn to
is their soul. They dont have the illusion of depending
on humanshumans who are mercurial, temperamental, and
In a strange way, it may be harder for them to
do so, but when they do, they reach into a much purer place
of trust. That trust comes from the ultimate, absolute confidence
that were here on this earth and that G-d put us here
and that you have a soul.
Im going to discuss more about exactly how
we access that soul, but since I invited phone calls, let me
take one. We have Jeff on the air.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. I was fascinated with
your show, driving home from flying for a few days (I fly for
a living). Im in New Hampshire, and I found your topic
to be basically the story of my life and found myself
you used the word "island," and I think Ive
done a pretty good job of that. Though I have a lot of friends,
intimate relationships have been elusive for the reason youre
describing: a lack of trust and a lack of confidence in myself.
Both of those things have been extremely difficult for me to
overcome, and I have felt stuck for many, many years.
When you said you had some ideas on how to get
out of being stuck, that made me stop and pull over to the side
of the road and give you a call.
Jacobson: I appreciate that. Is this the
first time youre listening to the show?
Caller: Yes sir. I just found you on the
Jacobson: Let me ask you this. How did
you get into flying? Do you think thats connected to your
Caller: I dont know. I have loved
airplanes since I was eight or nine years old and I dont
know where that came from other than I found a real freedom
and peace while Im in the air and its almost
Jacobson: Maybe its flying away from
all the problems down on earth.
Caller: Possibly. Its also a place
where Im in control and I feel like I know what Im
Jacobson: Where in New Hampshire are you?
Caller: A place called Lake Winnipesaukee.
Are you familiar with it?
Jacobson: Not exactly. Im familiar
with a lake, but not that particular lake.
Caller: Did you ever see the movie On
Golden Pond? Part of that was filmed on this lake.
Jacobson: Okay, Im going to answer
the question. Its a great question and of course a key
question for a person who is stuck in a place like that. Of
course I want to say to you Jeff, that each of us has our own
particular situation that is unique and difficult to speak about
case by case on the radio, but you could say this. I think its
critical to use exercises that help a person access the deepest
and innermost self which is the soul. Whether youre a
religious person or not, everybody has a certain purpose of
existence and its critical to access that center of your
life. Without it, theres no way that trust will be built
based on humans, particularly once people have disappointed
us. Then weve given up on people.
So where are we suddenly going to find trust?
Some people do find trust perhaps in a reckless way where they
just give up their entire independence and they just trust someone
absolutely, which is also unhealthy at times.
So wheres a person going to find that type
of trust? You have to discover something new that did not hurt
them. And that new thing is your soul. And that may be through
prayer or through study.
Jeff, if youre still on the line, speak
to the producer and leave your name and number and I can make
some specific recommendations and suggestions in your case.
And Ill soon give more examples. But let me go to the
next call. We have Douglas on the air.
Caller: Hello. How are you? Well, the subject
of which you talk about. I want to ask you if you think trust
emerges from your ability to die freely or to die and/or sacrifice
your life via election, conscious choice with full knowledge?
Is there a relationship between death and trust that cannot
Jacobson: Are you in a particular situation
Caller: I am just thinking about many things.
Im thinking about the greatest act of trust I could think
of offhand when Abraham went up to the mountain and Isaac was
trusting too because he did not resist. So they were both very
complicitous in this. There was tremendous trust and it was
in the face of death, so thats one thing. The other thing
thats on my mind is illness. Theres a member of
my immediate family who is gravely ill. I dont use the
word lightly. Everyones listening and watching the clock.
I think about trust and betrayal.
Jacobson: Thank you for the call. Its
a very good question. I think trust has very much to do with
mortality and health, because one of the contributing factors
to the insecurity of our lives is our mortality, our health,
and all the unexpected elements that can always hit us and strike
us in spontaneous ways. But particularly mortalitymany
thinkers have written that mortality is something that haunts
people, even from a very young age, even though they may not
be conscious of it. The fact is, as the Bechayei, a great medieval
Torah scholar writes, that as soon as a child is born it begins
So mortality begins at the beginning of life.
For many, the fear of death, or better than saying the fear
of conscious death (which doesnt really come until later
on in life or when you really brush a very dangerous situation
or come out of a crisis), we could say the temporariness
of life, where we see people coming and going and we see that
life has an end and a beginning), is one of the biggest contributing
factors to insecurity. That just underscores even more the inherent
insecurity of life, one that that nobody can take away from
you. Even your parents. Healthy, nurturing, trusting people
cannot take away the inherent mortality that we have. And thats
why the immortality of the soul is such a powerful force in
our lives because it creates an eternal anchor.
The fact is, if all of your actions, if every
good deed you do, every price that you pay in your life, disappears
and is eaten by the worms that will eat your body one day, then
how invested can we really be in those actions?
I mean, were invested for the time being,
but it doesnt have eternal, cosmic value. However, when
you recognize that youre here for a purpose, a divine
purpose, and your soul actualizes that and lives on forever
and ever, whether we understand it or not (and our bodies are
not who we are; our bodies are just vehicles for a spiritual
experience), it changes the entire confidence and trust in what
we do. So I think illness, health and death are very big factors.
Lets go to Bernard on the air.
Caller: Hello. Glad to talk to you. This
is a very timely subject for me. Im just going through
a trauma that is totally unbelievable. My wife was admitted
to a hospital seven months ago for a urinary tract infection.
You talk about trust? Weve been betrayed by doctors, by
the medical profession. I got her back. By the time it was all
over, they gave her an aspirated pneumonia which I didnt
realize because the nurse pushed some liquid Tylenol down her
throat. Then she was transferred to a nursing home.
To make a long story short, she was seven months
on a respirator and she just died. My wife died because the
medical profession did not take care of her. Now youre
telling me to trust? If we dont trust our doctors, and
I have very bad experiences with it, who can we really trust,
because we live in an interdependent society. You tell me, I
think this system is totally broken. Im a victim of it.
Not only that, at the end they give you a bill that I have to
pay for their mistakes.
Jacobson: Bernard, I have no words to console
you, obviously, and my feeling about your pain Im sure
I speak on behalf of all the listeners. Its very painful
to hear this. Im not suggesting that you have to trust
doctors who have betrayed you. Thats not the issue at
all. At this point in the game where you are right now, your
outrage is legitimate and Im not suggesting that you swallow
or in any way compromise it. Maybe you have to sue them for
everything theyre worth, as I often suggest here.
Doctors are human beings and especially if they
were negligent and caused you so much pain and anguish, you
should not ignore or overlook that. My heart goes out to you.
All I can say in the larger sense of it is that the key is not
to remain bitter and broken from it, but in some way the memory
of your wife is with you, and frankly, the trust that you need
to have is not in doctors, it needs to be in the immortality
of your wifes soul.
Though shes gone physically, and Im
not minimizing the loss, nevertheless her life was worth it.
You dont want to say that the years she was here with
you were just temporary ones and youre just going through
temporary pain. She lives on forever, and how you dedicate your
life and how you memorialize and commemorate her life is ultimately
the greatest victory.
In no way is what the doctors did forgivable;
nevertheless, you cant continue living purely with anger,
you must do something productive. But I think at this
point, the fact that it just took place, my heart goes out and
right now the shock and the anger is appropriate and I wouldnt
in any way swallow that. But Im just describing in the
bigger picture what it does for you, and I would pursue those
doctors and the medical profession.
A doctor-patient relationship, whether a psychological
or medical doctor, is a sacred trust, perhaps more sacred than
anything, because we put our lives in their hands. Actually,
G-d tells us, I give permission for doctors to heal. But doctors
are human beings, and many of them are arrogant, I mean, there
are many stories of where doctors abused and betrayed that sacred
But in a broader sense, I must say to all the
listeners, each of us is in some way a doctor because there
are people who trust us in particular areas, and we have to
be acutely sensitive not to betray that trust. Particularly
when youre trusted in a certain area, thats where
you have to be most careful. If you stay on the line, Bernard,
I would like to get your name and number and talk to you perhaps
off the air.
Lets go to Baruch from Brooklyn.
Caller: I would like to say maybe you want
to address the role of big cities? People living in big cities
seem to have more of a problem with the topic youve mentioned
as opposed to other areas, or at least thats the stereotype.
Jacobson: Why do you think big cities?
Because there are more people to distrust?
Caller: Well, I would say that in New York
City you have the stereotype of people being ripped off. If
you consider that a marriage is one type of trust, the rate
of singleness is the highest in New York City and
especially in Manhattan. What does that say? Maybe you want
to address that.
I think also an important thing is when were
talking about this topic, theres a saying, A trust
given is a trust earned. I think thats a piece of
wisdom that people say. I think also for example, lets
say somebody is working for the Department of Defense and they
start off and have a certain level of security clearance. After
a while, if they perform well, they get a higher level, and
progressively theyre entrusted with access to more and
more sensitive things.
Jacobson: I understand. Thats a very
good point. Thank you for the call. Well, about big cities,
there are many factors that contribute to fear and insecurity,
lack of trust. I wouldnt put cities on the top of the
list although Im sure its a factor as well, but
one could argue the other way around. In a small town
where you know all the people and their parents, and grandparents
and great-grandparents, sometimes distrust is so deeply embedded
that theres no hope. There are no strangers, theres
no one new there. So it has its own internal politics. Its
almost like cross-breeding and theres no relief. Whereas
in a big city, there are more people, strangers, a certain turnover
that allows for some breathing room. Sometimes when things are
unhealthy in a small town, they remain unhealthy for generations
and generations you have many themes in novels and real
life stories that demonstrate that. Whereas in the big city
theres a sort of recycling.
On the other hand, a big city has a depersonalization
that does not always exist in a smaller town. I really think
it comes down to not whether its a big city or a small
city, but whether there is a healthy community that cultivates
a sense of trust.
To use the Jewish community as a model, one of
the most important things in the Jewish community, if you look
at Jewish history, whenever Jews moved to a city or town, one
of the first few things that they establish is besides the mikveh,
(a ritual bath place, which is important for family structure),
and a synagogue, but also a gmach, a gemillas chassidim,
a freeloan society, where they make sure to provide for the
people who are more needy in the community.
Its part of the infrastructure of every
Jewish community and I think the secular world can learn
much from establishing similar responsibilities in every community.
The United States, thank G-d, is a land of charity and graciousness.
You find so many non-for-profit organizations that do just that.
Sometimes an organization becomes depersonalized as well, but
Im talking about the personal touch, the attitude, of
being able to cultivate trust in the community for those who
may be in need, for orphans, for widows, people who are ill.
You find so many hospitals that are very much
based on Jewish thinking. You find people who visit the sick
every day or give them a gift. These are factors that definitely
contribute to creating that trust.
Going back to the suggestions I was going to make,
the real question is, how does one nourish their soul and develop
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Jacobson: I think the first thing is to
develop a trust within yourself and your soul. How do you do
that? Well, there are no gimmicks and no shortcuts. It comes
down to a commitment thats consistent and absolute. You
see, one of the traps of a distrusting person is that they always
look for panaceas, quick or even long-term solutions that are
going to solve all their problems. And they grab onto them like
a straw in a stormy ocean for hope.
These desperate attempts usually do not result
in long-term security. Perhaps it provides a bunch of short-term
security blankets. Ultimately it comes down to a commitment
to your soul that may be a blind commitment. But thats
exactly what a person with a blind spot in search of
survival may need, a blind commitment to your soul. You have
to designate time every day for studynot just mathematics
or physics, study of the soul. There are books, tapes, classes
that talk about who you are, what your soul is.
Saturating yourself with that information begins
to cultivate a sense of trust in your soul. Its like anything.
With players in the Super Bowl or army soldiers, 90% of their
time is training and some of them never even go to battle.
What is training? You have to get accustomed to doing it.
So with developing trust, you have to get accustomed
to yourself. Its like any research. Theres no way
you can know about something unless you learn about it or read
about it. So its critical that you learn what the soul
looks like, how it functions, how it does not function, what
signals it sends to you, how you nourish it. So study is the
The second thing is prayer. Prayer is more of
an emotional experience. You literally make time, and if you
need to cry as well, to ask, to turn to G-d and say, I need
help, I need to be able to get out of this place. Im not
turning to human beings, Im turning to a higher force.
That type of surrender is a critical element as well.
And finally actions. I mentioned before graciousness
and good deeds, whether its volunteer work with the ill,
widows, orphans, or people who are in pain. Even if youre
in pain and you help another person, it says that G-d answers
you first, so theres a certain empathy that you bring
to the table that someone who does not have that loss cannot.
So for people who have lost trust, perhaps a good
way to work with it is to teach others, because were usually
always good at giving advice to others even though we ourselves
dont always apply that advice. But by helping others in
that situation, theres always going to be an echo, a certain
reciprocal force that will help you as well.
The key is consistency, that all this has to be
done consistently whether you like it or not. If youre
trapped and theres no way that youre going to get
away with comfort zones. Its critical to be consistent
and really do something, make a move.
On the currency of the United States, it says,
In G-d We Trust. They chose the word trust.
Not In G-d We Believe, not In G-d We Depend.
Trust. And that word is key because I dont know what was
the inspiration of the founding fathers or whoever created the
currency, but of all places to put that on money, which is the
most temporary of things, can we trust money? Can we trust people
with money? You know the answer to that. You cant trust
money because money is constantly being spent and earned. Its
not consistent. Its not eternal.
People who have money can be bought and sold.
You see what money does to almost everybody. So onto money,
the epitome of temporariness, of selfishness, of materialism
and greed, was etched the words In G-d We Trustin
our coins and printed onto our dollars, There is definitely
very deep inspiration in this, because its saying that
even while Im spending this money, I recognize that theres
something greater that I can trust in.
In an interesting way, it also focuses on why
you have this money. You have the money in order to do something
great in this world with it. Its not an end in itself.
Its not just to be collected and hoarded to have the security
of knowing that you have a lot of money.
Thats a false security. Everyone remembers
what happened to Howard Hughes, how he became a victim of his
wealth. And who has not become a victim? We should all be blessed
with wealth, but with the wisdom of how to use that wealth and
how to recognize that wealth, material gain is only a means.
It can never ever create and give you security.
So in this battle of the ultimate Super Bowl in
our lives, our super meaningful lives, the message is quite
clear, and that is, none of us have absolute trust, neither
in G-d nor in other people, for all the reasons that we mentioned.
Life is a very insecure place. This world is a very insecure
dungeon in many ways, and it breaks us. It definitely demoralizes
and weakens us; it disappoints us and betrays us.
The question is, what are you going to do with
it ? Are you a victim and youre going to remain there
and bemoan the situation, or wallow in the pain of it? Or can
you do something about it?
The masters that I have been privileged to study
and learn with suggest that you have a power that transcends
that. You do have the power to trust, if you access deeper resources.
Its like going to an athlete (or for that matter, a professional
in any area) whos lacking confidence but you know clearly
as a friend or as a coach that he or she has the tools. First
of all, you have to boost their ego and their morale. Secondly,
you have to put them on the field and say, Do it! Ill
show you that you can do it. And they do it once, twice,
three, four times and they begin to succeed. That infuses confidence.
The same thing is here. You have a soul. The only
way you can know you have confidence is to use it, to use it
in active consistent situations. If youre desperate and
looking for survival, then you must force yourself to commit
in a consistent way.
May G-d bless us all that we should develop the
type of emotional intimacy that is a direct consequence and
result of true trust, not just in ourselves, but trust in G-d,
in our souls, a trust that ultimately spills over and allows
us to have the power to have very meaningful relationships.
This has been Toward a Meaningful Life with
Simon Jacobson. We hope youll join us next week.