For those of you who like the blog as is, I point out again that the archive contains nearly 300 ma'amarim, enough to fill a medium size book of 600+ pages. So, there is certainly a lot of material.
Before each post I will put a link to the ma'amar that the post discusses.
I want to stress that the new format will be successful with your input. The purpose is to really try to live the teachings. The Sfas Emes did not write his Toros for there "nice vort" qualities although they certainly do have that. He wrote them, and primarily spoke them on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim to convey teachings that he wanted his Chassidim to follow.
The postings will therefore include suggestions for action and techniques for inculcating the teachings into our lives. Here, you and I will have an opportunity to share our results with others. My suggestions are simply that. They're not halacha l'moshe misinai and if something else works better, then please let us all know!
The Sfas Emes explains the meaning of “ויחי יעקב בארץ מצרים/Ya’akov lived in Egypt” (In every other instance in the Torah the word ויחי is used to signify the length of someone’s life, not where he dwelled.) as Ya’akov Avinu was on such a high spiritual level that he knew this, not believed it strongly, but knew it, the way that we know that the sun is shining. He lived in the sense of being connected with God, the ultimate “living”.
Being in decadent
Although we cannot reach Ya’akov’s level of knowing that God is here with us the way that we know the sun is shining, we can still experience God by strengthening our belief that he is here with us.
What has this to do with our daily lives? Just this. The Sfas Emes teaches that exile means God’s concealment. For example, in Maseches Yoma 38b we find that Chazal understood that when God said, "אשכח בניך גם אני .../... I will forget your children as well" (Hoshe'a 4:6), it refers to the Jewish people being exiled. By extension, the Sfas Emes teaches elsewhere, any challenging situation we find ourselves in, also means God has concealed Himself from us. Redemption and by extension the resolution of problems that we face means a Godly revelation.
The situations that we face, whether they be issues with raising children, financial, health or any other issue that causes unpleasantness in our lives, do not have a life of their own. They are no more and no less than a screen that hides God. Because if God is revealed, there is no unpleasantness. It is a contradiction in terms.
So, by revealing God, we can find the solution to the problems we face. How can we reveal God? The Sfas Emes teaches that we can reveal God by strengthening our belief that there is absolutely no power in the world besides Him. This is easier said that done, of course. Our surroundings blind us at every step. We must believe something that we cannot see and that our surroundings belie.
But since the results of strong faith in God are solutions to our problems and bliss in this life, I am strongly motivated to find a way. How?
This is where the Sfas Emes ends and I tell you what I think. The Sfas Emes, does not tell us here how to strengthen our faith. No techniques are given.
I submit that we can strengthen our faith that there is no power in the world beside God and in fact the world is only a screen that blocks us from experiencing Him by viewing the world for what it is. The world is a test of faith. Everything that happens to us, from stubbing a toe to going bankrupt, is a test of faith.
It is not terribly difficult to internalize the belief that that the world is a test of faith when you are not being tested directly. However, what do you do when you’ve been looking for a parking spot for 15 minutes, and are late for an important business meeting. You finally find a spot, set yourself up to parallel park and just then someone enters the spot nose first!
If your like me, your first reaction is to jump out of the car and wring the guy’s neck! But, really, this situation was set up by God. The other guy has his own issues. He exercised his free choice and decided that the spot was for him, or maybe he did not notice you were about to back in to it, or maybe his wife is about to give birth in the back seat. But you had no choice here. So, God brought this situation about specially for you and if you really believe it, then you would not be angry at the other driver. So, you see, it’s a set up to test your faith.
How do we cultivate this belief so that it becomes second nature. Here’s my proposal. Let’s do an exercise. During the next three days from the time you read this, commit that no matter what happens to you, good or bad, you will immediately, say out loud, “I choose to recognize that God set this situation up to test my faith in Him. There is no power in the world that can benefit me or harm me outside of God.” I say, “good or bad” because it is easy to have a success and give yourself all the credit.
Remember that this is simply my suggestion. If you try it and find that something else works better, or that the suggestion can be refined, please let us all know. Thanks!