The Elixir of Vitality

For many years I have been a principal of a girls Seminary with varied and diverse responsibilities. I am involved in numerous educational forums, and in giving advice in my field. I do all of this with a feeling of fulfillment and gratification to have been granted such a vital and worthy mission. I come from a house of educationalists. My father Z.t.l. was himself a Rav and educator, and my mother was a renowned and highly admired principal of a Beis Yakov school in the days when they were not so prevalent. Already from a young age I was active in youth activities and guidance.

It is difficult to define a specific time, but at some point my emotional disposition underwent a major crisis. I do not remember how it started, but I felt increasingly drained of all of my usual liveliness and enthusiasm, and began to feel perpetually tired. I remember coming home late one evening, the children were sleeping and my husband had not yet returned from Yeshiva. I saw the kitchen in chaos, the crinkled tablecloth in the salon covered with the piles of books I had left behind when leaving for the lecture – and felt that I do not have the strength to continue. I did not know from where to draw the strength to tidy everything up and start preparing tomorrow's Shiur. I collapsed sapped of energy onto the sofa, thinking to myself that something within me was very amiss. Before this, I would always return home from a lecture feeling in high spirits with no shortage of energy. But now this dynamism had left me and I became increasingly more and more emotionally depleted. In all fairness it must be stated that this was not a total let-down, here and there I experienced windows of joy and fulfillment that gave me a boost, usually from some personal success, but something had seriously "burned-out" within me. It was a strange unknown feeling to me and I did not know how to relate to it. What has happened to all my energy? Why did I not feel like this half a year ago?

This emotional crisis occurred just before the period of the Chagim when the pressure at work was at its peak. I did not know how I would survive. I prayed constantly to Hashem to help me and give me strength to keep going. Each day required an individual Teffilah to get through it. I started praying according to a list; to survive the early morning ordeals, to send the children off without loosing my patience, that I should have the strength to tidy the house before going off to work, to return from work with strength to continue …. Every time I left the house I prayed for Siyata Dishmaya to contend with my responsibilities, and to return home emotionally intact. All of the plentiful energy I used to have had dissipated completely.

The prayers helped me to keep going, but I heard an inner voice calling me to order. Something inside me said "Enough! You can not continue this way"! I was confused and could not identify the root of this perplexing ordeal that confronted me.

On Yom Kippur, I Davened in our local Beit Hakneset. Next to me sat an elderly woman, a stranger to the area. I wondered who she was, and discovered that she was the mother-in-law of a neighbor who recently came to live with her daughter. This woman impressed me deeply from the first time I saw her. She Davened slowly with wholehearted concentration and was completely absorbed within the words of the Tefillah. From time to time I noticed that I was not concentrating on my own Tefillah and was watching her instead. I felt that this woman had something that I was missing, something that I aspired for intensely. In the evening, after the Shofar blast and the elevating proclamation of "Hashem Hu Haelokim!" the woman turned to me with a motherly smile and wished me a good year. He words aroused in me an inner desire to pour out my troubles. "I don't know" I said to her, "I feel perpetually drained, I don't know why!"

She looked at me thoughtfully and finally said "I also once felt like that. That was when my second set of triplets was born. I sat then in my parents' house and cried to my father Z.t.l. that I don't have the strength to continue. I am always tired and drained and I can't manage to get out of this depressive mode".

My father looked at me and said:

"What you are lacking is Ahavas Hashem!!"

His words seemed to me to be completely out of context, without any relevance to the situation at hand.

"If you would feel love of Hashem you would have energy!" he explained. "There is nothing that can equal Ahavas Hashem in being able to give the person energy, vitality and elevate one's spirit! If you would feel love instead of hate, you would function the whole day with feelings of joy and gratitude. You would dance between your babies without knowing which of them to hug first from overflowing elation and thankfulness".

"I ? dance?!" I answered from the depth of my despondency, "I can hardly pull myself together to reach their cribs, I collapse like a rag in every chair I sit in, I just don't have the strength!"

"That's exactly what I mean" he replied "What you urgently need more than anything else is Ahavas Hashem!". The elderly woman paused and then continued: My father revealed to me the secret of how to achieve this. I want to tell you what he said. His words are worth contemplating and considering very carefully, try it out and you will see it is a fool proof way to merit Siyata Dishmaya and even fully fledged miracles. My father was a very special person and his advice has more than proven itself throughout my life

This is what he said: "Our days are full of pressure, endless tasks to be done, urgent assignments and other responsibilities, we manage only with great difficulty to take a break, and when we do, we generally try to relax by sleeping or by switching-off and trying not to think of anything at all. There is nothing wrong with this, on the contrary relaxation is a wonderful thing, but what people really need is to set aside time each day for Ahavas Hashem!"

"Ahavas Hashem means to look around oneself at the world that Hashem placed us in and to feel His great kindness and love for us". My father added that one should not forget that there is a long waiting list to be in our world. There are very many Neshomos waiting eagerly for the opportunity to be allowed to come to this world to be able to achieve here what cannot be accomplished anywhere else".

"The way to start fulfilling the Mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem is to sit each day in a room just by yourself and for a few minutes think of all the good and pleasurable things that exist in your life and that you love. Reflect on them and feel grateful for them. Contemplate everything that surrounds you and the personal events of your life and notice how much evidence there is that Hashem loves you. This is Ahavas Hashem - to discover within one's life the evidence of the loving kindness of Hashem, that He loves us, is close to us and feels with us in all our travails and joy. This will arouse feelings of gratitude and love towards Hashem and a spontaneous will to express appreciation to Him for everything He does for us".

"I adopted my father's advice, and this is my daily source of energy that makes me feel the joy and beauty of life and gives me the strength to overcome whatever challenges Hashem sends me during the course of the day" concluded the woman.

These unpretentious words made a powerful impact on me. They hit a deep chord within me. This was undoubtedly the secret of this lady's enviable serenity and devotion. Perhaps the basic emotions of Ahavas Hashem, the simple and straightforward fulfillment of the Mitzvah that we repeat daily throughout our life, were the elusive element I was missing in my life!

I tried it out and have not turned-back since. I took upon myself to allocate time each day to sit by myself in a room and to express wholehearted gratitude to Hashem :

Hashem! I thank You for everything you have granted me in my life and particularly all that You did for me today … That we are all healthy and well …That we know to turn to You … That You gave me the merit to help others … That You helped me to succeed in preparing and delivering my Shiurim …"

Do not allow other issues to interfere in this "quality-time". These few minutes are designated to focusing on all the good that exists in your life and the resplendent goodness and love of Hashem behind it all, to feel this poignantly and vividly until it arouses a reciprocal feeling of love, and a spontaneous impetus to express wholehearted gratitude for everything. Defer all requests and Tefillos for afterwards. If after concluding these expressions of gratitude one feels that one wants to continue with additional prayers, this is excellent and it will elevate the person to feel a closeness to Hashem based on joy and thankfulness.

Already half a year has passed since I started implementing this invaluable advice. It has changed my life and illuminated my world with a new radiance. My lectures are delivered with more enthusiasm and vigor, I feel a much greater consonance with the words I am saying and am much more connected to them. My feelings of depletion and despondency are things of the past. I have discovered a refueling station where I revitalize my spirit by feeling the affectionate benevolence of Hashem and His overwhelming love towards each and every one of us.

[Translated from a circular distributed in Israel (Chovas Ha'adam Baolamo 1:117)]