Connecting to the Tzaddik
Why are intelligent people running after materialism even though they know that the gratification they receive from material possessions is very empty and short-lived?
by Dr. Zev Ballen
Why do people run around like chickens with their heads cut off? Why are intelligent people running after materialism even though they know from their own experience that the gratification they receive from material possessions is very empty and short-lived?
Studies show that consumerism just feeds on itself – like a treadmill that accelerates exponentially until the person falls off. The more stuff that people desire, the more money they need to chase after the stuff in order to buy it. The more people buy, the more they want to keep buying - they constantly feel pressured to make higher and higher salaries in order to not fall off the treadmill. Furthermore, these same people know that a life of spirituality is far more healthy and satisfying. So what compels them to act in a way that that goes against their own intuition?
There are others who are not being driven by physical needs and desires for physical comforts but who are equally frantic about the pursuit of honor, fame, and recognition. There are still others who even spend the majority of their time pursuing spiritual aspirations but who do so in a restless, anxious, and compulsive manner without the slightest trace of joy and inner peace.
What do all of these people have in common?
The common denominator is the compulsiveness with which they pursue their respective goals in life. When somebody acts compulsively, he does the act out of fear rather than a true desire to do it. A compulsive act is something he feels he must do or there will be some kind of negative consequence; a compulsive act never results from the real thought-out values of a person. There is the sense that they must rush; that there isn’t enough time to pack in everything that they feel pressured and forced to accomplish in a day. The average person today is always feeling squeezed for time and harbors underlying resentment that there are only 24 hours in a day and that his strength is limited and preventing him from fulfilling all that he dreams of doing.
What are the effects of man’s compulsive “human race” to acquire, to achieve, and to amass, and to conquer, and to control and influence the world around him? The most obvious effects are the many types of psychosomatic and psychological ailments that have reached epidemic levels in our generation which have led to: suicide, psychosis, violence, abuse, staggering rates of divorce, child molestation, terrorism, apathy, atheism, war, economic deterioration, and a massive decline in morality.
Our generation feels an urgent sense of needing all kinds of non-essential things. This state of always being in need and the frustration and sadness that results from not having what we feel entitled to, takes us further and further from the truth that all that we really need we can obtain through closeness with the Creator. The simple truth that those with emuna possess is worth more than all of the things that the world runs after that can never satisfy them. What we have is the tranquility of knowing that Hashem is a loving G-d who will never fail to meet any legitimate need that we have.
So why are intelligent people who want to grow spiritually running after the G-d of materialism?
The answer: because they are afraid.
And what are they afraid of? Dying.
People who lack solid emuna feel compelled to grab what they can from this physical world and consume it as quickly as they can in the 70, 80 or 90 years that they have in this world. Their fear of death comes from never having taken the time to clarify the truth about the World to Come. A person with emuna, on the other hand, is never in a rush. He is content with accomplishing whatever Hashem allows him to accomplish during his time on earth. The person with emuna also hopes and prays that he will be able to accomplish certain goals on earth while he still has the time, but even if he is not able to, he accepts his limitations in relation to G-d’s will. What the person with emuna thinks about most, is making the soul correction that he was brought here to make.
How can we clarify and strengthen our belief in the next world? By connecting ourselves to a tzaddik (a righteous person) who is already in the next world. When we study the tzaddik’s teachings and visit him and speak to him, we start to feel his live presence in our lives. We realize that the person we are speaking to really does exist and that he just grew too big to be confined to a body anymore. As we cultivate a relationship with the tzaddik, he helps us to reduce our death anxiety by bridging this world with the next world. With this more complete and true perspective we stop the senseless running, splurging, binging and gorging that we see going on around us.
Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: email@example.com. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.