State of Miss
The more we sensitize ourselves spiritually, the more we can appreciate everything including people, nature, the presence of God and the wonder of having a Divine soul...
by Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen
One problem with using instruments of addiction is that they provide a pleasure you did nothing to earn.
It's immediate, it's sensual and it's strong. There is nothing subtle about the effects of alcohol, drugs, sugar or smoking. It's tough competition for sipuk hanefesh, (soul satisfaction) which takes so much time and effort.
I was eighteen and not even close to being religious when my father first sent me to Israel as a high school graduation gift.
After finishing the summer at a kibbutz where I picked apples, ate chocolate spread and fended off rude Israelis, I made my way to Jerusalem and explored the Old City. That same evening I went to “The Wall.”
I approached the Kotel and placed my palm on the warm white stone. I knew I was standing in a very holy place. Women around me were swaying over prayers books, whispering fervently and some were even crying. I stood there for a minute and to my dismay I felt absolutely nothing.
This can't be, I thought. Where is the electric buzz I had anticipated, the rush of connecting to a remnant of the Jewish temple? I was flabbergasted by the nothingness I felt.
I turned away in disappointment and walked back towards the youth hostel not far away. As I walked through the Arab market I decided I had been here long enough. Israel had turned out to be a big disappointment.
About forty years later I had the honor of working at the Kotel and I could not believe I was actually getting paid to be there. The wonder I felt each evening as I sat gazing at The Wall (when I wasn't busy convincing someone to cover herself up) were moments of intense pleasure and tranquility. When I compared how I felt then to how I felt the first time, the change was remarkable. What had happened? It dawned on me that appreciation for holy places is simply an acquired taste.
And that's why I'm against certain activities that provide temporary feelings of bliss, like smoking weed, particularly for young people.
Easy pleasures are risky business. They come in all sizes, there is something for everyone and the evil inclination is the ultimate salesman.
Back in the sixties kids were searching for spirituality and most of that search was synonymous with drug use, particularly hallucinogens. Many young adults and teenagers were sincerely looking for a way to experience something higher than what materialism could provide.
But even the greatest epiphany needs follow up and that follow up shouldn't be more use of the activity that gave you a taste for the sublime. Unless that activity is a mitzva.
I have a couple of young clients, boys in their late teens, who both smoke marijuana. Although use of marijuana has been decriminalized in their state, it's become an issue of a different sort for them and the kids they hang out with.
I asked them what they have observed among their friends who smoke in terms of their levels of motivation and accomplishment of personal goals. (It's always easier to see other people objectively).
One boy told me that several of his friends are having trouble saving money for things they want to do or buy. Their friends work hard to put money away for traveling, college or cars but inevitably use it to buy more weed. And I get it. Most of them work at boring, low paying jobs that take lots of determination to stick to. And the peer pressure to go out and party is intense. Delaying instant gratification is difficult yet giving into it so often causes regret.
For lasting gratification you need to do something creative. Think how you feel when you have mastered a song on the guitar, planted a garden, painted a picture, written a story, taught a class or handled a business conflict in an original way.
The more we sensitize ourselves spiritually the more we can appreciate everything including people, nature, the presence of God and the wonder of having a divine soul. We don't need drugs for that.
I wasn't able to find joy at the Kotel the first time I was there because I had no investment in my relationship with Hashem. I knew nothing about the Torah or the land of Israel and I had neglected my soul.
How could I possibly feel anything?
Anytime we indulge in a sensual activity, whether shopping, eating, smoking, gambling, or using social media, it has the danger of becoming a replacement for sipuk hanefesh. It can become a spiritual surrogate, a substitute for the permanent and lasting contentment that comes with a continual investment of yourself.
“And you shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources.” Think twice before you take out your wallet and buy something you imagine will bring you to a better state of mind.
As tempting as it may be, don't settle for a poor imitation of genuine pleasure. It may be quick but it's never long lasting. Work hard, pray hard and learn to be patient. The best is yet to come.
Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen began her career as a Crisis Intervention Counselor in Silver Spring, Md. in the seventies. After moving to Israel, she worked as a marital mediator and social skills instructor for kids. Following the death of a son, Rebbitzen Channen became a certified bereavement counselor and worked with young mothers who had suffered loss. Most recently she worked at the Melabev Center for the memory-impaired, as an activity director and group facilitator for families coping with Dementia. The Rebbitzen has written for numerous magazines and newspapers and recently led an interactive creative writing course called Connective Writing. Yehudit Channen is the wife of Rabbi Don Channen, Rosh Yeshiva of Keter HaTorah. They are blessed to have nine children and many grandchildren and live in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Today, Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen is a certified Emuna Therapist for Breslev Israel. You can set up an appointment with her by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org