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ב"ה

CAN WE EVER SURRENDER?

Friday, 22 July, 2022 - 1:09 pm

Two Jews were standing and talking on a Moscow Street. One of them did not have official papers permitting him to be in Moscow at the time. When a police officer approached them to verify their documents, the Jew with the documents told his friend not to worry and then proceeded to run from the officer.
The officer began to chase him. When he finally caught up, the officer asked him to show his documents, which he did. The officer asked him, "Why did you run away from me when you have the right documents?"
"My doctor told me to run one mile each day," responded the Jew.
"But why didn't you stop when you saw me running after you," asked the officer.
"I thought your doctor told you the same," said the Jew.
Over the next three weeks, the haftarahs which we read on Shabbat introduce us to the life of the prophet Jeremiah.
What is unique about Jeremiah is that, unlike many other prophets and leaders, we know much about his personal emotions and experiences. What we discover is how deeply Jeremiah suffered. He experienced constant rejection by the people he loved and reached out to. He lived alone, he was poor, he was beaten, tortured, incarnated, and escaped death at a hairbreadth. The king and priests even placed him in a cistern of quicksand, to die a slow, agonizing death.
As a result, the prophet wrestled with great loneliness, feelings of defeat, and profound despair. In his own words:  Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” Why was I not killed in the womb? My mother should have been my grave? I should have remained eternally pregnant inside of her!
How did Jeremiah—one of the greatest prophets in Jewish history—manage to handle this sense of despair and isolation? How did he deal with the disappointment, abandonment, and agony?
The opening chapter of the book of Jeremiah, depicting the moving first encounter between the prophet Jeremiah and G-d, provides the answer.
G-d said: 'When I had not yet formed you in the belly, I already recognized you; and when you had not yet come forth from the womb, I sanctified you; a prophet to the nations I have made you.'
Yes, Jeremiah. You will face much inner and outer turmoil. But know this: Your infinite Divine power is always more potent than all the darkness inside of you, and all around you. I recognized you; I conceived you; I chose you, I loved you. I knew your strengths, your light, your courage, your wisdom, your holiness—before you were born, and before you were even formed. Your soul is a piece of mine. Before you faced any darkness, I knew how much infinite light you possess, as your light if part of Mine.
The greatest and deepest fear and sense of despair that takes us over is because we allow the inner voices of gloom, depression and melancholy to overtake us to our core. They become our life. They redefine us; we forget the truth: I may be confronting some nasty outer forces, but my Divine soul, my sacred core, precedes all else. At my core I am Divine. And it is embedded in my essence, and thus can prevail over all else.
This is what saves Jeremiah—and it can help us all. Throughout all his turmoil, he never doubts for a moment that G-d is with him, G-d has sent Him, and as dark as the situation is, He contains all the resources needed to bring light into the situation. He is not a victim; he was sent into this very space.
Jeremiah’s greatest resource was the unwavering confidence that even in the silence G-d is present and working through him.
G-d can appear to be silent, and that’s when Jeremiah can feel like his life is worthless and want to die. And yes, Jeremiah is deeply honest with all his emotions, including the darkest ones, and he shares them too with G-d! He does not run away from any emotion, experience, or feeling. He is brutally honest about all going on in his psyche at any given moment.
But throughout it all, Jeremiah knows that G-d sent Him! He is not alone. He is an ambassador of the Divine, who has given Him all the resources for him to fulfill his mission to bring light, sanity, morality and goodness, into a space of darkness and gloom.
In May 1940, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi war machine were sweeping across the European continent. The future of the free world hung in the balance.
In its darkest hour, as Great Britain was about to be attacked by Germany, the English chose Winston Churchill (1874-1965) as its Prime Minister. His weapons were his pen, his voice and his words. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” he told the House of Commons in his first speech as Prime Minister.
Things quickly turned from bad to worse. France collapsed, Belgium surrendered, and a quarter of a million British soldiers barely managed to escape from Dunkirk. Even as the war news moved from dangerous to desperate to disastrous, Churchill never wavered. In speech after speech, he infused the British with the spirit to fight on against Hitler’s monstrous tyranny. He is the man who saved the free world—and we owe him an unparalleled debt of gratitude.
Yet, throughout much of his life, Churchill was prone to periods of acute depression, which he called “the black dog.” He told his daughter, “I have achieved a great deal to achieve nothing in the end.” He told a friend that “he prays every day for death.” In 1944, he told his doctor, Lord Moran, that he kept himself from standing close to a train platform or overlooking the side of a ship because he might be tempted to commit suicide: “A second’s desperation would end everything.”
Why are the greatest people often haunted by a sense of failure and deep melancholy? Noted examples are Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, and Tolstoy. Perhaps, it is their depth that makes them far more sensitive to all that is going on inside of them and around them. They feel deeply what other people overlook. Perhaps, all greatness is counterbalanced by the ability to descend into the abyss, as the Talmud puts it, “whoever is greater than his friend, his destructive inclination is also greater.” Perhaps, the greater you are, the more you realize what can and must be achieved and you feel how inadequate your performance is.
But it is not only the greats. Many of us struggle often with profound feelings of despair, depression, doubt, and despondency. Some of us know full well the unbearable agony of mental illness and clinical depression—something that few grasp, unless they experience it or are educated about it. But even so many of us who are mentally stable and healthy, must deal with moments of gloom and dejection.
G-d’s message to Jeremiah is a message to every soul. “When I had not yet formed you in the belly, I already recognized you." Let not your truest identity shrink in insecurity in the face of adversity. Your Divine essence is the most innate part of your existence, and it is infinitely powerful, beautiful, wholesome and sacred.
The Talmud describes the experience of the embryo while in the womb, "A lamp is lit above the child's head, by which it can see from one end of the world to the other end; there are no days during which a person experiences more bliss than those days in his mother's womb. G-d and the angels teach the unborn child the entire Torah."  While you were still in your mother's womb, you were sanctified and granted all the resources, all the wisdom, and inspiration you need to fulfill your mission.
And what is your mission? "A prophet to the nations I have made you!" You can change the world! You have not been sent to earth in order to maintain your spiritual integrity; that you could have accomplished far better in heaven. Rather, you were dispatched to the earth to serve as a messenger, a prophet, to introduce G-dliness and holiness to your physical body and to the material world around you. Every single soul is a prophet—to link heaven and earth.
Yet the soul is still bashful. "And I said, 'Aha! My Lord, G-d, I know not how to speak, for I am but a child.'" I am inadequate. I am small. I am weak. I am frail.
Me? I am a child!
We do this to ourselves all the time. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous, successful, and impactful? I am but a child.
So, G-d says to the Jeremiah in each of us:
"G-d said to me, 'Do not say 'I am but a child,' rather to wherever I send you shall you go, and whatever I command you shall you speak. Fear not before them, for I am with you.
Your soul must remember how powerful it is". You are a child of God. You’re playing small does not serve the world.
Never ever doubt that G-d has conceived you in love, put you here, and has given you all the resources to fulfill your amazing mission. You are His messenger, and as such, contain infinite power and strength.
Be not afraid of greatness. And if, at times, you feel like running away, you should not feel bad about it.
This remains our role today, both in our own lives and in the world around us, as we strive to drive away the evil inside and outside and bring redemption to our planet. To quote Churchill in his speech, June 4, 1940: “We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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