In the middle of another six hour prayer-a-thon on the house mess, I picked up a copy of Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, and opened it up to the tale of the Exchanged Children. In that tale, a slave’s son is ‘switched out’ with the King’s true son, and that causes the King’s true son no end of problems.
I opened it up to the part where the slave’s son (who is now the king) hears the rumors about this other guy who’s really meant to be the king, so he starts persecuting him, and hopes to kill him. The true prince (who thinks he’s a slave) runs away into exile to save his life – and then falls into a deep depression.
To quote Rabbenu, he starts drinking and frequenting brothels, because he’s so upset about what’s gone on with his life and has no idea what on earth he’s done to deserve what’s happening.
A footnote in the story says that we get yeoush, or despair, when we feel bad things are happening to us that we don’t deserve.
For as long as we feel we don’t deserve it, we’re stuck.
We can’t make teshuva (‘what did I do?!?!?’), we can’t see a way out of the problem because we can’t even identify how we fell in to it, and we start to feel that God is not fair, and is not just, and that we’re being persecuted for nothing, God forbid.
This is what sets up the massive tests of emuna in our lives. When we do things that are clearly wrong, when we clearly understand that we’re sitting in prison because we robbed a bank or mugged a granny; that our wife left us because we were emotionally-abusive and angry; that we got fired from our job because we kept showing up five hours late….
Then it can be easier to ‘get it’, on some level, and to understand what’s going on and why, and that’s actually very empowering. Because now, you can go ahead and try to fix the problem.
But the bigger tests of emuna happen when you really have no idea how you got into the bad situation you got into, other than God must have decreed it upon you.
And that’s where I’ve been really struggling the last few weeks.
Some days, I start to feel literally so despairing. Literally, like there is no justice in the world that something so upside-down and back-to-front can be happening. God, what did I do to deserve this?!
And then it can literally take me a day of telling myself ‘ein od milvado’, this is just a tikkun, a test, to start functioning again.
But in the meantime, my mitzvahs are really suffering. I haven’t been able to cook properly, or shop properly, I don’t have the headspace to say the tikkun haklali every day like I was doing, sometimes, I zone out watching Dutchsinse’s earthquake predictions on Youtube for an hour, instead of writing, or doing more holy stuff.
It’s not exactly drinking and visiting brothels, but it’s kind of akin, if you know what I mean.
And I still can’t see the way out of the forest.
In the Exchanged Children, the exiled prince finally gets rescued from his misery by a prophetic dream that begins a chain of events that leads to him regaining his royal status, but in a completely different kingdom.
I’m so sick of where I’m stuck at the moment.
I can’t believe I’m still waiting for things to start turning around.
I can’t believe I’m in the mess I’m in now.
When are the blessings going to show up, and I’m finally going to get to the finishing line on this 15 year long test?
Or maybe, they aren’t and that’s the reality I need to make my peace with.
PS: In quieter moment, I know we are still very blessed. I know it’s a blessing that my teenage girls get on, that they have lovely middot, that our home is nice to be in (wherever God chooses to locate it…) and that there is food on the table and we are all healthy.
Thank God, it’s a blessing that God keeps reminding me of that all the time, a million times a day.
But the pinging between states, between hope and despair, between fighting and giving way, between hating and accepting, between doubting and believing – THAT is the biggest test of all.
And I really, really hope God will take us out of this uncertainty soon, because it’s so hard to keep dealing with it, long-term.
I can’t plan anything ahead. I can’t think past the next five minutes. I can’t ‘settle’ to anything, because everything is up in the air.
And that is what I’m the most upset about right now, because I can’t seem to make this test go away, no matter what I do. Every time I ‘accept the worst’ God tells me to fight, and every time I start to fight, God tells me to back down.
And so, the awful stuckness continues.