Holding Hashem's gifts with an open hand

Part 1/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

by Dov (See all authors)

Holding Hashem's gifts with an open hand

Sifrei chassidus, including B'nei Yisos'char, elaborate on the fact that the light of the Chanukah menorah contains ohr haganuz and is miraculous. For this reason, "ein lanu reshus l'hishtamesh bohen, ella lir'osom bilvad." We have no permission to behave as though it's ours by using it in any way. Like the 25 hours of Shabbos about which we say "chafotzecho bo, assurim."

It seems that if we used the Chanukah light, we would be crossing a dangerous boundary of some sort. I believe we would be acting as though we were it's masters and owners - as though Chanukah was due to us: is'arusa d'l'satto. Which would be a big mistake. Obviously, we mustn't take credit for Chanukah. For the truth is that it was is'arusa d'l'eila, and definitely not ours! S'forim tell us this is one reason why the menorah gets all the attention rather than the amazing battle. For the focus on the battle is likely to turn our heads and lead us to miss the message (see Chaza"l on Dovid Hamelech vs. Assa vs. Chizkiyahu and their progressively shrinking hishtadlus in battle due to their respective madreigos - same idea).

This is what surrender is, in general: Letting ownership go. And in my case it includes the surrender of my sobriety itself: It's not mine, but G-d's gift to me. The literal translation of 'Surrender' into loshon kodesh is: mesiras nefesh (see "im yeish es nafsh'chem" in the story of Avrohom and Efron and elsewhere). I can't afford to act as though "it's mine and I made me."

Sobriety is a miraculous gift. Ultimately my long-term success is a miracle and I know it as well as does anyone who knows my story. And therefore, the Good Life that I get as a result of living sober must be understood as a miraculous gift, too. It isn't mine, for I can't possibly provide it! So it's silly for me to try to take credit for it. Were I to pretend that I got myself sober and/or that I keep myself sober, I would surely lose my connection to reality - and my sobriety. And I would lose the Good Life soon after, c'v. Dishonesty and arrogance aren't compatible with reality. So as long as I surrender the glory and credit of my success, I get to keep it.

As RMCha"L writes, the way things function is reflected in how they were created. When we start to change that, things stop working right. It's not a punishment of some sort c'v, just reality.

The same goes for the s'char of my tahara, 'Teshuvah', or tikkun: When I expect s'char in Olam Haboh or credit in Olam Hazeh for sobriety or for the outcomes of remaining sober, I naturally doom myself to losing even sobriety itself. And this is just the natural result of twisting reality. I didn't get sober to be 'good,' Heaven knows that was a failure. Rather, it was stopping the pain, confusion, and fears of living a double-life that finally got me willing enough to get the help I really needed - to quit. Enlightened self-interest. Derech Eretz. There's no sin in that, tho!