Holding Hashem's gifts with an open hand

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!


So, to me, "ein lanu reshus" means literally: "I have no ownership." It's not mine. Rather, it's Hashem's gift. Naturally, then, I have no permission to act like it's mine or to pretend that I own it. [Interestingly, similar to Chanukah candles, Shabbos candles also have ohr haganuz within them, as Sfas Emes tells us ("matonah tovah b'veis g'nozai"). Yet in the case of Shabbos candles, we davka use them! This is, perhaps, because life on Shabbos is basically us acting as if we are dead and in Olam Haboh already (the yom sh'kulo Shabbos), where oneg (s'char/ta'anug) is being play-acted by us on many levels, as s'forim tell us. But Chanukah is very much in Olam Hazeh within the darkness itself, as we are right now.]

This is continuous surrender, and I am learning to live as the steward of all these gifts, be'H. It's a lot of work, learning how to work together as a partner with my Best, Eternal Friend...and Steps 4-11 are there to help me a lot with that, b"H. And it starts w learning how to partner with the real live people in my life, of course.

And I think the most beautiful part of it all, is this: Whatever I give up ownership of, comes back to me in the way closest to 'true ownership,' anyway! Like when we make a brocha before consuming food. There is no 'please' or 'Thank You' in a brocha, correct? All that there is in the words of a brocha is an admission that He made it - so He owns it -koneh hakol. It's His, not mine. Surrender. And when we surrender it to Him, Chaza"l tell us, "He 'gives it to us'('nosan liv'nei odom)"! And it's the same with everything: we only really keep what we give up.

"Kol habore'ach min hakavod, hakavod rotz acharov" is a general formula. For example: How many of us have discovered that pressuring our wives for sex is a great way to get satisfied? None of us have, of course! Rather, we discovered (to our confusion and repeated chagrin) that the more we give up our expectations (returning full power over their own bodies to them), the more they become ready and willing to share themselves with us. And it will always remain up to them. Ought it not be? Isn't obvious that marriage will work so much better that way?

So this is not about any high 'madreigos' here, friends. This is just about acceptance of Reality, and one of the great facts for us, in Recovery. I remember this when I klop al cheit: my main problem isn't the sin, but rather the "egrof resha" - the grasped hand that the Novi refers to - that keeps me in it. Sobriety is very little about resisting temptation and mostly about letting go of the fantasies that, 1) I carry the world on my back and that 2) somehow reality is all about me, how I feel, and what I want.

Trusting that G-d is really taking fine care of me changes me. Working the steps allows me to do that. And I learn to hold Hashem's gifts with an open hand. This is totally new stuff for a self-pleasuring-on-demand guy like me, of course. With every sexual acting out I trained myself that 1) if I don't take care of myself, nobody will and 2) what I feel I need takes precedence over practically everything else. Do you relate?

Whenever I surrender trying to control my wife and needing her approval (and sex), I end up gaining the most from her (and she from me!) - because until I do that, I'm doomed to trying to manipulate her. And when I give up on controlling her I also provide the space she needs in order to choose to love me. And loving me is - of course - her choice, and will always be. That's scary for a guy who accustomed himself through years of porn and masturbation to expect bliss-on-demand! And that's one of the great ills of masturbation and porn. What we sow, we reap, of course. But B"H, there's a way out, one day at a time!

Similarly, when I surrender ultimate power and control over my children I gain the most from them (and they gain the most from me, too). Same with my job, my approval from others, my money, my body, and every aspect of my life. "Give up to win," as the alcoholics discovered. And normal people chuckle. It shouldn't be so hard to understand Hashem's ways. And how true and beautiful is what Chaza"l taught us: "ein middas Hkb"h k'midas bosor v'dom"!! Nah, we are the ones that are strange, not He.

And I see it in those candles that celebrate a is'arusa d'l'eilo - gifts from Him. Not ours to take credit for. And it must stay His. We can't hold it tight or we'll pretend we made it. The 'egrof' doesn't work, we can only klop with it!

May we all be zocheh to properly surrender all things given to us, as the great tzaddikim do every time they say the Sh'ma. And "lir'osam bilvad" - to become free enough to possess everything with our hands remaining open. And then in the privacy of our hearts and in our own small and beautiful way, we will participate in "l'hodos ul'hallel" together with everyone else!

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