Principle 9: Learning to love Hashem through this struggle
This struggle is the fertile soil that our “true” selves will grow out of. And through it, we learn how to give our hearts over to Hashem. And hopefully we will be able to look back one day and say that it was all worth it. After all, for what did we come down to the world for, if not to learn how to give Hashem our hearts? As the Pasuk says: "Ten b’ni libcha li – my son, give me your heart." Through this struggle, we learn how to “Let go and let G-d” and how to surrender our will and our lives over to Hashem in a very deep way. And this is something most people never merit to learn, even in 120 years on this world. So in a deeper sense, this struggle is truly a gift from Hashem and a sign of His love for us - if we only use it correctly!
No matter how much we have fallen, we must never view ourselves as “despised” by Hashem or imagine that Hashem is annoyed and frustrated with us. Instead, as we learn to give over our will to Hashem we will begin to feel that Hashem is truly our closest and most eternal friend.
As we progress and mature, we begin to view our relationship with Hashem on a much more intimate level. We begin to perceive how the lust is trying to get in between “us and Hashem” and interfere with the greatest love that can possibly exist!
To learn how to redirect our love to Hashem through this struggle, here is one helpful approach from the Holy Sefer, Noam Elimelech from Rav Elimelech of Lizensk (Parshas Bishalach):
Yakov Avinu A”H, used to serve Hashem with his midah, which is “Tiferes” (meaning "Awesome Beauty"). And from everything he used to see, hear, do, or eat, he took from it awesomeness of the Creator--Blessed Be He. For example, if he would eat something tasty, he would think in his mind: “This food is but a creation. Who put the good taste into this food? Was it not the Creator--Blessed Bbe He? And if this food is so good in taste, is it not obvious that all the good and pleasantness is to be found in the Creator--may his name be blessed--without any limits or boundaries?! And so he would think with each thing. And with this is understood the Pasuk, “and Yaakov kissed Rachel”.
How uplifting and beautiful it is to try to apply this midah of Yaakov Avinu to ourselves. Whenever we see something that turns our hearts to these desires, we need to tell ourselves, "If this is truly so good and I desire it so much, how much more desirable it must be to connect with Hashem, for in Him lies all beauty, comfort, security, love and pleasure. (After all, if He didn't have it all within Him, could He have created it?) All of us have a "G-d hole" that we are trying to fill. Hashem gave us a deep subconscious need to seek Him out, for He is the source of all that we need. Our physical minds are simply messing up the signals of our soul's yearning. The beauty we see in this world is but a fleeting shadow of the real thing!
The Baal Shem Tov also speaks a lot about how these desires are “fallen love” that really have their roots in the upper spiritual world of “Ahavah”. As is written in Parshas Lech Lecha:
Everything (in this world) is a projection of Hakadosh Baruch Hu through his attributes of love and fear, as is known. But the love is in exile, clothed in the physical, such as in a woman or in food… One should say in his heart, if I love this, which is only a ‘fallen and broken love” dressed in a putrid drop (which is where we all come from), how much more should I love the Holy one Blessed Be He!
Those who struggle with these desires can use it as a spring board to Ahavas Hashem. And when we successfully do this, we are uplifting the greatest physical desires and turning them into a great love for Hashem! This is a very high level of Divine service. We can also see this midah at play when Yaakov Avinu met his son Yosef after 22 years and, as Chazal tell us, he turned his love to Hashem by saying Kriyas Shema. We can grow in this direction if every time we feel unhealthy desires we daven to Hashem and say, “Hashem, please help me find in You what I am looking for in lust”.
The sefarim speak about how the highest desire a Jew can have is to be dovek - attached to Hashem and to the ziv of the Sh'chinah. It is actually supposed to be a ‘lust’ of some sort, as the Rambam (Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, "Laws of Repentance", 10,3) writes:
What is the proper love that we must have for G-d? It is to love G-d with an exceedingly great and intensely powerful love until the individual is constantly enraptured by it; he must be stricken like a lovesick person, whose mind is at no time free from his passion for a particular woman, with the thought of her filling his heart at all times, whether he be sitting down or rising up, whether he be eating or drinking. Even more intense should the love of G-d be in the hearts of those who love Him, and this love should constantly absorb him, as we are commanded to love the Lord "with all your heart and with all your soul." Solomon expressed this allegorically in the verse, "for I am sick with love." (Song of Songs, 2:5) Indeed, the entire Song of Songs is an allegorical description of this love.