23 Kislev 5782 / Saturday, November 27, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeishev
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Aliya and Personal Growth    

Aliya and Personal Growth

He never really connected to Hashem in the USA; but, after he came to the land of emuna, he learned what true abundance – both material and spiritual – really is…


When the economic crash hit, the U.S. people had less money in their budgets for non-essential items like psychotherapy.  For the first time in more than thirty years, I was unable to keep up with my mortgage and car payments, and my credit card debt skyrocketed.  I scrambled to find alternative sources of income – even venturing into commercial real estate – but to no avail – nothing worked.
After a few years of “failure,” my wife and I looked at each other – what could we do? – Hashem was blocking every path to economic recovery that I tried – obviously He was sending me a message but I wanted no part of it.
Hashem saw that He had a tough customer in me so He proceeded to start smashing every idol that I believed in and worshiped until there was nothing left for me to believe in except Him. He started with my worship of money, honor and success and quickly proved to me that he could make my university degrees and professional license quite worthless.
Hashem continued by showing me that I couldn’t depend on Uncle Sam or on any of the other materialistic values that had sustained me till then.  The harder I worked the less I had to show for the time and energy I was expending – eventually the stress began to effect my health – and it wasn’t until Hashem had to put me in the hospital – that I got honest enough with myself and started waking up from the American dream I had been living all of my life. 

Even then – when my wife suggested that we make Aliya, I cringed at thought – that would be an admission of defeat – If I didn’t make it in the “land of opportunity,” I couldn’t make it anywhere.  Poor Zev was still holding on to the lie that only “the power of my own hands” could save me – even while Hashem was smashing all my idols – I was “sure” that if I just worked harder I could still redeem myself.


While I lived in America, although I tried to connect to Hashem – I never really could. At best my relationship with Him was weak, inconsistent and very hard to sustain while I was feeling sorry for myself. It was only when I arrived in Israel and felt more optimistic about the future that I could feel Hashem’s loving presence in my life. Today, not even two years later, I am happier and more successful than I’ve ever been in my life because I’ve learned the hard way that G-d is the only true reality in my life and that I simply can’t be happy without Him.
Here are some foundational principles that I’m learning from the Rebbe that keep me happy and growing from day to day. 

I could not connect to Hashem in the U.S. because I was sad there.  The Torah says that when Joseph was sold into slavery, the Divine Presence left his father Yaakov Avinu (Jacob our father) because of his sadness; and it wasn’t until Yaakov was told that Joseph was still alive and the Viceroy of Egypt that “Yaakov’s spirit came alive.”  This relates to what Talmud says in tractate Shabbos:  “the Divine Spirit rests only upon the joyous.” The Rebbe says that from here we learn that without joy a person is really not alive. The only thing that saved me when I was sad was taking action - which meant moving to Israel – but I would not have been able to move on my own if I had not been advised to do so by a righteous person who had a connection to Hashem.

Ironically my financial security increased only after I surrendered my pursuit of money and material comforts.  Hashem is my employer now – I can never again work for any other boss.

I needed to speak to Hashem everyday and beg him to show me how to nullify my will to His – something that is completely contrary to my nature.

I have to work hard every day to find any tiny bit of good that I can in myself and others and magnify it.

I have to be willing to follow the Rebbe’s advice and summon up the “boldness” to engage in “silly” behaviors like sprinting and jumping and dancing to Hashem (at night) during personal prayer sessions – and if my neighbors think I’m a silly Breslever, so be it – I’ve never been happier and I’m amazed that I can still run!

I can never be content with my present spiritual level. My happiness only continues if I keep begging Hashem to help me reach the next level (of perceiving His Presence) that is still hidden from me.

I needed to join a community of people who care about nothing in this world except being close to Hashem; who yearn to connect with his Holiness, Purity and Eternity – not for themselves -but so that they can share their happiness with others.

I’m learning that I must strive to be scrupulously honest in all my dealings. Since “the Truth is the seal and insignia of the Holy One,” being truthful connects me to Him in joy while falsehood is a form of idol worship that leads me to sadness.

I’m learning that I must guard my eyes not only from obvious prohibitions but also from not “looking” at my doubts, ambitions, and what other people have or don’t have. I need to frequently remind myself to keep my eyes only on Hashem.

I’m learning that I can only live the life that Hashem gives me today. No matter how clever and strategic I sought to be, in the past, Hashem’s Will always prevailed despite my compulsive planning and organizing.

I’m learning to appreciate the value of my learning, mitzvah performance and good deeds. Even the mundane acts that I elevate, by doing them for Hashem, will never be lost. There are absolutely no economic crashes: budget deficits, runaway inflation, deflation etc. that can ever deny you your permanent pension. All of the joy that you accumulate from Judaism will go with you to be enjoyed for Eternity.

I’m learning that Hashem sends me more of what I need when I pray for others.

I’m learning from Rebbe Nachman that even when I feel happy and joyful like on Simchas Torah or when dancing at a wedding – that my happiness is not complete until I drag all of my sad and depressed thoughts, memories, perceptions and tendencies forcefully - against their will - into my joy. Reb Noson explains that our “problems” run and hide when we are happy because they hope to come back and undermine us at the next available opportunity (when we are not happy and thus vulnerable to attack). Therefore by running after our “problems” when we are happy and forcing their “heads” under the mikvah, we purify and make holy even the lowest and worst things that we have done or thought about.  This is what the Rebbe calls simcha shelama (complete happiness).

And finally I am discovering that my life must be governed by emuna – absolute faith - which also leads to joy. The Rebbe says that Faith is an aspect of Na’ase V’Nishma (we will do Hashem’s Will even before we understand it).  As we know, when our ancestors said “we will do” before they said “we will understand” (upon hearing Hashem’s commandments at Mount Sinai) 600,000 Angels came down and put two crowns on the head of every Jew. The crowns were subsequently taken away after the sin of the Golden Calf but will be returned soon upon the coming of Mashiach. As it is written in the Talmud, “…G-d will redeem…an everlasting joy on their heads” Here the Rebbe teaches us that emuna leads to the greatest joy!

May we all merit having complete emuna and complete happiness.

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