18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Religious Clutter    

Religious Clutter

Being trapped by my old religious beliefs clutter is no way to grow. Being overwhelmed by the tremendous gap in my knowledge of truth is not helpful either...


We’ve been doing a lot of reorganizing of our home space lately. Digging into the corners and cupboards – analyzing the contents for need and usefulness – questioning why we’ve kept some things for so long. My tendency is to lean toward the minimalist lifestyle – born from moving 13 times in the first 10 years of our marriage.  At one time we had paired our household items down to the point that I could wake up in the morning, pack everything, move, and be sleeping in our beds with everything unpacked and put away that evening.  To be at a place in life where we are settled and “feathering our nest” if you will, feels a bit disconcerting and all the stuff that goes along with that feels overwhelming.
What, to many people, looks like regular household items looks to me like clutter piles. They grow and accumulate almost unnoticed until it feels like they are literally everywhere. A book that I want to read, mail that needs gone through, a craft project started and waiting to be finished, the blanket from couch in the office from that morning it was a little chilly, pictures framed that need hung, piles of magazines - day by day, sometimes even hour by hour, the clutter accumulates. It’s a regular project to go around the house, room to room, putting things back where they belong or removing them from our home altogether.
I recently tackled my office closet. This is the catch all of keepsakes and other stuff, not well organized and overfull. I dug and pulled and stacked the contents out of the closet onto the floor space around me… until I realized I was trapped by a wall of stuff to the point of needing assistance. It felt hopeless. I was giddy with exhaustion from the effort and the strange predicament I’d ended up in.  I realized I tried to do too much all at once.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing my clutter conundrums with you. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a lot of religious beliefs clutter rattling around in my brain as well. Concepts and ideas gathered over years of xtian services and teachings, secular media, and random conversations that just kind of hang out there in the corners of my mind, coloring my point of view and clouding my understanding.
From time to time I will be reading a lesson or listening to a shiur and a comment will be made that rouses the dust around that old religious beliefs clutter and makes me stop. “What?! But that is not what I “know” – Where did that come from? That doesn’t register with anything I’ve ever been taught! How could it be that what I “know” is so very different from what the Rabbi is telling me?” It is in these times that I realize that, although the majority of my beliefs have been realigned with the truth, there are still areas where I need to do some work. I have all of these mental and emotional cupboards and closets where I’ve stored beliefs that just appeared so true and useful that I needn’t reexamine them. Wrong.
We are taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslev about removing our own intellect and connecting to the tzaddik of the generation.  When I think about this and try to apply it to my life I often feel like I did when cleaning out that office closet – Digging out all of the concepts and understandings in order to make room for this new knowledge can and has actually blocked me up. I become trapped in the stacks of old understandings – trying to analyze and compare the old information for usefulness – questioning why I’ve held onto these beliefs in the corners of my mind for so long without holding them up to the light of truth.
Being trapped by my old religious beliefs clutter is no way to grow. Being overwhelmed by the tremendous gap in my knowledge of truth is not helpful either. Rabbi Arush teaches two important tricks to use in order to get out all the old clutter:


1. Learn every day. The best way to get out the old "religious clutter" is to replace it with the truth! The absolute best is to learn a page of day of  these three books: The Garden of Emuna, Say Thank You and See Miracles, and In Forest Fields. Now, you're filling your mind with loads of information which is practical, and will help you live a happier life - fast.


If you can't squeeze that into your day, do whatever you can. Learn even a paragraph of each book a day. If you need help with a different topic like peace in the home or child-raising, add in the appropriate book too.


2. Pray to Hashem to help you. Ask Hashem to help you learn and live the truth, and get out all the old shmutz (Yiddish for dirty). Express your desire to change and Hashem will certainly help you, since everything goes according to the will (read A New Light for more information).
When I engage my emuna I know it leaves me exactly where I’m supposed to be. If my desire is to know truth, then Hashem will lead me down that path at the pace that is appropriate for my level. That may mean some days I’m able to clear out large swaths of old “knowledge” in light of a new level of truth that I’ve learned. It may also mean that there are times when I’ll get stuck and have to spend much time working through those old understandings, digging deeper, until I finally reach a point where I’m ready for the truth.
For me the trick is to keep at it - Everyday. Concept by concept - through personal prayer, continued learning from my Rabbi and Spiritual Guide, and never ever giving up.
* * *
Jennifer invites you to participate in a regularly held Noahide on-line study group that reviews the garden series books of Rabbi Arush. You can contact her at jenniferjwoodward@gmail.com for dates and times.

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