We are in the midst of a raging and highly infectious epidemic in the world. It is a plague that completely ruins and embitters one’s life. Everyone is susceptible. Rabbi Arush explains how to avoid infection and cure ourselves...
Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself”.
Do you remember the beginning of the corona pandemic? Those were the days when we tracked every new patient – where he was and what he had done and whom did he meet with. Anyone who was suspected of coming in contact with the patient became frightened and anxious – he and everyone around him. We wrapped ourselves with masks and alcogel; we shut ourselves up in our homes even during the holidays. We closed down the skies and searched for every possible useful or useless means of protecting ourselves from the unfamiliar virus. A natural reaction? An overly anxious reaction?
We are not going to go into the question of whether we were overdoing it, or perhaps not doing enough. We are talking only about what is clear and agreed upon: In case of an unknown danger, even if it is relatively mild, one must utilize all means of protection. And if everyone has been infected and we have lost control? Then, one must search for a vaccination, assuming the vaccination is indeed safe and effective. Because we should always strive to protect ourselves.
The Real Plague
This principle is just a parable for the most dangerous and infectious epidemic there is in the world. It is an ancient plague, and it is still raging. It is a plague that is sure to ruin and embitter one’s life completely, and it strikes everyone: adults and young people, the healthy and the sick.
I am speaking of the epidemic of ingratitude.
There is one single root for all a person’s problems in this world. All the anxieties and depressions, health issues, financial issues and marital issues, nervousness and tensions arising from the personal, political and security situations – all those are just the external things. The internal background of everything is the disease of ingratitude. Everything that is disturbing you, whether justified or not, is only your excuse, covering up the severe internal disease of ingratitude.
Have You Gone Mad?
In parashat Shlech, the Jewish people are enjoying the best conditions possible. Perfect. They have everything. They do not have to work. They have all their needs taken care of. The tastiest and healthiest food. Without feeling heavy and bloated, without being overweight. No diabetes, heart disease, constipation – there are no bowel movements. The clothes are always clean and well-ironed, without any effort involved. How can one complain? What can you moan about? You are at the height of happiness!
But when an epidemic spreads, it gets everywhere. It blinds people and causes the entire Jewish People to go crazy: everyone is crying, families sitting in the doors of their tents. Everyone. This is not just frustration and resentment, but deep, boundless distress. And there is not a single righteous person who stands up and shouts: “Hey, have you gone mad?!”
How does an epidemic reach Israel? One tourist comes back from China or Africa and infects an entire country. Among the Jewish people there were many “tourists”: the Erev Rav, the Asafsuf (“hangers on”, “tag-along”). The Jewish people basically believe and are grateful, but the Erev Rav, who were corrupt, lustful Egyptians, were very frustrated. True, they had everything, but they missed the wild abandon and the debauchery they were used to engaging in in Egypt. The noble life of holiness that befits a holy nation was alien to their essence. The Torah tells us that it was they – those “African tourists” – who initiated all the complaints and bitter feelings. And it is so infectious. Unfortunately, this terrible plague spread throughout the Jewish people, until all of them became infected. What were they complaining about? It didn’t matter anymore: melons or garlic, onions or fish. The reason is not really interesting. They were crying because they wanted to cry. They were crying because they had erased from their minds all the good things that had befallen them. They were crying because the plague of ingratitude had hit them hard. There were no reasons – only excuses.
One sentence sums it all up: “Our souls are dry, there is nothing!” Nothing. Everything is dry. In one moment, Egypt – cruel and murderous – becomes a far-off dream, a nostalgic childhood memory. How can one alter reality like that?! But the epidemic of ingratitude damages the brain and the power of judgment. A person who has seen incredible miracles suddenly feels that he has nothing. Even war doesn’t affect people like that. In fact, when there is a war or some really difficult situations – the entire nation girds its loins and joins together in the effort. And even if there are casualties, the nation’s spirit is aroused, and the people stand up and fight for their lives. But ingratitude kills the spirit! An entire nation loses all hope and is not capable of doing anything, sitting in the tent’s door and whining, together with the women, the young people, the grandparents and the children who have come home from kindergarten. Everyone feels so miserable and forlorn…
There is a Vaccine!
But we are not talking about them. We are talking about us. We and our friends who cry, who are full of anxiety, resentment, and complaints; who are yearning for some sweet, beautiful world that doesn’t exist and never did exist. We ourselves are seriously ill. We want to learn how to stop the spread of infection, how to stop the worsening of the symptoms, how to be healed and never get infected again. And there is good news: There is a vaccine! There is a cure! It does no harm and doesn’t cost any money. There are no side effects. There are only good and blessed effects: a beautiful, sweet, happy life, in any situation, independent of any external condition, including one’s medical or financial state – complete and constant happiness!
The only medicine, and really the only way to get through this world and this life in joy, is simply gratitude.
Faith is Reality
All these years I have talked about faith. I have said it all depends on faith. So, what is happening now? Am I changing the subject? Switching the disc?
No, no! I want to emphasize something very important: faith and gratitude are one and the same. Both gratitude and faith are simply living reality.
Ingratitude distorts reality. It makes Egypt, which is the height of evil, into the best, dreamlike place. It changes the mann, which is the best food, into something that causes terrible suffering, to the point of tears. Gratitude is simply to see reality straight. The reality is that every person has so much good in life. Hashem does so much good for us. That is the reality. Just recognize that – and you will be healed.
And faith is just like that! Faith is not something ethereal, detached, floating somewhere. Faith is a reality. The Creator is good. That is the definition of faith in the Creator. That is the reality and there is no other. And this entire world is a creation of the Creator, and He created everything only in order to do good for his creatures. He does only the best and will always do more and more good. Therefore, in all our prayers we say “Emet ve’emuna” (Truth and faith) because faith and truth are connected. Faith is the simple truth. Simple reality.
Everything is Good!
And now, to the practical aspect. It is not realistic to avoid completely all those infected with the disease of self-pity. But it is definitely possible to be vaccinated. The vaccination is faith. The vaccination is to recognize the goodness of the Creator, the goodness in our lives.
Our advice is to take time off every day, look at the good in our lives and say thank-you for it; to brush away any bad thought, which is any thought that there is badness. Where you think there is badness, in the place where you have anxieties and worries and fears – there you should search for the good and thank Hashem endlessly until you completely do away with all the false, distorted view of ingratitude, and go back to recognize the only reality: Everything is good!
And the main piece of advice is to pray for faith. At least half an hour a day. But don’t just say “Give me faith,” but rather go into detail and say, “Give me faith that You are good! Give me faith that everything is good! Give me faith that You do only good! Give me faith that my life will be even better! Give me faith to believe in the good that is inside me and the good that I have! Help me to thank You always for all the good that is in me and that You give me!”
This is the advice that will protect you from the terrible epidemic and enable you to live the good, happy life that the Creator wanted you to live.