The secret of happiness

When we understand every fragment is microcosm of whole, and each and every person is a world in miniature, than how truly powerful is man!

Mordechai Sones,

Opening to Light
Opening to Light
iStock

If you are looking to be happy, creative, in harmony with G-d and with the universe, Rabbi Kook has the answer — t’shuva. For Rabbi Kook, t’shuva is a concept much deeper than the common understanding of "repentance". It is much more than penitence over sins and the remorse a person must feel when he strays from the pathways of goodness and truth. While t’shuva includes these factors, the phenomenon of t’shuva spreads out over all the universe, bringing harmony and perfection to all of existence.

While t’shuva is normally translated as penitence or repentance, the root of the Hebrew word t’shuva means “return.” T’shuva is a return to the source, to one’s roots, to one’s deepest inner self. Rabbi Kook writes: “When one forgets the essence of one’s soul; when one distracts his mind from seeing the true nature of his own inner life, everything becomes doubtful and confused. The principle of t’shuva, which immediately lights up the darkness, is for a person to return to himself, to the root of his soul. Then he will immediately return to G-d, to the Soul of all Souls. And he will continue to stride higher and higher in holiness and purity. This is true for an individual, a nation, for all of mankind, and for the perfection of all existence....”

In effect, t’shuva is the force that pushes all physical and spiritual worlds towards completion. Whether aware of it or not, every artist, scientist, economist, politician, and philanthropist, in striving to make the world a better place, is motivated by the waves of t’shuva which constantly propel mankind forward toward rectification and Tikun Olam.

Throughout history, man has been searching to discover the motive force of life. To a capitalist, money makes the world go 'round. To a romanticist, love is what impassions mankind. Freudians claim man’s unconscious desires and libido are to blame. Peering into a microscope, a modern physicist declares that atoms and neutrons cause the world to spin. For biologists, the uniting power resides in strands of DNA. When Rabbi Kook gazes into the inner workings of the soul, the soul of the individual, and the soul of the world, he sees that the force behind all existence is t’shuva.

It is no secret that there is great darkness, confusion, and pain in the world. Bookstores are filled with self-help books on how to be happy. Layman’s guides to psychology line shelf after shelf. Our generation has been called “the age of anxiety”. People often live out their lives plagued with depression, sickness, lack of fulfillment. and constant unrest. For Rabbi Kook, the remedy is t’shuva — for the individual, the community, and for the world. Rabbi Kook teaches that to discover true inner joy, every person, and all of Creation, must return to the Source of existence and forge a living connection to God.

A paperback book called The Art of T’shuva, available on Amazon, written by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman, explains Rabbi Kook’s teachings in a clear and engaging fashion. As the Days of Awe approach, here are a few illuminating excerpts from the book:

The Real Goal of Life

Once we know that t’shuva is the real goal in life, why waste time on pursuing illusory things like money, power, and fame? The reason is because they don’t seem so illusory. Today, the world is dominated by materialism. In truth, the great leaps forward in technology and science are all leading life toward greater capabilities, but all too often, people get caught up in the race to achieve, to succeed, to consume, to enjoy, and thus they lose sight of loftier, more spiritual goals. In a competitive, capitalistic culture, people tend to live for “me” and not for “us.” Things like morality in big business, and in our private lives, can easily be overlooked. While all over the globe, one can find seekers ardently trying to “return to their roots,” the t’shuva movement still does not attract as many people as Disneyland. But this, Rabbi Kook, insists is destined to change.

True Freedom

People often think that in discovering God, one is restricting one’s freedom, not expanding it. If one recognizes his Creator, he also has to recognize His laws. For a person who thinks this way, religion is perceived as a yoke of responsibility and bondage. But Rabbi Kook tells us the opposite. The discovery of God is the ultimate freedom. Finally, a person is liberated from beliefs that he held on to in order to justify his errant lifestyle. Finally, he is freed from cycles of behavior which he could not control. Like a criminal who decides to go straight, he can now put his life in line with God’s will for the world. This is the greatest freedom!

The Real Hero

The real hero is not the Hollywood tough guy. It isn’t the man who smokes Marlboro cigarettes. It isn’t the corporate president who owns a Lear jet and three yachts. The true man is the person involved in t’shuva. Rabbi Kook teaches, “The more a person delves into the essence of t’shuva, he will find in it the source of heroism” (Ibid, 12:2). This is similar to the teaching of our Sages, “Who is a hero? He who conquers his evil inclination” (Avot, 4:1). He is the person who is always seeking to better himself; the person who is always trying to come closer to God. He is the person who is open to self-assessment and change; the person who has the courage to confront his soul’s inner pain and to transform its bitterness into joy.

You are What You Think

When we recognize the value of our thoughts, we discover a very encouraging concept. One needn’t despair when confronted by the often difficult changes which t’shuva demands. This is especially true in the initial stages before a person’s increasing love for G-d makes all difficulties and sacrifices seem small. Even if a person cannot immediately redress all of his wrongdoings, he should know that there is a great value in just wanting to be good. One can take comfort that he wants to be a better person. With God’s help, he will also be able to actualize his yearnings. But in the meantime, just thinking good thoughts is already strengthening his inner self and the world.

Happiness Now!

Usually, we think that a process is completed when it reaches its end. We experience a feeling of satisfaction when we finish a project. An underlying tension often accompanies our work until it is accomplished. This is because the final goal is considered more important than the means. Rabbi Kook tells us that this perspective is wrong. When it comes to t’shuva, the goal is not the most important thing. It is the means which counts. What matters the most is the striving for perfection, for the striving for perfection is perfection itself.

Superman

When we understand that every fragment is a microcosm of the whole, and that each and every person is like a world in miniature, than how truly powerful is man! How influential is his each and every deed! For example, if a person stops speaking badly about other people, he not only improves himself, he improves his community. Because, he is connected to all of the cosmos, he improves all the universe. The smallest detail of t’shuva heals man and all of existence with it!

No Reason for Despair

The fact that a person is in a state of pain and despair means that he senses his alienation from the positive forces of life. He realizes that sin is not the ideal. This means that the light of morality and holiness in his soul still flickers. In his innermost heart, he still longs for goodness. All is not lost. The important thing is not to fall prey to despair, and to remember that a great happiness is on the way.

True Success

When life is looked at through spiritual glasses, for what it really is, the most important thing is neither money, nor honor, nor power, nor fame. The most important thing is pursuing a life of goodness. True success lies in simply striving to be good. For real achievement is measured by what is important to God, not by what society flaunts. In God’s eyes, a woman can be successful without looking like Barbie. A man can be a success without having five or six credit cards and a six-figure salary. The real man, the real success, is the person who embarks on the path of t’shuva.

Don’t Give Up!

Occasionally, the thought of mending each and every sin is just too overwhelming for a person to deal with. Who has the energy? Who has the strength? Who can muster the humility it takes to apologize to everyone he has slighted? The magnitude of the endeavor before him can even lead a person to say, why bother, t’shuva won’t help. Let no weakness stand in the way. Even if there are matters which seem impossible to correct, let a person always find joy in every bit of t’shuva that comes to his or her grasp. The merit of fixing the things that he can will stand by him, helping him to overcome more difficult barriers. Finally, Rabbi Kook assures us, with God’s help, he will be able to mend all that needs to be mended.

Israel Leads the Way

The Nation of Israel will lead the world to Redemption, marching in front of the parade of nations with its shofars blaring away. The rebirth of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for the ultimate t’shuva, both for the nation of Israel, and for the whole world. a preliminary stage of national revival will bring this spiritual awakening to pass. First, the Jewish people must return to Zion to rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the Nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well, and our people will flock back to the Torah. This may take several generations, but this national t’shuva is destined to come to pass.








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