Maybe I will accept that job as a knife thrower’s human target? Is Bad Boy Biker Billy a guy I need to seriously consider dating? Should I have a side of Super Sized Starchy Fries with my Pastrami Attack sandwich?
Or, They are offering me a six figure salary and great health benefits, but I’m still not sure… Really?
When someone is confronted with a challenge of any sort, large or small, and a decision needs to be made—the truth is, the available options are usually not only clearly apparent but also pointing enthusiastically in a very particular direction. Very often, this is painfully evident to the friends and family of the person that needs to make that ALL IMPORTANT (or frivolous) decision, but not to the individual themselves.
When asked why a choice has not been made yet or why are they even considering one of the more unsavory options, the individual will often reply with something like, "Well, I’m not sure what to do…!" The friend or family member might respond with, "What’s there to think about?" Apparently, a lot.
What are we really saying about ourselves when we procrastinate or make really reactive decisions, especially when a proactive path (or at least a less destructive option) is so clearly apparent to our friends and family?
The weekly Torah portion of Ki Tetze can provide us with answers and deep insight. The portion discuses going out to “war” and how the Creator will vanquish our enemies and allow us to take captives. Not only that, if any of our POW’s (Prisoners of War) happen to be attractive, we can marry them! (But you do have to wait thirty days.) Don’t you love it when the weekly Torah portion get’s you scratching your head wondering, “What on earth was Moses thinking?”
Rav Berg explained that when “war” is mentioned in the Torah, it’s a code for the real war that we all fight: overcoming reactive consciousness. And “taking captives” represents our ability to control the Opponent (our internal reactive intelligence that impels us to pursue immediate gratification at the expense of long term joy).
Kabbalah teaches that when we procrastinate or behave reactively, we are actually choosing not to assume spiritual responsibility for our lives. We would rather just “go with the flow” and “see what happens.” Rav Yehuda Levi Ashlag explained in his Introduction to Ten Luminous Emanations that these are just reactive code phrases for behaving like an effect and not becoming a true cause in one’s life. Meaning, life doesn’t just happen. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are always creating opportunities that either invite the Light of the Creator into our lives or push it away. Or simply, we have the power to exercise spiritual common sense, or not.
This reminds me of an incident that occurred almost twenty years ago, when I lived and taught Kabbalah in Miami. A relatively new student approached me one morning with two bills in her hand: “I only have enough money to pay either my electric bill or my monthly health insurance payment. Which one should I pay?”
Before I share how I responded, ask yourself, what would you advise? Is it more important to have your medical insurance covered but possibly live in the dark or should you not risk going without electricity and pray that you don’t get sick?
I gathered myself and had one of those “what would Karen Berg say” moments! I responded, “The problem is not your current financial situation; the problem is the kinds of questions you are asking!” My student was not taking spiritual responsibility for her life and certainly not exercising spiritual common sense.
What does that mean? Karen once explained that if you only provide two choices for the Light to come into your life, then how many options do you have? Two! The truth is, the Light force of the Creator can afford to provide us with limitless possibilities if we allow those possibilities to exist!
This is what the Torah portion of Ki Tetze teaches us. The actual decision we make is less important that the consciousness we have. The Light will vanquish our enemies if we exercise some spiritual common sense. My student reduced her universe of reality to two choices! Pay this bill or that bill! Can you think of other options she might have had at her disposal? (i.e. Look for another job, ask a family member or friend for a loan to tide her over, etc.) As Rav Berg taught: When our consciousness is reactive, we only see what the Opponent wants us to see.
So how can we overcome our war with the Opponent? By using a little spiritual common sense. One path is provided by the great kabbalist, Rav Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). He was once asked what someone should do when faced with two choices. His reply was, “Take the path you can completely devote your heart to.” Huh? If my heart was completely devoted to one direction, I wouldn't need to make a choice! Not only that—what if my heart is devoted to the wrong thing?
Karen Berg explained that this is a tremendous secret: if we help others, the Light will answer us with complete certainty. If we do something halfway, we get halfway results and remain uncertain about our purpose in life. Even if we do something that is not in our best spiritual interests, but we do it with a complete heart (and if our original desire was to connect to the Light and we simply chose incorrectly), the Creator will give us the wisdom to see our error and the strength to shift our circumstances.
When we decide to go to war against our Opponent using spiritual common sense, the Creator will vanquish our reactive nature and only then can we merit to see that whatever is in our lives at this moment is the very best for our process and growth.