On Struggles in Starting Serving Hashem

Somebody wrote me and told me about personal struggles he is having at becoming frum as a BT, this inspired me to write a little something about this whole process, maybe it will help others.

When a person first starts to make tshuva, or gets m’gayer or even starts on that endeavor, a lot of bad stuff happens much of the time. Sometimes a persons family will start to hate them, they’ll have problems with employers, there will be countless obstacles in the way preventing them from doing anything etc. If I were to recount all the problems we’d be sitting here forever and we’d never reach the point that I want to bring out.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov zy’a states in one of his Torahs that all beginnings are hard, especially in regards to avodas Hashem. This is because when a Yid gets serious about any part of serving God, the Sitra Achra rises up against them and tries to prevent growth as much as possible. In the Zohar HaKodosh, a very interesting idea is brought down that can help counteract this. It says in Parshas Vayishlach (Zohar I 174b) that there is a “Malach Ra,” a wicked angel, which is a reference to the yetzer hara. It says there that the yetzer hara can be converted to a meilitz tov, a good intercessor, meaning that it will help us in our avodas Hashem rather than the opposite, chas v’sholom. A way is presented there, bringing from the second goat of the Yom Kippur avodah sent to the wilderness, of turning the yetzer hara into our assistant, rather than our enemy. The yetzer hara doesn’t backdown from receiving its reward, indeed it will persist in trying to trip a person up until it gets something, and this is the secret of that goat. Essentially, what a person needs is a permitted outlet for desire in order to give the yetzer hara it’s little bit to make it happy, rather than completely pushing it away. Like it says “kadesh es atzmecho b’mutar loch,” sanctify yourself through what is permitted to you. It says in the gemoro in Brochos that “b’chol l’vovcho,” with all your heart, from Krias Shma, refers to utilizing the Yetzer Hara and the Yetzer HaTov to serve Hashem. The Baal HaTanya writes much on the inyan of utilizing the nefesh habahamis to serve Hashem.

Having this in mind, what we can learn in avodas Hashem is that we must have a way of “letting off steam” or simple recreation that is permitted, and can be sanctified to Hashem. This is one of the inyonim behind the original practice of making l’chaim in shul after davening. If you take the drink and snack, and keep in mind that this is for avodas Hashem, to allow you to relax and satiate your hunger from fasting until davening a nice long shachris, then that l’chaim will push away the forces of darkness from interfering with your avodas Hashem. If it’s just drinking and eating though, it only feeds the yetzer hara, rachmona litzlon, and encourages frivolity. Everything goes after the kavanna, so if you have a holy intent when you eat and drink, it brings more holiness to you and helps fight the Sitra Achra personally and generally.

Hashem should help us all to make tshuva and grow in Avodas HaKodesh, and we should see the geulah shleimah swiftly in our days!

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