What is inner peace?
“Waking up and knowing I can face the person in the mirror”
“Feeling that I have the knowledge and ability to make good decisions most of the time”
“Reaching a certain set of goals that I feel satisfy my needs and wants and that benefit my family”
Translated, this could be integrity, wisdom, and prowess or personal power.
Let’s dig a little deeper though.
Integrity is a commitment to living by a set of ethics or rules. Do you remember when managed care came into the health care system? The rules about how long a person stays in the hospital for a particular diagnosis changed. What used to be proper medical care changed based on the new rules, which were based on insurance coverage payouts. As the rules changed, integrity simply meant maintaining the new set of rules. What happens if we apply this to our lives? We come back to the question of absolutes. Are there absolutes by which a person should live in order to feel that they have maintained integrity for their inner peace of mind?
describes what happens without absolutes to hold onto. In that text, which helps a person do spiritual accounting, it explains that our physical side is like reeds in the wind, with no ability by itself to stand up straight. In other words, we bend when the wind blows if we do not with our wisdom hold tight to basic absolute truth and wisdom.
At first glance, wisdom is a set of knowledge combined with experience so that a person feels that they can predict and therefore control certain aspects of their lives. For example, if I know that I have to be at work at a certain time, and I don’t know the traffic patterns or the exact directions, and I want to be to work on time, I might make a test run the day before I begin the job so that I know what to expect. In everything in life, there is a learning curve and once we have been through it, we have some experience and expertise. There is a set of knowledge and experience that is imperative to have for inner peace that we don’t have intuitively or from experience alone.
What goals can I set so that I can feel satisfied by accomplishing the goals that are reachable with my own thoughts, speech and deed?
Going a little deeper still, we realize that our experiential senses of what is happening are full of emotions and feelings, often negative, challenging, and frustrating.
Nisayons (Tests) Page at Jewish People Unite
We set out to do something and it meets with resistance. Why? Especially if it is a good thing, why? From here we see that inner peace cannot be predicated on outcome or on externalities. For inner peace to be something we can accomplish, it has to be something that we have control over or have the ability to have control over. And, Chazal tell us that all a person controls is his thoughts, his speech, and his deeds. Rabbi Dessler in
Strive for Truth (3 Volume Set/ Parts 1 - 4)
discusses this in his chapters on Free Will (Behira). It is also discussed in the Tanya, a basic text of Chassidus which is also regarded by non-Chassidic authorities as a basic text. The Tanya, which is an everyman’s Kabbalah, sets out details about the evil inclination and the good inclination. It defines a righteous person (tzaddik), a wicked person (rasha) , and an average person (benoni).
Does this mean that a person can’t have inner peace unless that person becomes an expert on these matters, reading and imprinting these ideas upon themselves?
In the morning prayers, the prayer we read after thanking the Creator for returning our soul to us is “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Creator, good understanding to all His Practitioners.” The beginning of wisdom is the constant mitzvah of knowing there is a Creator and that we are not on our own here. Inner peace, with the knowledge that there is a Creator, comes from seeing oneself as acting from a sense of responsibility in gratitude to the One who Created us, in accordance with His Will. Self-control builds self-respect.
But what wisdom does a person need to feel that they can predict and control what is in their lives? One can take the approach of trying to predict and control the external environment – set up communities to protect, regulate and govern. This is called a society, a civilization. But for an individual person, at best we establish the environment for our families , and certainly we set the environment in our own heads for ourselves. The wisdom that is needed is a taste for appreciating that the Creator is One and we are One with Him. Dr. Miriam Adahan adapted the 12 step process used successfully to help with addictions and built a four step process to help us let go of our “addiction” to our initial unproductive lower personality reactions so that we can move into a higher part of our personalities and act from more productive thoughts – specifically the thoughts of acceptance of His Will and dedication to being loving. This process is described in detail in Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah.
Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah
Here is a free 15 page worksheet and explanation that may be of assistance:
EMETT Manual (15 Pages)
By so doing, we can move ourselves higher and higher in our personalities so that we may choose to emulate His 13 Attributes. Tomer Devorah - Hebrew/English Edition
and bring His light to the world.
Chapter 1 of Tomer Devorah introduces the Thirteen Attributes:
"It is proper for man to emulate His Creator, for then he will attain the essence of the Supernal Form in both image and likeness. For if his physical form reflects the Supernal Form, while his actions do not, he falsifies his stature. They will then say of him, 'a handsome form whose deeds are ugly.' For the essential aspect of the Supernal 'image' and 'Likeness" are His deeds. And what use will it be to him to reflect the Supernal Form physically with the likeness of the shape of his limbs, when his deeds do not emulate those of his Creator? Thus, it is proper that man emulate the functions of 'keser (the crown) ' which are the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy - alluded to, in the essence of the verses from Michah 7:18-20:
Who is G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and removes transgression for the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His wrath eternally for He is desirous of kindness. He will again be merciful to us, He will suppress our iniquities, and You will cast into the depths of the sea all of their sins. Grant truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, as You have sworn to our forefathers from days of old.
Therefore, it is proper that one should contain in himself these Thirteen Attributes."
Tomer Devorah then proceeds to explain each attribute in the manner that the Creator manifests it, and then explains how a person can manifest that attribute in daily life.
The book concludes as follows:
"These are the Supernal Attributes of Mercy, and their quality is, that just as a person conducts himself in this world below, so will he be worthy of opening up the channel of the same Supernal Attribute Above. Exactly according to his conduct, so will he bestow above, in the Supernal World the same and he will cause that Supernal attribute to shine here in this world.
For this reason, one should not divert his mind from these Thirteen Attributes or allow these verses to depart from his mouth; so that he should remember them when a situation arises requiring the use of one of these attributes. he should then remind himself and say "behold, this action which is required in this situation is contingent on this particular attribute. I will not budge from it, lest this attribute become concealed or disappear from the world."
Our goals then become spiritual. Am I moving closer to His Will? Are my choices bringing me to a point of connection with the part of my neshama that is pure and unmixed with worldly desires? This path is an infinite path, because the Creator is infinite and therefore we can come closer and closer, the more we desire closeness, the more we choose it, the more we become vessels He can fill with holiness. We can rise above the limitations of our physicality when we humble ourselves with these thoughts, choosing to do things that are pleasing to Him. Rabbi Ezriel Tauber explains that the Creator is a Giver and that He turns Himself into a receiver for only one reason - so that we can turn ourselves into givers, emulating Him, connecting with Him in this attribute and thereby building the ability to feel eternal benefit when our souls are re-joined with Him. Rabbi Ezriel Tauber Thoughts for a Jewish Heart
And when we choose with our free will His Will, He makes our will His and gives us the material things we need to accomplish the mission. In other words, when we view ourselves in servitude to the Creator, as giving to Him, then what we need and want become important vehicles for helping us and He gives them to us. Listen to Rabbi Zev Leff discuss this in
Essence of Honor
Everything the Creator sends is good. We live in times when there is much lack. Lack of money, lack of peace, lack of normalcy. The Creator is knocking on our door…do not rely on man-made structures – search for the Creator's qualities (Thirteen Attributes) within you when you need them the most, in times of loss, stress and lack, and, by choosing to emulate Him at those times, a person may find inner peace. Push the connect button! Know that there is a Creator and He is waiting for you to connect to Him, sending you a message, in fact to connect with Him. Even if you think you know it, deepen your connection. Find ways of expressing His attributes through a sincere desire for connection by choosing actions that will be pleasing to Him. He is running the external world and does not need our help in that. He asks us to bring His light into the darkness - Make your efforts emulate His 13 attributes and shine a light in the darkness. Then the Creator’s attributes will be in this world.
And THAT is inner peace - to set our goal to emulate His Thirteen Attributes. A person can bring into this world the beauty of the Creator’s 13 Attributes. By untangling our negative emotions and finding a way to choose an attribute of the Creator from which to act, we build inner peace and self-esteem. And what a wonderful way to connect!
Recommended materials (Amazon)
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