middot equanimity mesorah overcome all obstacles

overcome all obstacles

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-obstacle“You are wherever your thoughts are…make sure your thoughts are where you want to be.” 

-- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei MoHaRaN, Volume 1, 21

Munuchat ha-nefesh (equanimity) is a middah that strengthens one’s ability to live out of a general sense of peace and well-being, regardless of external circumstances. Rabbi Nachman’s observation and encouragement point to this middah. We decide the kind of world we are living in based on the mindset we have. At the same time, challenges do come our way. This is where equanimity becomes crucial.

“Remember always: You are never given an obstacle that you cannot overcome.”

-- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei MoHaRaN, Volume 2, 46

When I first encountered this quote from Rabbi Nachman, I was deeply challenged. It is certainly good to view ourselves as being empowered to overcome trials, but we have all faced failure. Not all failure to overcome is our fault, either. I’ve watched people I care for fall apart entirely because hospital staff didn’t follow through with their work. I watched my grandmother die from a horrible cancer while the doctors and our prayers failed to stop it. Unless olam haba comes into its fullness in our days, I too will die one day. So, what business do we have going around acting like we’re NEVER given obstacles that will stop us? The notion has psychological value in that it encourages us to not make excuses for failures that we could have avoided, but other than that it just doesn’t feel true…

“Never insist that everything go exactly your way…”

--  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Tzaddik, Breslov Research Institute

This is the kicker! When we insist that everything must go our way, we make it difficult to transcend the difficult experiences we have. Equanimity is at its strongest when the turbulence of the world around has no bearing on the inner peace that abides. We need to be able to respond with urgency when the situation calls for it, but we also need to have an inner peace that abides in the midst of urgency.

Like the English translation, “equanimity,” would suggest menuchat ha-nefesh is most operative in balance. The balance is between the empowerment to overcome the obstacles that do come our way and the willingness to let go if things do not go our way. God’s love is infinite and abundant. This is something that Rabbi Nachman repeatedly emphasized, and that Yeshua exemplified. We can use this season to develop equanimity by heeding Rabbi Nachman’s advice, and by connecting to the love we have in Yeshua. Rav Shaul taught us, under no uncertain terms, that nothing can separate us from Yeshua’s love (Romans 8). This is where I want my mind to be. This empowers me to overcome all obstacles. This enables me to remain in peace even when things don’t fit my picture.

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