Sefer Ohel Rochel, Week 3

In this week’s shiur, we explored the concept of our shaaninut, tranquility and stability, as an anchor which we find through chaim, life itself. Ultimately, all of the mitzvot of the women are structured to help us get back to our anchor.

R’ Schlanger writes in the Ohel Rochel that shaaninut is a gift that we were given that we can access at any time. It says in Mishlei, If we seek a connection to Hashem out, as we seek out money, like we seek out other things in life, then we will start to discover what Hashem truly wants and how to achieve it. This finding, seeking and digging is more similar to how men experience searching for G-d. Women meanwhile have this as an innate ability, and he brings the pasuk, “אשה יראת ה’ היא תתהלל" , “Women have a natural fear of G-d, we just have to turn to Him” to illustrate this. When we say brochos in the morning - “sha’asani kirtzono” - “made according to His will”, we are referring to the fact that we were naturally created according to Hashem’s will, and this is a natural place of calm. We thank Hashem for the blessing that it is just such.

While pain is not a stima (blockage) to connection, etzev (stress) is. Another blocking connection is be’hala - confusion and anxiety, a word that appears many times in the megillah. During this time of hesder panim, we aren’t only not connected to G-d, but we are also disconnected from ourselves. This leads to a feeling of be’hala, an experience of destabilization and panic. Additionally we see the same word used in Tehillim. When Dovid Hamelech calls out to Hashem in Tehillim Perek Vav, he says “רְפָאֵ֥נִי יְהֹוָ֑ה כִּ֖י נִבְהֲל֣וּ עֲצָמָֽי” - “Heal me Hashem, because my bones are frightened”. Ba’hala is a cross between fright, confusion and dread, a total lack of control over one's environment and the unnerving, unsettling feeling that causes. The tikkun for ba’hala is to have an anchor and to be connected to something, like a pendulum. As long as we are connected at our cores, we can survive all the rampant movement. Our anchor is our shaaninut.

Research done by psychologist John Gottman shows that when both a man and a woman hear a loud sound, the man’s blood pressure gets faster and higher for longer than the woman’s. When a man is spoken to rudely, and then told to calm down, their blood pressure remains elevated, while women are able to calm themselves. Often for women, our blood pressure is raised again if we are asked to retaliate.

The gemara comes to similar conclusions regarding our cardiovascular system and brings this as an indication that women are not meant to go outside of ourselves, to some external source, to reach a connection to Hashem. Our connection lies within us, despite the fact that we may have to venture outside of our comfort zones to move things out of the way of this spirituality. Therefore, doing things to return us to our comfort zone, things that move us towards chaim and away from tza’ar, is useful for our connections to G-d.

Why use the word chaim and not another opposite of tza’ar like oneg? Pleasure is not necessarily readily available on any given day. Chaim on the other hand, is truly available to us every day and this is where we can find the tranquility that is always attainable.

R’ Schlanger brings the example of Yitzchok Avinu who needed to be in a place of ruach hakodesh before he gave the brachos out. He asks Eisav, who Yitzchok wanted to give the bracha to, to bring him food because this is where Yitzchok hopes the bracha will come from. Yitzchok explains that before he lost his sight, he might have asked for something that was pleasurable to look at. However, now that he can’t see, he’ll enjoy the food. We can learn a very powerful lesson from this story in that we must take pleasure in that which we actually have access to, rather than wish for pleasure from the things we do not.

Our homework this week was to look at our lives and ask what counts as chaim? What can be something we can use to go back to a place of reconnection? A lot of what stops us from connection, is actually within us. What if we actually could find contentment in life, even as I don’t have things that I really do want? What if we can find bracha and chaim in what we do have and still find a sense of fullness? What then? What doors open for us?

This is also something entirely subjective, it does NOT look the same for everyone.

Chaim, not yom, not chodesh, this is something inherently dynamic and something we need to be observing and checking in on all the time because it is not static and unchanging.

Until next time!

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