Believing in Yourself

A baal tshuva – or any other Jew with aspirations – needs two primary spiritual resources: Belief in Hashem, and belief in oneself. Many sources speak about the former, but few discuss the importance of the latter.

Young BT’s are frequently misled by mistaken concepts of “anava”, or modesty. Hashem doesn’t expect you to walk around telling everyone that you’re “gornisht”; those who do so, even if they are sincerely trying to rid their lives of arrogance – end up believing that they really are nothing. That’s wrong. A soldier must know his capabilities in order to effectively utilize the weapons at his disposal. An F-15 pilot must be perfectly aware that the government has entrusted $50 million sophisticated airborne arsenal in his hands, including an array of ultra high-tech weaponry in order to get his job done. He can’t say, “I’m a weak nothing,” or else he’ll be endangering the security of his country, wasting potential, and losing the war.

Yiddishkeit is also a war. The Yetzer has an array of weapons and forces at his disposal, to deter and discourage a person from making Tshuva, or to break the heart of a person who’s trying to effectively become a ben- or bas-Torah. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be able to wipe the floor with the Yetzer.

We are all called sons and daughters of Hashem, not because of our physical attributes, but by virtue of our neshomas – that tiny spark of G-dliness within each one of us. In effect, every Jew is walking around with a spiritual microchip in his or her brain, far more powerful that any nuclear reactor. This spiritual microchip – our divine soul – enables us to transcend nature and to perform superhuman feats. For example, a tzaddik that never speaks Loshon Hora possesses tremendous power that can literally change the course of nature; that’s why people seek the blessings of a tzaddik.

No matter where you come from, you can achieve greatness if you believe in yourself. You must believe that Hashem listens to all your prayers, gets tremendous satisfaction from your Torah learning (no matter whatever level you’re currently holding), and derives untold nachas from your mitzvas. You must believe that you are capable of using all the useful lessons you learned in the outside world (athletics, military, university, etc.) and apply them to Torah. You must believe that you have the tools for unlimited spiritual growth, for influencing others, and for making significant contributions to the Jewish people. You must believe that you are capable of being both a tzaddik and a scholar, and that your service of Hashem can and will move the earth.

I believe in you, cherished friend and fellow BT – I hope that you’ll start believing in yourself. That will hasten the day when we can go up to a rebuilt Jerusalem and greet Moshiach Tzidkenu together.

(Rabbi Brody is an author of three seforim and runs the popular Lazer Beams blog. Rabbi Brody was a member of the IDF elite special-forces units and a decorated combat veteran of two wars and dozens of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel’s borders. After surviving a near-suicidal mission to Beirut during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 1982, Rabbi Brody could no longer ignore the hand of G-d in his life. He became a baal-tshuva and left his mountaintop farm to study Torah in Jerusalem.

He is currently the Dean of the Breslever rabbinical college in the port town of Ashdod, while simultaneously serving as the understudy of the renowned Melitzer Rebbe, a contemporary giant in rabbinical law and personal counseling.

We are extremely excited about having Rabbi Brody on board as a regular contributor to Beyond Teshvua)

6 comments on “Believing in Yourself

  1. have you heard the Joke about the Rabbi and the Rosh Kollel standing in the front of the shul? each one is saying “I’m nothing, I’m nothing”. The janitor comes in and sees what going on, inspired he starts to say – “I’m nothing, I’m nothing.” The Rabbi turns to the Rosh Kollel and says “Look who thinks he’s nothing!”

  2. i have found that there is always a paradox when it comes to Truth. “To be nothing you have to be everything”…..this saying seeped into my head 3 years ago…and i think it makes sense.It also works vice versa….”being everything includes being nothing”.

    Like Shmuel says….i do have skills…on the one hand they can be used for the benefit of my fellow Jews….but ” in my own right”….so blooming what !

    Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the congregant who was so moved when on Yom Kippur the shaliach tzibbur got up and exclaimed
    …..” Hash-m …I am nothing…NOTHING!”

    The congregant then got up and exclaimed “Hash-m I too am nothing….NOTHING !”

    The shaliach tzibbur then turned to his fellow standing next to him and responded…

    ” He’s been here 5 minutes….and all of a sudden he’s nothing ?”

  3. true to some degree but dangerous if the right distinction is not made. The problem lies when those heirs to the “me” generation coome to Torah thinking it’s the “me” religion. I once had an inquiry from someone through Partners in Torah who wanted to learn Talmud but only that which was meaningfful to his life. I told him that I tried to make my life meaningful to the Talmud. the distinction is subtle, but a distinction nonetheless. As a true BT, not a tinok shenishba, I continue to reap the successes of my professional life – the difference being that I now realize that my gifts were not entrusted to me so I could squander them but so that I could use them towards bringing others closer to Torah. Rebbe Yochanan understood that he was beautiful but it wasn’t about him getting his jollies with his good looks – there was a “tachlis” behing what he did (e.g sitting outside the mikva, crying over the thought of his demise) Bittul is a worthwhile goal and a wonderful antidote to the runaway narcississim and self-centeredness of much of contenmorary society. When I did tshuva, unlike Shayna’s comment, I wasn’t humbled by what I didn’t know – I could learn BH well, but I was awed by the responsibilities I now had. The point is that achieving a sense of bittul is not incompatible with a healthy sense of self-esteem – when I get up to speak brfore a group, I don’t say to myself I’m a loser and I’ll die out there. Instead I say I’m a first rate speaker but so what “uchshenai l’atzmi mah ani” theyre both sides of the same coin.

  4. I understand this concept with a slighly different slant. Whether or not a BT was academically or professionally successful, we were all masters of living a secular life. Making teshuva and entering the frum world required extreme humility because we entered a world with totally different rules (lingo, customs, faux pas, gender roles, etc.). Going from total fluency with the world to a level of knowing little–and realizing that you have to unlearn most of what you know–is the hardest part of becoming a BT. In my opinion.

  5. BS”D

    It’s a beautiful message, but I have never met a baal teshuva who thought it was necessary to go around claiming to be “gornisht.” As a matter of fact, self-esteem issues are usually given over in the most positive terms in BT yeshivos and sems, at least in my experience.

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1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Believing in Yourself"

  1. […] The psycho-spiritual pandemic of our era is insecurity and low self-esteem (see Rabbi Lazer Brody’s post December 26th post “Believing in Yourself”). BTs, in particular, endure such withering criticism from so many directions; parents and coworkers who think they’ve gone off the deep end, FFBs who sometimes agree with the above assessment while by turns saying that they haven’t conformed or come along fast enough, Mentors, Rabbis and Rebitsins who scrutinize their every move like another new set of Jewish parents. […]