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Overcoming the Waves of Stress & Anxiety

Friday, 23 October, 2020 - 11:56 am


Debates, School Closings, Covid-19 upticks, Economic Uncertainties and the list goes on…

I don't think I had a single meaningful conversation this week that didn't drift towards people's concerns about the current political climate, economic uncertainties and the challenges of Covid-19.  There is no doubt that all of the concerns and emotions that people are currently feeling and experiencing are real and can be genuinely overwhelming and disturbing. At times these pressures might consume us as they chip away at our inner core and quash our ability to be positive, to focus on what is important and meaningful and to actually do Mitzvot and good deeds.

Yet 2020 is definitely not the first time, humanity has faced major adversity and challenges, Indeed, it is this very idea which is discussed heavily in Chassidic philosophy in regards to the floodwaters of Noah which we read about this Saturday. The floodwaters are considered to be a metaphor for the pressures and anxieties for life, which at times can drown out our inner core and connection to the Divine and that which is good and right, and totally overwhelm us and any aspirations that we might have.

Yet as King Solomon says in the Song of Songs, "Many waters cannot extinguish the inherent love (for G-d and what is right), and raging waters will not wash it away". This means, that we need to know that we have the inherent ability to overcome stress, pressures and these external anxieties, and know how to stay focused and navigate things correctly.

Conceptually this might sound great, yet in reality how do we accomplish that, especially when the stakes are so high and the challenges are so real? There is obviously no magic button and we cannot simply wish away reality.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement suggested, that the solution to dealing with the floodwaters lies in entering the metaphoric "Ark" just as G-d told Noah to do. This is since in Hebrew, the word "Teiva" - "Ark" can also mean "words". Thus the solution of navigating the floodwaters correctly and not getting drowned and consumed by them, is to create in our lives moments of words of prayer and words of meaningful Torah study. It is this "Ark" which will give the person moments in time when he or she can rise above the pressures and anxieties, dig deeper, focus inwards and outwards and recalibrate their inner and spiritual core.

This is not to say that challenges and hardships will suddenly go away, and neither are we trying to escape reality, rather the goal is to learn how to navigate reality and the stresses of life in a manner that won’t drag us down. The secondary goal is to then leave the "Ark" and take on the world with the inspiration, hopes and positive goals that one has nurtured and internalized while in the Ark.

Trying to integrate this mindfulness in our lives, helps us not only not get consumed by the stresses that are at times in abundance all around us, but instead it enables us to stay afloat and rise higher, as we learn to navigate the challenges and seek to make the world be the place it should be.

Practically speaking, creating time in our lives for Torah Study at home or virtually or likewise making time to pray and reflect, are powerful tools which not only enrich our lives, but can also be the rudders and floatation devices that enable us to successfully navigate the challenges and make our lives and the world around us a better place in the process.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom


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