- Jewish Laws and Thoughts
- Trial and Difficulties in Life
Inclined to Recline- "And Yaakov dwelled…."
Stress is Good For You!
Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. But on a deeper level, rising to challenges and overcoming them is the essence of life.
My father, olav hashalom, always used to remark, "If you want something done, ask a busy man." When we have little do, merely getting out of bed can become an existential challenge. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in The Mesilas Yesharim, the Path of the Just, that we are here in this world to do three things: to serve Hashem - God; to do the mitzvot, the commandments and to stand up to challenges. One of the great paths to happiness is to realize that every experience that we meet in life is a challenge. True some challenges, are easier to spot than others. For example, it’s fairly obvious when you're the father of a family subsisting on food stamps that it's a big challenge to keep your fingers out of an open bag with several $100 bills smiling at you. Other challenges are more subtle. Success for example. It’s all too easy to fall prey to the myth of the self-made man. Just as no man in history has managed to create himself out of dust, so no business wizz has been able to conjure up his own millions. Everything comes from Heaven. I know some very brilliant people who are washing dishes, and some pretty dim ones who are driving Ferraris. Intelligence and success are but distant relations. There once was a businessman who made a vast fortune. Someone asked him to what he attributed his success. "90% mazal (luck) and 10% seichel (intelligence), and if I’d had less seichel I’d have made a lot more money." Yaakov is called the muvchar - the "choicest" of the fathers of the Jewish People, and yet he had by far the hardest life. He grew up with a brother who wanted to kill him. Because of this he fled to his uncle who cheated him on a daily basis. On his way back home, his daughter was kidnapped and violated, and when he finally arrived home, he's told that his favorite son has been torn limb from limb by a wild animal. After a life of such stress, to seek some repose, some shelter from the storm, would not seem unreasonable — and yet the Torah finds fault with Yaakov for his desire of tranquility. Rest and respite from pressure is given to us for one reason only – to be able to meet life's challenges. Pressure is life’s default position; that’s the way things are supposed to be. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe used to say that his most creative moments in Torah thought were when the phone was ringing off the hook, students needed his attention, and he had one foot out the door to the airport. And when we make that extra effort to function under pressure, G-d gives up that little extra help that lifts our lives from prose to poetry.