by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg
She listens carefully to many lectures on prayer, and prays according to her notes, but she finds that her prayers remain unanswered.
He writes down everything he learns about being a good husband, makes lists of all the things a husband must do, and still is unable to make his wife happy with him.
He observes all the laws with a firm belief in a concept that has been drilled into his head; "External practice will change you internally," and yet has not experienced any internal change.
She is "working on her anger" by never acting angry, yet, her anger is still "eating away at my gut."
I believe that they all share the same problem: They are playing a role, not expressing themselves, nor discovering their authentic selves. One is playing the role of praying, doing everything she is "supposed" to do, but her heart is not invested. One is playing the role of a good husband, doing everything he "must," except authentically expressing real love for his wife. One is playing the role of an observant Jew, but his heart was never connected to his actions. One is playing the role of a person who has mastered her anger, but she has yet to find a healthy and healthful way to express her anger.
Most of us play many roles throughout our lifetimes. We have learned how to shift roles, but we don’t know how to look behind them. The roles we assume – spouse, parent, nice guy, righteous person, etc. – are not necessarily bad and can provide useful models to follow in unfamiliar situations. Our task is to find those parts that work for us, and those that don’t. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion, and just like peeling an onion, it’s a task that can bring on a few tears. It can be terrifying to let go of a role we have been playing for many years, so, we get stuck in our roles. We act as we believe we should rather than discover our authentic selves.
"It will be that if you hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love God, your Lord, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 11:13) We are challenged to find ways to find ways to express our love in our service. (The Mechanic and The Artist) We are also reminded that our service must FOLLOW the love. Our service must be an expression of what we feel. We must first learn to be authentic.
When we serve to avoid punishment; we are inauthentic. We are role playing.
When we serve to express love; we are authentic.
When we serve to receive reward; we are inauthentic. We are stuck in the role of Servant of God, but we are serving our own needs.
When we serve to express ourselves, "With all our hearts and all our souls," we are authentic.
"To know what is in your hearts." (8:3) (Chipping Away the Pieces) "You shall know in your heart." (Verse 5) Only then, "You shall observe the commandments of God, your Lord, to walk in His ways and be in awe of Him." (Verse 6) We cannot choose our path, "Walk in His ways," until we know what is in our hearts. People stuck in a role cannot begin to walk on their own.
It is exactly at this point, the Eikev – Heel – that powers us to move forward on our authentic path, that God says of the Snake, "You will bite his Eikev, his heel." (Genesis 3:15) He’s still at it. It’s time for us to, "He will pound your head."
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