Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson


Hand to Hand Combat.

Face to face, body on body, two enemies focusing all their energies on vanquishing and destroying the other. It’s intense, old-fashioned warfare.

Fierce hostility. Yet intense closeness. As the two opponents wrestle in battle, they’re each carefully attuned to the other’s tensed muscles, to their opponent’s patterned breathing, to the enemy’s slightest twitch.

It’s almost paradoxical. Two forces diametrically opposed to each other, yet so intimately intertwined.

Such is life.

We’re created to wrestle. Challenges at home, work and in our communities are our daily battles in the world. I’m talking about a preliminary step, the intense wrestling, the hand to hand combat, that goes on inside each of us.

I’m referring to the battle that’s you vs. you. Me vs. me.

We all have a higher self, that part of us that’s visionary, prioritized, and properly focused on meaningful objectives. Then there’s the other, weaker, part of the human persona. The part of us that’s inspired by instant gratification, that won’t stay on mission and that sidetracks from what really matters in life.

Two enemies struggling for control of your psyche and choices. You vs. You. Me vs. me.

Controlling temper, envy, resentment, etc. are all above-the-radar emotional struggles. Then there’s a silent, emotionless and more insidious struggle: maintaining mental focus. Being fully ‘present’.

Studies show that people’s minds wander 46.9% of the time, including times when we’re ostensibly with family, in prayer, etc. That's a high percentage. And it necessarily detracts from the quality of our lives. Focus is imperative to being ‘present’, and being ‘present’ is central to self-discipline and healthy relationships.

So, if the statistics are correct, genuine focus doesn’t come easily. It takes an internal battle, intense combat for the control of our brain space. It takes wrestling with ourselves.

In a famous Scriptural narrative, our Patriarch Jacob is accosted by an angel and wrestles with this spiritual being throughout the night. Jacob is ultimately successful and is thus granted a second name, Israel (Yisrael), which is a contraction of several Hebrew words meaning: “you (Jacob) wrestled with the Divine….and persevered.”

We are Jacob. His struggle is our struggle. His legacy is for us to wrestle with the Divine, beginning with the psycho-spiritual challenges that G-d hard-wired into our psyches.

But Jacob’s legacy is more than the struggle, it’s also the victory.

Now it’s up to us.

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