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We're At War

Friday, 23 August, 2019 - 8:53 am

There’s a war going on.

No, I don’t mean Afghanistan or Syria.

Or even Congress.

I mean you and me. But it isn’t between us, it’s within us.

Or at least it should be.

We each have two opposing forces within our respective psyches. There’s the responsible, selfless, visionary dimension (the ‘G-dly soul’ in Kabbalistic language). And then there’s the shallower, self-centered, creature-comfort-seeking dimension (the ‘animal soul’ in Kabbalistic terms).

These two internal forces are always pulling my attention in opposite directions.

They’re at war, fighting for control of my choices, and I need to be on constant alert.

I’m not speaking about the major moral dilemmas, the challenges to our basic integrity, which we sometimes face. It’s more common, and more insidious, than that.

I’m referring to our struggle to pay proper attention to relationships, to be fully engaged in a five year old’s story, to be fully present in our actions, etc.

It’s about struggling with my weaker self.

It may be common, but we shouldn’t understate the reality: It’s a real battle.

And it never stops. Unless I’ve totally caved in to my weaker side.

Interestingly, Kabbalistic writings refer to Prayer as a ‘time of combat.’ At first blush, that strikes me as odd. Doesn’t Prayer seems more synonymous with peace than with war?

Prayer is about getting a firmer grip on ourselves. It’s about cutting through layers of self-image and defense mechanisms; it’s about recognizing counter-productive patterns so that we can break their paralyzing hold on our lives.

When I pray, I need to seriously focus on who I need to be, as compared to who I am. That’s easier said than done, since there’s a strong instinct to look the other way, avoiding the unpleasantness that comes with facing one’s weaker self.

Framing Prayer as a battle also helps me to appreciate the value of communal prayer. I don’t want to stand alone in battle; there’s strength in numbers. When I pray, I’m supported by my comrades’ effort to overcome the impediments that stand between us and our potential.

It’s a team effort, with each of us strengthening the other by our very presence and commitment to self-actualization.

Yes, it’s war, and a warrior needs to have all internal pistons firing with awareness and focus. It’s an individual battle, but we’re in this together.

See you at services?

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