The Ups & Downs Of Spiritual Growth

nanaWorking on your spirituality? When you start, it can feel like you’re zooming to the top.

Sure, you know you still hang onto old stuff too, but that old stuff, both inner and outer, is sloughing off little by little.

How does it work?

Let’s say you’re sweetening your spiritual efforts by following Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s holy advice to avoid cleverness and sophistication and live with simplicity.

As you gain momentum and begin to live more simply in spiritual and material ways, you discover that your appreciation for and understanding of simplicity grows too. Your relationships to friends, family, Hashem is simpler and less convoluted. Your spiritual drive becomes stronger, yet simpler. And although you can’t yet glimpse tomorrow’s simplicity and how it will affect you, you know it’s going to be even more incredibly simple.

Not A Straight Line

But sometimes we were simpler yesterday than today.  Or kinder the week before last. Maybe more generous last summer.

Possibly our prayer seems to be in a rut, maybe our energy for Torah learning is dissolving. We just don’t feel that high.

None of this is the bad news you think it is.

Spirituality isn’t a missile. We don’t set the target and press a button. We can’t count on a certain trajectory. We aren’t even sure what the target looks like. Or where it’s located. We can’t even grasp the target until we’ve reached it.

And, also unlike a missile, if we go off track and slip or fall, that doesn’t mean our journey is a failure. Or over.


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that the yerida is necessary for the aliyah. We must fall to rise.

Everyone falls.

The Rebbe reminds us that even Tzaddikim fall (although there lowest point might be higher than our highest point, perhaps the only true example of meritorious moral relativism.)

In other words, spiritual progress is a fluid trip, like surfing filled with delicious barrels and heart-stopping twists and maverick waves, and yes, wipe-outs. Not an escalator to sainthood, not a rocket to Heaven.

When a person falls from their level they need to understand that this is something sent to them from Heaven, for the sole purpose to draw them closer.

The idea is to encourage you to make an new effort to come closer, make a brand new start.

Start serving God as if you had never done so before and this was new to you.

This is one of the basic principles of being a Jew and serving God.

You must literally begin all over again, every day.–Likutey Eitzos

Grab At The Joy

This is an incredible concept: Our crashes and falls are sent to us. From Heaven.

The purpose of the fall is so that we will make a new effort, a fresh start. Catch the new wave. Grab at the joy of starting over.

Once you understand this you don’t need to beat yourself up or give up just because you slipped.

Hashem, in His great, unfathomable kindness, gives us obstacles. He also implants within us a deep, psycho-spiritual desire to overcome challenges.

When we slip up, we have to remember: Even if the fall was our choosing, Hashem was with us when we fell.  He is with us everywhere, in our ups and in our downs.

A deep Truth: Everything is the Will of Hashem and at the same time, we have free choice. This is the ultimate paradox and the only way to deal with Holy paradoxes is…simplicity and joy.

This post is sponsored by the Schulman family in belated honor of the Holy Baba Sali’s hillula.

Photo by Shalom Jacobovitz.





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