Droshos - Practical Advice for Remembering Hashem
When the gemara says (Kesuvos 110b) that one who lives in the Diaspora is domeh (like) one without a God, it doesn’t mean that Hashem’s Presence is not there. He is everywhere, and tzaddikim throughout the generations, including the authors of the gemara itself, lived in the Diaspora. What it means is that one will have a dimayon (illusion) that Hashem is not present there. In other words, it is more difficult to find the presence of Hashem outside of the Land of Israel. We are influenced by the nations around us, who pursue material values and correspondingly ignore spiritual values. Even if we don’t see them, our hearts feel their influence. But one who puts forth the necessary extra effort will find Hashem.
The Torah says (Devarim 4:29), “And you will seek from there (the Diaspora) Hashem, your God, and you will find Him, if you search will all your heart and with all your soul.” I was told by three separate people not to bother visiting the United States. “The people there will have no interest in what you have to say,” they insisted. I did not listen to them, and thank God, I was not disappointed. I have met so many people here who truly yearn for Hashem, and just need guidance in how to become close to Him. There are many people in this country with an even stronger yearning for holiness than is generally found among the people in Israel. Here, you can see the emptiness of materialism more clearly and use this recognition to spark a true yearning for spiritual attainments.
In earlier generations, people lived very simply. Just look at pictures and descriptions of the Chofetz Chaim’s simple two-room home. Those people understood that this world is a temporary home, and that our lives should be focused on our permanent home in Gan Eden. People who consider this world their real abode are akin to a man in prison who focuses on decorating and renovating his cell, and does not even want to leave it when he is freed! It is permissible to buy a house; many tzaddikim did so. But you must remember that you will only be there for a number of decades at most, and that hopefully Mashiach will come soon, so that you can leave this place.
Most people are not able to learn Torah all day, trusting in Hashem for financial support. But although they need to work for a living, they must remember that there is a greater responsibility to the neshamah than the responsibility to the body that they take so seriously. We are not talking about some kind of self-accounting, but about an awareness of the reality of life. When someone checks his refrigerator to see what staples are lacking, do we praise him for making an honest self-accounting? If one will just sense the true condition of life, no other inspiration will be necessary. Do you need someone to inspire you to eat breakfast? No, you feel the need! A person in touch with the truth will feel the need to feed his hungry neshamah with Torah.
Here are some practical suggestions: When you enter the car in the morning to go to work, think for a moment, before turning on the ignition. “Why am I going to work? To care for the body. I must also care for my soul.” Think such thoughts three times a day; more than that may be too difficult. When filling your car with gas, think about the need to fill the neshamah. When eating or getting dressed, think about the neshamah’s needs, as well. If you persist with these daily reminders, your perspective on life will change, and you will begin to really sense your neshamah.