Fear. Fear is something I believe that we all struggle with on one level or another. Fear prevents us from being composed, from being in the moment, and from making good decisions. It clouds our mind and our judgment. When we are afraid and anxious, we are certainly not mindful. We are not able to be our best selves; we are not true to who we really are. How can we find healing from our fears, how can they be rectified? Is it even possible to correct them and elevate them?
Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan that personal prayer heals us from our fears, specifically by trying to make a daily accounting of our actions. How do we elevate fear to its lofty source, to the fear of Heaven? By judgement. When a person speaks out their heart before Hashem and judges their own actions, in every area of life, they are able to elevate all of their fears and rectify them from their fallen state. We naturally have an attribute of fear inside of our souls. However, when we are afraid of other people or of something that might happen to us, then our natural, healthy fear and awe of Heaven has fallen. Rebbe Nachman explains that when we do not try to account for our actions and ask for forgiveness, from Hashem or from another person, we are judged from Heaven. The judgement is ‘clothed’ in something that happens to us or in an interaction we have with someone. It could be someone yelling at you at the store, at the bank, etc. In everything that happens to us, there is a message. However, when people judge themselves, they make an internal accounting, in a loving manner, then the judgement is sweeten and removed. We do not need to be awakened by Hashem to look at our actions. Then, says Rebbe Nachman, we do not need to fear anything, because the judgement has been nullified. This is how we can rectify fear and elevate it. (Abridged Likutei Moharan, 15th teaching, part one)
In personal prayer we find healing from our fallen fears. We see from this teaching that the healing is simple in a way, but it takes time and dedication. Little by little, we elevate the fear inside of us to true knowledge, to knowing that Hashem sees us, and He is lovingly helping us to improve and correct ourselves. We can begin this avodah (work) of elevating our fallen fears back to Hashem by simply telling him each day, in personal prayer, what we are afraid of and why. This I believe is part of the internal accounting that Rebbe Nachman is teaching us. Being honest with Hashem what we are afraid of. We can ask Him for help in whatever matter troubles us, and ask Him in general to heal us from our varied fears and anxieties.
Another tool that Rebbe Natan reveals in a letter to his son, in the book Healing Leaves, is to not let ourselves think too much about our fears! We have the power to focus on something more positive. “Do not be drawn after sorrow too much. Teach yourself to not focus on your sorrow, remove it from your heart. Especially the unnecessary fears and sadness that you have from what you are going through, everything is foolishness! The main thing is remove them from your heart. Put on a happy face and pretend as if you are happy. Through this advice, you will actually become happy in the end. Try as much as possible not to spend time thinking thoughts of sadness and fear. A person has the free choice to distract himself from these types of thoughts. When you distract yourself from them, they will go away.” (Letter 121)
As we approach the amazing holiday of Pesach (Passover), the light of freedom and deep faith shines again in the world and illuminates our souls on a personal level. Rebbe Nachman teaches in the book of Advice that just like the Jewish month of Tishrei is a time of returning to Hashem (teshuva), so too the month of Nisan, the month of Pesach, is a time of teshuva. The Sages teach that just as we were redeemed from Eygpt in the month of Nisan, we will also merit our final redemption in the month of Nisan. Therefore, Rebbe Nachman teaches, that the redemption will only come from our teshuva, from our sincere return to Hashem. (Advice, Teshuva, 19th teaching) An aspect of teshuva that we can work on during this month of redemption is trying to set aside a daily time to introspect and take an accounting of our actions and feelings, especially our fears. This is a special time of year where there is a spiritual awakening from above, and it is an opportune time to work on this advice.
May we all merit the light of true freedom this Pesach, and may we all find healing from the fears that cloud our lives and hold us back bringing our unique light into the world.