I was once told that Heinz doesn’t make its money from the ketchup you use, but rather the ketchup you don’t use. Making sure you have enough so that you won’t have to worry is what drives the world’s economy — but is it heading to a place where you really want to go?
Worrying you might get sick is killing you, which is just as absurd as worrying you won’t enjoy yourself. You would enjoy yourself a lot more if you stopped worrying! I can guarantee this: If you worry about whether you will enjoy retirement, you won’t.
The good news about worry is this: It can always get worse — you can always worry more than you do now — and the bad news is that unless you work on it, you will!
You may worry you don’t have what to live with, but if you worry, you won’t live.
Of all the characters in the Torah, the one whom the Torah records as sleeping the most is Yaakov. Lest you think he always needed his eight hours, the Midrash tells us Yaakov had remarkable strength and could go for long periods of time without sleep. When the Torah tells us Yaakov slept, it’s telling us this is one of the few times he actually slept.
How unusual then to find that in the middle of one of Yaakov’s greatest calamities, when he is facing his greatest adversary, when he is “very frightened and distraught” (Genesis 32:8), Yaakov decides to take a nap (Genesis 32:14)!
Because Yaakov knew he had a bigger enemy to beat than Esav; one that takes no prisoners, holds no bars, suffers no pity or mercy. Who is relentless and constant.
The famous book of Jewish ethics, The Way of the Righteous (Orchat Tzadikim), tells us: “Who is the one who is never free of worry? The one who has a goal that is too high for himself.” Because we have goals that are way out of range of what we can practically achieve, we are constantly spinning our wheels and never finding any real peace.
When I asked Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l how a person can know what goal is too high, he said there is only one goal that is too high for a human being: to be G-d.
Allow me to explain. You are on a plane, 30,000 feet up, and the passenger next to you is white-knuckling it. You turn to him and say, “You can relax now,” but he answers, “No, I can’t, I’m the one who is keeping the plane in the sky!”
What is going on? He wants to be G-d. He wants to control the outcome.
With everything in life, there is a line that beyond which there is nothing more you can do. On this side of the line is you, on the other is G-d. Yaakov knew his line. Once he got to that place where there was nothing more he could do, he took a nap. It’s the equivalent of an announcement that now the rest is up to G-d.
If you want to live long, and more importantly, if you really want to live, then respect your line. Otherwise, worry may make the world go round, but it will be going in the wrong direction.
Assignment: Take easy things and work your way up. Before you start a new endeavor, ask yourself, where is my line — and force yourself to stop before you cross it. Keep in mind, you need to figure out the line before you start.
By Rabbi Stephen Baars
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. He did nine years of post-graduate studies at the Aish HaTorah Rabbinical College in Jerusalem, and has been an educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years. Learn more at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.