The Power of Teshuvah – Day 40
Technique 3: ‘Ein Bereirah’
Mendy was late getting home. But he knew that no matter what, Shabbos would not wait. So he hurriedly shined his shoes, showered, prepared the Shabbos lights, and checked that all else was in place. And once again, he made it on time. As always, Mendy knew that it was absolutely necessary that all his Shabbos preparations be completed on time. After all, he had no other choice! If Shabbos is coming, Shabbos is coming. Nothing else matters.
When we have no choice, we do what we must. A woman dislikes been awakened early, but she gets out of bed and tends to her early-rising toddler; she must. No one wants to “donate” a portion of their income to the government, but we all do — or else.
If we can succeed in creating an ironclad rule for ourselves that precludes sliding back into a sin, we will have given ourselves an enormously powerful tool in unlearning bad habits and learning better ones. Such a tool gives us time to solidify our new way, preventing the backsliding that often undermines our confidence and momentum.
The foundation of our entire service to Hashem is our willingness to accept the “yoke of heaven.” That is why the recitation of Shema in which we commit ourselves to the “yoke of Heaven” precedes that of “Vehayah im sha’moa,” in which we commit ourselves to obey the commandments.
A kabbalah is the acceptance of a yoke, similar to the wooden beam placed on a pair of oxen to enable them to pull a load (oxen generally work in pairs). Once the ox is under the yoke, it must do its master’s will. It is unable to turn around and go in another direction.
In making a kabbalah, we, too, need something to ensure that we stay on track. Because all beginnings are difficult and prone to setbacks, we should first make a kabbalah.
Our own personal kabbalos can be fortified tremendously with this approach, called “Ein bereirah” (there is no choice). If we tell ourselves, “Ein bereirah — I will do this, no matter what,” we can acquire the Heavenly help to remove all the obstacles that lie in the path to an enduring teshuvah. This approach and the success it breeds give us the fresh beginning we need to solidify our teshuvah.
The most effective way to use the “ein bereirah” approach is, as mentioned earlier, to apply it to a small improvement: “No matter what, I will take a 5-minute break to call my parents every day.” Then, when the yetzer hara begins nagging us about the chores piling up around us or the paperwork on our desk, we are armed with a reply: “I know, but I have to do this first.” Giving ourselves no choice neutralizes much of the internal back-and-forth that weakens our resolve.
Once we see that we are able to enforce our decisions upon ourselves in smaller matters, we gain the strength to tackle larger matters. With a kabbalah of “necessity,” the evil inclination cannot rule. “Ein bereirah” works.