One had become superfrum and was doing everything l'mehadrin. Yet he kept getting hit with one difficulty after another. In other words, his life was a big unpleasant mess. He was understandably bitter and resentful at being "punished" after investing so much in doing what he understood to be God's Will.
To compound things, he had a secular brother who was regularly talking to and thanking Hashem, and generally a cheerful guy, for whom life was going swimmingly. Money was rolling in, he was healthy, life was good.
So the frum brother wanted Rav Arush to explain what was going on.
Rav Arush explained that the secular brother had an emuna outlook, even if he wasn't actualizing it through all the mitzvot right now. But he would definitely get there, he would definitely become a wholly committed Jew.
Conversely, the superfrum brother constantly complained. Yes, things were indeed difficult, but he was serving Hashem with no joy and not expressing any gratitude for what Hashem had given him; life wasn't ALL bad.
The superfrum brother's bitterness and ingratitude was actually heaping judgement on him.
Rav Arush compared it to 2 kinds of cars. (I can't find the place in the book where he wrote this, so I hope I get it right!):
The secular brother was an old rundown car chugging along, but he was chugging along in the right direction. Eventually, he'll make it to the right destination, even if it takes time and breakdowns to get there.
The superfrum brother symbolized a shiny new model of car, but one which was zooming directly toward the wrong goal. Despite his superior shape and automation, he was actually moving very fast in the opposite direction of the correct goal, and hence had no chance of making it to the right destination (unless he decided to change course immediately).
Food for thought.
The Eilat Disco Davener
Until then, he'd been a night club owner in Eilat. In fact, he owned several night clubs, all opened on Shabbat and all facilitating all the transgressions associated with such a lifestyle.
Anyway, due to a car accident in which a book of Tehillim he "coincidentally" had in his car fell open on his chest to a certain perek that really spoke to him, this young man started talking to God.
In fact, he took his Mercedes up into the nearby rocky hills to speak with Hashem without knowing that this was called hitbodedut or anything like that. He'd spend an hour or more there, just talking to Hashem about his needs and thanking him for all the success with the clubs.
The funny side to this was that the police grew suspicious upon seeing a Mercedes in an abandoned area and kept coming to arrest him for what they were sure was illicit behavior like drugs, etc. After several times, they were like, "Oh, gosh. You AGAIN?"
Anyway, this young man started to be astounded at the exactness with which Hashem would answer him. If he needed his clubs to make an extra 150 shekels to cover expenses, then he would somehow receive exactly 150 shekels. And this kind of preciseness kept up.
Anyway, he kept on like this until he couldn't stand his lifestyle any longer. He sold the clubs (which made his family and partners think he was nuts because he was raking in tons of money) and when 2 Breslover emissaries showed up (I think one of them teaches at my son's school), he went with them to Chut Shel Chessed.
The video was only 20 minutes and when I got to the end, I realized that the guy was actually not remotely mitzvah observant until the end. Meaning, he was going up to the rocky hills and doing hitbodedut and asking for success with his night clubs that were open on Shabbat and hosted lots of other sinful activities.
And he was reaping success!
I listened to the whole thing again and sure enough, this guy was not remotely frum at that time he was cultivating this really intense relationship with Hashem.
How can this be?
Because by working from the inside-out, you'll eventually get where you need to go.
Then I recalled my own experience with this.
God as an Indulgent Parent
My mood started lifting.
Then the telephone rang and a friend of mine invited me to go to a party.
I was thrilled -- more that Hashem had answered my unspoken prayer than about the party, although I was excited about the party too. Fortunately, it was a really lame gathering and basically dampened any enthusiasm for New Year's parties in general ever since. (And just for knowing, I've long since stopped celebrating the Julian New Year for years now.)
Rabbi Wallerstein also spoke of fighting his gambling addiction when he hit bottom and stood to lose everything. He begged Hashem to just let him win big one more time, and then he'd never go to a casino again. He even quipped "Poor God!" because as he explained it, "I -- nebbuch -- shlepped the Shechinah into the casino."
But in His Great Mercy and Forbearance, Hashem let Rabbi Wallerstein win enough to cover all his debts.
(And then a month later, he was back in the casino. But Hashem was still with him and orchestrated things so that Rabbi Wallerstein picked up a copy of Kav Hayashar, which said scary things about gambling and scary things in general, and that got Rabbi Wallerstein to break his addiction. Phew! Yishtabach Shemo!)
So what's the lesson here?
Just Start Connecting
In her book, Turn Around, Rebbetzin Orit Esther Reiter even recommends sitting down with a cup of coffee to start talking to Hashem the way you would with a good friend.
Rav Shalom Arush recommends starting off with 20 minutes of gratitude and thanking, then 20 minutes of confession and saying what you feel bad about, then 20 minutes of requests. (You can also cut this down or play around with the ratios if you find 20/20/20 overwhelming at first.)
However you manage it, I just see that at some point, people get stuck if the relationship isn't there.
I got stuck myself at one point. (Actually, more than just once.)
And that makes sense.
I mean, after all, what's the point of being a frum atheist?
But in addition to frum people, people who are very assimilated need to start developing this relationship with Hashem.
As the surrounding Western cultures become more bizarre and unhealthy, it can be much harder to speak to people who are totally assimilated.
In fact, I remember myself at the beginning of my Torah journey and there were things I just couldn't understand that I both understand and embrace now.
I honestly see it as being in completely different dimension.
So it's important to realize that Hashem loves you and cares about you and wants a relationship with you, regardless of what kind of person you are now and what you've done.
Just the fact that you're reaching out to him in your own words reaps huge changes, whether you immediately perceive them or not.
Turn Around: 180 Degrees in 180 Days by Orit Esther Riter
Daily Dose of Emuna
The Theory of Absolute (one of several times Rabbi Wallerstein tells his story of gambling addiction and exit, his story starts at around 15 minutes)
Torah Perspectives on Addiction (one of several talks Rabbi Wallerstein has given on his prior addiction and lessons learned)
What is the Main Purpose of Your Existence?
Books that Changed My Life: Tehillim (this is the full story of that New Year's Eve and how I even knew about Tehillim in the first place)
(And yes, I also need to take the plunge again and again. That's what we're here for.)