For example, many people struggling with frumkeit and their relationship with Hashem describe some kind of rejection in the background.
Maybe it was from their family or maybe from their school. Maybe it was their community. Maybe they stumbled upon a rabbi or rebbetzin who wasn’t the real deal.
Sometimes it was outright rejection, sometimes it was more subtle; like a teacher or parent not addressing their needs fully.
So many concerned influencers in the community put tremendous efforts in curing others of what the "experts" perceive as rejectionism.
(This gets even thornier when the pressure to love & accept people who behave in ways that are truly objectionable and yet unconditional love doesn't seem to help much, if at all. But that's a whole other topic.)
Needless to say, we all need to work on ahavat Yisrael.
We need to work on ourselves, investing in a thorough & regular cheshbon hanefesh, which entails clearing up those blindspots & clearing out those clogged middot.
The problem comes when Hashem is whisked out of the picture, as He always is psychology & sociology.
The Paradox of Emuna & Hishtadlut
- Hashem is Only Good and All-Compassionate—yet very evil & cruel things occur in the world.
- Some people are meant to be poor—yet we are supposed to do everything we can to help others out of poverty.
(In other words, we aren’t supposed to look at a poor person and say, “Well, obviously, Hashem wanted you to suffer the nisayon of poverty as a tikkun, so why should I give you anything? It’s Hashem’s Will!” That is a cold-hearted, cruel, and anti-Torah way of looking at a person in need.)
So yes, we should work on treating every person with fairness and respect.
If someone is meant to endure a difficult nisayon, we should not be chosen as the stick with which to beat another.
At the same time, people are clearly meant to go through trials in life.
The Recipe for Greatness: Isolation, Rejection, Repression...
Look at what David Hamelech (the progenitor of Mashiach ben David) and Yosef Hatzaddik (the progenitor of Mashiach ben Yosef) went through.
They were both rejected by their own brothers—brothers who were very great people in their own right!
Being quashed, repressed, and confined in some way also occurred to many supreme Jews in Tanach:
Yosef Hatzaddik, Moshe Rabbeinu, and Yirmiyahu Hanavi were all dumped in prison pits.
Sara Imeinu and Dina were locked in boxes for their own protection.
Being isolated within completely non-Jewish environments is another theme: Yosef Hatzaddik, Moshe Rabbeinu, Daniel, Esther Hamalkah…
Can you imagine being in a place where the tumah is literally pervading the air?
Avodah Zara Makes My Skin Crawl
No, no, no, no. (Although Eastern mysticism is indeed totally forbidden & extremely harmful.)
Avodah zara is the dark occult.
And it was a highly developed occult back in ancient times. The occult leaders possessed brilliant minds equal to the top scientists of today, and these occult leaders had everything down to a science.
If you were in a palace in ancient Egypt or Persia, you were surrounded by dark and spooky tumah, plus demonic forces—talk about being afraid to look under your bed at night or monsters in closets!
The stench of tumadik incense pervaded the environment. (And you thought smog was bad.)
Not to mention the nearby presence of practitioners brainwashed into sociopathy, who would even sacrifice their own small child in cruel ways.
How would you feel about sleeping in the same building or neighborhood as people who’d done that?
Pretty creepy stuff.
Are You a Potential Moshe Rabbeinu?
You see that he grew up in the center of Egyptian avodah zara, which was particularly dark & oppressive tumah.
And he came through that nisayon with flying colors.
Yet upon going to join his brethren, he was proactive in his expression of empathy & justice, and found himself on the run from his fellows, and then imprisoned underground and subsisting on matzah.
That’s rejection with a capital “R”!
Not to mention feeling repressed. He couldn’t fully express his innate nature and talents in a depressing pit. (He couldn’t in Pharaoh’s palace either.)
And Moshe Rabbeinu’s difficulties didn’t stop there.
The very people (the Erev Rav) he tried so hard to help and be mekarev and elevate, not only turned on him personally, but they even messed up everything Moshe Rabbeinu had done for the Am until then! (Yes, I’m talking about the Golden Calf travesty.)
So…was Am Yisrael wrong for letting the Erev Rav work them up into a state of panic and then latching on to the Erev Rav’s advice?
Yes! And we're still suffering the consequences for that until this day!
But this was also Moshe Rabbeinu’s Divinely ordained nisayon.
Are You a Potential Yirmiyahu HaNavi?
Would Yirmiyahu Hanavi have achieved such greatness if everyone had loved him back and been all nicey-nice to him all the time?
Where is the challenge of loving people who are easy to love? (The Pele Yoetz makes this point HERE. Please scroll down to "No More Blame Game.")
Yirmiyahu Hanavi’s eternally recognized greatness derived from his ability to genuinely love and feel compassion for people who didn’t deserve his love and compassion.
And that’s the lesson repeated throughout Tanach.
Only a Rejected & Despised Stone can be Used as a Cornerstone:
All Others Need Not Apply
Even ma’asu habonim hayata l’rosh pinah—The very stone rejected by the experts who know all about the best way to erect buildings?
THAT is the exact stone that ends up as the corner stone foundation of the most important building.
The accepted & even much-lauded stones never had any chance of being the cornerstone.
Because they weren’t rejected! They were never despised!
The experts LOVED those stones! Everyone oohed and aahed over the loveliness and suitability of those stones.
So those stones never had a chance.
Only a despised & rejected stone has any chance of being the coveted cornerstone.
Let's Be Kind!
First of all, when someone comes to you broken by rejection of any kind, it’s important to empathize. Avot 4:18 warns against dealing with angry or grieving people in a frivolous or overly pious manner.
And if they're so broken or messed-up that they respond inappropriately, we shouldn't embarrass them or see them in that state. (Same Mishnah. Also, in Words of Faith, Rav Bender goes into this concept quite a bit.)
There is a time and a place for everything, as emphasized by Kohelet and repeated by the Pele Yoetz and many, many other talmidei chachamim and tzaddikim.
You have to use your seichel and your sense of compassion.
Yet at some point, the tormented person needs to realize that the very fact of their rejection is meant to be overcome, and not used as an excuse to reject Hashem or to sink into all sorts of forbidden activities.
Whapping society over the head to be more accepting and loving isn’t ultimately the answer because Hashem decreed that this person needs to endure this nisayon.
Again, I didn’t say we don’t need to be more compassionate as a society.
I did NOT say that.
We DO need to develop our compassion & empathy!
But it’s a paradox.
You can’t whomp society and coddle the victim as the ULTIMATE solution.
And you even see that shitah (based on narrow-minded limited-vision psychology & sociology) is not working.
A Bit of Brutal Honesty about the Spiritual Wrestling Match
Rejection and repression ARE painful. EXTREMELY painful.
They’re also infuriating.
That’s the nisayon. We don’t deny pain. That’s not the authentically Jewish way.
Let’s just say it outright:
Being rejected IS painful!
Being straight-jacketed, misunderstood, repressed, quashed, or confined?
VERY painful! And infuriating!
It is! What’s wrong with acknowledging that?
At the same time…
People who can wrestle their way through the pain and the rage to reach a place of love and proactive compassion end up as beings of tremendous spiritual greatness.
And it IS a wrestling match—let there be no illusions about that.
Yaakov Avinu wrestled with Esav’s spiritual force all night.
In a wrestling match, sometimes you find yourself down for the count in a chokehold.
That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost.
It’s not hopeless.
It does mean, however, that you need to find a way to scrabble back up again—despite your injuries.
And that’s how it is.
May we all succeed in winning the match!