The book basically delves into the deeper meaning of Rebbe Nachman's most famous story, The Lost Princess.
A compelling story that has the power to awaken thoughts of teshuvah within anyone who reads it, The Lost Princess is an allegorical history of the world, history of the Jewish people, and your own personal history...all in one short tale.
Yet this incredible story holds even deeper secrets and meanings.
The story starts off with a king and his 6 sons and 1 cherished beloved daughter. Almost immediately within the story, the king suddenly becomes angry at his beloved daughter and blurts out, "May the Not Good take you!"
The princess goes to her room, then disappears.
Seeing the king's great anguish at her disappearance, an unnamed viceroy (hasheini l'malchut: the next in line to the throne) volunteers to embark on a quest to find her.
- The King symbolizes Hashem.
- The viceroy represents shoresh neshamot Yisrael, i.e. the root of Jewish souls, i.e. each individual Jew...that means you (if you're Jewish). You're the viceroy.
- The princess represents kedusha (holiness) and the Shechinah, i.e. "the emuna and connection with the Holy One Blessed Be He" in the words of Rabbi Erez.
Even the Best Needs to Battle the Worst
She is suddenly decreed to go into exile and she disappears.
He emphasizes something I hadn't considered before.
No matter how good you are, no matter how high a place your soul is drawn down from, no matter how good you were in former gilgulim, you can still find yourself exiled to the place of "The Not Good."
Until this book, I considered a lot of suffering to be rectification of bad decisions made and wrong paths taken in former lives. And I derived a lot of comfort and encouragement from this idea.
And of course, there's also punishment. Not the punitive vengeance we often associate with punishment, but corrective and cleansing measures Hashem takes for our own benefit.
Yet this story indicates that being cast into a Not Good place is something that needs to happen, no matter how good you've been and no matter how pure your soul is.
Being in a dark place doesn't reflect on you. It reflects on your soul's mission.
(We see this with very great people in Tanach, who came from great people and possessed particularly lofty and holy souls, yet found themselves in seemingly unjust and devastating circumstances.)
You are the Hero of Your Own Story
(This is my very, very oversimplified explanation of a profound and powerful process that I don't completely understand.)
There are beautiful and precious sparks of light encased with thick klippot (outer-shell coverings). These klippot need to be cracked and stripped off in order to release the beautiful sparks of light trapped within.
Think of a nut whose shell needs to be pried open in order to get to the actual almond or walnut within.
And we have been sent down here by Hashem on a mission to wrestle with these klippot and release these sparks.
Some of these klippot and the sparks trapped within are located in very dark places.
And these klippot are very tough and thick.
And you and me -- the little, helpless, flawed, ordinary people that we are (well, speaking for myself anyway) are supposed to be the ones to take on this seemingly impossible job.
You're basically the hero of your own story, whether you realize it or not and whether you want it or not.
And things aren't equal. Some people need to do only a little work on anger, but a truckload of work on laziness. Some people are plagued with envy but are doing well in the area of zerizut.
Some people have a lot to work on with all the cards stacked against them.
Others have less to work on while receiving genuinely useful guidance and support in the form of financial, social, and familial resources.
I found this very encouraging and inspiring.
You're Not Failing
But sometimes it doesn't.
Sometimes it gets worse.
Or sometimes another even bigger problem follows on its heels.
And since its inception, psychology likes to blame people for their life issues.
Doesn't matter what branch or what era.
There are theories that you're attracting negative energies/people/situations, that you're a masochist, that you're "asking" for it, that you project the wrong impression (i.e. not enough self-confidence), that you need to love yourself more, that you're not "mindful" enough, that your background and upbringing are blocking you from true happiness and success, and that you aren't doing [fill-in-the-blank] exactly right.
Or maybe your energy field is off-balance or you're not eating organic broccoli...
(Just in the interest of full disclosure: I'm actually very into energy treatment and herbs. But I also recognize that they don't always work...)
The frum world unfortunately has adopted a lot of this (even though its proponents are very well-meaning), and there can even be frum versions of this.
And sure, there is even a grain of truth to the above theories. (That's why they gain so much popularity.)
But people can be left feeling like they can never be good enough.
No matter how hard they try, they're just going to fail because that's what's been happening:
They try and they try and they try...and they fail and fail and fail.
This is soul-destroying.
I don't mean to project my own stuff onto you.
Maybe you're not going through this kind of thing.
But sometimes I'll find myself in a situation (AGAIN!) that I don't understand why Hashem put me there. Not because it's painful or seemingly unfair, but because I KNOW I'm going to fail! Everything is stacked against me with no chance to succeed. I say to Hashem, "I don't get it. Why am I here yet again? You know that there is nothing in my personality or background or environment to give me the resources to deal with this. It's a total set-up for personal failure...AGAIN!"
The thing is, I'm wrong when I think like this.
(Although I still say it anyway because that's what Hashem is here for. I can tell him that I am wrestling with stuff and that I desperately need both help and mercy. That's part of the whole point of turning to Hashem.)
Why is it wrong to think like this?
Well, unless we are tzaddikim who are very in touch with Hashem, our ideas of success and failure are often very different than how these concepts are defined in Shamayim.
The Mission Only YOU Can Accomplish
Your background, your parents, your spouse, your finances, your disabilities, your personality, your ADHD or your "highly sensitive" nature...
Okay. But WHY were you given all those stumbling blocks?
It's basically because you are the one who needs to wrestle with that particular klippah and release those specific sparks of light associated with your specific issues and deficiencies.
God doesn't hate you.
And He's not even (necessarily) punishing you or even rectifying stuff you messed up in a previous incarnation. (Maybe.)
It's mostly that holy precious you have been chosen to go down into some muck and fight some monsters.
And it's a job that only you can do against those particular "monsters" and that particular klippah in that particular place of darkness.
There's something unique about your neshama and another soul simply cannot accomplish whatever it is that you were meant to accomplish, no matter how small or how tremendous.
And you can't accomplish what someone else's soul is meant to do.
(Which is part of the reason why it is so important to back off of other people and let them complete their unique soul's journey AND why others' advice, no matter how well-intentioned, can sometimes backfire so badly.)
The only real way to accomplish what you need is to turn to Hashem and beg Him for help. Pour out your pain and your gratitude as if He is your Most Caring and Loving Friend (because He is).
Even doing this just a little bit can reap huge results.
Well, I hope you found Rabbi Erez's ideas comforting and encouraging too.
(There is a lot more and I'm still only at the beginning of the book, but I thought I'd share what I got out of it so far.)
Note: While it's the princess who is originally exiled without provocation, the viceroy still needs to tangle with the same Not Good in order to rescue her. The Shechinah and the Jewish people aren't the same, but they are very connected. The viceroy's (the Jew's) quest for the princess (the Shechinah) isn't a punishment, but a mission he needs to fulfill regardless of any other aspects of self he needs to rectify.