Give it a few weeks. For most of us, the shocking murder of 8-year old Leiby Kletzky may not matter to us anymore.
Chances are we will simply move on with our lives. That's just the way we are.
Remember the Itamar massacre of the Fogel family on a Friday night in March 2011?
We were shocked and grief-stricken. We were inspired to do something, to change something significant in our lives in their memory.
How long did that inspiration last?
We cannot allow the inspiration to dissipate.
Unless we understand the nature of how to truly grow, we will always experience earth-shattering events, become driven to transform our lives in some way… and then somehow allow that inspiration to dissipate.
How can we guarantee that Leiby's death will still matter a month from now?
The Chassidic master, Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin (as summarized by Rabbi Akiva Tatz) offers us an insight:
The natural pathway of all life experience begins with inspiration and soon fades to disappointment... We are incapable of maintaining the freshness of any experience naturally... A person is inspired 'artificially' at the beginning of any phase of life (step one), but in order to acquire the depth of the personality which is demanded of us, God removes the inspiration (step two)... The challenge is to fight back to the point of inspiration, and in doing so, to build it permanently into one's character (step three)...
Unfortunately, most people do not know this secret. We are misled into thinking that the world is supposed to be a constant thrill, and we feel only half-alive because it is not... That is the pattern of life: short-lived inspiration and lengthy battles. The tools needed are determination, perseverance, and a stubborn refusal to despair.
Any true growth follows a three-step process:
Step 1) A person is inspired 'artificially' based on some event.
Step 2) God removes the inspiration so that we can acquire a true connection to what we were inspired to do. In this stage, there is a danger that we will give up and fail to maintain the growth we seek.
Step 3) The challenge is to fight back to the point of inspiration, and in doing so, to build it permanently into our character.
Under the Radar
If we want the impact of Leiby Kletzky's murder to still matter in weeks and months from now, we need to put a plan into place.
It starts with this premise: Changing a habit must be a gradual process, and we must be careful not to accept upon ourselves anything that is more than we can handle.
Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe would always advise that in order to be successful against the evil inclination, we must implement changes that “fly under the radar” http://www.aish.com/h/hh/gar/
If I asked you to change your lifestyle overnight, so that by tomorrow you'll be as learned and pious as the greatest Jewish leader alive, you’d probably be unable to accomplish it. This is not due to any shortcoming or lack of spiritual yearning. Rather, certain challenges are so overwhelming that they are virtually impossible. Perhaps, given a few years of profound growth, the transformation would be possible, but not presently.
We have to prepare for when the burst of inspiration fades.
For lasting effect and realistic success, we have to decide upon a change and resolution that will help us grow gradually. Once we have implemented our inspiration (step one above), we have to prepare for when the burst of inspiration fades (step two) – when we aren't energized to carry through; when we just aren't “into it”; when we drag our feet. This is the normative cycle. At that point, we must fight the instinctive tendency to feel like we “failed again.”
The proper way to deal with this stage is to go easy on ourselves somewhat, to lighten the load, but to still hold on to some aspect of what we were doing. If we had resolved to study more Torah, we can study less that day but not to give up entirely. If we accepted an extra kindness upon ourselves, we can do it in a lighter fashion, or sometimes even skip a day or two, but fight to get back to it very soon. And so on for all types of resolutions. We must take it easy so we can avoid the 'crash and burn' syndrome, where all of our spiritual goals will be lost.
In the Darkness
"My enemies should not rejoice that I have fallen, because I have gotten up. When I sat in darkness, God was a light for me.” (Micha 7:8)
In this verse, the prophet declares that we have the strength to persevere and defeat our spiritual enemies, despite losing some battles along the way.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz cites this as a fundamental aspect of growth. If I had not fallen, I would not have risen. I have only experienced God as a light because I once experienced the darkness, the lack of excitement and inspiration, the lack of spiritual growth. But I persevered.
If we handle ourselves properly during the down days, we stand a chance of getting back to our grander goals when the real measured and permanent inspiration returns (step three above).
We want to do something for Leiby's memory. We want to take something from the event; to create a positive step for change in our lives.
Let's plan out real changes for growth and do it right: thoughtfully, intelligently, deliberately, slowly and gradually.
And for Leiby.