Rosh Hashanah is a time when we coronate God as our King. This means we realize that we are part of an enterprise run by God, and we are here to help bring the world to the destiny for which it was created.
The purpose of our creation is to connect to God and build a relationship with Him. So, how do we develop a relationship with the King of Kings?
Love and trust are intertwined in any significant relationship. You can't have a relationship with a person you can't trust. If you're not sure this person has your best interests at heart and truly cares about you, the love will erode under layers of disappointments and hurt.
What causes you to trust someone? If you know that your parents have cared for you from the moment you were born, have provided you with all your needs as best they could, you learn to trust your parents. If, however, your parents have let you down time and time again and have failed to provide you with basic physical or emotional needs, you will not trust them, you reject their demands of you and resent that they exert control over your life.
I make dinner for my family almost every night of the week, do their laundry, buy them their clothes, mend them if they need to be fixed, and many more things on a regular basis. However, my children, even the older more mature ones, rarely thank me. (In fact, the only one who consistently thanks me for every little thing is my 9 year old with Down's syndrome). Interestingly, my Shabbat guests thank me profusely for the one meal they eat at my house. Why the discrepancy?
When you receive something from time to time, inconsistently, it is natural to recognize the gift and appreciate it. But when you receive so much, so often and consistently- you start taking it for granted.
And when that happens, you stop appreciating. And when you stop appreciating, it is as if you never received anything. It is as if it never happened. The act of giving isn’t deposited in the emotional bank-account of the relationship. There is no history built in this relationship.
The thing you will see about appreciation is that it engenders more giving on the part of the giver, and therefore more blessing for the recipient. I know that when my husband and kids thank me and appreciate dinner, it makes me want to invest again in a nice dinner. But if I go for weeks making dinner unappreciated, I can hear an inner voice saying, "Maybe I should cut back a little and make them fend for themselves for a while. Then they’ll appreciate the dinner I make!"
This is more than my need to be appreciated. Since I want my kids to be happy, I need to teach them to be appreciative. A sense of entitlement leads to misery. Gratefulness removes resentment and frustration.
God is like this with us as well. If we go for weeks without appreciating, noticing or thanking God for what He gave us, He pulls back and gives us a lack so that we can learn to appreciate what He’s been giving us. .
Build a History of the Relationship
If you were to take the time to think about it everything your spouse does for you and genuinely appreciate it, you would be suffused with a general sense of trust and happiness. You’d realize how much this person really loves you. This would then provide a context within which to evaluate those rare occurrences when you have been let down or disappointed by this person. And you’d be more likely to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
For example, let's say you are being honored at a dinner and your husband says he will meet you at the event at exactly 7:00pm. It’s now 7:45pm and he is nowhere to be found and doesn't answer his cellphone. Your reaction will largely depend on the emotional context of your relationship. If your marriage is filled with lack of trust, you will interpret his tardiness as another demonstration of his lack of care, and be angry and resentful. If your marriage is strong and full of love and trust, you’ll be in a panic, frantically calling hospitals.
With God, the process works in much the same way. We need to ensure that our relationship is built on a strong foundation of love and trust that comes through appreciating all the good He has done for us. That builds the history of the relationship.
So start by writing down a “grateful list.” If you are like most people in the world, the top 10 things on your list will be:
- A brain, which allows me to sense, move, function, think and talk.
- Lungs and the ability to breathe.
- Eyes that see.
- Ears that hear.
- Functioning legs and arms.
- A functioning mouth to taste food and speak properly.
- A functioning digestive system.
- My family (each member can be a separate item).
- My spouse.
- A job.
And you haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the priceless things you have in your life that God has given you. How much would you be willing to sell an eye for? A million dollars? How about one of your children? Silly to even imagine. God has already given you the equivalent of billions of dollars before you even get to the kitchen for your morning coffee.
Reconnecting to the good God has done for you and feeling His love will largely determine how you interpret difficult situations.
Reconnecting to all the good that God has done for you and feeling His love will largely determine how you interpret difficult situations, when God so to speak doesn’t show up on time. Your inner voice may say something like this: I know God loves me more than I can imagine; He is flawless and infallible. Everything He does is for my good. My limited perspective does not enable me to view this particular painful experience, right now, in a positive light. But intellectually I know that all that happens to me is ultimately good and perfect.
The greater the appreciation we have, the greater that knowledge will seep into our consciousness and make us more trustful and more connected to God’s love.
Once you can see clearly how much God loves you and wants your best, you have to maintain this relationship and newly found trust by communicating. Communication is the foundation of any strong relationship. When you talk to a spouse, a parent or a child, you strengthen the bonds between you. When you ask your child to do something for you and then verbally thank them when they comply, or thank your spouse and compliment him for giving to you, the foundation of trust and love is built and fortified.
When it comes to God, this is equally important.
At the start of every day, take a few moments to articulate to God, in your own words and language, your needs for the day. Then, watch for God's response. Thank Him if He gives you what you asked for. If you wished to be granted wisdom to resolve a conflict with a difficult person at work, and over the course of the day you had a decent conversation with this person or reached a level of clarity, which resulted in resolution of the conflict, take a moment and thank God! If you received a gift of value right after you asked God for help with finances, acknowledge that your prayers were answered.
If on the other hand, you miss a train or encounter difficulty during the day, ask God: What are you trying to teach me? How can I grow from this experience? I know you love me, so how is this for my best? You'll be surprised how quickly you get an answer to your query or your difficulty disappears.
Ask God for help on a regular basis, even for mundane things. I will often hear my two-year old walking around the house chanting quietly: "Hashem, please help me find my shoes." Or in a crowded mall parking lot, as I get frustrated driving around in circles: "Ima, you forgot to ask Hashem, please help us find a parking spot!" And inevitably we will find the shoes and the parking spot, and take notice of God’s involvement in our lives.
Even if you don't have this down pat, and you feel rather awkward with the whole "trust" thing, just do it! It's like "trust falls" – just let go. It's an exercise you can try and get better at with practice. See if it works.
There's a verse in Psalms that says: "God is your shadow." Just as a shadow reflects back to us whatever we show it, nothing more and nothing less, so too God relates to us in the way that we relate to Him. If we behave like we trust God, and pull back on our efforts, even if we're not sure of our beliefs, God reflects back to us that trust and rewards us in kind.
Expect the best
Like a Dad would grant his child's wishes if the child trusted him and fully expected him to acquiesce, even if the child wasn't really deserving, so too God "lives up to" our expectations of Him. If my kid approaches me with a prelude: "I know you won't listen to me," or "I'm sure I'll hate dinner again tonight," all desire on my part to satisfy him dissipates. It says in the book of Job: "What I have feared will come to me" (3, 25). If we show God we fear and worry, it shows a lack of trust and then God allows our fears to come true.
On the other hand, if my child says, "Ima, I know you love me so much and always give me what I want, even if I don't deserve it, so can you please give me that really big candy bar?", my resolve to be strict or calculating melts in the face of this love and trust. So too, God responds with giving us what we want, even if we don't necessarily deserve it, when we expect it and trust Him unequivocally.
The principles that apply in building a trusting relationship with others apply equally with God. Let's use these tools to create a foundation of trust and love between ourselves and our Creator and be part of bringing the world to its ultimate destiny this Rosh Hashanah.