By Dr. Zev Ballen
For a long time, I've known in a vague way, that there is something in me that I was meant to share with others - some type of contribution that I was supposed to make. I could never quite grasp it, articulate it or even believe in it. Now and again I got a flickering image of myself fulfilling my purpose only to dismiss it quickly as impossible - not because I didn't believe in my purpose, but because I didn't believe in myself.
I've had more psychotherapy and psychoanalysis than I care to admit. The theme was always the same - feeling inadequate. All of my therapists were expertly trained to see my 'inadequacy' but none of them saw much more than this.
When we were newlyweds, my wife saw my 'passion.' When you marry the right person, that person believes in you. In my case there were years of detours, avoidances, and suppressions of my purpose. But even at my lowest point - my wife believed that there was something meaningful that I was meant to do.
It started with the Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush - the book shook me out of my lethargy. For several hours straight I forgot about my 'inadequacy.' The book filled me with wonder and fresh hope. My 'passion' for something was ignited.
From there, I found Lazer Beams and became a Beams junky. During one of my first binges on the Beams, I spent most of a day and night watching Rabbi Lazer Brody's videos. These videos caught me off guard, and shook me further from my habitual spiritual slumber. I became absorbed in his every word! I experienced the delight of what psychologists call the 'flow state' - it is an optimum state of feeling fully alive. I was totally engaged in what I was doing with my whole being. I used to watch the videos twice. The first time, I let it play straight through in order to get the flow of the lesson. On the second watching, I paused it frequently in order to take notes. Every word was a pearl.
Rabbi Brody's message was strong, clear and quintessentially practical. The greatest lesson that he ever gave and still gives - is himself. Through his personal example, Rabbi Brody taught me how to attach myself to Rav Arush.
I stopped listening to beautiful speeches from Rabbis, however brilliant, whose behavior didn't match up to their oratory. Yes - Rabbi Brody also speaks beautifully and is very learned - but what pulled me in more than anything was just him. Hours passed in the blink of an eye. Intrinsically I knew what I was doing was important for my life. I became less conscious of me. While I watched, I hardly ate, drank or slept.
My wife agreed...after searching high and low for a spiritual guide - this one was a 'keeper!'
So that's how I found 'Rebbe,' which is what I call him to this day. There isn't a word in English that can describe what it means to call someone your Rebbe: spiritual father, teacher, mentor, coach, role-model, authority figure, therapist, Rabbi, - they all fall short.
Soon it became clear that it wasn't enough to have a cyber-Rebbe - however wonderful. Although I was feeling better than before, I was still having some dramatic lows.
The question was how was I going to begin to live with emuna and not just read about it? Hashem sent me a wonderful teacher with real emuna - but He didn't send me a Rebbe for entertainment alone. Clearly I wasn't going to learn emuna through cyber-space-osmosis. I had to do something more. But what?
The answers didn't come with one flash of lightning. It took time but I realized that G-d wanted me to help my Rebbe - to serve him.
That wasn't going to be easy. He was very sought after; We lived on opposite sides of the world; and he had no idea who I was! - But a Rebbe can't be a Rebbe without a talmid (a student) - the thought was consoling.
And G-d took care of everything. His fame and the distance between us turned out to be inconsequential.
When I came to Jerusalem I met Rebbe in person. I started to work for him and to learn from him up close. Soon I saw that as much as I had studied him on film, I was not prepared for what he was like in person. When I sat with him for the first time, I knew that he was ten steps ahead of me. I could see that he understood everything about me in the first few minutes. Yet he was incredibly simple, humble and kind. He held my hand the whole time that we spoke. I can feel it right now - it was a gift for life.
What amazed me most was that in one short meeting, my Rebbe could see that special 'something' in me that neither I nor my therapists could grasp. From the moment he met me, that chronic flickering image of my life's purpose was crystal clear to him. My Rebbe saw my purpose and that I didn't believe in it.
In private, my Rebbe is a man of few words - yes he is busy - but it's also his nature to be concise. He is extremely warm and reliable but refuses to coddle: 'Zev, I wish you believed in yourself the way I believe in you'; 'Zev, I know that you still don't believe in yourself'; 'Zev - cut it out - I won't allow you to doubt yourself!' Continue here...
Dr. Zev Ballen