Choice is a big word for a human being. It’s a big word because that is where our power is. Our power is all in our choice. And that’s where our responsibility is. Our responsibility lies within our power to choose. G-d gave choice to only one of his creations and that is the human being, that is us. There is no other part of creation that has choice, not even angels can choose. So choice is very powerful. And we need to realize that there are two general areas in our life. There is a small area which is our area of choice, where G-d gives us the ability to choose. There is a much larger area of our life which is beyond our choice. In fact, G-d chooses that for us. And what we need to always know is what is within that smaller area of choice. Because as small as it may be in comparison to what is beyond our choice, it is still quite large. And sometimes we push out things which we actually have the power to make choices about and we resign those things to what is beyond our choice. And it’s convenient for us to do that. It’s convenient because then we don’t carry the responsibility of it. However, when we truly have that choice, then we are simply giving up our responsibility, which, of course, is very negligent.
So there are things which we believe are within our circle, our realm of choice, and there are things that we know are beyond our realm of choice. And the question tonight is can we choose how we feel. And typically we feel that we don’t have choice about how we feel. It’s like a parent asking a kid that comes home, Why do you have to like this kid? Why can’t you like another kid in your class? Why does it have to be this kid? And he says, This is the kind of kid I like. Why are you dating this guy? There are a million other guys, can’t you find another guy? Can’t you find another girl? This is the guy I like, this is the girl I like, you know. That’s who I like, what can I do about it?
So I want to ask you this question and that is, Was there ever anything in your life that you had a certain feeling towards and then as life went on, as time went on, as you evolved as a person, perhaps your feelings towards that thing changed? I’m sure that’s happened a number of times in your life. And the question I would ask you is, Well, what was the process that led to your change in feeling towards that thing?
And you may be able to identify the process and if you can’t, I will identify it for you, because once you can identify that process you can actually apply that process to any feelings that you have. And the process simply is that when you begin to understand that thing differently than you did, you will begin to feel differently about it. It’s actually quite simple and you know this from your own life experience. The moment we begin to understand something differently, we feel differently about it.
Think about when you met someone and your feelings about them were created by perhaps their external image and you weren’t very impressed by their external image and, therefore, you didn’t have very positive feelings towards that person. But then you sat down and had a conversation with the person and you found that they were funny, that they were profound, that whatever it is that they were able to offer, they were enlightening and suddenly you see that there is something of real value here which you didn’t catch at first glance. All of a sudden, you love the person.
Very often we’ve had people in our lives who we didn’t really get along with or we didn’t like or appreciate and suddenly we’re liking and appreciating them. And that’s because we understand them differently.
And this is a fundamental teaching from the Torah. Where do we see this in the Torah? Simply. There are six commandments that the Torah gives or G-d gives us which are constant commandments. That means that we are commanded to do them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at every single moment. And one of them is to love G-d. And we know this is part of the Shema, the Shema says, V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha, G-d commands us to love him. And the question we always ask is, Well, how can you command me to love, loving is a feeling. And I can’t just — either I do love or I don’t love. Perhaps even more challenging is the commandment, V’ahavta L’rayacha Kamocha, love your fellow Jew as yourself.
Well, I have to be honest with you, I’ve met some people, some Jews who are not very easy to love. And I’m sure you have, too. And maybe I am that difficult to love Jew to some other Jew. So how can you command me to love every Jew? The reason why G-d commands us is because G-d says you can control the way you feel about other people. It’s just a matter of the way you see them.
Maybe you need to learn how to see people differently and then you’ll be able to love them. Maybe it’s because you always look at the exterior of every person and, therefore, you always see barriers between you and them. Maybe if you would be able to see the essence of every person, where every person truly shines from their soul, you would be able to love them. That’s why G-d commands us, Love your fellow Jew as yourself and see a Jew, every single Jew from their core. And, of course, I’m oversimplifying it here but change the way you see people.
Understanding changes everything. It’s like food. You know, there are foods that we love, they’re unhealthy for us but we love them. The moment that we begin to be able to somehow change, reframe the way we see that food, which is one of the techniques of a person’s changing their relationship with food, then the person suddenly can’t avoid it. Think about a cigarette. The doctor says, If you continue smoking, you’ll be dead within a year. In some instances, hopefully many instances, the person suddenly despises cigarettes because he suddenly, at that juncture in his life, can see the cigarette as his enemy that is trying to kill him. And when you see someone standing there trying to kill you, your relationship with that thing changes very quickly.
So we simply reframe it and suddenly our feelings for it changes. We are responsible for what we think and for how we feel. And while this is a great task, it is the task of any human being who is ready to take on life to its fullest and fulfill the purpose G-d put us here for, to be fully responsible for the way we think, which then defines how we feel.
When we’re feeling a certain way, which is not the way we should be feeling, we can change that. It may not happen in a day, it may not happen in a week, but it can happen and if we choose to, it will happen.
And this always takes us back to our relationship with G-d. We can love G-d when we begin to learn more about what G-d is and what G-d is to us. And the more we truly internalize that, the simpler it becomes to truly having a feeling, to truly having a feeling that is a loving feeling towards G-d. This is our responsibility because we are able to respond to G-d in this way.