By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
Many times people ask: behold Rebbe Nachman says to look at the good points and focus on them, so how is it that this won’t bring me to complacency, a lack of control and even arrogance?
And how is it possible to make progress and improve without criticism and judgement? Behold Rebbe Nachman himself says that a person needs to take an accounting of his actions every day.
Like everything in holiness there is a fine and gentle boundary, sometimes almost invisible, between truth and a lie, between the real thing and its fake replacement which is so similar.
Therefore there is a lofty, true court which helps those who are judged in it to grow and be uplifted, and on the other hand there is a lower court which weakens, constricts and brings downward the ones judged there.
Who are these courts and do I have a choice between them?
The lower court was created from the endless times that we felt that our parents or those close to us were not satisfied by us: they got angry at us, criticized us and were disappointed in us. They expected us to be something very specific, and as long as we weren’t like that and didn’t follow the expectation, the seeds were planted in our heart for feeling that we are not good and not loved. The work hours of this court are around the clock and wait for us at every opportunity to prove to us how much we are not okay. The results are, of course, weakness, lack of will, guilty feelings, disappointment, frustration and despair.
In contrast to this court, there is a higher court, which has its foundations in the holy Torah and the exact guidance of Rebbe Nachman. In this court, to judge ourselves every day doesn’t mean to just to emphasize the feelings that come to us, rather it means to choose to make teshuva; to contemplate our actions, our words, and our feelings and examine which ones are correct and which are not, what is the truth and what is not, in a completely focused way. And of course, to regret things which were not correct, to confess and receive upon ourselves to change them, and then simply to continue onwards. Without getting stuck even for a moment on guilty feelings, which come from hidden arrogance, which wonders how could a Tsaddik like myself fall down.
The difference between them is, in other words, that the lower court judges the person himself and brings him to feelings which weakened him and cause him despair, and the higher court says to you: you are essentially good and beloved, so come on, take responsibility for your actions and fix them, so that they won’t cloud your beauty and purity.