Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

Once when Rebbe Nachman had one of his coughing attacks, he needed to bring up phlegm but he was unable to do so. He did not try to force himself, however, and a little later the phlegm came up by itself quite easily. Reb Noson was with him at the time, and the Rebbe said to him, “Even from this we can see that you cannot force yourself too much over anything. At first I could not bring up the phlegm, but I relaxed and made no effort to force myself. It soon came up by itself.”

Rebbe Nachman gestured to Reb Noson as if to indicate that the same principle applied to everything. One should never insist that everything go exactly as they want – not even when the thing they want is genuinely holy. Where one can do something immediately, they should certainly act swiftly. Something holy – such as a mitzvah – should never be delayed even for a moment. But if, in spite of everything, it cannot be done at once, one should not become anxious or agitated. The person should relax and wait quietly for G-d to help, and raise their eyes above in the hope of succeeding in the end. G-d will almost always help such a person later on to accomplish what they want (adapted from Chayei Mohoran #433).

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To practice this requires genuine humility. If someone feels they are entitled to do mitzvos on the highest level whenever they wish, they will have difficulty accepting this piece of advice. But if a person recognizes that the ability to do mitzvos and accomplish holy things is a privilege granted to them from Above, they will have the humility necessary to not force outcomes beyond their reach. And with this humility they will ultimately merit to have much success in all forms of spiritual accomplishment.

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Rabbi Nosson Rossman is a rabbinic field representative for the Orthodox Union. He can be reached at nathanlrossman@gmail.com.