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Peels and Shells

We all know that life is filled with challenges. A week doesn't go by without an obstacle that needs to be overcome or a problem that we have to solve. Many people become overwhelmed by life because of this. We function on the basis of what we hear, see, smell and touch. Our minds draw conclusions based on appearances. Too often we judge the book by its cover, we judge a person by what they say or how they look, and we decide how to approach life on the basis of very limited information.

However, the secret to successful living is not so much in learning how to avoid all of life's problems but rather creating a positive attitude towards solving them.

The Chassidic Masters proposed an adjustment in our view of life whereby the challenges and obstacles would not be viewed as an aberration in life, but rather as part of the purpose of life. They define the world as an imperfect creation where our five senses only view the superficial dimension of life. On this level truth is hidden and we struggle to make sense of how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. But in truth, there is a reality beyond the superficial appearances that we counter every day.

On this level of truth the world is functioning without challenges and obstacles. The imperfections of the world are not a mistake, but rather are there by design. They are part of the world of what our Masters called klipas, or “shells” (not seashells).

Why ‘shells’? Like shells or peels of fruit, vegetables and nuts, they cover over something that is hidden within them. They create an appearance on the outside of something that is not necessarily reflective of what is on the inside.

Take a fruit or nut. We see the outer surface but we know there is something inside that we can benefit from. The same thing applies to the ‘shells’ and ‘peels’ of life. In fact, we can learn from the great variety of fruits and nuts, which reflects the great variety of different types of obstacles and challenges that we face in life. Sometimes we have to deal with small problems with easy solutions and sometimes we are faced with great challenges that take years to resolve. Oftentimes the resolution of these problems, getting past the outer surface, brings great benefit.

Similarly, fruits and nuts have all types of peels and shells. A grape for instance, has a skin which is edible, the same color as its interior and at times almost translucent. This is typical of those problems we face where what we see is what we get and we know what we're facing without any hidden agendas, secrets or facts. A peach has a peel whose coloring is different from its core, but very easy to get through. However, an orange and a banana have a thicker peel that better hides an edible interior. We can continue with other fruits that have even harder peels to protect the food to a greater and greater degree. Until we arrive in the nut family where the shell really becomes solid, like the walnut where the interior is totally disconnected and has no relationship to the fruit. This represents difficult events in life, or quandaries, where the dimension of truth is hidden beneath, and may be totally different than what it appears to be on the surface.

Such is the nature of life that we are constantly forced to make a judgment as to how to peel the external appearances off of the situation to get to the core and attempt to bear fruit in the situation.

The same principles apply to trying to understand people. Some people are like a grape which is like the person who is not hiding anything but is truly pure and to certain degree translucent. Others, due to their past history, or other influences, have a thin outer cover which deflects the viewer from seeing their inner self. However, the interior and exterior are not so far apart from each other. Then, on the other extreme, you find those individuals who have a very hard shell on the outside and it is very difficult to pierce. Such individuals project a personality to the public which is in fact totally foreign to the real person on the inside.

Each of us human beings falls into one of these categories. We all wear different peels or shells which sometimes can change in different circumstances. We can be complex individuals and still be in touch with our inner self. When we have scars from events in life, or we create a web of lies about ourselves and our past, then by definition we often harden our insides which can create a great distance between our true self and the person people know us to be.

Perhaps for this reason we can see the great role that a grape plays in Judaism, and why wine has a powerful spiritual and religious role. The grape does not hide that which is on its inside. And being that a grape is the same on the inside and the outside, it is therefore a fruit that we should all try to emulate.

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