Dear Rabbi,

You tell me I’m supposed to talk to G‑d from my heart. I’m supposed to love G‑d, love my own soul and love others as I love G‑d and myself.

How am I supposed to do that, knowing all that I’ve done and haven’t done in this life and how much G‑d must really be fed up with me? I mean, if I were G‑d, I certainly wouldn’t have any interest in a guy like me. I’ve done things He must really hate me for.

—D. Spickable

Dear Good Person,

People don’t mess up their lives just by accident. People are driven by a desire for pleasure and a fear of pain. When someone makes a decision that runs against what he or she knows is morally correct, it’s most likely because there’s some pleasure involved. Probably a lot of pleasure.

Now what happens? Conflict happens.Think of your psyche as a corporate entity with multiple managers assigned to various departments of a hugely complex body.

Conflict, because you are not a single person. Think of your psyche as a corporate entity with multiple managers assigned to various departments of a hugely complex body. Think of all these neuro-managers in perpetual competition for domination of the corporate board—because that’s where decisions are made.

Now, let’s say you’re a person interested in getting something great done with your life. If so, those psyches—particularly those that want to feel good versus those that want to do good—are probably locked in inexorable mortal combat of the sort that even the most fame-desperate American president would not dream of mediating.

In short: There’s a part of you that’s saying, “Oh, that was bad! Why did I do that?” and there’s a part of you—a very visceral, endocrine-driven part—saying, “Hey, let’s do that again!”

By divine design, the cerebral part—which recognizes what a bad decision this mess-up was—has the upper hand. Human beings are the creature whose cerebral neurons outnumber—and can consistently override—the enteric neurons that run your gut. The same dynamic works with emotions, as well—though perhaps a little harder. No matter how saturated the body is with endocrine signals demanding pleasure, how fast the heart is beating and how excited is the core limbic system of your brain stem, as long as you don’t panic or freak out (or put yourself in a ridiculously tempting situation), you retain control of your actions.

But this beast really wants more of what it just got—real bad. And the beast also has brains. Maybe not as powerful brains, but it has a great teacher—that cerebral psyche itself. Like one of those nasty characters in an AI-driven roleplaying game, the beast learns all the plays of those cerebral neurons and turns its own strategies against it.

One such set of strategies is called guilt. In the guilt department, the strongest card is “G‑d hates me for doing this.” And in the guilt department, perhaps the strongest card it can pull is “G‑d hates me for doing this.”

It’s an attack on your conscience’s most vulnerable point. If G‑d hates you (G‑d forbid), then—just as you wrote—there’s no relationship, and no reason to pretend there’s a relationship. The next step is to just walk out of the relationship altogether—convincing that conscience of yours that if you walk out, G‑d will too. And then, living in separate homes in separate universes, you’re not obligated to anybody, and everything becomes permissible.

If you’re seeking a precedent in Torah for what I’m telling you, it’s pretty explicit. Moses is recounting to the people how they refused to enter the Promised Land:

You murmured in your tents and said, “Out of G‑d’s hatred for us He brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.” (Deuteronomy 1:27)

Rashi, the classic commentator, has some powerful words to say on this:

He loved you. But you hated Him. A common saying goes, “That which you think about the other guy, you decide he is thinking about you.”

The Be’er Mayim Chayim is a commentary on the commentary of Rashi (yes, there are plenty—along with commentaries on those commentaries on the commentary). He takes it all the way, explaining what Rashi means:

If you had taken the covenant with G‑d seriously, you would have believed that He also takes it seriously. But because you wanted a way out, you decided that He also was cheating His way out.

That beast is a genius, but a stupid genius. A clear and thoughtful mind knows it takes an awful lot to get the Creator of the Universe angry with you. Look, He’s put up with us human critters messing up His garden for countless generations.G‑d is infinitely forgiving; otherwise there would be no life. A human being would have jumped in the car and come back with a bug spray from Home Depot thousands of years ago. G‑d is boundless in His love. Otherwise, there would be no world. G‑d is infinitely forgiving; otherwise there would be no life.

The beast is also a very self-centered idiotic genius. So it imagines G‑d in an entirely reciprocal tit-for-tat relationship, just as dumb and self-centered as itself. It truly believes that it pulls all the strings on G‑d.

But G‑d is not a marionette, and the beast is not all of you. You have a bright cerebral cortex up there—capable of cool, objective reasoning, thanks to the slender neck of human beings that holds our brains well above our bodies, and a powerful brain-blood barrier to hold out the toxins of excitement and panic.

Use that to your advantage. Invoke paradoxical intervention. Instead of thinking that G‑d (G‑d forbid) hates you for what you just did, think just the opposite: Despite what a total idiot I just was and what a stupid mess I just made, I have a relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth (which is a really important position, in case you didn’t realize) who loves me and puts up with me just the same. It’s a relationship that can’t be broken, because He believes in me much more than I could ever believe in myself. And as much as I might try to get Him to throw up His dis-anthropomorphic hands in exasperation, He just won’t give up.

Now go reciprocate that. You might just find yourself falling in love.