“…if anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to them the other cheek also.”

(A friend of mine, who is a “Messianic Jew,” posted on FB about finding it difficult to follow his Teacher’s direction to “turn the other cheek.” Messianic Jews prefer the name “Yeshuah” to “Jesus,” to emphasize the Jewish source of their belief. I sent him this comment:)

Dear ….., 

I think that when Yeshuah taught it, he meant: “Everything that happens comes from God (or as you might prefer: our Father). Accept it with love.”

To sincerely thank God for the good things that happen to you is a commendable first step in spiritual growth. It demonstrates an awareness that God is and that God is present and active in our lives.

But to progress from there, we must realize that God is not only present in what we like:

God is no less present in what we don’t like.

The one who strikes you, to whom you must turn the other cheek, is God’s messenger, no less than Satan was God’s messenger in “Job.”

To believe anything else is to believe that the one who hurt you acted without God’s Will.

Is there another Will than God’s?

Is there another God?

So, “turning the other cheek” is accepting God’s Will.

The rabbis approached the same subject by creating two blessings: one for when something “good” happens to us, the other for when something “bad” happens to us. They were attributing both to God, but making a concession to our human tendency to like “the good stuff’ better than the other.

Elsewhere in the Talmud, though, the same rabbis tell us that eventually, in the World to Come, we’ll use only the blessing for “the good,” because we’ll realize that everything was ultimately God’s Will for the good.

Centuries later, Rebbe Nachman of Breslav said that one who can thank God for the good even when something “bad” happens has had a glimpse of “the World to Come” while still in this world!

So, “blessing God” is one way to develop the habit of “accepting God’s Will” and turning the other cheek.

Another might be by using a “CBT” (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)-like approach, responding to an insult or act of harm by clearly stating to ourselves that all is from God; God is Good; all that God does is Good. Or another such statement that can re-frame our reaction and lead to cognitive acceptance of the event. You could certainly use Yeshuah’s quote itself, with the understanding that it implies accepting God’s Will. What this approach says is that the anger and resentment that we feel when we’re insulted arises from our own thoughts about the event. By changing our thoughts, we can moderate our reaction.

A variation of the “CBT” approach is to say to ourselves that the one who strikes or insults us is showing that they themselves lack a better way to express themselves. They are demonstrating their own ignorance and limitations. We could pity them, more than be insulted by them.

There are other approaches, but they all involve in some way recognizing God’s Presence in the event and accepting God’s Will for the Good.

We humans tend to get sort of “philosophical” and complicated — for example, “What if someone is coming to kill me? Do I accept it as God’s Will?”

The rabbis addressed this, too: God gave you your life with the intention that you preserve it. If I remember correctly, they asked about the one coming to kill you: “Is his blood redder than yours?”

Accepting God’s Will is something none of us might ever do perfectly, but that all of us can, with time and practice, do more perfectly than we do it today. The effort that we expend today on accepting God’s Will (actually, “accepting God’s Will” involves a reduction of our effort, not an increase) becomes a stepping stone to a higher level of it tomorrow — not unlike practicing piano daily leads to incremental progress.

I admit that I’m not very good at this, either — at the moment when something is happening. But I’ve gotten better at accepting it after the event is done, by recognizing that what happened could only have happened with God’s endorsement.

In the Talmud, Hillel saw a skull floating on the water. He said, “Because you drowned others, you were drowned. And those who drowned you will later be drowned, too.”

Even if after the fact, I can forgive by accepting that all was God’s Will.

(On the same theme of accepting God’s Will, I also sent him my version of the “Our Father,” with my own comments:)

Our Father Who is in Heaven
     in a place of everlasting peace, justice, joy and love

Hallowed be Your Name
     separated from all sadness, injustice, unfairness, unkindness

Your Kingdom has come
     We recognize and declare Your Presence in our world

Your Will is done on Earth as in Heaven
     our world is Your world no less than Heaven is.

Give us today our daily bread
     Whatever efforts I make today to sustain myself,
the outcome is always and utterly Yours. 

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
     Your just reactions to us are always “measure for measure.”
     We can be forgiven by You if we forgive others.

Lead us not into temptation
     You never tempt us.
     You place choices before us,
     so that we might grow in recognition of Your holiness
     or, when necessary, learn from our own mistakes

but deliver us from evil
     It’s Your Desire to save us from doing evil,
     which also means that we must learn to make wise choices,
     based on experience and maturity.

[1] Matthew 5:39, Luke 6:29