emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Monday, April 7, 2014

Just For The Asking



Hashem does it all.

As we said in EmunahSpeak: So Who are You Relying on…, The avodah of bitachon is to train oneself to rely only on Hashem.

Not Hashem plus your accountant or your expertise.  Hashem knows if you have bitachon in Him or you are relying on the doctor also or your own hishtadlus.  Hishtadlus doesn’t make you a partner with Hashem.  Think of it as the password to the game of life.  It's the equivalent of saying "swordfish" to gain admittance.  Once you have given the password Hashem takes care of 100% of the problem, not the 95% you supposedly left over for Him after you did your 5%.  That Hashem’s 100% might work out to be zilch, zero, and nada of what we have set our minds on in any given situation is of no consequence because bitachon is not results oriented and therefore makes no promises.  It defines how we think not what we get.

In case anyone blinked while reading the previous paragraph the thrust of it is that we have done nothing; not almost nothing or practically nothing.  But on the other hand, if we do not do that little something that amounts to nothing in terms of the totality of what we would like to accomplish, Hashem doesn’t come into the game (of life).

What we are seeking is Hashem’s gift that comes to us with no strings attached.  And we are only zoche to such beneficence when we have walked the walk that directly connects our effort to Hashem’s gift.

Anything that comes to us despite our deviation from the prescribed route, will either not last, or if it does, it comes with a price that we may never realize that we have paid.  So how does one get from his meager effort (which in any case accomplishes nothing in and of itself) to Hashem’s gift anyway?   
Tefillah and only tefillah binds the knot between the two as if it were some kind of mystical middle man.

Doing your part is essential but by itself it’s no better than a seed that was planted but neither fertilized nor watered.   It won’t sprout and neither will your aspirations come to fruition in the form of Hashem’s gift without tefillah.

You are davening for Hashem’s blessings as needed to turn the little nothings that you have done into something.  And by doing so you are in essence asking Hashem to replicate his creation of the world every time you have a need….just for the asking.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Roadblock



We are, boruch Hashem, living in a generation in which many us are seeking to grow in inyanei ruchiniyas in any and every way possible.  Unfortunately, while our good intentions jump start the process they are not wired to climb the steps necessary to effect the improvement that we are so sincerely seeking. 
  
For as we pointed out in EmunahSpeak: A Real Deal Teshuva (2), in the context of Teshuva, If you build a roof in Elul in lieu of a foundation, instead of growth you’ll end up with a levitation act which will predictably succumb to the laws of spiritual gravity.

And so it goes for the gamut of the efforts that we collectively make.  We may be driving in the right direction but we’re locked in low gear when we should be in overdrive.

After every Siyum HaShas literally thousands of Jews, who heretofore never pushed themselves to make a daily commitment to learn gemara, start learning Daf Yomi with the new cycle beginning with Mesechta Brochos.   A high percentage of these newbies will be gone before the end of the mesechta, and of those who are still answering present at the roll call, many of them won’t make it past the first twenty pages of Mesechta Shabbos.

Or a person will learn Sefer Chofetz Chaim and see the emes (truth) that drips from every word but it remains raw unprocessed lifeless information devoid of any pulse.  The same goes for tefillah, working on a middah such as anger, and anything else that might serve to elevate our avodas Hashem.

So why do our sincere intentions/efforts have no staying power and what exactly is preventing us from advancing in all aspects of our avodah?

Comes the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh to tell us that the issue is one of ratzon (will) or more specifically the lack thereof.

What happens in all of the above cited cases?  A person will try to follow through for a short time with what he has learned about tefillah, shmiras haloshon etc. but at the end of the day it’s a losing proposition.  In lieu of  actually accomplishing something he will drey up every conceivable excuse known to man to explain why the much sought after growth ended up stunted.

But Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh doesn't dabble in excuses.  It gives it to us straight:

THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT HE STARTED WORKING ON AN AREA BEFORE HE REALLY WANTED IT.  And when one doesn’t consider something to be a vital action it becomes increasingly more difficult to maintain on a consistent basis. It becomes, in essence, a chore.

This is the insurmountable  roadblock that bars any attempt on our part to get closer to Hashem.  

We learn the Daf, attempt to daven with kavanah, and try to control anger and a plethora of base desires, not to mention our tongues, all because we think we should.

But many of us are not holding there yet.

When we think we MUST, as if our life depended on it, as opposed to should, then we will succeed in anything we put our hand to and not before.

And as we said in EmunahSpeak: A Burning Need, who doesn’t want that there should be achdus amongst Yidden? But how many feel the need for it?  How many of us are driven by such a burning need for achdus that we are willing step out of our comfort zone to make it happen? And how many of us are so tortured by this need that we would be willing to compromise on anything that didn’t contravene Halacha?

And so it goes for almost any situation.  Most of us want to learn.  How many need to?  Do you want to help others or do you need to help others?  Would you like (want) to connect Hashem or do you need to connect to Hashem?

If you go through life merely wanting to do (with nothing more than a passive ratzon), nothing will ever get done.  But if, with a soul on fire, you take that journey needing to do (because you understand that your spiritual life depends on it), nothing will ever get in your way.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Seeing is Believing



The secular mind prides itself on being scientific as opposed to what it derisively refers to as the faith based mindset of those who are religiously inclined. 

That no one seems to notice that this conception of things is total sheker and that the true state of affairs is 180 degrees in the other direction is one of life’s great ironies. The truth of the matter is that vis á vis Teva, the Ani Ma’amin of the faithless is all that they have on which to lean because they closed their eyes years ago to what's actually doing at street level.

And who can blame them?  After all, who is so solid in his beliefs, whatever they may be, that he can maintain his equilibrium amidst the revelation of their absolute falseness?  

Denial is sometimes a very effective defensive mechanism.  In context of the secular mindset it’s more than just effective.  It’s a complete role reversal.  Fuggedabout the scientific method of experimentation which seeks to flesh out empirical evidence in the search for truth.

In the derech of the three wise monkeys of Japanese tradition who see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, it’s bye bye science and hello faith as the secular mind turns itself inside out so as avert its gaze from the reality that’s in its face.

And just what may that reality be anyway?

It seems that, since the inception of the scientific era in the latter part of the nineteenth century, things aren’t quite what we have been led to believe them to be.  It turns out that the people of faith have resorted to classical scientific methodology to substantiate their beliefs.  By close observation of the various phenomenon which taken together constitute Teva, it has been established beyond any possibility of dispute that there is nothing that can be seen with the naked eye, the most powerful electron microscope, or the largest telescope that controverts in the slightest detail the foundational and bed rock principle of all existence, which is that this a world of plan and purpose in which everything was created by a Master Intelligence.

And what of that oxymoron known as the secular scientific mindset?

As we mentioned above, that acute observation of all known phenomenon in Teva for over more than one hundred years has not revealed even a nano shred of evidence to rebut the fact of Creation.  And yet, the so called secular scientific mindset, ever so faithful, loudly proclaims Ani Ma’amin B’emunah Sheleima that this a hefker world, the totality of the evidence against such a proposition notwithstanding.

And in yet one more irony, this so called secular scientific mindset looks in vain to the scientific method for its validation, while what we see most certainly validates what we believe.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Love Your Fellow Jew as Yourself (2)



By definition, the mitzvah of love your fellow Jew as yourself is a command, not a concept, and Rav Shimshon Pincus z”l, quoting the Ramban, asks how such a thing is possible, since as yourself is an extremely difficult level to achieve.

And to illustrate the point he lets us hear as follows:

I know many righteous people who do a lot of chesed.   But I have not yet seen a ba’al chesed who is willing to buy the same hat or tie for a needy person that he would buy for himself.  A person’s affection for himself is something truly exceptional because a person’s own life is exceedingly precious to him.

It is indeed.

In EmunahSpeak: Love Your Fellow as Yourself, we quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe zy”a on this very point. The Rebbe said:

“the mitzvah of love your fellow Jew applies (even) to a Jew across the world whom you have never seen.”  And he didn’t mean that we should feel obligated to send him a check if we should find out that he needed help because the Rebbe’s understanding of love your fellow as yourself wasn’t mortgaged to the touchy feely chesed interpretation that we spoke about above (in EmunahSpeak: Love Your Fellow as Yourself).

However much the Rebbe, was wont to darshen in many other areas of Torah, vis á vis the mitzvah of love your fellow as yourself, his approach was literally straight down Main Street.

“What kind of love,” He asked?  “Torah contains no idle words.  When it says ‘love your fellow as yourself,’ love means love.  Your fellow means not you, but him.  As yourself?  Just as much as you love yourself.”  

And that has to also include what you love because it emotionally becomes part of you.

Rav Pincus z”l tells us that there is no joy like Torah learning.  There is no pleasure like the pleasure of Torah wisdom.  There is no delight like deveikus with Hashem.

And if there is no love like the love of your fellow Jew, which is nothing less than the love you have for yourself, then what better way could there be to manifest that love than by upgrading your fellow Jew’s taste buds with the aforementioned joy, pleasure, and delight so that he can reach the level of your sweet tooth for the same?