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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Intense and Poignant

Rav Shimshon Pincus z”l tells us that there are ten terms for tefillah that appear in the Midrashim in various forms, but bakashah (requesting), is not one of them.  He says that only shav’ah (hysterical outcry), tze’akah (wordless scream), and bitzur (calling out in distress) are mentioned, whereas simple bakashah is missing in action. 

Why so?

We learn from Rav Pincus that this is because when a person truly stands before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, in that he clearly understands both where he is and what he’s doing there, and thereby sees things in a true light, he realizes that there is no place for mere requesting.

Every utterance must be intense and poignant.  

And let’s say that a person hit such a high note in the context of tefillah and he fully realizes the import of the bottom line of his request of Hashem and follows through on that understanding by shifting his tefillah into overdrive for a few moments to pray like crazy for his life and death request.  Or, as Rav Shimon suggests, if a very distressful situation envelopes him, and he pushes past all boundaries to plead with Hashem for help. 

And, and this is the key, if all of this intensity and poignancy is not accompanied by external manifestations, such as hand gesticulations and the like, of what’s cooking inside, we have it on the authority of Rav Pincus that this is a precious and wonderful moment and that in a short time this person can attain a very great closeness to Hashem, as well as many perceptions of ahavah, deveikus, and siyata di’Shemaya.

And he adds, that when a person merits a moment like this, he should set it firmly in his heart and push the envelope on his koach (strength) to reach it again and again, until it becomes habitual and second nature to him.

And when it does, he will ascend higher and higher as if on a spiritual escalator.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Come Back

In EmunahSpeak: The Wake up Call, we said the following in relation to the missile assault from Aza and the Iron Dome response:

For those Rip Van Winkles amongst us who have been sleeping through the last several weeks the operative word here is miracles. From the get go Rav Moshe Sternbuch makes it very clear that everything we are seeing are miracles and nothing but miracles with nary a shmeck of teva in sight. 

The Iron Dome rockets that shoot down the Hamas missiles, the missiles that don’t explode in shuls and houses, and those that fall into open fields are all the same nes.

And Rav Sternbuch also noted that rather than see these miracles we were taking the Iron Dome for granted.

So what did we do?

All sectors of Klal Yisroel, including many of those who are not yet Torah observant, responded and continue to respond with a massive outburst of Tehillim.  This is something very special as far as it goes, but as Rav Moshe tells us, it can only go so far and that the Tehillim is already becoming like rote. 

Amplifying on what he has said previously, the Rav stressed that the Hamas missiles that are falling on us are more than a wakeup call.  He reminds us that when something (seemingly) bad happens to us it’s a test from Hashem.

It’s the message that we spoke about in EmunahSpeak: The Wake up Call and Rav Sternbuch says that Hashem is beseeching us to reach out to Him by means of tefillah, but that we don’t daven because we don't realize why these issurim are coming upon us.  So he gives us the bottom line:

We have to understand that having 3,000 missiles shot at us is a punishment.
It’s a warning to do Teshuva so that we should mevatel the gezera.  It’s our choice to do so or blow the opportunity by misreading all of these miracles for the natural order of things.  Hashem is sending us all of these issurim in order that we should recognize Him.  This is the message here. Everything else is a side issue.

The Medrash tells us that as soon as Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim we stopped davening.  So He brought us to theYam Suf to squeeze the tefillos out of us.  And that’s what’s happening here, says Rav Moshe.  Hashem is kvitching the tefillos out of us with all of these missiles.  If we recognize that this is all the Yad Hashem then the decree is annulled and we will be zoche to a closer relationship with Hashem. 

A win win if there ever was one.

But if we don’t, chas v’shalom, we will lose our ability to see the nissim. And to the extent that we are incapable of seeing the nissim we are essentially blind to the reality of our existence.  And if we are oblivious of the Yad Hashem when it's in our face, then where's the basis for a relationship with Him?

And it’s more than a lose lose situation, because if we don’t see Hashem at a time of gillui panim (open revelation), we're looking at a disaster.

In EmunahSpeak: The Wake up Call, Rav Sternbuch told us that Hashem has opened all of the Sharei Rachamim of Shomayim to deflect the missiles from harming Klal Yisroel and if we don’t recognize this then we are sinners.  But that’s not good enough anymore.  He lets us hear that our avodah now, in addition to recognizing Hashem, is to strengthen ourselves in Torah, tefillah, and avodas Hashem, especially Emunah.

This week’s Emunah has to be stronger than last week’s Emunah because the Emunah that comes from 3,500 missiles must be stronger than the Emunah that emanates from only 3,000 missiles.
Teshuvah is the ultimate twofer, because in addition to getting us out of this current mess it will also allow us to pass under the radar of the issurim that Chazal say will accompany us through the Chevlei Moshiach.  

The Zohar HaKodesh says that one person who opens his eyes can save the entire Klal, and everyone has to assume that he is that one person.

And so Rav Moshe admonishes us that the most important thing is to open our eyes and not get caught up in all of the details that people speak about.  We have to stay focused during this time that everything is from Hashem and that the only reason why the missiles are falling on us is that Hashem is talking to us.
 And He is calling out to us:

Come back to me! 

Come back to Torah and tefillah and recognize Me because I am saving you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zerizus And The Greatness Of A Mitzvah

In basic English we are talking here about zeal, but if you prefer to flash your secular education, alacrity is also a nice fit.

As Rabbi Shimon Kessin explains, a mitzvah can come to us in one of three ways:

 It’s time for a given mitzvah (i.e. hear the shofar, light Shabbos candles etc.
We could, of our own free will, think to perform a certain mitzvah (i.e. bikkur cholim etc.).    Circumstance (i.e. a person could ask you for tzedakah).

Once any of these variables puts in an appearance one must go into zerizus mode so as not to let an interval manifest itself between one’s desire to do the mitzvah and the actual deed.  The longer you drey, the greater the risk that your intended mitzvah will be a no show when the roll is taken. 

And in order to bring this message home to us, the Ramchal sees fit to devote four chapters in the Mesillas Yesharim to zerizus for the simple but profound reason that without it many mitzvohs simply wouldn’t get done, period.  

It is said that Nature abhors a vacuum.  To the extent that this is correct it most certainly applies to mitzvohs as well.  As was stated above, any wiggle room we leave between our intention to do a mitzvah and its potential accomplishment lays the groundwork for the possibility that it will either never be effectuated, or if ultimately performed it will be in an attenuated form. 

And the Satan most certainly can be counted on to fill that vacuum.

One has to understand that from the time a mitzvah presents itself the Satan plots to take it away from you.  The longer you stall, the greater the Satan’s chances of erasing the possibility from your do list.

We learn from the Ramchal that there are two separate flash points of potential danger as regards the possibility of the non-performance of a mitzvah.  One is before beginning to perform the mitzvah and after having begun its performance.   

Did you ever plan to make a shiva call closer to the end of the shiva period, as opposed to the beginning and it never happened  for any number of good reasons ( your car needed to be repaired, you had a last minute business meeting etc.)?  You can extrapolate out from this to innumerable circumstances that you have personally experienced that were interposed between you and your good intentions to pull a mitzvah right out from under you.

You may have been a touch lazy but the Satan wasn’t.

And if it so happens that you hit the ground running, mitzvah wise, the Satan will pull out all the stops to see to it that you don’t complete it because the actual completion of a mitzvah takes both it and your reward to an entirely different level.  So much so, that it can be said that in the performance of a mitzvah the total sum is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So Why Are You Mumbling?

Do you mumble when you have important requests to make such as pass the salt or what time is it? Or how about where are my glasses or car keys? Who would think of not making one’s self clearly heard at such crucial times?

And so it goes for all of our attempted communications, for attempted is the best we can do because there is no guarantee that those that we are addressing will hear us or even understand us if they do.

But it’s not for lack of trying, because most of us are as loud as civilly tolerable even if we don’t always hit the high note of articulation.

The fact is that mumbling and communication are antithetical, so aside from two carved in stone exceptions, we make sure to open our mouths when we have something to say.

The first of these exceptions is when we verbalize (mumble) some distasteful comments under our breath which are often akin to curses.  Not nice perhaps but perfectly logical nonetheless.  After all, aside from extreme situations, who wants to be heard cursing or running down his neighbor?

The problem is that we give Hashem the same treatment, because for some strange reason we tend to mumble our brochos even more quietly than our imprecations. 

But truth be told, it’s really ourselves who are on the dead end of our brochos, for while Hashem, by way of the Halacha, may require that they should be made at the appropriate times, He doesn’t need to hear them.

But we do.

And if we said them loud enough to actually hear them and ponder their meaning for a nano second or two, we would be living in a different world.  We would be in a world in which fruit comes from the trees and bread comes from the ground instead of the super market.  And in such a world, we would understand that tragedies are guided by a Truthful Judge as opposed to just happening. 

But we don’t hear them because we mumble them to such an extent that they’re barely audible.

And it’s not for nothing that we carry on this way.  For those with eyes to see, the Satan’s tracks are all over the place and with good reason too, because he well understands that each brocha that is heard and internalized is an affirmation of Emunah.

And that’s the last the thing that the Satan wants to hear.

So he makes sure that we don’t hear it either by inducing us to mumble our brochos so that their decibel level will mirror the silence of the dead.