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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Beinoni HaKodosh

At its root, this world was created with but two personality types that will always remain the way they are: The Tzaddik and the Rasha.  And never the twain shall meet.

Very educational to be sure, but what about the vast majority of us who are Beinonim?  To where did we disappear? 

Beinonim, in the view of the Tanya, have the same spiritual DNA as the Rasha’im, and as such, they are essentially nothing more than a variation on the Rasha’s theme.  They are presented with the same challenges, but whereas the Rasha marches in lock step with the flow of his evil inclinations, the Beinoni does his best to paddle upstream against that current, as he contends with the Yetzer Hora in a perpetual turf war for his neshama. 

And the word perpetual is not a literary flourish.  It’s meant to be taken literally.

The Beinoni struggles his whole life with his Yetzer because for all but the fewest of the infinitesimal few who pass through this world as Tzaddikim, the status of Beinoni is the only game in town for those seeking to avoid what Rav Avigdor Miller z"l, used to refer to as the tropics of the next world.  It’s a lifetime contract without an escape clause, rather than a stepping stone by which the righteous amongst us can elevate themselves to the status of Tzaddik.

So if becoming Tzaddikim is, for all practical purposes, essentially beyond our grasp, to what purpose are we engaged in a tug of war with the darker side of our imperfections?

Rabbi Yisroel Brog tells us that our job is to reach the level of Beinonim, and given that at the root both Beinonim and Rasha’im are cut from the same cloth, leaving this world as a rock solid Beinoni is no small accomplishment.

And therefore, with this conception in mind, the idea that we are not put into this world to become spiritual übermentchen, we can deal with our failures.  Just as a basketball player who misses a shot is even more determined to score the next time he gets the ball, the Beinoni who is cognizant of his place in this world brushes himself off after every knockdown and gets back into the ring to continue the fight with Ra (evil) because he understands that his personal struggle, in and of itself, is a great nachas ruach for Hashem. 

The bottom line here is that when a person is faced with a challenge it’s not a sign of weakness.  Rabbi Brog reminds us that it’s a siman that he is alive and that he’s up to his eyeballs in Avodas Hashem.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beyond the Horizon

This world is the ultimate box, and it is impossible to think out of it because we have no frame of reference on the far side of the universal town limits.

What you see may or may not be what you get, but it nonetheless circumscribes the limits of one’s horizons.

What you can see is all about you.

It’s all about your eyes, which means it’s about your understanding and comprehension.  It’s the database which encompasses the sum total of your perceptions, and as such it’s perpetually in the face of our emunah and bitochon which do not march to the tune of the eye’s inherent limitations.

You have a problem and you don’t see a solution, so that’s it as far as you’re concerned.  It’s time to turn out the lights and call it a day because your whole world is subsumed within the parameters of your imagination, and what you can’t see simply doesn’t exist for you.

But what about what’s beyond your eyes?  That’s all about Who created them.

It’s solely about Hashem without any tevedik pushback to induce us to consider any other scenario.  It’s about the non-existence of limitations of any kind, be it time, space or anything else that reduces our view of the world to the panorama afforded by a keyhole.

When anchored in hashkafic bedrock, our emunah and bitochon pokes a hole through our personal horizon, and beckons our imagination to walk through to the other side to a world in which everything is possible.

As we said in EmunahSpeak: Living With Hashem, It comes out that a ba’al Emunah is a person that knows with a certainty that Hashem is here, which culminates in a palpable feeling of living with Hashem.  Given Emunah’s spiritual essence, he eschews the use of physical eyes and material yardsticks because a person can’t achieve Emunah in this world if he is holding up Hashem to material tests, nor should we measure our success in life by our physical experiences which tend to collide with Emunah.

While it’s true that what you can see is all about you, it’s no less true that what you don’t see is all about the bottom line reality of your existence.  It’s in that great unseen realm beyond the horizon of your comprehension that emunah/bitochon intersects with what will eventually morph into the answer to every question and the solution to every problem.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

He’s Waiting for Us.

According to Tanchuma, Nitzavim, section 1: Israel will not be redeemed until they will all form one group.

The good news is that it can be credibly said that we have finally become one group.  The bad news is that the group consensus is that we are not particularly interested in achdus.

There are exceptions, of course, such as Chabad and Breslov, but everyone knows what we think about them. 

The inner challenge of Golus is to mevatal the sinas chinom that placed us here to begin with.  And the only antidote is ahavas chinom.  But that little bit of unpleasantness that goes by the name of truth has it that on only the rarest of occasions does real achdus make a cameo appearance amidst the terminal dissensions of the Golus as if it were role playing in a heimishe version of Where’s Waldo(?)

And what’s real achdus anyway?

As we noted in EmunahSpeak: The Satan’s Achdus, When our Rabbis admonish us as regards our lack of achdus they are… talking about an achdus that can only be achieved by first withstanding a firestorm of vitriol emanating from the Yetzer Hora.  The existence of such an achdus draws a bull’s-eye around the Satan and then proceeds to hit it.  This is the "Satan's achdus (real achdus)."

The seeds of what could grow into the “Satan’s achdus” are not scattered to the four winds.  They are selectively sown.  In any situation in which you wouldn’t reflexively demonstrate a feeling of achdus the Yetzer Hora is all over you relentlessly justifying your hesitation.  Any attempt at real achdus has to have the staying power to weather the long march through our worst instincts.

Such an achdus has no connection to the comfort zone.  And it’s more closely manifested in bailing your worst enemy out of jail than in inviting your best friend for Shabbos, and it has a striking affinity to work as opposed to play.

And as we said in EmunahSpeak: Nu?: The path to Moshiach, which is in no small measure the path of achdus, will only be trod by transforming the grief, emoted in the comfort zone of our chevra, from a proprietary emotion to one that encompasses the entire Klal without dulling that emotional edge. 

In the way we deal with others Hashem deals with us.  When we ask Hashem to send us Moshiach when we don’t deserve it are we not asking for the ultimate chesed that He could do for us?  And isn’t the ultimate chesed on our part a chesed shel emes?

And yet, when a family of Torah Jews is slaughtered in their beds or eight Yeshiva bochurim are gunned down in their Yeshiva we seem to be incapable of stepping outside of our label saturated existence long enough to attend the funeral.  It matters not a whit how many people show up because it’s not a numbers game.

It’s all about the mosaic of Torah Jewry.

In Shomayim, three hundred of EVERYBODY at a levaya will trump thirty thousand of only a certain SOMEBODY every time.

I thought that we had pretty much reached bottom with the funeral shtick, but apparently we’re not quite there yet.

There’s something worse.

It appears that our distant cousins have been doing their thing on Har HaZeisim by desecrating graves and stoning both funeral processions and visitors to the graves.  

Nice people, these cousins of ours.

And this is not as of late.  Mohamed and Co. have been on the attack since Har HaZeisim was liberated in 1967 with next to zero push back from the Israeli authorities.

This is not about settlements.  We’re talking graves here.  This is about our ancestors, and therefore about us.  Every type of Jew is buried here regardless of which camp, sector, or ideology one identified with.

And yet there’s nothing in the way of a public response aside from the tumult being created by the International Committee to Preserve Har HaZeisim, which was founded in 2010 by the Lubinsky brothers, Menachem and Avraham.  Through the Committee’s efforts, a large number of security cameras have been installed, a private security force has been engaged, and a new police station has been announced for Har HaZeisim.

But aside from the small handful of dedicated people who, with mesiras nefesh, are working on behalf of the Committee against all odds, the only Jewish response to the chillul Hashem that has become the leitmotif of Har HaZeisim is the silence of the dead who are buried there. 

As we pointed out above, Israel will not be redeemed until they will all form one group, and yet no one makes even the slightest effort to come together on this.  Not the Chassidim, not the bnei yeshiva, not the Merkaz HaRav people, and not the Sephardim.  And there are no conflicting interests and no ideological compromises required, and yet we still can’t manage to get it on, even for what can be termed an achdus shel emes.

We’re satisfied talking the talk of achdus rather than walking the walk.  Anything but achdus it seems, no matter the price we pay or the indignity we suffer.

And as we also pointed out in EmunahSpeak: Nu?, Moshiach doesn’t do Hollywood so he is not waiting for Egypt to rip up the treaty and attack Israel, nor is he waiting for Hezbollah to devastate Israel’s heartland with its 50,000 rockets.  And he most certainly isn’t playing peek-a-boo with Iran’s nukes-to-be, chas v’shalom.

So what then?

He’s waiting for us

He's waiting for us to look into the mirror, and see everyone instead of seeing what we think is the only one.

Then and only then will we be able to get our collective act together, and push the envelope on the achdus that will precipitate his appearance speedily in our days.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mañana (a second look)

Way back in June when EmunahSpeak was launched, its readership consisted of about two and half relatives.  As a consequence thereof, the first few pieces came and went (into the archives) with nary a fingerprint on them.

Mañana was the very first piece, and given all the recently talk about Moshiach, some of it serious and the rest of it very loose, we thought it timely to republish it so that it can be read by all of our readers who missed it.

Mañana means tomorrow in Spanish.  It also defines a lifestyle.

In the same way that Israeli irreverence to detail is encapsulated in the expression yashar yashar, which is the de rigueur response to any query as to directions, mañana mañana is the bottom line of a culture that would rather relegate the vicissitudes of life to the back burner.

And this brings us to Moshiach.

As the house lights begin to dim on the final act of this world’s six thousand year first round run, we are inundated by all the signs that Chazal have given us to signal the coming of the Moshiach.  And when coupled with the reality and implication of the Iranian nuclear program, Hezbollah’s 50,000 rockets aimed at our jugular, the distinct possibility of Egypt once again becoming a confrontation state, the almost universal hostility of the nations to both Israel and the Jewish People, and the possibility of world wide economic meltdown, we can feel in our bones and almost taste the palpable closeness of Moshiach.

Tomorrow that is…

…because mañana is when he’s coming.  Never today, mind you, always mañana. And therein lies a problem, for the Rambam states clearly in the 12th of his Ikarim that “....and even though he may delay, with all that, I await him every day that he will come.” It seems that the more we see the signs the more clearly we see tomorrow’s scenario.

That most of us think this way is an indisputable fact.  The why behind our collective mindset is Aristotle and the apikorsis of drama.

Aristotle’s rules of dramatic construction were laid down in his Poetics with a few thoughts on the subject also scattered about his Rhetoric.  Although he never says it in so many words, the bottom line foundation of Aristotle’s laws of drama, as put forth in the Poetics­­, is that man is the master of his fate.  A protagonist that doesn’t believe in “My power and the might of my hand,” is dramatically speaking, a wimp.

In reality, nothing can be more dramatic than an open miracle, which is nothing but an open manifestation of the Yad Hashem.  Although his dramatic construct seamlessly replicated reality to the extent that one could lose oneself in it as if it were reality itself, it was the genius of Aristotle, in all of its inherent wickedness,  that it was man, and only man that made it work.  “Good drama” cannot brook any intrusion by Hashem.

The same miracle that would rivet us to our seats if we would be privileged to witness it would be but an emotional let down in the context of a dramatic production, be it a movie or a stage play, because Aristotle’s drama world is the very antithesis of Hashem’s world, and it follows its own rules which are sacrosanct within the genre.

While the existence of nature has a very definite function in that it hides the Hand of Hashem, thereby enabling us to exercise our free will, Aristotle and the other Greek philosophers introduced the concept of Nature for the purpose of creating a world without the Creator.  And Aristotle’s laws of dramatic construction parallel the Greek view of Nature in that they also write Hashem out of the script.

By making Man the mover and shaker of the Dramatic world, Aristotle forever poisoned the collective mind of the West.  And given the relegation of both Aristotelian physics and philosophy to the status of historical curiosities, one can reasonably argue that Aristotle’s greatest influence on the Western mind was by way of the theater.

While Broadway, Hollywood, Piccadilly, and all the rest prove the point, that in and of itself doesn’t bring the point home to those who have no truck with secular entertainment in any of its debilitating incarnations.

For that we need Bais Yaakov.

Is it not true, for instance, that the ending of a Bais Yaakov play, in which the girls save themselves by outwitting the Gestapo, has more dramatic appeal to us than an ending in which they are saved because their pursuers are all struck down by lightning a few minutes before they were to arrest the girls?

And while we would, no doubt, be experiencing the allowable limits of ecstasy in this world if we actually witnessed SS men being zapped by lightning at the doorstep of a Bais Yaakov school, in the context of a dramatic production it would be a terrible ending.  Anyone who has had the slightest experience with drama even as a couch potato intuitively understands this.

It is ironic in the extreme that many of those who are careful not to bring television, videos, newspapers, secular books, the Internet, and yes, even the radio into their homes, have nonetheless been influenced by Aristotle’s inversion of emes and sheker as incorporated in his dramatic model.  So in spite of the fact that this imaginary play is about girls who are saved from the Nazi beasts by a miracle, we would rather have the miracle kept under wraps to let the girls demonstrate my power and the might of my hand by extracting themselves from their predicament.

Such is the power of Aristotle’s dramatic construct, and without his intended obfuscation we would all be applauding the miracle.

The reason we are mañana oriented is because we see that the trend lines (world economic dysfunction, Hezbollah, Iranian nukes, Egypt etc.) are building toward a climax. It would be a dramatic no no for Moshiach to put in an appearance today, and that’s why almost no one can see it as a possibility, despite our fervent hopes to the contrary.   

The fact that this is total sheker manages to elude us.

Although all of us readily acknowledge that Hashem is bound by neither time nor space, we have nevertheless locked Him into Aristotle’s dramatic model, and we are totally unaware that we have done so.  Climax, anti-climax, and all of the other dramatic concepts and structures by which Aristotle created a virtual reality are brilliant forgeries devoid of any substance in the real world.  They have nothing to do with the way that Hashem runs His world and nothing to do with Moshiach.

Hashem keeps sending us signs, and we keep misreading them. What is meant as a wake up call spelled NOW, as in:

Pay attention, I’m about to do big things NOW, so prepare yourself for Moshiach and anticipate him NOW, gets morphed into yet one more scene in Aristotle’s long running Moshiach epic, as we wait to see how it all plays out.

In the way a person wants to go, that’s where Hashem will lead him.  The more content we are to be couch potato meshichistas, the more Hashem will prolong the drama by adding “scenes.”

When we finally grasp that what is required of us is to recognize that
these signs are about today rather than tomorrow, we will daven each tefillah, learn each blatt of gemora, and do each chesed etc., as if it were the last one before Moshiach.  

And as soon as we do, the movie will stop, and the realty of Geula will displace the virtual reality of Aristotle.

So when will Moshiach come, anyway?

When the Rambam says: “....and even though he may delay, with all that, I await him every day that he will come,” he most certainly means today, not tomorrow.


You are standing under the chuppah with your chosson or kallah, and just as the mesader kiddushin is about to begin the brocho, everyone in the chuppah room faces the two big doors in the back in response to a very loud and disturbing tumult taking place in the lobby.  Instead of being upset you sincerely hope that the tumult taking place on the other side of those doors is in response to the arrival of Moshiach.  

That’s the Rambam’s today, and it means that no matter what we are doing at the time, it will be as nothing the second we hear that Moshiach has come, Aristotle notwithstanding.

Everything else is mañana.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Daled Amos

Chazal teach that for every daled amos that a person walks in Eretz Yisroel he receives another mitzvah. 

That works out very nicely for those that are in a position to walk the LAND.  But what of those that are forced by the circumstances of our exile to trod the unsanctified paths and byways of Chutz L’Aretz?

They are emotional hostages to the angst laden pintele daled amos secreted within their hearts.

And it tortures them something fierce.

In EmunahSpeak: Samayach B’Chelko, we said, in commenting on the famous Mishnah in Avos that: One who is samayach b’chelko may well be dissatisfied with the pain in his life, but he doesn’t allow that pain to take over and become the center of his life.  The pain can be pain, but it doesn’t take way from the joyousness inherent in a life in which everyday blessings are counted like pearls.   

While this is no doubt a five star prescription for insuring one’s emotional and mental stability in his dalliance with this world, the pintele daled amos that pulsates beneath the surface of our consciousness is off the reservation on this inyan and will have none of it.

It’s not exactly what one would call a team player.

In its rebellion against being placed in that part of the world where feet actually touch the ground, the pintele daled amos, the GPS of all Jews in ChutzL’Aretz, pines to float above it as is the case with the Holy Ones who walk the Land with their souls as opposed to their feet.

And sometimes, even the pygmies amongst are zoche to float a little.  Although it has long receded from the front end of my memory, thirty-five years hasn’t been quite enough for my pintele daled amos to let go of such an experience.

If you have ever felt a palpitation when reciting words in davening or benching that reference the Land or have emotionally succumbed to a passage in Tanach or words of Chazal that extols its virtues, then know as of a surety that your pintele daled amos was kicking away inside as a baby in the womb. 

It was trying to tell you something.

It was trying to tell you that it was lonely.  It was trying to tell you that it was tired of having to kick a tear out of you.  It was trying to tell you that it was tired of flying solo while you go about your business, satisfied with your lot as you should be, your emotional speed bumps, notwithstanding.  It was trying to tell you that it would suffer a lot less if it’s longing was replicated in yours.

In Divrei Hayomim II, the posuk says: My eyes and heart shall be there at all times. In addition to the posuk’s literal meaning in relation to the Land, maybe it can also be applied to our mitzvos.

If we get a mitzvah for every daled amos that we walk in the Land, maybe the flip side of the equation is also true.  Maybe every mitzvah we do is as if we walked a daled amos in Eretz Yisroel with every posuk, every blatt Gemora, every dollar of tzedaka, every chesed, and every sound of the shofar and shake of the lulav tracing such a path. 

We will be in sync with our pintele daled amos, and if we perform all of our mitzvos with the idea that we are traversing daled amos in the Land, we will also be fulfilling the posuk of My eyes and heart shall be there at all times.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seeing the Good

Although we have had occasion to touch upon the concept of gam zu l’tova in the past, it was never spoken out as such.

In EmunahSpeak: It’s Okay with Me  we said that there are any number of ways to explain Bitochon, but at its core it simply means that Hashem has a Master Plan, and that every facet of that Master Plan is subjectively good, as applied to you and every other you walking the Earth at any given time.

And similarly, in EmunahSpeak: PLAN B we averred that Plan A is always the best plan for a person because everything Hashem does is for the best and moreover, Hashem wants what is good for you more than you want what’s good for you.  And that’s reflected in the fact that we consistently come up with Plan B…. It’s all about seeing life’s curve balls as the real Plan A rather the ruination of what we thought was Plan A.

It’s all quite a madreiga to be sure, but for most of us it is the madreiga of grinning and bearing it, which means that if we’ve got our heads screwed on right, really tight, we won’t have a meltdown when a pipe bursts in our house putting most of what we own three feet under water.  We’re not happy about it, to be sure, and as much as we may try, we also seem to be incapable of discerning the good that will eventually put in an appearance.  And nonetheless, we’ll say gam zu l’tova, accepting b’lev shaleim that it’s all Hashem’s will. 

As we said above, this is already a madreiga.  Maybe not high enough for a nose bleed, but it’s still something to talk about.

In EmunahSpeak: Preview "Winning the Battle" we  gave over the Tanya’s admonishment to separate from anything that has even a shmeck of worry or sadness and that as a first step in that direction we should begin seeing the good in what is presumed to be bad. 

It’s basically an inyan of gam zu l’tova, is it not?

Yes, but with a twist.  In the Tanya’s world we don’t sit back waiting for the good inherent in any presumed mishap to come dancing across our screen because the words, we should begin seeing the good in what is presumed to be bad, mean exactly that.  We are adjured to actively seek it out.

But the reality is that, in most cases, at the end of the day we’re not actually seeing the so-called good through the eyes of the Tanya either.  So what therefore is the practical difference between the Tanya’s more active approach and the passivity that defines the outlook of the rest of us?

It’s all in the mindset. The Tanya calls on us to conduct ourselves as if we did see it.

The Tanya’s attitude can be succinctly summed as follows: If you really hold of gam zu l’tova, then why aren’t you smiling?

Rabbi Yisroel Brog, tracking the view of the Tanya, reminds us that the goal is not to allow the slightest worry to penetrate our heart.  The aitza, he says, is that in the same way you make a brocha over good you should make a brocha over evil, meaning that just like you accept the good with simcha you should mekabel the evil with simcha also.

It’s not enough to simply accept an unpleasant situation.  A person has to try to motivate himself to see it as an occasion for simcha.

It’s all in how you relate to it.

Your car broke down?  Boruch Hashem.  It’s all gam zu l’tovah, our blindness to the tov notwithstanding.

And on the subject of that blindness, Rabbi Brog shares with us an amazing insight.  He tells us, in the name of the Tanya, that the yissurim that we endure in the course of our sojourn in this physical world come from a world that is totally tov, and we are incapable of seeing the tov in much the same way that we are incapable of seeing ethereal beings such as angels.

And because these yissurim do in fact come from a world that is totally good, they have to come to us as such because this world cannot handle anything emanating from that world that’s not dressed up in a levush of yissurim.

Those who are samayach with their yissurim disregard the package (the yissurim) and look inside (the tov).  They are samayach because they realize that they are zoche to a good that is so special that it has to be packaged in yissurim.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winning the Battle

If you are feeling blah, really down, sad or any other comparable version of just plain yucky, you’re in atzvus mode which is one of the biggest roadblocks to Avodas Hashem.

So says Rabbi Yisroel Brog, and citing Sefer HaTanya he puts forth the following klal gadol:

Just as someone who possesses great physical strength, but lacks proper motivation will lose to a weaker opponent who is sufficiently motivated, so it is with the battle between the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Hora.  Even though the Yetzer Tov is the stronger of the two, you can’t win if you are in atzvus mode, because your Yetzer (Hora) is always pumped for peak performance.

It’s basically no contest.

In EmunahSpeak: Nothing but Thoughts, we spoke of the War of the Inclinations (Yetzer Tov vs. Yetzer Hora) in terms of our character traits being manifestations of the thoughts that we carry in the precincts of our mind. These thoughts/traits are an end unto themselves in the sense that, by way of the Yetzer that gets the upper hand, they pretty much speak to our essence and define who we are.  It’s all about our internalizing the right thoughts.

The battle that Sefer HaTanya speaks of is a step earlier in the process.  It’s not the end game itself, but rather the preliminary skirmish that may well make the final outcome inevitable.  It’s not the War of the Yetzers per se.  It’s more about whether or not we’ll be able to take our place in the front line of that war.

Someone who is depressed has lost the Battle before the opening shot is fired because it is IMPOSSIBLE for a person in that condition to survive an encounter with the Yetzer.  But how is one to avoid the depressions that follow, like clockwork, on the heels of life’s speed bumps?

The Tanya gives us two lines of attack.  The first is to separate from anything that has even a shmeck of worry or sadness.  This is a very deep topic, which we will IY”H soon revisit a little further down the road, but for our present purposes the Tanya is saying that we should begin seeing the good in what is presumed to be bad in reference to the things that happen to us in the course of our lives.  In this way we set the terms on those of life’s negatives that we are forced to deal with.

And the second is zerizus (alacrity).  The Tanya here is referring to the atzvus that comes to us by way of missteps or just plain lack of success in milei d'Shmaya (ruchniess concerns like davening, learning, avoiding aveiros etc.)  One needs zerizus to win the battle, and that comes from simcha.  As such, our marching orders are that we should be b’simcha upon waking up in the morning.  The alternative is to spend the day tip toeing on an internal high wire with every prospect of falling off.

Nice words these, but how does one make it work?  We’ve been told that the antidote for atzvus is zerizus born of simcha.  So by what means to we generate the requisite simcha?

Rabbi Brog gives us the prescription of the Tanya, which is atzvus. 


If a person messes up on something and then starts beating himself up about it, it’s nothing in terms of a positive benefit.  In fact, it’s worse than nothing because it’s actually dangerous.

If, however, you came to atzvus over something in the realm of milei d'Shmaya, and in reaction thereto you pushed it out of your head, and then put your face into a mussar sefer, and kept it there until you felt like the two cents that you currently value yourself as being worth for doing whatever it was that you foolishly did, your job is now to take the sadness that was induced by your mussar session and turn it into simcha.

The simcha that comes to a person that heals his broken spirit is a bigger simcha than one that is not preceded by sadness. It's the simcha of having zeroed in on your weakness and of having made of it a strength. 

This is the only good atzvus because it was planned, says Rabbi Brog.  You made it happen and you know its source, so you can therefore safely go in the direction that this induced state of atzvus is taking you.

A flow chart of the Tanya’s battle plan would look something like this:

Expunging atzvus connected to Sin/dejection from our minds>mussar>broken heart /sadness/atzvus>simcha>zerizus>winning the battle with the Yetzer.

Rabbi Brog tells us that if a person has truly a broken heart over the fact that he sinned to Hashem, and it comes from mussar, then he can break the mechitzos between him and Hashem.

And that’s the only way.

If he’s in atzvus mode with the sadness derivative of his depressed situation, rather than from mussar, then he has to know that the Yetzer Hora is setting him up for even a bigger fall as part of an endless series of battle losses that will eventually morph into a lost war when the curtain comes down on a life not truly lived.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Serving Hashem B’Simcha (2)

In EmunahSpeak: Serving Hashem B’Simcha, we ended by saying that Serving Hashem b’simcha, means actively harnessing our happiness, our sense of joy, and the essential goodness of our lives that we spoke about above, in relation to being samayach b’chelko, and making it the leitmotif of our mitzvah observance. 

Although one son told me that he worked at the above prescription with success, I, for one, struggled a bit to transition from the talk of it to the walk.

What to do?

Rabbi Yehuda Litwen informs us in the name of the Sefer Chareidim (as cited in the Mishnah Brurah in Hilchos Simchas Torah) that the Arizal said that everything that he was zoche to in his avodas Hashem and in his learning came to him only in the z’chus of the endless simcha that he had in performing each mitzvah. 

Reassuring to say the least, but how?

Not how, as in how did the Arizal do it?  He was the Arizal, so there is nothing else to talk.

But what about the rest of us?

We understand well enough the what of the general game plan.  It’s the how that’s somewhat of a slippery slope.  By what route are we to come to even the faintest shadow of the Arizal’s simchas hamitzvos?  And we’re talking basics here without the intrusion of the Zohar, Kabbalah, Sefiros, Shaimos, and Eliyahu HaNavi.  How do we do it?  How, as a practical measure, do we morph the simchas hachaim which comes to us by way of being samayach b’chelko into our simchas hamitzvos?

By what route?  Maybe a seemingly circuitous one. 

It could be that the route to our parody of the Arizal’s simchas hamitzvos passes the Chazon Ish along the way. Rabbi Litwen tells us that the Chazon Ish writes that the main joy that a person is supposed to experience in relation to his mitzvah observance is the fact that he merits to do the mitzvah in the first place. 

The Chazon Ish has opened the door for us wide enough to break the hinges, and in the process he has fleshed out the words, asher borchar bonu meekol HaAmim (Who selected us from all the peoples) and infused them with added meaning because our joy in meriting to do a mitzvah, as of necessity, must be preceded by a clear understanding of the significance of being chosen by Hashem for this very purpose.  But once that understanding has been achieved, being simchadik over the fact that we merit to do any given mitzvah is a natural step forward. It’s something we can wrap our heads around intuitively because our feelings have been given a source of focus.

And that joy, the joy that we experience by way of being zoche to perform the mitzvos, as opposed to merely being obligated to do them, will bring us in due time to a feeling of simcha in the actual performance in the mitzvah itself.

The simcha we feel in our mitzvah observance may fall a tad short of the endless simcha that the Arizal felt in his, but it will have a smile attached just the same.