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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Where are You Going?

In EmunahSpeak: The Clarity of Context, we said that whatever you see your neighbor do you also did once upon a time or may well do tomorrow with but a slight variation on the theme, not enough to take it out of whatever aveira was the touchstone between your two neshamos at different points in time.

And then we asked:  So why is it that there is a Grand Canyon disconnect between the understanding with which you view your actions and the jaundiced eye that you cast upon the missteps of your friend, sufficient to ignite within you a desire to talk about it?

The thrust of the answer was that while we are well aware of all of the circumstances surrounding our failures we are quite often clueless as to the back story attending the other guy's lapse, with the result being as was stated above.

EmunahSpeak: The Clarity of Context addressed the why of an individual's actions to which we are usually not privy.

But there is also the where, as in where someone is holding, which focuses on one's persona as opposed to one's actions, and while we shouldn't be judging anyone for any reason, most of us tend to fall into the trap of appearances.

In the world of appearances, those who have racked up great accomplishments (i.e. knowledge of all of Shas Bavli, the publication of acclaimed seforim etc.) are presumed to be holding in a very good place whereas those who, at first glance, don't show anything are not.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz z"l comes to tell us that it is not so.

He asks why the twelve spies that Moshe sent out to spy the land, who were all great tzadikim, spiritually crash landed whereas Rachav, who by some accounts was a biblical version of a Tel Aviv street walker, reached a nose bleed height of spiritual development.

Rav Yerucham answers that it all depends on where one's ruchniyas GPS takes him.  If one is going south, even imperceptibly, fuggetaboutit, because we're going eyeball to eyeball with a potential spiritual freefall. 

So much for the spies.

And the flip side is no less true.  If one (Rachav et al.) is heading north in growth mode, even if it is sub-atomic progress that's invisible to the naked eye, it's skies the limit as far as future potential is concerned.

In the world of ruchniyas there is no neutral space where one can run in place or tread water.  It's either up or down and prior accomplishments or baggage don't come along for the ride.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sinning Against Yourself

As Rabbi Daniel Travis tells it, a not yet frum cab driver that he knows on  first name basis complained to him that he often drives seminary girls and teachers in the various seminaries, and all too often the ride is laced with loshon hora from pick up to drop off.

That it is an ongoing Chillul Hashem there's nothing to talk, but what motivates otherwise presumably very religious and respectable people to carry on this way?  Rabbi Travis says that they have no nachas ruach  or peace of mind until they have spoken their loshon hora.

Very nice, but why is this?

He tells us in the name of the Gra (the Vilna Gaon) that anytime a person does something it creates a ruach.  In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin states in Avos that every time you do a mitzvah/aveira you create your Olam Haba/Gehenom.  As you do the mitzvah/aveira it pushes you to do more of the same according to the principle of mitzva gorreres mitzva (one mitzva leads to another mitzva) and aveira gorreres aveira.

The bigger the aveira, the bigger the ruach that is created and consequently, the bigger the taiva (desire) for that aveira. 

Rabbi Travis informs us that the biggest mitzvah a person can possibly involve himself with is Limud HaTorah with the flip side being letzones, devarim b'tailm, and loshon hora which are the opposite from Torah.   And the reason that people constantly repeat loshon hora and get great satisfaction from it is because the ruach that people initially create with their loshon hora gives them a geshmack in coming back for seconds, thirds etc., which for some unfortunates translate into and endless loop.

So at the end of the day it comes out that it's an addiction of sorts because the more a  person speaks loshon hora the more he feels pushed to repeat the performance.  And it's an addiction that one is liable for by virtue of putting himself in such a position to begin with.

Given what we have put forth it should be obvious why the basic principle of loshon hora (or the first line of defense, as it were) is not restraint, for how can we talk about restraint when a person's urge to speak loshon hora is in a certain sense out of control?

The emes is that the numero uno foundation of loshon hora is self-respect.  It's below us to dwell on the negative and you do so by speaking derogatorily about a fellow Jew.

It's a sin against yourself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Greatest Nes

Anyone who knows anything about Jewish prayer is well aware of the fact that Ashrei (Psalm 145) is recited thrice daily.  It is also no secret that Ashrei follows the order of the Aleph/Beis, and accordingly it is a snapshot of teva (nature).  In the same way that Ashrei moves from Alepf to Taf in a linear path teva (seemingly) moves through its established cycles.  

Or so we think, but the Meshech Chochma informs us otherwise.

Teva is actually an accumulation of nes after nes all of which tip toes under our collective radar because it happens all of the time and to our way of looking at things it just seems to be the way things are.

Rav Dessler puts it this way:

The only difference between nes and teva is the frequency of occurrence. 

By us, caterpillars that morph into butterflies every year are a wonderful manifestation of teva, (isn't nature wonderful?!), whereas Ticheyas Hameisim (the rising of the dead) which will be at the end of times is a nes.

Teva is the chosen means by which Hashem controls the world and the irony is that what most people think is the most mundane natural activity that could be considered to be the poster boy for teva is in actually the greatest nes.

The Meshech Chachma tells us that the greatest wonder in the world, which is much greater than any nes, is the inyan (subject) of parnossa (making a living).

Hashem created a world that is self supporting for every creation in it, and within the framework of trillions upon trillions of created things living off each other, Hashem supplies parnossa for the whole of Creation.

This is the bottom line of Ashrei.  It's to internalize that the Hashem rules over the teva from Aleph to Taf.  And that if within the sleight of Hand that we call teva, a person will focus on how Hashem created a world which contains parnossa for everyone, this is the greatest Kovod Shomayim ( honor to Heaven) that can be shown.