Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Question & Answer With Rabbi Ozer Bergman - "Open To Whatever Was There"

(Picture courtesy of 29000ft.net)

A Simple Jew asks:

In his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Aron Ralston expressed his personal philosophy when it came to climbing mountains,

"I found that I could not set out with the intent of having a particular experience...my goal instead was to be open to what that day was giving me and accept it. Expectations generally led to disappointment, but being open to whatever was there for me to discover led to awareness and delight, even when conditions were rough."

How do you think it would be possible to apply this philosophy to one's avodas Hashem?

Rabbi Ozer Bergman answers:

I don't know if Aron Ralston ever read Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom, but it sounds as if he might have. When he writes, “I could not set out with the intent of having a particular experience...my goal instead was to be open to what that day was giving me and accept it.” he is reformulating what Rebbe Nachman says in the Wisdom #2: As the day begins it is my practice to place my every movement in God's hands, that everything should be according to His will. This was very good, he said, because there is no worrying, no need to fret if it is “going right” or “wrong” because one is relying on God.

Rebbe Nachman had his avodas Hashem, parts that we can relate to and parts that we will never fathom. He had much to accomplish for himself and for Klal Yisrael at large. But he knew that Hashem is running the show, and that Hashem has His share in fixing each individual and the world at large.

Rebbe Nachman wants us to climb mountains, to ascend the Mountain of God (Psalms 24:3). We have to have goals to improve in our Torah, tefilah and chessed. You want to study a certain amount, or a particular work. You want to pray in a certain place, or at a certain time, with a certain amount of fervor and focus. Yet we know that things don't always work out like we plan or even as we hope. That can be frustrating or worse.

A friend shared with me the following story. For one erev Yom Kippur he made a long to-do list of all things he “had” to do in order to do teshuvah shleimah in absolutely the best possible way. By the time he got to the pre-fast meal, he was an enraged, screaming, raving maniac. This person had gotten in the way, that person had gotten in the way, this took longer than it should have, traffic was unduly long....aaaarghhhh!

We have to be open to what Hashem will offer throughout the day and not insist and force our plan on the day's events. We have to be flexible to Hashem's offers to help us grow, even though we may not have a clue as to how that's happening or what the intended growth is meant to be! We have to let God in. We have to be capable of instantly and willingly surrendering to Him.

This sort of humility and surrender is one the highest mountains there is to climb!


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