If Your Have To Ask You Are Not Ready Yet
In Parshas Shemos, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim taught that a person should elevate the machshavos zaros (strange and evil thoughts) that come to him. Regarding this topic, one commenter asked how we should practically go about elevating these thoughts.
Last night, I learned a shtickel of Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Parshas Bo with the Sudilkover Rebbe that provided an answer. The Degel taught that a person must know the spiritual level he is on and conduct his avodas Hashem accordingly without attempting to perform lofty avodas above his reach. Furthermore, he should know that it is impossible to comprehend the wisdom of a higher spiritual level when he has not yet reached that level.
The Sudilkover Rebbe explained that an example of this could be a married man who is walking on the street attempting to elevate his machshavos zaros after he sees a beautiful women who was dressed less than modestly. If he had not yet attained an extremely high spirtitual level, he may fall from his current level if he attempts to elevate his thoughts of her beauty and use them as a stepping stone to contemplate the beauty Hashem has made in His creation. If, however, he recognizes his true spiritual level, he will understand that he should proceed by simply averting his eyes and pushing any thoughts about her out of his mind altogether.
The Rebbe said that advancing from level to level can be likened to a person climbing a ladder made out of wood. If a person proceeds too quickly without first testing to see whether the rung above him will hold his weight, he may fall to the ground once it snaps beneath him.
At what time then is a person ready to proceed to the next level and take on a new and higher avoda?
The Rebbe answered that a person is ready when he doesn't have to ask if he is ready or how to proceed and accomplish his new avoda. Chassidshe seforim are like a puzzle; some pieces belong to the earth and some pieces belong the sky. He must know where in the picture the piece he is now holding belongs.