Friday, March 27, 2009

Question & Answer With Yitz - Travelling To A Tzaddik


A Simple Jew asks:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that a person who makes up his mind to travel to a tzaddik will find that he immediately he looses his initial enthusiasm once he actually starts off on his journey; that it takes tremendous determination to overcome these mental obstacles.

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon when going to see tzaddikim?

Yitz of A Waxing Wellspring answers:

So many people in the Modern Orthodox world in which I grew up look down on the idea of a Tzaddik, especially going to ask a Tzaddik for advice, it's practically unheard of to seek out a Tzaddik's advice for anything but a purely spiritual matter. That is at least until there are no other alternatives, and it couldn't hurt. I'm not explaining this in any way to disparage any segment of Jewish society, (Heaven forbid) simply to explain the background of my upbringing.

Growing up I heard a few stories of Tzaddikim and their amazing insight and knowledge. I was privileged in that my father visited a number of times with Rav David Pinto of Lyonnes.

Still it wasn't until much later that I encountered any Tzaddikim on my own. Once I had made aliyah and studied Hassidut pretty intensively, I was encouraged by my Rav to meet with a particular Tzaddik.

I was privileged to meet with this Tzaddik a few times. It was unusual in the extreme. In the beginning, what most impressed me was how I could see in his eyes that he was simultaneously overjoyed and on the verge of tears.. always. He didn't call himself a Rebbe, or a Mekubal, he explained he is simply a Saba, a Grandfather, and he has all of Am Yisrael in his heart. (From my Rav I know that this Tzaddik's Torah knowledge is tremendous, but the Tzaddik himself emphasizes that he isn't a Rav, only a Saba.)

All I can say is that every time I go to see this Tzaddik, I need to shoot down an almost endless stream of excuses and reasons not to cancel the visit, not to turn around, not to give up---he's only an hour and a half drive away; and the thought of going to see him is exciting and terrifying.

Every time I want to see him, I worry that he will see all of my flaws all of my failures, everything I've done wrong; and every time I go he is so happy to see me. I'm learning from him so much about simplicity, about being sincere and uncomplicated. Until I met him I never could have imagined what the Baal Shem Tov was really like, or how there could ever be a Reb Zusha (from Anapol) in this world.

He's taught me important lessons in what Torah lishmah (for its own sake) is. He's taught me patience and perseverance and inspired me in my direct relationship to HaShem through prayer. [He's also warned me to stay far away from my dreams] And you know, I'm so taken aback and belittled every time I see him, that I don't think he knows my name because I've never told him.

Simply from knowing him my whole perspective has changed, I can recognize holiness all the more for having seen it with my own eyes.

The problem with going to see a Tzaddik, when it comes down to it, is that until you've met a Tzaddik, you don't know what it is you are missing; and once you know, you're afraid to find out what you are missing. Encountering a Tzaddik is encountering reality, and facing reality can be scary, even while it is comforting.

It is very hard for us to realize that HaShem is really present and watching us, and involved in our lives at every moment. Visiting a Tzaddik makes that reality momentarily visible.

People rarely realize that the yetzer hara is no more than training wheels -- How can Hashem give you free will and at the same time make sure you won't go entirely crazy and seriously harm yourself? The answer to that question, as far as I understand it, is the yetzer hara. It guides us to do all of the really important things (pursue parnasa, wife, children, health, etc) for all the wrong reasons. We spend the first thirteen years (12 for women) of our lives with only a yetzer hara. It's become an integral part of us. Yet, once we take on the burden of serving Hashem, we are supposed to let go of the ego, the yetzer hara, and serve Hashem with our yetzer tov, our Godly soul.

This act of purging the yetzer hara is a labor intensive job, only the bravest and most determined can make real progress. One of the main powers of the yetzer hara is the ability to make us forget, it's a blessing and a curse. We can learn to use this power as a blessing -- we can ignore (i.e. forget) our failings and redouble our efforts when we are struggling to forge some connection with Hashem. Yet, it's the same power that makes us forget our awareness of Hashem in the present, in the day to day.

Going to the Tzaddik is encouraging, and the more we become in touch with the well-being of our Godly soul, the more we desire it, but it's also overwhelming, because, like Yom Kippur, it makes us question what we've really done, and reminds us of how much there is left to do.

I've learned that it's the yetzer hara, and not the truth, that makes me feel too ashamed and unworthy to go see a Tzaddik. Hashem is our loving and accepting father, no matter what we do, He loves us. He wants us to accomplish everything there is for us to do, but His love is not conditional upon it. A true Tzaddik aspires to a similar level of Ahavat Yisrael.

For me, the best advice is Rebbe Nachman's that you need to have chutzpah to develop a relationship with a Tzaddik. To me, this applies even when the Tzaddik gives you advice you don't want to take, you can always talk it over, until either you win them over to your way of thinking or (or more often) they convince you to come around to theirs.

My other secret is that I go to the Tzaddik to share with him smachot and good news, because so many people go (and rightly so) seeking help and comfort from life's hardship, I like to go and just make the Tzaddik happy :) (not that he needs me to be happy, just that that's how I'd treat my grandfather!)

4 Comments:

At March 27, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil said...

Great post. This paragraph is awesome:
The problem with going to see a Tzaddik, when it comes down to it, is that until you've met a Tzaddik, you don't know what it is you are missing; and once you know, you're afraid to find out what you are missing. Encountering a Tzaddik is encountering reality, and facing reality can be scary, even while it is comforting.

 
At March 27, 2009 at 11:25:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Yehonasan said...

Thanks for your post. Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.

 
At March 27, 2009 at 5:15:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

I've learned that it's the yetzer hara, and not the truth, that makes me feel too ashamed and unworthy to go see a Tzaddik.

Much truth rings in these words. Halevai we should all apply them! I refer to myself (internally) as a chosid shoite when I don't feel ready to visit the Rebbe. It's a chassidishe yetzer hara that's telling me the Rebbe will be disappointed or I am somehow not prepared [I will never be prepared but that is another story.]

Chasidim rishonim would prepare for months and in some cases literally years to have yechidus with their Rebbe. But I suppose the proper response is like in the spirit of the S.A.H.R where it's written that certain things we are not as makpid with mitzad tefilah and hachanas hatefilah today as before because in any case we don't have the proper kavana and the ikar is the tefilah itself.

 
At March 28, 2009 at 8:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rabbi Lars Shalom said...

a bit more on what meant tzaddik?? I mean the origin, spiritual dadada??

 

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