Monday, July 27, 2009

Question & Answer With Neil Harris - Difficult Learning


A Simple Jew asks:

Of all the seforim that make up your daily learning seder, what do you have the most difficult time learning?

Neil Harris answers:

While I find Gemara difficult, there is one sefer that I've been going through over the past six months that hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. The Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush and translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody looked very inviting to me when I first saw it. I actually emailed A Simple Jew and asked him about it. As I started reading the first few pages I realized that learning the content of the book wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. I am fairly familiar with basic Breslov concepts and machshavos, but after the first few chapters I sort of got a bad taste in my mouth. I began to get the feeling that I was sort of "ahead" of the target audience for the sefer. Most of what I had read were ideas that were not so new to me. I decided to actually shelf the book and put it out on hold.

It took about me about three weeks before I looked at The Garden of Emuna again. Something kept nagging me about it. I spent a good amount of time in hisbodedus thinking about Rabbi Arush's sefer trying to figure out why I had been turned off to it. I realized, eventually, that my resistance and arrogance regarding the content was simply due to the uncomfortable fact that this book was was what I really needed to read. It's sort of like looking in the mirror one morning and accepting the fact that you'll never really have a full head of hair again.

I have found over the years that I tend to pay close attention to the details of halachic performance and the intellectual aspects of Torah observance (including ideas of emes, avodah, and emuna). Part of my initial draw towards Chassidus (especially Breslov) was the emotional growth it provided (I would not say that I'm a chassid of any sort, but I'm very chassidish-friendly). The Garden of Emuna reminded me of very important foundations of Yiddishkeit that, ironically, I had "put on the shelf" years ago. I am happy to say that, after reading no more than two pages a night, I'm almost finished with the sefer. It as been a growth experience for me. At times difficult, but worth it.

10 Comments:

At July 27, 2009 at 4:50:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Lazer said...

B"H
Neil's candor and his courage in fighting the Yetzer are awesome. Thanks for posting this, SJ. Warmest regards from sunny and very hot Ashdod, LB

 
At July 27, 2009 at 9:56:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Thank you for translating it, R Brody.

 
At July 27, 2009 at 3:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Today's general society seems to be engaged in a war on emunah, creating the wave of skepticism and worse that Rebbe Nachman foretold for these times. The more books that present the antidote (striving towards true emunah) in some form, the better. Each---with its own particular style, content, and emphasis---will benefit our people as a whole.

 
At July 27, 2009 at 5:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very true, Bob. The second vol of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh deals with Emuna. On my blog I posted (sometime back) something from R Schwab zt"l on Emunah and Bitachon

http://uberdox.blogspot.com/2008/02/rav-schwab-ztl-on-emunah-and-bitachon.html

Also, I recently received the sefer FAITH AND TRUST (EMUNAH V'BITACHON) by the Chazon Ish. I'm only into the 3rd chapter, but it's amazing.

 
At July 27, 2009 at 9:20:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an analogous experience with R' Arush's Garden of Peace, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I don't find it difficult to study exactly; it's actually very enjoyable to read, even for the second time (I read a little of it each day, to review its teachings). It's just very difficult to implement! R' Arush is very right that we need to spend much time in hitbodedut to carry out its teachings. Every day I can think of ways I didn't live up to them. But I also regularly confirm the teachings in real life. Reading it daily reminds me of the sefer's truth and power, giving me motivation to try to implement it.

 
At July 27, 2009 at 9:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an analogous experience with R' Arush's Garden of Peace, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I don't find it difficult to study exactly; it's actually very enjoyable to read, even for the second time (I read a little of it each day, to review its teachings). It's just very difficult to implement! R' Arush is very right that we need to spend much time in hitbodedut to carry out its teachings. Every day I can think of ways I didn't live up to them. But I also regularly confirm the teachings in real life. Reading it daily reminds me of the sefer's truth and power, giving me motivation to try to implement it.

 
At July 27, 2009 at 10:46:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Yeah, it's not really written for "chunking". I think you're right.

 
At July 30, 2009 at 1:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

"I am happy to say that, after reading no more than two pages a night, I'm almost finished with the sefer. It as been a growth experience for me. At times difficult, but worth it."

That is really nice to hear.

I've gone to a shiur a few times where parts of the book was read. All those times I liked what I heard. I should add this book to the list of books I should get.

 
At July 30, 2009 at 3:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I'd say, FWIW, that the book is a good investment.

 
At March 28, 2012 at 3:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous GardenofEmuna.com said...

Great book, check out our site for a calendar on how to review the book every 30 days,

and great prices for the book

 

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