Thursday, March 27, 2008

Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - The Lego Castle Phenomenon

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

In our e-mail correspondence you indicated that you too have experienced the "lego castle phenomenon" in regards to your learning. After the thrill of starting something new slowly wears off have you found it to be difficult to maintain a daily learning regimen?

Dixie Yid answers:

For sure. I would say that one the whole, my "self motivation" for my learning regimen lasted about 3 and a half years. At the beginning, as crazy as my schedule seems to outsiders, it was not terribly hard. My basic feeling was and is that I was aware that since I was unable to learn at night (before law school this was for motivational reasons/family obligations and after law school started it was because of classes), I had no choice but to learn in the early mornings. I have to work during the day, I can't learn any significant amount at night, so the only way I'm going to be able to keep up any kind of serious learning seder would have to be early in the morning. I felt like my choice of schedule was b'leis breira, that I had no choice.

However, the feeling of learning with my chevrusas when virtually no one else in the world was up was a great feeling. That feeling of specialness of what I was doing and when really kept me going for a long time. However, like you said with regard to the "lego castle phenomenon," that feeling of newness can only take you so far.

Recently, it has become exceedingly difficult to get myself up in the mornings for my regular morning seder. So I recently spoke with my rebbe about it. His main advice to me in our brief conversation was that when I feel that I have no "self-motivation" for doing things, he said that the main avodah in such a time is Bitul because Hashem is preparing me for something big.

He said that there's no such thing as "self-motivation." It's an illusion. Everything comes from Hashem so a lack of "self-motivation" is really Hashem's way of telling you that you should realize that none of "your" motivation, to begin with, was your own! It came only from Hashem.

Now, Hashem is emptying you out so that you will realize that everything that you can do is from Him and so you will say to yourself; "Hashem, I was never the source of my own will-power and motivation to begin with. Just as You gave it to me, You have taken it away. I know that I have nothing and am nothing on my own. You took my will from me so I simply won't have it until You decide to give it to me again."

This avodah of Bitul is the main task for a person in my situation, where the "self-motivation" is waning. I think he's saying that the answer is to accept the fact that my motivation in the past is not due to my own powers to begin with and that the only way I will get "my" motivation back in the future is to daven daily before learning and before going to bed at night that I recognize that Hashem is the source of motivation and that I ask him to grant me motivation to get up in the morning and to learn energetically.


At March 27, 2008 at 2:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

The insight into self-motivation is amazing.

This also came to mind:
The Chofetz Chaim once asked R' Yisroel's advice about a well know problem of yeshiva students. When they begin a new tractrate, they are enthusiastic, but when they reach the middle, they lose their patience and their desire to continue learning it to the end.

R' Yisroel replied, "Let them learn a tractrate as long as they wish. After that, they can turn to a different tractrate, and on another, until they have satisfied their thirst for different tractrates. Then they can return to the first one and eventually complete all the tractrates they have begun."

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

At March 27, 2008 at 4:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger tickletik said...

L'havdil, your comment, Neil, is similar to a person who likes to travel. Someone starting out likes to travel across many countries, not staying for very long in any one place, just long enough to get a feel for the new culture and land. Someone who is more well traveled will likely prefer to spend a longer time in a new country, and get a deeper look at it.

At March 27, 2008 at 9:15:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Nice story. The point, he sounds like he's saying, is to channel your natural desires in learning, and not to just fight them head on. Eventually, you'll learn everything anyway!

-Dixie Yid


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