Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Question & Answer With Long Beach Chasid - Passion Burning Fiercely

A Simple Jew asks:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught, "The very strength of desire which a person experiences to draw closer to Hashem can in fact be a danger thrown up by the yetzer hara. At times his "passion" burns far more fiercely than it should....You must daven that Hashem's loving-kindness will protect you from this."

In retrospect, can you think of any occasions when your passion for Yiddishkeit burned a little too intensely?

I have a special love for davening with a minyan. The last time I didn't daven with a minyan when one was available was Hoshana Rabbah last year when I had food poisoning. It is something I am very passionate about and consider it one of most important things in my life.

This passion has many positive attributes but is not void of the negative. I am the gabbai at our shul's 7:30 minyan, and for over a year it went strong in the home of a member of the shul. When he no long had a chiyuv to say Kaddish the minyan moved to the shul's beis midrash. This move caused a great strain on the minyan and my struggle with the idea of the minyan ending was a painful one.

The rabbis told the shul members the importance of davening with a minyan and that with so many members in the community the 6:15 and 7:30 minyonim should be full. We tried time and time again but the minyan would fall short. Sometimes there would be eight or six and worsened to the point that we only had 3 show up.

It really bothered me that people passed up on davening with a minyan and the ones that did show up would supply one great excuse after another of why people couldn't show up. They worked, they had to watch the kids, its too early, and so on. It got to the point that I got in a full scale verbal argument with one member about how never davening with a minyan Shachris Mincha Maariv is unjustifiable. Then it clicked and I realized the error of my way thanks to a Chassidic teaching from the Baal Shem Tov, "When you see a flaw in your fellow, look into yourself to find the flaw and fix it." Paraphrased of course but the message is the same. What do you mean I said to myself? I never miss minyan! I am always here early and I always leave late. I learn Torah after I am done and I almost never speak during davening unless spoken to which I try to ignore if possible. I realized that my justifications were as long as the list of excuses why people don't come to minyan. This is when it hit me like a brick house. Am I really at minyan everyday? When my mind wanders to what I am going to do today or how I am going to finish a project am I really at minyan anymore? When I am in the middle of davening Shemoneh Esrei and I am thinking not about Gaal Yisroel or Shomeah Tefillah why does it matter that I'm here with a minyan. The Torah says that when you daven with a minyan even if your kavanah is weak, the collective brings your prayers to heaven. For all I know every absent member of the minyan davens with intense kavannah alone as I sit in shul complaining while my kavanah weakens.

This is just what the yetzer hara wants! He doesn't want me to work on my own davening, my own understanding of the prayers, and my own concentration and meditation. Such lofty thoughts make the yetzer hara sick to his stomach. So to divert me from any attempt at reaching such a level he will feed me lies of how I am at minyan everyday davening and how great I am for doing this and how could all these Yidden not come to shul. Once I realized this was happening I put a great deal of energy to repair this flaw in my soul. As I work on my davening it brings new appreciation of the ability to thank Hashem for bringing such blessing into my life. The blessing that I have had jobs that would let me daven and that I have a supportive wife would feels just as strongly about me davening with a minyan as I do. We haven't had a minyan since last Thursday and tomorrow could be a full week without hearing weekly Torah being read. Thank G-d though I have a passion for davening and a love for thanking G-d. This passion can be used for amazing things, but as you can see in my case it can also lead to much negativity.

My chevrusa and I will finish the first sefer of Mishneh Torah, Sefer HaMadda and begin the second book, Sefer Ahavah, which the Rambam's focuses on tefillah and the precepts which must be observed at all times if the love due to God is to be remembered continually. G-d willing, as I continue to learn and grow in my service of HaKadosh Baruch Hu I will learn to use my passion for the positive and to bring the Light of Torah and Emes into the world and with this help end this exile with the eminent redemption and the coming of Moshiach, Amen.


At July 15, 2009 at 9:40:00 AM EDT, Blogger AS said...

Very thought provoking post. Thanks!

At July 15, 2009 at 10:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jen said...

Odds are, the people who are not at minyan are NOT at home davening with awesome kavanah. But you did the right thing by taking your mind's focus off what other people are or aren't doing and putting it back on yourself. Trying to control others or wishing you could control them will only make you crazy. However, people should come to minyan!

I was once moved to tears at the suggestion of a beloved minyan ending. That made me realize I was too emotionally attached to the minyan and not attached enough to the prayers.

At July 15, 2009 at 11:27:00 PM EDT, Blogger machinegunfodder said...

I feel you Long Beach brother. I was in a similiar spot and realized it was my OCD that needed the daily minyan. I've found that if I don't daven on my own every once in a while I am really missing the point. There is a story about Reb Elimelech and Rav Zushe who were once arrested. Reb Elimelech was very distraught because the sun was setting and he could not daven mincha because the holding cell they were in had a putrid bucket in the middle of it that served as the toilet. Seeing the Morose look on his brothers face Reb Zushe exclaimed "Sometimes the Avodah is not to do the Avodah". Reb Melech thought intently for about a moment and then they both broke out singing and dancing around this bucket. Seeing their joy the guard asked a different inmate what was the cause of their jubilant mood? He pointed to the bucket at which point the guard removed the bucket and The Rebbes davened mincha. As they say program "Let go and Let G-d". Sometimes Hashem just wants to see that we can let g. Humbling Mammesh!


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