Monday, April 23, 2012

Back down on earth

לדעת בארץ דרכך
To know Your way on earth (Tehillim 67:3)

There is a powerful story in Sichos HaRan #292 that sheds light on these words,

"A somewhat notable Chassid, came to see the Rebbe. He was an older man and was knowledgeable in the writings of the holy Ari. Wanting to enter the Rebbe's circle, he spoke in the manner of the important Chassidim, saying, 'I would like the Rebbe to teach me the way to serve G-d.'

The Rebbe looked at him with wonder and quoted the verse (Tehillim 67:3), "To know Your way in the earth.'

The Rebbe meant that he was still 'in the earth' - immersed completely in earthiness - and still he wants to "know Your way" - he wants to know the way to come close to G-d.

We see from this anecdote that the Rebbe was provoked because the man spoke haughtily, saying that he was seeking the way to G-d. He spoke as if he had already perfected himself to the extent that he lack nothing else but to choose the appropriate way and walk up to G-d.

The Rebbe saw through this and wanted him to speak sincerely."

After reading and re-reading this story a few times, I was finally forced to admit that I was no different than the Chassid that Rebbe Nachman chided. Too often I have taken upon myself new things that are up and above the standard practices of the community in which I reside; whether it is wearing a gartel for davening, putting on Rabbeinu Tam teffilin, keeping Cholov Yisroel, using the mikvah on a weekly basis, or wearing a black hat on Shabbos.  

Perhaps I was initially drawn to do these things because they were things I ultimately chose to do, and not things that I felt were halachically required of me. They were things that gave expression to my individualist and non-conformist temperament. It is always easier to do something when you want to do it rather than when you feel you are obligated to do it.

These words in Tehillim, along with the story from Sichos HaRan, reminded me of the conversation I had with the Sudilkover Rebbe three years ago (5769) about the need to progress one small step at a time in my avodas Hashem without overzealously attempting to skip levels. They remind me that whenever I have the inclination to take upon another avodah that may be above my reach, I may need to return my focus to “bread and butter Yiddishkeit” and invest my burst of enthusiasm into something that will place both my feet back down on earth - along with the rest of my community. 


At April 23, 2012 at 8:39:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Although this kapitel is not part of Tikkun HaKlali, I thought I would post about it since it is related to Sefiras HaOmer.

At April 23, 2012 at 12:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous mochin rechavim said...

Do not let your Chassidish Yetzer Harah manipulate your realization of how much work we need to refine our animal soul.

Better to live a life of Chassidus lo lishmah then no Chassidus at all. Because lo lishmah can lead to lishmah.

We must also not expect to attain a level at the same time as a chasid of old. It will take us much longer and be much harder.

It seems from the Story that Rebbe Nachman didnt want the Chasid to abandon a goal of connecting to Hashem but simply chose it words carefully and be honest.

He wants to start on the journey without first preparing himself.

Just like you dont leave for a 40 year journey without a plan of action, a map, food till the next stop, sleeping gear, and a change of clothing, why should one think that the spiritual journey is any different?

I wish you success and determination. You have a Mashpia and a Rebbe and are in better shape than many who are not concerned or affected by such a story.

At April 23, 2012 at 12:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I really appreciate your feedback!!

At April 24, 2012 at 8:46:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Here is my response to an e-mail I received:

Perhaps you are right about being too hard on myself. I think more than anything, this posting was just a reminder to myself to keep myself in check from too many things that make me noticeably different from others. And perhaps a reminder not to rush things.

I do not regret taking on any of the things I listed. They were all done over a period of time and after a lot of thought and consultation with others.

At April 25, 2012 at 1:09:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very insightful post (as usual). I think your observation about choosing what to do vs what is required is applicable to most of us.

R Shlomo Wolbe zt'l (author of ALEI SHUR) has a rather well know writing about "frumkeit". He defines this term as being the emphasis on serving yourself, instead of serving Hashem.

Below is a partial translation by R Ezra Goldschmiedt, of the YU Kollel of Toronto:

"Frumkeit is a natural, instinctive urge toconnect to the Creator. This instinct is also
found in animals. King David said, “The young lions roar after their prey, and seektheir food from G-d.” (Psalms 104:21) “He
gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalms 147:9)

There is no need to understand theseverses as [mere] figures of speech – animals have an instinctive sense thatthere exists One who is concerned abouttheir sustenance. This instinct [also]operates in man - on a higher level, of course. This natural frumkeit [instinct]assists us in our service of G-d, and without this natural assistance our service would would be extremely heavy upon us.However, frumkeit, like any otherinstinctive urge that operates within man,is naturally egotistical and self-centred.Accordingly, frumkeit drives a person to doonly that which is good for himself -
[incontrast, positive] actions between manand his fellow man, as well as wholehearted actions between man and G-d are not fuelled by frumkeit.

At April 25, 2012 at 1:36:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for sharing that teaching about frumkeit, Neil. Very insightful as well!

At April 27, 2012 at 1:46:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Litvak said...

Good, thought provoking post.

It is interesting, re the R. Nachman story, that the fellow was knowledgable in the writings of the Arizal, yet he still was judged to be earthy. That is quite telling.

Re the practices you adopted and are now reconsidering - they are not all on the same level. Some are things that some Litvaks do as well, have more basis in halacha, while others are more optional or Hassidic.


At April 27, 2012 at 1:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for your comment :)


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