Thursday, January 31, 2008

Feeling the Presence of the King

During his younger years, the Beis Halevi zt”l learned in a designated room in his father-in-law’s house. His father-in-law, a chossid of Rav Moshe of Kovrin zt”l, had agreed at the beginning of their relationship that he would never disturb his son-in-law’s study for any reason whatsoever.

Once, Rav Moshe came to visit at his follower’s home. Although the Beis Halevi’s father-in-law wanted his Rebbe to meet his son-in-law, he couldn’t see how it would be possible to introduce them since this would mean interrupted his constant learning. On the day his Rebbe was going to leave he had an idea. He couldn’t interrupt his son-in-law…but someone else could! When he noticed that the Beis Halevi had left his room for a moment, he placed Rav Moshe’s luggage inside. When the Beis Halevi returned and resumed his study, the Rebbe knocked at the door.

“What do you want?” the Beis Halevi asked.

“My bags are here. May I come in?”

The Beis Halevi was just then learning the final section of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim. Rav Moshe asked, “What about the first subsection? Do you manage to fulfill it?”

The Beis Halevi answered, “I work on shivisi Hashem l’negdi fifteen times a day. But I’m always troubled that although the Rama says that imagining being in the all-knowing presence of the King immediately fills a person with fear, it takes me time to feel it.”

The Rebbe explained, “That is because you are thinking with your head. Fear of Heaven is in one’s heart, and it takes time to reach from your head to your heart. That’s why the Rama says to ‘place it on his heart’—not ‘on his head!’”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Thoughts of Sin

"הרהורי עבירה קשו מעבירה"

“The thoughts of sin are worse than sin itself.” The Toras Avos zt”l explains that “thoughts” refers to the character defects that are the growth medium in which sin propagates. What makes those defects worse is that they also provide the mechanism by which we rationalize that the sins are actually mitzvos. And if we feel that the sin was justified, that it was a mitzvah, how can we possibly repent of it? Even Yom Kippur cannot atone for sins to which we don’t admit, and that we don’t regret!

The author of the Tumim zt”l was in a certain city for Yom Kippur, seated on the eastern wall next to a prominent resident. His neighbor clearly prayed with intense concentration and emotion, and focused especially on the words, “I am dust during my lifetime, and all the more so after death.” He repeated the phrase over and over, and wept over each word, long after everyone had finished their prayers. When he finally finished, the gabbai notified him that he was to receive a certain aliyah.

The prominent man responded as passionately as he prayed—but quite a bit louder. “Are you meshuggah? How can you give me an aliyah that isn’t shlishi or shishi?”

The Tumim couldn’t restrain himself. “Just this very moment you were crying intensely that you are nothing but dust! How can you possibly argue with the gabbai for not honoring your distinguished self?”

His disgruntled neighbor defended himself. “True, I cried about the fact that I am dust before Hashem…but what does that have to do with how I speak to the gabbai? Just because I’m dust, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have to give me shlishi! What a chutzpah!”

Afterward, the Tumim remarked, “You see how it is possible to cry intensely for a long time that one is just dust, and not believe it for a single moment!”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Straps that Bind

The midrash in Shir HaShirim teaches that even the simplest Jew is full of mitzvos like a pomegranate bursts with seeds.

Rav Shmuel Hominer zt”l once organized a group of respected Rabbonim and traveled with them to Eilat to encourage Torah observance. During their stay in the town, Rav Hominer attempted to get as many of the locals as he could to put on tefillin, knowing the power of a single mitzvah. Most men he approached were willing to humor him, but one turned out to be a tough customer.

“I already told you, Rabbi… It’s very kind of you to offer, but I happen to be an atheist!”

Chas v’shalom! You’re a Yid—you’re no atheist! Why not put them on for just a minute?” The man resisted, but Rav Hominer insisted, and after a long struggle he gave in.

With a broad smile, Rav Hominer said, “Now, repeat after me. Boruch…”

“Wait! I just told you I’m an atheist—I’m not going to say that!”

Chas v’shalom! You’re no atheist! Now, repeat after me…” The two men struggled for another few minutes, but the man was again won over by Rav Hominer’s good-natured persistence, and did as he was asked.

The next morning, this man went to the local grocery. He approached the register with a few items, and the storekeeper reached behind the counter and handed him his usual breakfast—a sandwich of treife meat. The man held up his hand and waved the parcel away with an obvious look of disgust.

“What’s the matter?” asked the grocer. “You eat this every day!”

“You expect me to eat that? I put on tefillin with a brochah yesterday—I can’t eat that today!”

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Reward of Joy

Once, a wedding party passed the home of Rav Zushia of Anapoli zt”l, and he immediately ran outside to dance in the street before the bride and groom. Afterward, his family disapproved, claiming that it did not befit him to caper in the streets.

He answered, “When I was a young disciple of the Zlotchover Maggid, he once insulted me. Afterward, he apologized and begged forgiveness, which I gave right away. Before I went to bed that night, he came and begged forgiveness again, and I forgave him.

“As soon as I fell asleep, my Rebbe’s holy father, Rav Yitzchok Terhovitzer, came to me and said: I left only one son in this world, and you want to destroy him just because he insulted you?!

“I insisted that I had forgiven him, but he said, ‘Come with me, and I will teach you what forgiveness is.’

“I followed him to the mikveh, where he told me to immerse three times, and to say that I forgive his son before each immersion.”

“As soon as I got out, I saw that his face was shining with an almost unbearable light. When I asked him about it, he said that this is the reward he received for never taking honor at another’s expense, never going to bed angry at a friend, and not standing on his rights about money.”

The Terhovitzer then added: “But you can attain this reward through joy alone.”

Reb Zushia then smiled. “Do you see now why I danced in the streets?”

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Parnossah Path

When Rav Uri of Strelisk zt”l passed away, although many of his chassidim became attached to Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin zt”l they still held fast to the path laid down by their original Rebbe. In stark contrast to the way of Rav Yisroel, Rav Uri tended to denigrate materialism, and encouraged his followers to dedicate their energy to avodas Hashem exclusively. Although many of these men were poor and barely managed to support their families, the Ruzhiner Rebbe noticed that none of his new followers ever included a request for parnassah on their kvitlach.

The Rebbe called them together and said, “The halachah is clear. One who reads the first verse of Shema without proper focus has not fulfilled his obligation. The consensus is that he must repeat it and concentrate fully. A similar halachah exists about the verse פותח את ידך ומשביע לכל חי רצון. If one failed to focus on it properly, one must repeat it.”

He then asked pointedly, “Why do you choose to emphasize the first halachah, and ignore the second?”

The Tie is Not Severed

“Rav Huna said: When a person repeats a sin, it is permitted [hutra] for him. [The gemara asks] Permitted for him—could it be?! No—it is just that, in his mind, it is as though it is permitted. (Yuma 87)”

The Shem Mishmuel zt”l explains that hutra also means to untie a knot. Every Jew is bound to our Father in heaven, but when one does a sin this connection is weakened. If one repeats the sin, the knot is severed [hutar]. But, “Could it be?” Could one ever really sever the connection between oneself and Hashem? The gemara concludes, “In his mind, it is as though it is severed.” It is as though, but it isn’t really.

One of the ways that this bond can appear to be severed is when a person indulges in depression because of his sins. Rav Noach of Lechvitch zt”l once said, “If a Jew succumbs to temptation or manifests a character defect, he must not allow himself to fall into the trap of self-absorbed despondency, but must do teshuvah instead.

“This could be compared to two servants of the king who were sent to war, one wise and the other foolish. During the battle, the wise one took a hit, but he decided that the middle of a battlefield is no place to attend to a minor wound. The foolish servant also sustained a minor injury, but he decided to immediately attend to it. He stopped shooting, became an easy target, and was killed immediately.

“Similarly, one who sustains a ‘flesh wound’ while fighting his inclination could easy fall into depression. But this will destroy his ability to focus on prayer or Torah study, his main weapons in the war! This leaves him completely vulnerable. Every soul is rooted in the olam hata’anug, the supernal world of delight, and anyone who does not feel pleasure in serving Hashem is automatically drawn after material pleasures. The only solution is to immediately change direction by doing teshuvah. This simply means resolving not to do the sin again!”

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Sanctity of Shabbos

When the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, stayed in Riga during the winter of 5672 (1912), he was appalled to find that many Jews there were desecrating the Shabbos publicly. Storekeepers would keep their businesses open into Shabbos, and this had been going on for years in the town. Riga’s market was full of Jewish stores that were open for business as usual on Shabbos!

The Chofetz Chaim convened an emergency meeting of all the shomrei Shabbos of the city to come up with some plan of action to change the situation. After long and intense debate, the only practical solution that seemed viable was the gadol’s suggestion: on that very Friday, the shomrei Shabbos were to form small groups and go to all of the Shabbos-desecrating stores near candle-lighting time. They were not, under any circumstances, to argue or debate or even to raise their voices. They were only told to gently remind the shopkeeper: “Now is the time to close because it’s Shabbos.” After this, they were to move on to another store and repeat their reminder.

The Chofetz Chaim stressed that the only way they could be successful was through peaceful action. And the dividends of this simple suggestion were astronomical—almost every store closed. A city that had once been a den of chilul Shabbos was transformed through the simple advice of the gadol. The simple reminder of the sanctity of Shabbos!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Honor Your Father and Mother

The fifth commandment is to honor one's parents.

The famous Yehudi HaKadosh, zt"l, would deliver a regular Gemara shiur to his students that explored the commentary of Tosfos. One of his students was an extremely talented local boy who was unfortunately orphaned of his father. Once, the Rebbe interrupted their learning so that he could concentrate deeply on a certain subject. His young student knew well that such a break could last an hour or more, so he took advantage of the pause to go home and eat.

The boy ate a quick meal and hurried out back to his Rebbe's home, but his mother called out after him that she wanted him to go up to the attic and bring something down for her. In his rush to return to study, he ignored her call, but half-way back the boy had second thoughts. "Isn't the whole purpose of study to fulfill the mitzvos? Shouldn't I honor my mother instead?" he asked himself. So he ran home and did as he was bid.

Afterward he returned to his studies, and as he opened the door to the Rebbe's house, the Yehudi HaKadosh snapped out of his reverie and rose to his full height as a sign of respect. Beaming, the Yehudi HaKadosh asked, "What mitzvah have you just performed, because it has brought the spirit of the great Amorah Abaye with you into my house."

The student told his story, and the Rebbe explained to the rest of the students: "It is well known that Abaye was an orphan—his name is an acronym of the verse, 'For in You does the orphan find mercy.' ('Asher B'cha Yerucham Yasom .') This is why his spirit accompanies a person who fulfills the mitzvah of honoring his parents—so that he should have a part in a mitzvah that was denied to him. You want to know why am I smiling? Because Abaye came and answered my question on the Tosafos!"

The Power of Prayer

Someone asked the Brisker Rav if it was worth the effort to make a Beis Yaakov school in a secular area. After all, how much good was it likely to do?

The Gadol responded immediately, "This is definitely worthwhile! Let me tell you a true story regarding a young girl who attended just such a school.

After a short time she decided to do teshuvah, but since whenever she brought this up her parents opposed her, she kept her observance to herself. The parents owned a general store that was open on Shabbos, and one Friday, her parents went away and left her in charge. As soon as they were on the road, she went and set up the store for business, so that at least she wouldn’t have to turn on lights on Shabbos itself.

The next morning, she opened shop, sat herself down over her Tehillim, and cried. “Please, Hashem, keep people away today!” For hours, she davenned her heart out, and no customer came to disturb her. As the day drew on, the girl realized that if not a single purchase was made her parents would suspect that she hadn’t opened the store at all.

“Hashem,” she prayed, “I don’t know how to get out of this. But please help me anyway!” She threw herself into her Tehillim again.

During the late afternoon, someone came in and started searching for something specific. He found the item, an inexpensive piece of hardware that happened to be out of stock in other stores, and approached the girl so that he could pay for it. When he asked the price, she responded, “That costs 'x'.” She named an exorbitant price hoping to force him to change his mind.

“What?” he exclaimed. “You must be making a mistake! It’s only worth a fraction of that!”

“Take it or leave it,” she said, still hoping to drive him off.

Because he was in real need of the item, the customer tried to whittle down the price. The girl was obstinate, but he persisted. She asked him to wait until her parents arrived, but he demanded the item right away—even at twice the stated price! Again, she refused, and as they were speaking, Shabbos ended. The girl said, “Baruch HaMavdil,” and explained her strange behavior

Saying, “I never go back on my word,” the man paid her his final offer and left. When her parents arrived, the girl showed them the large sum and told them the whole story. They were so amazed that they decided to close the store on Shabbos from then on. Eventually, they became Torah observant in every respect!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Proper Rebuke

Once, a certain Maggid came to Radin and heard the Chofetz Chayim zt”l speak on the greatness of tochachah. The Gadol concluded, “If you have been blessed with an ability to speak effectively in public, you must use it to help people change.”

The visiting Maggid approached the Chofetz Chayim and said, “Rebbi, while I was in another town recently, I saw that the community was lax about many halachos. During Shabbos, I stood before the people and tried to wake them up with a fiery derashah. But I had to step down in the middle after a fight broke out and the congregation threatened to remove me by force!”

“What was your delivery like?” asked the Chofetz Chayim.

The Maggid was taken aback. “What does my delivery have to do with it? I saw the situation in the town and couldn’t remain silent. Naturally, I shouted my rebuke as loud as I could!”

The Gadol chided the man, “Did you shout when you put on your tefillin this morning? What makes you think you should shout when fulfilling another mitzvah called tochachah?”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Pitchfork of Prayer

"למה נמשלה תפלתן של צדיקים כעתר..."

The gemara in Sukka 14 states, “The prayer of the tzaddikim is like a pitchfork because it overturns Hashem’s attribute of judgment into mercy.” The Divrei Torah zt”l asks, “Why should prayer effect any change at all? One would think that since Hashem orchestrates events, shouldn’t we just learn to accept His will instead of trying to overturn it?” He answers that since we have been commanded to pray, Hashem’s true will is that we use prayer to change our fate. We can see this in the image of the pitchfork.

A pitchfork is not used to move hay from one place to another, but rather to turn the hay and expose it to the air. Similarly, Hashem sends challenges our way not to make our lives difficult, but so that we will be goaded to turn to Him in prayer and remove the challenges. The heavenly decree is meant to last only as long as it takes us to “turn it over” to mercy through prayer. This sometimes needs to be done many times, just as the hay needs to be turned a number of times before it is dry.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l writes, “The sole reason for all the difficulties which have come upon us is that we have not prayed enough. If we had prayed more, we would have been answered. The three daily prayers are simply not enough. One should pour out his heart to Hashem with intensity several times a day. The reason why the three regular prayers are not enough is because we are so used to them that it is difficult to say them with intensity. But a prayer from the depths of the heart will surely be answered.”

Interestingly, the Chofetz Chaim virtually paraphrases the words of Rav Noson of Breslov, zt”l, who discussed this issue at length.

Rav Nachman of Breslov zt”l explained that this is like someone traveling on the highway; since bandits also know the “high road,” he must take precautions. “But one who forges a new path through the wilderness need not fear highwaymen. The regular prayers are the “high road”—easy to travel, but unsafe. Personal prayer is a newly-trod path—no heavenly accusers lie in wait to prevent one from pouring out his heart to Hashem!”

Rebbe Nachman also said that one should pray about even the most insignificant material need since this deepens ones relationship with Hashem. Besides, one who often asks for physical things will likely be too embarrassed not to ask regarding the spiritual too!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spirit of the Law--Tu B'Shevat II

On the subject of Tu B’Shevat, the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, shares a very powerful concept: the “new year’s” judgment of Tu B’shvat primarily determines one’s access to novel Torah concepts (chidushei Torah) for the upcoming year.

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that there are two levels of chidushei Torah. The first is the joy and rapture of bearing and sharing the fruit of one’s Torah learning, bringing down and sharing novel Torah concepts. This is the spiritual root of the sweetness of fruit to the palate. Without this feeling of sweetness, a person has virtually no genuine connection to Torah even if he or she learns assiduously and innovates novel interpretations. The second, lower, level of chidush is accessing a feeling of renewal and connection from every bit of Torah learning, prayer, and avodah even when there is nothing objectively novel about the concepts in which one is immersed. One still feels a powerful joy and connection, and this is the ultimate fruit of Torah study, as we say in the daily blessing: “Hashem, please make Torah learning sweet in my mouth.”

May we merit renewal and connection every day of the coming year, each person on his own level, in his own way. Tu B’Shevat is the time to pray for newness in Torah, especially in the Oral Torah, since Shevat was the month during which Moshe began to transmit the book of Devarim, which is the nucleus of all Oral Torah. This is the time that Moshe began to “Be’er es haTorah”—“explain the Torah”—but the word for explain is be-er, the well, which parallels the mazal of this month, the D’li, or water-bearer. May Hashem help us all to feel true joy and connection in our efforts to “draw up and pour out” the waters of the Torah! Without the joy, where are we?

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l had a student who was famous for his diligence as well as his creative thinking; he had the distinction of being both a masmid and a mechadeish. This bochur studied many years under Rav Yisroel, but one day, to the shock and dismay of all the other students, the “prodigy” went off the derech!

When the terrible news was brought to the Rav, he displayed no surprise at all.

“During all the years that I oversaw this student’s progress, I never glimpsed the least glimmer of joy on his face. He worked very hard to grasp the depth of a subject, but it was obvious that he was never really moved by any of his chiddushim. He never allowed himself to be connected to the Torah, and so it was easy for him to fall away!”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Circle of Tzaddikim

"עתיד הקב"ה לעשות מחול לצדיקים..."

Rav Leible Eiger, zt”l, once asked his grandfather, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, zt”l, to explain the Gemara on the last daf in Taanis. It recounts that in the ultimate future, HaKadosh Boruch Hu will form a circle of the righteous with Himself at the center, so to speak. Each tzaddik will point to Him and say, “This is Hashem for whom we hoped and yearned.

Rav Leibele asked, “What is the meaning of this image of the tzaddikim in a circle with Hashem in the middle being pointed at, as it were?”

Rabbi Akiva Eiger answered, “In this world, each tzaddik serves Hashem differently via his own unique path to holiness. In the ultimate future, however, it will be revealed that all of these seemingly diverse paths really lead to the same destination: connection to Hashem. This is the meaning of this image of a circle; not that they will actually stand in a circle pointing toward Hashem in the middle, but that it will be revealed to all just who was truly righteous, and that each of their apparently disparate paths were really one at the center—they were each motivated by the selfsame hope: to come close to Hashem in accordance with each of their unique natures.”

Someone from Lithuanian stock was approached about a match for his daughter with a young man who was a chossid. Although this bothered the prospective father-in-law, the young man in question happened to be an exceptional scholar and was known to possess profound yiras shomayim. The girl’s father decided to speak the matter over with the Brisker Rov, zt”l.

After hearing about the perceived advantages and disadvantages of the young man, the Brisker Rov said, “Nowadays, what is the real difference between a chossid and a misnaged anyway? Is it just that the chossid makes a l’chayim after the fish at the Shabbos meal? Is that really such a terrible thing? Such an insignificant detail should not concern you in the least!”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kindness to Animals

The Chazon Ish, zt”l, once spotted a non-kosher animal that had fallen into a deep ditch. The animal tried with all its might to climb out of the rut without success. The gadol was then with a group of people who seemed to look on the situation with resignation. They all just shrugged, as if to say, “What can we do?”
The Chazon Ish, on the other hand, really took the poor animal’s pain to heart. Without waiting for assistance from the others, he approached the pit and lowered himself down into it. Those with him could barely believe their eyes. Could it be that the Chazon Ish was actually carrying a beheimah temeiah out of the ditch in his arms to set it free?

A Child’s Obligation

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, was once spending Shabbos at a man’s home, when the three-year-old son of his host climbed onto the Shabbos table and walked across it to grab a grape. The boy’s father gave him a smack for his misbehavior.

Rav Yaakov told the father that his action was inappropriate. Had the boy been chutzpadik, a smack would have indeed been in order; chutzpah is an ingrained bad middah that must be corrected early. If steps are not taken while the child is young, the boy would be uncontrollably arrogant by the time he reached his teens.

“However,” continued Rav Yaakov, “your son is unlikely to walk across a table when he is a teenager, so you do not need to discipline him so sharply for it now. By all means, explain that it is not correct, but save the smack for something that deserves it!”

Although the father mentioned in this anecdote was unaware of the halachah, there were some Gedolim who understood this concept even as children.

One Yom Kippur, the young boy who would grow to be the Avnei Nezer, zt”l, went home to eat. When he returned after his meal, his father asked if he had made kiddush.

The prodigy responded, “I only do mitzvos because of the rabbinical obligation of chinuch. Since when I will be an adult I will certainly fast on Yom Kippur like all other Jews, there is no reason for me to have made kiddush now. It is not chinuch for me to learn what I will not be doing when I will be grown!”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spirit of the Law, Shabbos III (Kitzur, chapter 72:6)

6) A universal custom among the Jewish people involves baking challah in honor of Shabbos... Even if bread baked by a Jew is available, each household should bake so that the woman of the house can take challah from the dough, etc.

Rav Nosson explains one of the deeper reasons behind lighting candles and taking challah in honor of Shabbos, as well as why the performance of these mitzvos is the woman's perogative.

Rebbe Nachman explained the verse, “Hashem is close to all who Him in truth,” in a novel way. No matter where you have fallen, if you will just call to the Creator in truth on your own level, He will surely reveal Himself to you since He is close to any who call in truth. Even if all you can do is say, "please help me," this will also reveal the portals that lead out of spiritual darkness to the illuminationof true connection.

Shabbos candles represent the light of truth that cuts through the deepest darkness and illuminates the path back to holiness, since Shabbos represents the next world which is the ultimate truth. Speaking even one word in truth illuminates the most mundane situation and brings closeness to Hashem, much as Shabbos imbues the mundane with sanctity.

The truth was easily discernible before Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they ate, “the light of the world was extinguished.” This means that before they ate, they existed in a more enlightened state and could easily tell the difference between right and wrong. After they ate, evil went from being external and noticeable to internal and difficult to discern.

Their intention when eating was to intensify their challenges so that they could ultimately afford Hashem more pleasure when they toiled to choose good over evil. Their mistake was that they should have done what Hashem said regardless of what they understood to be more beneficial spiritually. Hashem had said not to eat from the fruit; they should not have eaten.

Challah is set aside for a kohein, a direct male descendant of Aharon who is referred to as the "man of truth" in the verse. The kohein is the paradigm of the tzaddik who has more connection to the truth than the average person. By giving him the challah, he demonstrates how we can connect even our bread to the ultimate Source, the absolute truth of all creation.

Forging a connection with a kohein galvanizes a person to redouble his efforts in his quest for truth and holiness.

Nowadays the challah is not given to a kohein, but it is burned. The very fact that we separate a small amount of dough and yearn to give it to a kohein and attain the lofty connection this brings connects us to the higher aspect of striving for truth. It has the required effect as though we had given the challah to a kohein.

Women as a whole were affected by Chava's sin to a great extent. (This is in accordance with the relevant verses as well as Midrashic, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic teachings on them. The subject is a very broad one that will be addressed later on in the series.) The rectification of this is that women work to restore the truth to the world by lighting Shabbos candles and increasing their levels of truth by giving challah. This explains a little of why we separate challah before Shabbos and why women have the especial perogative to fulfill the mitzvah.

May Hashem fill us with the truth and the light of Shabbos!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Right Shidduch

The Ramban, zt”l, writes that if a child abandons the Torah path this generally indicates deep flaws on the part of the parents.

A yeshiva bochur once came to Rav Shach, zt”l, deeply perplexed about a possible shidduch that had been brought to his attention. The girl seemed perfect in every way and was seeking someone who wanted to remain in learning. The only negative thing he had heard about her was that she was purported to be not very intelligent. This worried him, because he feared that if he married a woman lacking a sharp mind they would be less likely to have intelligent children.

Rav Shach explained that raising successful children depends on one thing only—how much yir’as shomayim the parents have.

“How can you know how much yir’as shomayim a person has? If his every move is calculated to bring pleasure to Hashem and if he is very careful about other people’s money, you know that he fears G-d. Another way you can see yir’as shomayim in the home is when the parents are always willing to give in to one another, and when there is always an atmosphere of joy in the house surrounding mitzvos. Similarly, one should be able to see how a person is upset if he falls spiritually.”

“The main trait to look for in a wife is that she recoils from sin like from fire. And that she loves her fellow Jews and does chessed and has good middos, and most especially, that she is not materialistic. This is how you will merit to have children who grow up to be great scholars and tzaddikim with profound yir’as shomayim. The intellectual abilities of the parents are actually irrelevant to the development of the children’s potential. The only thing of real significance is yir’as shomayim!”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spirit of the Law- Tu B'Shvat I

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter140 #26) The fifteenth of Shevat is Rosh Hashana for trees...The custom is to eat many different species of fruit on this day.

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt"l, writes that every human being is always longing for Hashem. A Jew's longing for connection to Hashem is even more powerful. Usually, this longing gets channeled into other areas. People mistakenly think they yearn for money, honor or physical pleasures such as food. Attaining these never satisfies in a lasting way however, since the source, the inner desire for closeness to Hashem has not been addressed, just stifled.

When the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was asked why the gemara compares the sinners of Israel to a pomegranate, he responded “A pomegranate has a hard exterior upon which no good is noticeable. It is only if you open it up, and delve into it’s depths that one finds the many, many good seeds in the Rimon.” Even if you peel off the outer shell you see only the white insides. You only find the seeds by breaking through the bad. Similarly, every Jew is a neshama kedosha which is always yearning with a powerful longing for his source. "

On Tu B'Shvat the sap begins to rise in trees. It is partially due to this process that the tree later develops in the spring. This is why it is Rosh Hashannah for trees.

The verse states, "Man is as a tree of the field."The "sap" of each person is the hidden inner essence of each person, their fiery longing for Hashem. Like the sap of trees, the inner essence of each person is aroused on Tu B'Shevat. Connecting to our inner longing is the prerequisite for all spiritual growth.

This is one reason we eat fruits on this holy day. We acknowledge the correlation between bearing spiritual fruits and arousing our powerful yearning for Hashem. The more we connect to our powerful inner longing for Hashem, the more spiritual fruit we will bear in the coming year. The less we connect, the more this longing will be misdirected towards the material and the less spiritual growth we will yield. It is our choice.

May Hashem help us to grow and thrive, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You Can't Fall From the Ground

The Beis Avrohom of Slonim zt”l told the following story:

The famous brothers, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and Reb Zusia of Anapoli zt”l, once had a disagreement about serving Hashem: Should one first work on humility and then rise to see the greatness of Hashem, or instead start by focusing on G-d’s greatness, which naturally leads to humility? They traveled to their mentor, the holy Mezritcher Maggid zt”l, to put their quandry before him.

Rebbe, which is the better way?” they asked.

“Both paths are divrei Elokim Chayim!” smiled the Maggid.

“But isn’t one better than the other?” they pressed him again.

The Maggid paused a moment and then answered, “Both paths lead to Hashem, but only one is absolutely secure—the way of beginning with humility, and then looking up toward His greatness.”

“You can see this from the old saying: you can’t fall from the ground!”

The Beis Avrohom zt”l applies this concept to the haggadah, about which Chazal said, “It begins in disgrace and ends in praise.” We are first humbled by seeing where we come from—our ancestors served idols, and is there anything worse than that? We needed to be built from the ground up, and in the end, “Hashem drew us close to serve Him!”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ignoring the Blemish

Rav Aharon of Belz, zt”l, once hired a certain workman to do some repairs in his home. While the man was busy at his job, the Rebbe overheard others in the room say in an undertone, “This Jew works on Shabbos!”

The Belzer Rebbe immediately retorted, “Impossible! And if he did work on Shabbos, it must have been because he thought it was Friday!”

He then turned to the workman who had heard the whole exchange and said, “Isn’t that right? You got confused and thought that it was Friday?”

The worker remained silent.

The Rebbe again said softly, “You must have mixed up the date and thought it was Friday, correct?”

But the worker still wouldn’t answer. For the third time, the Rebbe pleaded, “Didn’t you really believe it was Friday and not the holy Shabbos?”

At the Rebbe’s final, exquisitely gentle insistence, the Jewish laborer mouthed, “Yes,” and then burst into tears! The man became a shomer Shabbos from that moment.

Similarly, Rav Shach, zt”l, was once in a taxi with Rav Shraga Grossbard, zt”l. When Rav Shraga asked the driver if he was a shomer Shabbos, Rav Shach immediately cut him off.

“How can you ask a Jew if he is shomer Shabbos? Of course he is shomer Shabbos!” he exclaimed.

Some time later, Rav Grossbard was in the same taxi and the driver recognized him.

The man turned toward the Rav and said, “Don’t you remember me? The day that I heard the Rav say I must be a shomer Shabbos, I became one!”

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Shevat--Opening the Wellspring of Teshuvah

This month is Shevat, the month of the Rosh Hashannah of trees, Chag Ha'ilanos. But what do the trees have to do with me?
The Mekor Chaim, zt"l, writes that trees represent Torah, the "tree of life," and repentance which is also like a tree. Through connecting with the Torah, we are able to come to genuine teshuvah. The Torah compares a human being to a tree of the field, and teshuvah is the process through which a person is recreated and begins a new life. The ill winds of the yetzer hara try to overwhelm a person and drive him to despair that change is impossible, so we need to deeply believe that teshuvah always helps. This belief provides the strong foundation so that the tree (that is, the person) can continue to stand and thrive. As the Toras Avos, zt"l, writes, "Why does Hashem give us life? Because as long as we are alive, we can still repair everything that we have done wrong!"

Just when Rav Boruch Ber Lebovitz, zt"l, returned to Poland with his family after World War I, his father, Rav Shmuel Lebovitz, zt"l, took ill. Rav Boruch Ber sat at his father's bedside day and night until the family began to fear for his health as well. After much pleading, they convinced the Rav to allow one of his students to sit up with his ailing father while the Rosh Yeshiva grabbed some much-needed rest.

That night, Rav Shmuel died. Rav Boruch Ber felt terrible guilt: if only he had been there to comfort and care for his father, perhaps he would still be alive. He was so pained by this thought that he could no longer teach.

The Chofetz Chayim, zt"l, heard about the problem and summoned Rav Boruch Ber. When he arrived, the Chofetz Chayim held Rav Boruch Ber's hands for half an hour and gently repeated, "Teshuva is a gift from our Creator. It doesn't only atone for a person's sins, it transforms him into a completely new person. Why should you feel so pained about the past? You are a completely different person now."

Later, whenever Rav Boruch Ber felt the sadness and guilt come over him, he would echo the gentle words of the Chofetz Chayim. "I am a new person! I am a new person!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Feeling Guilty #2 -- Tikun HaBris

Here’s another chat, this one a Q. and A. on Tikkun HaBris and how it relates to the cultivation of true joy. And the dangers of guilt...

AG: Why is “spilling seed” so bad?

MG: The simple fact is that it shuts off happiness and purity. On the other hand, guilt about this is even worse. As usual…

If one falls in such a way there are steps to take. These are a way of reconnecting to Hashem. The first is to immerse in a men’s mikvah. The second is to say the ten psalms of tikkun haklali recommended by Rebbe Nachman. (16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90 105, 137, 150). Praying about this is also beneficial. G-d wants us to take it a step at a time and do what we can.

AG: But how does it “shut off happiness”?

MG: There are subtle ways to cut off happiness and connection.

The first pillar upon which everything essentially stands is emunah/ faith, not only in Hashem but also in oneself. One must internalize the truth, that every act of every person is exceedingly important, especially if the person is a Jew. Our true identity is our soul, and if we really knew how precious every action for good is, we would do our utmost to draw near to Hashem with every act.

Rebbe Nachman said, “You can profit for all eternity in this world without any outlay.” Of course, if one wishes to make it in business one needs to have money for initial expenses, etc. Not so regarding spiritual matters. Every instant of any sincere spiritual act is a slice of eternity. When the Vilna Gaon was on his deathbed he looked at his tzitzis and started to cry. When asked why, the Gaon replied, “In this world it is possible to pay a few pennies for tzitzis and earn eternity. I cry for the fact that it is now time to leave this world where one can gain eternity with such ease!”

In his commentary of Proverbs, the Gaon goes so far as to say that the main problem for one who sins is not the sin itself (although the sin is very serious indeed). The much more serious problem is the good which could have been done during the time one was sinning.
How much more so if one loses out even after the sin because of guilt!
When one comes to the next world, one will be happy for all the good which is an eternal gain. On the other hand, one will truly feel the loss of every lost opportunity. As the Chofetz Chaim put it, “In the next world it is possible to clean the bad out from the garment of one’s soul (in the sense of atonement for sin), but not to sew on a missing button (which represents positive action.)”

It is important to remember that it’s not enough to leave the bliss of spiritual connection to the next world. We have to learn how to experience it in this world. Otherwise human nature drives us to try to find the bliss in non-spiritual ways. These methods are illusions and the joy they bring does not last. Our job is to experience Gan Eden in this world through mitzvos and learning how to connect to Hashem at every moment of the day. Sometimes the bliss takes time to kick in, but if one perseveres, not only does it come in, it gets ever stronger.

One big starting point in this whole business is Shabbos. Shabbos is the time when one has the potential to feel the bliss of the next world. Another is Tefillin, which grants spiritual life and renewed vitality to one who wears them while working on connecting to Hashem. If one doesn’t know what tefillin is or doesn't bother to think about what he is doing while wearing them, it’s as if the mitzvah is a body without a soul that gives virtually no spiritual vitality. At least not in a revealed fashion. The Komarna Rebbe explains that when a person relates to donning tefilin as if he were strapping on rocks he is bound to feel nothing from it. (Women can also access the light in tefillin in a different way, but that’s not relevant to this discussion.)

If one learns what tefillin is or what Shabbos is and focuses on this before doing the mitzvos, one can feel true connection to Hashem.
The truth is that one who is really focused merits this all the time, on his own leve. As it says in Tehillim and in the beginning of Shulchan Aruch, :I have placed G-d before me always.” This refers to the spiritual bliss that one feels by coming to genuine faith and the serenity that is a product of humility. I mean the humility of being happy with who I am, not feeling better than anyone else, and doing my utmost to advance spiritually—especially when this it is easy for me. This humility is evidenced by striving to do what I can do with joy. Most importantly, it means focusing on the good in myself and being satisfied with where I am spiritually, even though I yearn for more. Humility doesn’t mean denying my strengths. It means seeing the truth about the fact that I am far from perfection and still doing what is good because I want to connect to Hashem. Regardless of my level, I must always hold fast to the certainty that Hashem loves me.

Bris means covenant. A person who blemishes in the area of his personal purity demonstrates his disbelief that every single act is significant, spiritual, and powerful. This is why this blemish is called in Hebrew a “mikreh.” This means a happenstance occurrence. The person is revealing a telling lack of faith in the fact that every good act one does is eternal. Obviously, this drains one’s happiness since it undermines his main source of happiness—his connection to eternity. If my actions have no lasting meaning, why live? The truth is the very opposite. It is only arrogance that gets in the way of enjoying my life this instant by doing what I can no matter what I may have done a moment ago. Blemishing the covenant drains one’s hope because one feels that there is no way to correct the problem.
Rav Nosson of Breslov writes that the main objective of the bad inside is to get us to give up on ourselves, since then we are liable to do virtually any evil thing. Thoughts like, “I”ll never beat this anyway, I might as well give up,” contribute to these feelings of despair and are far worse than the sin. Ironically, nothing could be further from the truth. Just because I don't feel that I have hope or that every good desire is forever doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Feelings aren’t facts.

Rav Avraham ben Rav Nachman explains that even if you do the worst sins in the world and only managed to do one good thing during your entire life, it was still worth living. The good point is stronger than the bad; only the good has true existence, the bad doesn’t. This is because the nature of eternity makes any unit of time filled with pain fade into insignificance. After the pain of purification, which is limited, the good keeps going and going and going forever. Rav Nosson once exclaimed in a drawn out manner the Yiddish word for eternity. As if to say, “Who can fathom eternity!” As he said, “Every good point is an eternal gain while every bad is a lost opportunity for eternity!”

Now we can understand the words of the Gaon better. The main problem is the lost good, not the bad. (Of course, the bad is no picnic but it is as nothing compared to the good that is lost while one is involved in negative thought, speech, and action.)

There are many levels of repentance. The lowest level is wishing you hadn’t done it even if you know you will most likely fall again. This is not the highest level of teshuvah, but it is definitely a level of teshuvah. It is the minimum and it is usually quite easy to reach. The highest level of teshuvah is when one turns the sin to merit. This level can be accessed by continuously doing what one can and working on connecting to Hashem and learning to value the good that can be accessed every instant. (Sometimes one really can’t do anything at all. The rule is if you really can’t, you shouldn’t.)

Getting married and having children is one of the rectifications of this blemish because it is the proper outlet for, and sanctification of, the power of Bris.

On the other hand, there is a time when a person feels trapped and falls. If this happens, it is important to correct this immediately by immersing in a Mikvah and saying the ten psalms of Tikun Haklali, then moving on by forgetting about it. The reason why this is so important is that obsessing about it can itself cause the problem. This is why when one is productively occupied, the problem is less acute.

There is a lot more to discuss on this matter if you like. To put it in a nutshell, never, ever give up and always keep starting over. Rav Nosson explains that Hashem gives us life to use each instant to draw closer to hHm despite our failings.
I think this is enough Torah for now (maybe even more than enough!). If anything is not clear I will be happy to try to explain it further.
As I mentioned above, this is a little bit about this problem and by no means comprehensive. I wish you a lot of connection and joy!

AG: I think the reason it is difficult to internalize that every action matters is that although many actions are mitzvahs, many of them are motivated by the yetzer hara. But through your writings I am starting to understand the Breslov way. It is extremely beautiful, and if I could summarize it in just a sentence, I would say that what it teaches is to focus only on the positive both in yourself and in other people, and as soon as destructive thoughts are present it is imperative to ignore them and not dwell on them.

The Pitchfork of Prayer

"למה נמשלה תפלתן של צדיקים כעתר..."

The gemara says, “The prayer of the tzaddikim is like a pitchfork because it overturns Hashem’s attribute of judgment into mercy.” The Divrei Torah zt”l asks, “Why should prayer effect any change at all? One would think that since Hashem orchestrates events, shouldn’t we just learn to accept His will instead of trying to overturn it?” He answers that since we have been commanded to pray, Hashem’s true will is that we use prayer to change our fate. We can see this in the image of the pitchfork.

A pitchfork is not used to move hay from one place to another, but rather to turn the hay and expose it to the air. Similarly, Hashem sends challenges our way not to make our lives difficult, but so that we will be goaded to turn to Him in prayer and remove the challenges. The heavenly decree is meant to last only as long as it takes us to “turn it over” to mercy through prayer. This sometimes needs to be done many times, just as the hay needs to be turned a number of times before it is dry.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l writes, “The sole reason for all the difficulties which have come upon us is that we have not prayed enough. If we had prayed more, we would have been answered. The three daily prayers are simply not enough. One should pour out his heart to Hashem with intensity several times a day. The reason why the three regular prayers are not enough is because we are so used to them that it is difficult to say them with intensity. But a prayer from the depths of the heart will surely be answered.”

Rav Nachman of Breslov zt”l explained that this is like someone traveling on the highway; since bandits also know the “high road,” he must take precautions. “But one who forges a new path through the wilderness need not fear highwaymen. The regular prayers are the “high road”—easy to travel, but unsafe. Personal prayer is a newly-trod path—no heavenly accusers lie in wait to prevent one from pouring out his heart to Hashem!”

Monday, January 7, 2008

Some people have tried learning Mussar or Chassidus, seemingly to no avail. They may find this posting helpful.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l once said: “Mussar is like a healing ointment applied to the body. Although one application sometimes suffices, the doctor will often prescribe many applications. Only then will the patient gain relief from his malady. So too, when the soul is submerged in materialism all crooked ways seem straight. One therefore needs to keep applying the appropriate spiritual remedy until the soul is healed.”

The Chofetz Chaim continued, "This reflects what I heard from a certain Gaon. He said that if one constantly speaks of teshuvah, he can hope that one day he will actually find his way to actual repentance. However, one who rarely speaks of teshuvah is likely to live out his entire life without repenting."
May Hashem grant us true repentance!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Feeling the Shabbos During the Week

The Avnei Nezer of Sochatchov zt”l taught that we are permitted to make havdalah up until, but not including, Wednesday, because the influence of Shabbos takes some time to subside. On Sunday, the highest neshamah level of the extra soul of Shabbos departs; on Monday, the level of ruach leaves, and it is followed on Tuesday by the lower level of nefesh. As long as there is still some remnant of the neshamah yeseira, the additional Shabbos soul, present—one may still make havdalah. But once it is gone completely, the opportunity is lost. Some people, however, are gifted to feel the light of Shabbos through the joy of mitzvos alone.

Once, Rav Chayim of Sanz zt”l was invited to a seudas mitzvah, and many other illustrious guests were in attendance. Among them was Rabbi Shimon of Yuroslav zt”l, one of the great students of the Chozeh of Lublin, zy”a. By that time, Rabbi Shimon of Yuroslav was very aged and could barely see. When he heard that Rav Chayim of Sanz had arrived, he stood up, approached him, and gave him a warm hug. “Shalom aleichem, Chayim—the light of my eyes!”

They spoke a few minutes more, when Rabbi Shimon suddenly interjected: “You must excuse me, my beloved Chayim, for calling you by your first name only instead of the “Rebbe Chayim” that you deserve. But my own Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, would never use a title with anyone he really loved! I myself haven’t reached this level—except that I do attain a taste of it on Shabbos kodesh. Thank G-d, today’s simchah has lifted me up to the level of Shabbos, and so I couldn’t help but call you by your first name!”

Friday, January 4, 2008

Have a Great Shabbos

Shabbos, the Great Gift

"אמר לו הקב"ה למשה משה מתנה טובה יש לי בבית גנזי ושבת שמה..."

“The Holy One said to Moshe Rabbeinu: Moshe, I have a good gift in My treasury. Shabbos is its name…”

Once, the Kehillas Maharshah community in South Africa received a very generous donation from a wealthy man who was not a shomer Shabbos. Since their Rav had a strict policy not to use money given by such a person for fear that it would be tainted with chilul Shabbos, the gabbaim refrained from cashing the check. Meanwhile, the donor visited Israel. One of his acquaintances suggested that they go together to meet with the famous Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh. When they appeared before Rav Shach, zt”l, the acquaintance introduced the South African to the Rosh Yeshiva as a generous supporter of Torah institutions in his home country.

The wealthy man lowered his head to receive the gadol’s blessing, but Rav Shach placed his hands on the wealthy man’s head and spoke directly, and lovingly, to his visitor instead:

“My son, if you want a blessing, you should keep the Shabbos for it is the source of all blessing. Every nation has its flag, and the flag of the nation of Israel is Shabbos! The Shabbos is the symbol and the sign that we are Jewish. The Shabbos is the guarantee of the continuation of the Jewish nation forever. If we do not identify with our flag, we are in grave danger of losing our Jewish identity. Without the Shabbos, we are in serious trouble in so many ways. What guarantee do you have that your children will remain Jewish? Who will guard them from marrying out of the faith, if not the Holy Shabbos herself?”

These warm and heartfelt words penetrated to the heart of the man. They affected him so profoundly, in fact, that he immediately pronounced after leaving the presence of the Rosh Yeshiva: “From this moment on, I will be a shomer Shabbos!”

The acquaintance who had brought the wealthy man to meet Rav Shach immediately telephoned the Rav in South Africa to tell him the good news. And the gabbaim were able to deposit that vital check straight away!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Feeling Guilty?

Here's a recent chat that transpired between Micha and one of our friends abroad. We're posting it with his kind permission, just in case anyone else has been feeling really guilty or anxious lately.

Remember: Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Chatting About Guilt...

Question (AG): What does the Torah say about guilt?

MG: Rav Nosson of Breslov says that guilt is almost never productive. The reason why is that usually a person doesn't sustain positive action for long because of guilt. On the contrary, one tends to sink and doesn't move forward at all. This is the worst spiritual fall, the fall of despair. Why is it so bad? Because whatever one may have messed up or fallen into can be corrected…unless one gives up.

AG: I think that it may move some people to do more, but perhaps only short term. How do you suggest I deal with my guilt? It usually turns into anxiety for me.

MG: Sometimes the truth itself can be damaging. This kind of truth should usually be ignored until one is ready to deal with it positively.

AG: Wow. That’s amazing.

MG: I think the best way of dealing with guilt is to realize that right now I need to focus on connecting to G-d. Guilt simply distances me from Him.

AG: That’s beautiful.

MG: This is why one of Hashem's names is Makom, “The Place,” since every place is a reflection of G-dliness and in every place one can find G-d. Furthermore, Rebbe Nachman said that one needs to merit to feel the damage done by sins in a balanced positive way. It’s sort of like trying to take out the garbage; there’s no need to lament about it or focus to much on it. Just do your best to notice the trouble’s EASILY corrected and act. This is not meant as an excuse or an atonement out of guilt, an excuse not to have a conscience. It’s just a way to really connect to Hashem from exactly where I stand spiritually. Breslov is filled with encouragement—it’s a big emphasis.

AG: What about stress or anxiety?

MG: Well, you need to realize that there are a lot of ways of relieving stress. You will probably find that one way may help at one time while at a different time you may find that a different way is most effective.

AG: Yes.

MG: It is important to diffuse the stress. This is done by following the paths to happiness and joy and takes a lot of willingness and open-mindedness. In a nutshell… You can pray about it, you can talk to another person about it, you can try and find a good point in it.

The psalm states, “A mizmor (song) of David regarding his son Avshalom…” The Talmud asks, “Shouldn’t it say a lament rather than a son, seeing that his own son was rebelling against him!” The answer given is that David said to himself: “At least it’s my son. If it would have been a stranger he may have killed me. My son will not likely be so drastic.”

Rav Nosson asks, “What does this mean? It still sounds like it deserves to be a lament.”

AG: Yes.

MG: He explains that when things seem impossible the best way to counter this is to pray. But who can possibly pray? One needs to find something good about the situation in order to be able to open up to Hashem in prayer. That is way David did. He found a seemingly tiny advantage and sang about it to enable himself to pray to G-d earnestly. This is also a strong way of praying when things seem impossible.

AG: Wow.

MG: There is so much more… Another powerful method is crying out from the deepest depths to G-d, "Where are you???" In Hebrew its “Ayeh???” This reveals a very powerful spiritual illumination and picks one up to the highest places. This is because the world was created with ten sayings; nine of “vayomer Elokim” (“and G-d said”) and one hidden utterance within the word Bereishis, “In the beginning.” The hidden Divine utterance gives life to those who are distant from Hashem (all of us are at some point, although not always in the same way). The moment one can't feel the G-dly character of the world one is distant. The solution is to search for Hashem with all of one’s might. To cry out, “Where are you, G-d? Ayeh???” This draws down the hidden G-dliness that gives life in such places.

MG: Another way is to realize that there is always a way to call upon Hashem. The trouble is that one feels spiritually in the dark and can't find the way out of this because the darkness hides the exits. By calling out in truth, even not so powerfully (like Ayeh which is like a kind of searching shout) but on one's level even asking in a whisper for goodness or connection or whatever, this reveals Hashem. This is because it says that Hashem is close to all who call Him in truth--this means any kind of true call.

The example I heard from my uncle of this call is the guy who comes to the Kotel and wonders if there is really a G-d up there, so he decides to put it to the test by saying, “If You’re really there, send me a sign.” At that moment he feels a hand on his shoulder and someone says, “Would you like to spend Shabbos with a family, or the day in yeshiva?”

This guy wasn't searching for Hashem by crying from his deepest depths, he was just doing what he easily could. But that’s enough because Hashem doesn't want from us what we can 't give, only what we can easily give.

The little steps add up to very many steps until we get where we need to go.

There is a lot more but are you up to it?

AG: Wow, amazing. Please go on if you have time.

MG: I can make some more time with pleasure!

The next concept is the importance of every good desire

We believe that every sincere desire is not lost. Sorry by the way for not including sources, but it is just chat.

Most of what I say is from Rebbe Nachman or Rav Nosson, but there is a lot more…

So when one does something good it is forever! The only exception is when one is not sincere. So if one realizes how precious every good desire is that is also a very powerful way to become joyous even when things are difficult.

The Talmud tells that Rav Eliezer said he hoped to die on the way to doing a mitzvah.

The obvious question is why not “having done it”? Doesn’t he sound like an “almost made it” kind of guy?

AG: Hmm…

MG: The Maharal explains certainly one who does a mitzva gets the spiritual lift from the mitzvah, but one who is on the way to a mitzva and then another and another and focuses on this is at one with what he is yearning for. In this case, Hashem. The Ramchal actually says that one who yearns for Hashem achieves a direct line to Him, as the word for hope, Kivuy, comes from the word line, kav. He even says that one who hopes to Hashem will not be embarrassed even if he hasn't done so much good. He says that the main purification of a ba'al teshuvah is his hoping to Hashem, the opposite of guilt and stress.

So feel better!

AG: Thank you so much.

MG: Hope to hear from you soon!

AG: You really energize me.

MG: Very happy to hear it. Make sure to rest enough and try and take it easy! Shalom and have a complete recovery!