Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cause and Effect

The Ramchal, zt”l, writes that every act makes an impression on the world as a whole. Even a very small motion registers in the upper worlds and has a resulting impact on all of creation. However, since no two people are the same, no two actions have the same effect. What this means practically is that while two people can be sitting together at the same table, speaking and eating and drinking, one of them can be having a profound impact on the entire world because his words and actions are suffused with sanctity, and the other’s more mundane acts barely register.

The gemara in Sukka 28, provides a striking example of this. While Rav Yonasan ben Uziel learned, every bird that flew overhead would be instantly vaporized. Although many thousands of others have learned with great intensity, they never achieved this particular level of producing a perceptible change in the world. What distinguished Rav Yonasan ben Uziel from the others? The profound illumination, the fire within him, burned so strongly that its effect could be seen in the world around him. There are endless levels in the realm of personal sanctity, ranging all the way from being a simple observant Jew all the way to a scholar who is also steeped in holiness. How much a person’s actions can spiritually affect the world at large depends on both the intention that he has in mind during the act, as well as his own personal degree of sanctity and connection to Hashem.

Rav Tzvi Hirsch of Zidichov, zt”l, spoke about this in relation to himself once. He said, “If a person is on the proper level, he can discern the effect of his actions on the world. Once, I went to shul wrapped in my tallis and tefillin intensely focused on the mitzvah and powerfully connected to Hashem. While walking, I heard a heavenly voice calling before me, ‘Efrayim is a dear child to Me.’ (Yirmiyahu 31:19)”

“But,” he continued, “The opposite is also true. That very day I took my pipe without thinking of Hashem and I heard, ‘Woe to him who rebels against his Master!’”

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