Friday, March 14, 2008

Be Yourself

. Everything in one’s “domain,” inside oneself, is ready to be used for the service of Hashem. If one wishes, he can connect to Hashem through the faculties that he has been given. “שויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד”—“I have placed Hashem before me always,” at all times, just as I am.

Rav Naftali Amsterdam, zt”l, once asked his mentor, Rav Yisroel Salanter, zt”l, a question close to his heart; one with which many might readily identify.

He asked, “How am I to serve Hashem with every action? If only I had the mind of the Sha’agas Aryeh, the heart of the Yesod V’shoresh Ha’avodah, and the sterling middos of my rebbi! Then I would be able to serve Hashem with everything, just as a true servant of Hashem should!”

“Naftali,” Rav Yisroel gently chided, “You can be a true servant of Hashem with your head and with your heart and with your character!”

When telling over this story, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, would add: “Just as Hashem’s Presence rested in the Beis Hamikdash, so too does the Shechinah dwell within all who prepare themselves by bringing themselves closer to the Torah. It rests upon one’s own head, heart, and middos. We find this idea in the medrash that implies that Hashem enters us in much the same way as a great king can enter a small apartment if he so desires. Obviously, a humble abode must be prepared for the King as much as possible! One of the main innovations of the mussar movement was how to do this preparation. The first step is knowing that all of one’s avodah is directed toward himself, personally, and is his own responsibilty. One must not wear ‘borrowed clothes’—extra stringencies and exaggerated piety that is not in tune with one’s own true nature and level. Every element necessary for completion is in each and every one of us! We only need to seek them out!”


Neil Harris said...

Yashar Koach!

Anonymous said...

My pleasure! As I always I appreciate your chizuk.
Interestingly on Shabbos I saw a different version of the story: One Purim Rav Yisrael Salanter said to his students,"On Purim,whatever you ask for is granted as it says, 'kol haposhet yad nosnim lo.'"(The Chidushei Harim also makes this diyuk.)
He turned to Rav Naftali from Amsterdam, "Naftulke! What do you request?"
Rav Naftali answered, "I request the head of...,"
Wish I had seen that before posting!