Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking Free

It is hard for us to imagine the subtlety and insidiousness of the early Haskalah movement as it penetrated into the observant communities of Eastern Europe. One of the gedolei Yisroel once commented on the success of the so-called “enlighteners.” “The same evil inclination that entices us to be lazy in our avodah is what energizes the maskil to get up in the morning and fight Yiddishkeit!”
The influence of the Haskalah has continued unabated, and contemporary gedolim have always been vigilant on stemming its influence in the yeshivos. Rav Shach, zt”l, once advised a boy whose friend seemed to be moving quite quickly in the wrong direction to be very careful. The Rosh Yeshiva chided the boy, “Don’t you know that you have enough negativity inside yourself to help his warped opinions find a comfortable home in your heart?”
During the last two hundred years, the maskilim have found very fertile ground in the hearts of the young and foolish. Despite their sometimes sophisticated-seeming arguments, most of them didn’t go adrift because of deep intellectual questions. They became “freethinkers” so that they could act out their hearts’ desires unimpeded by conscience.
One time, a certain chassid was slowly moving away from his traditional practices and beliefs, and was gradually becoming more modern in his actions and dress. When this young man visited with the Damasek Eliezer of Vizhnitz, zt”l, the Rebbe asked pointedly, “What has happened to you?”
The young man replied, “Rebbe, what can I do? I have a strong yetzer hara which does not allow me to break free of acting on my bad impulses.”
The Rebbe responded, “The Gemara in Yevamos 46a states that declaring something hekdesh is one way in which a person can remove a lien from an object. But this can be read another way: through consecrating and sanctifying yourself, you can remove the yetzer hara’s lien on yourself! If you wish to be freed from your bad impulses you must act to sanctify yourself right now!”

No comments: