Monday, November 3, 2008

A Sensitive Heart

Our Rabbi’s teach that sin causes a desensitization of the heart, and Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l explains that this means indifference to spiritual influences. Kedushah, sanctity, is the ability to feel such influences deeply, like being sensitive to the damaging effects of sin, or even the ability to empathize with another’s pain. And just as there are subtle (and not so subtle) gradations within the realm of impurity, so are there endless levels of refinement and sensitivity that can be attained.
One Shabbos, Rav Baruch of Mezhibuzh zt”l unintentionally brushed against a burning oil lamp with his shtriemel, and the contact jostled the lamp. When the Rav saw this, he was so distraught that he fainted, and his followers were only able to revive him after much difficulty.
Everyone there was very puzzled by the obvious question: Why had the Rav fainted? He certainly hadn’t meant to move the vessel, and in truth, the action was only unintentional tiltul min ha’tzad, indirect movement of the lamp!
His followers asked their Rebbe what had caused his deep distress. He explained, “I was not upset by my action; as anyone could see, it didn’t count as a sin at all.”
He went on, “But know, my children, that even an inadvertently sinful action still causes the pollution of the heart that Chazal described, a deadening and a blockage of the light of Divine understanding that is perceived within the heart. This distances one from Hashem, and the distancing is in accordance with the act as well as the level of the one who performs it. One who has a big soul that is filled with holiness is cut off from his connection to Hashem even by a completely unintentional sin. This slight diminishment of my bond with my Creator is what made me faint!”


Anonymous said...

Forgive me for reading this wrong, but if sin causes a desensitization of the heart as well as negatively affecting the ability to empathize with another person, then are people who were born with aspergers or mind-blindness and who desire the impossible within their lifetime (- to feel connected with their fellow man in a way that normal people take for granted -) born with the sins from their previous gilgul’s a tikun?

Not every person afflicted with metal disabilities is entirely pure and moral as many claim as they have the same drive and ambitions as normal people do, only most either to not have the ability or are unable for better or worse to go about achieving what they set out to do, that begs the question if they’re still held accountable for their actions since their actions are sometimes more commonly then not destructive towards either themselves or others.

I’ve heard some say that people afflicted with such disabilities have “higher souls”, etc, but that answer is unacceptable for quite a few who are afflicted and can find no comfort in the fact that they’re merely finishing their previous “gilguls” work.

Instead they desire or feel entitled to more then what G-d has already given them (such as from their non-humble point of view merely sustaining their abominably stagnant lives which they’re frequently told insultingly to be grateful of) as compensation in order to justify their existence to themselves in their current gilgul.

Speaking personally here as a person who is cursed with aspergers, unable to achieve even his most limited ambitions and who finds his seemingly futile desire to rewrite his life (from conception, down to the tiniest detail, etc) in increasing conflict with the vision of the upcoming Geulah the more he learns about it, barring some deus ex machina scenario where do I stand? Is it really that selfish and immoral for me to desire reliving my life on my own terms to the max in a world of freewill at a time where the whole world is moving towards the Geulah?*

* I do desire and look forward to the Geulah, only thing is that even if I don’t merit the rewrite I desire then I would at least want a resolution to my life that is personally redeemable enough for me to sincerely say that I don’t have any regrets, but alas even though I’m aware I shouldn’t concern myself too much on the subject of the Geulah, I cannot help but fear that I’ll be like a prisoner in paradise, forever taunted by everyone else’s happiness little different to how things are now.


A Simple Jew said...

Rebbe Baruch's sefer "Botzina Dinehora" doesn't seem to be one of the seforim that is often learned today. Why do you think this is?

Micha Golshevsky said...

A.K. : First of all, I would like to share with you a very deep insight form a friend who suffered debilitating and painful osteoporosis due to radical bone cancer treatment. (To most of his doctors’ surprise, he is still alive and well around a decade later.)
We were at their house for Shabbos night doing our best to give whatever chizuk we could, when he shared part of a very powerful and important statement that made a great impression on me.
He shared that when he was first told about his condition he went to Las Vegas to kind of forget. (He was not religious at the time.) Of course, it didn’t work. He found himself confiding how crushed he felt to the bartender, who then spilled a personal story of crushed hopes. She had hoped to learn a skill but had not made the grade and was forced to serve drinks for her livelihood.
He remarked, “But you really can’t compare that with what I’m going through.”
“Not true,” she replied, “For me it was just as crushing.”
He said that he realized then that just because someone has a harder time of things doesn’t invalidate the suffering of another. Until then he had felt terminally unique. After that he began to realize that people suffer all the time: some even feel such suffering that they feel the need to end their life, G-d forbid. These people are likely suffering more than most people who don’t feel this way, no matter how successful they seem to be.
Not many people who know me now realize that as a young man I suffered from depression. In fact, not many people even picked up on it at the time either. My sadness caused me to overeat and feel pretty gloomy a lot of the time. Eventually, I was always trying to find ways to escape living my life (thankfully not in illegal or dangerous ways)—the usual escapes: overeating, oversleeping, and immersion in “harmless” fiction. Some of my day was good, but it was very hard to concentrate on learning or my studies. There were good times, too, but I felt an awful lot of pain—and I felt very alone in my pain. I was very lucky because I found a path in Breslov that gave me the tools with which, over many years, I overcame my depression and started living.
It all depends on how you see yourself. If you focus on the good, things are good. If not, they just aren’t—no matter how good the external seems to be. Rebbe Nachman writes about a sophisticate who had all possible skills. He was a doctor and had many other types of expertise which he mastered quickly, but he was always miserable because he felt different. The moment we feel alone in our differentness—because of depression or a tendency to overeat or because I feel anti-social or I am unable to connect to another (just yet)—we are miserable.
So we need to work on our commonalities and on seeing the positive. We need to believe that Hashem can do anything even though I don’t understand what He does and why.
The Midrash writes that the ultimate redemption will be in the merit of our lasting emunah over all these centuries. The Maharal and Ramchal both explain that it is in the merit of our hoping for the geulah that it will come.
The idea that a person experiences limitations due to their prior life-history (gilgul) is common to pretty much all of us. We are all recycled nowadays—not just those with obvious handicaps. There is nothing especially exalted about this, or especially disturbing. It’s just a fact of our existence. The limitations under which each of us manages are the template in which our unique soul is meant to achieve is particular mission.
My feeling from your comment is that you need reassurance that your essential self, which is what will become manifest with the geulah, will ultimately be free of the limitations your suffer under. This is as true of yourself as it is of all of us—those who suffer from physical, emotional, and mental disabilities; the unmarried, the infertile, the lonely, the distraught.
The prophet Yeshayah foretold that Yerushalayim will one day be filled with the play and laughter of the children of old women who never bore children before the redemption. This is a symbol of all of the “lost” situations that will ultimately be rectified. Anyone who truly hopes for the geulah will merit to see and experience the joy! On the contrary, the verse states that he who sows in tears reaps in joy.
Deus ex machina was an old dramatic device—but don’t let the convenient and pat stage-play of the Greeks make you doubt that what G-d wills, He does. You are exactly the way you are meant to be—with exactly your limitations...just like the rest of us. And you have no idea what good can become of you, even in this pre-geulah time.
Remember that Rebbe Nachman said, “There is no reason to despair at all!”

Micha Golshevsky said...

A.S.J.:There may be several reasons why Botzina Dinehora" isn't learned. 1)It is extremely short. 2)It is not primarily on the Parshah.
3) It came out many years after the holy Rav Baruchel left the world.
4)Some seforim just don't take. It comes out of the gemara that a sefer has a mazel which determines how well used it is.Some seforim are popular immediately. Others wait many long years before they are much used, while a third group are lost or remain unread.(Interestingly, this story is on the first page of "Botzina Dinehora." so any one who reads this piece has seen a glimpse into this giant of giant's.)
If you are interested in learning his Torah, there is a collection of his teachings from "Botzina Dinehora" and other works called, "Kedushas Baruch," which you may wish to look into.
It is organized by topics and has a section for each chag. This work is very short but compelling since he is trying to explain Rav Baruchel's shitah through select pieces. It is a very deep and wonderfully inspiring, especially the two pirushim, one of which delves into the teachings in the context of avodah while the other explains them in the context of the Arizal.