Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Burning Coals

Chazal teach five halachic distinctions between a coal and a flame. At bottom, the difference between the two is that while a flame is transient and ephemeral, a coal is substantial and lasting. This can be understood metaphorically as well—our commitment to Yiddishkeit demands the more permanent and settled warmth of hot coals, rather than the quick flash of enthusiasm that burns brightly but has not basis or substance. And the main thing is to keep the fire inside the coal alive.
Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt”l, was the Mashgiach in a number of renowned yeshivos at a time when many Jews were unfortunately abandoning the Torah path. There was one bochur in particular who struck the Mashgiach as especially vulnerable, and so he invested many hours trying to inspire and encourage the young man in his observance. This was a never-ending uphill battle since the bochur was beset by a number of family and social influences that were literally driving him away from the Torah.
The struggle continued throughout Elul, and did not let up over Rosh Hashanah either. In the yeshiva itself, the atmosphere was permeated with heavenly awe and repentance, the bochurim were learning with special intensity, and the prayers were profoundly intense. However, this weaker boy, the Mashgiach’s special object of attention, hardly seemed to be affected by the charged atmosphere.
On Yom Kippur, the Mashgiach approached the young man and asked, “Tell me, what is today?”
The bochur shot back, “Today is Wednesday.”
On hearing those words, the Mashgiach burst into tears.
Later, he was asked by others why he had cried at just that moment. Rav Yerucham said sadly, “Until now, I had been hoping to slowly encourage him to yearn for true holiness. But he has gone so far that he has even lost whatever warmth he once had for Yom Kippur! How can I possibly help him now? The fire is already out!”


Shorty said...

Such a sad story.

I can relate to fire/coals myself.

I guess i always had a few coals left in me, despite the fact that they were small...fortunately i was "fed" some "kindling" and my love for Hashem was reignited.

Shalom to you!

Anonymous said...

So how about rebbe nachman's 'my flame will burn UNTIL the coming of mashiach'?

Micha Golshevsky said...

Shorty: Hold on to the healing flame of holiness and purity!

Micha Golshevsky said...

Anonymous: Not sure what you mean. He said the flame will burn until Moshiach will come. If he had just said my flame will burn this may have implied for less time than another expression (or not) but he clearly says the flame will last.
Surely you can't learn from his expression that just saying fire with no qualification means a flame that will last a long time.

Anonymous said...

the word 'until' implies an end, is what i mean (at least, it does in the english language)