Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A New Man

“The individual’s obligation to bring a korban Pesach can be deferred until Pesach sheini, but not the community’s.” Rav Tzaddok HaKohen zt”l explains that a personal flaw caused the individual to miss bringing the korban in its time, and it is only an intensely personal teshuvah that will make him worthy once again of bringing it. This is why Moshe Rabbeinu could not answer the painful question of that first group to miss the offering: “Why should we be deprived of the opportunity to offer Hashem’s sacrifice?” Because their question is the quintessential cry of the baal teshuvah, and only Hashem Himself can answer it. What have we done wrong to deserve becoming tamei l’meis and losing the ability to bring the korban, and how can we possibly correct it? According to the letter of the law, there should not be another opportunity, but the broken-hearted plea to rejoin the holy Jewish people is itself teshuvah. The individual becomes a new man, one who is indeed worthy of bringing the korban.
Dr. Gordon zt”l, a close contemporary of the Maggid of Mezritch and a famous baal teshuvah, once came to the Maggid for advice. He found that thoughts about his former sinful life would sometimes return to haunt him, and he wanted to know how to be free of them. The Maggid offered a parable:
“A Jew once owned a tavern, and the peasants used to come around and drink—they would even show up quite late at night, disturbing the poor man’s rest. After some time, the Jew decided to leave that business and took up selling lumber. He was very successful and led a wonderful life…except for one small problem. The locals continued to come around to his home in the middle of the night, demanding their drink! The Jew persevered; each time it happened, he would patiently tell them that he had left the business, and eventually they learned that they had no reason to keep on pestering him.”
“You, my friend, must do the same thing. Every time these disturbing thoughts come to knock on the walls of your heart, you have to repeat over and over again: I am not the same anymore—I am a new man, and I have nothing to do with such thoughts! Eventually, they will stop coming around.”


Anonymous said...

G-d bless you.
Thanks R, for a wonderful inspiring lesson. all of us have those flash backs coming back and disturbing us. sometimes depressing us.
now i know how to answer it. thanks again,
from, a believing gentile
(who has corresponded with you)

Emunatidbits said...

I thought that the flash backs might be an opportunity to do Teshuva for a individual sin, in addition to the general Teshuva that the person made already.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Anonymous: I am glad you found this helpful; I certainly did starting from when I learned it years ago.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Emunahtidbits: Great point! It is definitely true that the Ba'al Shem Tov taught this lesson about "raising up the sparks" in the illicit thoughts.
Yet Rav Nosson explains that one needs to be a tzaddik to do this.
This does not necessarily mean that only a true tzaddik can lift up the sparks in illicit thoughts, however. It emerges from the Ramchal and many other sources that every instant each of us is either an aspect of a tzaddik or a rasha. If we feel connected to Hashem we are in an aspect of a tzaddik and *may* be able to raise up the sparks. But if we are in an aspect of a rasha and feel distant from Hashem for whatever reason, we are certainly unable to elevate the foreign thoughts.
Now you may ask: If it is true that even an oved Hashem in a fairly good state can elevate the sparks in illicit thoughts, why didn't the Magid tell Dr. Gordon to elevate the sparks? After all, Dr. Gordon was surely in an elevated stat of connection most of the time.
The answer is actually quite simple and gives guidance regarding when a person is able to elevate the sparks in illicit thoughts. Although he already knew the lesson of raising up the illicit thoughts, these thoughts were emotionally troubling for Dr. Gordon. (It is also possible that he tried to raise up the sparks but could not.)
In any event, if we feel tormented by illicit thoughts we are almost certainly not on the level to elevate the sparks contained in these thoughts. It is only someone who keeps his mochin d'gadlus despite such thoughts that can use the thoughts to help him do teshuvah or enhance his avodas Hashem.
The way to get to this level is to truly understand that these thoughts are no longer the person at all, but are merely sent to be raised or enhance one's avodas Hashem in another way. For example they remind us that we are no longer the person we were.
Thank you again for the insightful question.