Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Either Spiritual or Material

Our sages teach: “If it weren’t for the sound of the sun in motion, we could hear the clamor of the throngs of Rome. And if it weren’t for the clamor of the hordes of Rome, we could hear the sound of wheel of the sun.” The Afikei Yam zt”l explains that the noise of the sun is the consciousness that time flies past us so quickly, and the present is just a transient moment without substance. It is this awareness of the limited nature of our lives in this world that brings the wise to fear heaven, and fills them with the fortitude to serve Hashem in purity before the opportunity slips away. The antithesis of this is the clamor of Rome that represents the vapid pleasure of the material world and the complacency of the wicked. These two sounds are mutually exclusive; the worldly “static” blocks out the voice of conscience and the exhortation of our evanescence, but when we recall the finite nature of the material world it loses its allure.
This can be understood with one of Rebbe Nachman’s parables: The evil within,יצר הרע is like a practical joker who races through a crowd showing off a clenched fist. He approaches first one person and then another, taunting, “Wouldn’t you like to know what I have in my hand?” Everyone he meets imagines that the clenched fist contains his heart’s desire. They all chase after him with abandon… They finally catch up with him, but when this joker opens his hand, he laughs at the consternation of his victim. His hand is completely empty!
When time runs out, the “joker” has no need to hide the truth any longer—that what he has to offer, the temptations he presents, are just illusions. We either hear the sound of the sun, or the sound of the hordes of Rome—we cannot listen to both at the same time!

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