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Thought for the Day: Choosing You Way to Eternity

In the introductions to both sefer Chafeitz Chaim and the Mishna Brura there is a quite kabbalistic explanation of the function of mitzvos.  Both s'farim are all about the details of "rules of the road" for living in this world.  Perhaps the author was worried that people would either get so overwhelmed by the vast minutia that the would just give up, or so embroiled in them that they would forget what it's all about.  While a person's main occupation besides doing mitzvos has got to be learning how to do them correctly, it is (apparently) worth taking a few moments once in a while to remember what we are actually accomplishing.

"Ein od milvado" -- there is nothing besides HaShem.  Yet... we exist!  How is there room for me if there is nothing besides Him?  The real answer is beyond the scope of this work.  (I love saying that.)  In this case "this work" means "the entirety of creation", so those words were never more true.  We can never really understand that paradox while we are in this world (and maybe not even after this world), but we can have a least an approach.  Every Jewish neshama is a "cheilek Eloka mi'ma'al" -- in some fashion a portion of HaShem Himself.  HaShem didn't find a bunch of neshamos hanging around and then build a world with rules for them to get rewarded.  HaShem created each and every neshama with a unique personality and task; He also constructed a world for each one of them, tailor made for them and their task.  Then, miracle within miracles, He designed all these world to co-exist in such a way that we all think there are lots of us and only one world.  Really, though, each one of use needs to remember "bishvili nivra ha'olam" -- for my sake the world was created.  Each one of us is here by design and intent in a "here" that was purpose built for us.

So what am I supposed to do here?  Make myself as much like the Creator as possible.  How do I do that?  Exercise free will.  That's it.  Simple, right?  Let's follow that train of logic for a bit.  To make a choice, there must be alternatives -- good vs evil (good in an of itself vs good for what it will allow me to accomplish; if you prefer).  To be an exercise of free choice, there must be something that makes the evil alternative seem like a good idea.  That something is my yeitzer hara.  That means that the only way to exercise free will is to never choose an alternative because I desire it; I might actually desire the alternative I choose, that just can't be the reason for the choice.  The end goal is to never make a choice because of what I desire; never, ever factor enjoyment for its own sake into the equation.  Not simple.

Now here's where it get's interesting.  Whenever I choose based on my desires, I never end up feeling like I fulfilled my desire (Darn it).  On the other hand, as I make more and more choices because of what's right, I end up actually feeling fulfilled.  Life is weird.


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