Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Staying On (and Returning To) the Path to Olam HaBa

My high school chemistry teacher once handed out a paper entitled, "Don't X the Y too Z".  The paper was about how not to write instructions and procedures.  What is one to do when the instructions advise, "Don't tighten the screw too much"?  Turn the screw till it breaks, then back off a quarter turn?  (I've tried that; it doesn't work.)  L'havdil, Shlomo ha'Melech, the ultimate m'chanech, certainly knew that very well.  Before telling us the three main highways to oblivion, he has already given us the cure for each.

The problem with pesatood (the state of being a pesi, a simpleton) is just not knowing how to reply to the yeitzer hara.  The first attack of the yeitzer hara is usually, "Hey, it'll be fun.  And, after all, what could be wrong with it?"  If you don't know what to answer, then it is very difficult to refuse.  We all know, and the yeitzer hara better than most, the Yerushalmi that a person will be taken to task on the yom ha'din for every permissible pleasure that he didn't enjoy.  We all know, and the yeitzer hara better than most, the story of the Brisker Rav who was insistent that he go to see the Alps while recovering in Switzerland because of that Yerushalmi.  The same yeitzer hara that doesn't want you to learn certainly is a buki in all the Chazals and ma'asei rav along those lines.  So the answer to question of what could be wrong is simply, "Good question! Let's to learn first and see what's wrong."  That's called learning to know.

For the leitz (scoffer), the cure is to realize that every action, thought, and desire produces a spiritual environment that encourages more of those desires, thoughts, and actions.  Speech, coming as it does from the highest realms of creation, is a very powerful producer of spirituality.  When used for d'varim b'teilim (and all the more so d'varim assurim) it pollutes the environment with the worst stench and poison.  When used to t'fila and limud ha'torah (ie, the purpose for which is was given to us) the environment is not only filled with the sweetness of Gan Eden, but it also cleans up all the tuma.  The power of the k'dusha is 100s of times more powerful than the power of tuma, so even the smallest amount of learning can quickly change the environment from Loraxville to Gan Eden.  That's called learning for d'veikus and is a higher level than just learning to know.

Finally, for the k'sil (the fool who is lazy and hates those who are not), the cure is to redirect his efforts.  My father, alav ha'shalom, used to tell me that if I would put half the energy into weeding/cleaning up my room/homework as I put into whining and devising schemes to avoid weeding/cleaning up my room/homework, I'd be finished already.  (I heard that a lot.)  He was right, of course.  (Not that I stopped whining so fast.)  The cure for the k'sil is to just learn.  He will so quickly be caught up in the beauty and depth that he'll forget to be lazy and won't have time to hate.  That's called learning lishma -- just for the pure joy of it -- and is the hightest level of limud ha'torah possible.

In case the message is too subtle: learning, good; avoiding/neglecting learning, bad.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…