Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Perfection Is In The Process, Not In The Achievement

We had one of those dreary "help people get along better in the work place" workshops.  This one, however, had 90 seconds of insight, so I am glad I went.  The speaker noted that how you say things can overwhelm the message you are trying to convey, so one needs to take care.  His example was the difference between telling your wife, "Honey, you have a timeless beauty." vs. "You have a face that could stop a clock."

In Torah (and, truth be known, in science... which is where I got my training for learning), though, one must be absolutely precise in both saying and listening.  I have often heard the G"ra misquoted as saying that there is not an extra word in the first eight chapters of M'silas Yesharim.  That leads to the mistaken conclusion that after the first eight chapters, things start to get sloppy; chas v'shalom.  The precise statement is that the G"ra made an intense investigation of every word in the first eight chapters and found that not one was extra.  That, it seems to me, is sufficient evidence that one should take every word of the entire M'silas Yesharim very seriously.

In the introduction, the Ramchal makes a startling assertion:
[...] every man of wisdom recognizes the need for perfection of Divine service and the necessity for its purity (tahara) and cleanliness (n'kiyus), without which it [his service] is not only completely unacceptable, but even repulsive and abhorrent
Well, now... that's not so friendly.  It seems to say that most of us would be better off not doing anything, since our avodas HaShem is certainly neither tahor nor even naki.  Moreover, the Ramchal will tell us that one must approach avodas HaShem as outlined by these steps, in order: watchfulness, zeal, cleanliness, separating from unnecessary pleasures, purity, saintliness, humility, fear of sin, and finally one can than approach holiness.  Purity is the fifth level, cleanliness the third; and cleanliness takes a long time to fully acquire before one can even think of proceeding.  Moreover, the Ramchal says that every Jew is expected to get to the level of cleanliness, from there up are levels only achieved by the most scrupulously pious.  Are we to understand that avoda of most Jews is doomed to remain "repulsive and abhorrent"?!

In fact, this is precisely the mistake made by those who abandon the Torah (xtianity, reform judaism, and the like).  And the mistake comes from not reading the next few words:
What will we answer in the day of reproof if we weaken in this study and forsake that which is so incumbent upon us as to be the very essence of what the Lord our God asks of us?
Emphasis mine, of course.  Our service is only "repulsive and abhorrent" if we weaken in our efforts to improve.  Of course our service is not what it should be.  As explained in Da'as T'vunos the entire purpose of being in this world is for nothing but self improvement with a target of nothing less than perfection.  Of course we'll never reach that target, but that must be our mission statement.  The only failure is complacency.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

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: 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…