Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Using Distance to Come Closer to HaShem

This is even more self-serving than usual; math!  R' Moshe was once confronted by two parents who wanted to have their son continue on to college instead of beis medrash.  The father was a math professor and a bit of a talmid chacham, so he decided to play his strengths.  The father noted that Chazal tell us that a person is created by three partners: the mother (who contributes the red), the father (who contributes the white), and HaShem (who contributes the soul).  (NB: Before you ask... I have know idea what that means.)  The father further noted that in case of disagreement, we take a vote and follow the majority opinion.  Therefore, concluded the father: "I agree that HaShem wants my son to continue in beis medrash, but his mother and I want him to go to college.  That's ⅔ for college, ⅓ for yeshiva; so the boy should go to college."

I am sure the father had spent hours if not days preparing his arguments.  R' Moshe replied, without missing a beat, that he agreed with the logic of the argument, but that the father had gotten his math wrong.  "You and your wife were also created by three partners.   ⅓ of you, which is 1/9 is HaShem; who, as you say, obviously wants the bochur to continue in yeshiva. Similarly for your wife. That makes the total ⅔ + 2 × 1/9 = 5/9; so the bochur should continue in yeshiva."

Cool, eh?  Of course, R' Moshe had what he needed, so that's the end of the story.  I, however, started thinking... but the grandparents are also a partnership of three, and their parents, and so on and so on back to Adam and Chava.  I'll leave it as an exercise of the interested reader, but the series can be summed exactly.  Basically, for you more interested readers, its and infinite sum minus a remainder term that is essentially (2/3)^(number of generations since Adam & Chava) plus HaShem's initial contribution (no partners!).  For those of you who are less interested, here's the answer: 1; exactly one -- ein od milvado/there is none besides Him.

What about all those parents and parents of parents?  When the contribution from HaShem is added up, one is left only with something that doesn't even fit on the number line; which goes by the name of infinitesimal.  An infinitesimal has no value, it's just smaller than every number (except, of course, zero).  That infinitesimal is what R' Dessler calls the "shadow of a shadow" that was the only thing that separated Adam from his Creator.  Adam had only to recognize that, and we'd all be in Gan Eden now.  Instead, Adam chose to put some additional distance between himself and HaShem in order to be able to return to his King as a ba'al t'shuva.

Adam failed because, though he was very close to HaShem and extremely great, he had no experience with the yeitzer ha'rah/the evil inclination.  We, to our shame, have much experience with the yeitzer ha'rah.  However, that experience has made us better equipped to fight it.  Each generation is a bit further away, but that very distance weakens the yeitzer ha'rah and gives us more experience with fighting him.  We look inside and find Him among the remainder.  Then we look inside the remainder and find Him again.  Then the remainder of the remainder, and so on and so on, till we are back where we were when first created; just an infinitesimal barrier.  Precisely the place we were originally, but this time with lifetimes of experience with being separated and a longing for closeness.

This Tisha b'Av, as we cry and feel more keenly than ever the separation, as we long more fervently than ever for re-unification, we take another step toward the g'ula shleima.  A long journey, to be sure, but one that has an end.  Maybe this year, im yirtzeh HaShem?


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: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…