Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Relentless Yearning of the Soul (Part 1)

The Relentless Yearning of the Soul: Why I Delight in Mussar

-- by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Part1. Mortal Fear

We are, each one of us, seeped in fear. We’re born deeply afraid, we die deathly afraid, and we live the greater part of our lives denying fear.

Our being born afraid is out of our control. It may even serve as a stark training ground for transcending fear. But our living and dying in fear is in our hands, and the way you or I contend with it may, in fact, be at bottom what differentiates us from each other.

Perhaps the greatest fear of all, enunciated to ourselves or to others or not, is the deeply held and haunting fear of our own meaninglessness. How frightening to think!-- how downright black and bleak the prospect of our having lived for no reason!

And that’s the fear we spend the better part of our years blunting and disclaiming. Otherwise why would we take such offense if others don’t take what we do seriously, or if they hurt us, disrespect us or harm us? (And we all do-- don’t think otherwise. We all take inordinate notice of and respond to what others think of us, and take it very much into account when we do anything.) It’s because of the gnawing, relentless and seemingly boundless fear we have of ultimate meaninglessness.

And so we either lash out, act petulant, project ourselves outward in antagonistic, aggressive ways -- at worst. Or we more subtly and passively let it be known in the tiniest of ways that we’re hurt for some reason, or displeased. But in fact it all comes down to the desperate need we all have to affirm to ourselves (as well as to others, but most especially to ourselves) that most telling hope-- that WE MATTER.

Let this serve as an introduction to what follows.

(c) 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(Feel free to contact me at )

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued at *at a discount*! You can order it right now by logging onto (or by going to and searching for it). Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). And his new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available from Judaica Press.
His works are available in bookstores and in various locations on the Web.
Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on entitled "Spiritual Excellence" and "Ramchal".