Friday, August 24, 2007

Messilas Yesharim (Fri. Aug. 24th)

For a refuah shleimi for Yoseph ben Rivka Rachel Yuta, young man who is due to be married in a couple of weeks who suddenly and inexplicably became terribly ill.

He's out of intensive care now, boruch Hashem, but he still needs our tephillos.


CHAPTER SIX (Continued):

It is important that you know at this point that a major principle for fostering the trait of abstention is that every leniency in Divine service should be carefully and most thoroughly considered beforehand. For even though the leniency may seem to be just and right, nonetheless it is very possible that it comes out of the advice of the yetzer hara and its deceiving ways. If, after all of that, your reasons for taking advantage of the leniency will be found to be just, then it is certainly correct. The point is that you need great prodding to strengthen and enthusiastically encourage yourself to do mitsvot, and to throw off the heavy laziness which holds you back. The angels were praised for this good trait. As it is said regarding them, "(They are) mighty in energy, doing as He says, listening to the voice of His word" (Psalms 103:20). And, as it is written, "The chayot dashed back and forth like lightning" (Ezekiel 1:14). But in truth human beings are just that-- humans, and not angels. It is therefore impossible for us to have the might of the angels. Nonetheless we should strive to get as close to this level as we possibly can. King David used to praise his own share of this trait by saying, "I hurried-- did not delay-- to keep Your mitzvot" (Psalms 119:60).



There are two subdivisions of enthusiasm. The first is in force before you begin to act on something, and the second is in force after you act on something. The subdivision that is relevant to before acting on something is comprised of not letting mitzvot "spoil". When the time comes to do one, or when one presents itself to you, or when it first occurs to you to do it, you should hasten to take hold of it and do it, and not allow a lot of time to pass by. There is nothing more dangerous than delay. A deterrent to a righteous deed can come up with each moment of delay. Our sages warned us about how true this is in relation to the kingship of Solomon. David said to Benayahu, "Bring (Solomon) down to Gichon (to be appointed king in David's stead)" (I Kings 1:33–36), and Benayahu replied, "Amen. May G-d say so ..." (Ibid. 37). Our sages commented thusly: "Rabbi Pinchas said in the name of Rabbi Channin of Tzippori, Is it not written, 'Behold, a son will be born to you who will be a man of tranquility' (I Chronicles 22:9)? But many adversaries may rise up against him between here and Gichon" (Breshit Rabbah 76:2).That is why we were warned by our sages that when it is written, "And you will guard the matzot" (Exodus 12:17) it means to say that you should not allow any mitzvah that comes within your grasp to spoil (Mechilta). That is why they said, "A man should always be eager to do a mitzvah, for because a first-born daughter proceeded her younger sister in marriage by one night she merited to bring forth four generations of Kings in Israel" (Nazir 23b); "The enthusiastic are eager in mitzvot" (Pesachim 4a); "You should always run to a mitzvah, even on the Shabbat" (Brachot 6b); "It is written, 'He will guide us al moot' (Psalms 48:15). That means to say "as enthusiastically as young girls". As it is said, 'Among them are young girls beating tambourines (enthusiastically)' (Psalms 68:26)" (Vayikrah Rabbah 11:8). Enthusiasm is the one great trait of perfection that is presently lacking in human nature. One who strengthens himself and assumes as much of it as he possibly can will merit it in truth in the World to Come. The Holy One (blessed be He) will eventually give him his reward in exchange for the effort he put into at the time of his service.

The subdivision of enthusiasm that is relevant to after an act has begun refers to taking hold of a mitzvah and being in a hurry to complete it. The mitzvah should not be done that way because you are anxious to unburden yourself of it, but because you are afraid that you might not merit to complete it. Our sages continuously warned us about this. They said, "Whoever starts a mitzvah and does not complete it will bury his wife and children" (Breshit Rabbah 85:3); "A mitzvah is only attributed to the one who completes it" (Ibid.). Solomon said "Do you see a man diligent in his work? He will stand before kings, and will not stand before commoners" (Proverbs 22:29). Our sages said, "this praise is attributed to Solomon himself because he hurried in the construction of the Temple and was not lazy about it, and did not delay in it" (Sanhedrin 104b). The sages commented likewise about Moses for his having hurried in the construction of the Tabernacle (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:2).

You will find that all of the actions of the righteous are done eagerly. It is said about Abraham, "And Abraham hurried to Sara's tent and said to her, 'Hurry!'"; and "he gave it to the young man hurriedly" (Genesis 18:6–7). It is said about Rebecca that, "She hurried and emptied her flask" (Ibid. 24:20). In a similar vein we find in the Midrash, "It is written, 'And the woman hurried...' (Judges 13:10) -- this comes to teach us that all of the actions of the righteous are done hurriedly. That is, they would not allow a moment's delay either in the starting or completion of a mitzvah" (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5).The man whose spirit is aflame in the service of his Creator will certainly not be lackadaisical in the doing of mitzvot. His movements would be as quick as fire, for he could not be at rest or still until he would have utterly completed the task.

Further reflecting upon the matter you will find that enthusiasm is an outcome of some inner incandescence. But enthusiasm itself can produce this incandescence. If you will examine your actions at the time of the performance of a mitzvah you will note that just as you yourself instigate external movements, so too can they instigate inner movements, to the point where they can consciously arouse your very yearnings and desires. But if you continue to accustom yourself to stilted body-movement your spirit will also be trapped and extinguished. Experience attests to this.

As is known, the most desirable traits in service to the Creator are willingness of heart and longing of soul. King David praised his own good portion of those matters by saying, "Like the hart pants after the water-brooks, my soul pants for you, G-d. My soul thirsts for G-d" (Psalms 42:2–3); "My soul longs and faints for the courts of G-d" (Ibid. 84: 3); "My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You" (Ibid. 63:2). The best advice for the person in whom this desire does not burn is that he consciously enthuse himself so that enthusiasm might eventually become second nature to him. External movement arouses the internal, and you certainly have more of a command over the external than the internal. So if you make use of what you have command over, you will eventually take control over what you do not. Great inner joy, desire and longing will come about as a result of your consciously igniting of your movements. The prophet was referring to this when he said, "Let us know-- let us run to know G-d" (Hosea 6:3), as well as, "They who will roar like a lion will go after G-d" (Ibid. 11:10).

© 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman