Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Messilas Yesharim (Wed. Aug. 22nd)

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 FIVE (Continued):

It is apparent from the fact that the Creator created just this cure for this specific ailment that it would be impossible to thoroughly cure a person from the ailment any other way, and that anyone who thinks he can be saved otherwise is mistaken. He will realize his error at the time of his death, as he dies transgressing. In truth the yetzer harah is powerful in us. And without our knowing it, it gets stronger and stronger, and controls us. We can try everything in the world, but if we do not try the remedy particular to it, Torah, we will never know of or sense its overtaking us until we die in our sins and our souls are lost.This is like the case of the sick man who went to several doctors. Each doctor recognized his condition, and prescribed a particular medicine. But he, without ever having had any medical training, decided not to take that medicine, but rather another remedy that he thought might cure him. Needless to say, this man is doomed to die. The human situation is like that. No one other than G-d (Who has created it) is fully acquainted with the illness that is the yetzer harah or its inherent strength. And He has taught us that its cure is Torah. Who is it, then, that could disregard that and take what he wants to instead of it and survive? The thick darkness of materiality will surely continue to grow strong within him by degree, without his knowing. He will find himself so very far from truth -- so caught-up in evil-- that it would not even occur to him to search truth out.But if this person were to engage himself in Torah, and were to keep its ways, mitzvot and warnings, a renewed desire to stay on the good path would ultimately be kindled within him. Our sages were referring to this when they said, "(G-d says) If only they would abandon Me and keep my Torah-- the great light-giving within it would turn them around for the better" (Jerusalem Talmud, Chagiga 1:7).

In the category of means to facilitate caution as well is the setting aside of specific time for reflecting upon your actions and rectifying them, as has been mentioned. Also, if you are wise, any free time you might have from your everyday concerns will not be lost. You would grab hold of it and not let go, and engage yourself in spiritual concerns and in rectifying your Divine service. Although this-- over-involvement in worldly matters-- is the most common cause of the loss of caution, it is also the easiest to escape from. But the second one-- levity and mockery-- is very difficult. Anyone who is sunk in it is sunk in a great sea from which it is very difficult to be rescued.

Mockery is ruinous to the heart. All sense and reason is gone when it is around. The light-hearted is like a drunkard or an idiot: it is impossible to give counsel or direction to him because he will not take it. King Solomon said, "I have said of levity that it is silly and have asked of happiness what it does" (Ecclesiastes 2:2). Our sages said, "Levity and light-heartedness accustoms you to promiscuity" (Pirke Avot 3:13). Though any sensitive soul recognizes the seriousness of promiscuity and resists it because of the image already drawn in his mind of the profundity of the transgression and the degree of punishment incurred from it-- nonetheless, slowly but surely, levity and light- heartedness could draw and pull him closer and closer to it, to the point where fear of the transgression eventually leaves, and he reaches the point of nearly committing the sin, and then does. Why? Because just as the very condition required of the trait of caution is conscious taking-stock, the very essence of levity involves diverting your attention from all noble and profound thoughts, so the fear of Heaven does not enter into it at all. Notice as well the difficulty and destructiveness of mockery. The person who mocks contends with rebuke and remorse like an oil–covered shield that resists and repels arrows that they might fall to the ground and not touch its wearer's person. By seeing or hearing something that might have it reflect upon or examine its actions, the heart can encourage and arouse itself to do good. But with only one act of mockery or a bit of levity a great amount of self- encouragement and self-rousing to righteous action can fall to the ground. Then the original urge for good would make no impression at all. And all of this would not be because of any kind of weakness or misunderstanding, but rather because of the nature of mockery to undo morality and the fear of Heaven.The prophet Isaiah would screech like a crane about this. He saw that this trait in the people would not allow his moral rebukes to make an impression, and that all hope would be lost for the sinners he was addressing. He said "And now stop ridiculing, because your bonds might tighten" (Isaiah 28:22). Our sages have already proclaimed that one who mocks brings trials upon himself (Avodah Zara 18b). As the verse explicitly states, "It is only fitting that one who mocks be judged" (Proverbs 19:29).

This is in fact as logic would dictate. One who busies himself with self-analyses and study does not have to suffer corporeally for his sins: he would have already repented as a result of the thoughts of repentance borne in his heart after having read or heard moral-teachings or rebuke. But the mockers-- who do not occupy themselves with taking rebuke, as a natural result of their mockery-- have no other means of reparation than Divine judgement. There is nothing in their mocking nature equivalent in power to moral teaching toeliminate such judgement. And the true Judge is as serious in His judgement as the seriousness of the transgression, and its ramifications. Our sages were referring to this when they said, "Mockery is difficult because it starts in trials and ends in destruction, as it is said, 'Therefore do not be mockers, lest your binding-ropes be strengthened, for I have heard words of utter destruction...' (Isaiah 28:22)" (Avodah Zara 18b).

The third thing that causes you to lose caution is a circle of friends, that is, a circle of sinful, foolish friends. The verse refers to this when it says, "A friend of fools will suffer harm" (Proverbs 13:20). Often we find that even after the need for Divine service and caution become self-evident to a person, he might slacken-off or over-look certain things relevant to it so friends might not ridicule him, or so that he might fit in with them. Solomon warned about this when he said, "Do not mix with shonim" (Proverbs 24:21). By this he means that if someone quotes the section of the Talmud that says, "One should always join in with people" (Ketubot 17a), you should tell him that this refers to joining in with people who act like people, not like people who act like animals. Solomon further warned: "Walk away from a foolish man" (Proverbs 14:7). King David said, "The man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand on the road of sinners, or sit in the settlement of mockers is fortunate" (Psalms 1:1). Our sages have understood this to mean, "If he startsout walking he will end up standing, and if he stands he will end up sitting" (Avodah Zara 18b). David said "I have not sat with false men..., I have hated a congregation of evildoers" (Psalms 26:4). A person should only purify and cleanse himself, and keep himself back from the ways of the great preponderance of people who are stuck in passing fancies. He should turn himself in the direction of the courtyard of G-d and His Tabernacle. This is what David concluded when he said, "I will wash my hands in cleanliness and I will circle Your altar, G-d" (Psalms 26:6).


© 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman