Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chassidus and Mussar: The Message of What You See

Chassidus and Mussar: The Message of What You See:

The holy Baal Shem Tov (Rebbe Yisroel ben Eliezer zt"l) taught that if you see another person doing an aveirah (transgression), you should look into yourself, because you likely have that flaw as well.  How does this make sense?  Different people have different flaws! 

So, the Baal Shem Tov explains beautifully, that, the reason for this is because Hashem lets you see the person doing that certain transgression for a reason - likely for you to realize that you yourself have that same flaw, and to then correct it. 

And he gives a beautifully powerful mashal to explain this concept (which I will quote from straight from  A certain fellow lived as a hermit for most of his life. He lived deep inside the woods, far away from human civilization, and he never learned the basics of hygiene and social etiquette.

One day, he had reason to come to town. He entered a house and there, across the entrance, stood a mirror. For the very first time in his life, he saw his own reflection. He was appalled by what he saw. The person staring back at him had long, unkempt hair, overgrown nails and a filthy appearance.

He began to laugh at the stranger whom he saw in the mirror, but to his shock, the person began laughing at him! He became angry and started to yell at him: “Just look at yourself and then you’ll understand why I’m laughing at you!”

The stranger became angry as well and imitated his actions. The hermit was so infuriated that he took his stick and raised it high in the air, warning the fellow who stood across from him that if he wouldn’t stop laughing and shouting at him he would hit him. To his surprise, the stranger also grabbed a stick and threatened him in return!

In a rage, the hermit ran over to the stranger and started hitting him. He broke the mirror and the person disappeared from sight. He was happy to have won the fight and be rid of the impudent stranger.

The owner of the house heard strange noises coming from the hall. He came to see what happened and saw a wild-looking man with long hair and nails brandishing a stick. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Oh, I just got rid of someone, a dirty fellow who looked awful. I told him to go wash up and cut his hair, so he began to laugh at me. I couldn’t get him to straighten out so I had to beat him with my stick.”

The owner realized what had happened, and understood that the hermit had no idea that he had seen his own reflection. He took him into another room which had another mirror and asked him: “Is this the same person you saw before?”

“Yes, yes! It’s him!” cried the hermit, raising his stick.

“This is your own reflection,” said the owner. “Wherever you will go, he will come along with you. If you want to get rid of him, there is only one thing you can do: you must wash yourself and cut your own hair and nails, and then you will see a different person accompanying you wherever you go.” He took him to a washroom and showed him how to take a bath. He gave him clean clothes to wear and helped him cut his overgrown hair and nails. After this transformation, he took him back to the mirror and showed him his new reflection.

So, as it was written on, “The same pertains to all of us,” explains the Baal Shem Tov. “Whatever you see in others is truly something you can find in yourself. If you notice sins in others, it is a reflection of your own deeds. If you would be clean and pure, you would see only beauty and purity in others.”

The Baal Shem Tov zt"l himself followed this teaching, as can be seen from the following story: 

He once saw someone violating Shabbos, and so, following his teaching, he looked into himself for that flaw.  After looking very deep and not finding a violation of Shabbos within himself, he Davened (prayed) that his transgression be revealed to him.  And his prayers were answered!  It was revealed to him that once, he had heard somebody insulting a Tzaddik (righteous person) and he had not rebuked the person.  This was like a violation of Shabbos, as the Zohar says that a Tzaddik has the Kedusha (holiness) of Shabbos.[1]  And so, he likely resolved to fix that flaw. 

Now, B'Ezras Hashem, let us begin to expand on this concept:  As we know, everything happens for a reason - every single event in our life.  So seeing another person doing an aveirah - or anything else for that matter, is obviously not a coincidence.  In conclusion, when something happens, or we see something, etc. it is for a reason, and we must realize this.  Look for the messages that it could be giving us! 

Now that we have established the above fact, we can better understand this teaching of the Baal Shem Tov zt"l.  And now, we must realize this:  If we follow this beautiful teaching of the Besht (Baal Shem Tov zt"l), then if we see a person doing a bad thing (Chas V'Shalom - Hashem forbid), we won't think about judging them for doing an aveirah, we will look into ourselves, and start judging ourselves!  This way, we will likely (with the Help of Hashem) refine our Middos (traits), and use everyday life occurrences to serve Hashem, His Name is Blessed, like we are supposed to. 

And when we ponder the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov zt"l's teaching, we can come to appreciate life better.  Everything indeed happens for a reason, and a good reason at that, and so, all the things that happen to us are for the better.  Hashem only makes good things happen - even if they seem bad to us.  Even if He punishes us, it is ultimately for the better - He is cleansing us from our sins!  The ultimate conclusion here is this:  Everything that Hashem makes happen is good, not even that, but great!  Knowing and realizing this; we can be happier people, and serve Hashem much better. 

May Hashem help us all - every single Jew, no matter who you are - to keep this teaching, take these messages to heart, and reach all the great results that come with them.  And remember that no matter how far you are from Hashem, you can always come back to Him.  He is so merciful!  Ponder this. 

Have a wonderful night everyone!  Kol Tuv and have a very Freilichen Chanukah!!!

Refoel Berel

  1. Four Chassidic Masters, pages 20-21.  By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita.  A PocketScroll© book.  A Shaar Press Publication©. 

No comments:

Post a Comment