Friday, December 9, 2016

Mussar Drosha: Vayeitzei

Mussar Drosha: Vayeitzei:

Baruch Hashem, we are back this week, learning the holy parsha together:  Parshas Vayeitzei is really about Yaakov Avinu’s life progressing and going forward.  We are told by our Chochomim/Sages (quoted by Rashi HaKadosh) that Yaakov Avinu stayed in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for fourteen years before going out to Charan, and that he never slept for the entire time!  While I am not saying that this is necessarily the exact way to do things, it still teaches us a great lesson in life - that is applicable to everyone:

It is a lesson for all that we must have a lot of energy and drive for Torah.  Yaakov Avinu was so, so dedicated to it that he did not even sleep for 14 years!  That could have been hard.  But he loved Torah so much and was so dedicated to it, that, with Hashem’s Help, he was able to learn it without sleeping for 14 whole years!  Now, that doesn’t mean we have to do exactly that, but we must try to have that same dedication and drive.  But how do we acquire that great energy? How do we get the dedication to Torah that Yaakov Avinu had?  

So, the truth is that this will usually come if we have a true love for Hashem and His Torah. When we have those loves (which are something to discuss and work on in and of themselves), serving Hashem seems easy.  We have such a drive and a spiritual energy to do what Hashem wants us to.  And it doesn’t seem like such a drag anymore.  All of the things in between us and Hashem just seem to melt away, and anything He wants us to do, we actually want to do, as well (like things are supposed to be), and when you desire something, you usually have drive and strength for it!  Not only that, but we even look for the opportunity to do His Will!  It literally lights up your entire life and makes the entire world seem beautiful and great (Don’t think that I am exaggerating).  

And since we now understand that the energy and drive for Torah comes from those holy love’s which we mentioned, we need to learn and understand how to achieve those love’s, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem, so we will go a little off-topic for some time:  

First, I would say that love for Hashem is the foundation of a lot of things; including love of Torah often.  So how do we achieve and reach this love for Hashem?  Well, perhaps the first thing we should understand is something that the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) teaches us:  

He quotes from the Chassidishe Masters, who explain that the within the heart of every single Jew is rooted a deep love for Hashem.  However, it is usually hidden under sinful actions, words, etc.  So first we obviously need to do as Reb Lebovits shlita says – to clean our hearts off from the dirty sin and evil so the love for Hashem starts to shine.[1]  But then how do we increase it, and make it grow, etc.?

So the Rambam zt”l explains that a way to acquire great love for Hashem is to meditate on His wonderful Deeds and Works.  When we think about all that He does and how great it is, we should come to love Him more.  And I might add that especially the love can come from meditating on and thinking about His great acts of kindness towards the world and ourselves.  

Just take the time to think about how kind He is to us:  Think about our very life:  We don't deserve to continue living:  All of us have done more than enough aveiros/transgressions to have died long ago.  But Hashem, in His Great Kindness, waits patiently for us to return to Him in truth!  

And each night we entrust our Soul with Him and in the morning He gives us the gift of another day!  He puts our Soul back into us, refreshed and ready to go (see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch; Siman 1; Se’if 2).  

And every single second, He gives us another moment of life; another heartbeat; another breath; another chance.  And in each second, teaches us the Chiddushei HaRim (the first Gerrer Rebbe - Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l), there is a new opportunity.  A new chance![2]  

Not only that, but He only makes things good happen to us, and He loves us more than essentially anything else.  Every single thing that He makes happen to us is good and for our benefit - whether it seems good to us or not.  And this stuff is only a small bit of what He does for us - the list is endless. Think about these things!  

And the other thing we need to realize is that the Torah is the greatest gift of all:  A great and wonderful treasure.  Think about the fact that a person would build a ship, sail across seas in the middle of bad conditions and danger, follow a map all over the place, dig a bunch, etc. in order to find and acquire a treasure of gems or coins.  Yet we have the greatest treasure of all - the Holy Torah - right in our midst!  It is right there for anyone (and hopefully, with Hashem’s Help, everyone) to acquire.  All we have to do is open it up and learn it, and we will become rich!  Not only that, but within this awesome treasure are the answers to all of our problems and questions.  

The greatest treasure ever is in our midst and ready for all of us to acquire its riches.  Are you ready?  Are you ready to acquire the greatest riches that bring you and the entire world great benefit in This World and the World to Come?

So, back to our topic:  If, with Hashem’s Help, we take these beautiful things to heart and think about them, they will help us to love Hashem and His Torah more, which will help us to have the awesome energy and dedication to Torah that Yaakov Avinu had.  (Now, it should be noted that the energy we are discussing  is not a new energy.  But rather, it is just utilizing the great energy which Hashem has given us for serving Him.  Have you ever thought of the fact that the reason we can do things is because Hashem always gives us energy?  And we have a lot more energy than we even realize.  It’s actually so amazing!  We just need to think about it…..).

Then with this drive we can properly fulfill Hashem’s Holy Will by learning His Torah and keeping His Commandments with the proper energy and dedication.  And we will not be lazy and not want to learn - we will be ready and wanting to learn and do the Mitzvos.  Like the Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) used to say (and carry out, even when he was very old and weak) “If Hashem has given me life (and this applies to energy as well), I am obligated to use it to work for the Honor of Heaven.[3]

The Chazon Ish (HaRav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz zt”l) was a person who used his energy for Torah, as is illustrated by the following story:  

Once, his students heard a loud ‘thump’ coming from upstairs.  They ran up to see what it was, and saw that Reb Avraham Yeshaya zt”l was lying on the floor!  They of course, soon helped him to his bed, but first they asked what had happened and why.  Reb Avraham Yeshaya zt”l explained that (listen to this:) he had been learning Torah, and, since he basically uses all his energy for Torah, he has to make sure to always save a bit in order for him to be able to walk to his bed.  But this time, he had miscalculated...[4]  Wow….

Not only do we learn this great energy from Yaakov Avinu, we also see that after not sleeping for many years in order to learn Torah, when he did go to sleep, it wasn’t while he was doing something else.  This teaches us that there are times to sleep, but also times not to.  When we are learning Torah, we must, with Hashem’s Help, apply great energy into it and stay awake. But there is also a proper time to go to sleep and rejuvenate.  

As the Tosher Rebbe (Rebbe Meshulam Feish Lowy zt”l) teaches us on this parsha (and is a main concept in Chassidus and Judaism overall), we can make our sleep part of our service of Hashem if we do it for the right reason, like Yaakov Avinu did.[5]  We shouldn’t just sleep out of laziness or because we are tired; but we should try to do it in order to gain strength and energy for serving Hashem.  (The sleep then goes into the special energy we have been discussing, and it is a holy cycle of gaining energy for Torah, using it, then Hashem will give us more).  

So sleeping is not a waste of time, or anything like that; but there is just a time for it and time not for it.  Like the Netziv (HaRav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l) used to say “The true definition of a masmid is someone who learns at the right time, eats at the right time and sleeps at the right time….”[6]

Not only this; but we see that after Yaakov Avinu had been so dedicated to Torah and then finally, when it was time, laid down to sleep, received a Prophecy and Vision from Hashem.  We might not be able to get all that anymore, but we can have “dreams” similar in spirituality and enlightenment, etc.  But that is usually after we learn Hashem’s Torah dedicatedly.  Then our sleep is even better!  Think about this…

So next time we learn or do a Mitzvah, try to be dedicated to it and do it with energy.  Do it for Hashem.  And also, if, with Hashem’s Help, we do this, then when we lie down to sleep, we will have had a fulfilled day, and likely excited for the next day.  And when we are going to sleep, we should try to think about the fact that we are sleeping in order to gains strength to serve Hashem.  Torah and Mitzvos are great things; and even better when we perform them for Hashem (with that love, etc.).  Sleep is a great thing as well – a great gift.  But it is even better when we are doing it for Hashem. 

May Hashem help every single person to love Him and His Torah properly and then also to have that special energy and drive for His Torah and His Service that can, with His Help, conquer our laziness etc. Amein vi’Amein.  Not only this, but may He help us to take all these great lessons to heart, put them into action and become a true masmid, as we quoted from the Netziv zt”l above, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will.  

This is just one lesson we can learn from Yaakov Avinu and his deeds. 

Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos, full of inspired service of Hashem, everyone!
  1. From The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim:  Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (original - Shai LaTorah).  By HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.
  2. From Sparks of Mussar (original - HaMe'oros HaGedolim).  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.
  3. From  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Elefant shlita.
  4. From  Shiur given by HaRav Gedaliah Jaffe shlita.
  5. From Sparks of Mussar (original - HaMe'oros HaGedolim).  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd.

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