Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kedoshim: Making Use of Self-Service

דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה' אלקיכם. איש אמו ואביו תיראו ואת שבתתי תשמרו אני ה' אלקיכם. אל תפנו אל האלילם ואלקי מסכה לא תעשו לכם אני ה' אלקיכם. - ויקרא יט, ב-ד

“Speak to the community of the Children of Israel and say to them: You should be holy because I, Hashem, your G-d, am holy. Every person shall revere his mother and father and you shall observe My Shabbosim – I am Hashem, your G-d. Do not turn to idols, and molded gods you shall not make for yourselves – I am Hashem, your G-d." (Vayikra 19:2-4)

The commentaries point out that each of these three verses ends with the proclamation, “I am Hashem, your G-d.” 

The Rebbe, shlit"a explained this observation by saying that the three pesukim are in ascending order of difficulty, as follows:

The first pasuk is referring to an individual who removes himself from society, from the give and take of the ordinary hustle and bustle of life. He’s gone off into solitude and dedicated himself to a completely spiritual, holy existence. Hashem says to that person, "I am Hashem, your G-d, and I will there for you." (The Rebbe suggested that the person, in a certain sense, who has the easiest job of being spiritual, is the one who has removed himself from the physical world. He sees nothing and has to deal with nothing.)

But there are those of us who are part of the everyday world and they deal with the challenges of being part of a world of responsibilities and dealing with the needs of family, responding perhaps to the needs of elderly parents, being attentive to their many needs. They work very hard six days a week and they keep Shabbos. Those who have not removed themselves from a physical world have, in a certain sense, taken on a bigger challenge of trying to be spiritual in the regular stream of activities. Hashem assures them that He is Hashem for them and will help them achieve their goal. That is the second pasuk.

The third pasuk refers to the hardest thing of all: to reject idolatry. Rav Duvid’l of Tolna (a son of the Chernobyler Magid) once said to his chassidim, “Half of humanity is given to apostasy. I’m not talking about the world that’s out there; I’m talking about us in this room.” 

Even amongst people of strong faith who aspire to spiritual goals and values, who want to have a relationship with Hashem, it is rare and difficult to find someone who is so connected to G-d that they’re never self-serving in any way.

What is most important is for one to divest his avodah of any personal self-interest, that we not "pour our energy into ourselves", as the Rebbe often says. Hashem will be there to help one who embarks on the most challenging journey towards complete self-negation and all-encompassing commitment.

The Rebbe then offered an invaluable insight into finding self-sacrifice:

The Rebbe quoted his older brother Rav Shloime, ztz"l, of Denver, who interpreted the symbolism of the ladder in Yaakov Avinu's dream to be teaching us that just like when climbing a ladder one must go rung by rung and not skip any lest he fall, so too in Divine service we must go step by step, slowly, and not jump to higher levels without working through the preceding ones.

There is no way to achieve total dedication to avodah without first traversing through the earlier steps as self-serving beings. We're all born with an obstacle course ahead of us. If we try to attack that obstacle course with something that belongs to a madregah, a level of strength, which can only be obtained at the end of the course, then we're simply not going to make it. We have to make our way through the "mine field of life" by being who we are in every instance, recognizing what we’re bringing to the table at any point, and using those things alone to get to our goal.

The fact that we may not be able to totally remove ourselves from the picture right now can still be useful to us. We can make use of our baser inclinations. As long as a person is aware that he is self-serving then he can harness that weakness and view his current state as a stepping-stone, a way of getting to a more pure service.

So, the issue is not that the majority of us are in it for ourselves. That is the state we all find ourselves in most of the time. The question is, are we using that too to our advantage? Are we aware that we are self serving? "Are we aware at the time that we are doing what we are doing that we need to do what we are doing at that time because that’s the only way to get to where we need to be?"

That is turning even our distance from Hashem into a means for becoming closer to Him.

(Taken from a morning shiur during the week of Parshas Kedoshim, 5766)

To hear this shiur in its entirety (the above is only about half) and many others, go to the Shul's website. On the shul's site the shiur is under Parshas Acharei Mos and called "I Will Be There For You". Enjoy!

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