Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shiva Asar BeTamuz Ebbs Away

A continuation of the last post, taking in a helpful comment:

Orchot Tzadikim precedes his chapter on Atzlut with a chapter of Zerizut. He speaks of how this is a crucial trait, turning to the Akeida and how Avraham and Yitzchak achieved the trait of quickness in serving G-d by removing all other focus from mind. He says that this trait is the opening to others. How, he asks, can one be "tamid al hasefer," - always learning Torah, when one needs to tend to other things in life? He says that one piece of learning is better than anything the world and therefore one should not make excuses about this matter and must be quick to find time. He cites the Gemara (Shabbat 44:11) which says that G-d told Dovid that one day of his learning was more desirable in His eyes than a thousand sacrifices that Shlomo would offer in the Beit HaMikdash. He cites the statement of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair who says that one good trait leads to another. The first in this chain is Zerizut, which reaches its zenith (after ascending through cleanliness, separation, purity, holiness, humility, fear of G-d, righteousness, Divine inspiration and the rebirth of the dead) with the bringing of Eliyahu HaNavi (Yerushalmi Shekalim 3:5 and elsewhere). He says that given the strength of this trait one should use it to run to learn and to do all mitzvot.

There are a few minutes till this fast of 17 of Tamuz, 5768, concludes. The Kitzur wrtes that if you spend the day walking around like on a regular day but refrain from eating then you have embraced the tafel - secondary and rejected the ikar - primary. Sigh.

There is so much work to do as individuals and as a nation. I find that fast days highlight the tension between our selves and our subjugation to being a piece of a greater whole, a nation. Sometimes I wonder if there is to be an "I" at all on days like to today. I believe the answer is yes. It is a balancing act.

In a few minutes there will be Maariv and then food. I am feeling the need to work on my learning (always stressed in mussar sefarim) and my midot.

Question: There is a tradition to pick one mitzvah and focus on it as your specialty. Do you think you should pick one that you are most inclined toward or one that is most difficult for you - as your focus mitzvah?

Hope you had a meaningful fast and continue to grow as we travel together alone through these narrow straits of the 3 weeks - bein hametzarim.

12 Comments:

Blogger rr said...

"Question: There is a tradition to pick one mitzvah and focus on it as your specialty. Do you think you should pick one that you are most inclined toward or one that is most difficult for you - as your focus mitzvah?"

I think that one should pick the one that they are most inclined to as that is the one that has the highest percentage chance of being kept. I have learned that success and happiness in life come in small steps and that too large goals usually lead to disappointment,frustration and ch'v failure.

July 20, 2008 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Wise and articulate RR - thanks.

July 20, 2008 at 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe strongly in cultivating strengths and natural propensities. A lot of my work in the world is about that- personally and professionally. Interestingly, when someone very dear to me was very, very ill and I felt I would give up part of my soul if he could be healed, I asked a tzadekus in Israel what I could possibly do beyond what I already was doing for his benefit. I suggested something in the mitzvah department that came naturally to me, just more of it. She said that that came too easily to me and I would need to work on something that was more challenging.

Thoughts?

Maayan

July 21, 2008 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Sorry Maayan that I just noticed this comment now - lately I've been missing comments.

I hear both sides. What initially got me thiking about the question O.U.A.T. was a story I was told in which a rabbi told his follower who had asked this question that he should pick the harder one that goes against his grain.

Thank you for writing this powerful story here. I always think - its a G-d thing we wouldn't understand, when it comes to these kinds of losses.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech published a My Turn column named "Don't Blame the Victim," in Newsweek (Sept. 19,1988, p. 10) (I am grateful to Uri Cohen for tracking down the issue). In that piece he talks about the downside of The Little Train That Could's message. Sometimes you think you can - but you can't. He said that he had a dyig friend who was ridden with guilt feelings like - if only he had been a better, husband, father, person then he wouldnt have been dying from the illness.

Rabbi Blech said that we sometimes have to go a little easy on ourselves and realize that, particularly when it comes to life and death, we can only control so much. I think that this applies not only to the ill person but to their most beloved family and friends. I'm sure you tried your hardest with mitzvot both easy and hard. As much as G-d wanted your mitzvot, at that time He wanted your friend. There's only so much we can do. Sigh.

July 23, 2008 at 12:35 AM  
Blogger rr said...

"I hear both sides"

so interesting. i really don't see this as two opposing sides. i think that i was responding to the question of picking one mitzvah because it is a good thing to always be setting new goals. it seems that Maayan's situation was responding to a time where she was asking for a miracle. asking HKBH for miracles imho requires heroic deeds from us. day to day working on ourselves require different measures. my rabbi when speaking before Kol Nidre (the most serious of times) spoke of the need to make a new commitment and that it must be tiny so that it could be accomplished. after that point he said that reassessment and further steps/goals should be instituted. clearly the more positive mitzvot and lack of negative ones that we can take on in life is wonderful but I think that if we take "human nature" into account and are realistic with ourselves then we see that the "New Years type" huge resolutions are usually the ones that last for a few weeks at best. Thanks for the thought provoking question.
btw...what does O.U.A.T. stand for?

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger rr said...

"I'm sure you tried your hardest with mitzvot both easy and hard. As much as G-d wanted your mitzvot, at that time He wanted your friend. There's only so much we can do. Sigh."

Unfortunately, I agree with these heartfelt words! It's hard for us to always accept it, but sometimes HKBH's answer is no.

July 23, 2008 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Sigh. I just posted a long reply RR. Gam Zu LeTovah that it disappeared. Bottom line - I hear you, what you're saying is wise and articulate. I added my own two sense, perhaps will do so again another time, but for right now I feel the moment has passed. And I am late for a meeting.

July 23, 2008 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger rr said...

"Sigh. I just posted a long reply RR. Gam Zu LeTovah that it disappeared"
oy, i'm sad, i would have liked to read the long version! i commented on a dear friend's blog last night and the same thing happened to me.
if you can recreate it at some point i would love to read it; could you still let me know what O.U.A.T. stands for?
all that i can think of is over under and through, and that doesn't fit the context.

July 23, 2008 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Once Upon A Time - More to follow, please G-d.

July 23, 2008 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger rr said...

looking forward...

July 24, 2008 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger mjbhaman said...

Rabbi - would you mind sourcing that tradition of picking a mitzvah? I'd like to properly reference it in a drash I'm currently writing.
Thanks in advance and שבת שלום!

October 29, 2015 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Rabbi Chananaia son of Akashia stated, God wanted to grant merits to Israel, therefore he gave them many laws and commandments as it states, "Because God wants righteousness he increased the amount of Torah and splendor." (Isaiah 42:21). - Makkot 3:16

The Rambam (as opposed to most other explanations here) says this means that G-d gave so many mitzvot that everyone is able to find one to specialize in and choose as their mitzvah.

October 30, 2015 at 10:45 AM  

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