"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Avoiding the trap of complacency

A beginner to Yiddishkeit, who is setting out to serve Hashem from scratch, usually can’t deny his ignorance. Wherever he turns, he encounters ideas and practices that are new and completely unexplained. He naturally yearns to rid himself of ignorance so that he can act as an observant Jew. To be sure, there is a sense of novelty that also partly fuels the initial interest in Yiddishkeit. But I believe that an even greater part of the beginner’s drive to learn and practice stems from his inner sense of emptiness and lacking.

As time passes, with
Hashem’s help the beginner learns step by step, albeit on a basic level, what’s what. But his thirst is not satiated with learning the amount that most others suffice with. He continues learning deeper and more advanced teachings, perhaps even surpassing many others in his community.

This is where the pitfall lies. As long as one lives, the
Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) is seeking crafty ways to cause confusion, to distract the person and lead him away from serving Hashem. Even as one draws close to Hashem, the Yetzer Hara can use that very act against the person.

One danger of learning and practicing Torah and Yiddishkeit is that the more the person does it, and the more he learns about it, the more he thinks—very subtly, perhaps not even consciously—that now he really knows, and this plants a minute but growing sense of satisfaction, complacency, and arrogance. This is evident in the fact that although he still learns, he no longer does so with the sense of thirst and deprivation felt by a beginner.

But this feeling is unjustified, for in reality he has merely glimpsed an infinitesimal fraction of the vast expanses of Torah, whose “measure is longer than the earth, and wider than the sea” (Job 11:9). He may indeed have made tremendous progress in comparison to his previous level. However, when compared with what Torah truly is, even after decades of intensive learning, he has barely scratched the surface. Similarly, through Torah one connects with Hashem, Who is infinite, and therefore no matter how close one has come to Hashem, he always remains far from Hashem’s infinite reality. As long as the person realizes and senses this, he will always yearn for more.

(It should be noted that the above scenario may not take place. On the contrary, some people will become more humbled through greater knowledge; the more they study, the more they come to realize just how little they know. This reflects on their depth of character. However, those not so refined might become complacent. It depends upon the person.)


  1. good point, we should always keep growing

  2. Personally, I believe it is impossible for a Jew (unless that person is a naturally-born special person) to escape the 'complacency trap' without Chassidus. Chassidus has been around for over two hundred years for a reason - because it is a necessity. Again and again in these times (mid-seventeenth century and onwards), Chassidus has been shown to be the only foolproof way to provide constant challenge and renewal within Avodas Hashem without even a thought of compromise; wide-ranging intellectual stimulation, enough to quiet the philosophies of these times, as well as complete attention to the emotional and practical aspects of life (not only in theory but in practice) - these are what it offers, for those who wish to pursue it (non-Chassidim and Chassidim alike).


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