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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Difficult Transition

A Difficult Transition

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

“Jump in the pool, the water’s fine!”

The warm, clean, sparkling water beckons invitingly below, and yet we often hesitate.

Invariably, once we take the plunge, we enjoy ourselves, and regret not having done so earlier.

Nevertheless, the next time we hesitate again. Yet once we jump in, we regret again having delayed such a pleasant experience. The question begs itself: Why don’t we learn from our experience?

The same question can be asked about serving Hashem. On the one hand, the Torah instructs us to immerse ourselves in Torah study. Commenting on Hashem’s command to Noach, “Enter the ark,[1] the Baal Shem Tov points out that the Hebrew word for ark, teiva, can also mean “word.” Hashem is thus exhorting us to “enter” and immerse ourselves in the “word”—the words of Torah and Tefillah.

Once we start indeed immersing ourselves and “getting into” a sugya in Gemoro, a Ma’amar Chassidus, and so on, we don’t want to stop, and we even wonder why we delayed. How could we have been so foolish and coarse to deprive ourselves of such a sublime pleasure? And yet the next time the opportunity to do so arises, experience shows that we face the same inner struggle. Again, why don’t we learn from our experience?

The answer is that the very transition from mundane affairs to Torah and Tefillah is extremely difficult. We have to tear ourselves away intellectually and emotionally from one mode of operating and engage ourselves in another, very different and even opposite mode.

Just as the body naturally resists the change of body temperature caused by diving into a pool, so is there an inner resistance, particularly from the Animal Soul, to making the transition from the material to the spiritual.

However, knowledge is power. Realizing that this inner resistance is one of the core tactics that the evil inclination uses in order to obstruct our service of Hashem arms us with the strength need to overcome it. For just as with practice, a swimmer can learn to make the jump into the pool without foot dragging, so can one who makes a conscious, consistent effort to force himself to make the transition from the mundane to the holy ultimately develop the ability to do so with minimal effort.

[1] Bereshis 7:1.

Based on Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaRayatz 5785, Choviv odom, p. 7; Sefer HaMa’amarim Admur HaRashab 5678, p. 131.

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