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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Relating to obstacles in mundane matters

The Rebbe Rashab was once served noodle soup. He lifted his spoon to eat, but the noodles slipped back into the bowl. After this happened several times, he remarked, “It appears that they are not ready [to be refined].”

Otzar Pisgomei Chabad p. 11.
This story appears trivial, but since nothing in the life of a Rebbe is trivial, it seems that this story holds a deep message.

Sometimes a person tries again and again to pursue a certain course of action, and yet he feels like he is treading water. None of his efforts have borne fruit. In that case, he should consider the possibility that perhaps this is Hashem’s way of telling him that now is not the time, and he should pursue a different course of action instead.

This principle seems to apply only in cases of divrei reshus (mundane matters) comparable to eating. However, it would clearly not apply to one who faces obstacles to performing a Mitzvah, such as lighting Shabbos candles, davvenen, and so on, for Mitzvos must be performed even with Mesiras Nefesh, self-sacrifice.

To illustrate this, perhaps the following story (cited here) is relevant:

A couple once came filled with fear to Reb Velvel of Brisk on the day after their wedding. When the groom tried to put the ring on the bride’s finger, the ring fell to the ground, and this happened several times, until he finally succeeded. The couple was concerned that this episode might indicate that the match was not destined to succeed.

Reb Velvel smiled and said, “No, this is incorrect. Rather, when the heavenly voice declares that ‘the daughter of so-and-so will marry so-and-so’ [Sotah 2a], it is also declared when the wedding will take place. Since the exact time had not yet come, the ring fell.”


  1. Eating your soup is a mitzva.

    So, if I am trying to tie my shoe laces, and they keep getting untied, maybe Hashem wants me to wear laceless shoes? If I am trying to get a job, and not succeeding, I should just give up?

    Where is your source that in Judaism we are allowed to rely on “signs” in everyday life as a form of communication from Hashem?

    I think you’re reading too deeply into the story. Also, did the Rebbe stop eating the soup?

  2. Also, it seems to me that this is a b’dieved statement. Why did they slip three times? They weren’t ready to be refined. Who knows, maybe by the time you try the fourth time they will be.

    It’s ok for people like the Rebbe to rely on ruach ha’koidesh. Not for us. If I don’t notice a milk sitting in front of me, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s cholov akum.

  3. No, eating soup is a mundane matter--chol, not kodesh.

    The comparison with tying one's shoes is a bit farcical; however, the comparison with seeking employment might well be that Hashem is indicating to the person that he should pursue a different parnoso opportunity.

    I didn't say to rely on signs; I said that it's a possibility to consider. I think that's a reasonable lesson to derive from the story.

    If everything that happens in one's life is by Divine Providence and thus, as the Baal Shem Tov teaches, everything one sees and hears is to give us a lesson in avodas Hashem, then Hashem is constantly trying to impart various lessons to every individual. I don't see why it's so improbable that the proper course of action to choose might be one such message, but I will be on the lookout for further confirmation of this concept.

    In the original, it doesn't say whether the Rebbe stopped eating from the soup.

    I don't view this story as being about ruach hakodesh, and thus I don't think it's comparable to the cholov akum story.

  4. Everything is a mitzva for a chossid. Otherwise, why is he doing it?

    Deriving lesson is not the same as deriving person psak as if coming from Hashem. A lesson is something that everyone can learn from. So, if I see a telephone, I can derive from it that “whatever is said here, can automatically be heard there”. Or, like the story with the Rebbe and the syringe (and vacuum). The Rebbe drew a lesson from the fact that no additional force is needed to draw the liquid into the syringe. He didn’t see it as a personal message from Hashem.

    It would also seem that trying to derive personal messaged from Heaven in everyday things contradicts tomim tihiye.

    Of course, h"p guides everything. But it doesn’t mean that everything is a direct psak from Hashem. Most of us are probably not even worthy of such “attention” (even though, of course, our lives are guided personally by Hashem).

  5. Eating is a mundane act that should be done l'shem shomayim. In a very loose sense, perhaps it can be called a Mitzvah, but not in any strict sense. The difference between divrei reshus and a Mitzvah is discussed in many places--I can find some sources for it, if you like. Distinguishing between kodesh and chol is very important, hence the Mitzvah of making havdolo--distinction--between kodesh and chol. I hope to write a post on this topic.

    I recognise that a lesson and a message are not the same. I said that they might be comparable; i.e., just as one can derive a lesson due to hashgocho protis, in a similar way one may perhaps derive a message, assuming, of course, that there are no reasons not to derive such a lesson in the given case. Not a "psak", but a tentative lesson.

    I find it odd that you think that we're not worthy of divine attention--was it not just cited from the Baal Shem Tov that every event in our personal lives constitutes a lesson that Hashem is trying to teach us? Moreover, as the Baal Shem Tov also teaches, every Hashem loves every Jew like an only son born to him in his old age, and much, much more.

  6. As for tomim tihiyeh, I believe that that applies in connection with interpreting events in one's personal life according to astrology, or goyishe concepts of bad luck and bad omens such as seeing a black cat or a raven. I was not aware that it applies in the way that you suggest it might, but I am open to any sources on the matter that you wish to draw my attention to.


Thank you for your comment! :)