Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Part 2 : Achieving Inner Redemption
( We will be discussing this on Motzai Shabbos, IY'H, and 55-60 in Bilvavi- please email Shira at Geulafromwithin@gmail.com to receive what we will be covering each week- as i will not be putting everything on the blog-)
Nullifying Your “i”
(Adapted from sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol. VI, Chapter 3)
Many Ways, One Goal
The essence of life is Hashem- Who is found in our heart. Our mission is to reveal Him from within ourselves. There are many paths to get there.
Generally speaking, the mitzvos are the ways to get to Him. There are 613 Biblical commandments and 7 Rabbinical commandments; if so, there are altogether 620 ways to reveal Hashem.
Each of our forefathers had his own way as well. Avraham Avinu intuited the whole Torah by himself (Beraishis Rabbah 95:3), and that was one way. The Torah which we received at Har Sinai is another way. What both ways have in common, though, is that they are both paths to reveal Hashem.
The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the giving of the Torah didn’t add anything new to our goal; the goal always remains the same – revealing Hashem. What the giving of the Torah revealed was how to get to Hashem, but the inner point, which is to reveal Hashem, never changes. It is unaffected by the sin of Adam.
The constant search remains: to search for Hashem. The ways to get there are many; before the sin of Adam, there was a certain away to get there, and after the sin, the plan changed. Avraham Avinu’s path was chessed, Yitzchok Avinu’s path was gevurah, and Yaakov, (who is emes) is the synthesis of these two; while Moshe Rabbeinu is the inner dimension of Yaakov’s path. Still, the goal of getting to Hashem always remains the same.
The many ways to serve Hashem are only “garments” of the inner point they cover, which is to search for Hashem. “Just like all faces are different, all de’os (opinions) are different” – there are many paths to “know” Hashem, but the common denominator between all the paths is that a person has to become close to Hashem. How we look for Hashem differs with each person, but What we look for is always the same.
This should be very clear. When we learn sefarim hakedoshim, especially the works of Chassidus, a person may attempt to discover himself within the sefer. A person may think, “My soul is rooted in Avraham Avinu, who is chessed”, or “My soul is rooted in Yitzchok Avinu, who is gevurah”. This is dangerous because people end up basing their entire lives on all kinds of speculations.
We must all know, however, that we have only one goal – to become close to Hashem. Where each one of us should begin is a different issue, but What we search for should always be the same.
The Danger of Thinking About Yourself
The words here are deep matters about how to work with our soul.
Oftentimes, when a person is more involved with avodas Hashem (serving the Creator) and he seeks to improve, he may begin to become very self-absorbed. He thinks about himself all the time – about his spiritual situation, and he is totally absorbed in himself.
Now, if someone isn’t an internal kind of person, he doesn’t have this problem, and he just lives life. He also has desires for glory, but he’s not immersed in himself, and he leads a superficial kind of life. He looks for outer kinds of desires and isn’t connected to his inner self to begin with. He experiences jealousy, desire, and a longing for honor, but these are just desires to enter outside one’s self. A superficial person doesn’t have the kind of problem we are describing.
Only an internal kind of person, who really seeks to serve Hashem better, is faced with the danger of becoming too self-absorbed. An internal kind of person really wants to know his soul, and he is critical of himself, as he is involved regularly with making a cheshbon hanefesh (soul accounting); each to his own. He wants to know who he is.
On the one hand, this is wonderful; Chazal say, “Know the G-d of your father and serve Him”, and it is written, “From my flesh I see G-d.” A person indeed must know himself well and what his soul is, so he can figure out in which way he should serve Hashem. Without this internal self-examination, a person lives a superficial life.
On the other hand, when a person enters himself and he begins to clarify who he is, he wants to know very much what his “I” is, and this is apt to make him become very self-absorbed, and it can have disastrous results. It can either make one become very broken and sad, and if this doesn’t happen, the opposite will happen - it can make him become haughty and arrogant, because he thinks he knows himself so well. Either of these is not what we want to achieve.
When a person is too absorbed in himself, it can be said of him in a subtle sense the statement of Chazal, “I and him cannot dwell under one roof” . Chazal say this of a baal gaavah (haughty person), but the root of haughtiness is when a person is absorbed in himself, and thus it can be said that Hashem doesn’t want to be with someone who is self-absorbed.
When a person is truly humble, he doesn’t think he’s a nothing. True humility is that a person doesn’t think about himself at all – he’s not thinking about “i”. He thinks only about Hashem, the Torah, and how to help other Jews – both physically and spiritually – and he takes his mind off himself.
When a person thinks very much about himself all the time, this itself prevents him from reaching the goal, which is to be close to Hashem.
“Ani” Vs. “Ayin”
We said in the beginning of this chapter that there are many methods on how to begin serving Hashem, but the end goal of all these ways is always the same: Hashem. What we really mean is as follows.
A person’s “i” (ani) is to be used as a tool to get to the purpose, which is to reach Hashem. Our mission is not solely for the sake of building our “I”. Just to be in it for the sake of developing our self is like how “the building of children demolishes” (Nedarim 40a). A person only reaches perfection when he is totally divested of his ego; instead of ani (I), he has reached ayin, “nothingness”. Perfection is not when you build your “I” – it is when you leave your “I “.
Perfection is not about building your “I”; it is rather about negating your “I”. This does not imply that one should feel low about himself; it is instead that a person should realize that he doesn’t live for himself, and that he is not meant to think and worry about himself.
This is the ideal situation which we are trying to achieve. The more a person enters into avodas Hashem, if he becomes more self-absorbed in the process, although he gains in that he has left the materialism of this world, he has harmed himself in a way that is very hard to come out of.
If a person isn’t aware of this as he starts out in his avodas Hashem, he will suffer from his self-absorption until the end of his life. This is like what is written, “Until elderliness and old age, I will endure”. His “I” will prevent him from any true progress, and his whole life he will only be interested in how his “I” come into the picture.
The recognition we are supposed to have, though, is that when we want to search for closeness to Hashem, we should know that this is the common goal of whatever we are doing. The more a person purifies his “I” and leaves his ego, the more he will live with Hashem in his life, and come to the recognition of Ain Od Milvado, “There is nothing besides Hashem”.
“Your Face, Hashem, I seek”
We are stating this point at the beginning specifically, and not at the end. Simply speaking, our mission is to first build up our self and then nullify it. But it is really more than that. Instead of entering our “I” and then leaving it, it’s better to stay outside of the “I” altogether. This is because we must be clear in what we are searching for: are we just searching to find ourselves, or are we searching to find Hashem?
When a person hears that he has to work on his middos, if he has only a superficial perspective, he will likely groan to himself, “Oy, I have so many faults, I am full of so many problems I need to fix”. It is indeed true that no one is perfect, and that we all have areas we need to work on. If you ask a person why he wants to work on himself, he might respond, “Because I want to give pleasure to Hashem”. But the truth is that he is only working on himself for the concern of his own well-being. He views “working on himself” in the same way that he has to fix a broken machine. He is aware that “working on yourself” and “getting to know yourself” is part of serving the Creator, and thus he thinks about himself a lot and does all kinds of outer actions to try to improve himself.
This is an erroneous attitude.
We need to correct this outlook from the start and clarify what the goal here is, what we are really trying to arrive at.
If someone is really searching for avodas Hashem, he must know that it’s not about himself. You don’t need to find yourself, and the only search you need to have is to search for Hashem.
When people want to know, “Who am I? What am I? What is my shoresh haneshamah (soul root)?” – people have all kinds of questions like this – it shows that the intention isn’t for the sake of coming to better their avodas Hashem. They are seeking knowledge about themselves, and that is not the true depth of avodas Hashem.
The proper attitude to have about self-knowledge is that knowing about yourself can definitely enhance your avodas Hashem, but to be aware of what we are really searching for – Hashem. It is written, “Your face, Hashem, I seek.” One should not be looking for his “I”, but for Hashem! Our mission is not to build ourselves; it is rather to realize that there is nothing else other than Hashem, and that we search for nothing other than Him.
Posted by aviva rus at 7:02 AM