This was a response to a letter received by me from an alumnus of our Yeshivah. He had many problems and asked many questions about the proper Hashkofoh (outlook) of life. He requested "some chizuk in a cold stormy life in N.Y."
I feel that there may be many more people "out there" who may be able to get some chizuk from this letter, therefore Iím adding this to my sichot. Of course the privacy of the alumnus was honored.
May Hashem grant me the wisdom to know what to say, how to say it and to whom to say the right things to bring only chizuk to all those who seek it.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Hashem Yisborach for all the chessed he has bestowed upon me, especially this opportunity of being "Marbitz Torah" over the Internet.
I also want to thank all those "agents" (who are too numerous to mention) of Hashem, who have manifested that chessed into reality.
B.S.D. Rosh Chodesh Shvat 5756-1/21/96-This is the date that I am beginning this letter, but it will probably take a few days to finish.
It is with trepidation and a Kapital Tehillim, that I begin this letter to you. As you may know, I always shy away from giving advice, as it is a great responsibility to give the right advice to each person. Each person is different and requires advice that fits his individual situation. However, as my heart goes out to you and your "cold stormy life" that you have endured, I felt I would try to give you some general advice that may give you some chizuk. So with a Prayer on my lips, that Hashem should give me the knowledge and Siyata Deshimaya to know what to write, I will begin.
First of all ,as you know everything is B'Hashgocho-Divine Supervision. Your letter came just two weeks before my wife will be going to the U.S.A. and she will be in Boro Park not far from you. This will facilitate sending you a response. Secondly, Iím extremely happy that you haven't forgotten me after all these years. Also it is very good that you are getting your frustrations and questions out in the open rather than just keeping them in to yourself. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller said in his book, "Rejoice O' Youth" "Discussion is the pickax with which to dig out the truth from the mountain of errors that it lies under." You basically asked me six questions and I'm not sure if you have a copy of what you asked, so for your convenience I will repeat them here in the order that you wrote them, and in answering them, I will refer to them by number. (I don't know if I can answer all of them, but I will try to see what I can do).
1) Is there a middle path in life and religion and if you find yourself pulled from the two sides (gashmious and ruchnious) how can you appease both?
2) How can you rid feelings of guilt which is unhealthy and counterproductive and seems to be ingrained in my head. There is this train of thought in my mind that feeling guilty protects me from sin-but it's a painful pull and sometimes causes panic?!
3) If I have these questions and at times feel unstable does this mean that I shouldn't look to get married when do I know that it's o.k.?
4) How should I view my career and parnasah? Is it to enjoy or simply to make $$$?
5) If I find myself not so interested and consistent in my learning how can I work on that (and should I focus more on learning more, or less but better)?
6) Can the Rabbi suggest anyone that I can build a possible kesher (relationship) with here in the sense of Rebbe-Talmid?
In reality the last question is really the answer to the first five. When you so smartly realize that you need a Rebbi and you get one he will automatically be able to answer the rest. I know it's not so easy, so meanwhile I'll try Be"H to help you out. (That reminds me of a sign that I saw in my Principal's office, "Iíd love to help you out, just tell me how you came in!")
From question #1: I see a common misunderstanding of what a "Frum Jew-Ben Torah" is expected to do. Many people think that being "Frum" means sacrificing the fleeting pleasures of gashmious (physical matters) and giving up Olam Hazeh in order to get the eternal spiritual pleasure of "Olam Habo". However, this is a terrible mistake. There is a beautiful sicha in the "Lev Eliyahu" from Rav Eliyahu Lopian, Z.T.L. on Parshas Vayeitze entitled "L'hisaneig al Hashem". Rav Eliyahu stresses that in reality those that search and strive for ruchnious don't sacrifice anything. On the contrary only they can really enjoy this world. But those that strive only for Olam Hazeh or the "Olom hazehnickers" as he dubs them, cannot enjoy even the olom hazeh that they get. I have given a sicha based on this called, "Do you have to give up Olam Hazeh to get to Olam Habo?" or "The Winston Cigarettes Sicha." (Don't worry it has nothing to do with smoking). I'll enclose a copy of it in this letter and hope that it will clear you up on this misconception.
As far as question # 2 is concerned, you must understand that this is one of the oldest tricks in the "Yetzer Horo's" Book. As you know, characteristic traits are called "midos" which means measure. Just like salt is good only if you take the right amount while too much will ruin the food. Likewise one must measure how much to use of each midah in each situation in order to better himself. Using too much can be counterproductive. So the Yetzer Horo tries to trick us into using too much and even deluding us that it's a mitzvah when in reality we are knocking ourselves down. When preparing food we must decide in each particular food which condiments and how much to put in order to make the food taste its best. Needless to mention that with each food it is a different story. Likewise with midos we have to weigh each situation very carefully and decide which midoh and how much of it to use in order to make us be at our best.
A person has to realize that he is a fallible human being. My Rebbi quotes his Rebbi, "We think that the difference between a tzadik and a rosho is that the tzadik always goes up and doesn't fall while the rosho falls. But Shlomo Hamelech says (Mishlei 24:16) "A tzadik falls seven times and he gets up" (See there the commentary of the "Ralbag"). A tzadik also falls but when this happens he knows that it is normal and doesn't give up. Instead he gets up and starts again."
There is a wonderful book by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin entitled, "Gateway to Happiness" where he alots a whole Chapter on the concept of "Guilt" (Chapter 12 p.217-232). I suggest you buy the book and read the whole thing (who knows, it may even help you with your doctorate in physcology) but especially the chapter on Guilt. Meanwhile, I will just give you a few pointers that he mentions there to hold you over till you get it.
"The sincere Torah Jew is engaged in a perpetual quest for self improvement.... This requires an attitude of critical self-analysis. Take heed not to carry this attitude too far as it might give way to a sense of frustration. It is imperative to maintain a proper balance...." "A wise man said,' The realization that what you have done is wrong is half of repentance.'" "When a person fails to realize that he is ill, he is in serious danger. He will refuse the medication that he desperately needs. When he becomes aware that he is ill, he will do what is necessary for recovery and is in a better situation than when he did not realize that he was ill. Similarly, when a person realizes that he has faults, he is in a much better situation than one who does not realize it since he can now work on improving himself. For this reason a person should not feel excessive guilt when he becomes aware of his faults. Rather, he can be grateful that he is aware of them of them for he can now work on improving."
About # 3; you must realize as a general rule, Hashem who made the first shidduch wrote, "I will create assistance opposite him". He made a woman to help a man in his avodah. Now it is quite obvious that until a person has somewhat of a picture of what his avodah is, how can he look for a helpmate to help him? First, one should clarify his avodah-goals-hashkofoh in life and then he can look for someone who shares his hashkofoh to help him. Of course one may wonder what his hashkofoh should be, so thatís where a Rebbi comes in to help guide you to your own individual avodah.
In response to # 4; I will first briefly tell you what the Mesilas Yesharim by Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Z.T.L. says: (Chapter 1) Our duty in this world is to bask in Hashemís glory in Olom Habo. We were put here only to "earn" our portion in Olam Habo by doing Torah and Mitzvos. The trouble is that the yetzer haro makes us forget this and work mainly for olom hazeh, and throw a couple of bones for olom haboh. This is like the fellow who is going to live in Israel for the rest of his life and is making a stopover in France for a few hours. Instead of studying Hebrew, the language he will need for the rest of his life, he bothers to study French. How foolish is such a person? Whatever we are doing in life should have this goal in mind, to get to olom haboh. Even when doing physical necessities such as eating, sleeping and working for parnosoh, our intentions should be that we are doing these activities in order to be healthy enabling us to serve Hashem.
Regarding parnassah let me quote you a Gemoro in Beitza 16a that says, "All the sustenance of a person is already preordained for him from Rosh Hashana till the next..." So we see from here that in reality how much $$$ a person will make that year is already preordained in Heaven, regardless of what kind of job he has. In reality we should get it without doing anything, [Originally Adam and Chavah were in Gan Eden and didn't have to work for their food. Y.L.] When Odom Harishon ate from the Eitz Hada'as we were penalized to work "with the sweat of our brow". True, there are individuals who reach the level of "Bitachon bli hishtadlus" "(Trust without even trying)", but the general masses (including us) who are not on such a high level, have to work (hishtadlus) to earn our bread. But even after our effort we must realize that the sustenance does not come from the work. It still comes only from Hashem and according to what he has allotted for us. Our need to put in an effort is merely to fulfill the punishment of "With the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread" (Breishis 3:19). In other words, the work is a penalty, not something to enjoy. Some even learn that this is our test to make money with our hands and yet realize that it's coming from Hashem.
The "Orchos Tzadikim", I believe, brings a moshol of a 100 blind people who were marching in a row ,each one being led by the one in front of him. All the way up front was a person who could see who was leading the first blind man. Now if you ask blind man number 100 who is leading him he would definitely say that it was number 99, but we know that it's really the guy up front who could see who is really leading everybody. So too, we think the boss is giving us parnosoh, but in reality it's Hashem Who is leading us all.
Someone recently showed me in the Mishna B'rurah (1:13) (and I once saw it in an old edition of Mesilas Yeshorim) that when B'nei Yisroel were in the desert and collected the manna, a tremendous miracle occurred. Each person was allocated the amount of an Omer. Regardless of what each person collected whether more or less than an Omer, upon returning to the tent the person would discover that he had exactly an Omer. This shows us that regardless of the amount of work (hishtadlus) we do, the result will be the same.
But you may ask how can this be that a person will get his allotted sustenance regardless of what he does? Donít we see clearly that certain professions make more than others?
Let me answer you with an example. Let's assume that Hashem has allotted $50,000 for a person and he works at a job that makes him $100,000. Hashem will work it out that he loses $50,000 through medical bills, bad investments, etc.. On the other hand let's say he works at a job that only gives him $10,000 then Hashem will work it out that he should get an extra $40,000 through gifts, lottery tickets, investments, etc.. So the bottom line is that, in reality, no matter what he did he ended up with the same amount, but to those who don't see the deductions or additions it seems as if one is getting more than the other.
Now the question is exactly how much hishtadlus does one need? What kind of job should one get and what should his understanding be how to view the job?
Obviously, that depends on the individual situation and it takes a Rebbi and Talmid Chochom to help one make the decision based on the talents, desires, situation and other factors of the individual. For a general reply I will just quote to you from another of Rabbi Pliskin's books, "Love Your Neighbor" on Parshas Breishis-p.35 which gives us a proper perspective of our jobs. He writes:
"The Midrash relates that Chanoch was a shoemaker whose mind was occupied with elevated thoughts. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter explained, that these thoughts were not of a mystical nature. Rather Chanoch took meticulous care that each stitch be perfect so as not to cheat the customer. Moreover, he tried to make each shoe as comfortable as possible in order to give his customers pleasure. His main motivation was to help others rather than just sell shoes for a living. (Michtav Meliyahu). Shoddy workmanship constitutes cheating the customer. The Torah obligates you to produce as perfect a product as you are able. Moreover, no matter how mundane one's vocation may be, it can be elevated by keeping in mind that one is helping others. (ibid) Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki once praised the hospitality of a certain innkeeper who always treated his guests with much respect. "But he takes money from those who stay at his inn," someone argued. "Of course he takes money," replied Rav Yitzchock, "but he does so to enable himself to continue his commendable conduct. The warmth of his welcome and the thoughtful care he gives are proof that he feels love for his guests. If he wouldn't take money, he would not be able to continue his hospitality."In short, whatever you do, you should try to look at the aspect of helping others. Of course, physchology is very good in helping others, provided the methods you use don't conflict with the Torah, and you don't just do it for the money. Trying to see as many patients in as little time as possible, just rushing them out and collecting your fee is not really caring for others, it is more caring for yourself. Instead you should feel and care for them, and try to help them out, not just worry about money.
As far as # 5 is concerned, it's hard to know what to learn and it depends alot on what your schedule is like and how much time you have to learn. Learning with a Chavrusa or in a shiur may help more than by yourself, because you can't just decide not show up anytime you don't feel like going. My brother, who is a lawyer, gets up early around 5 A.M. to go to a Daf Yomi Shiur. I believe that Agudat Yisroel has a Chavrusa program. I also just saw in the Jewish Observer an advertisement for Torah Communications Network in Boro Park which offers many shiurim on the phone. The ad starts off, "NO MORE EXCUSES!..." I'm enclosing it with this letter and I hope that you won't have any more excuses. [Call 718-436-4999. Y.L.]
In general, Chazal say, "A person learns only what his heart desires". There is a famous story about a person who once approached Rav Yisroel Salanter saying that he had only half an hour per day available for Torah study. The question is what should he learn during that half an hour. Rav Yisroel told him to spend that half hour learning Mussar. The talmidim who observed this story, later questioned Rav Yisroel about his reply? "Isn't it more important to study Gemoro"? Rav Yisroel explained that Gemoro is indeed more important, but if this person will learn Mussar for half an hour he will realize that he has a lot more time during the day available for studying Gemoro. I definitely suggest to spend some time learning the book I mentioned before, "Gateway to Happiness", by Rabbi Pliskin. You could also keep tapes of sichot (not just mine) handy in your car and pop it in when you're traveling. Try to hook up to a Yeshivah, even if it's only for an hour every day.
I also want to take this opportunity to clarify a common misconception about our perspective towards learning Torah. Many bachurim say when they're in yeshiva that they learned enough and now I have to get on with "life" or enter the "real world". First of all, these bachurim, either don't daven or don't realize what they are saying. We say in Mariv every night "Ki heim chayainu" - the Torah is our life. Furthermore, the Gemoro in Makos 10a says that the cities of refuge [A person who killed accidentally must take refuge in one of these cities until the High Priest dies. Y.L.] needed to be equipped with all the physical necessities that the murderer might need such as food etc.. If a talmid goes to the city of refuge you must send the Rebbi along to learn with him. This is learned form the Possuk "He shall run to one of these cities and live". "Life" means Torah study. So we see that our proper perspective to learning Torah should be, that Torah is the "real world" and that Torah=life.
Finally, we come to # 6. As I mentioned before, this is probably the foundation of everything. Just as a fellow who wants to invest in stocks doesn't do it without consulting a stockbroker who knows which is the best, because the fellow understands that what does he know about stocks? So too throughout life we have to make very important decisions about what kind of job we should look for, what kind of shiduch, where we should live, what yeshivos to send our kids to, etc. all extremely important to know what does Hashem want me to do in each of those situations throughout life. In fact, this is even more important than we realize, because the answer will not just make a difference on that particular question, but will have a tremendous impact on our future. Now, even if we have learned much Torah and think we are qualified to answer it ourselves, we can't forget the fact that Torah is so vast and we know so little and there are factors in it that we may not be taking in consideration to make a proper decision. Furthermore, we aren't considering the lack of objectivity factor. We may have certain desires and inclinations towards a certain direction which clouds our judgment and doesn't allow us to make an objective and unprejudiced decision. So, we need a Rebbi who knows more than we do, and is more objective than we are, to help us make the decisions.
As Hashgocho would have it, not too long ago, we had a great speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn. You may know him from his wonderful books about stories from the great Magiddim. He also spoke about the importance of having a Rebbi to help us in all our decisions. Afterwards, one of the bachurim asked him to help find him a Rebbi, so he told him to contact him when he gets to the States, and he would help him find one, or else he himself would be his Rebbi. I even saw that the Mash asked him to give advice to an older alumnus in the USA. I also got a little close to him as I was the one who got him to speak at Neveh. He's a real down to earth fellow allĖAmerican, and I even know that he was a "Brooklyn Dodger" fan, as you will see in the correspondence between him and me that I am enclosing. I highly recommend that you call him up and tell him that I suggested that you make an appointment to speak to him about finding a Rebbi. Go see him in person and tell him all about yourself. Don't hide anything, so he can get a true picture of you and assist you in finding a Rebbi.
His particulars are:
Rabbi Paysach KrohnI am going to finish this letter with two points.
117-09 85th Ave.
Kew Gardens, NY 11418
Tel: (718) 846-6900 Fax: (718) 847-6041.
Finally, I'm closing with some advice from the Chofetz Chaim, that I just gave my nephew, who is about to turn bar-mitzvah, which I think we can all use at all stages of our life.
"You are entering the great privilege of being able to do torah and mitzvos. You will no doubt enjoy it immensely, but there may be difficulties and distractions that may make it a bit hard for you. I will therefore give you the wise advice of the Chofetz Chaim about this problem. We recently read the posuk (Shmos 3:5) that Hashem told Moshe "hamokom asher atoh omed olov admas kodesh hu"-"the place upon which you are standing is sacred land". The Chofetz Chaim comments [and it's quoted in "Growth Through Torah" by Rabbi Pliskin] that when a person finds himself with many distractions and difficulties, he is likely to say that only when Hashem improves his situation will he be able to do Torah and mitzvos. Now all I can think about is my problems. It is precisely in these situations that the torah is telling us, "the place upon which you are standing" -that exact situation that you find yourself in - "is sacred." If your life situation is difficult, it is in that exact situation that Hashem wants you to serve him. Chazal say, "According to the pain is the reward." till here is from the Chofetz Chaim.
"Of course you may take action to improve your condition. but no matter what life is like, our mission in life is to study torah and do mitzvos. I was always taught that our job is not to be better than others, but rather to take the capabilities that Hashem has given us and to do the best that we can with our own capabilities. The truth is that many people have greater capabilities than we do, but does it mean that they will be greater? It is very possible that we will reach our potential more than they will reach theirs.
"This can be illustrated with a beautiful story that I once read as a kid. There was once a king who had three sons and he wanted to test them to see which one would be the next king. He gave the first son-$1ooo, the second son-$500, and the youngest son $10. He told them they could buy whatever they wanted, and the next king would be the one who could fill up a certain room in the palace from the floor to the ceiling with what they bought. The first brother brings many wagonloads of straw, almost filling up the room, but there were still spaces left that weren't filled. The second one brought many carloads of feathers and replaced the straw with the feathers. He got further than the first brother but he still didn't reach the top. Finally the youngest son comes with a small bag. Everybody was wondering how does he plan on filling up the entire room with the contents of a small bag? To their amazement, he took out ten candles and matches. The light of the candles filled up the room and he became the next king. The lesson is that it was specifically the one with the least potential who was victorious over the rest.
"May you always remember this lesson and bring only nachas to Hashem, the family, and to all of klal Yisroel, and may the light of your Torah and mitzvos fill up the world with its radiance."
I hope that you received a letter that I sent you a while ago about the Neveh Shabbaton and brunch. It is very important to keep a kesher with the yeshivah and get an occasional chizuk.
I hope and pray that this will accomplish its goal of giving "some chizuk in a cold stormy life in N.Y."
List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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