Monthly Archives: November 2008

Thoughts on the "off the derech" crisis from 1932

The sefer, Chovos HaTalmidim, A Student’s Obligation, was published in 1932 and written by the Rebbe of Piazeczna, Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro, zt”l.  The sefer, itself, is powerful.  However, the introduction sheds light on students and children leaving the path of Torah Judaism.    I have posted a few pages of the introduction to this sefer here.

The Piazeczna’s description and advice for those “at-risk” speaks to both the young and old, the BT and the FFB, those burned out and those go through the daily motions of Yiddishkeit.  It is almost hard to believe that it was first published over 76 years ago.

In light of several posting recently (Rabbi MarylesDixie Yid, and two from Little Frumhouse on the Prairie) I had been think about posting something myself, but that will have to wait.  If you are in chinuch or a parent or find yourself thinking “do I really need to make a bracha after I eat?” or notice you speed through bentching Shabbos night so that you can get to sleep really early then you really need to read what the Rebbe writes.

In the few pages that I’ve made available as a pdf, the Aish Kodesh brings up things as:

  • Children being rebellious or stuborn students (top of page 7)
  • Parents role in educating the next generation (top of page 10)
  • Children thinking that they are more grown up than they really are (middle of page 11)
  • The slow, small steps that lead us away from Hashem (bottom of page 12)
  • The main thing someone needs to know is that he or she is connected to Hashem (page 15)

These pages are not meant to be read while stopped at a traffic light on the way to work or while waiting in line to pick up your kids from school.  This is the real deal!  I would suggest printing them out and setting aside a few minutes Shabbos night in a comfortable chair with a cup of mint tea and absorbing Rav Shapiro’s persepctive.  Please click here to view and download these few pages read the words of this Tzaddik.

Comments are always welcome.

What I learned when I got my flu shot

Last week I got a flu shot. The person who administered the shot to me told me right before the shot that, “If I relax my arm, it won’t hurt as much later.”

I told her that was very interesting and asked if it had anything to do with the muscle being contracted. I was told that I was correct and that it’s more difficult to put the needle into the contracted muscle and that most people have a sore arm the next day because they put up that resistance.

A day later my arm didn’t hurt as much as usual, but  I could get that conversation out of my head. 

I am, in many respects, a rather easy-going and go-with-the-flow type of person.  I’m, also, rather set in my ways, at times.  Ususally I prefer to think of it as a “stick with your guns” attitude, but when all is said and done, I can be rather stiff-necked.  Grown and change are good things, like a flu shot.  The help you out in the long run and I have no trouble accepting them.  The problem, I realize for me, is that even when I do decide to grow/change there can be a little residual resistance that lingers.  That’s the kicker.

If I know that a specific action is a good choice to make and it will benefit me or my family, then it would seem only right to accept it and go-with-the-flow.  Putting up resistance and “contracting the muscle” will only make my arm sore.  So why put up even that little bit of resistance?  The obivious answer, for me, is that it’s a the most comfortable reaction…resisting change.

As I was thinking about this post, a teaching of R Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal) came to mind.  In Derech Hashem (part 1, chapter 4, section 4) the Ramchal teaches that:

The Highest Wisdom too into account all the categories of man’s natural faults as well as all the concepts of true excellence and value required by man in order to become worthy of being drawn close to God and enjoying His good.  Taking everything into account, He set up patterns and restraints [my emphasis] through which everything excellent should be incorporated in man and everything separating him from God, removed.

The Ramchal then explains that the “patterns and restraints” are Hashem’s mitzvos.  I’ve always (well, since 1991) been enamored with this defintion of mitzvos.  Following both the postive mitzvos and prohibitions is really an issue of postive action and exercising our bechira (free will) to restrain ourselves and put up the right type of resistance when neccessary.  In light of my flu shot, I have woken up to the reality that resistance of things that are in my benefit will only leave me sore. 

For a real fascinating exploration of bechira, I suggest reading Dr.  Benzion Sortzkin’s  Bechira:  How Free is Free Will?

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm

Walking along Kelm’s main road, which had been paved by the king’s prisoners sentenced to slave labor, the Alter would think of their suffering.  “How can people walk calmly through this place,” he wondered, “when people suffered so much and invested their blood and sweat?”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik