The following words have been on my mind for the past two months. They were written by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, in the introduction to his translation and commentary of Messilas Yesharim, The Path of the Just:
The greatest problem we Jews have to contend with today, though its not recognized as such yet, is the loss of our memories and dreams. We have forgotten who we are, what we do, where we would like to be, what our unique national power and genius is, and what it is that makes us continue to go forward in history.
Once we had character and vision. If we go lost or sidetracked, we had only to close our eyes and hear ourselves again, and we would go right on course to the goal we had recognized (and either followed or openly disavowed but recognized nontheless). But we have lost this. Like a singer in the midst of a great din and rumble, we cannot hear our keynote, and we are dumbfounded.
Indeed, dumbfounded, or numb. Many are living a vibrant life of observant Judaism, while others are floating from day to day, from Shabbos to Shabbos. It’s been 128 since Reb Yisrael left this world. It is easy enough to point fingers, write blogs, and bemoan the current state of the observant life. The fact that, as least for me, there is a desire to strive for an absence of mediocrity is due to R Yisrael Salanter.
For a biography please see this.
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said:
The distance between the mouth and the heart is very great. Many persons say great things but they do not carry them out, for their words do not flow from their hearts. However, we must not stop talking about the great things in life, for some day our words will make an impression on our hearts and behavior.
(The 25th of Shevat is R Yisrael’s yartzeit- starting on the night of Jan 30, 2011)
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said:
Patience: Calmly confront whatever circumstance presents itself; absorb each blow that life brings
Full post is here.
Keeping this in mind, a teaching from Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe zt”l seems appropriate. R Shlomo Wolbe teaches (Alei Shor vol 2) that the root of the Hebrew word for patience, savlanus, is based on the root word sevel, which means to carry, load, or burden. Patience doesn’t mean waiting, it means being able to absorb and carry a particular load, despite the inconvenience.
With Emes and Sheker there is no in-between .
In today’s age of blogs , Facebook, and Twitter we have become fairly accustomed to make a quick comment on things. From a status update about how cold it is outside to a picture of a cute kid playing in a suitcase, it seems that everyone has something to say and now we have a platform to stand on when saying it. I’m probably more guilty of this than most people, by my own admission. However, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between an invited comment (like anything that someone posts on Facebook, where commenting is part of the online culture) and commenting on something that’s really doesn’t concern you. How often have we said or hear the phrase, “I couldn’t help but overhearing…”, followed by some advice or a comment that is unsolicited and, to put it mildly, not helpful?
At times, we might hear or see something that directly affects us, so it’s in our own interest to speak up. Especially when someone is being wronged.
True, it’s hard to help overhearing things, however it takes self-control and a willingness to sometimes negate voicing our own opinion and not making a comment.
In a casual conversation with a co-worker, I was informed that for every one day that you don’t wear orthodontic rubber bands or elastics then you “go back three days”.
Since everything the the physical world is really just a parallel of our spiritual world, could it be that every day you chose not to do a specific mitzvah, you also might “go back three days”? Is it possible that it might be three times harder for you to get all that much closer to Hashem, than if you had performed the mitzvah you chose not to do? Just a thought.
A few weeks ago I discovered that you can go to Apple’s App Store and get (for free) Mesillas Yesharim for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.
The Mesillas Yesharim app is pretty straightforward, letting you chose either Hebrew or English. The English translation is fairly basic. Of course, if you really want to learn the sefer in English, I strongly suggest finding a copy of R Yaakov Feldman’s excellent translation and commentary (I recently, after searching for a few years, found a copy at a reasonable price and it’s like I’m learning the sefer for the first time again). A full review of this app is available at jewishiphonecommunity.org.
I also, using the built in pdf reader in iBooks, was able to put the original English translation of Rav Hirsch’s The Nineteen Letters on my iTouch. To upload it on your device, simply download it onto your computer, then import the pdf into iTunes (use the “add a file” option) and it will load and default under “books”. Then just plug in your iToy and drag the “book” to your your decice (the same way you would drag a song, album, playlist, or shiur) and sync.
Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm
At least once a week a person must practice the concept that actions speak louder than words.