Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos – #3

Determination: Do what you have determined to do. And do it energetically.

The previous midah dealt with doing what has to be done, this is different. This midah is more about actualizing your decisions by following through. How many times have I been staring in the pantry trying to decide what to eat? Plenty. It’s not a life altering decision, yet it feels like it at the time. Making up my mind shouldn’t be so taxing. The most concrete example that comes to mind right now is blogging. Those who commented on the last midah seemed to agree that alacrity is not so easy to come by, yet if you blog then you had to start sometime, didn’t you? I’m not an expert in the cognative aspects of how we make decisions, but I know for myself what I can get out of Rav Yisrael’s teachings.

It really isn’t so difficult for me to make up my mind. I know very well what I should be doing most of the time. I also have a pretty clear idea about where I fall short in my Avodas Hashem. It’s not a big deal for me to accept that I should be learning more, or having more kavana (concentration) during davening, for example. It’s the “do what you have determined to do” part that I get stuck on. One of the reasons I started this Midos exercise was because I was long overdue for a Cheshbon HaNefesh. I’m not as proactive as I should be, but by putting this on the web and giving myself a time-line to finsh all 13 Midos, I feel that it’s an active start.

Doing something “energetically” really means making it happen. To take an idea, a decision, and bring it into this world is a powerful thing. Mostly I use this power to decide what to wear in the morning, or which book to read my kids, but decision making is a true manifestation of our bechirah chofshis (free will). If I want to become close to my creator by emulation, this a great way to do it. To put my kochos (strength) into my decisions is probably more what Rav Yisrael was thinking about, IMHO (wow, I sound like Steve Brizel). The truth is that it’s late and I should go to bed. I have a problem with this also.

“I never thought about whether I could do something, but only about whether I had to do it. And if something must be done, then Hashem will give the means of doing it.” – Rav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz, the Alter of Novorodock (student of Rav Yisrael Salanter)

8 thoughts on “Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos – #3

  1. Rafi G

    very clear and concise way of putting it. Decisions are harder to come to when they are being mad eon less significant issues, such as which flavor ice-cream to order.
    I find, personally, that when I feel something needs to be done the decision is easier. The problem I have is more with following up and completing the task…

  2. Pragmatician

    It’s interesting how in life some decision are so easy to make yet the resulting influence on your life will be immense, while as Rafi puts it, a minute decision such as choosing an ice cream flavour can torment us.
    I guess that at the end of the day all that matters are the decisions we make to improve.

  3. Neil Harris

    I also originally was going to use the ice cream example.

    Pikei Avos 2:21
    “”He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say, it is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it. “
    Once I get over the hump of starting something it does become easier for me to follow through.

  4. FrumGirl

    How about when you prefer to let someone else make the decision for you because you dont want to have to be responsible for the possible outcome? Decision making is all about maturation, growing up and taking responsibilities for the actions you choose to do!

  5. Neil Harris

    Good question, frumgirl. I once read, in 1989 a great quote from an icon in the Punk Rock scene. Who said it isn’t important, but the quote was:
    “If you let other people speak for you, then you never end up saying anything.”
    The same can be said for letting others make decisions for you.

    You said, “Decision making is all about maturation, growing up and taking responsibilities for the actions you choose to do!”

    100% correct. Stephen Covey (of the 7 Habits fame) wrote that responsibility really means “response ability”. How do we act or react to any given situation or challenge. Thanks for commenting.

  6. FrumGirl

    Its also about what each individual chooses to be, a leader or a follower… those who prefer to be led like sheep rather than those who make the decisions and therefor get more personal satisfaction from life… or not. All depending on the choices we make.

  7. Neil Harris

    An intersting quote was told to me by my neighbor and sometimes blog reader, Zev. Someone told him that it takes as much strengh to be a leader as it does to be a follower.
    I believe it’s true. Just because I follow someone else doesn’t mean that I’m “prefer to be led like sheep”.
    I’m sure we all know people who do what the crowd does…in what they wear, what their children wear, what music they listen to. These people might not even realize that they have other choices.
    But what about Emunas Hachamim? When an issue come up in hilchos Shabbos, I first check RSZA. I chose to wear a hat on Shabos b/c it made sense to me that I should dress nicer that I do during the week. It also made sense that if those who teach me Torah do it, then I should follow that minhag.
    Will me son choose to where one in 6 years? Part of me wants him to, but he will have the option. For me, love of Hashem and his Torah wins out over my son following my decision to wear a hat.

    Sometime personal satifcation comes from doing what’s right. If we followed the majority all the time then our ancestors would have died in Egypt (remember only 1/5 of us left).


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