Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh on Novardok

One of the things that constantly amazes me about R Itamar Schwartz and his Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seform is that he is willing to pull and blend Torah from a variety of sources and derechim.  Again, this is a major reason I humbly think his seforim speak to our generation.

For example, in the second volume (both in chapter 1 and 2) he brings down an important educational concept from the Alter of Novardok, Rav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz.  In the Alter’s sefer Madregos haAdom he explains that there is a difference between understanding and acknowledging something on an intellectual level and actually experiencing it.  The best example of this that comes to mind would be the difference between reading about the beauty of a traditional Shabbos meal and actually being part of an enjoying a Shabbos meal.

Rav Schwarz applies this teaching of the Alter of Novardok in regard to Emunah and D’vekus (faith and attachment) in relation to Hashem.  Later, in the same volume (chapter 18) the author writes this:

“…rare individuals would roll naked in the snow or break the ice to immerse in the ice cold water of a lake or pond.  Still others practiced a strong form of self-criticism…They might fall into constant bitterness.  This will damage their avodah, because without joy, there is nothing!”

The ikar, the main point, is that unless the end result (or the journey) is, in fact, simcha, joy, then you are not getting the whole picture…!כי כשאין שמחה – אין כלום   The question I often have is, “How do I get there”?  It’s the ability to extract different strengths from a particular derech that really the gadlus of Bilvavi.  In an information age, when many Torah observant Jews can have access to many different seforim, multiple shuls and schools in a community, different types of Jewish newspapers and weekly publications (I’m not even getting into what’s available onilne), it’s hard to distinguish between what might be substance and what might be filler.

While some argue that Novardok was a type of Mussar that was only applicable for a particular time in the world’s history, I’m glad that the Bilvavi is exposing aspects of it to a new generation.  Don’t worry, I’m jsut as happy when I see a quote from the Baal haTanya as well.  One way that I know I am listening to a true talmidei chachamim or a tzaddik (and I don’t throw around that term) is that when they quote sources it will be from a variety of sources.
“Ben (the son of) Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all people, as it is said: ‘From all those who taught me I gained understanding’ (Psalms 119:99). -Pirkei Avos chapter 4 mishna 1

For other posts dealing with the Novardok Yeshiva and school of Mussar click here.

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