Thoughts on Avodas Hashem
It is so easy to lose direction. Totally and absolutely lose our way. A little loss of focus leads to a millimeter-worth of richuk, completely unobservable to a naked eye, only discernible to the most sensitive and most focused individuals. Then another millimeter, and then a whole centimeter. Before a person knows it, he finds himself so far away. The changes are first pnimi. B’chetzonius, very little, if any, change can be perceived. The rot starts in the most hidden recesses of an eved’s being.
It starts with thoughts. A thought enters the mind, an inappropriate thought. Not necessarily an issur, but not a thought that in any way leads to avodas Hashem. It’s an interruption, nevertheless. A fleeting thought is not per se the end of the world. Doesn’t the Gemara tell us that bad thoughts simply can’t be escaped. Granted, long term, as a person works on himself, the nature, frequency, and intensity of these thoughts changes, but on the micro level, they can’t be escaped. The question is what is done with this thought. The problem is the holding on to the thought, engaging in the thought, cherishing the thought, expanding the thought, saving the thought for a later time. The thought begins to grow, gain power and momentum, and in the most inopportune time it comes to us, disturbing the most powerful elements of our avodas Hashem.
At this point, we have already let it go to far. We must use all of the tools that our Sages have provided for us in order to “abort” this process before it proceeds too far. If we do this early enough, little damage is done, and we will have actually grown from this stealthy attack of our yetzer.
Unfortunately, we sometimes let it go. We have this gnawing feeling that things are not b’seder, but we are too caught up with all kinds of engagements, maybe even good engagements. Rav Tzadok begins Resisei Layla defining this world as a place of hiluch, a place of tirda, with only death bringing rest. Nach nafshei.
We forget that lo b’raash Hu, but in a kol dmama v’daka. In that nekuda pnimis without which, as the Gerer Rebbi said, the Satan is ok with all of our Torah and mitzvos. Without this kol, kol hayotze from Har Chorev that is so hard to hear, we along with our Torah and mitzvos are pgarim meisim, ch”v. We feel like the state described in Orot Hatshuva 3, in an arid desert, in chains. Our feelings are crude, our thoughts lowly. We know that Hashem is not within us – which is the greatest chet of all. We don’t even have the koach to cry out – it somehow gets stuck in our throats. Even crying is denied to us. This is our 9th of Av, an absolute churban of ruchniyus of our Judaism, which leads to the inevitable crumbling of the gashmiyus of our Judaism.
We praise Hashem as a mechayei meisim. We are these corpses, and our bones are very dry. We are the ones who ask hopelessly, cynically, “Can these bones possibly live?” It takes tchiyas hameisim, the keys of which have been given to no man, to bring us back to life, to real life of v’atem hadveikim kulchem chayim hayom. We dream for our Elul, thirst for our Rosh Hashana, envisage our Yom Kippur, dream to sit in the bitachon safety of our sukah. The fire of our Chanukah will light up the darkness, and the simcha of Purim will show the true meaning of ein simcha k’hataras hasfeikos. Then comes cheirus, the cheirus of Pesach, Alma Decherusa, Alma Detshuvah. Then, and only then, we finally find our chelek in Torah, our personal chelek. His Torah, our Torah – Toras Hashem and Toraso. We still pray for the dry bones to live…