Friday, July 27, 2007
The Piaseczna on Mind Over Body- Practice Makes Perfect
When I'm not eating on Tisha B'Av, it makes me think about how fragile and delicate we in America are. One day without eating, and we're all lying down and plotzing for some food or a drink Tisha B'Av afternoon. It's a sad statement on people like me. This thought reminds me that it's a ma'aleh in kedusha to be in control of your simple, mutar ta'avos.
The Rebbe Reb Klonymous Kalaman of Piaseczna, the Aish Kodesh, wrote in his sefer, Bnei Machshava Tova, about the Ta'anis HaRitva. In this kind of ta'anis, rather than not eating, you pick one meal a day, twice a week, once a week or whatever, and you only eat half the amount you usually eat. i.e. Stop eating even while you still have room for more food, even though you would still like to eat. For many, including me, this is almost harder than not eating at all.
The idea is that you should not always be a slave to your desires, to what you want to do. The only way to break your body's hold over you is by getting actual practrice in not listening to it. There are many things you can do to this. If you want a snack because you will enjoy it, and you're not really hungry, just don't eat it. Use 1 sugar instead of 3 in your coffee. Like the Ritva said, eat half as much as you would like. The Piaseczna suggests not getting your favorite dish on the table, but only your second favorite.
Without practicing self-control, you don't have any self control. Sometimes I feel like saying to myself, "I don't have to always do what I feel like doing. I can control myself when I want to. I just don't want to." This is like the alcoholic or the smoker who says, "I can quit whenever I want to, I just don't want to." This reminds me of the story of the Ba'al Mussar, whose name I can't remember, who once woke up early in the morning, desiring a glass of water. He was suddenly frozen with indecision. If he got the water, he'd be giving into his ta'ava for a drink (assuming he didn't really neeed it right then). If he didn't he'd be giveing into his laziness by not getting out of bed. His solution? He got out of bed and went to the sink but didn't get a drink. He was really focused on not being a slave to his desires. He wanted to live a life of decisions and not of desires.
May Hashem give us the strength to do one or more of these exercises in self-control each week in order to be people who are rulers over their body, and not people whose bodies rule over them.