Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ma'seh w/Alter from Novardok & How Responsibility Creates New Abilities


My rebbe taught a huge yesod that regardless of a person's current kochos, abilities, when he must accomplish something, Hashem gives him the kochos to get it done. He told over a ma'aseh about the Alter from Novardok, which was quoted in a sefer by Rav Shmuel Birenbaum, the Mirer Rosh Yeshiva.

During World War I, there was no food or money in Europe and all of the yeshivos were forced to close down. There were no yeshivos learning Torah at that time in Europe. However, the Alter from Novardok made an announcement that spread around Eastern Europe and Lithuania like wildfire. He said that anyone who wanted to learn Torah, should come and he will provide them with food and a place to sleep. Talmidim flocked there and without any known resources to do so, through his leadership, he started 30 yeshivos, which were virtually the only bastions of Torah learning during that war.

Through tremendous sacrifice, he traveled all around raising money to feed all of these people, so he could keep his word. It got to the point that even though he had no money for these travels, since he was an old man, the anti-Semitic gentiles who operated the train, had mercy on him and let him hang onto the bars between the cars of the train, which he did all day and night on the ride between cities.

Someone asked him how he could do it. He answered that the way is that he never ever made a cheshbon, a calculation, "Am I able to do this." Rather, his calculation was "Does this need to be done?" That was all.

Making absolute decisions, and committing one's self to a decision is the way to cause Hashem to imbue you with kochos that you never had up to this point.

Before I started working in a secular job, I had difficulty being on time to a 7 AM minyan. I was never a morning person. I was the type of person who stayed up late and had a very difficult time getting up in the morning. Once I started working outside klei kodesh, I knew that I would not be able to learn at night. After a full day of work, I didn't think I would consistently be able to drag myself out of the house to learn, besides the irregularities in nighttime learning with simchas, meetings, and other things that interrupt the kevius, sacrosanct-ness, of such a seder in learning. So the only other option was getting up to learn before davening, which seemed like an impossibility, given my nature.

However, since it was a choice between essentially not learning virtually at all or finding a way to get up early, I was just started doing it, even without "knowing" that I could do it. I got up for a 5-7 AM seder in gemara. B"H, it is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life and learning during that time is just magical.

When I started learning the Bilvavi seforim, I really had no good time to learn it with my little chaburah and all other times were taken by other things. I also didn't want to take away time from my seder in gemara b'iyun. So because I felt that there was no other choice (it's either learn at 4:30 AM or don't learn Bilvavi b'kevius at all), I was able to start getting up for that 4:30 seder.

So I can tell you from personal experience, even if you don't have the kochos for something, if you realize that it needs to be done, Hashem will give you the kochos to do it anyway!

May Hashem help all of us to stretch ourselves beyond our current vision of our own capacity to reach new heights!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture Courtesy of AlarmClockDirectory.com)

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37 comments:

A Simple Jew said...

Early morning learning IS magical. It is my favorite time of day.

Do you learn both Germara and Bilvavi in the morning?

DixieYid said...

Yes, Bilvavi from 4:30-5 AM. And Gemara b'iyun (at least Baalabatish b'iyun) till davening at 7. :-)

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

You must get up at 4AM then-wow.

When do you go to sleep?

DixieYid said...

You tell me when you go to bed and then I'll tell you...

:-)

-Dixie Yid

Neil Harris said...

Great post. I, too, was never a morning person. I stuggle, but in the end, there is only one choice...to get up and start the day.

Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz zt"l, The Alter of Novardok, built one of the largest yeshiva networks in all of Litva/Russia during the yearly 1900s.
"I never thought about if I should do something, but rather, if I needed to do something."

Anonymous said...

I don't get your point but I'll tell you anyway. I am usually asleep by 11:30-12 and get up around 6.

DixieYid said...

Anonymous,

I had no point. That's my charm.

I was just asking since I didn't know anything about you but you wanted to know something about me. I'm being a bit silly.

Before I started law school in the evening program after work, I used to go to bed between 9 and 9:30. But now, I get to bed between 11 and 11:30 ususally. It's tough but like I said in the main post, I don't feel I have a choice because I wouldn't be learning any significant amount if I didn't do this and how can a Jew live like that?

And like it said in the post, when you feel you have no choice, you just do it and Hashem gives you a way to make it happen. And like I also said, it really is a special time of the day to learn. Nothing like it.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, getting 5 hours or less of sleep per night is against ushmartem es nafshoseichem.

DixieYid said...

Anon,

You paskened that halacha yourself? Pretty good. :-P

Take a look at me in person during the day and see if you still feel that way.

I know great Rabbonim who go on less than half of what I get. I don't know how they do it, but I believe that when one gives himself over to avodas Hashem totally (like they do, not counting myself in this category b'chlal) Hashem gives you the koach.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

All medical studies say 5 hours or less long term leads to all sorts of medical problems. Not a psak, just a fact. And we are supposed to listen to doctors of our time
Did you ask your rebbe before you started doing this, trying to emulate the Amshinover Rebbe or Skverer Rebbe with so little sleep?

Anonymous said...

BTW, what is :-P?

maks said...

All medical studies say 5 hours or less long term leads to all sorts of medical problems

Don't believe the hype.

You're missing the whole point of the post. When there's a ratzon, Hashem gives a person the kochos. And if that happens to fall outside of what medical studies show... well, the Torah is Lema'alah Min Ha'Tevah.

DixieYid said...

Thanks Maks. :-)

Anon,

Maks take is basically how I see it.

I didn't say that I'm trying to be like the Amshinover or the Skverer Rebbe (neither of whome I was referring to). I was bringing the fact of people like that to show that we don't necessarily say something is a cut & dry halachic psak just because of some possible medical effects that don't even show up until after time. Shomer pesaim Hashem.

-Dixe Yid

Anonymous said...

"When there's a ratzon, Hashem gives a person the kochos. And if that happens to fall outside of what medical studies show... well, the Torah is Lema'alah Min Ha'Tevah."

Sounds very nice but as I said before, did you ask your rebbe before taking this radical superman step?

Anonymous said...

because of some possible medical effects that don't even show up until after time. Shomer pesaim Hashem.

Read Rabbi Kirzner's, zl, Artscroll book on suffering where he blows this exact shomer pesaim misapplied shita out of the water. I bet you'd say the same for poor eating habits and lack of exercise too since they also 'only' show up later.
Rav Kirzner shows how many if not most health problems are really due to lack of proper hishtadlus.

DixieYid said...

Basically, I have problems with your application here. There's something off-balance about your approach.

I can't justify learning 1 or 2 hours less learning per day, 5 days per week, 4 weeks per month, 12 months per year for several years because of a worried state about what "may" happen to a certain statistical portion of the population in a similar situation. It just doesn't add up.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

"There's something off-balance about your approach."

What's off-balance is that you have not asked your rebbe (since you have not responded to that point a few times now) about taking this radical step. Ask him and see if he agrees with you.

My approach is the norm-Yours is the chidush.

DixieYid said...

You know what, it is true that I did not act this *direct* question to my rebbe before startint to do it because it seemed obvious based on two other related questions that I did ask.

One was whether or not I should do the particular limud that I started off with during that time slot, and I did specify to him in my question what the time slot was. He said it was a great and wonderful idea. We weren't even discussing whether or not the time slot was a good idea, but rather the subject of the limud.

And then again a little later, when we finished that first sefer, I asked him what we should learn during that time slot after that. The fact of whether or not getting up early to learn is a good idea or not mitzad health reasons seemed like such a non question that who would have ever thought to ask.

However, BL"N, I will ask him the specific question.

Halevai people engaged in such intricate cheshbonos before doing aveiros as you suggest one do before doing mitzvos!

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

I await to see what your rebbe says but make sure you don't confuse the shayla. The shayla is not if you should learn early in the AM. Learning early is wonderful-no one is against that. The shayla is whether you should be getting 4 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis.
By all means learn early in the AM, just go to sleep earlier.

I await to hear if your rebbe says you should get 4 hours of sleep a night.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting. . .

DixieYid said...

You have just gotten obnoxious, but I love you anyway.

I asked him 3 days ago and he said it's a good thing and the amount of sleep is dependant on the person, no one size fits all amount, as you seem to belive in.

Hatzlacha raba with the good things that you do though!

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

Hatzlacha functioning on 4 hours of sleep.

Anonymous said...

You should know that though you think I'm the yetzer hara to your sleep plan in disguise, my point was sincerely to keep you in check because functioning on 4 hours of sleep is on the radical side and often the yetzer hara wants to rev us up with extreme overdrive for a while so then we'll burn out our engines, sometimes with long term damage. I didn't want that to happen to you.

DixieYid said...

The snide tone of your comments mitigates against the purported "for my own good" intentions.

However, it's been over 3 years now and going strong. Now my rebbe's very specific eitza *isn't* good enough anymore since it doesn't conform with your personal conception of things?

You have to think above your current kochos. Don't live so "inside the box." If you go outside the box for Hashem once in a while, He will go outside the box for you.

At any rate, this whole discussion about me takes your focus away from you. You should ask yourself what aspect of your avodas Hashem are just a little bit beyond what you think your current kochos are. Make an absolute decision (hachlata) to go for that next step, and you will see how Hashem will help you succeed if you are committed.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

"The snide tone of your comments mitigates against the purported "for my own good" intentions."

For the record, and I just re-read the string of comments here, if I started getting snide, it was in reaction to your cynical 'you paskined that halacha yourself' line-very cynical, just because someone had a valid kashya that deserved a teirutz.

So, you've been getting 4 hours of sleep per night for 3 years now?

DixieYid said...

Alright, this is getting silly. Conversation over.

Be well.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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rabbi newman said...

Came across this post and read the comments-interesting.

I hear your point about each person needing diff. sleep but there is a minimum that is suggested by the rapoh yerapeh, today's doctors, which is really Hashem since he is telling us to go to doctors, as Bilvavi writes in one place. So, the question is when do we say you can go against the doctors, and when not.

What's bad about going to sleep earlier if one is getting up at 4AM?

Anon. 's basis is more or less solid in my opinion.

DixieYid said...

R' Newman,

Coincedentally, you have the same IP address as anonymous. Fascinating.

Nothing's wrong with going to sleep earlier, but in my case it isn't possible for the time being. I'm in night school and unfortunately it's not shiach.

At any rate, anon was about it about it being 4 hours/night anyway since I'd said I get to bed at 11-11:30 so it's really closer to 5 hours of sleep anyway and his whole point about sleep was that "less" than 5 hours had possible bad effects in a portion of the population. So the health point is weak as it relates to me anyway.

But like I said to him, the post was not about me. It was about how Hashem takes you beyond yourself when you feel that there's no other choice and you make an absolute decision to do so.

So my question to you is: What part of your avodas Hashem do you feel you need to do but you just haven't felt able to take on yet?"

I'm looking forward to your resopnse!

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...
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rabbi newman said...

Exercise is part of avodas Hashem.

DixieYid said...

Rabbi Newman, indeed it is (or can be). See my post here: http://dixieyid.blogspot.com/2007/07/piaseczna-on-mind-over-body-practice.html

It can also be good Psychoneuro-Immunologicly.

-Dixie Yid

rabbi newman said...

I haven't had time for it, and my doctor says I need it, so that's what I think I need to do over my kochos (not the only thing of course). May Hashem help.

DixieYid said...

Hashem ya'azor! Hatzlacha raba!

-Dixie Yid

maks said...

I realy don't want to start this up all over again, but I just saw this link and it reminded me of this post so I thought to share it:
http://www.mysefer.com/uploads/images_products_Scanned/2999.gif

In the first section there titled "Laws of Tiqqun Hatzoth and Getting Dressed" by the Ben Ish Hai, (first paragraph) he states that according to all the greatest doctors it is unhealthy to sleep less than 6 hours. However, read what he says in the second paragraph. :)
He does say "occasionaly"... I'm not sure what he would hold regarding every day on a regular basis though.

DixieYid said...

Maks, thanks for the ma'areh makom!

-Dixie Yid