Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What to Daven For Before You Give Into A Ta'avah

When it comes to the big avodah of changing over one's desires from the desires of his superficial self to wanting the same things that Hashem wants, one should realize that this is a long process and it is accomplished step-by-step, and not all at once.

In Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol 2, Ch. 26, Rav Shwartz writes that it is a major avoda to go from the world of "Ratzon Atzmo," wanting what one's external self wants, to the world of the "Ratzon Hashem," where "Retzoneinu la'asos ratzoncha," our only desire is to do Hashem's will.

Since this is such a big process, one must first start by clarifying which of one's desires are truly his inner desires, which are his external desires, and which are the will of Hashem. He says that there are three levels within a person. 1) There's the the Chelek HaEloki, the G-dly soul. 2) We also have a true, inner self. The desires of this part of one's self are one's true desires, and are the same as Hashem's will. 3) A person also has an external "I," whose desires do not necessarily coincide with the Ratzon Hashem at all. This part of the self is also called the "Nefesh Habahamis," the animal soul.

Rav Shwartz takes the example of a person who wants to eat due to ta'ava, a mere desire to eat. He is not referring to the eating that one does in order to live. Rather, he's talking about the kind of eating that people do just for the enjoyment of it. At first, a person is unlikely to be able to totally stop himself from eating out of ta'ava. Therefore, he suggests that a first step would be to begin to clarify to one's self which desires originate in his true inner self, and which are merely the desires of the external "I," the Nefesh Habahamis.

He has an amazing hisbonenus idea. He suggests that rather than jumping straight into fulfilling the ta'ava, as usual, he should briefly talk to himself about the true nature of his desires before he begins to eat whatever it is that he desires to eat. I'll translate this quick hisbonenus here:

I know that my inner self does not want to eat this, but my external self wants to eat it. I know that my superficial self still rules over me more than my inner self. And since this is my level, and my external side rules over me more than my inner side, and since right now is not a good time to do battle with my external side because I do not have the inner strength to do battle, I will now eat this food! But one thing is clear to me: My true desire is not to eat it, but I feel that I am not able to to stand against my external desire, and therefore I will eat!
The amazing and surprising thing about this is that it recognizes that it's not all or nothing. Growing into a person who want to do the ratzon Hashem and doesn't want anything physical for its own sake takes time and effort and it is a step-by-step process. This type of hisbonenus he suggests takes that into account and helps us start at the beginning, by clarifying to ourselves what really is right and what our true desires are and where they come from.

IY"H, may we be zocheh to apply these teachings and may these ideas help us clarify ourselves to ourselves on the road to a life of Kirvas Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of bbcgoodfood.com)

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Anonymous said...

The distinction between inner and outer self is interesting. There is a geat deal about it in Tanya in terms of nefesh habehamis and nefesh elokis, I:29-30. This reminds me of how obsessive compulsive disorder is treated; among other approaches is "It's not me, it's my OCD".

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

He must go into it in greater depth in those perakim. I've just finished the first perek on the nefesh habehamis and am now in the second perek, on the Nefesh HaElokis. I'm using Rav Shteinzaltz's peirush.

Rav Shwartz does focus a lot on clarifying to one's self what one wants, why he wants it (could be many reasons)and which part of one's self wants it. It's part of the avodah of "Da Es Atzmecha," his most recent sefer.

Though I do have intelligence reports coming in that there is a new sefer of his coming out, which is a peirush on Derech Hashem.

-Dixie Yid