Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Answer to Q&A at A Simple Jew About Seeing the Goodness in Suffering

Please click on over to A Simple Jew. This morning, he posted a Q&A session with me on a topic related to something I've been posting about earlier in the week, but from a somewhat different angle. I was writing about questions relating to how one views others' suffering. As you will see, ASJ's question is about how to view own own suffering from the perspective of Emunah. The following was A Simple Jews Question, and you can click here for my answer!

A Simple Jew asks:

The Me'or Einayim taught that if a person can truthfully view the suffering he is undergoing as being ultimately for his own good, he will immediately experience relief from his suffering.

We may fully understand that taking a bitter-tasting medicine can help us feel better in the long run, yet this knowledge still doesn't change the fact that the medicine does not taste sweet to us. How are we, on our lowly level, supposed to honestly regard the suffering and difficulties we experience in a positive light and experience them as such?

Dixie Yid Answers...

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leah shaindel said...

You wrote that the bilvavi derech and the reb nachman derech are different just as a side point- so what is a person limaiseh supposed to do with all these different drachim? I know you wrote in your oro shel moshiach post that there is a higher unity underlying it all, but how does that help a person practically? I feel like that's realizing limashal that 2 different cake recipes actually have many of the same ingredients, and taste best when eaten side by side. but practically, you can't just mix 2 different recipes of two different cakes together- they both come out good on their own but you can't just mix them. I mean Rav Shwartz is someone who almost made his own new recipe based on other recipes but for little me to mix all these drachim...? how do we l'maiseh combine them? (my mashal is prob a little off, but you get the q)

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Leah Shaindel,

This is a great question and also relates to the debate you were referring to in the comment section on the Oro Shel Moshiach post.

You're right that while we're living in this physical world, we may be zocheh to *know* about the unity behind different derachim. And we may be zocheh to see that unity in many instances. But as long as we're alive, we are only capable of practically holding like one side in most cases. For instance, in the machlokes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai in the orientation of a mezuzah, one can either have their mezuzah sideways or verticle. Although we put them diagonal, that really isn't fulfilling either opinion. We can only pasken like one or the other of two mutually exclusive shitos on a practical level.

As between the free-flowing dialouge with G-d of Breslov or the systematic self-building process of tefillah in the Bilvavi derech, I don't really see a practical way of doing both. (Unless you have a lot of time and can do an hour of free flow and an hour of "derech binyan" tefillah each day, in addition to small bursts of conversation throughout the day.) For most people you just have to follow one or the other.

I asked Rav Shwartz this specific quesiton, i.e. the compatibility of what he writes with Rebbe Nachman and I'll share his answer later because I have to leave for ma'ariv. Look forward to your thoughts.

Leah Shaindel said...

wow cool looking foward to hearing Rav Shwartz's response. I definitely agree- except then what are you supposed to think when letsay I follow Rav Shwartz's derech but hear something so beautiful about a different type of avodah of in this example, free flowing dialogue with Hashem. So I think, oh that's nice but that's not what I do?
And then, how do you define a derech of avodah? Because isn't even a certain mindset and approach towards letsay what hashgacha pratis means a part of a particular derech? So that when even learning a thought from another derech , I might have to say thats beautiful, but not apply it. Which for men, I guess is fine because its all just for learning Torah, like learning 20 dif opinions in the gemara and then only applying one. But for me as a girl, i really only want to learn what I can actually apply to my thoughts, feelings and actions. So it almost seems futile to learn anything but the derech I choose. So I am really interested in what Rav Shwartz has to say- because for me I've chosen to follow bilvavi as a derech, but I love Reb Nachman! thanks!

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Leah Shaindel,

Okay. I basically layed out what I thought was the major difference beween the kind of hisbodedus that Rebbe Nachman talks about in Likutei Moharan and what he (Rav Shwartz) writes in the Bilvavi seforim. i.e. That Rebbe Nachman talks about a free-flowing, talking-from-the-heart, whatever-comes-to-mind type of hisbodedus while Bilvavi talks about a very structured inculcate-myself-with-a-concept-to-make-it-a-reality type of hisbodedus. To me they seem to have a similar goal, which is increasing our connectin to Hashem. But Rav Shwartz seems to say that an approach like Rebbe Nachman's (while not naming it specifically) won't accomplish the goal of increasing one's Deveikus with Hashem since it isn't done "derech binyan," in a structured, step-by-step way.

He answered me that he doesn't think that they contradict because the two seforim were written in two different ways. He said that Likutei Moharan is not organized in a step-by-step method, so it's not clear at which stage of personal spiritual development Rebbe Nachman's talking about. (Indeed, Bilvavi does talk about doing more of a Rebbe Nachman type approach in the higher stages of development.) He distinguished the Bilvavi seforim from that by saying that Bilvavi was written to be more systematic and step-by-step. Therefore, inferences about contradictions couldn't necessarily be made.

However, he did not say that it *didn't* contradict either. I also felt that he may have seen my question as more theoretical than practical, and that he therefore wasn't really trying to directly answer the question. So I don't personally have the sense that he was affirmatively saying that there wasn't any contradiction, but was merely trying to leave open the possibility that there isn't any.

As to which method you should follow to the extent that the two approaches to hisbodedus might be contradictory, I can't tell you. The only suggestion I would give is, on a practical level to pick the derech that you feel would be the most effective in developing Deveikus with Hashem and then sticking with that method. As a human being, it's not really possible to do both (unless, like I mentioned before you have enough time in the day to do over two hours of hisbodedus daily and can accomodate both approaches simultaneously!). You may know that there is an inner unity within the two approaches, but one can't live that way practicaly and each of us have to make a choice and stick with it.

For those of us who merit to be brought up in a community with a "derech," the first choice would be to follow that derech. For those who were brought up in one derech but whose shoresh neshoma calls them to switch to something else, that need should be taken seriously. And for those, like me, who were not brought up with one derech in avodas Hashem, we need to seach out the options out there, figure out which derech is the best for us, based on where our shoresh neshoma pulls us, and then try to stay consistent in that derech on a practial level, even if we're still learning other approaches "on the side."

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

As to your other question about what you should do, as a woman with no independent mitzvah of Talmud Torah when you have the opportunity to learn about things that don't fit within the derech avodah that you've chosen, I see two main approaches. One is to say, as you did, that that derech is not yours and so you won't learn it since you only want to learn practical things. However, there's another aspect to learning Torah from drachim other than one's primary derech. And that is the aspect of hisorerus, inspiration. All of us go through the waxing and waning "Ratzo v'shov" cycles throughout our lives. But in order to get through the "shov," low times, we need some hisorerus, inspiration in the high times to take us through the "low" times. Even women need this. We all need to recharge our batteries so we can keep going in a good way during the times of "smallmindedness," mochin d'katnus. So I think that even as a woman, seeing inspiration in whatever place you can find it is also a practical aspect of learning Torah that you can benefit from, even from derachim other than your primary derech avodah. Hope that thought helps!

Leah Shaindel said...

thank you- that really clarified things