Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deriding Those Who Emphasize "Repairing the Covenant"? & Beyond BT "Torah As Tool" Posting

I have two guest posts that were posted today. The first is from A Simple Jew, where he asked about why people deride Breslov Chassidus for its emphasis on repairing sins of an illicit nature, in the area of shmiras Habris. Here is his question, followed by a link to my answer:

A Simple Jew asks:

I have often heard people criticize Breslov Chassidus because they perceive it to have an overemphasis on the concept of shemiras habris. Given the fact that this concept pertains to overcoming one of a person's strongest and most powerful desires, would you attribute the criticism of shemiras habris to a critic's conscious or unconscious realization that they have great difficulties living up to the ideal? To what do you attribute Western society's derision of shemiras habris in general?

Dixie Yid Answers...

P.S. Two points to anyone who can guess why I chose the picture above...

Also, Beyond BT has reposted my post from a while back about whether those of us who come closer to Torah later in life should focus on Torah's practical benefits or its spiritual benefits when trying to fight out yetzer hara. Beyond BT: Should We Teach That Torah is the Best Worldly Tool?

Picture courtesy of Dave's wiki. Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.

12 comments:

A Simple Jew said...

...those in glass houses....

A Simple Jew said...

The bris correspondes to yesod which is a type of foundation, hence your picture?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, many deride the Breslover approach because the more you focus on not thinking about a pink elephant, the more you think about it.

The Rambam's aitza in Isurei Bi'ah 21:24 is the absolute best way to handle the area of tayva. The more Torah you learn and the more you are 'into it' with passion, the less you'll think about zenus. It's the anti-Bresolve appraich- it replaces the tayva to a good extent without obessessing on getting out of the tayva which can cause more tayva.
Many Baalei mussar, look in Alei Shur, Volume 1, page 40, for one source, say this type of yesod, based on the Rambam.

Hyssop said...

Is that a picture from Yosef's tomb?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

ASJ,

You hit the nail on the head. 2 points!

Anon,

The Gemara in Kiddushin itself also gives that advice. It says that when the yetzer comes at you (in the area of ta'ava), drag it to the beis Hamedresh.

One certainly can't argue with that advice. Perhaps it's not as anti as it looks though. One eitza is a way of preventing future aveiros and the Tikun Klali way is to correct those aveiros and blemishes that one has already created in himself. One does have to have a mehalech for that, no?

Hyssop,

Well you've got the Yosef=Yesod=shmiras habris connection right but it's not kever Yosef. It's an under-construction home, where only the footings & foundation are built.

Akiva Ben Canaan said...

One element of R Nachman's approach is extraordinarilly helpful, even if one is opposed to the tremendous focus on shmiras bris - Lo L'Hityaesh!

Still, I find R. Nachman's general approach less helpful than that of the Piacetsner (and many others, I know). He urges us to fight fire with fire; building general excitement and passion in serving God will lift one above his lowly physical desires; a constant focus on those desires is not helpful.

Akiva Ben Canaan said...

Also, I'm not sure its a good idea for most people to focus on repairing the blemishes they have created within themselves.

As the Nesivos Shalom on shovevim says - if a soldier stops in the midst of battle to bandage his wounds (repair his prior shmiras bris sins), he will almost certainly be killed by the enemy. Rather, he should run, run, run and think only about not getting shot again! Later on, when the battle has calmed (he is older and has fewer shmiras bris issues) he can bandage his wounds...

Micha Golshevsky said...

Akiva: Yes, Rebbe Nachman's warning not to despair is inspiring to many regardless of their personal orientation.
I am sorry to say this, but the rest of your evaluation of Breslov is mistaken.
1) Rebbe Nachman--like many earlier sources--advocates using the fire of kedushah against the fire of ta'avah. This is done through learning and davening with such passion that one serves Hashem with every drop of blood in his body. He has much to say on this topic.
2)Rebbe Nachman does not advocate focusing on the negative except during hisbodedus. In addition, Rebbe Nachman says that one cannot do hisbodedus properly unless he is happy the entire day. Rav Bender explained that this practically means that one who was not happy the entire day should not do cheshbon hanefesh during hisbodedus. Instead, his hisbodedus should consist of begging Hashem to attain true joy.
Rav Nosson says clearly that one must cast away even the truth if he knows that facing it now will not be productive in avodas Hashem. There are enough sources regarding this second point to write an entire book! As a matter of fact, Meshivas Nefesh (Restore My Soul) is a collection of part of these sources. Anyone who wants some powerful chizuk should procure a copy and learn it.
In addition Rebbe Nachman says that worry is very detrimental to problems of bris (as does the Vilna Gaon by the way.)
Any focus on Shemiras habris must only come after one has attained true chizuk and is filled with joy.
The mashal you quoted (based on the Toras Avos) is no stirah to Breslover Chasidus. Aderabah.

Akiva Ben Canaan said...

Rabbi Golshevsky - thanks for clarifying!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are saying that a person should NOT focus on their past sins unless they have reached a point where they are "filled with joy". But attaining a place of constant, true joy is itself a great level, is it not?

Does that not mean that for most people, who have not reached true joy, the Avodah of "correcting those aveiros and blemishes that one has already created in himself" (which R Dixie Yid discussed above) is not appropriate?

Also, does Rav Bender mean to say that, even if one is generally not on a level where he is in constant joy, if he has a particularly joyous day, he should cheshbon hanaefesh? Or does he restrict the cheshbon hanefesh to one is in a general state of simchah (which is a much higher level, I imagine)?

Thanks

Akiva Ben Canaan said...

Rabbi Golshevsky - thanks for clarifying!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are saying that a person should NOT focus on their past sins unless they have reached a point where they are "filled with joy". But attaining a place of constant, true joy is itself a great level, is it not?

Does that not mean that for most people, who have not reached true joy, the Avodah of "correcting those aveiros and blemishes that one has already created in himself" (which R Dixie Yid discussed above) is not appropriate?

Also, does Rav Bender mean to say that, even if one is generally not on a level where he is in constant joy, if he has a particularly joyous day, he should cheshbon hanaefesh? Or does he restrict the cheshbon hanefesh to one is in a general state of simchah (which is a much higher level, I imagine)?

Thanks

Micha Golshevsky said...

Excellent points. It actually depends on the person. When one is in a good state he most certainly can do cheshbon hanefesh but only if this will not break him. If it will he must leave this truth until he is ready to face it without this causing him to fall.
I didn't see what was written above (sorry, no time now maybe after Shabbos) but hisbodedus probably differs from lighter cheshbon hanefesh. We say viduy and do teshuvah in a positive way but hisbodedus entails a much stronger focus on the negative characteristic day after day.Although Rebbe Nachman teaches that it is one of the best ways to "burn out" the bad he must face the negative midah and change it. This means truly noticing that I have some serious negative within and wanting with all my soul to rid myself of it. Once I am at that stage I must turn to Hashem and beg him to deliver me from it and keep me delivered. This is very intense and can bring a person to fall spiritually if he is not positive. depression or worse So before making a daily powerful cheshbon hanefesh "judging myself, I must learn to be happy. I need to use hisbodedus to bring me to a state where an intense cheshbon will not cause any fall.I need to truly feel joy with myself no matter how many negative traits I have. As Rebbe Nachman puts it: The good is forever so one must be happy with it no matter what.
The main thing is to learn how to pick ourselves up after a fall and start again no matter what. We must rid ourselves of the ga'avah that says that we must be either perfect or nothing. Hashem only wants us to do what we can. Hischadshus is the key to every level. In Rav Nosson's words one must feel like a little child in cheder who is just being taught by the rebbe: "Kametz aleph makes an 'aw' sound." We should feel fresh like a small child starting for the first time. Hashem should help us keep starting anew until we understand the preciousness of each moment and merit the joy of connection to Hashem despite our shortcomings!

Anonymous said...

wow. that was beautiful.