Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ikar & Tafel: Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

In Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Vol. 5, Ma'amar 32 in the "Pirkei Avodah U'Machshava" section, Rav Shwartz talks about the fact that the point of life is to focus on the "point of life" in everything with which one comes into contact with.

Everything one comes into contact with has an aspect which is Prozdor/Vestibule/"Means" and an aspect which is Traklin/Hall/"Ends." One always has the choice to focus on the vessel that one must deal with or on the purpose for which that vessel was brought into his life at the time.

The innermost purpose of everything that one encounters is Kirvas Elokim. And there are many vessles and means by which we are meant to acquire that Deveikus B'Borei in all of life's aspects.

For instance, if I have an assignment at my job, I can focus on the external garment of that aspect of my life, or I can focus on its inner point. I could feel about the assignment that I want to work on it in order to learn more about that field of law. In order to make money by showing my firm that I can be trusted with the firm's clients' work. In order to impress others and be recognized as a competent and intelligent member of a team who can be counted on for "important" work. But all of those reasons or purposes for doing the assignment do not begin to touch the real reason Hashem caused me to encounter that assignment.

While it is true that I must perform with excellence and attention to detail on the assignment, that is primarily because doing so is the Ratzon Hashem. Doing the job one is paid for is basic honesty, Choshen Mishpat. To do otherwise would be similar to geneiva, stealing money/ my salary from my employer without performing my part of the bargain, which is certainly not Ratzon Hashem. Doing so also creates a Kiddush Hashem in front of the client and others in the firm.

The doing of a good job is the same outwardly, whether one is doing so for the superficial reasons or for the inner reason. But my spiritual level will be conpletely different depending on my intent. If I think to myself periodically throughout the day that I am doing whatever particular act that I am doing because it is the Ratzon Hashem and that I want to do the Ratzon Hashem to become closer to the Creator and to give Him nachas ruach, pleasure in having His children do His will, then I am not living a life connecting to mere "means" that enclothe the true purpose for things. Rather, I will be connecting to the tachlis, the real purpose of things, and not merely their outer expression.

Then my life will be "real" and not a shell of a life, with an outer form bu no substance.


aaron.nanach said...


Is there a connection between the tachlis you spoke of and the techelet in the tzitzit?

Akiva Ben Canaan said...

My holy friend - if only I were on your level of seeing the deeper significance and holiness in my work!

One thought - Rav Weinberger often talks about the feeling of disgust one has at the end of yom tov, knowing that one has to head back to work. And I've often found that the more annoyed I feel about working, the more I enjoy and look forward to Shabbos.

How does this feeling of disgust towards the secular matters that we are forced to partake in - a feeling which R Weinberger
implies is a good feeling to have -fit together with the approach you outline here?

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct. However, don't let your yetzer fool you, spending 90% of your waking hours trying to earn a living (no matter what your inner kavahna's are while working) is a symptom of this bitter galus. At best it's a b'dieved.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Akiva, i wrote what I wrote because I want to and am trying to work on seeing work that way, but I certainly don't mean to imply that I am yet as big as my secheil's hasagos. Besides, I have been at this (in the big firms at least)for just over a week. You've been doing it for years so that would probably make seeing it as challenging harder, since it isn't new.

But as to your second point, I would say that one should feel each emotion in its proper time. When I'm back in my home and Shul, enjoying the holiness of Yom Tov, I should be sad when that time is ebbing away. But when I'm already at work the next day, I should look at whatever my current matzav is, as a lechatchila, as the Ratzon Hashem.

In Ma'amar 33 (I think) in the section I quoted in the main post, he talks about the fact that our emotions are not actually an expression of our essence. They are merely a garment to our nefesh, our essence. Once we are able to stop identifying our emotions with our "self," then we will have the ability to change emotions when appropriate just as quickly and easily as we can change clothes. Because emotions are just that, garments of the soul, and they can be exchanged just as quickly as changing socks.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


you may be right that it's the symptom of a bitter galus, but "bidieved?" Do you really believe that anything that one must do (and if he wouldn't he wouldn't be doing Ratzon Hashem) is bidieved???

Neil said...

This was a beautiful post (I could write more, but wont).

Anonymous said...

DY- It's nearly impossible for us to see ourselves clearly and accurately. So instead of talking about myself, I'll tell you a story about my great-grandfather, a"h:
He was a simple yid who was born and lived in the part of the world which we call the Ukraine today. In the very early 1900's he came to America (New York) because he wanted to try to earn a better living. He wasn't looking to get rich or to indulge in gashmeius. He simply wanted to support himself and send money home to his parents and relatives. He stayed in the U.S. for a very few short years before returning to the Ukraine. The reason he left the U.S. was beacuse, in his opinion, even the stones in America were treif. He was making more money here then he could have dreamed of making there. Yet he left anyway beacuse no amount of money was worth selling his soul for. Could I possibly make that same decision?

You are correct to write that we "must" earn a living and support our families. But how much is enough? Is it Hashem's will for me to live on Long Island where the cost of living is significantly higher than the cost of living in many other parts of the world? Or is it my will? Am I working long hours every day because it's Hashem's will for me or am I doing it to fund the lifestyle that I WANT? Is my halachic oblligation to support my family a motivator or a rationalization?

Brother, believe me when I tell you that I'm really just thinking about my own life out loud. Like you, I live in the Five Towns area and I make my living as a lawyer. I'm certainly not trying to be harsh.

I'm sorry for the long winded comment! One last story and I'm done: I was listening to an audio shiur a few months ago which was given by a Rav in Eretz Yisrael. He told the story of a student learning in his Yeshiva who was experiencing tremendous financial difficulty. The situation was so bad that this student was unsure whether or not he would be able to continue in Kollel. Then, unexpectadly he recived an inheritance. The sum was sufficient to allow this man to purchase an apartment mortgage free. The savings he realized from no longer having to pay rent and being able to live mortgage free allowed him to stay in Kollel. I don't remember the amount of his inheritance but I do remeber that when the Rav mentioned the number I laughed (or maybe it was a cry!!) at the thought that this sum of money, which was literally a life saver for this student, was not sufficient to get the average orthodox New Yorker through one year of orinary expenses.

Harachaman Hu yanchileinu l'yom sh'kulo Shabbos u'menucha l'chayei ha olamim.

All the best,