Monday, November 14, 2011

Cleaning Up Old Garbage

Squirrels and cats sometimes get into our garbage cans and our local sanitation professionals do not empty them of the garbage which fell out of the holes in the garbage bags.

Not wanting to deal with loose, rotten garbage, I continued putting new garbage bags on top of the loose garbage. It didn't bother me too much because as long as the rotten garbage stayed down and out of sight, I took the approach of "see no evil hear no evil."

At one point a few weeks ago, I realized that this could not go on forever, so I got some new garbage bags and cleaned everything up. I will spare you the unpleasant details, but it suffices to say that I had to get my hands into some liquids and solids which had been there for a very long time.

Afterward, I changed my clothes and washed my hands up to the elbow one, two, three, and four times. I could not get rid of the putrid smell and I couldn't stand being in the same room as my hand. Finally, at my wife's suggestion, I doused my hand with a significant amount of a perfume she no longer used. After some time, I washed my hands a couple more times, and that pretty much did the trick.

It's remarkable that such putrecense existed right on my property for so long and it only bothered me a little, like a little fly that I kept shooing away. It was only when I finally started to clean my lingering garbage that it started to really stink and make itself felt. As long as I ignored it and pretended that it wasn't there, it only bothered me a little. It only seemed really bad when I finally decided to get rid of it.

Rav Moshe Weinberger has taught us at various points from various sources that as long as a person doesn't deal with his lingering issues in ruchnius (laziness, histaklus nashim, ga'avah, etc.), they exist, covered up by his every day life, they do not seem to bother him very much and they are not as apparent to others.

When a person finally decides, however, that he cannot raise himself higher with this or that ga'avah or ta'aiva weighing him down, he begins to dig out the problematic mida in order to get rid of it. But once he brings the tumah to the forefront so he can dispose of it, the stink and filth of the problem finally shows itself and he realizes how bad that innocuous fly really was all along.

This is why when a person starts to work on himself and thinks that he's becoming better, he will suddenly face bigger and stronger ta'avos and greater anger, etc. than he ever had before he was working on himself.

We must know not to take the monstrous ta'avos and bad midos that come out of us as a sign of failure or hopelessness though. We must know that exactly the opposite is true. When we stir up the issues we'd never dealt with before, they're only making themselves more known now exactly because we're finally bringing them to the fore as part of our effort to rid ourselves of them. The fact that we stink more of our latent problems when we start coming closer to ruchnius is a function of the fact that our efforts are meeting with success. This should encourage, rather than discourage us.

When one pours water on the dying ember of some ta'ava in order to extinguish it, the ember rattles and hisses and makes a big stink. It's presence and power is made more known precisely because it is finally being put out, and not because it is getting stronger.

May we all be zoche to clean out all of our old garbage and not get discouraged by the smell!


Shmuel said...

Great thought, great message.

Yasher ko'ach!

Neil Harris said...


Marc said...


Anonymous said...

what a mashal, what a deep thought!

Boruch Leff

truthseeker said...

Great article! Pleasure to read. :)

Anonymous said...


Yitzchak Meir Skobac said...

You hit that one out of the park!

Zara Scott said...

Yes, let's not forget to clean our hands before and after we clean out our garbage. With regards to your first sentence, I've seen cats digging our garbage, but I seldom see squirrels. I know because I always clean out our garbage every morning.

Rory Fugerson said...
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