Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lessons From Clouds

Baruch Hashem, R' Boruch Leff, a mechanech in Baltimore and writer for Yated,, and other publications has given me permission to post a series of pieces which quote my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, from his book Are You Growing?, which is available on Aish's website at a 40% discount here. He asked me to point out that these pieces were not written by Rav Weinberger himself, but represent R' Leff's understanding of things Rav Weinberger said in various shiurim. Enjoy!
We’re so usedto the ways of the world that we rarely take a step back and think likechildren.
When was the last time you asked a question with childlike wonder comparable to the cliché young child query, “Why is the sky blue?” If it’s been a while, let’s try one here.
Why did the Ribbono Shel Olam create a world with clouds in it?
We could answer the question scientifically that clouds consist of water that has evaporated then condensed into vapor. When these vapor particles combine and become heavy enough they will fall as rain. As described by meteorologist, Jeff Pardo, clouds “help regulate the earth's energy balance, by reflecting and scattering solar radiation or absorbing the earth's radiated infrared energy.Clouds maintain the earth’s atmospheric stability because clouds form when air rises and cools. When a blob of air goes up into an area of less pressure, itcools. When it reaches its dew point temperature, the rising parcel is no longer unsaturated. Water begins to condense, and it then rains.”

Taanis 3b states that Hashem never withholds clouds from the world and the above is part of the explanation why since they are required constantly for the world’s existence. But there are deeper lessons contained within the subject of clouds.  
There is avital lesson we learn from the experience of Nadav and Avihu that we allude todaily in our davening. In pesukei d’zimra, we say “HaMechaseh shamayim b’avim, hameichin la’aretz matar — G-d covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth” (Tehillim 147:8).
On a basic level, Rav Avraham Chaim Feuer explains that the onset of heavy, dark clouds inthe sky appears menacing, yet, it is nothing of the sort. G-d brings the clouds and fills them with water, rain, which will bring tremendous blessing to the world. Often, Hashem sends us worries and troubles but at the end of the tribulations we come to understand that the purpose of the ordeals was to fulfill great achievements.
In a deeper vein, Rav Tzadok in Tzidkas HaTzadik suggests that there are times when Hashem brings clouds to block the sunlight from shining for appropriate ecological purposes. Similarly, there are times when Hashem presents blockades tospiritual success for appropriate purposes. If a person stares directly into the sun, his eyesight is temporarily impaired, and prolonged exposure would lead to vision damage. This is why Hashem made it that we cannot tolerate staring into the sun, so as to prevent us from being hurt. The same is true in the spiritual realm. There are times when jumping to great spiritual heights too quickly is damaging to our growth. One who takes on too much too soon can easily burn out and, in the end, regress.
The deaths of Nadav and Avihu came as a result of this mistake. They desperately desired closeness with G-d, but they walked into the Holy of Holies before they were adequately prepared. Their souls weren’t ready to stare at the sun, to look directly into the awesome spiritual power that comes from Hashem.
Rav Yisrael Salanter lamented that we tend to stifle our spiritual growth because we all want to be righteous Torah scholars and finish the entire Talmud—but we all want to do it now! Life doesn’t work that way; spiritual growth certainly never works that way. People change and grow gradually. If someone takes on too much, too fast, the growth most often does not have any lasting effects. This is one of the reasons Hashem redeemed the Jewish people from Egypt in stages; releasing oneself from an idolatrous Egyptian culture cannot be done overnight.

We are all good people. We all want to reach our maximum spiritual potential. Yet, we sometimes move too fast for growth to last. How many of us leave Yom Kippur thinking we will never gossip again? And then that first violation happens when we aren't thinking, and we give up. We have to learn to move more slowly. We have to utilize patience in our spiritual growth.
So Hashem sends us clouds, at times, blocking out the spiritual light that we want to stare at directly. This is only for the goal of producing an abundant future rain, an enormous spiritual, permanent and cemented growth. He covers thespiritual heavens with barriers, with ‘dark clouds’ but only to bring about the spiritual rain.
Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita, suggested another reason why Hashem placed clouds in the sky. We understand that it is not such asimple spiritual exercise to try and ‘reach the heavens’ spiritually. As we discussed earlier, clouds act as a barrier, letting us know that there arelevels that are presently beyond us and we can’t leap to heights we’re not yet ready for. However, says Rav Weinberger, clouds have no substance to them. Youcan fly right through them once you come close. Clouds are a mirage, they arenot real obstacles.

The message is clear. Once a person starts to grow spiritually and embarks on the path toward heaven, he should not be intimidated by the obstacles, the clouds that lie before him. The clouds, the obstacles are not real blockades; they are an illusion. If you keep soaring, you’ll pass right through them and get to the spiritual heights of the world.
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1 comment:

Bob Miller said...

From "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all