Friday, January 4, 2008

Keeping Your Idealism In the Face of Smallness

Rav Gedalia Schor, in the sefer Ohr Gedaliyahu on Parshas Va'eira, taught an amazing thing. He brought down, from the Sfas Emes and the Sefer Toras Emes from the Ramak, that one of the things that Yetzias Mitzrayim (The Exodus) has in common with Brias Ha'olam (The creation of the world) is that in both cases, Hashem started out with the idea that He would like to conduct things with the midas hadin, the attribute of strict justice. And then, when he saw that the world/the Jewish people could not handle it, he "retracted" and decided to join the midas harachamim, the attribute of Mercy with the midas hadin, the attribute of strict justice. (Midrash Raba on the pasuk in Shmos 6:1, "וידבר אלהים אל משהוידבר אלהים אל משה, ולפי שנסתכל הקדוש ברוך הוא, שבשביל צער ישראל דבר כן, חזר ונהג עמו במדת רחמים, הדא הוא דכתיב: ויאמר אליו אני ה'") The Sfas Emes and the Ramak said that Hashem didn't just "change his mind," ChV"Sh. Rather, the Sfas Emes points out that it doesn't say that he "threw out" the attribute of true justice, but rather, that he mixed the attribute of mercy with it.

**The Sfas Emes says, according to Rav Schorr, that Hashem wanted davka and lechatchila to start creating the world with the attribute of true justice so that there would always exist within the thoughts and desires of man to live up to some true, unadulterated, pure goal, unaffected by compromise. Man's idealism should never be lost in the accommodations of practical life. Therefore, he started the creation of the world with midas hadin (strict justice) to build the mida of uncompromising idealism for what could and should be into mankind.**

He applies this idea to Yetzias Mitzrayim in that Moshe hoped that the Jewish people would be able to truly fulfill the reasons for which they had been sent to suffer in Egypt, by staying there through the full 400 years as promised by Hashem to Avraham. However, as the Midrash says, the Jewish people could no longer tolerate the slavery and suffering, and so Hashem had to adulterate the pure idealism of what was meant to be accomplished through their going through the full allotment of slavery (for more on that, see the 7th paragraph in this post).

This idea fits in so beautifully with what Rav Kook wrote about in not letting go of one's idealism in Ruchnius, no matter how much smallness he gets caught up in. Let me translate a little bit from Oros Hateshuva 14:38:

Sometimes the spirit falls into smallness, and the person's soul can find no rest because of his lack of good deeds and because he calculates how many sins [he has committed], and because of the paucity of his involvement in Torah. A person must strengthen himself in the area of thought and he should known that one who understands one thing from another [who holds onto pure and idea thoughts], his thoughts are considered before the Holy One as sacrifices and Elevation offerings (Zohar Naso 121b). If so, holy thoughts and elevated intellectual images have all of the benefits of Korbanos and all of the benefits of the practical services which are related to them... And it is possible that many of a person's failings come because he does not properly value the fundamental nature of his thoughts.
IY"H, may you and I both merit to maintain our idealism for what we can become and not to be discouraged at all by present or past failures.

-Dixie Yid

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Anonymous said...

great mareh makom and yesod thanks!

yitz said...

thanks, especially for the Rav Kook quote..

but i think in a way this Ohr Gedalyahu somewhat flies in the face of your older post about destroying in order to build. (which you reference) Namely, the fact that HaShem didn't destroy the initial middah of din but rather joined it with rachamim seems to run counter to what you said earlier.

This is a question more than an observation because your destroying in order to build torah just hit me like a ton of bricks..

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


I don't think it runs counter to the idea of "stira l'tzorech binyan." I think he was saying that lechatchila, the plan was that midas hadin should exist on the level of machshava and that midas rachamim should exist in the olam ha'ma'aseh.

What did that other post mean to you, in that you said it hit you like a ton of bricks?