Thursday, August 7, 2008
He Guides Us Like Children - Learning to Make It On Our Own
The Toldos Yaakov Yosef has a teaching at the beginnig of Parshas Maasei that really reflects my experience over time from intially becoming religious until now.
He's addressing the question, "How could it be that all Jewish people experienced the highest levels of Nevuah, prophecy and relelation, immediately after Yetzias Mitzrayim when they will weren't terribly distinguishable from the Egyptians? How could they experience levels of prophecy as great as Yechezkel Hanavi even while awake, when the Torah later says that only Moshe Rebbeinu merited such a level?"
He essentially answers that Hashem, at the beginning of our nation's existance as sevants of G-d, temporarily just handed us a great spiritual level without any real work or attainment on our part. He just wanted us to understand what kind of level a human being who serves G-d is capable of attaining so that we would know what our goal should be for the future. We then had to work, step by step, slowly but surely, back up to that level through the 49 days of the sefirah, up to Har Sinai, where we, again received the full relevalation of Hashem because "pasku zuhamasan." However, again, this level was only temporary and we were left on our own to slowly and gradually re-attain those lofty levels that we were initially just handed "for free," to get us hooked, so to speak.
He compares it to how a father initally trains his child to walk by holding the child's hand and helping the child walk at first. But at a certain point, the father withdraws his help so that the child can learn to walk on his/her own. (I can relate to this as well since we're almost up to this with our youngest daughter who was born just over a year ago.) The child will fall a few times, but this is necessary so that they child will learn to attain that skill on her own.
I can certainly relate to this. When I was first becoming religious, I was able to make huge strides in my mitzvah observance with relatively little effort. At one point, for instance, I had just read The World of the Yeshiva and Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism, two books which weren't meant to be so positive towards Frumkeit. Reading more about the orthodox life though, made me realize that I would be terribly stunted in my growth if I didn't start keeping "shomer negiah" and "kol isha," i.e. abstaining from physical contact with women and not listening to women singing. So in a very short period of time, while still in high school, I gave those things up. It wasn't a total breeze, but compared to the improvements I try to engage in now, it was much easier.
I definitely feel like for those first couple of years, Hashem was holding my hand and just leading me along the path till I got to a point where I could stay basically religious on my own. However, after those early stages, I feel like he said to me, "My dearest Yid from Dixie, it is time for me to let go now. If you want to keep growing closer to me, you're going to have to do it on your own now." It's a sad transition, but it is obviously the whole purpose of why we are created; to attain closeness with G-d through our own efforts, sacrifices & hishtadlus.
May Hashem help us attain the highest levels even after He has let go of our hands and expexts us to do it on our own. And may He continue to give us little nudges in the right direction!
(Picture courtesy of timbarcz)
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