Inspired by Reb Kalonymos Kalman's ideal of a group of people coming together with the common goal of enhancing their service of God, increasing their sensitivity to all things spiritual, strengthening their love of acheinu kol beis Yisrael, and unlocking the enormous potential that we all have to cleave to the Almighty.

Interaction and discussion of practical ideas and concepts toward this end, culled from any Torah true source is welcome and appreciated.

Observations and personal experiences are also welcome; the point is to grow!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Yarhzeit of Reb Yisrael Salanter-25th of Shevat

The following words  have been on my mind for the past two months.  They were written by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman, in the introduction to his translation and commentary of Messilas Yesharim, The Path of the Just:
The greatest problem we Jews have to contend with today, though its not recognized as such yet, is the loss of our memories and dreams.  We have forgotten who we are, what we do, where we would like to be, what our unique national power and genius is, and what it is that makes us continue to go forward in history.

Once we had character and vision.  If we go lost or sidetracked, we had only to close our eyes and hear ourselves again, and we would go right on course to the goal we had recognized (and either followed or openly disavowed but recognized nontheless).  But we have lost this.  Like a singer in the midst of a great din and rumble, we cannot hear our keynote, and we are dumbfounded.

Indeed, dumbfounded, or numb.  Many are living a vibrant life of observant Judaism, while others are floating from day to day, from Shabbos to Shabbos.  It's been 128 since Reb Yisrael left this world.  It is easy enough to point fingers, write blogs, and bemoan the current state of the observant life.  The fact that, as least for me, there is a desire to strive for an absence of mediocrity is due to R Yisrael Salanter.

For a biography please see this.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Do Battle With Strategies.

In honor of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler's yahrtzeit (earlier today, the 25th of Teves):

Rav Dessler was a non-stop smoker for quite some time while serving as the mashgiach in the yeshiva in Gateshead. Once, the bachurim noticed a sign on the door to Rav Dessler's office with an announcement that the mashgiach had officially quit smoking. Mystified, one of the faculty members approached Rav Dessler and questioned him about the sign. After all, the mashgiach wasn't known for being ostentatious, so why the proclamation.

Rav Dessler turned to his colleague and replied (paraphrasing):

I know that it isn't healthy to smoke, and I really want to quit. However, I know that the urge - the taivah - for a cigarette may be too strong to resist, and I will never really quit. By putting up that sign, I'm performing a little test, to see which is stronger - my taivah for a cigarette or my taivah of pride? If people read that sign and then see me smoking again, they might think less of me for not being able to commit to something so trivial; I am confident that my ego won't allow for that...
 Obviously it takes a special Gadol, one whose self-awareness is intact to such an extent to make such an evaluation, but the ingenuity of Rav Dessler's strategy is amazing. Utilizing one middah against another middah can be a powerfully effective way to fix negative traits and stop unhealthy behavior.