Devar Torah - Tezaveh

Thursday, 6 February, 2014 - 12:01 am

The Portrait of a Chosid

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

Once, after one of his stays in Mezrich, as the Alter Rebbe was leaving the Maggid of Mezrich, Reb Avraham the son of the Mezricher Maggid was accompanying him and he said to the wagon driver to “whip the horses.”  There are two versions of what he said.  Either to whip the horse so the horse knows he is a horse or that the horse becomes “ois ferd”! (The horse should stop being a horse.)  When the Alter Rebbe heard this he turned back saying that he needs to go back to the Maggid to learn this avodah.

Another story…

One time the Rebbe Rashab was going away from Lubavitch and in the same carriage was another Jew who asked the question;  how do we know that Malachim exist if we have never seen them nor has our fathers ever seen one?  The Rebbe answered by explaining the fact that right now we are traveling for a certain purpose.  There are three thoughts involved: 1- Our thoughts - We know the purpose of our trip is to reach our destination and we will accomplish what we need to; 2- The wagon driver’s thoughts – His concern is about bringing parnassa to his family through this trip; 3- The horses thoughts –There will probably be more hay to eat in the new destination.  Just because the horse considers that this is the purpose of his trip, this does not mean the entire purpose of the trip is actually for the horse’s food!  So too, there is a neshama that came to this destination in a wagon (the body) and an animal soul that we need to feed.  If the animal soul only thinks about food this does not mean the neshama has no other purpose. The reason why we don’t feel the spiritual purpose is because all day we are thinking about hay (our physicality).

Nowadays many people say that they don’t feel that Chassidus penetrates them.  They can’t tap into it.  They feel it doesn’t speak to them.  One of the reasons is because we do not change our behavior.  As mentioned before; we are born with an animal soul, a wild horse that needs to be saddled by bending ourselves. As chassidus explains, we should not give in to everything our body wants.  When the body wants something, even if it has the best hechsher, we need to control ourselves so that everything should be for the purpose of serving Hashem. 

As the story goes; once there was a farbrengen and there was no farbeisin to be found.  The chossid, the  Rashbatz , had a goat.  They shechted the goat and prepared it for farbeisin.  In the morning, his wife came running in a panic that someone stole their goat.  He calmed her and exclaimed “Yesterday the goat said meh, meh, today the goat is saying Shema Yisroel”  This illustrates what Chassidus explains; that we need to elevate the food by using it to serve Hashem and thus elevating everything around us, so the food becomes like a Korban on  the Mizbeach. To do this we need to be in control and change our habits, to bend ourselves and not have everything we see and want.  If we don’t use control we become addicts to our desires and become like horses!  Just as people use diets so that they shouldn’t lose control, so too, our  animal soul needs a spiritual diet – iskafya- bending ourselves – whipping our horses – not to give in to our desires.

As a bochur I heard Reb Nissan Nemanov express himself about the concept of Iskafya.  He said, if we let ourselves loose b’gashmius (with physicality) it ruins what we gain in the spiritual levels that we are striving for.  He once went to his grandsons bar mitzvah and couldn’t understand why after a whole meal they still need to serve ice cream to satisfy the animal soul! The point is to whip the horse to help the G-dly soul serve Hashem.

That is the point of the Rebbe Rashab’s story when focus is on hay then we may lose sight of what purpose  the neshama has here in this world.

So when someone says chassidus doesn’t talk to me, I don’t feel it affects me, and then like, it’s because we are so lost in our world of gashmius.  The focus is on what I need. Like the story of the Alter Rebbe when a chassid came and expressed to the Alter Rebbe how he needs this and that.  The Alter Rebbe said “What you need I hear but the purpose of what you are needed for, I do not hear!

We need to ask ourselves; what is our purpose?!  To fulfill our purpose we must control our animal soul and its desires!

Many years ago, I was by a cousins wedding and was speaking to a distant relative about what Shabbos was like by the Rebbe. I described how the Farbrengens would start at 1:30 and would go till 20 minutes after shkia, when we would daven Mincha with the Rebbe. After 25 minutes we would daven Maariv with the Rebbe and only then would we go home and eat our Seudas Shabbos for Melave Malke (We would be yoitze Kiddush before the farbrengen with Mezonos or wash on something.).   My cousin replied; “What about Shalosh Seudos?”  Why doesn’t the Rebbe start davening earlier on Shabbos so that the Farbrengen can start earlier and there will be time to eat Shalos Seudos?  I didn’t want to tell him that many people were yoizte seudas Shabbos with a few kichelach and a coffee, if they were lucky. Yes, Seudas Shabbos is very important – but the focus of Shabbos is not only the food. We focus on the Kedusha, the learning and the davening.  Yes, the importance of Shabbos is also expressed by eating special foods; but that is not the main thing! When I grew up I saw my father coming home at two, three, or even four o’clock on Shabbos afternoon.  He made sure to have some fish and chicken but he was eating it because it was a mitzvah not because he enjoyed it so much.

Once we lose control, we get involved in things and we don’t even realize that there is anything wrong with them.  We ask, where in halacha does it say that it’s wrong?  This past Sunday was the Super Bowl.  The whole world goes crazy.  A Jew that realizes that his mission in life is to serve Hashem and make this world a place for Hashem, should realize that it’s not his place to go with his family and kids to a Super Bowl party where there is a big screen playing and lots of kosher wings and beer!  Does this fit in the realm of Torah and Mitzvos?  Are we letting our wild horse run around?  Reb Nissan has told us that what we gain in the Torah we can lose in our excitement for these gashmiusdike things.  The kids see that the Super Bowl is our excitement and what we are interested in. Then all the energy that the teachers put in to teach the children excitement for yiddishikeit gets hampered.  After that we wonder why doesn’t Chassidus penetrate.

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