Tuesday, July 10, 2007

hisbatlus: tefila vs. talmud torah

The biggest hester of Hashem is in man’s heart – the more we look at ourselves and focus on the “I” that is human ego, the less we see Hashem; the smaller the human ego, the closer we can come to dveikus. R’ Dessler (Michtav m’Eliyahu vol IV p 33) writes that the simplest path to overcome the hester of the human ego is through the avodah of tefila. What is prayer if not a constant reinforcement that the human “I” is itself powerless without the intervention of G-d? When the yetzer that says “kochi v’otzem yadi” is crushed, when a person becomes overwhelmed by a sense of hisbatlus, the hester of the world ceases to exist because the “I” that is our independence has been erased.

Anyone who experiences the joy of limud haTorah will find that description of avodas Hashem inconsistent with reality. Who, asks R’ Dessler, does not get an ego boost from being mechavein to a good sevara, who does not feel “I did it!” when they answer up a difficult Rambam or say a new chiddush? Part of the “rischa d’oraysa” that comes from being willing to argue the point with a Rebbe or chavrusa is because it is not just “toras Hashem” we are fighting for, but “toraso” – the torah becomes part of us, our Torah, attached to who we are, and so we stand up for ourselves. When a kashe is raised on our sevara, it is the “I” inside us which drives us to try to answer the point. But this begs the question: if the tachlis of avodas Hashem is hisbatlus, surrendering the ego in self-sacrifice to G-d’s ultimate power, how do we justify the “I did it” that is inevitably a part of limud haTorah? One can’t simultaneously pat the “I” inside on the back for its brilliance and at the same time say that the “I” is nothing and bateil!

The mechanism of drawing close to Hashem through talmud torah is clearly very different than the hisbatlus of tefilah, and we need to understand how it works.

6 comments:

  1. anon19:50 AM

    R'Tzadok in Resisei Laylah talks about this (not entirely directly but close enough).

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  2. While I agree with your conclusion, I think I have an answer to your question of "how do we justify the “I did it” that is inevitably a part of limud haTorah?"

    When they asked Einstein whether he credited himself with his genius, he said, "Of course not. If I hadn't met certain people or read certain books at certain times in my life, I would be a nobody."

    There are thousands (if not millions) of factors which are beyond our control, but have made us who we are and able to do what we do. This is the premise of tefilah. If I am the cause of all of the success I enjoy, then why pray? One of the keys to an effective tefilah is to recognize just how many factors are beyond our control - that is where Hashem enters the picture.

    In this sense, it is perfectly natural to pat oneself on the back for getting a sevara, but to avoid the genuine feeling of kochi v'otzem yadi by recognizing that any intellectual ability we have is not due to our own self, but to these external factors which are beyond our control.

    As Rabbi Ruben Gober once said, "Happy is the man who has FOUND (matzah) chochmah" - chochmah is a metzia, something we encounter and derive benefit from due to factors totally beyond our control. Acknowledging this fact makes it possible to realistically diminish the ego and recognize Hashem.

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  3. see http://adderabbi.blogspot.com/2005/06/shabbat-33b-34a-part-iii-r-shimon.html
    based on R' Kook's Eyn Ayah ad loc

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  4. Maybe we can use the famous vort of or Aron kotler that tefila we go up to hkbh and learning hashem comes down and teaches us. For us to "travel" up to hkbh the more we are mvatel our "I" the more closer we get, that's the avoda! But maybe by Torah that's not the avoda, the avoda more is as you said, making it toraso, Being mkabel Torah.
    Still have a kasha,in learning, don't you need to be mevatel your "I" Of preconcieved notions to arrive at the emes?

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  5. Maybe we can use the famous vort of or Aron kotler that tefila we go up to hkbh and learning hashem comes down and teaches us. For us to "travel" up to hkbh the more we are mvatel our "I" the more closer we get, that's the avoda! But maybe by Torah that's not the avoda, the avoda more is as you said, making it toraso, Being mkabel Torah.
    Still have a kasha,in learning, don't you need to be mevatel your "I" Of preconcieved notions to arrive at the emes?

    ReplyDelete