Friday, May 10, 2019

On one leg

The gemara tells the story of a ger who came to Hillel and asked to be taught the Torah on one foot.  Hillel responded with a reformulation of v'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha -- don't treat others in a way that you would not want to be treated yourself.

Was this idea of  "standing on one foot" just a random crazy idea to test Hillel's patience?

The Aish Kodesh (in Derech haMelech) writes that in fact we find the idea of standing on one foot in halacha.  The difference between people and angels is that angels stand on "regel yishara," one single foot, but we have two legs.  When we daven we are supposed to put our feet together so that we look like angels standing on just one leg.

An angel has no yetzer ha'ra.  It fulfills its mission with single minded purpose, like a computer.  There is only one leg moving it in the single direction it can go in.  Not so human beings.  We have one leg that wants to move us in the direction of ratzon Hashem, like the angels, but we also have a second leg that often wants to take us places that we shouldn't be.  

When a person stands before Hashem to daven, he needs to forget about that second leg. Tefilah is not a time to struggle with or focus on one's failings -- it is a time to focus on coming close to Hashem.  At that moment we can be like angels with one leg because Hashem will listen to us despite our struggles and despite our failings so long as we aspire to move in the right direction.

That's great when we are davening, but our ger had a tremendous question for Hillel: how do we make this part of our life?  How do we incorporate this into the way we observe and learn all of Torah?  How can a person feel all the time that Hashem loves him and listens to him and values him and doesn't care about the failings and struggles that we all go through?  How do we stand on one leg?

The answer is if you want to feel valued and have self worth, then treat others that way.  If you see all those around you as having just a single "regel yishara," you see people as moving in the right direction, then that becomes part of how Hashem will always see you as well.

1 comment:

  1. a. "The difference between people and angels is that angels stand on 'regel yishara'"

    though in a single cold* case, we find a one-footed demon charging straight at us: Amalek! ba'derech 25:17 (Dev.), ba'derech :18, where the exact repetition indicates a fusion of two regalim: a once good leg, at :18, fusing to a leading leg (at :17) intent on spoliation -- the directly wayward human limb was so dominant that the angelic limb not only happened to capitulate to its will, but committed war crimes of its own, attacking the most vulnerable of the Israelites (:18) and becoming irredeemably depraved in the process...

    *who is Amalek today?

    b. "An angel has no yetzer ha'ra."

    Rav Yoohoo Finkelman used to say, 'don't read yetzer ha'ra, but yetzer hooray, the human urge to delight in off-road behavior'

    c. "treat having just a single [foot]"

    or rather Hillel's reformulation, 'don't treat others as two-footed'?