Thursday, January 14, 2010

Va'Eira 5631 First Ma'amar - Practical Application

This essay is based on Va’Eira 5631 First Ma’amar.  Clicking on the previous words will bring you to the ma’amar on the blog.

The Sfas Emes teaches us that in addition to influencing the world around us, our actions have spiritual ramifications as well.  By influencing the spiritual we indirectly influence the physical, too.  For example, the Nefesh HaChayim writes that a Jew who sins is much worse than what the evil Titus did in the Beis HaMikdash.  What Titus did had no spiritual ramifications.  It was a localized act.  A Jew who sins influences himself and the world in ways that he cannot begin to understand.

The Sfas Emes therefore concludes that it is unwise to rely on our own thought processes no matter how strongly we believe that we’ve arrived at the truth.  Instead, we need to submit to the source of wisdom, God’s will and word.

The Midrash in this week’s parsha discusses the mistakes of Shlomo HaMelech and Moshe Rabbeinu because they relied on their own intellect.  Shlomo HaMelech took more wives than the Torah allows a king.  Moshe Rabbeinu complains to God for the deterioration of the nation’s situation after he spoke with Pharaoh.

The Sfas Emes explains that at the time, neither Shlomo HaMelech nor Moshe Rabbeinu thought they were doing something wrong.  Shlomo said that his connection with God will protect him from being influenced by his wives.  Moshe Rabbeinu had an expectation that the nation would be saved without being further afflicted.

Both Shlomo HaMelech and Moshe Rabbeinu learned that decisions they made based on their own wisdom, decisions which appeared strongly to them to be correct when they were made, turned out to be wrong.  When they gained more wisdom, they realized that their original actions were based on flawed thinking.  The lesson for us is that we can never be sure of our own wisdom since our current outlook may prove incorrect when we gain more wisdom.

How do we know, though, what God’s will is?  First, in principle, actions that do not coincide with the Halacha are never God’s will.

But what about the less obvious.  What if you need to make a decision, as I do right now, about where to send your son for high school?  Your have a choice between several Yeshivos, all fine institutions.  What about a decision about what neighborhood to live in?  How do we align ourselves with God’s will when guidance cannot be found in the Shulchan Aruch?

The Sfas Emes makes an incredible statement.  He teaches that we align ourselves with God’s will by subordinating our own intellectual faculty to the will of God - even if we don’t know what the will of God is.  By making a conscious decision to subordinate our own will to His, we receive His help in making the decision that is in alignment with His will.

When we do this, our actions have positive ramifications far beyond our limited view of them.  I think it was Rav Elchanan Wasserman who told encouraged people where he lived, that if the Jews of Eastern Europe refrained from speaking lashon hara, the Jews in Paris will refrain from chilul Shabbos.

Therefore, before taking any decision, it seems like a good idea to tell God that you want to achieve His will through your decision and ask Him to open your eyes and enlighten you as to the correct decision that is aligned with His will.

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