Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kabbalos Ol just doesn't cut it

This morning I was learning B'yom Ashtei Assar '31 (Kuntres Yud Aleph Nissan '49) and R' Melech walked by and asked me what I was learning. I showed him what it was, and he said, "Not for the first time-" to which I answered affirmatively. After he walked away I continued learning, and started thinking about the maamar, and I understood it totally differently than I ever had before. The Rebbe Maharash (I believe) once said that you haven't learned a maamar once until you've learned it forty times. So even though I've learned this maamar many times (if not forty then certainly near there) since I first got to zal in LA many moons ago I'm really just beginning to plumb its depths. Thanks must also be given to that book I'm reading, "Off the Derech," which has provided the conceptual background for this understanding.

In sif zayin the Rebbe brings a mashal from the siddur im da"ch of a king who makes a big expensive feast for his important ministers and honored servants. The leftovers from this mammoth endeavor go to the lowly maid/servants and even to the dogs of the palace. Certainly the king did not make the feast for these people and for his animals, and yet it's very possible that they get even more food than the people who the feast was made for! After all, the king's very important guests only receive the best of the best, and anything that's not perfect is thrown to the masses.

The Rebbe explains every aspect of this mashal, starting with the people who eat of the feast's bounty. First you have the dogs, who run under the tables and get the bones thrown there. The word in Hebrew for dog is "Kalev", and this is interpreted as "Kulo Lev", all heart, because a dog is rules solely by his heart, by desires. A person's intellect naturally controls his heart, and some peoples' heart controls their mind, but to negate the mind totally and listen only to one's desires? This person is like a dog.

And you know what? They're treated like one too. Sure, they get all those juicy bones, but they're missing the meat! I think the maamar is talking about a cultural Jew here, someone who loves Judaism not because he believes in it but because it has great kiddushes after davening and the the dancing on Simchas Torah is a lot of fun. The only mitzvos this person keeps is those he enjoys, which provide him with pleasure. Now certainly it's better to do a little than nothing, but to be ruled solely by your desires? What kind of life is that?

The second level of people is the lowly maid/servants. They serve the king only because they're scared of getting hit by him, not because they understand or care. What kinds of Jews are these? The ones who keep Judaism only because of kabbalos ol.

I never used to understand why this level was referred to as "lowly". After all, doesn't chassidus extol at length the greatness of a Jew who serves his creator with kabbalos ol, acceptance of the yoke of heaven? The Rebbe answers this in the maamar, "d'avda b'hefkeira neicha lei." These people would much rather not serve the king.

What kind of people are we talking about? Those who were never taught why we do things, only what to do. Sure, many of them do things for a while, but as soon as they lose their fear, they're gone! They don't have any other reason to connect themselves to Judaism, so they leave. And whose fault is it? Obviously every person is responsible for their own actions, but really, where were their parents and teachers, who should have imbued them with a love and understanding of yiddishkeit? They failed. These people don't get to sit by the king's table, because they don't want to. They don't appreciate their Jewish heritage.

So what is the purpose of kabbalos ol? After all, from here you might think that it's worthless. In reality, kabbalos ol is very important, but only in the right circumstances. When you're dealing with an eight year old, you don't explain everything you tell him to do. But when you're dealing with a fourteen year old, if he doesn't understand (at his level) why he has to do something, then he's not going to do it. Even when dealing with a kid who has kabbalos ol, you only have a limited amount of time to rely on this blind acceptance. Unless you explain in a way he can understand why you're telling him to do things, he will give them up. Some people can rely on kabbalos ol for years and years, but at some point, without a reason for their faith, they'll give it up. Or their kids will.

When is kabbalos ol a good thing? When a person has a crisis of faith, or a difficult time doing things, or doesn't yet understand, then kabbalos ol is a very good thing. But to base your entire Judaism on it? That Judaism won't last. And even if it does, it's a lowly Judaism, based on fear or habit, not on feeling or appreciation.

The great servants, in contrast to their lowly counterparts, serve the king not only with kabbalos ol (after all, they still must sublimate their will to his), but also with appreciation for the king. They might not understand why they're doing things, for after all, who can understand the will of Hashem, but they want to do what he wants. And why do they want this? Because they understand the greatness of the king. This type of person has a seat at the feast, he's steadfast in his Judaism, but he's not the ultimate. It seems to me that this level is that of the beinoni, or that of the person who wants to be, is capable of being, a beinoni (all of us). He struggles with his yetzer hora all his life, but that's because he wants to struggle, he wants to connect to and serve the king.

The ministers of the king serve him because they understand his ways, which is why many of the affairs of the kingdom are conducted through and by them. Even more than that, these ministers decide policy, because they know what the king wants done. This level is, I believe, the level of a tzaddik, who walks in the ways of his G-d.

There are many levels within this classification, which in general can be divided into two, ministers (stam) and great ministers, which I think represents tzaddik she'aino gamur and tzaddik gamur. These three general levels of people who sit at the king's table are all secure in their Judaism, with an intellectual and emotional basis for their belief and a desire to serve their G-d. Sure, they still struggle, and sure, life is hard, but with the proper foundation a house will survive the strongest earthquake, with the proper roots a tree will withstand the most powerful winds.

With this mashal we can now understand the greatness of the pekeach, the smart man, who chooses the king...in brief, a person could strive to be like the great servants or ministers, to become a beinoni or tzaddik, or like the Rebbe says, reach for the highest levels of atzilus. But if he does this then he's missing the point. The point is anah nesiv malkah-I choose the king! It's tough all right, believe you me, but it's the only true way of serving Hashem.

37 comments:

e said...

Yeah, "on day 11" was one of the few ma'amorim that shook me up.

The Real Shliach said...

Really? It's one of my favorites.

sarabonne said...

Gosh, now I feel a sudden urge to go for sem gimmel.

(pardon my rudeness) said...

girls are so unlettered.

Anonymous said...

anon: are you an idiot? Or did you grow up in a cave? I'm just curious.

The Real Shliach said...

Sara: what are you waiting for?

Pardon: what's your problem?

Anon: right on!

le7 said...

e. - Stop with your misogynistic ways! At least the girls on here are generally more chassidish! You said it yourself!

sarabonne said...

That was e? Hm, consider yourself lucky I'm so merciful.

The Real Shliach said...

le7: generally more chassidish than what?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

That's besides the fact that usually the guys are am ha'artzim d'oraisa. Literally d'oraisa since the yeshivos declared war on tanach centuries ago.

The Real Shliach said...

Centuries? Only since the haskala started. And as any Aussie will tell you, in YG they learn it on motzei shabbos.

le7 said...

Than the boys...

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

TRS: yes, centuries. 1.25 of them as a conservative estimate.
le7: your forgetting that the officially appointed "resident litvak" is a boy.

le7 said...

What does that have to do with anything?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

You said the girls are more chassidish than the boys. When you average me into the "boys" turns out you're not saying much.

le7 said...

Ah well whatever...

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

le7: that's right. When it comes to e-baiting I'll gladly stand up and be counted as a chosid.
TRS: And they declared war on language-snobbery (diqDHUQ) at about the same time. Otherwise you would have called me on amei ha'aretz d'oraisa.

Crawling Axe said...

That’s a great ma’amor. One of my favorites, really. Now I think I actually need to learn it again, after I finish U’Mikneh Rav (interesting coincidence).

I don’t think a person who does mitzvos because he was accustomed to doing them is really “anah nesiv malkah”. He hasn’t chosen the King. So, is this really kabbalos ol?

I also think that maybe the “simple person” is, forgive me language, an archetype. A tzaddik can also be the “simple person”. E.g., Alter Rebbe refusing to eat treif in prison. Or Baal Shem Tov with that story in Istanbul and the couple that was destined to be childless.

One person once asked me: “If the ultimate reason for creation of the world is dira b’tachtonim, then why learn about Atzilus and OE"S?” I think the answer is: if you are making a building into a palace of the king, you need to put the king’s colors in the building. In order for a building to become a palace, you need to make it royal. But don’t think for a second that the colors themselves matter anything.

No? This is important to me in light of the annual practice of sitting at the seider, waiting for some “experience” or “deeper meaning” from eating matza.

Crawling Axe said...

Oh yeah, I forgot.

Good job.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: obviously mitzvas anashim melumdah is not anah nesiv malkah, nor is it kabbalos ol. However, when a person has a crisis of some sort, and nevertheless continues doing mitzvos-that can be kabbalos ol.

There's a difference between a simple person and a poshite yid.

Interesting.

Huh? To what are you referring?

Thanks.

Crawling Axe said...

You are sitting at the seider, eating matza. What are you thinking about?

1) Something chitzoiniusdik (how the matza tastes, the fact that it’s a Jewish tradition, connection between generations, etc. — in other words, not Eibeshter in any way).

2) All the things that Chassidus says about matzah. Bittul. Keilim vs. oirois, source of keilim — from lifnei ha’tzimtzum. All the oiros in the Atzilus. Whatever.

3) I am doing this mitzva, because Eibeshter wants me to eat matzah during the seider on Peisach.

Which approach is more appropriate? What is 2) lacking? What is 3) lacking? Is it possible to combine 2) and 3)?

Is there a difference between poshuteh Yid and prosteh Yid? :)

e said...

Ha! That's really profound! What is the difference between prost and poshut? One is "simple" in Hebrew while the other is "simple" is Russian.

Perhaps prust is ordinary, and poshut is uncomplicated.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: don't ask me, ask a mashpia. I completely fail to see the connection between this topic and 11 day.

e: sounds about right.

Crawling Axe said...

Well, I wasn’t really asking, clarifying my questions. I think what you were talking about touches not only on the question of long-term avoida but also short-term experience.

Or not.

The Real Shliach said...

Oh yes, certainly.

Cheerio said...

reading a blog, and feeling like i'm at a farbrengen...
thanks not only to TRS, but to all you commentors, as well.

The Real Shliach said...

Hey, always glad to be of service.

The Wicked Witch of the West said...

Girls don't belong at farbrengens!

Crawling Axe said...

Unless they are farbrengens for girls.

The Wicked Witch of the West said...

Girl farbrengens? Ma ze shtuyot?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Why shouldn't girls farbreng? Especially snagesses who support deadbeat husbands. (not anyone here, just mentioning)

CA: Your number one is actually the right answer. There is a mitzvas asei of achilas matza. There are two opinions in chullin as to what constitutes achila in the technical sense. One is hana'a of taste and the the other, more accepted one, is hana'as garon -- the sensation of swallowing. Therefore to perform 3 correctly l'chol ha'deios -- which is obviously our job when eating the matza -- we have to think about your so-called "chitzoniyus" namely the taste and the sensation.

The Real Shliach said...

Wicked: Yeah, what about girl farbies?

The Real Shliach said...

Oh right-boy farbies are a billion times better.

le7 said...

Wicked it totally right about the girl farby thang.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Let's be feminist. Girls are entitled to pour down dangerous amounts of Vodka in order to put themselves in a state of mind conducive to appreciating chassidus just as much as boys are.

The Real Shliach said...

Modeh: Have you ever been to a farbie? You don't pour down dangerous amounts of vodka in order to appreciate a maamar. You sit down with a chavrusa or mashpia and work hard to appreciate a maamar. The purpose of a farbrengen is to inspire us in our avoda. Some people do that through listening, some through eating, some through drinking. The problem with girl farbies, if I believe what I'm told, is that generally they fail to inspire people's avoda.

le7 said...

Indeed that is true.