Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Discipline the Soul

When Dr. Salk cured polio, one shopkeeper wrote on his storefront window, 'Thank you Dr. Salk.'

If you had a storefront window, what would you write on it?

I think I would change the messages as the days came, much like the hair salons do it. They change up the paint in the window depending on the holiday.

Today's message would be: I miss you. Everything reminds me of you.

But it is also written: קָרוֹב יְהוָה, לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי-לֵב; וְאֶת-דַּכְּאֵי-רוּחַ יוֹשִׁיעַ
And thus I am certain tomorrow's message would be: כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה, תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ: הַלְלוּ-יָהּ

For I know, in my better moments, how great and just and kind God is. He dispenses blessings to all; He has granted me so much. God is remarkably close to us; He waits for us to beseech him. Sometimes, it is not the fact that He has answered but merely the fact that He is in the same room as me that comforts me. God Himself does not change; my perceptions do. That is why David is such an immortal guide; he wrote letter upon letter to God. He beseeches God, challenges Him, questions Him and begs Him. It even seems as though he battles his own soul.

מַה-תִּשְׁתּוֹחֲחִי, נַפְשִׁי-- וּמַה-תֶּהֱמִי עָלָי:הוֹחִילִי לֵאלֹהִים, כִּי-עוֹד אוֹדֶנּוּ-- יְשׁוּעֹת פָּנַי, וֵאלֹהָיWhy art thou cast down, O my soul? and why moanest thou within me? {N} Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance, and my God (Psalm 43)

Perhaps that is part of our task as well, to battle ourselves? Ki od odenu yeshuos panai- for I shall yet praise Him. Despite all things.

This is how man devotes himself to God; He acknowledges that his soul falls within him, yet informs the soul that he shall yet praise God. This is the task, then. One must battle the self and find the will to praise God, despite the obstacles He raises. A new lesson, this. One must hold conversations with one's soul...indeed, one must discipline the soul. The soul may be cast down, but I shall yet praise God.

It seems, God, that You have taught me yet another lesson, one I had not learned. And so I shall endeavor to learn to discipline the soul. You know that is perhaps the hardest test You have yet set me. I find it much easier to be angry with you, and indeed, I think that is the first step. I have succeeded in that one. Now there is a harder step. It seems You wish me to learn to acknowledge my sadness and nonetheless praise you. Well, if David did it, beset as he was by Saul, sons who betrayed him, and having lost Jonathan, the person he loved most in the world, how could I claim it is not possible for me to do? I could not, in good faith, claim that. It is a little like the argument one has when one reaches Heaven (Yoma 35b). One cannot be too poor to learn- was anyone poorer than Hillel? Or too handsome- who was handsomer than Joseph? And my addition: one cannot be too sad, for was there anyone sadder than David? Ah God, it is a cheat, for we all know the answers. Let us, then, strive to conquer the possible.


Anonymous said...

I'm very confused, everything reminds you of God, and yet you miss him?

Anonymous said...

קָרוֹב יְדֹוָד לְכָל קֹרְאָיו לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָאֻהוּ בֶאֱמֶת

With truth is when God is called for His sake, not for ones own sage.

Chana said...

Why in the world should the two be contradictory, Anon 12:43? God created us; we are his creations. Thus, we can call upon Him in truth even when it refers to ourselves. That's what innumerable examples in Tanakh did.

Moshe said...

At my desk at home - where I spend most of my time - I have a few 'post-it' notes with pesukim. The first one I put up was
קָרוֹב יְהוָה, לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי-לֵב