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Tuesday
Mar222016

STEADY PASSION

By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg

When living with constant Bitachon in Hashem, not only is observing Torah and Mitzvos in practice a given but there will be internal feelings towards Yiddishkait as well. Just because one fulfills all the Mitzvos, not necessarily is there conviction and passion in his actions. It may be a result of habit, tradition, laziness to change, or just lack of enthusiasm. Whatever the cause, this is a sign that the main enjoyment and focus of life may be in areas other than Yiddishkait. This is so even when the Mitzvos are being observed to the fullest, but without zest.

This message is alluded to in this week’s parsha, when Hashem commands, “אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח לא תכבה—the fire on the altar should burn continuously and should not be extinguished.” This could be applied to the altar, the heart of a Yid, in which the fire to Hashem should burn uninterruptedly. Interestingly there are two altars, the inner golden alter on which incense was offered, and the outer copper alter where all the animal sacrifices were burned. The commandment to have a constant fire burning was specified for the outer altar. This of course corresponds to the revealed part of a Yid’s heart.

The internal part of a Yid’s heart is always burning with full devotion to Hashem; it’s the outward aspect that is sometimes not noticeably on fire. This is where the command for the אש תמיד, the constant fire, comes in. The external part of a Yid’s heart, which is the practical way the person feels, is what should burn with a constant fire to Hashem. This may take work, but the quality of one’s observance of Yiddishkait will certainly be upgraded.                                                                                                                 

There is a Yerushalmi which gives two clarifications to the above command: the fire must be constant even on Shabbos, and it must be constant even in impurity. There are some useful Bitachon lessons to be derived from this Yerushalmi.                                                                                                                                  

There are times in a person’s life when one is ready to take on or pursue any opportunity that is encountered. There are also times when people feel the need to be removed from pursuits, relaxed from taking on projects and advancing accomplishments. This feeling may be experienced during Shabbos, Yom Tov or other times of rest. During vacation times, especially when travelling to vacation destinations, one can be overtaken by this feeling of relaxation.   

This relaxation can disrupt the constant fire from expressing constant revealed devotion to Hashem. Thus the Yerushalmi cautions that there shouldn’t be a day when our passion to Hashem is not expressed. Not just in a general sense, rather every single day, even the various types of Shabbos experiences, when we tend to be removed and relaxed, the passion must be unchanging.                                                                             

As a young child I received this message by observing my father. On a family trip to Eretz Yisroel we went to visit the burial site of Rochel Imeinu. While the tour guide drove, my father took the opportunity to learn the daily Rambam. Together with us on the trip was a nice veltishe yid, and at one point he turned to my father and asked him, “Reb Chaim, you are on vacation now; can’t you take a day off? You can catch up later!”                                                                                                                                  

There was no answer forthcoming, but the seemingly insignificant scene made a deep impression on me. Here was my father, fulfilling the horaa of the Rebbe with pure devotion, expressed by not missing a single day to comply with the instructions that the Rebbe gave us. Not a day off. “No,” was my father’s silent reply, “I can’t go on vacation from my devotion to Yiddishkait.”                                                              

The Yerushalmi then addresses the one who finds himself in a state of impurity and encourages him to maintain the constant fire. Although the fire of devotion to Hashem doesn’t seem to be expressing itself at all, not on Shabbos and not on Wednesday, not because he needs to unwind but because he almost never acts on the passion for Hashem, he too contains a continuous fire and he too should set ablaze his passion for Hashem by revealing it from the innermost part of his heart, the inner altar, to the external part of his heart. This can be accomplished by studying Chassidus in depth and then applying the G-dly concepts to his own life. The message, though, must always be that the potential is there; it need only be revealed, developed, practiced and acted upon. This in turn will help to rid oneself of all negativity – את הלאתכבה – in any form it may come.                                       

Perhaps this Yerushalmi can provide us with some inspiration for educating our children. All those who carry the torch of Yiddishkait wish to pass it on to their children and desire that it should be a real fire, not just a small disappearing match.                                                                                                                                           

The Yerushalmi has two pieces of advice for us. Make sure that you are attending to your child’s passion for Yiddishkait on Shabbos. Although we know that Shabbos is a special time for spending time with family, in reality it isn’t always that way. The industry for selling magazines to be read on Shabbos is ever-growing; fatigue built up throughout the week is finally given in to on Shabbos; Chassidishe Yidden daven slowly and carefully during the precious Shabbos afternoon hours. These are various ways in which people are relaxed or removed. Shabbos is a general term used here for when these kinds of things take place. The common denominator is that vital opportunities to instill the constant fire in our young ones are being squandered. Pleads the Yerushalmi: אש תמידאפיבשבת – Even on Shabbos, there should be a constant fire – please utilize the moment! Perhaps it is these moments that will ensure that there will actually be a constant fire in the next generations.                          

Many households have moments which may be described as “impure.” Hopefully not as real impurity, but at weak moments when some family members lack sleep, or seem to not be handling the day in the Bitachon way, resulting with anger, bickering, fighting, moodiness and general unfriendliness. When such is the case there exists a possibility that emotions will overpower the usual atmosphere which fosters the constant fire towards Hashem. Degrading names may be thrown at each other and there will be more of a feeling of negativity and disinterest than a constant fire type of feeling to Hashem.

The Yerushalmi thus lends us a crucial reminder that we have a constant fire at stake over here. It cautions us to not ruin the existing expression of fire to Hashem.  By exercising care that there should be no break in the constancy of the fire, the devotion will be unceasing for all involved, including the children. It’s easier to just lash out, but it’s infinitely more rewarding to display self-control, and watch the devotion of Yiddishkait blaze on and on for all of eternity, in us and in all our offspring.

 

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com.

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