April 3rd, 2020
Good Morning Westwood Kehilla Family!
In case you missed last night's Shabbat haGadol Drasha, you can access it here.
In 2018, One of my rebbeim, Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky published a book called Ben Torah for Life. It is so popular that it has already been reprinted many times.
I believe that we must be real with ourselves. We find ourselves in a challenging situation.
What perspective should we take that will help us utilize these strange times as an opportunity for growth and health, rather than be dragged down by it?
Rav Lopianksy offers up the following thought which I think is both encouraging and inspiring.
R’ Yerucham Levovitz and other baalei mussar [ethical masters] coined a phrase [based on Sanhedrin 96a]: כסוסים הרצים לפני בצעי המים.
To get some sense of the meaning of this phrase, imagine a racetrack where prize horses are competing. Ordinarily, one tries to make the track as smooth as possible so as to see the horses at their best. But imagine that instead, someone builds the racetrack in a swamp. As the horses begin to gallop, they sink. Into the swamp. With great effort, their riders pull the horses out – only to sink again and again. Instead of being at their best, the horses are their most inelegant and unsightly.
Yet Hashem prides Himself, as it were, with the performance of the avos and He compares them to horses running through a swamp. What’s the point?
R’ Yerucham explains that when a train is on a smooth track, the effort of the locomotive is only one time, and then the train moves forward on its own. Hashem derives no pleasure from man’s “automatic” activities. Once automatic, an action ceases to be ascribed to man. Hashem’s joy comes only from man’s exercise of free will.
The avos faced one difficulty after another. As soon as everything seemed to be on track, something else came up. As Chazal describe the travails of Yaakov, “Yaakov wished to settle in tranquility, but then the difficulty of Yosef jumped upon him.” It was an unending, incessant battle. We as humans perceive no progress and are disheartened. But from Hashem’s vantage point, each step is another act of free will, another step forward. And that is beauty beyond description.