Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Relationship with the world

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
— Douglas Adams

One thing that changes (or is supposed to change) in one’s life when one takes seriously the concept of ein od milvado — there is nothing but G-d — is the attitude towards life. When things “happen” to one, and when different events are a part of “life” or “nature” or “world”, then one is allowed to get upset and angry and disappointed. It may not be healthy, but it’s logical to get angry at life being unfair, at “the Universe” tripping you up, at some jerk with a huge shovel attached to his car pushing snow into your driveway (no, this hasn’t happened yet; I am just reliving the happy memories and looking forward to their repetition this year).

On the other hand, if you believe that G-d is creating every single molecule, every single aspect of the world ex nihilo every second, that He is present in every event in your life, then things don’t just “happen” and nothing is “just life”. Everything that you experience and encounter is created by G-d — personally for you. And it’s a little rude to get angry at G-d, to get impatient or disappointed with Him. After all, He knows better and is wise and merciful.

A couple (or triple) caveats. First, this does not deny the freedom of will. We all have the freedom of will. But, someone’s freedom to choose whether to punch me in the nose or not has nothing to do with me getting punched in the nose. I got punched in the nose because G-d wanted to punch me in the nose. At the same time, He gave (for a different reason) someone a choice whether to punch me in the nose or not (as a part of His ongoing relationship with that person). Had the person chosen not to punch me in the nose, G-d would find some other way for me to get my nose smashed. So, don’t get angry at that person for doing any wrong to you. Get angry at G-d — or, rather, don’t!

Second, this does not mean that we should not make our lives better. The whole concept of tikkun olam (and that starts in your own backyard) still applies. Again: you have freedom of will. Just because you bought a hat that’s one size too small doesn’t mean that you have to say “oh well” and accept it. Go to the store and exchange the hat. But, if for some reason you irreversibly lost $1.25, don’t get angry. Since there is nothing you can do about it, G-d wanted this to happen to you, and therefore, it’s for the best. So, l’hatchillo, be proactive. B’dieved, be grateful for your life.

Third (and this is an extension of the second), this does not deny the concept of prayer. Davening really deserves a post (or ten) of its own, but the point is the same as above: we have a freedom to change our lives. When we go to a store to change a hat, we take a physical action. When we daven to become better people — and as a result, become more deserving of better things in life — we take a step in a spiritual direction.

And again, you are not allowed to be depressed about your spiritual state either. As Tanya states, you’re allowed to be bitter — for the purpose of realizing that something’s wrong and deciding to change it. But then, Alter Rebbe says, you must get rid of all negative emotions immediately and again look at the world and yourself with joy. Even though whom you become in the next second depends on you, whom you have become, at this point of your life, was brought about by Hashem. L’hatchillo, be proactive about improving yourself. B’dieved, be grateful for who you are. Otherwise, you’re being ungrateful to Hashem, personally.

All of this is not just some psycho-babble. Living and serving G-d (and for a chossid, these two things are the same, really) with joy is a mark of a Jew who takes derech of Chassidus and the doctrine of ein od milvado seriously. Everyone can accept some philosophical concept in theory. Living with it is more difficult. But we have to. We are expected to.

P.S. Oh yeah. Nivel peh is bad. There. :-P


mor said...

I really like the potscript :) but i dont like "it is up to you who you want to become but Hashem decides who you have become."
It is also up to you who you have become.

Mor said...

of course your original starting point is up to Hashem. like, it is up to Hashem to decide where and how you are born. Also, you might not have bechira as a kattan.

CA said...

No. Every single event or phenomenon in the Universe comes from Hashem. To say otherwise is heretical and denies monotheism.

To think that you also have a say is shituf and for Jews is also heretical. You make a decision. That’s all. Eibeshter decides whether that decision leads to anything and what. You whole avoida is about decisions — in favor of Heavens or not. This is what is meant by the saying “everything is in the hands of Heavens except the fear of Heavens”. Fear of Heavens — i.e., the driving factor behind your decision (hopefully) — is up to you. What comes out of it is up to Hashem.

I want to re-emphasize that this concept does NOT deny bechira. How this is not a contradiction is a separate question. (Maybe it is. Hashem is allowed to make contradictions, and both creation ex nihilo and bechira comes from the Essence of Hashem, whose landmark is contradictions. But we don’t have to rely on this. I have a letter from Rabbi Paltiel in which he describes that Hashem makes every one of His decisions overlap with decisions of Jews. Plus, anatomically, the decision of a Jew is the decision of Hashem, since the place where that decision is coming from is the place where the Jew and Hashem are one.)

Also, the Rebbe’s neshama is not in Gan Eiden. His neshama is in this world.

CA said...

Appreciating this also brings in very sharply why it’s heretical to be upset even about your current spiritual state. Do you really think you’re the one calling shots?

CA said...

of course your original starting point is up to Hashem.

Classic shituf.

Nope. Every point of the journey is up to Hashem. Hashem is everything. Everything. Mamosh. Even your decisions “are” Hashem.

CA said...

There is a Bosi L’Gani, in which the Rebbe asks two questions:

1) If Adam HaRishoin was a navi and was a perfect being, how could he sin?

2) If Yechida is capable of choosing only kedusha, how can we say that bechira davka comes from Yechida, since the whole point of bechira is to choose evil over good.

You should learn it.

CA said...

To be able to choose evil over good, I mean.

mor said...

i'm sorry for being thick, but i dont get it. if you always _choose_ not to do aveiras, then you _are_ a beinoni. If you _choose_ to sometimes do aveiros, then you _are_ a rasha. The definition of your spiritual state is a direct result of your actions.

Did the Rebbe say that the Frierdiker Rebbe is not in Gan Eden?! If not, some people are going too far.

If something is already someone's kinyan then nobody else can be koneh it. Trying to do so would be a meaningless action. Of course you can use a shaliach. If someone would do kiddushin al yidei shaliach and someone would say that the kallah is the wife of that shaliach that would be nauseating and rightly so. We are _God's_ kinyan - look in the sixth perek of pirkei Avos! Some people go _too far_.

CA said...

On a simple level, Hashem’s Will constantly overlaps with your bechira.

On a more complex level, maybe there are more factors to what happens to you (whether or not you actually sin) than your bechira.

What the Rebbe said about FR and what we say about the Rebbe are two different things. But yeah, the Rebbe said that FR was still there.

Re: kinyan: as one Peruvian Jew said, dood! Everything belongs to G-d. So, how can any person make kinyan? Also, how can a slave owner own a Jew? How can a Jew sell himself to slavery?

CA said...

During the Hei Teves farbrengen, the Rebbe said that as long as FR has chassidim who are mekushar to him, he is alive, and you can’t divide an estate of a living person.

Mor said...

Hashem owns some things more than others. GUESS WHAT?? You cant make a real kinyan on a Jew! Isnt that awesome? Meaning, you are not koneh his guf. You cant be. WHY NOT? Because Hashem already has! Amazing! Everything belongs to Hashem philosophically speaking - but see sixth perek of pirkei avos for five things that belong to Hashem in a LEGAL sense!

mor said...

what does it mean that he is alive? The Rebbe said FR is legally alive. OK, fine. But where is his neshama? not in his body anymore. His family sat shiva didnt they? Usually one would assume that the neshamos of tzaddikim go to gan eden.If it didnt go to gan eden - why not and where is it??