Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Advantage of Vitality

The Rebbe, I heard from an elder chassid, once expressed a sigh, "If only all my chassidim were Ba'alei Tshuvah!" Actually, he used a Jewish play on words, saying he prefers "געווארענע" over "געבוירענע" ("becomers" over "those born such").

I stumbled upon a Rashi that makes this same point. The prophet Isaiah says, "Listen DISTANT ONES that which I wrought; Know NEAR ONES my strength." (33:13)

Just who are the "distant" ones? Says Rashi, "those who believe in Me and followed My path since their youth."

Rashi's explanation might run counter to intuition. After all, would you not expect a "distant" one to have failed and thus distanced himself from God? Instead, Rashi says they are distant by virtue of having covered a long "distance" doing God's commandments since their youth!

And who are the near ones? Says Rashi, "these are the Ba'alei Tshuvah who recently came close to Me." 

Here too you might expect "near" ones to have been well-ingrained with doing Hashem's will. Instead, Rashi defines near ones as those who rather "recently" turned to Mitzvot.

Of course, Rashi's eminent interpretation becomes clear if we examine it on the basis of rote behavior. That which has become well-accustomed over the years may well lack a refreshing attitude. This apathy can extinguish the spiritual fire and effect the behavior in turn. For example, a person can learn Torah from year to year and fail to sense greater awe over time.

In contrast, the Ba'al Tshuvah cherishes that which he missed all those years being estranged from Torah. Now that he has the chance, he grabs it. He deems it all fresh and worthy. He senses exhilaration and awe. No longer is there the need to explore for a good trail in the wilderness. He feels appreciative of Torah that now guides him laser-straight without having to test foreign waters, for now he is securely anchored to the path of Truth.


  1. From Likutei Dibburim of the Previous Rebbe
    (Ch. 45, The Eve of Yud-Tes Kislev 5692 (1931))

    "With the self-sacrificing simple faith even of a born chassid, a chassid can even resurrect the dead."

    When my father recounted [to me] the above episode stage by stage, complete with the additions of my greatgrandfather and grandfather, he stressed the words even of a born chassid, and amplified as follows: "Being born a chassid is a far cry from what is attained by means of one's own avodah; that which is granted from above in response to one's own spiritual toil is priceless. Nevertheless, even a mere born chassid can also resurrect the dead.

  2. "... cherishes that which he missed all those years being estranged from Torah. Now that he has the chance, he grabs it..."

    This description also applies to a Ger Tzedek

  3. I like very much the last paragraph -
    Moriah, thanks for your comment. I am what you wrote.