Sunday, March 23, 2014


The one concept Chassidus teaches that intrigued me most, which I had to struggle with most, back when I was turning religious, was the concept of "self-nullification" (ביטול).

Basically that means you must nullify your personal considerations in favor of what G-d would want you to do instead; That you prevent your ego, your pride, or your professed wisdom from interference with G-d's wishes. You first need to override your selfish desires before you can absorb properly the dictates of Hashem.

We can illustrated this concept as follows. If you have a glass that contains a small amount of dirty water, and you want a drink of water, you would first need to empty out the dirty water before you pour clean water into the glass, otherwise all the water becomes dirty.

Similarly, in order to appreciate and eventually understand the benefits of keeping G-d's commandments, you must first empty yourself of your own presumptions and professed wisdom, which will only interfere with the divine knowledge you wish to finally acquire.

Just as the seed placed into the earth cannot develop and blossom into the tree it is meant to become unless - at first - it undergoes a decomposition! The planted seed must first start to rot before it can grow into a big, beautiful fruit tree!

Similarly, the Jew who won't set aside his ego cannot ever get a good perspective of chassidus or divinity and all that these entail. To learn Torah and chassidus with commitment, or to become observant, cannot be accomplished without first negating all prior presumptions you had regarding the subject. On the other hand, if you allow the psychological space required for this study, then you're suited to dive in.

Another way to regard "self-nullification" is "a descent for the sake of an even greater ascent" (ירידה לצורך עלייה). It's analogous to an Olympic high-jumper who wants to achieve a high jump; He must first take a few steps backward, so he can launch forward and achieve greater heights.

(Like in organic chemistry, where you need first arouse a higher, more volatile, energy state, the transition state, in order for an exothermic reaction to settle at a more stable energy state.)

Is this concept not inherent in the saga of the Jewish people's existence? Which people knows better than Jews that they first require the deep descent into the Diaspora (exile) before their ultimate elevation to be acquired in the Era of Final Redemption (soon to be revealed)?

Only with humility can a Jew become righteous and sagacious.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a popular Chareidi Rabbi and author, born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free public lecture in the last year of his life, in which he taught that Jews should pray for the Israeli Army.

    I personally witnessed this; I was there.

    When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei, he is permitted to add his own personal prayer requests in the middle of the final paragraph, which begins with Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa.

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck NJ told me that I can recite it even on Shabbat and Yom Tov, because it is a communal tefillah, not a private bakashah.