Friday, July 11, 2008

Gra - Each of us has a unique way we are required to serve G-d

Gra (Mishlei 16:4): Every individual has a unique way that he is to serve G‑d. (Berachos 58a) : Just as no two people look the same, no two people have the same way of thinking. Therefore no two people have identical natures. When there were prophets, people went to the prophets to inquire of G‑d. The prophet would respond based on his prophetic understanding concerning the way that person should conduct himself according to the source of the person's soul and the nature of his body. When prophecy ceased to exist there was still the power of ruach hakodesh that is in each person and each person could use it to determine what he should do. …However this is only useful if the person is spiritually refined and is purely directed to serve G‑d. Otherwise his spiritual intuition is totally unreliable…. Therefore now that we lack the purity of spirit, we can not rely on spiritual intution and instead we can at most focus on doing mitzvos and Torah study for the sake of G‑d to the best of our ability…

R’ Wolbe
(Alei Shor 1:167): There are three different historical eras [concerning the Gra’s idea of learning about one’s true self through prophecy.] 1) Originally the prophets ascertained for every individual his unique service of G‑d according to the source of his soul. 2) the nature of everyone’s service of G‑d was established through the lower level of ruach hakodesh – but this was associated with a great danger. That is because if his spiritual state was not pure he would end up establishing his path in service of G‑d according to his biases and subjective feelings. This could lead to him to determine his actions primarily for his own pleasure and desires – but he wouldn’t be aware of his error because he would think that he had ascertained everything entirely through ruach hakodesh. 3) The third era is that of our modern era. No one even tries to establish his unique path in serving G‑d and instead we concern ourselves entirely with whether our deeds are according to G‑d will. It is important to note that the Gra is not saying that now we don’t have the ability to go in the path of greatness and wonders and that therefore the entire concern with one’s unique service of G‑d is terminated. Rather the Gra’s intent seems to be that in our generation we can no longer determine our unique service of G‑d by means of ruach hakodesh according to the source of our soul and the physical nature of our bodies. The reason why use of ruach hakodesh is no longer done is because subjective biases and errors are common today. Therefore we are only left with the option of trying the best we can to act according to G‑d’s will. This determines our program and our goals. We learn which mitzvos are easy for us to fulfill and which ones are difficult. We ascertain which attributes to eliminate and which ones are desirable to acquire. We determine which approach makes it easy for us to accept much work and which approach we are grateful when we achieve even a little. Consequently it is through our interests in how to fulfill the mitzvos and to improve our personality – we are able to determine the nature of our unique service of G‑d. [Look at the introduction to this chapter concerning the Gra]. Therefore even in our generation each person is obligated to do his unique service of G‑d. A person concerned with spiritual growth can not be satisfied by simply observing the mitzvos. He is obligated to clarify and improve and perfect himself in the area of his personality and conduct. To the degree that he is focused on his genuine uniqueness to that degree he is praiseworthy.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz(Sichos Musar #33):[[ Everyone is required to thoroughly examine his deeds especially before Rosh HaShanna - the Day of Judgment. This obligation is not just to discover transgressions and lapses in observance of the commands. It also includes the evaluation whether one's path in serving G‑d is the correct one for him since everyone has a unique path. The issue of Avodas HaShem is such that a person could keep all the mitzvos yet have a completely false approach to serving G?d. The problem is compounded by the fact that he might have incorrectly assumed that what he was doing would be pleasing to G‑d. Nevertheless all his efforts would have been to accomplish a mistaken goal. Consequently if he has not carefully evaluated the correctness of his plan than all his efforts and sacrifices are wasted. Furthermore he is punished according to the degree of effort he made to accomplish this wrong plan? This can be seen from the fact that Rav Yochanon ben Zakkai who was not only the leading Torah scholar of his time but also had succeeded in saving Torah for all future generations was frightened before his death. He cried before his students and said "I see before me two paths - one to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinom and I don't know where they are taking me. Shouldn't I cry?" His fear was not because of failing to keep the whole Torah. His fear was solely because he might have failed to properly have done his Avodas HaShem. There is the additional problem with Avodas HaShem - that one simply can't repent for doing it incorrectly since it is easy to be mistaken and assume that you are doing the right thing.

Mishna Berura (Shaar HaTziyun 622:6): A person many times despairs of correcting his faults and concludes that if G‑d decrees that he dies because of his failure there is nothing he can do about it. However this is a mistaken attitude because in the end, G‑d will get the correction of the soul that He wants. The soul will be reincarnated over and over again into this world until the correction is achieved. Consequently why should the soul repeatedly suffer death and the anguish of the grave and other things? Proof of this is from Yonah whom G‑d wanted to prophesize for Nineveh and he tried to escape to the sea where prophesy does not occur. We see that he sunk into sea and was swallowed by the great fish and was in its belly many days where it seems that it was impossible to fulfill G‑d’s command. Nevertheless we see that at the end G‑d’s will was fulfilled and he went and prophesized. Thus it is with everyman according to his Divinely ordained task. Therefore as it says in Avos (4:22): Don’t view the grave as a refuge—because you were born against your will, you live against your will, you die against your will and against your will you will have to justify all your actions to the Heavenly court.



    A similar idea.

  2. More is the pity that R' Wolbe's clarification of the GRA in this idea is not espoused more by the Torah leaders of today.

  3. Anonymous said...

    A similar idea.

    I disagree. According to what I understand from that website the emphasis is that there are legitimate variances in serving G-d. In contrast the Gra et al are saying that each person has a unique approach/mission - that he is obligated to take.

    I just added Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz for clarification. He says that a person will go to Gehinom if he uses the wrong approach for him - even though it is legitimate for other approach.

  4. G said...

    More is the pity that R' Wolbe's clarification of the GRA in this idea is not espoused more by the Torah leaders of today.
    Who says it is not? My understanding of all these ciations is that it is the individual's responsibility/obligation to find out his own unique approach. The fact that others disagree and insist otherwise - does not free him of his obligation. It would seem that institutionalized Judaism can never be truly sensitive to the individual. The problem today is primarily that parents and individuals have abrogated their responsibility and have allowed the system to tell them what to do and have thus failed in their own personal religious obligation.

    In sum - stop blaming others/rabbis for that which is not their responsibility. It is time for people to stop whining "he made me do it"

  5. I just added Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz for clarification. He says that a person will go to Gehinom if he uses the wrong approach for him - even though it is legitimate for other approach.

    so does that mean, if one takes the chareidi approach, but it wasn't right for him, he'll go to gehinom? That would not appear to be the approach that is discussed in the chareidi world.

  6. The path of Truth is very narrow. Therefore, more often than not, the way a person must serve G-d will lead to rejection by many who say they serve G-d.


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