[Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Tue Apr 13 14:18:43 PDT 2021

The question of whether we are out to grow or not seems pretty
straightforward to answer in the negative.

If you wish, we can talk about ascending, as in "mi yaaleh behar Hashem".
Or refinement, as in vehalakhta bidrakhav. I am not really dealing with
the choice of language.

Except that different ways of framing the goal might suggest different
such terms. And the reason for my pessimism is how little awareness of
the goal of Yahadus our culture fosters. Most people don't even realize
they were taught multiple descriptions, and that those descriptions
might yield different priorities, halakhah lemaaseh.

You've heard this from me before, but not recently.

If a rav, on Shabbos morning, were to talk about how Torah is about
forming a relationship with the Creator, people will accept that as

If he were to instead talk about the Torah as a guide to being more
perfect, refine the Divine Image, in other words, to be more similar to
G-d, the same people will accept *that* as self-evident.


Say someone in the shul were to oversleep, waking up seconds before sof
zeman qeri'as Shema. They are still too sleepy to seriously consider
the question, but we aren't -- should they say Shema now? There are
conflicting requirements. Shema must be said within the first third of
the day. However, it must also be said with kavvanah. And this person
is in no position to fulfill both. So... which takes priority?

Well, had he been in the first shul, and the goal is connecting to HQBH,
kavvanah would likely take priority.

But if he were in the second shul, his focus would be on perfecting his
zerizus, seder, and the other middos involved in saying Shema on schedule.

How can people use halakhah to ascend when they don't know what it is
they are ascending toward?

If you think about it, halakhah literally gets its name from the art
of walking. We have gotten so focused on walking, we don't even think
about having a derekh, a path to travel. Want to feel holy? Take on
another chumera. More halakhah, no grand vision.

This isn't a tirade about missing the forest for the trees. Halevai
it were only about missing the big picture. We are like the apprentice
of an overly methodological captenter.
    And then, as they just complete practicing a few ways of joining
    corners, the master, sadly, dies, leaving the student knowing
    everything about woodwork, but with only a layman's knowledge of
    the construction of a cabinet, table, or chair.

No matter how well we know how to walk halachically, how can we ascend
Har Hashem as long as our religion isn't about figuring out where we are,
where we are trying to be, and what route would best take us from here
to there?

Chodesh Tov!
Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 16th day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   2 weeks and 2 days in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Gevurah sheb'Tifferes: What type of discipline
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                           does harmony promote?

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