[Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Tue Apr 20 02:59:14 PDT 2021

>From R' Micha Berger:

> We seem to be conflating growth with other things.
> When a rabbi sermonizes about current events, does it foster
> growth?
> What if he explains the parashah, but not in terms relevant
> to how to live life?
> Or if he gives a nice homily, which leaves people nodding
> and feeling inspired, but not actually moved to do something
> differently an hour later?
> Then there is what RYGB identified as The Pinocchio Problem:

The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as saying that it is worthwhile to learn
Hilchos Lashon Hara even if the only result will be... Honestly, I don't
remember whether the end is "an extra 'tsk...'" or "an extra pang of guilt"
or probably something else. And other mussar greats have said similar

The point is that RMB is correct, but only in the vast majority of cases.
99.9% of the time, 99.9% of the people will carry on their lives unchanged
from previously. But here and there, tiny improvements WILL occur. It is
very important to avoid getting discouraged by the *apparent* lack of

We have read stories of people who heard a remark from someone, but it took
decades for that remark to grow on them, until they finally decided to
change their lives. I know of such things that happened to me myself.

When I was younger, I thought that the blessing of a long life was the
opportunity to accumulate more [pick one or fill in your own: family,
Torah, mitzvos, toys, whatever]. But in recent years, I am coming to
understand the changes that I've made to myself, and I'm appreciating the
opportunity to make those changes. It is a very slow process. Fighting a
lifetime of inertia, it's unreasonable to expect the progress to be
anything other than in tiny steps. And the true bracha of a long life is
the accumulation of those tiny improvements.

RMB closed his post with several concrete suggestions, all of which I
endorse. The critical factor is to keep expectations low and slow, and not
get depressed by any *apparent* lack of success.

Akiva Miller
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