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Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 35 - Worse Than Titus - The Power of a Jew’s Thoughts and Deeds
We don’t take ourselves seriously enough.
This was probably always true, but it is so much more true nowadays due to technology, automation, and media. Whatever I can do, a machine can do better; whatever “chiddush” I come up with has already been printed in a sefer.
This is doubly true when we consider our attitude regarding our thoughts. What is a thought? It is fleeting. It comes and goes in a moment and has no substance. Does it really make a difference what I think about?
It certainly does! Through our thoughts and actions we can become either the builders or destroyers of worlds.
There is a stirring niggun to a poem composed by R’Yitzchok Hutner [based on a piyut from Sefer Chareidim]:
ִ בלְָּבבי ִ משָׁכן ֶ אבנֶה להדר כבֹודֹו
I build a Mishkan in my heart to His exquisite glory.
ּוַבמּשָׁכן מזְֵבחַּ אשׂים לקרנֵי הֹודוֹ
I place a Mizbe’ach in that Mishkan to His radiating splendor.
ּוְלנֵר תמּיד אקח לי את אש העקדה
As an eternal light I draw upon the flame of the Akeidah,
ּוְלקרבן אקריב לֹו את נְַפשׁי היְִחדיה
And as an offering I offer Him my one and only Soul.
The poem depicts an image of a man imbuing himself with the power of the Mishkan and its vessels.
Indeed, Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner in Nefesh HaChaim teaches us about man’s remarkable power to create cosmic worlds or to destroy them. He writes: “Let no Jew feel, “What am I? What difference do my insignificant actions make in this world?”
In fact, explains R’ Chaim, every Jew is created in the image of Hashem. Just as the Creator has the power to create worlds or to destroy them, so too man builds or destroys worlds with his thoughts and deeds. R‘ Chaim continues by quoting an incredibly powerful line from the Midrash, but let us first give the background.
The Gemara tells us that when the Roman general Titus destroyed the Beis HaMikdash, he first entered the Kodesh HaKodashim (the Holy of Holies), grabbed a Sefer Torah scroll, and performed an aveirah upon it with a zonah. Seemingly, one cannot even imagine a greater chillul Hashem!
R’ Chaim tells us otherwise.
What did Titus really accomplish with his aveirah? The true substance of the Beis HaMikdash is the spirituality of the Torah and mitzvos performed by Jews. They are its “soul.” By the time Titus arrived, the Beis HaMikdash was a shell of itself; it had no true substance.
R’ Chaim thus cites the Midrash, “[Titus] ground up flour that had already been ground before.”
But when a Jew dwells upon an improper vision he causes far more damage than Titus ever did. A Jew’s mind is like the Kodesh HaKodashim. In fact, the collective mind of Klal Yisrael is the source of its essence. It is the core of Creation, and their kedushah or lack thereof (ch”v) reverberates throughout the cosmos.
Let us never underestimate the power of our thoughts.
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