Positive Vision - Day 85
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 85 - The Big Lie - The Gedolim Have It Easy
It is undeniable that stories have an extraordinary power. If we wish to convey a concept to others there is no better way than expressing it through a “maaseh.” A story takes an abstract concept and demonstrates how it applies to everyday life. For example, it’s one thing to learn about the mitzvah to study Torah day and night. It’s an entirely different thing to hear a story of the phenomenal diligence of Chacham Ovadia Yosef or Rav Elyashiv. The concept, the ideal, becomes alive and real.
But there is a downside to gedolim stories: They generally place the gedolim on such a level that their accomplishments become completely removed from something to which the average person can relate.
This issue is addressed by one of the gedolim, R’ Yitzchak Hutner, in a letter to a student who was struggling with his yetzer hara. Allow me to share with you a loose translation of parts of this letter:
We do ourselves a big disservice when we tell gedolim stories. We skip over the struggles that raged within them and instead speak only about the final perfected end-product. This leads to the false impression that these gedolim were created perfect.
For example, everyone speaks about the Chofetz Chaim’s pure speech. Do we know anything about his struggles along the way? The result is that when an ambitious and enthusiastic young man finds himself facing all sorts of obstacles and failures, he sees himself as undeserving of dwelling in the “House of Hashem” — a state which he misconceives as one resting blissfully, enjoying his yetzer tov like the tzaddikim basking in the Shechinah’s radiance in Gan Eden.
Dear Son, realize that your neshamah is rooted not in the yetzer tov’s peace but rather in its battles. You certainly have failed and be prepared to fail again. But I promise you that after all the casualties you will emerge with the crown of victory upon your head, savoring the sweet taste in your mouth.
People mistakenly think that when it says in Mishlei, “For the righteous fall seven times and arise,” it means that despite repeated failures, the righteous persevere. True sages know that the intention is otherwise: The tzaddik is who he is because of his seven failures.
Do not think of tzaddikim and their yetzer tov as being one and the same. To the contrary, picture them as being engaged in an awesome battle with base and lowly impulses. When you feel the yetzer hara storming within you, realize that at this moment you are much more similar to the gedolim than when you experience the calmness that you seek. When you find yourself faced with your greatest descent, at that time specifically you stand to be an exquisite vehicle for increasing Hashem’s honor.