I wanted to share the following thought sent in today’s email from Rabbi Zvi Miller of The Salant Foundation. The Salant Foundation emails a mussar thought and a suggestion for implementing it daily (when permissable, of course).
I do not fully understand how the Ben Ish Chai’s thesis works, but it provides a good think-piece. I’ll therefore hold my opinion for a later post, to let the reader reach his own conclusions.
L’zecher nishmas Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim ands Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph B”H
THE SALANT FOUNDATION
Mussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth
PARABLES OF THE BEN ISH CHAI
Rabban Yochanon ben Zakkai received the Torah from Hillel and Shammai; He said: If you have studied much Torah, do not take credit for yourself, because you were created for that purpose. (Avos 2:9)
A man was walking alone through the forest. Suddenly, he heard a loud roar, and came face to face with an angry lion. His heart filled with fear and he was sure his time had come. He had no weapon in his hand except for a simple walking stick. After a few seconds, he pulled himself together and tried to think of a plan. He picked up his stick as if it were a bow and arrow and raised it towards the lion – hoping this pose would effectively scare away the lion.
Unbeknownst to him, a marksman was perched on a high tree behind him, and his skillful hands grasped a bow and arrow. When the man on the ground pretended to shoot an arrow, the marksman shot a real arrow that pierced the heart of the lion. When the lion fell lifeless to the ground, the man was overjoyed, thinking that his walking stick had magical powers. He began kissing his walking stick and praising it aloud.
At that point the marksman called out to him from high up in the tree, “Don’t be foolish! Your stick has neither arrows nor powers. I took mercy on you, and shot the arrow that killed the lion from up here in this tree.”
Likewise, when a person performs a Mitzvah, he has no power to affect a spiritual rectification. Rather, he only presumes that he is elevating himself, but in truth, all the sanctity and spirituality of the Mitzvah is bestowed to him by HaShem, Who oversees everything from Heaven.
The same idea is true concerning Torah study. Even though Torah study is manifest through the faculty of speech, which is more spiritually oriented than a totally physical act, nevertheless, the rectification of Torah study is a gift that comes from HaKodesh Baruch Hu. Is it possible for any person to elevate himself above his own bodily powers?
Therefore, Rabban Yochanon ben Zakkai says, “If you have studied much Torah, do not take credit for yourself”, meaning do not take credit for the wisdom and holiness that came upon you as a result of your Torah study. Rather, realize that the spiritually, wisdom, and sanctity that you found as a result of your Torah study is a gift that HaShem has bestowed upon you.”
Implement: As you study Torah, envision that HaShem is blessing you with holiness and wisdom.
[Based on Moshol V’nimshol of the Ben Eish Chai, 3]