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Thursday, 28 May 2015

Can't be bothered to go to shul today?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 4
Do you love Judaism?  I love Judaism.  I love Shabbos.  I love going to shul and seeing friends I haven’t seen all week.  I love the joy of the davening.  I love coming home and blessing my kids, singing Shalom Aleichem, spending time together over a delicious meal.  I love the energy of each different festival – packing and delivering mishloach manot, doing the Pesach seder, building a sukkah – it’s all so exciting.

But then you wake up one Shabbos morning.  And you just can’t be bothered.  Do you really have to go to shul this morning?  Sit through a couple of hours of it?  Maybe you’ll just stay home and read a book?  But even that seems like a drag.  I mean, how long can you read for already?  There’s still another ten hours of Shabbos to go. . .

The Torah declares, “When a man shall clearly utter a nazirite vow to abstain for G-d. . .”
It was taught in a Beraisa: The Torah connects vows and nazirism.   Just like concerning vows, one is liable for desecration or delay, similarly regarding nazirism, one is liable for desecration or delay. 
The Gemara asks: How is it possible to delay an oath of nazirism?  Once one declares, ‘I vow to be a nazir,’ he is a nazir!  If he should then eat grapes, he would be liable!
Rav Acha bar Yaakov answers: One example would be if he made the oath of nazirism in a cemetery

Why would a person take an oath of spirituality in a cemetery?  A cemetery is a place of lifelessness.   Sometimes you feel spiritually alive.  Other times you feel spiritually distant.  The goal is to grasp onto those moments of spiritual inspiration and carry them through the tough times.  And when you do feel spiritually low, you need to work to overcome those feelings of hopelessness and the temptation to embrace the lifelessness.

That’s why sometimes you feel like jumping out of bed to go to shul.  Other times you really couldn’t be bothered.  It’s those times – when you’re in the spiritual cemetery – when you need to redouble your efforts to drawn down the Divine flow of energy into your life.

The Kabbalists call these states of mind: mochin d’katnus (psyches of weakness) versus mochin d’gadlus (psyches of power).  Neither of these states lasts very long, unless you cultivate them.  That means holding onto the feeling of closeness or the feeling of despair, and maintaining it for a longer period than the original moment. 

Either of the feelings is possible to maintain and cultivate.  You could choose to wallow in your despair and sorrow and become depressed and hopeless.  Or you could grab onto that feeling of closeness and spiritual inspiration and use it to carry you through the challenging moments in life.  

There is a Chasidic aphorism that says that there is something that is not a mitzvah, but is greater than any mitzvah.  And there is something that is not a sin, but is worse than any sin.  What are they?  Joy and sadness.  When you cultivate the feeling of joy within, you will become a source of Divine power and energy.  When you wallow in sadness and despair, you open the door to the evil inclination.

Your connection to the Divine flow of energy is like an AC (alternating current).  Sometimes you feel like you’re on, sometimes you feel like you’re off.  May you merit holding onto those moments of closeness and utilizing them to carry you through the spiritually dark times!