Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ohr Yisrael: R’ Salanter’s Innovations (6)

Everything has its consequences. Take a left turn rather than a right, for example, and the course of history shifts; say yes rather than no, or the reverse, and nothing will ever be the same. That goes for our ethical and mitzvah-based choices all the more so: each decision to do this rather than that has its worldly or other-worldly repercussions, some of which are dire. The point of the matter is that if I were to do something particularly wrong to someone else, not only would he be harmed in the process -- I would be, too, and perhaps to an unimaginable degree.

That was the Mussar theme that R’ Salanter most especially dwelt upon, and the full understanding of its implications is termed Yirat HaOnesh -- fearing the penalty that can come upon you if you harm someone (or go against G-d’s intentions on other levels).

In fact, he contended that the first and most fundamental thing anyone who hoped to achieve spiritual excellence would need is to take the repercussions of his misdeeds very, very seriously, and to worry about them. And R’ Salanter derived this from the frankly intimidating idea that each one of us is to be acutely aware of “where you’re heading (after death) and before Whom you’re to give an account and a reckoning” for all of your deeds in life (Pirkei Avot 3:1).

But most of us would definitely not like to focus on death and its aftermath. It’s too frightening and depressing. We’d rather concentrate on life and its beauty.

“The fact is, it’s kind of astonishing though that mankind doesn’t concentrate on acquiring this” -- the fear of punishment, R’ Salanter is noted as having said, what with “all the calamities that force themselves onto the world that agitate the soul to its core, and which would be expected to fill one’s heart with dread” anyway, but which somehow don’t. We prefer to not concentrate on such things.

But R’ Salanter likened that to hiding under your pillows at the crack of thunder in the night and sticking your fingers in your ears, and imagining that that will save you from harm! But in fact there’s no escaping the fact that every action has its eternal and temporal consequences, and that each one of us is to consider the role we ourselves play in those we brought on to others, and those we ourselves will have to bear.

R’ Salanter made the point that some people shun Mussar study just to avoid these ideas. But he offered that that shouldn’t be so, since the fear of punishment doesn’t just come over you from the first: it takes years and concentrated Mussar study to come upon it, so you should study it for all the other good things you’ll derive from doing that. Secondly, you’ll be so absorbed in your study and captivated by the ideas you come upon there that you won’t belabor the point and won’t be saddened by it after all. And you’d also be so drawn by the notion of your fulfilling your personal potential as a human being and as a Jew that you’ll only want to go on with your studies.

Still and all, if you’d rather not concentrate on the above, then there’s a world of inspiring material in Mussar literature that would encourage you onward. You might want to concentrate instead on the bounteous reward due the righteous in the afterlife in contrast to what’s due the wrongful; or to focus on G-d’s benevolence, His caring for and His watching over us all the time, and so much more.


 

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org

Rabbi Feldman's new book, Bachya Ibn Pakuda's The Duties of the Heart, is now available! Order Now


 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON PESACH AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

The Fifth Son
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

The Importance of Order
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

The Passover Order
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Break Free!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Why Next Year in Jerusalem?
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

ArtScroll

Ha Lachma Anya
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Why Women Saved the Day
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761

The Great Shabat
- 5773

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Pesach Questions
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

A New Outlook
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

Pesach Answers - Chad Gadya
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

> Pesach
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770

The Students of Rabbi Akiva
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Who Knows One?
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

To Be Chosen Again
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information