Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

Holy Pain and Longing for Hashem


My brother-in-law, Rav Benzion Berl, shared with me an observation he saw quoted in the name of Rav Shmuel Auerbach.

Rav Shmuel said that there was a Yid in Eretz Yisroel named Rav Chaim Yaakov Arieli who was a great gaon and talmid chochom. Rav Chaim Yaakov wrote many seforim, some of which have yet to be published. Rav Shmuel said that this gaon always had a deep and powerful desire — a tshukah azah u’gedolah ad meod — to teach, to build, and to produce talmidim by becoming a maggid shiur in a yeshiva. But as much as he tried and davened, the Ribbono shel Olam withheld that particular hatzlocha from him. He lived his entire life with this burning fire and desire to teach Torah and had agmas nefesh from the fact that he wasn’t able to fulfill his holy dream of being maamid yeshiva bochurim into talmidei chachomim.

And then, Rav Shmuel said, Hakodosh Boruch Hu took this holy fire in his heart, this deep and overwhelming longing, cheishek and teshukah of Rav Chaim Yaakov, and made his son, Rav Asher Arieli the most successful maggid shiur and marbitz Torah in the world.

Now, the intention of this article is not to be an appreciation of Rav Asher Arieli, but rather to highlight a Torah principle that opened my eyes to a level of depth and insight that I never knew.

We are now in the period between Chanukah and Purim. Rav Aryeh Zvi Fromer, known as the Kozhiglover Rov was the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin after Rav Meir Shapiro was niftar. In his sefer Eretz Zvi on Parshas Pekudei, he explains that the Chiddushei Horim made the following statement: “Klal Yisroel would not have a kiyum in golus if not for the spiritual power of Chanukah and Purim.”

What did the Chiddushei Horim mean by this?

The Kozhiglover explained that Chanukah and Purim are unique in the fact that they derive their spiritual source from Klal Yisroel’s desire for a certain kesher with Hashem at a time when that kesher was withheld from them. In other words, Chanukah and Purim contain an extra powerful koach of longevity, even into the depths of golus, due to the extremely potent, powerful desire, yearning, and longing for Hakodosh Boruch Hu which precipitated it.

What does this mean?

The Kozhiglover explains that Chanukah is the only existing example of avodas Hamikdosh which continues after the Churban. The Ramban in Behaalos’cha says that the menorah which we light on Chanukah is a hemshech of the avodah of the kohanim who lit the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh. Today, we don’t have any korbanos, or any other avodah from the Bais Hamikdosh except the lighting of the menorah on Chanukah.

And the question is, why is that? Why here, more than anywhere else, was the Churban unable to extinguish this particular avodas Hamikdosh?

To understand the reason for this, we have to go back to the time when Klal Yisroel established the Mishkon in the midbar. Moshe Rabbeinu directed Klal Yisroel to contribute gold, silver, and all the other raw materials for the Mishkon. Everything was complete and ready on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. But then Hashem said, “Wait. You cannot begin doing the avodah yet.”

The chanukas habayis would take place more than three months later, in the month of Nissan.

When Klal Yisroel were told that they would not be able to actualize their desire to serve Hashem in the Mishkon right away, they, of course, accepted Hashem’s decree. However, they were filled with an indescribably powerful yearning and desire to serve Hashem. The desire for the avodas Hamishkon which they had at that moment was deeper and with a greater fire than ever. The Kozhiglover describes it as a great fire in their hearts, and “ga’aguim and teshukah betachlis hatokef” such that “mayim rabbim lo yuchlu lechabos es ha’ahavah.” This desire for kedusha and this yearning had such power that it could not possibly ever be stopped. Golus and Churban can only take effect on the ma’aseh of avodah, but Churban cannot be effective on this all-powerful yearning that results from the pain of not being able to serve Hashem.

It was this teshukah that bequeathed the days beginning with the 25th of Kislev with the power to break all the boundaries of Churban. And that is why some remnant of avodas Hamikdosh had to remain on those days.

Similarly regarding Purim, says the Kozhiglover, at the time of the miracle of Purim, the building of the second Bais Hamikdosh had already begun with the permission of Koresh, the king. But then it was suddenly and forcefully stopped. And the result was an overwhelming teshukah by Klal Yisroel to complete the Bais Hamikdosh and finally do the avodah. It was this yearning, longing, and cheishek that brought about the miracle of Purim. And because of this, the kedusha of Purim lasts forever, unable to be extinguished even by the mighty waters of the Churban Habayis.

Seeing and hearing this changed the way I understand the concept of a cheishek and teshukah for Torah and mitzvos which we hear so much about. We are often bothered by the following question: How are we expected to have a cheishek if we don’t have a cheishek? How are we expected to have a teshukah when we feel we don’t?

But the answer is that we are misunderstanding what a cheishek and teshukah is. We think that a desire for mitzvos can only be when we are riding high al haTorah v’al ho’avodah. We see from the Kozhiglover, however, that the concept of cheishek and teshukah can be very closely associated with pain and suffering. We all relate to the pain of not fulfilling our aspirations of learning Torah and performing mitzvos on the level we dream of and hope for. We all hear the voice inside of us expressing the yearning and longing of our neshomah for greater dedication and more success as an eved Hashem. But we misinterpret it as a painful feeling of disappointment.

However, instead of useless pain and disappointment, our pain can potentially be translated into a powerful longing, yearning, and desire for Hashem, which can have staying power even beyond the avodah itself.

Think about the powerful message from Rav Shmuel Auerbach which we started with. All that holy pain and agmas nefesh, was crowned with lifelong tefillah, yearning, cheishek, and teshukah azah for harbotzas Torah. And the harbotzas Torah that arose from there knows no boundaries, to the extent that great talmidei chachomim, some of whom are many years senior to Rav Asher, listen to his shiurim.

It’s worthwhile to think about this lesson when we wonder about our personal pain, as well as our dreams and tefillos for our children. We don’t know the darkei Hashem. But we do know that Hakadosh Boruch Hu wants us to yearn for Him and place our hope in Him, and just at the moment when we feel the pain of disconnection, that is when our kesher can become strongest.



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