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We live on a mountain slope

Friday, 20 December, 2019 - 5:18 am

Sometimes I feel that the hardest part in my personal work, in working on myself and growing personally and spiritually, is the natural demand to continue to go up.

Sometimes, when we are at the bottom of a hole in the ground, and we climb, and climb, and climb further, we get a feeling of accomplishment, especially when we look back and see where we were and where we are now. A wonderful feeling of satisfaction. But then, we glance ahead, and we know that we still have a way to go, and often this is a very difficult moment. One would like to sit still for a bit, rest up in peace. But no – life in general and spiritual life in particular demand that we move forward.

We are living in a time when everyone wants to move forward. The world is full of coaches and trainers in every realm. It seems that all types of trainers have work, and that is a good sign – a sign that all of us want to become better – at work, or in our marriages, perhaps in our personal lives or in our social connections, and above all, in the spiritual work of Torah and mitzvot.

Whoever has already worked on himself, certainly recognizes that moment in which he understands that he must climb another rung, but he lacks the strength for it. The head understands that one needs to advance, but the heart just wants a bit of quiet time.

On the passuk in parashat Vayeshev, where Tamar is told “And it was told to Tamar, saying, behold, your father-in-law is coming up to Timna,” Rashi is puzzled by the use of the expression “coming up” in relation to the city of Timna, and brings a quote from Shoftim about Shimshon Hagibor that indicates that one would go down to that city, as it says “And Shimshon went down to Timna”. As a result, Rashi determines that the city of Timna was situated “on the slope of a hill – from one side one went up to it, and on the other side one went down to it.” Because when a city is built on a mountain slope, those who live there know that there are only two possibilities to reach it or even to walk within it: either go up or go down. One cannot just walk straight. Jerusalemites know what I’m talking about.

In the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, after his wonderful rational explanations of Rashi, there is a section called “The Wine of Torah”, the secrets, and in it he explains each matter according to the Chassidic teachings. And so, in Likutei Sichot, part 10, after explaining Rashi, the Rebbe brings the “wine” that reveals secrets and explains that really all of us live in Timna; all of us live all the time on a mountain slope, so we have only two choices: to go up or to go down. There is no middle option.

I try to remember this whenever it is demanded from me to climb one more rung in the ladder of personal growth, and I am lacking the strength for it; my heart wants to stay in place. But then I am reminded that I am walking on a mountain slope, and if I don’t go up, I will go down.

This connects to Chanukah as well – of course! On Chanukah we light the candles according to the opinion of Beit Hillel, adding one every day. We are not satisfied with the number of candles we lit last night, so every day we add another. We increase kedusha – we don’t decrease it.

Shabbat Shalom, and a Happy Chanukah, filled with light!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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