Thursday, October 29, 2009

199 - Lech Lecha

The Torah refers to Avraham's right hand man as, "damesek" Eliezer (Bereishis 15, 2). Rashi explains that "damesek" is an acronym for "doleh u'mashkeh" - lit. draws forth and gives to drink - since he would teach Avraham's Torah to others. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) points out that we see from this appellation that Eliezer wasn't simply repeating Avraham's words verbatim. He delved into Avraham's lectures to understand their intent, he internalized their message and was then able to extract pearls of wisdom and teach them to the other students.

The Alter of Kelm would write down his discourses and distribute them among his close disciples. They would then reciprocate by commenting on what he wrote. One talmid extracted from a single discourse nearly twenty fundamental ideas with regard to chinuch! Hearing or reading a mussar discourse sets the groundwork for character improvement. However, real change only comes as a result of reviewing and inculcating the message.

In Rav Wolbe's yeshiva (Be'er Yaakov) there was a designated time for reviewing each mussar discourse. He would often say that feelings of spiritual arousal that one feels after hearing a mussar discourse do absolutely nothing for a person in the long run. One must review what was said and after understanding its significance, he can build on it in a way that fits his personality.

This idea holds true not only with regard to parroting speeches, but also with imitating other's actions. In the words of Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, "Just don't go with 'borrowed clothing.'" Don't copy this one's actions and that one's deeds. Everyone has his special role in avodas Hashem and he was given the tools to actualize this potential. One must find a plan of action which is appropriate for him and proceed accordingly.

The next time you hear or learn some mussar, take an extra minute to try to understand what the mussar is telling you. A small amount of mussar that is understood well will go a lot further than a vast amount of mussar whose message was lost somewhere along the way.

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