In light of the difference between the parshios being read in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz La'aretz, and in consideration of the message of last week's dvar Torah encouraging us to get to know ourselves, I have decided to digress from the regular divrei Torah and concentrate on getting to know ourselves. Rav Wolbe himself guides us to this end in one of the most well known sections in his sefer Alei Shur titled "Da'as Atzmaeinu" (vol. I p. 141).
As with any mussar idea, the purpose is not to merely appreciate the thought, but rather to understand and integrate the idea into our lives thereby effecting long lasting positive changes. My tefillah is that we succeed in achieving this objective, thus bringing ourselves closer to perfection and in turn increasing the glory of the Ribbono Shel Olam!
DA'AS ATZMEINU 1
The truth is that knowledge of one's self is not a subject that can be learned. Even one who is cognizant of a few positive and negative middos that are nestled inside himself has still not achieved the goal of self knowledge. Rather, it is an experience that one encounters at a certain juncture in his life. It is the realization, on one hand, that he has unlimited potential for greatness, and on the other hand, it is the acknowledgment of the fact that his self interests dictate every single solitary action that he performs. As one philosopher pithily summed up this experience, "It feels like descending into Gehinom while still alive."
We all like to believe that if we are not entirely righteous, we're at least straight and upstanding individuals. The revelation that every one of our actions is rooted in selfishness gives us the feeling that the rug has been pulled out from underneath us. This shakeup could and should be the impetus for one to search for a truer existence.
In contrast, how pathetic is the fellow who lives his life "serenely" without any knowledge of his true self. He subconsciously refuses to pop his bubble of his imagined righteousness and therefore is unwilling to reveal all that lingers under the surface. Such a person is certainly not wicked and he will definitely receive great reward for his numerous good deeds, for Hashem does not hold back reward from anybody. However, he will not be a ben aliyahor a man of truth.
Our goal is to get to know ourselves. Acquiring this knowledge will automatically prompt us to invest serious effort into improving ourselves. Moreover, this very knowledge itself is elevating. Many years ago in Germany they found a man who from birth was raised in a cellar. He never saw the light of day nor had he ever even seen another person. Only after he was released did he become aware that he had spent his entire life in a dungeon. As long as he was inside he had no way of realizing that he was living a most vacuous existence in the cellar.
Similarly, one who has not revealed his true self identifies himself with his desires. The revelation of who he really is, in and of itself, separates a person from this subjectivity. While his negative middos still must be dealt with, he has succeeded in coming to a realization that those middos are not his true lofty self. As long as one is living complacently he simply has no idea that he is residing in a spiritual cellar. Join us for the next few weeks and b'ezras Hashem we will begin living in earnest!
In Parshas Shelach, Rashi tells us that the Torah compares the departure of Spies to their return. This teaches us that just as they returned with bad intentions, so too, when they departed, they set off with bad intentions. Rav Wolbe explains (Shiurei Chumash) that had there been no negativity when they departed there is no way such a fiasco would have occurred. He cites the Zohar which states that the nese'im knew that when they would enter Eretz Yisrael they would lose the coveted position of being nese'im - and they simply weren't willing to give it up. Thus, although they were from the greatest men who lived during the greatest era in history, nevertheless, they were blinded by a personal bias! When one is unaware of his biases he doesn't even realize how it affects everything he sees and does. In the above scenario, the outcome was forty years in the desert and the death of the entire generation. Unfortunately, they had not worked on "Da'as Atzmeinu!"