Wednesday, July 27, 2016

535 - Da'as Atzmeinu 4 (Balak)

Middos are exceedingly profound and there is no wisdom that can be compared to the wisdom of one who obtains an understanding of the workings of middos. The first step in this endeavor is to discover the middos that reside within oneself. There is no better time than now to invest some effort into achieving this goal. Begin paying attention to the middos that surface each day. After a while you will reveal which middos seem to express themselves almost constantly and which middos surface only occasionally. Slowly but surely you will succeed in clarifying which are your primary middos.
The importance of gaining this knowledge is discussed by Rav Yeruchom Levovitz in his explanation of the brachos that Yaakov blessed his sons just prior to his death. The Torah tells us (Bereishis 49:28) "He blessed each man similar to his blessing." Rashi explains that Yaakov blessed each son with a bracha that was appropriate for the blessing that would ultimately be bestowed upon him. What does this mean? What type of blessing was it, if the outcome of the blessing was meant to occur sometime in the future anyway?
A second question can be asked regarding thebrachos that were given by Yaakov to his grandchildren Efraim and Menashe. When Yaakov crossed his hands and placed his right hand on the head of Efraim the younger son, Yosef protested that Menashe deserved thebracha given with the more important hand. Yaakov replied that he knew what he was doing, and although the offspring of Menashe would be great, the offspring of Efraim would surpass them in prominence. What did Yaakov answer him? Yosef wanted that bracha to go to the older son so that his offspring would be the ones to benefit from the greater prominence?
The answer to both questions is the same. Yaakov did not and could not change the order or type of brachos. Each and every one of the beneficiaries of his brachoswas blessed with a bracha that was tailored to his exact nature and strengths. Yaakov's blessing to Yehuda focused on the latter's virtue which allowed him to publicly admit his involvement in a seemingly promiscuous act. If this virtue was in reality an innate quality, why did this act secure for him and his offspring the coveted position of kingship? Yehuda was rewarded with kingship because he maximized this inborn quality of his to its fullest potential. This accomplishment is the greatest blessing.
This explains all the blessings of Yaakov Avinu. He blessed each of his offspring that they utilize their inborn strengths to the maximum. Since he could not change the qualities and natural characteristics of Menashe, Yaakov could only bless him that he utilize his specific middos in the best possible way.
Rav Yeruchom continues that every person has an inborn middah that is naturally just about as close to perfection as possible. This middah is so dominant that the person has difficulty understanding others who struggle in that area. For example, Chaim who is naturally calm cannot comprehend why Shimon blows up at every silly thing. Conversely, Shimon jumps at every opportunity to do chessed and can't figure out why Chaim lounges around on the couch all day doing nothing. A person has the ability to use his dominant middah to rectify any wayward middos of his that need fixing.
Rav Wolbe adds that the opposite is also true. Each person has a single negative middah which needs an extreme amount of improvement. It is most probable that a person's dominant positive middah is specifically tailored to be able to rectify his dominant negative middah. One who reveals his dominant positive and negative middahhas accomplished something remarkable: He has discovered what Hashem expects from him!
Begin tracking your middos. Jot down every time you feel a specific middah arise. We all have hundreds and possibly thousands of middos, but we should focus on the main middos that surface regularly. Create a "circle ofmiddos" whereby your dominant positive middah is written on the highest point of the circle and your dominant negative middah is written opposite it on the bottommost point of the circle. In between you should fill out the rest of your common positive and negative middos. When you finish, you should celebrate, because you discovered who you are and what Hashem wants from you!

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