Shalom Aleichem!
Just yesterday, a friend gave me his set of weights and a bench press. Now, I’m no body builder, but it reminded me: Nothing takes the place of good, ole-fashioned, hard work! Whether your desired growth is physical or spiritual, you can’t expect to see results without dedication and hard work.
Before our student prayer services on Shabbat mornings, I offer a class which gives a glimpse into one of the most influential mystical texts, Likkutei Torah. Written by the first Chabad Rebbe, this text contains many discourses which serve to ignite the souls of those who study them.
But it ain’t an easy book to study!
While the language is not complicated in and of itself, it can be challenging to grasp the flow of ideas, as many statements conclude with “etc,” while others are only referenced briefly, without explaining why they are mentioned.
Furthermore, original printed versions contained numerous typographical errors. About 100 years ago, Likkutei Torah was out of print, and a scholarly chassid, Rabbi Anshel Aronovitch, undertook the momentous task of preparing the text for reprinting. He edited it carefully, correcting thousands of typographical errors.
Quite proud of his work, he showed it to another learned chassid, Rabbi David Zvi Chein, who did not seem impressed. Sensing his lack of approval, Rabbi Aronovitch inquired why Rabbi Chein had not reacted positively.
“Your new edition will drastically alter the way people study Likkutei Torah,” said Rabbi Chein. “In the past, when a chassid encountered a passage in the text that he didn’t immediately comprehend, he would pause to grapple with the text. He would consider the text from every possible angle, attempting to make sense of it. If, after much intellectual toil, he remained confused, he would conclude that there must be a typographical error.
“Now, however, after your editing, the reader will hardly have to pause to think it over!”
(Note: above story notwithstanding, the Lubavitcher Rebbe invested much effort in correcting typographical errors before reprinting many texts).
A little intellectual and physical exercise is good for us! Moreover, the harder we work, the greater the results. As with physical training, spiritual work should not go unguided. We can all benefit from someone who can help guide us to maximizing our growth results. Sometimes, we may be bench pressing too much weight – physical or spiritual – without even realizing it. When embarking on study of a complex text, it is important to have a good teacher. I am fortunate to have had great teachers, and I hope and pray that I am able to transmit some of this guidance to the student at Queens College whom I am fortunate to encounter.
Shabbat Shalom!