Shabbos Parashas Vayechi

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 9, Part 1
There are two factors that impede a person from recognizing the God of his father and maintaining firm faith in Him. The first factor is a person’s background from the early stages of life. From the time a person is born, he grows up surrounded by physical entities that can be detected by the physical senses. And during his early years, he finds that the greater significance a physical entity has, the stronger impression it makes on his senses. A person grows accustomed to the notion that his environment consists of physical entities. In addition, he grows accustomed to the pattern of entities initially not existing and then coming into existence. Hashem’s nature, however, is beyond all human comprehension, and we cannot detect His presence with our physical senses. He transcends all physicality and all limits of time. Consequently, it is hard for a person to develop faith in Hashem, just as it is hard for a person to accept anything that is completely new to him and far removed from his range of experience.
The second factor is haughtiness. A person develops the idea that his existence is something that has to be, and that he operates in a domain that is under his control. These misconceptions cloak a person’s heart and cause him to develop a feeling of dominance, which hardens his heart. As a result, it becomes difficult for him to develop faith and to turn away from the myriad fleeting worldly pleasures that dangle before him, lure him, and ruin his human splendor.
By way of analogy, in order for an animal hide to become fit as parchment that can be used in writing a Torah scroll, it must be tanned to soften it from its natural hardness. Otherwise, the writing will come out distorted. Similarly, it is impossible to inscribe any deep truth onto a person’s heart until it has been softened from the stubbornness that develops from the feeling of power and dominance that resides within him from his early years. Without this softening, the truths are not properly absorbed into a person’s heart; indeed, the tablet of his heart becomes riddled with distortions caused by the strange thoughts that arise within him. The effect of haughtiness is all the more harmful given that, as our Sages informed us, Hashem distances Himself from a haughty person. The Sages liken a haughty person to one who, so to speak, pushes away the feet of the Divine Presence (Berachos 43b, Kiddushin 31a). Hashem declares that He cannot dwell together with a haughty person (Sotah 5a).
Accordingly, so long has a person has not taken upon himself to soften his heart of stone and humble himself to the greatest possible degree, holiness cannot settle upon him and lofty spiritual truths cannot penetrate into his heart. Even if he declares with his mouth that he believes, it is if he declared that he does not believe. If you ponder what we have explained, you will see that it is true.
Thus, at the outset you must adopt the proper attitude, size yourself up correctly, and ponder your existence and the way you came into being. What are you doing here? Who brought you here? You must realize that your existence is a gracious gift from the One who brings everything into being, may He be blessed. No creation in this world, neither the lowest nor the loftiest, has any entitlement to its existence. To gain proper perspective, you must look upon all of Hashem’s works and reflect on the fact that Hashem created everything you see. He created the heavens and placed within them the sun and the moon, and a countless number of stars. When you reflect on this, you will view yourself as lowly and you will say to yourself: “What grounds do I have for climbing up to the rooftops and angling for greatness? What reason do I have for feeling pride and taking a stance of dominance? Behold, in this world I am only like a pauper standing on the doorstep and seeking aid from someone who owes me nothing, hoping that he will take pity on me and give me a donation, with my life hanging in the balance before my eyes.” A person depends on Hashem’s compassion moment after moment, for each and every breath (see Bereishis Rabbah 14:11, expounding on Tehillim 150:6). You must humble yourself and pray for your life and all your needs, for you cannot obtain them on your own.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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