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The Holy Ishbitzer: Vayigash

The 7th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Mordecai Yosef Leiner of Ishbitz (1800-1854 [1878, according to some], founder of the Chassidic Court at Ishbitz after leading a group of disciples from the court of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Born in Tomashov, Poland in 1800, he was a childhood friend of Reb Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, later to become the Kotzker Rebbe, and they studied together in the school of the Chasidic Master, Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshiske. His sefer. Mei HaShiloach, is considered a fundamental work of Izhbitz and Radziner chasidus. Among his talmidim were Rav Tzadok HaCohen miLublin and Rav Leibel Eiger.

“And Israel said, ‘It is enough, my son Joseph is still alive; I will go and see him before,” etc. (Genesis 45:28)

We find the following comment in the Talmud: Rabbi Levi bar Chama says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, “A man should always incite the good impulse to fight against the evil impulse. For it is written, ‘Tremble and sin not.’ (Psalms 4:5)  If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him study Torah. For it is written, ‘Commune with your heart.’ If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him recite the Shema. For it is written, ‘Upon your bed.’ If he subdues it, well and good. If not, let him remind himself of the day of death. For it is written, “And be still, Selah.” (Berachot 5a)

Rabbi Levi bar Chama uses the term “always incite” because “always” contains all things that happen to a person. One must always discern and clarify whether something comes from God. Even matters of great significance can, heaven forbid, contain a blemish or residue from another source.

When a joyful matter comes to a person, even more clarification is necessary.

Therefore, four levels of advice are offered to help a person to arrive at the depths of truth and come to a decision. Afterwards, when he has clarified with certainty rthat it is from God, he can allow himself to be expansive and know that it is a Mitzvah or the joy of a Mitzvah. These four clarifications spoken of in the Talmud refer to a situation where some matter of this world that needs clarification is imposed on a person.

Inciting the good inclination means interrupting one’s indulgence by reminding oneself that the pleasure it entails is not eternal, since we only have a limited lifespan.

The teachings of Torah, the second step, help a person extricate himself from indulging in pleasures. But when the evil inclination is dominant, nobody remembers the good inclination. (Nedarim 32b) This is why God made the Torah variegated. At that point it will not help him to remember that it is forbidden. The prohibition does not have the power to separate the person from evil when the evil inclination is dominant. There the person is advised to remember that he can find this same good in the Torah, in holiness.

Shema will serve as a reminder of our special relationship with God and that God’s actions are always for our ultimate benefit.

If he is successful, it is good. If not, he should remember the day of death…he should imagine that now is the time of his death, and in that situation there will be no place for physical pleasure. If, after all this, the delight or joy still remains in his heart, then it is evidence that it comes from God and will be eternal. Mei Hashiloach I Vayigash 16b -17a

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