The Path to Achievement

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

Prior to the giving of the Torah to Klal Yisroel at Mt. Sinai, all those that had an infirmity, i.e. lame, deaf, blind, were miraculously healed by the Creator. There is a discussion at what point was the gift taken away; was it at the incident of the Golden Calf or was it at the time of the מתאוננים, those who “complained”. במדבר יא:א) , Numbers 11:1)

HaRav Shneur Kotler זצ“ל , late Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood Yeshiva, would comment many times, “We are being taught that it is more detrimental to be unhappy than to create the Golden Calf.” Despite that the making of the Golden Calf and its subsequent worship was a rejection of Hashem’s Torah being absolute, a lack of sincere, unmitigated enthusiasm deprives one of the most essential “building block” of achievement.

The Torah teaches us that all the terrible, unimaginable calamities that will befall the Jewish people is due to “”תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה‘ אלוקיך בשמחה , that you didn’t serve Hashem with ‘simcha’, enthusiasm.” דברים כח:מז) , Deuteronomy 28:47) Rabbeinu Bachya in the Kad HaKemach teaches that this idea of “simcha” is a mitzva dictated by the Toah. In effect, it represents an עבודה , subservience to Hashem, more important than an actual mitzvah. (דף רע“א)

Enthusiasm is the inner essence of a person. Therefore, it is the critical element that will be the precursor of all of one’s actions- either for positive or negative actions.

In ‘פרקי אבות ב, Ethics of Our Fathers chapter 2, we are introduced to the five greatest disciples of רבן יוחנן בן זכאי , each receiving a different accolade. One had an infallible memory (בור סוד), another was constantly productive (מעיין), the character trait that enabled them to achieve was a “good eye” and a “good heart”, respectively.

The תפארת ישראל explains that they basically both represent ideas of enthusiasm. When one is calm and relentlessly enthusiastic, due to being appreciative of all, always seeing the good of another, never jealous, angry, or worried; they have the innate ability to be intellectually productive in an unusual manner. This in turn enables one to gain friends, to honestly perceive the ramification of their actions and to dedicate oneself to love/embrace Hashem.

How does one cultivate the trait of enthusiasm? עין טוב is the idea that all people are born with an innate enthusiasm; observe a child who has an expansive outlook, always asking questions and remembering the minutest detail. לב טוב is the higher level, it is a consequence of constant appreciation of all the gifts of life granted by Hashem. When one consistently, incessantly and not perfunctorily absorbs and appreciates the positivity of life, they have developed inner joy, energy, and a relentless, enthusiastic drive to strive for the greatest plateaus of achievement.

This idea is articulated in the רמב“ן , Nachmanides. He explains that when the people entered the desert, they were sorrowful and anxious and asked how can we survive, what will we eat and drink, when will we leave this inhospitable environment? But this feeling was incorrect in Hashem’s “eyes”. How was it possible that after being the recipients of Hashem’s largesse, His loving attention and beneficence that they didn’t develop the inner essence to follow Hashem into the desert with unbridled enthusiasm and equanimity?

Dovid HaMelech in Psalms 95, 10 states: “ארבעים שנה אקוט בדור…”. Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch explains: “For forty years I (Hashem) strove to effect the improvement of an entire generation of that era by showing them (due to compassion) That I was displeased with them for not acutely appreciating My constant benefacting them with infinite dedication. But despite my desire to educate them, they would not recognize My love and ways.” To be able to transcend one’s previous life of self-gratification and to totally dedicate oneself to Hashem is an enormous challenge! But with absolute appreciation and in turn consummate enthusiasm it can happen, for Hashem will facilitate its actualization.

 

Yes, when a person truly perceives all of the benefactions of life, one invariably develops an inherent trait of enthusiasm! The ספר עיקרים , authored by Rav Yosef Albo זצ“ל b(14th century) teaches us a profound life lesson. “Appreciation is intuitive to every human.” When קין , Cain, brought a sacrifice that was deficient in quality, despite the fact that he initiated the idea of sacrifice to Hashem, he was humiliated by Hashem for he didn’t express his appreciation fully and correctly!

Those who are truly thankful and truly appreciative are enthusiastic and happy; happiness doesn’t bring one to thankfulness. To be truly appreciative necessitates that one selflessly absorb all the time, effort, and thought that Hashem or another has expended. Unfortunately, saying thank you is usually perfunctory; thereby robbing one of true enthusiasm. This is why every person is gifted by Hashem with an intuitive reaction to being the recipient of “gifts”; that is to be incontestably grateful, for otherwise we would not have the segue to enthusiasm, the inner engine for true accomplishment; which is predicated on supreme selflessness.

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