by Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
In a farbrengen with some friends, the topic of how two people can be doing the exact same action, but being that their perspective is different, everything about it is completely different. This act of a person changing their perspective is perhaps one of the initial levels of ishapcha, turning something around and utilizing it for holiness.
I then mentioned what I heard in the name of the Mashpia, Rav Zev Volf Greenglass, whose yahrzeit was this week.
I noted that in a conversation I had with his son-in-law Reb Dovid Cohen, he asked me if I can recall any of my interactions with Reb Volf, and one of them which I mentioned to him was about how at a farbrengen he described how he observed a bochur choosing a piece of cake to eat before seder Chassidus in the morning.
The bochur picked up one piece and put it down muttering to himself, that it is slightly burnt. Then he put down another piece because it was too hard, a third one was discarded because it was too small. He said he saw how the bochur discarded numerous pieces until he finally was happy; he eagerly picked up the first piece he initially had discarded.
The point he was bringing out is that although we eat something before learning Chassidus in the morning, we are taking it for the energy it will give us and that we won’t feel hungry when we are learning and then davenning. As the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek said to his daughter in law Rebbetzin Rivkah, Better to eat in order that you can daven, than to daven so you can go and eat.
Reb Dovid than corrected me and said, my father in law never used the word eating before davening, he would always say mir kenin toi’em far davennen – we can taste something before davenning.
While the act is the same, the connotation between them is worlds apart. When one is eating, obviously he wants to enjoy what he is eating and as the bochur did, he will look for an enjoyable and/or tasty portion to eat. But when one is merely tasting something before they daven, the focus is not on the food, and they will be happy with whatever it is, and that is what the Rebbeim allowed us to do.
Hearing this thought, someone at the farbrengen mentioned he had a similar interaction with HaRav Heller shlita. He said, “When I was in kollel some ten years ago, I asked him permission to take a vacation to Eretz Yisroel and then resume my kollel when I return.
“Rabbi Heller replied, A Jew doesn’t go on vacation. I can’t allow it!”
The person continued, “I asked somewhat in surprise, Yes the Rebbe never went on a vacation, but look at other gedolei Yisroel, they all go on vacations!”
To this haRav Heller replied, “They go tzu up’rhu’in – to rest and rejuvenate themselves, to get back their strength that they can continue serving klal yisroel, but they are not going on a vacation.”
He then discussed the power of a perspective that is built on the outlook of Torah and Chassidus.
I chose to relate these incidents as this Shabbos is Shabbos mevorchim chodesh Shevat, and one of the preparations we all do in honor of the auspicious day of Yud Shevat, is to learn the maamar of basi L’Gani. One of the focal points of the maamar is that our mission is to transform the materialistic items in the world so that they are utilized to serve and glorify Hashem. Perhaps the initial step in accomplishing this, is by transforming our perspective.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org