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Exaggerated Enjoyment

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 7/1/2020

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Exaggerated Enjoyment

                At times we may observe one who behaves in a secular manner saying he had a great time. Is that really true? Many times those behaving this way are left with a feeling of emptiness. Their bragging is just a cover.[1]


This can be compared to a fish that is out of water, as it jumps around uncontrollably. Although it appears that the fish is really alive, we know the opposite is true since his real habitat is in water. The same applies to when a Jew strays from the proper path. Although it seems like he is having fun by jumping around—with alcohol, the opposite gender and the[2] like—the truth is he is like a fish out of water.[3] Indeed, we are compared to fish—וידגו לרב.[4] A Jew needs to live in water.[5] Torah[6] that is, as in אין מים אלא תורה.[7]  


Just as when a fish is returned to water we see the return of the vitality of the fish, the same is with a Jew. When he is put into the waters of Torah, we can see his strength return.[8]


The following incredible account is brought in the Sefer בוצינא דנהורא.[9] R’ Tzvi Zidichover was once in Mezibiz where he hid in the room with another Chassid to hear Shir Hashirim from the holy R’ Baruch Mezbitzer.[10] When he began to recite Shir Hashirim with zeal and passion, the Chassid said to R’ Tzvi that he was disoriented from the abundant fire that was in the heart of the Rebbe, R’ Baruch Mezbitzer. When the Rebbe recited ודגלו עלי אהבה... אני, it literally appeared as if there was a fire surrounding him. The Chassid then ran away since he couldn’t tolerate the awesome fire. R’ Tzvi saw thunder and fire in which the house was completely engulfed in. He strengthened himself and managed to continue to stay there as he wanted to be in the presence of such holiness. Then the Rebbe reached the Pasuk אני לדודי ועלי תשוקתו. At this point, R’ Tzvi nearly lost his mind. R’ Tzvi then said ‘I am willing to be Moser Nefesh to Hashem with love to hear דברי אלה-ים חיים like it was given by Sinai. If my soul departs from my body, I am doing the will of Hashem.’ At that time, a new spirit was endowed to him from the heavens. He then saw the fire of Hashem in the house which was inconceivable. Then when the Rebbe recited the Pasukכי עזה כמות אהבה...שלהבתיה , …its flashes are flashes of fire from the flame of Hashem, R’ Tzvi nearly lost his life (כמעט נתבטל במציאות) from the great fervor and passion. Hashem then helped R’ Tzvi until his Rebbi finished Shir Hashirim.[11]


Everyone has a need to connect to the Creator. If he doesn’t, then the need manifests itself in gratifying the body in material ways. This is what is meant in הנפש לא תמלא,[12] his wants are never satisfied, as this can be in spirituality or physicality. In ידיד נפש, we sing נפשי חולת אהבתך, my soul pines for your love. An alternate translation is our soul is sick in the area of love, meaning instead of serving Hashem, we indulge in worldly pleasures.  


Although it may appear that one who is confined to the Torah is limited, the truth is that this is when his potential can be brought forth. A violin string can only express music when it is tied down. Likewise, we can only express ourselves when we are subjected to the Torah.[13]

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] How do they get those dancing bears to dance at a circus? It was revealed that they train these bears by first putting them on hot coals. This causes them to hop around. They then put music on so that the bears make an association to dance when the music is on. When it’s their time to come on stage at the circus, the music is put on, causing them to dance. In life we see the same as there are those that take drugs, drink alcohol and the like. They say they are having a good time not because they truly are but because they are trained that way. That is, to associate that partying is cool. Just as the bears seem to be enjoying themselves since they are dancing but are really in pain similarly those who party seem to be enjoying but in truth they are in pain.

[2] It has been said, “A person who feels emptiness on the inside seeks to be filled by things on the outside and will always need more.”

[3] This is analogous to a chicken’s head that is chopped off and is jumping around although it is really dead.

[4] Breishis 48:16. The saying goes, “It is better to be on the outside looking in, than on the inside looking out.”

[5] Man is compared to a tree—כי האדם עץ השדה (Devarim 20:19). Just as a tree grows and becomes stronger through watering it, likewise, this is how we grow and become spiritually stronger—through water, Torah—אין מים אלא תורה.

[6] We see what an amazing, superior existence one lives when he lives a Torah life from Vayikra 26:3-13, אם בחקתי תלכו....

[7] Taanis 7a. We know that in the Mishkan there were no windows. This is because a window is necessary if there is something to look at. Since all Kedusha is in the Mishkan, there is no need for windows. The same applies to genuine Torah learning, as one doesn’t need to see the secular material of the outside world.

[8] Once one lives a better lifestyle he sees that it doesn’t compare to the old one. This is similar to what it says אשר ראה את הבית הזה..., those who saw the first Beis Hamikdash knew that the second one was inferior to it (Chagai 2:3).

[9] Also in Taanmai Minhagim, p. 123, s.v. ובשם.

[10] R’ Baruch Mezbitzer was a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and a student of the Magid of Mezrich as well as R’ Pinchas Koritzer. He became Rebbe in Mezibiz around 1782 and died in 1811.

[11] Shir Hashirim 2:4, 7:11, 8:6. R’ Tzvi Zidichover later remarked that when he would fall in his Avodas Hashem he would remember these special moments that he heard Shir Hashirim from such a person where his eyes were lit up.

[12] Koheles 6:7. It has been said that a Jew goes to עולם הבא either through suffering with the Yetzer Hara or through Gehinom. We should therefore take advantage and acquire the next world with overcoming the Yetzer Hara.

[13] It is obviously no coincidence that both holidays of Torah, Shavuos and Simchas Torah, are both called עצרת. This is because עצרת means to restrain and the Torah disciplines us, as in בראתי יצר הרע..., Hashem created the Yetzer Hara and the Torah as its antidote (Kidushin 30b). Also, the Torah was given to us because we are עזין, strong-willed (Beitza 25b). 

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