You will go in G-d's ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
The entire purpose for the giving of life
is to do G-d's mitzvos and to fear Him [Ecclesiastes 6:13].
The time is short, the work is much, the
workers are lazy, the reward is much and the Ruler is strict...One hour used in this world
for repentance and good deeds is worth more than all of the pleasure of the eternal world,
because time used properly in this world is the means to the pleasure of eternal reward
[Pirkei Avos/Ethics Of The Fathers].
The one who comes to purify himself Heaven
helps him [Shabos 104a].
The one who sanctifies himself a little,
Heaven help to sanctify him much [Yoma 39a].
Anyone who is not the same in the inner
person and the outer person is not truly wise [Yoma 72b].
The yaitzer hora [evil inclination] starts
as thin as a spider web strand and [if one does not conquer it] it grows thicker than a
cart rope...The bigger that one spiritually is, the bigger his yaitzer hora is (Suka 52a).
The Torah is a potion of life...I created
the yaitzer hora [evil inclination] and I created the Torah as its antidote [Kidushin
G-d wants your heart [Sanhedrin 106b].
There is no real joy except the joy of
wisdom and if there is true wisdom in a person, this person studies mussar
[self-perfection studies]. If the person has no wisdom in him, he is not able to learn
mussar [Yalkut Mishlay 909].
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to
Israel, "My sons, open for Me an opening of tshuva [repentance] like the small size
of an eye of a needle, and I will open for you openings big enough for wagons and
carriages to pass through [Shir HaShirim Raba 5].
When does the Torah perfect one's soul?
When one's engagement in the Torah is pure, it returns his soul to the road of life and
shields him from punishment [Rashi to Psalm 19:8].
A person should work to make himself a
perfect person [Rambam, Hilchos Dayos 1:4].
Character is analogous to a stew. A stew
must have the right number, balance and measure of ingredients: meat, water, vegetables
and spices. The personality must have the right number, balance and measure of midos
[traits] [Orchos Tzadikim].
Every moment of life is a test given by
G-d, specifically and exclusively given for the purpose of our passing the test, so we can
move on to the next moment of life to pass its test, and so forth, for every moment one is
alive [Mesilas Yesharim].
The full-time essential purpose of life is
to constantly keep improving one's midos/character traits. Every moment one is not
conquering his midos, he is wasting his life [Vilna Gaon].
A person is only born to keep changing his
nature over his entire lifetime. If a person thinks he has completed working on himself,
he has not even started. The more he is spiritually perfected, the more he will see
himself as having further to work. He will humbly see his mitzvos and spiritual
accomplishments as gifts from G-d, not as being due to own his greatness. A person who is
spiritually undeveloped will see any mitzva or spiritual deed as a major credit to himself
about which he entitles himself to feel proud. The spiritually developed person considers
his mitzvos and spiritual deeds a merit granted by G-d. [Elimelech Mi'Lezinsk]
It is harder to change one bad character
trait than to learn the complete Talmud...It is just as great a distance from knowing
something to not knowing something as is the distance from knowing something in your head
alone to internalizing it into your heart...As long as one is still alive, one can still
work on perfecting himself [Rabbi Yisroel Salanter].
May He save our souls from evil times and
frighten away the evil inclination from those who have been upheld [Siddur]. The task to
sanctify our personalities and lives carries with it the requirement that we fight against
the evil inclination, a struggle in which we need Divine assistance during hours of evil
temptation, if we are going to emerge as the victors...[our] nation is upheld by G-d
Himself...for all times so that we may shoulder our burdens and successfully discharge our
obligations [HoRav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, commentary on the Siddur].
A person must always rise spiritually,
connecting his soul with Hashem's G-dliness, thereby accepting the yoke of the kingdom of
Heaven, which represents ongoing departure from spiritual impurity to spiritual purity,
constantly rising from level to level [Shnayur Zalman of Liadi].
If midos are so fundamental to Torah, one
can wonder why the
Torah did not make working on midos a specific one of the 613
commandments. Midos are so fundamental that the Torah
intentionally did not give a commandment to work on midos, the
same way that a foundation is automatic when building a house.
A strong foundation is basic. Without it, there is no house. An architect does not specify
he will build a foundation. It is self-understood. Midos are so basic, that without a
strong foundation in good midos, there is no Torah, and you cannot have the 613
commandments without them [Rabbi Chayim Vital, famous 18th century Kabala master].
The strongest trick in the storehouse of
the yaitzer hora [evil inclination] is to take what you know to be truth and make you come
to have doubts about it. If you are not careful, this can cause you to come to sin even
where you are spiritually strongest [Chovos HaLevovos].
One of the signs that a person is a Jew is
the ability to feel shame [Yevamos 79a]. One of the causes for shame is taking anything
without earning it ["nahama dikisufa/bread of shame"]. The gemora [Yerushalmi,
Orla 1:3] says, "One who eats from the food of another is ashamed to look at the
benefactor's face." On this, Yismach Moshe [Parshas Toldos] says that a Jew does not
want Olam Habo [eternal life] for free. If one did not work and gets pay, he is ashamed to
look at his employer for receiving money. He knows that he does not deserve the money. If
one earns money, he is not ashamed to look at his employer. He knows he earned it. In this
manner, a person's essential work in this world is to earn the merit to have eternal life,
with it NOT being "nahama dikisufa." A person with moral values is ashamed about
receiving anything for free and, if he receives something for free, he is uncomfortable
with the one from whom he received it, be this G-d or man. Tana Debay Eliyahu Zuta 19 says
that the essential goal of Jewish life is to obtain Olam Habo. Noam Elimelech [Parshas
Ha'Azinu] writes that righteous people EARN reward from Hashem. If they obtain anything by
rachamim [compassion], they did not earn it. This free gift is "lifnim mishuras hadin
[beyond the strict law]." Therefore, they should have shame before Hashem for
receiving "nahama dikisufa." Righteous people want their reward to come from
"din [justice]." They can know that they have earned it when they receive any
reward from G-d. Ner Mitzva writes that the reason for bechira [free will choice] is to
credit us with mitzvos so our "s'char [reward]" won't be "nahama
dikisufa." If one does not feel shame for receiving things he has not earned, he
should promptly consult with his rabbi for guidance on how to meaningfully improve his
conduct, hashkofos [views] and midos [character traits]. A person is born into this world
to toil [adam li'amal yulod; Job 5:7], in order to obtain - and deserve - eternal reward
When can we know that someone is genuinely
religious? When he leaves the yeshiva and goes out into the world and keeps all of
G-ds laws [Reb Nachum of Kelm].
The famous chassidic tzadik, Reb Zushia,
was once crying. Zushia's brother, Reb Elimelech Mi'Lezinsk, who also was a famous
chassidic tzadik, asked his brother, "Why are you crying?" Reb Zushia
replied, "Because I'm not achieving my spiritual potential." Reb Elimelech
asked him, "Do you mean, because you are not on the level of Moshe
Rabainu?" "No," Zushia answered. "I don't have to be on the
level of Moshe Rabainu. I'm crying because I am not on the level of Zushia."
Hitler had indoctrinated the Germans with
the idea that they were the "master race." During the war, the Klausenberger
Rebbe was a concentration camp prisoner. He encouraged a Jew who was crumbling under the
Nazi torture by telling him to never forget that he is from the "Chosen People."
A German guard overheard the Rebbe and, since Yiddish is similar to German, he understood
what the Rebbe said and became infuriated. "So, you think you are the 'chosen
people'?" The Nazi brutally beat the Rebbi with his rifle butt till he fell to the
ground. The Nazi then roared, "Do you still think you are the 'chosen people'?"
The Rebbi said, "Yes, more than ever, because I could never do to another human being
what you just did to me!"
In 1923, the Chafetz Chayim was asked to be
the keynote speaker at the first Agudath Israel convention in Vienna. He was asked
specifically to speak on the subject of how he became "a Chafetz Chayim." The
Chafetz Chayim said that he saw the deficiencies in the Jewish world and he decided he had
to change the Jewish world. So, he tried to change the Jewish world and he couldn't. So,
he said he would change the Jews of his country, Poland. He tried to change the Jews of
his country, Poland, and he couldn't. So, he said he would change the Jews of his town,
Radin. He tried to change the Jews of his town, Radin, and he couldn't. So, he said he
would change the Jews of his shul [synagogue]. He tried to change the Jews of his shul and
he couldn't. So, he said he would change the Jews of his family. He tried to change the
Jews of his family and he couldn't. So, he said, "Let me change myself." And
when he changed himself, he became the "Chafetz Chayim" and he changed the Jews
of the world.
We have source after source, in Bible and
Talmud, from every camp of Torah scholarship [Litvish, Chasidish, Sefardic, Kabalist],
that working on self-perfection is basic, fundamental and self-understood.
Yet, many people today are not at their
spiritual potential or are not sufficiently concerned about spiritual improvement, whether
in matters between man and G-d or matters between man and man. They may say that such work
is only for spiritual giants, they are too busy, such work is impractical or a waste of
time, they may disparage it as corny or medieval, or make any other excuse.
Yet, working on mussar (self-mastery,
perfection and completion) and doing tshuva (spiritual return from shortcomings and
sins) are such great and fundamental requirements of Torah, that, without them, one
cannot make serious, true or significant accomplishment in Torah, Judaism or service of
One can only enter into the domain of true
and full Torah observance, and accomplishment of his true and full spiritual potential and
purpose in life, with sincere and ongoing work in the domain of essential and fundamental
This "Personal Growth and
Self-Perfection" section is designed to enable the honest seeker of true Torah, and
of its true fulfillment, to find essential and fundamental self-perfection studies. One is
advised to seek out a rov or rebbe as a spiritual guide to devise and steadily supervise a
practical personal program for self-improvement, for correction of shortcomings and
errors, for spiritual growth and for increasing true closeness to Hashem Yisborach.
- Working on Good Midos (Character
- How to Beat Your Yaitzer Hora (Evil
- The Six Mitzvos That Apply At All
- Tshuva (Repentence)
- Putting Holiness Into:
Bais Knessess (Shul, Synagogue), Prayer - and Yourself
- Halachos (Laws) of Prayer and Bais
Knessess (Shul, Synagogue)
- Appreciating and Productively