Dec 18, 2009

"And my soul should be as dust to all"

The buzz word for the past long while is self-esteem. Everybody agrees we all need it, most people don't think they have it, and there are endless numbers of books, tapes, lectures, workshops, and articles on the subject.

It says in Pirkei Avos, "Make His will as your will, so that He will make your will as His will; nullify (batel) your will for His will, so that he will nullify others' will before your will."

If you esteem your self, that is the opposite of bittul where you nullify your self.
Here's a definition: bittul is the negation of my will. My only desire is to fulfill what Hashem wants of me.  There are levels of bittul like - I still have an opinion, but I put it aside and do what Hashem wants. A higher level of bittul ("v'nachnu ma " as Moshe and Aharon said) is when I don't have my own opinion. That's what it's all about, negating the "ich," I, the ego. It's the ego that gets in the way of all the good things we want to do. Hashem wants something but I want something else! Even anava (humility) is about "ich," because it's MY brains, MY talents, MY yichus, MY knowledge, MY good looks, etc. that I don't take credit for.

Don't get me wrong, anava is extremely important, needless to say! After all, Moshe was called the anav m'kol adam (more humble than anyone)! He did not credit himself with anything, even though he spoke to Hashem face to face, unlike any other human being.

Bittul is about getting AWAY from self. Who cares what I think, what I am? The emphasis is on the mission. On getting the job done. What job? The one given to us by Hashem.

When you do a mitzvah, you have to do it because Hashem commanded us to do mitzvos, not because you understand the mitzvah.  You don't do it because you think it makes sense, or because you feel that it's the right thing to do.  You do it solely because of Hashem.  This is is called "naaseh v'nishma" - I accept the assignment; now tell me what it is.

Bittul means: I am nothing but Hashem's servant. Whatever He wants me to do, I do. I have no agenda of my own. My creation and continued existence is solely to fulfill His will.  The Avos are described as the merkava-chariot of G-d. Just as a chariot (or a car) has no will of its own, and only goes where the driver directs it, so too the Avos lived only to fulfill G-d's will.

How sincere are we when we end Shemone Esrei each day with the words, "v'nafshi k'afar la'kol tihiye (and my soul should be as dust to all)?

My self confidence is only insofar as being confident that Hashem put me here solely to serve Him, and that He gave me the ability to do so. "Im ein ani li, mi li?" (if I am not for myself, who will be for me?) means only I can fulfill the role G-d assigned to me.

Bittul entails not thinking about yourself but thinking about G-d, about another Jew.

When we acknowledge that most of our misery comes from thinking about ourselves, we'll realize that it's a whole lot easier to have bittul than not to have it.  Still and all, negating ourselves is a tough job, a lifelong avoda.

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