Apr 19, 2013

The Theory of Absolute

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein gave a thought provoking post-Pesach talk.  He said this was the talk he gave at a hotel in Florida as the closing speech for the Pesach program there.  (He reassured his audience that he was home for the first days of Yom Tov, since he speaks about the importance of spending Yom Tov at home).

He pointed out that people managed without a phone and Internet for five days, for the first and last days of Yom Tov plus Shabbos Chol Ha'Moed.   His friends, who smoke two and a half packs of cigarettes a day, manage without a cigarette on Shabbos and don't have withdrawal symptoms.  How is this possible?

Regarding the phone and Internet, people say it's because nobody else is using it either and there is nobody to communicate with, so it's easy to refrain on Shabbos and Yom Tov.  However, that doesn't apply to those who smoke or those who tell him that they can't fall asleep without watching a movie.  The reason why Jews can refrain on Shabbos and Yom Tov, he says, and they don't even have physical withdrawal symptoms, is because they regard these prohibited activities as absolutely off-limits.   Just like his grandson stopped whining for chocolate when Zaidy said it wasn't kosher.  Frum children will not persist in asking for a food item if they are told it's not kosher.  Why? Because it's absolutely not acceptable and they know it.
R' Wallerstein went on to describe his gambling history and how caught up he was in it.  He said that praying to Hashem and swearing he'd stop gambling, if G-d replaced his money so he could pay off his debts, did not help. He went back to gambling. What stopped him was "happening" to come across the sefer Kav Ha'Yashar and seeing what he says about ill-gained money, how the good things done with it go to the “other side.”

Gambling was no longer a taava for him. It became absolutely off-limits.  He didn't need a 12 Step program or any kind of therapy.  Once that "clicked" in his mind, gambling became a non-issue for him. 

What are our absolutes, our red lines? It seems with R' Wallerstein to have been an "Act of G-d."  Hashem directed him to the particular sefer and the particular page that made a deep impression on him.  That wouldn't necessarily work for someone else.  How can we gain the Absolute mindset?

You can watch his talk here

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