There is no Man that doesn’t have his hour and nothing that has no place… Be extremely low in spirit…” (Avos 4: 3-4)
A true Jew is required to have a split personality. Think about it. We learn about the importance of always being joyful, but we must maintain a state of constant mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. We strive to reach a state of closeness and love with the Almighty, but must maintain a sense of fear and reverence. We detach ourselves from physical indulgence, but embrace the physical world in attempt to elevate it. And here we find another tricky one. On the one hand we focus on the “greatness of Man”, the sense that “The world was created for me”, the recognition that we were put in the world to accomplish something that no one else in history was ever been able to accomplish, and that our actions- even the little ones- have unbelievable affects in the greater scheme of things, far beyond what we can comprehend. On the other hand, we are told to be “low in spirit”, to feel that we are falling short in what we can be accomplishing, that we are flawed in our service to God, and that we are just a speck in a massive cosmos of space and time.
This deep teaching was emphasized by many great Tzadikim each in his own style. The Chasidic master R’ Bunim of Peshischa would say, “A person was given two eyes, one to view his strengths, the other to view his weaknesses.” Rav Shlomo Freifeld would say, “A person must have pockets in his soul. In one pocket he must keep all the joy that can fit, and in the other all of his tears.” The Amshinover Rebbe put his own unique spin on it, “A person must wear two watches. One tells him how much time he has left to do great things. The other must tell him how much time has already gone by.”
On a practical note, how is it possible for a person to simultaneously be working on two opposite virtues? To answer this, allow me to share with you an incredible teaching of many of the great masters of Jewish thought.
Every single Jewish soul that enters the world must go through phases in life, referred to in the writings as “Days of Love” and “Days of Hatred”. Days of love means, as it implies, the times in life when we feel in our hearts “Hashem loves me”. In these days we view the world with an amazing sense of clarity, we can easily feel joy, and our hearts are open to embracing more and more spirituality into our life. In these days it is likely that our relationships with family and friends will be strong, we will find satisfaction in our lives, and new opportunities will present themselves. We are on top the world!
And then… just when we are getting comfy… come the days of hatred. Nothing seems clear anymore, we feel sadness for seemingly no reason at all, and we suddenly come to realize that there is a void of emptiness in our lives. The world around us seems to be turning its back on us, as well as our Father in Heaven, who no longer seems so fatherly.
Though this system might seem like “tough love”, it gives us the potential to keep that balance in our lives. To feel “big” in the days of love is no great feat, but can we maintain that when times get rough? And when we enter the days of love, do we use this precious time to correct the flaws that we discovered in the days of hatred, or do we get caught up in the moment of feeling bliss on this world? This is the message we are learning here. When life seems difficult make sure to reach into that pocket filled with joy to get you through, but use the time to realize the creases in life that need to be ironed out. And when the sun shines again and you feel empowered to take on the world, reach back into that pocket of tears and see how you can take life to the next level.
To quote an old Jewish saying, “Sometimes you just gotta take one step back, to take two steps forward”! And sometimes you just might have to cry a few tears, to bring out that true smile!