Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If Only It Were That Simple...

Emet/Truth posted a quote about Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:

I heard the Rebbe say, 'Why worry about livelihood. The only thing to worry about is that you may die of hunger if you cannot afford food. And if you die, what is so terrible? You must die anyway.

Alas, if it were only that simple. Dying is easy. However, I have people who depend on my being alive. My wife depends on me greatly. My children even more so. My death, while in the grand, cosmic scheme of things might be an insignificant thing, would be a terrible burden to them. *They* still need to eat, wear clothing, go to yeshiva, etc.

Simply dying would be extremely selfish on my part. *That's* why I worry abotu livelihood.

The Wolf

7 comments:

The Jewish Freak said...

The idea of personal responsibility has all but disappeared from the UO world

Anonymous said...

>Simply dying would be extremely selfish on my part. *That's* why I worry abotu livelihood.

Ever heard of life insurance?

BrooklynWolf said...

Sure. I even have some. But it's not only in a monetary fashion that my family depends on me.

The Wolf

pop said...

This personfies to me the difficulties of accepting anything from Rav Nachman of Breslov. Chazal did not take that position. They deal with pichuach nefesh. Besides living in poverty for some is worse than death. His statement sounds truly bizare. When I was a teenager and first in yeshiva I would respect his maamorim.

Now after much reflection I would appear to me that his statements are inspirational but things that if said by anyone else would appear silly or worse.

Assuming that his derech is inline with the torah creates a big raoso on the torah itself. Not that anyone cares. Those who think about what he says dont care about the finer points of logic. Those who are into thinking clearly dont pay any attention to him.

Seriously taken together, his comments offer a refutation of torah she baal peh.

Unless of course you throw out his maamorim from torah she baal peh......

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

I was once in a class where the teacher was berating us for not giving enough time to learning, and started going on about all the things the Rambam--who I seem to be talking about a lot this evening--got done with HIS time.

A lady with teenage sons who took the class with me got up and asked if the Rambam did his family's laundry. Or cleaned his house. Or cooked his family's breakfast, lunch and dinner. And whether he ever had to bake cookies for the shul's bakesale. And who did the grocery shopping, and dropped things off to the drycleaners. And if he ever needed to knit a sweater for a birthday that was happening Wednesday. And if his wife had a business that sometimes needed him to come in and do typing on Sunday.

Nachman could afford to be a bit of a fatalist, being Nachman.

That said, I don't think that these kinds of odd, dark, statements are necessarily meant to be taken totally literally, or as a worldview that conflicts with Torah. It's gallows humor. When you're counselling someone who's clawing for survival, as many Jews in Nachman's world were, they already know they have to try to make a living. They know that they need to eat. They know that living in poverty is no fun. But they also know that they may have no choice about that. And while Torah affirms life, knowing that doesn't necessarily raise the depression of a person trying to make a living out of nothing.

Nachman replies--"Hey, the worst thing that happens is you could die. You thought you were going to live forever?" It's bitterly funny. It throws you off center. It gives you a little hope back. It's not theology, but a line like that and a shot of brandy--coming from the Rebbe--may give someone the guts to go out and do it again the next day.

Maybe I miss the nuance, but that's how I imagine it in context, not a serene Rebbe Nachman telling everyone to accept death and hold their lives valueless.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying then, that R' Nachman was selfish? (shocked).

There is a story about R' Zushe of Anipoli who said something to the effect of nebech on his family who relied on him for parnasa because he didn't do that great in that department.

Fortunate was he that he relied on G-d for his livelihood!

So I think R' Nachman's point is being missed when the comments are about our family needing us and how about life insurance. The point is that parnasa comes from G-d and therefore, one should not worry about it because worrying about it is futile and expresses one's lack of bitachon.

Saying that one must work to provide, expresses the idea of "kochi v'otzem yadi."

Anonymous said...

It's been almost a decade, so it's weird that I'm commenting, but saying that one doesn't have to work to provide shows lack of knowledge of basic kindergarten economics.