"Fortunate is the person whom You, HaShem, afflict; You teach him from Your Torah (laws, instructions)." (Ps. 94:12)
What a peculiar statement! Why did King David think that afflictions are such wonderful, providential experiences? And what exactly is this connection between suffering and Torah study?
Our Jewish sages discussed the topic of suffering in the world at length. While they tried to understand this problematic phenomenon, they were equally concerned with the question of how one should respond to these challenges. "If a person sees that he is suffering, he should examine his conduct …. If he has examined his actions and found no wrongdoing, he should attribute the suffering to "bitul Torah" (neglect of Torah study and practice of it), as it says, "Fortunate is the person whom You, G-d, afflict; You teach him from Your Torah." We also read in Kohelet "HaShem rebukes those whom He loves" (Proverbs 3:12)."
So what is Bitul? Bitul- is another ‘state’ of being described in various places throughout the Jewish teachings and its meaning is, ‘self-nullification’. This can be compared with the frequently discussed topic in eastern traditions known as ‘ego-nullification, ‘ego-death’.
The Ba’al Shem Tov (a descendant of David) teaches that the beginning of all Divine service is to experience an existential sense of identification with all the most lowly creatures on earth, as though saying to himself: "they all fulfill G-d’s intentions for them faithfully; were only I able to do the same." In Jewish tradition there are two levels of bitul. The lower bitul is called bitul hayesh (nullification of the somethingness) at this level one cooperates with divine grace in a spiritual nullification of the soul- this is a seeking to prepare one for the Dwelling in Divine Will- this is a uniting of the soul with the Divine Will, this practice is called Devekut (clinging).
Bitul HaYesh: This is the first stage of Avoda (service to HaShem) where you do what the Torah asks of you even if you don’t necessarily understand or agree with it because you know the Torah knows better. This is like a person who is always fighting himself. This means that the person is not so concerned about himself, but rather sees himself as insignificant (merely a tool) to fulfill his G-dly purpose in the world. One must always keep in mind that this nullification of the soul and the human will is a spiritual or mystical nullification not a literal nullification. This then allows one to attain to the state of mesirat nefesh (total self-sacrifice) where one lives totally for the other in a pure manner without selfish motives. One then attains to hitpashtut mi-gashmiut (shedding of worldliness) in order to focus solely on the Divine Will and the tikkunim (help) for others. One still lives in the world but now one’s actions in the world are done only for G-dly purposes. One thus becomes the servant of all.
The higher level of bitul is that of being so nullified that one Lives or dwells in Divine Will (ratzon) with no sense of independent existence or action outside the Will of G-d. Meaning, that a person is no longer living for self, he or she has no independent movement outside the Will of His Creator.
The second level of Bitul is bitul b’metziut (totally self-nullified): This is when the person is not fighting himself, but sees his whole life as being a tool to fulfill Torah and Mitzvot. This is sort of like how a Shaliach’s (Emissary) whole identity is a messenger of Mashiach and therefore he gets all of his strength from Mashiach himself.
For him or her, nothing exists except for G-dliness, and he has no existence of his own. Then he has reached the summit, the Holy of Holies, and realized the place within himself where he is totally united with G-d. This is the level that Mashiach attains, and of which we aspire via the tzadik, Mashiach himself.
The general idea of Bitul is nicely summed up from the teachings from the Rashab. A Maskil (scholar) is one who learns all the time. An Oved (servant) one who prays all the time. Who is an Oved and a Maskil? The one who peels the potatoes for the Jewish celebration. Why? Because he is ready to do whatever may be necessary. If it’s time to pray he’ll pray fully, if it’s time to learn, he’ll learn fully and if they need potatoes for the celebration he’ll do that too. That’s because it’s not about what he wants to be, it’s about what G-d asks of him.
Our Rabbi, Yeshua said: But Yeshua called them and said, “You know that among the Goyim (Nations), those who are supposed to rule them become tyrants, and their superiors become dictators. Among you, it must not be like that. On the contrary, whoever among you wants to be a leader must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave! For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve — and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mattityahu / Matthew 20:25-28)
The path to follow to be a leader like Maran Yeshua is not the path of seeking power or position for selfish motives to be a tyrant or to be a leader without taking into account that there is sacrifice required (BITUL). Yeshua lays out here that leadership requires one to be a servant and to like our Messiah demonstrate a life of leading by serving others. This is real BITUL. Became like our Rabbi, follow his example. Would you?
Tags: afflictions, Bitul, descendant, divine grace, divine service, dwelling, eastern traditions, ego death, existential sense, jewish sages, jewish teachings, jewish tradition, lowly creatures, neglect, nullification, phenomenon, proverbs, rsquo, Self-nullification, Selflessness, shem tov, torah laws, wrongdoing
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