It’s Your Fear That Causes You to Fail

The Maharal shares an interesting experiment: Place a beam of wood over a river and notice that most people won’t succeed in crossing to the end. Place the same beam on the ground and no one will fall off. It’s the thought of falling that causes us to fall.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

The Maharal illustrates the power of our thoughts with the following experiment. Place a plank of wood over a river that reaches from one riverbank to the opposite one and notice that most people won’t succeed in crossing on it to the end. Place the very same plank on the ground and notice that no one will fall off. The thought of falling is what causes us to fall.[1]

In this week’s sedra we read that when the shivas y’mei ha’miluim were complete and Aharon Hakohen was to begin his role as kohen gadol, Moshe Rabbeinu called him and said, “Approach the mizbe’ach and carry out your chatas offering…So Aharon approached the mizbe’ach and slaughtered his chatas calf.”

The medrash recounts shocking details to this episode. As Aharon stood there, poised to take on his new role, he became frightened to approach the mizbe’ach. As he looked at the top of the mizbe’ach with its protruding “horns” at each corner, he saw an image of a calf. He was haunted by his past, when he enabled the cheit ha’egel, a golden calf, and was afraid that he was not yet cleansed of this sin. Moshe detected Aharon’s apprehension and said, “Do not fear that which you are afraid of, approach the mizbe’ach!”

Aharon’s fear seems legitimate, and yet it doesn’t seem that Moshe dispelled it at all. So how did his words help Aharon to be able to go ahead with his avodah?

Meforshim[2] explain that this is what Moshe said: “Your fear of the mizbe’ach is a product of your own thoughts. You’re still stuck in your past sin and so that’s all you can see. But I’m telling you that the past has been erased, you have been forgiven. Stop frightening yourself! Embolden yourself, take control of your thoughts and walk straight up to the mizbe’ach!”

Hearing this, Aharon changed his attitude and instead of seeing a scary beast he saw a new platform for avodas Hashem.

Someone wrote to the Rebbe about disturbing thoughts he was experiencing. The Rebbe explained to him that a person’s issues can sometimes come from an outside force, sometimes they actually exist within ourselves, and some issues are created by us. The disturbing thoughts you’re describing are of the third type. If you can fabricate these thoughts, you can surely un-fabricate them by creating new, good thoughts or even just by distracting yourself.[3]

We often stand poised to do something good but are then gripped by a fear which holds us back. It’s important and helpful to remind ourselves that many of these fears are unfounded and are ploys used by the yetzer hara to prevent us from accomplishing our goals.

Adar is a time for joy and Nissan is a time to break free of our personal mitzrayim’s, restrictions and inhibitions. Let’s gather strength from the Shabbos that combines both of these months to overcome our own selves and start serving Hashem to our fullest potential!

[1] Chidushei Agados Bava Metzia 33a

[2] Korban Aharon to Toras Kohanim

[3] Igros Kodesh vol 14 pg. 22

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  1. Amazing vort of the Mahara”l. Thanks for bringing it to light,as well as the explanation of the Midrash.
    There really are tons of these beautiful vertlech and novel transformational philosophycial ideas out there in Torah liturateur, such as Chovos Ha’Levavos (not only Sha’ar Ha’Bitachon, b.t.w. the Rebbe in a Yechidus instructed Rabbi Jubani from Tzfas as a bochur in 770 to be baki in Chovos Ha’Levavos and bifrat Sha’ar Ha’Bitachon).

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