April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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“This world is a mask which hides a higher world. But it is a unique mask: It hides, and yet it reveals. It is opaque and yet transparent. The face behind the mask hides or shines through, depending on the viewer. We are lulled into insensitivity by the routine of nature; we take for granted that with which we are familiar. The world is a stamped-out image of a higher reality. If one studies the world with the knowledge that it accurately reflects its source, one can perceive the features of that source surely and consistently. The choice is entirely the observer’s – one can look at the world with the tired eyes of habit and see only the mechanical, only that which drowns the spirit; or one can look with eyes of wonder and see the image of a higher reality.”

The above excerpts from Rabbi Akiva Tatz’s inspiring book “Worldmask,” paints a real-life portrait of our every-day challenge in navigating the paths of Hashem’s brilliant creation. In Derech Hashem, the Ramchal’s foundational sefer outlining his blueprint for life, the Ramchal presents the fact that Hashem created people for the purpose of deveikus (attaching and clinging to Hashem), enabling us to connect to Hashem’s perfection.

While the ultimate destination ideally suited for deveikus takes place in the next world, Hashem gave us an opportunity to earn our place in the world to come through choosing the path of “life,” the path of Torah, mitzvos and acts of kindness in this world. The very definition of choice however, necessitates that there be an alternate path and continuous free-choice along life’s many forks in the road. Ultimately the need for true free choice requires Hashem remaining hidden behind the “mask” of this world.

Yaakov left the world of Be’er Sheva, a world the Sfas Emes refers to as representing Shabbos, kedusha (holiness) and Eretz Yisrael to journey out into the world of galus (exile), of the six days of the week and the world of the mundane. The further one drifts out into the waves of the vast oceans of the world, the more that doubt and uncertainty set in and the greater the challenge it is to recognize The Master orchestrating it all from behind the mask.

Yaakov drifts off into the slumber of life only to dream of a ladder connecting heaven and Earth with heavenly angels ascending and descending and with Hashem appearing in order to reaffirm his promise of an unbreakable and eternal Jewish future. Yaakov immediately awakens from his slumber and sensing Godliness he declares “how awesome is this place in which Hashem dwells and this is surely the gates of the heavens!”

The Rambam teaches us the foundational Jewish concept of “maaseh avot siman lebanim,, the fathers’ actions are a sign for the children.” As with Yaakov, our travels along the rollercoaster of mundane daily life often leads to our descent into a spiritual slumber. However, those willing to diligently endure and seal the tired eyes of habit closed while simultaneously opening the eyes of wonder, will be the fortunate ones to see beyond the mask of this world and join Yaakov in recognizing Godliness and the image of a higher reality.

The Sfas Emes brilliantly adds that anyone who fails to say both “Emes Veyatziv” (“truth and command” following the recitation of Shema during the day, as well as “Emes Ve’emunah” (“truth and faith”) following the recitation of Shema at night, has failed to fulfill his obligation. This is because the daytime represents the moments of clarity in life, the moments in which we feel the truth of Hashem’s presence and are ready to move right to fulfilling the mitzvos. However, the night represents life’s moments of darkness and confusion, of a lack of clarity. Therefore it is during the confusing moments of the “night time” of our lives in which we must lean on our emunah.

Our father Yaakov was successfully able to connect the clarity of heaven with the confusion of the Earth while paving the path for us to successfully operate in the dichotomy of a world wrought with moments of uncertainly and doubt as well as the inspired moments of clarity and purpose. Yaakov later successfully tackled life’s challenges represented by Eisav and his battle with the angel of Hashem.

I heard an inspiring mashal (parable) from my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger. Word reached the Russian military base that in two weeks’ time the Russian Czar would arrive to inspect the base. The ensuing weeks were intense as the soldiers worked tirelessly to prepare the base for the Czar‘s visit. On the very day the Czar was scheduled to visit, the soldiers cracked under the tension of their intense efforts, and they all went out drinking to alleviate their stress.

As the Czar arrived on his horse and buggy later that day he and his aides were astounded to find the soldiers all passed out drunk on the side of the road. The Czar descended from his wagon and pointed to one particular soldier who was lying on the ground. He instructed his aides to shoot all of the other passed out soldiers with the exception of this one soldier he was pointing at. The Czar’s aids were dumbfounded, and asked him why that particular passed out soldier was the only one who should not be shot?

The Czar responded by pointing out that it’s understandable that the challenges of life can lead one to fail, but all of the other soldiers failed while facing the bar. This one soldier however, while he too had passed out, he was at least struggling to get back to the base.

The rollercoaster of life in galus is full of ups and downs, of clarity and confusion, of successful climbs and disappointing failures. The spiritual reward is immense however, for life’s seekers of eternal truth, for those willing to peek behind the mask.


Daniel Gibber is a longtime resident of Teaneck and is a VP of Sales at Deb El Food Products. In addition to learning as much Torah as he can, he is also privileged to speak periodically on the topic of emunah and be involved in Jewish outreach through Olami Manhattan. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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