One of the foundational teachings of Chassidus is the importance for a Jew to always be aware of just how much more there is yet to be accomplished in one’s avodas Hashem. No matter how lofty the levels a chassid may reach, he is forever striving for deeper perceptions, greater emunah, and more complete self-control. Balanced by another pole of healthy satisfaction and pride over what he has already been able to accomplish as well as the realization that he is only charged with doing what he is able, (“Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor”), this striving never leads to sadness or anxiety. Rather, it infuses his avodah with a sense of yearning, excitement, and anticipation for an ever-elusive future goal (“V’lo atah ben chorin l’hibatel mimenah”), animating his entire life with vibrancy and vitality.

Although by all external appearances, Chassidim seem to be most joyous, confident, and comfortable in their avodas Hashem, this impression is, paradoxically, founded upon a perpetual sense of spiritual inadequacy. The Baal Shem Tov trained his followers to perceive an ever-present lack in their spiritual development. Regardless of how advanced they may become in their Torah study, tefillah, or purity, he wanted them to feel as if they had only just begun. Counterintuitively, this constant, heartbroken yearning for completion and desire to further reveal Hashem’s presence in the world irrespective of past success produced a unique spirit of excitement, passion, and joy in their avodah. Applying the idea that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” to elements in avodas Hashem which were in fact quite near, the Baal Shem Tov and his students encouraged Jews to long for their tefillah while uttering its very words, to yearn for the page of Gemara while actively engaged in its study. In this way, they could forever maintain a degree of “fondness” toward avodas Hashem, avoiding the malady of rote and spiritual apathy.

In this week’s parsha, the pasuk states: “Olas tamid ha’asuyah b’Har Sinai l’reyach nichoach isheh la’Shem.” On a simple level, these words are translated as, “A continual burnt offering – as the one offered up at Mount Sinai – for a spirit of satisfaction, a fire offering to Hashem.” Reb Shimon Yaroslaver zy”a saw a deeper meaning:

“Olas Tamid”: If one wants his avodas Hashem to perpetually shine with the animating spirit of yearning, excitement, and anticipation, “Ha’asuyah b’Har Sinai”: It must be accompanied by Sinai-like humility, the constant awareness of one’s lack in avodas Hashem. “L’reiach nichoach isheh la’Shem”: Indeed, it is this kind of avodah, bursting with utmost sincerity, that gives Hashem the greatest pleasure.

The fiery service of the humble oveid Hashem who is constantly striving toward greater spiritual goals grants the Master of the world the most profound pleasure.

Rebbe Shimon of Yaroslov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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