One of the axiomatic principles of our holy tradition is that this world is merely a preparation for the World to come. Chazal teach that this world is a “hallway” before the ballroom of Olam Haba – only one who prepares himself in the hallway will be admitted to the ballroom to partake in the spiritual delight of closeness with the Creator of all. When a Jew lives in this way, the great light of Olam Haba illuminates the mundanity of his life, binding all details of his circumstances together with the inclusive bond of a common purpose.

An opponent to the Chassidic path once approached a Chassid and asked, “How can you call yourself ‘Chassidim’? Don’t you know what an elevated level one must acquire to become a Chassid? But you refer even to the simple water-carriers and tailors as ‘Chassidim’!”

The Chassid thought for a moment before responding. “There is a train that travels from Berditchov to Kiev. Although it spends most of its journey outside of Kiev, people refer to it as “the Kiev train”, because Kiev is its ultimate destination. Since everything related to this train is positioned in the direction of Kiev, the spirit of Kiev sufficiently hovers over the entire journey. It is thus called, “the Kiev train.” It is the same with Chassidus. Sure, most Chassidim spent the larger portion of life far from attaining the title of “Chassid.” But because every Chassid yearns for that eventuality and true Chassidus is indeed our ultimate goal, the spirit of this lofty level hovers over all levels which precede it.”

In the same way, when one lives his life for the ultimate tachlis, considering each detail of his life as it stands in relation to Olam Haba, the great spirit of the transcendent realm settles upon the particularity of his existence, filling his life with an elevated sense of purpose and spiritual illumination. It is therefore important to attempt to approach life with the ultimate other-focus; pausing for a moment before we think, speak, or act to consider whether this expression will bring us closer to the eternal spirit of Olam Haba or drag us further into the realm of egotistical transience.

In this week’s parsha, the verse states: “Lo sakum lecha matzeiva” – “You shall not not erect for yourself a stone altar.” The Kedushas Levi reads this verse in the following, wondrous, manner: “Lo sakum lecha” – do not raise “lecha”, those things in your life which are saturated with self-focus, personal gratification, and egoism, “matzeivah” – to the level of those experiences that are saturated with the eternal spirit of Olam Haba. Instead, strive to live life with a focus on engaging in those actions that bring you closer to the ultimate tachlis – an existence of eternal closeness with the Master of the world.

An opponent to the Chassidic path once approached a Chassid and asked, “How can you call yourself ‘Chassidim’? Don’t you know what an elevated level one must acquire to become a Chassid? But you refer even to the simple water-carriers and tailors as ‘Chassidim’!”

The Chassid thought for a moment before responding. “There is a train that travels from Berditchov to Kiev. Although it spends most of its journey outside of Kiev, people refer to it as “the Kiev train”, because Kiev is its ultimate destination. Since everything related to this train is positioned in the direction of Kiev, the spirit of Kiev sufficiently hovers over the entire journey. It is thus called, “the Kiev train.” It is the same with Chassidus. Sure, most Chassidim spent the larger portion of life far from attaining the title of “Chassid.” But because every Chassid yearns for that eventuality and true Chassidus is indeed our ultimate goal, the spirit of this lofty level hovers over all levels which precede it.”

In the same way, when one lives his life for the ultimate tachlis, considering each detail of his life as it stands in relation to Olam Haba, the great spirit of the transcendent realm settles upon the particularity of his existence, filling his life with an elevated sense of purpose and spiritual illumination. It is therefore important to attempt to approach life with the ultimate other-focus; pausing for a moment before we think, speak, or act to consider whether this expression will bring us closer to the eternal spirit of Olam Haba or drag us further into the realm of egotistical transience.

In this week’s parsha, the verse states: “Lo sakum lecha matzeiva” – “You shall not not erect for yourself a stone altar.” The Kedushas Levi reads this verse in the following, wondrous, manner: “Lo sakum lecha” – do not raise “lecha”, those things in your life which are saturated with self-focus, personal gratification, and egoism, “matzeivah” – to the level of those experiences that are saturated with the eternal spirit of Olam Haba. Instead, strive to live life with a focus on engaging in those actions that bring you closer to the ultimate tachlis – an existence of eternal closeness with the Master of the world.

Despite spending a great deal of time travelling through many other cities, the train which travels to Kiev is called “The Kiev Train”, because that is its ultimate destination. Despite spending a great deal of time engaged in the mundanity of this-worldliness, a life lived with a focus on attaining entry to the world to come becomes a vessel for the great spirit of Olam Haba.

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov
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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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