Monday, March 2, 2009

"Nothing ever remains totally stable"

"Rabbi Aaron of Karlin – one of the first great Hasidic leaders – once set out to influence R. Haike, a righteous and learned man from Amdur, Lithuania, to cease living in seclusion and join the burgeoning Hasidic movement in order to influence the society around him.

Rabbi Aaron did not deliver a lengthy sermon.

He said a single sentence:

'When one does not get better, one gets worse.'

These few words were enough to shake R. Haike's soul.

Until that moment, he had considered himself a saintly Torah scholar, but this one sentence haunted him.

He started thinking:

'I may be a fine person, but I am not getting any better!'

Finally, he got up and joined the Hassidic movement.

When he returned to Amdur, he deeply influenced his townspeople.

Had I had as much power as Rabbi Aaron, I too would have said just that one sentence.

But since I do not, I shall have to elaborate on it.

This sentence holds true about everything in the world.

Nothing ever remains totally stable.

Some things are relatively stable.

But generally speaking, there is a dialectic, namely, the more alive a thing is, the less stable it is.

Only objects that do not interact with anything else remain stable for relatively long periods.

But whatever does interact with its surroundings cannot remain in its current state.

This is as true for keeping house as it is to running a state, for the life of the individual, for the history of an entire society, and for the world of flora and fauna.

Whenever no additional effort is invested, whenever an attempt is made to keep things in one place, there is decline.

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an article "One Step Forward" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz written in the Ukraine