Transcribed translated and adapted for Beyond BT by Rabbi Dovid Schwartz
Rav Mordechai Gifter Zâ€™L gave this Shmuess to open the 1969 Fall/ Winter Zâ€™man (yeshiva Semester) for the students of the Telshe Yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio.
The Kozhnitzer Magid felt that he was stagnating spiritually, that he had simply stopped growing. One night the Baâ€™al Shem Tov appeared to him in a dream. When he complained of his disappointment over his lack of growth the Baâ€™al Shem Tov told him: â€œYour problem is that you are trying to measure the growth of Gadlus (maturity) using the yardsticks of Katnus (immaturity). When a baby is born, each developmental change is pronounced and dramatic. Going from nursing to eating solids to table food to crawling to toddling to walking to toilet training to, most striking of all, talking are all eye-catching, easily discernible stages of growth. Once a child reaches adolescence, the changes are slower and more incremental. The parent loves the child no less during those 4-6 years than during the first 5-6 years of the childâ€™s life. But the progress is so slow that it doesnâ€™t impress the parent or other observers nearly as much. Yet when they stop to think about it they realize that it is precisely these unspectacular changes that, slowly but surely, transform their beloved baby into an independent adultâ€
Yeshiva Bochurim often wax first nostalgic, then depressed when remembering their first heady years in Yeshiva. They think that it was then that they made their most significant strides. Like newborns learning to talk they progressed in a few short month or years from a rudimentary gemora vocabulary to being able to make a laining (independent reading) on Gemora, rashi and Tosafos and even being able to grasp a Lomdishe Sâ€™vora (Talmudic theoretics). What they fail to realize is that they too are trying to measure the growth of Gadlus (maturity) using the yardsticks of Katnus (immaturity). The progress that they make as they continue to learn requires greater discernment to be measured at all. This progress is finer and subtler than the early kind but ultimately it is the progress of the never-ending and ever-subtler spiritual maturation process. This truth ought to end the advanced studentsâ€™ depression and fill them with the courage and ambition to carry on.
Although addressed to FFB Yeshiva Bochurim and Kollel-leit, the pertinence of this message for BTs is self-evident.