Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Sicha Rollercoaster

The questions mount. The Rebbe is not settled - and he dares you to be satisfied. You hop on, and there's no turning back. You have just got on the Sicha rollercoaster.

The ride slowly creaks, moving higher.

The buildup takes your stomach and turns it into a boiling pot of soup. It starts to spill, but you can't get off the ride. The Rebbe has caught you in his rapture. Questions burn your mind, and the whole world, like bacterial fire.

The Rebbe controls the direction, the inner pristine turmoil. You appear to be going in one direction, but sudden turns shake the foundation of your so called reliable intellect. The Sicha rollercoaster has a transcendental engine. The Rebbe is in full force.

You, too, suddenly need answers.

Just when you think you'll explode from the suspense, the Rebbe forces you to join him on the descent. You both go plunging to the core. Your hair, your insides, your brains, are behind you. They try to catch up. The speed is unreal. All movements are explosive. The noise is loud and harmonious, the feeling real and chaotic in it's lightening abyss.

Revelation arises from reaching the deep pit of excitement that just smashed into your face. Your mind and heart are sharing the same space in your small and firecracker world. The air is rushing past you quickly, but the reality - the drilling beauty and truth - turns everything to slow motion.

Your life flashes all around you. This rollercoaster was made for you. How have I tried all of them, while forgetting this one?

On the Sicha rollercoaster, there is no slow landing. There is no chance to calm your insides, to unwind. One you get on, there's no REAL getting off. You may leave the rollercoaster, but the Sicha rollercoaster never leaves you. You get off the ride, but the rollercoaster will always stay within. You have to tell people to give it a try, to experience the clear breathlessness and life-shaking insight.

All other rides pale in comparison. This is the real sort of thrill.


wandering said...

The analogy is beautiful. That is truly the way that we are supposed to feel about learning- especially the Rebbe's sichos. It is just so easy to take it for granted.

Ilana said...

I'm sure this is how we're supposed to feel. But for some reason I always see it as an essay that tries to indirect and defer information and answers as a means of intellectual delight. So, how can people like me, who are practical and appreciate directness and simplicity (and not unduly complicating things) enjoy a sicha rollercoaster?

Is there something wrong with me? Because I enjoy roller coasters in real life. So I enjoy a thrill. I just never feel one from a sicha.

Nemo said...

Any intellectual experience can be seen as boring. You've got to tune yourself to experience more and to allow yourself to take in the full implication of what is being said. It takes patience and focus.

Also, consider the mentality and the wisdom that brough the person, in this case the Rebbe, to ask such a question. Sometime's you'll be impressed just because you didn't see it coming.

Mimi said...

Wandering: It is easy to take for granted, isn't it? I hope that even after leaving Machon Alte I can feel the ride in new Sichos. Thanks for the compliments.

Almostholy: I feel lucky to have a brilliant teacher who makes the Sicha dance around the room, and in my mind for days.

I don't believe there can exist a person that can't tap into the Sicha rollercoaster. It may just be about finding the right method, the right teacher, the right learning partner. Check out Nemo's advice (above).

I want to think more about your query, for much thrill and depth of existence is "at stake." It's important. I want to give you a good answer. Stay tuned, alright?

Nemo: Good advice, especially about considering the Rebbe's mentality. I'm gonna take that in -thanks!

nahama said...

you should write up a testimonial for machon alte's website.

regards to uncle :)

Ilana said...

I enjoy something intellectually stimulating. I don't enjoy things that are purposefully complicated when they can be simplified so easily. I have no doubt in my mind about the Rebbe's greatness or intelligence. I don't need to learn more sichos to appreciate that, and I don't think that that is the purpose for which they were said, either.

Nemo said...

No, that certainly wasn't the purpose for which it was said, I was just trying to give a method with which one can appreciate anything academic.

You assume that everything can be simplified so easily. But what makes you assume that sichos can be simplified? The fact that someone can come along afterwards and summarize something is only because someone inititially went through the entire process to reach the conclusion. And, to see the process is surely a truer understanding and appreciation than just getting the results

Anonymous said...

I am also a practical, goal oriented person, and I know how easy it is to feel that way, not only about Sichos, but about alot of Torah.

Allow me to share my personal take.

We all appreciate when people get to the point. The important question then becomes - what, exactly, is the point?

Sometimes the goal is to present a specific conclusion. But if it is all about the destination, then why share the journey with us at all? And if you must, then surely you can spare us the dead-ends, the lines of reasoning that fell short...

(The truth is, that sometimes it is necessary in order to pre-empt possible challenges but the presentation doesn't leave that out even when this is not the case.)

However, if the point is to expand your mind and your heart, to share with you not where I have been, but how I got there, then the journey become not only beneficial - it is actually the goal. The conclusion is just incidental, a means to share a vision, an excuse to take you down the scenic road of truth.

Mimi is not studying the Sichos. If she were the most she could acheive would be a cold, intellectual satisfaction. She is experiencing the Sicha. She is excepting the invitation to share, if only in a limited way, what the Rebbe sees. To look through the Rebbe's eyes at the beauty that is Torah. Not on reaching the conclusion, but from the very first word.

Stop seeing the questions as a prelude to the answer. See all of Torah, even the questions, as answers, as an invitation to peek through the superficial.

The Sichos are concise. They present not one word more than is necessary to achieve their goal. That goal is not to present yet another answer to yet another question, but to give you a glimpse of reality.

The name Torah is from Hora'ah, which does not mean to teach, study or learn.

It means to guide.


Ilana said...

Wow. Thank you, G. That is really eye opening.

I just still fail to see how being guided along a path of logical reasoning will accomplish anything. I don't find myself having a "break from the superficial" but rather being taken on an exhausting and pointless journey. I understand that sometimes its about the journey, but I don't see the advantage of the journey itself. I'm still not clear on what "experiencing" a sicha can do for me. I fail to recognize how recognizing a question can be fulfilling in and of itself.

Maybe I'm just dense?

Anonymous said...

(I don’t mean to hijack the blog… I don’t have a blog of my own, otherwise I would just post this there and link to it. Apologies about the length – even with all that, I don’t know if I did justice to what I was trying to say… feel free to skip this.)

I wouldn’t say dense… I would say you are a victim of popular culture.
I was thinking about meditation the other day, and I think I can borrow from that to help clarify things.

When we look at someone meditating, someone Davening for real (as they say), we want that sense of connectedness, those feelings of oneness with Hashem and His creation, that aura of peace, passion, holiness. We think that meditation is a word to describe that experience.

It is not.

The word meditation means to think. To focus on a concept deeply, continuously. The word meditation is a word that describes the journey, not the destination. When you see someone meditating, you are witnessing the ultimate in logic and intellect, one who is focusing his entire being on a concept. (I refer to Hisbonenus. I am not familiar at all with Eastern meditation etc.) The experience is the result of, not the act of, meditation.

Odd. The destination is one of feeling, an emotional state, yet the journey is one of logic…

The key to this “riddle” is to understand a little bit about ourselves. We human beings, on a soul level, are hybrids, creatures of emotion and intellect. Our emotions are born of our perspective, that which we have experienced until the present.

When I see a fire, my mind immediately pulls up the following information:
Extremely hot. Will burn on contact. Burns are painful. Pain is undesirable.

If I see fire coming towards me, I predict bad things to come, and immediately experience fear. Look at that! A chain of logical thoughts, hinging on a judgment (pain is bad), result in an emotion! But take a closer look. Challenge any one of those logical steps, and the emotion disappears.

Imagine someone who does not know that fire burns. He will feel no fear while facing the same inferno that reduced you to a quivering mess. Adding a thought can do the same. Imagine some who believes himself fire-proof. No fear.

Our thoughts are our paddles. They are the only thing that can give us any control over our emotional or spiritual experiences. When we take a tidbit of information and internalize it, see it in the context of the bigger picture, and let it take its place in the pipeline of our emotion – at that moment we have experienced Hora’a, the Torah acting as a Guide, directing us in our movement on the path from where we are to where we are meant to be.

Any thought, every thought, can function as a paddle. The only requirement is that you understand the thought, how it differs from what you know, and what has changed now that you have this thought. Sometimes the catalyst is not even the thought itself, but the perspective from which it was put forth. What does he see that I do not, that this thought occurred to him, but not to me? What does he see differently?

I will not challenge your experience of Sichos as exhausting and pointless journeys. They really can be. I know. But know that when they are like that, it is because we failed to experience the Sicha as it was meant to be experienced. Not only Sichos – the entire Torah shares the same dynamic. It can be seen as an exercise in logic or it can be seen as a perspective altering description of reality.

We choose which one we will experience.

-- G

PS Does “Moyach Shalit Al HaLev” make a little more sense now?

Anonymous said...

the first time i learned a sicha, i felt almost like this. I came home feeling different, exhilirated, and quickly wrote down everything i had learned since i hadn't taken any notes. Since then i learn a sicha with someone once a week, but i don't usually get that feeling. Sometimes once in a while though, something in the sicha suddenly clicks--like everything makes total sense and I feel so lucky... Hopefully, sometime I'll get a great teacher that can make the sicha 'dance around the room'.