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Adapted from Ora Shel Torah, by Mori v'Rabi Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l.

The Mesilas Yesharim starts off by stating that everyone must understand "What is one's obligation in his world." He then proceeds to elaborate based on the Medrash. "When Hakadosh Baruch Hu created Man, He took him and gave him a tour of Gan Eden. Hashem pointed out each tree that was there and told him, 'Take a look at everything I created. Look how wonderful and exemplary they all are. I created everything just for you. Be careful not to spoil or damage my world." In his first shiur to Man, Hakadosh Baruch Hu emphasized how wonderful and perfect everything is. Everything is ready for Man to use. He must be especially careful not to ruin anything.

Being the very first lesson, we can assume that it contains some of the most important principles which apply to Mankind. For example: Man has within him many different aspects of his character (midos), good and bad. To name a few: arrogance, anger, humility, patience. Being that Hashem is perfect, it is very strange to us why He didn't create Man perfect. Why did He create Man with bad character? Why should a person have within him anger? It would seem to have been more appropriate and admirable for Hashem to create Man with a perfect character. That would be a real work of art - the perfect Man.

In the world at large there are so many things that appear unnecessary, or even harmful. Dovid Hamelech asked, what is the need for crazy people? And what purpose is there in spiders?

But there is nothing superfluous in creation. Everything has a purpose; it just depends upon the person. Hashem answered Dovid and showed him.

When Dovid was running away from Shaul he sought refuge in the palace of Lachish the King of Gat. Lachis was Golias' brother. His servants warned him that this Dovid was dangerous. He was renowned for slaying thousands of our soldiers at one shot. He killed your brother, and now you can take revenge. Dovid was in trouble. Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave him the idea of making himself crazy. So he started jumping around and babbling like a lunatic. Lachish told his servants, "I have enough crazy people around here! Now you bring me another one!" (His daughter was off her rocker.) This gave Dovid his chance to make a getaway. Now he knew that lunacy has a place in this world. Sometimes it pays to be crazy.

Dovid again had to run away from Shaul. He ran into a cave, and the soldiers were scouring the region looking for him. Hakadosh Baruch Hu brought a spider into the cave and it made a giant web covering the entire entrance. When the soldiers passed by the cave they saw the spider web. "He can't be in there, he would have broken the web." So they passed on and kept on searching. Dovid's life had been saved by a spider. Even spider webs come in useful.

Dovid Hamelech was taught a lesson. There is nothing superfluous or bad in the world. You just have to know how and when to use it. If that is true about lunatics and spiders, it is also true about character traits. You just have to know when and how to use them.

Have you ever entered a pharmacy? Have you noticed all those containers on the wall? Ask the pharmacist what they are all for. So he'll go through the list of medicines. Then he'll come to one bottle. "This is full of poison." "Poison! What do you need that for? It kills! What's it doing next to all those medicines?"

Then the pharmacist will give you a shiur in pharmacology. "Sometimes poison is a wonderful medicine. It's only harmful if you don't know how to use it. But for certain ailments, if you know the right dosage, and administer it in the right manner, it is a wonderful medicine and can cure many diseases."

The same is true about middos. There is no such thing as a bad character trait. You just have to know how to use it for the good. Let's take jealousy. Jealousy rots a person to the bone. It is one of the 3 middos that can take a person out of this world. It is a very terrible affliction. And yet jealousy among Torah scholars creates constructive competition and makes everyone work harder in their learning. קנאת סופרם תרבה חכמה. If we look further, the entire civilized world keeps moving and progressing because of jealousy. It is a very powerful motivator. As they say, competition makes the world go round. Every drive, no matter how base, has its place. Without the base-instincts Mankind would have become extinct long ago. The gemara (Yoma 69b) recounts how the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah wanted to erase the yetzer ho-ra for physical lust. All of a sudden, the chickens stopped laying eggs. Inadvertently, they had touched upon a basic fundamental drive of the world and accidentally annulled it. They had to undo their actions and bring back nature's ecological balance. Every drive and instinct was created by the Master of the Universe and has its place. We just have to learn how and when to use them. Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave His first lesson to Adam. He informed him of the beauty and uniformity of the universe. Everything that has been created has a purpose, and it is there for you to use. Everything is a tool to help Man fulfill his purpose in this world: to cause the entire creation to recognize Hashem as the Creator. All this wonderful creation is not a mere gift to man to exert his power over it. It is a life-long job of Divine service to proclaim Hashem's dominion. Therefore Hakadosh Baruch Hu made a special point: "Pay attention!" This is one of the most important lessons for Man, and must be repeated and reviewed over and over again. "You have a job in this world. And if you don't pay attention and use the world properly, you will cause terrible damage and destruction to this wonderful Creation."

Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva Medrash Chaim
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:
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