Ultimately it is the self-referencing within us that provides our natural motivations – we scan to see what is good in our eyes, what is consistent with our goals, if it is in line with benefit and perceived good for us. What could be more natural? Our executive functioning is able to organize steps in order to proceed in securing our dependency needs and ego-based desires and goals. It could even be said that we reach our spiritual goals to a certain degree in this manner. Yet at some point, we come to challenge where we have to choose between the spiritual attainments and our life pattern that may not yet have pierced through to a higher understanding of esteem and identity.
Imagine receiving a gift of kavana and excellent davening. It is a connection truly to Hashem, something above us. As we end our davening, we may feel proud of ourselves, complimenting ourselves. What is the matter with that, if anything?
Ultimately that pride in ourselves needs to be ground down so that its components are properly understood. There is no glory other than Hashem. What that means is that even the proud feeling we have, even that pleasure, is because Hashem permits Himself to remain trapped in the illusion we have that we have some kind of independent separate existence. While it serves a useful purpose in keeping us motivated, eventually, if we truly wish to draw close to truth and to the highest pleasure we can experience, our hearts need to submit to the truth that while we experience pleasure, it is completely and only because there is nothing but the Glory of Hashem in all the world and that moment of pride is a fall from our davening, not a greater pleasure as it seems because it is a nearer and more familiar and available prideful pleasure. This takes grinding at defining ourselves from a place that is natural, our ego, to a place that is transcendant, our tzelem elokim, which is inseparable from Hashem.
To begin a journey toward internalizing this and grinding our egos down means we see an infinite path of growth above the plane of time and space, a broader playing field where we can strive toward holiness. The journey is one of bitul, of nullification of the sense of ego and self-referencing for the purpose of becoming vessels to reveal Hashem.
In davening we say Hashem of Avraham, Hashem of Yitzchok and Hashem of Yaakov. Rabbi Tatz explains that through the tests of our forefathers, because they rose to levels of holiness, their lives revealed Hashem’s Hand. Thus they are called in conjunction with Hashem’s Name. This was Dovid’s question to Hashem, why is it not the Hashem of Dovid too? He is also on the Chariot. Hashem told Dovid it is because he was not tested and Dovid asked for the test and immediately had the test of Batsheva and failed. That wanting to be referred to in conjunction with Hashem’s Name represented a drop of ego, of self-referencing, that on Dovid’s level was harmful. If we reflect back to Adom, he too had a sense of self-referencing, in his desire to reveal Hashem’s Glory, that led to ingesting from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which confusion we suffer today. To truly attain the level of malchus, a level reached by Moshe Rebbeinu on the highest level, these examples are taken into our hearts.
It is up to us to comprehend these stories because the set of generations before Moshiach must bring us out of arrogance and the shaar nun to which it is said we will fall, if we have not already. Thus grinding down even our powerful feelings of pride is something to comprehend as a goal – NO PRESSURE!!! Even bringing this idea to mind is something that will begin to orient us toward the task. May Hashem help us achieve even a small fraction toward this end!! And may the light we create bring a new light speedily.