Who was the person who would walk around with 2 papers in his pocket, one of which said "bishvili nivra ha'olam" ("the world was created for me") and the other "anochi afar va'eifer" ("I am dirt and ash")?

When he felt an inkling one way or another he would take out the opposite paper to regulate himself.

Who was this? Where can I look for more information?



2 Answers 2


This practice was advocated (possibly first suggested) by R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, as brought in his name in the collection of Hassidic Torah and lore entitled 'Siach Sarfe Kodesh' (n. 233):

שכל או״א (אחד ואחד) צריך להיות לו שני קעשינעס (כיסים) להשתמש בו בעת צרכו. בקעשינע אחד בשבילי נברא העולם ובהקעשינע השני אנכי עפר ואפר


The Alter of Slabodka, Rav Noson Tzvi Finkel, offered this bit of advice to his students. At all times a person should keep in one of his pockets a note that reads “Bishvili nivra ha’olam — For me the world was created” (Sanhedrin 37a), while in the other pocket he should keep one that reads “Va’anokhi afar va’eifer — But I am dust and ashes” (Bereishis 18:27).

Bishvili nivra ha’olam speaks to the world as I experience it. That was customized just for me. And it contains all of my potential. However, with regard to the shared universe, all that exists is how much of that potential I actualized. “va’anokhi afar va’eifer“. The Alter recommends that one have a pair of dialectical views about one’s self-worth. The first speaks of one’s potential, being in the Image of Hashem. The other, of what one has actually accomplished.

His work, Or haTzafun is hard to obtain, so I cannot look up where in that text I found this idea.

He could have heard the core idea from Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and elaborated on it in a manner consistent with some of his teachings' central themes. Or perhaps both quotes came from a common earlier source.

  • You wrote "He could have heard the core idea from Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa... Or perhaps both quotes came from a common earlier source." Why can't it be that both tzadikim came up with the idea independently? There is an expression for this idea "שני נביאים נתנבאו בסגנון אחד" - 2 - two prophets who have prophesied the same way. Jun 28, 2018 at 12:13
  • It could, but less likely. I didn't mean to imply that "could have" and "or perhaps" cover all the bases. Or perhaps I could get cute and edit it to "common earlier Source", with a capital s. Jun 28, 2018 at 14:56

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