What the Rav said:
In the Midrash Rivash (by Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov) it says a person who gets his vitality only from ‘big things’ is making a big mistake.
He was in the field all night, he said Tikkun Chatzot in tears, he learned Gemara for eight hours straight. Then, he’s got some vitality. He feels good. He pats himself on the back.
The Midrash Rivash tells us, this is a big mistake!
If a person has a day when he prays simply, he says Tehillim simply, he learns simply - he doesn’t get vitality from that day. Why not? Because there’s no ga’avah (pride/arrogance) in it to give him that vitality!
It’s only from the ‘big things’ he does. Only then, can get vitality from the ga’avah.
Only things which no-one else does give him vitality. Everyone else is asleep and he’s awake doing chatzot. So, now he feels good. Only he is in the field. So, now he feels vitality.
This is a big mistake.
The Midrash Rivash tells us that this person falls into the nukvah d’tehomah rabbah (the spiritual depths). When he goes around with this feeling, he turns into the biggest Rasha (wicked person).
The biggest Rasha has thoughts of teshuva – why am I such a Rasha? How long will I continue to act like this? But, the one who thinks he’s a Tzadik, he’s worse. When will he ever make teshuva?
We need to try to serve Hashem with simplicity.
If we fall into the trap of serving Hashem with ga’avah, then we’re really just serving ourselves, not Hashem.
How do I know if I’m tripping off my ego, as opposed to feeling something like ‘genuine fulfilment at a soul level’?
I think one answer is whether we do what we do in private, secretly, without others being aware.
Sure, somethings have to be done publicly, like davening in a minyan. But even there, are we the guy loudly screaming Amen! at every bracha, and waving our hands in the air during shmonah esreh? Or are we praying quietly but intensely, unnoticed by the rest of the kehillah?
Do we let everyone know that I went to the field to do hitbodedut, I got up at midnight, I dunked in the Ari’s Mikvah fifteen times… etc or do we do these things without anyone else really knowing about it.
I think that’s probably one of the ways to tell whether the yetzer tov or yetzer hara is in the driving seat.