"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The true purpose of thirst and hunger

Without intense Avodah (toil at self-refinement), most of us operate primarily on the basis of our natural desires, by the urgings of the Bestial Soul.[1] However, this level of motivation is superficial. On the conscious level, the Jew’s actions may be motivated by his Bestial Soul; however, in reality even these desires stem from the Neshamah.

E.g., on the external level, hunger and thirst for physical food and drink stem from the 
Bestial Soul’s desire to satisfy the body’s physical needs, or from the desire to indulge. For most of us in our default state of functioning, when we crave to sink our teeth into a succulent chop of steak, or lick a mouth-watering ice-cream with our tongue, or simply eat a tuna sandwich for lunch, we are following the lead of the body and the Bestial Soul. Fulfilling a divine mission is not at all on our minds.

However, the Baal Shem Tov teaches that deep down, our physical desires are motivated by pure, spiritual urges.[2] The Neshamah senses the sparks of holiness hidden in the physical (see here), knows that this is the entire purpose of its descent into the body, and yearns to accomplish this task.

Unfortunately, since regular people are not truly in touch with their Neshamos (only Tzaddikim are on this level—see Tanya, ch. 29, beg.), the Neshamah cannot communicate this
directly to the conscious persona of the person. Instead, it must garb its message in the language of the Bestial Soul. So on the conscious level, the Neshamah’s craving for the spiritual manifests itself in an animalistic craving for the physical.

When it comes to food and drink, this urge manifests itself in pangs of physical thirst and hunger.

However, the same holds true for all aspects of life. The true reason that the Bestial Soul feels attracted toward anything is that the Neshamah is pushing the person to accomplish a certain spiritual task.

For example, the desire to enter into a particular line of work in order to earn a living stems from the sparks of holiness that this Jew has been charged with refining through doing such work.

Once, a Jew who was fit to become a rabbi chose for whatever reason to become a businessman instead. The Previous Rebbe wrote to him that the true reason that he chose as he did was that his Neshamah yearned for the sparks of holiness in the physical, and so he should not allow himself to become immersed in the desire for the physical and lose sight of the true purpose of his involvement there—refining the physical.[3]

Likewise, on a number of occasions, the Rebbe cited this teaching and used it to explain various phenomena:

· The desire to travel for a summer holiday to the mountains (
bungalow colony”), supposedly because of the clear air there, stems from the Neshamah’s desire for the opportunity to spread Torah and Mitzvos to an extent not ordinarily possible.[4]

· The desire to leave Eretz Yisroel and settle in the Diaspora stems from the inner desire to refine the sparks of holiness that those who leave are destined to refine in the Diaspora.[5]

[1] Tanya ch. 29.
[2] Kesser Shem Tov §194.
[3] Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1, p. 177.
[4] Toras Menachem 5712, Vol. 6.
[5] Toras Menachem 5712, Vol. 5, p. 155.

This post has been dedicated by the Sager family in prayer for a refuah sheleima for their son, Eliyahu David ben Rut Sara, and by Menachem Kovacs in honor of the Yahrzeit of his father, Eliezer ben Shalom ע"ה, on 17 Sivan.

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  1. 1. So, what's the purpose of elevating the sparks of holiness?

    2. Is the process of elevating the sparks a separate process from the process of filling gashmius with kedusha? It seems that the Avos were unable to do the latter but were able to do the former (at least Yakov Avinu).

  2. 1. More on that in future posts, iy"H.

    2. I believe that it is separate, yes.


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