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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More on subdivisions in Torah and Neshamos

More on subdivisions in Torah and Neshamos
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver


(This article is a continuation to this article and this article.)


As mentioned earlier, each of the four sections of Torah contains 600,000 interpretations on every aspect of Torah. But if so, how is it that we find many more than 600,000 explanations of many concepts in Torah? The answer[1] parallels the above explanation concerning the subdivision of the souls. As explained, the 600,000 Jewish souls are root souls, each of which subdivides into 600,000 individual souls. And so is it with Torah: When we say that there are 600,000 interpretations according to peshat, for instance, this refers to the “root interpretations,” each of which is in turn subdivided into 600,000.


So when it is stated that each Neshamah stems from one of the 600,000 interpretations of Torah, it means that each individual Neshamah (or “spark,” as Tanya calls it) stems from one of the subdivisions of one of those 600,000 interpretations, and this is the “portion in Torah” of that Neshamah.


And just as there are 600,000 interpretations of Torah for the 600,000 root Jewish souls, so are there also 600,000 “root” paths in serving Hashem,[2] which in turn subdivide further into yet more individual paths in serving Hashem appropriate for each individual Neshamah.


In the Preface to Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that it may be difficult to find one’s own personalized guidance suitable for one’s own individual path in service of Hashem, and therefore one needs the guidance of a Rebbe in Yechidus. I will explain this concept further in a future post, G–d-willing.


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[1] Toras Menachem 5719, Vol. 2, p. 112.
[2] Hisva’aduyos 5742, Vol. 4, p. 2018.


This post was dedicated by Shmuli Markel and family (Shmuel Leib ben Esther and Sarochel bas Chaye Nechomoh), and by Yisroel Meir Raphael and family.



Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rosh Chodesh Kislev articles

See my article concerning Rosh Chodesh Kislev here, and my articles concerning the Mumbai massacres, Hy"d here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Vital Connection Between Jewish Souls and Torah


The Vital Connection Between Jewish Souls and Torah

Rabbi Y. Oliver

(This article is a continuation of this earlier article.)

Now, the Jewish soul stems from Torah.[1] And so just as there are 600,000 root Jewish souls, so are there 600,000 explanations for every verse in the Written Torah. Likewise, so is it for each of the four sections of Torah, called “pardes” (lit. “orchard”)—peshat (the plain meaning, which was just mentioned); remez (the allegorical meaning); derush (the homiletical meaning); and sod (the mystical meaning). Each topic in each of these four sections contains 600,000 explanations. Each Jew has Torah teachings on each of these four levels that altogether create his individual soul.


This also parallels the soul’s root in the four higher spiritual worlds: Atzilus, Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. The soul descends from above Atzilus into Atzilus, then down into Beriyah, and so on, until it comes vested in the body of a Jew.


The soul’s descent in each of these successively lower spiritual realms on its journey to reach the physical body involve each of the four sections of Torah, each connected with a particular world, respectively:[2] peshatAsiyah; remezYetzirah; derushBeriyah;[3] sodAtzilus.


It is because the Jew’s soul stems from Torah that he is obligated to study Torah. The Jew’s root in Torah also dictates the degree to which he will understand Torah when he strives to, and the topics at which he will have greater success at studying.[4]


This is the concept of each Jew’s “portion in Torah,” which we pray to Hashem to give us.[5] We ask Hashem to bring us to find and study the explanations in Torah that are in fact the root of each of our individual Neshamos. And even if we don’t merit this now, we are promised that when Moshiach comes, and in Gan Eden, every single Jew will come to study the explanations that create his Neshamah.


Likewise, we find that every Jew has the ability to innovate specific novelties in Torah that other Jews may not be able to innovate. The reason for this is that the particular novelties that each person innovates correspond to that person’s individual “portion in Torah.”


Likewise, every night, while the person is asleep, the Neshamah rises[6] to the Heavenly House of Study, and if one so merits, it is taught the explanation that lies at the root of his Neshamah. However, the extent to which this will be revealed to him will depend on his actions that day; certain worthy actions will merit a revelation of one dimension of the Torah-root of his Neshamah, while other worthy actions will merit a revelation of a different and perhaps higher dimension, and so on—“measure for measure.”[7] This experience refines the Neshamah and raises it to ever-higher levels, at which higher and higher levels of understanding are revealed to it. The Neshamah may undergo this experience despite one having no recollection of it upon awakening.


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[1] Much of the material below is drawn from the Arizal’s Sha’ar HaGilgulim  17Sha’ar Ma’amarei Razal, p. 86Sha’ar Ru’ach HaKodesh, gate 7, p. 108.
[2] Shaar HaHakdamos 1b.
[3] This is one opinion among the Kabbalists; another opinion maintains that remez is connected with Beriyah, and derush with Yetzirah.
[4] Cf. Tanya ch. 4, beginning.
[5] Avos 5:20. Nusach HaTefillah.
[6] Cf. Tanya ch. 29.
[7] Sanhedrin 90a.


This post was dedicated by Reb Pinchas Cylich and family in honor of the yahrtzeit of  R' Yeshaya Yaakov Ben Boruch Yosef  on 28 Marcheshvan, and (lehavdil bein chayim lachayim) the birthday of Binyomin Hirsch ben Feyge Matl, also on 28 Marcheshvan. May he have a shnas hatzlocho begashmiyus u'veruchniyus!


Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On viewing sin and sinners

The Tanya[1] speaks of a “kal shebekalim,” a person who lives a sinful, corrupt lifestyle. When we view him, we might jump to judge and condemn him for his revolting behavior. But the Torah exhorts us: “Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.”[2]

Although this person’s sins are not justifiable, G–d forbid, they are understandable in light of the excruciatingly difficult situation in which Hashem puts him: 1. His obligation to earn a living necessitates that he spend all his time in a corrupt environment in which he is exposed to all manner of debauchery and crime, and is constantly faced with very difficult challenges; 2. Hashem created him with an intense evil inclination.

These two elements—a negative environment, and a strong evil inclination—combine against him such that when he is faced with temptation, the passion to sin burns within him so feverishly that he can only overcome it through a herculean effort. Is it any wonder, then, that he fails?

Yes, he has free choice. By reminding himself that Hashem is watching his every deed, he can arouse himself to fear Hashem and restrain himself from stumbling in sin. Since he could have used this method to resist temptation, his failure to do so is inexcusable. “It was very hard” is just not good enough.

However, this is a thought that the sinner should swell upon in order to recognize his responsibility and do sincere Teshuvah. The observer should also be aware of this, to the extent necessary to ensure that he doesn’t go so far in focusing on the greatness of the sinner’s struggle that he comes to think that restraint is so difficult that he foolishly excuses his own sin, and says from the outset, “I will sin and repent.”[3]

However, when viewing the sinner, the observer should not focus on the sinner’s responsibility, but on reflecting upon how grueling are the sinner’s circumstances.

Moreover, our sages say of the one who observes a sinner, “Be lowly of spirit before every man”[4]—even a terrible sinner. The main reason that he is sinning is that Hashem has chosen to throw him into unfavorable circumstances. Consider that if you were in his circumstances, you would most likely act the same—and perhaps you would be even worse.

Thus, no matter how low the level of the Jew who has sunken into sin, may G-d save us, one must speak with him in a soft, gentle manner.

Adapted from Tanya ch. 30.
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[1] Cf. Hisva’aduyos 5742, Vol. 3, pp. 1423-1424
[2] Avos 2:4.
[3] Yoma 85b. Cf. Tanya ch. 25.
[4] Avos 4:10.
[5] Ibid. 1:6.

This post was dedicated by Reb Yisroel Meir Raphael and family.

Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Neshamah: The Jew’s True Inner Self

The Neshamah: The Jew’s True Inner Self

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver


The Rambam discusses[1] a case of a husband who refuses to grant his wife a get when the Beis Din (Jewish court) requires it. Although our sages do not usually follow such an approach, in this extreme case, for the wife’s sake, they require that the husband be forced—even, if necessary, by the use of physical force—to release his wife from marriage by issuing her a get.


But, the Rambam asks, how can such a get be valid? Isn’t this a get me’useh, a get given under duress, which is invalid? The Rambam explains that Torah only recognizes an act as coercion when one was coerced into doing an act that Torah doesn’t require. However, if one was coerced to fulfill a Torah requirement, he is considered to have done so of his own volition. For since he is a Jew, his true desire is to perform the Mitzvos. In the Rambam’s words:
... He wants to be a Jew; he wants to perform all the Mitzvos and distance himself from transgressions, and [the] only [reason that he acts to the contrary is that] his evil inclination has overpowered him. So once he is beaten to the extent that his evil inclination has become weakened, and he says I want [to divorce], he has surely divorced of his own volition.
In the language of Chassidus, when the husband refuses to obey the Beis Din, he is being consumed by his Bestial Soul (the term more commonly used in this literature to refer to the Evil Inclination). But his true inner self is his Neshamah, his Divine Soul. When pressure is applied upon the Bestial Soul, it stops obstructing the will of the Neshamah, and the divorce is considered to have been issued voluntarily, for the Neshamah wants to obey the Beis Din.


In other words, although the Bestial Soul is very much a part of the person—in fact, for most of us, it is our conscious self[2]—Torah views it as external and additional; it is not the Jew’s true, inner self. His true self is his Neshamah

The Neshamah possesses a natural love for Hashem that spurs an intense desire to connect with Him, and a natural awe of Hashem that makes him recoil from sin and want to keep a distance from it,[3] even to the point of being willing to give up his life rather than sin.[4] Concerning this, the Alter Rebbe declared: “A Jew neither desires, nor is able, to sever himself from G–dliness.”[5] 


This awareness can also encourage the Jew in his performing the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, of repenting for sin.[6] Since the Jew’s true, inner desire is to serve Hashem, as soon as he sins, he regrets, feels pained, and worries over it. I.e., deep down, he does Teshuvah immediately. I.e., the Jew’s connection with his true, inner self is even more emphasized with regard to Teshuvah than other Mitzvos, for the Jew’s Neshamah not only desires to keep all the Mitzvos, but it actually does Teshuvah as soon as he sins, and so in order to do Teshuvah all the Jew need do is reveal his inner Teshuvah to his external, conscious self.


(For an earlier post on this topic, see here.)
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[1] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Divorceend ch. 2.
[2] Cf. Tanya ch. 29: “היא היא האדם עצמו.”
[3] Ibid. chs. 141925.
[4] Ibid. chs. 181924.
[5] Hayom Yom p. 73.
[6] Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukat, Vol. 5, p. 56




This post has been dedicated by Rabbi Dov and Shevi Oliver of Monsey in honor of the yahrtzeit of Rephoel Dovid ben Kasriel, ע"ה, on 13 Tishrei.

Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On the Subdivision of Souls

On the Subdivision of Souls

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver


On the highest level, all Jewish souls exist as one undifferentiated singularity. They are first divided into seven,[1] corresponding to the seven branches of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash. Each of the branches corresponds to one of the seven emotional Sephiros (divine attributes—sing. Sephirah) in Atzilus, each of which acts as a “root-soul” for all the Jews in whose souls that particular emotional attribute is primary.

Then there was the division into the twelve tribes, who acted as root-souls in their own way. The number twelve corresponds to the six emotional Sephiros (excluding the last, Malchus), as they go from below to above, and from above to below.[2] After that, each of the seven emotional attributes itself consists of ten sub-attributes, and this is the next division, into seventy, which was embodied in the seventy souls that descended to Egypt.[3]

The souls then subdivided further into 600,000. The Torah relates[4] that at Mount Sinai, there were 600,000 men present between the ages of twenty and sixty. Kabbalah[5] and Chassidus[6] explain that these men possessed the souls of the entire Jewish people, for there are altogether 600,000 Jewish souls. However, these souls are not ordinary souls; they are “root souls,” and so just as a root produces many branches, so do each of these souls subdivide into “sparks,” which also number 600,000.[7] Each of these sparks is a single Neshamah.

The number 600,000 also stems from the six Sephiros in Atzilus. Every Sephirah contains all ten Sephiros (both the three intellectual, and the seven emotional), and so the six contain 60, and then 600, and so on, until they reach 600,000.[8]

This is the meaning of “A generation passes, and a generation comes,”[9] but there can be no generation with less than 600,000 Jews.[10] These are the same souls, come down into different bodies, and so in this sense the passing generation is the succeeding generation.[11]

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[1] Torah Ohr 32b.
[2] Sha’ar Ru’ach HaKodesh, gate 7, p. 108.
[3] Bereshis 46:27.
[4] Shemos 12:37, 38:26, Bamidbar 1:46, 11:21.
[5] Zohar 3:273a.
[6] Tanya ch. 37, 48a.
[7] To do the simple math, that’s 360,000,000,000 Neshamos. However, the soul—even the root soul—consists of three distinct levels: Nefesh, Ru’ach, and Neshamah. So when the root souls split up into 600,000 sparks, that’s really all three levels of the soul splitting up. So even in the world of Atzilus, there are altogether 1,080,000,000,000 soul-levels. This number of souls then descends further into each of the three lower worlds, which comes to a total of 4,320,000,000,000 (quoted in Tanya Betziruf Marei Mekomos, Likkutei Pirushim, Shinuyei Nuscha’os, chs. 29-53, p. 756, in the name of Likkutei Hagahos LeTanya, p. 37. But see Torah Ohr 27d.
[8] Sefer HaMa’amarim 5654, p. 106. Sefer HaMa’amarim 5663-5664, p. 311.
[9] Koheles 1:4.
[10] Koheles Rabbah on Koheles 1:4, Yalkut 2:966. Zohar 3:273a. ibid. 4:216b.
[11] Sefer HaBahir 51.


This post was dedicated by Reb Pinchas Cylich in honor of the birthday of Menachem Mendel ben Faiga Matel on 16 Cheshvan. May he have a shnas hatzlocho begashmiyus u'veruchniyus!

Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.