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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Listening to the spiritual health experts

Health experts are constantly coming out with new “revelations.” They reveal to the undiscerning masses of laypeople how many foods that seem harmless are in fact poisonous or at least very unhealthy.

The same goes for spiritual health. What to the less spiritually attuned may seem harmless at first glance may contain elements that, even if not outright forbidden, are inappropriate and spiritually unhealthy and damaging; what’s more, often these things are outright forbidden!

The proper gauge to assess such matters, and to find out which apparently harmless things might in fact be inappropriate or even prohibited, is to delve into Torah. There Hashem expresses His will, and instructs us not only in what is permitted and forbidden, but also in the importance of going beyond the letter of the law, and avoiding the inappropriate and unworthy.

And just as it would be presumptuous of a dabbler in physical health to come out and declare that a practice that experts deem damaging to one’s health, e.g., smoking, is in fact harmless and even healthy, based on whatever “proofs” might seem logical to him or her, so would it be presumptuous of someone whose knowledge of Torah is only on a beginners level to make such critical decisions for him or herself or family without first consulting, without preconceived notions, with Torah texts and with a Torah sage—one who has devoted his life with self-sacrifice to rigorous Torah study with the goal of attaining the expertise in Torah necessary to accurately transmit the word of Hashem to the community.

This is all the more so considering that our sages rule that even a rabbi with full rabbinic ordination (“semichah for dayonus”) and training (“shimush”) who becomes a businessman is thereby disqualified from sitting on a rabbinic court and issuing rabbinic decisions, despite his being an indisputably G–d-fearing Jew.[1] Only a full-time practicing rabbi may issue halachic rulings, because involvement in the business world taints the purity of the person’s judgment on holy matters. How much more so does an ignoramus have no business making such weighty decisions for him or herself, and thereby aggrandize the mantle of halachic authority! (On the importance of consulting with Rabbonim, see here.)

The same goes for matters that are not strictly halachic, but are in one way or another related to questions of what behavior is appropriate for a Jew in his or her individual circumstances. In these matters one should consult with one’s personal asei lecha rav or mashpia (see here) as appropriate, in accordance with the Rebbe’s instructions.

And if the above caution is even true of physical health, although we find that the health experts often change their minds, how much more so when it comes to spiritual health, the conditions for which are taught in our timeless, perfect, immutable Torah. And if this caution is even true of physical health, although the body is temporary and secondary to the soul, it surely applies to spiritual health associated with the soul, which is eternal and primary, and whose health is also the key to material blessings, health, and prosperity.

[1] Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 3:13, S’meh. Cited in Igros Kodesh, Vol. 26, p. 345-346Toras Menachem 5720, Vol. 27, p. 223Toras Menachem 5720, Vol. 23 p. 164 ff.

Dedicated by Chana Hawkins in honor of John Wilson.

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