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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bringing the Spiritual to Dominate Over the Material

(The essay below is published in honor of the birthday of
the Rebbe Rashab, 
nishmaso Eden, on 20 Cheshvantoday.
May his merit protect us.)

Bringing the Spiritual to
Dominate Over the Material

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Hashem created us in the default state of valuing the material above the spiritual—in Hebrew, “hisgabrus ha’chomer al ha’tzurah.” At first glance, and especially in light of the materialistic and degenerate culture and times in which we live, changing this around may seem unrealistic and even unattainable.

Yet Torah, and the teachings of Chassidus in particular, teach that in fact, we are not doomed to remain in this state. We can and must choose to transcend it, but try as we might, we cannot truly do so on our own.

Without an airplane or similar device, a human being cannot fly up into the sky. Likewise, without special tools, we are trapped in our natural, default state of regarding the material as of foremost importance.

What are the tools that enable this inner change? In general, this is the purpose of all of Torah and Mitzvos.[1] However, in Torah itself, the area that facilitates this inner change in the most thorough and lasting way can be found, in our generation, in the teachings of Chassidus.

It is written, “From my flesh I see Hashem.”[2] This encapsulates the purpose of the teachings of Chassidus—to explain in great depth and detail the faculties of the soul, and how they interact with one another. Since the Jew’s soul descends from the higher spiritual worlds,[3] everything in our inner selves parallels the world at large, and can thus be used to understand it.

Thus Chassidus uses as its mashal, analogy (pl. meshalim), the soul’s faculties—“my flesh”—in all its intricacies, through which we are able to “see Hashem”—to understand the nimshal (concept being explained by the analogy) of sublime levels of Hashem’s greatness.

In particular, by learning about and becoming aware of and sensitive to the soul’s faculties, one can come to truly know and understand the ten Sefiros (divine emanations), and all the levels of Seder Hishtalshelus (the entire spiritual cosmos—see here), which Hashem created “So that we would come to know His greatness”[4] through them.

One should reflect upon these levels thoroughly and with great concentration (this is known as hisbonenus—see here). This enables the Neshamah to shine, elevating the person to a state of inner closeness and attachment to G–dliness, and the appropriate time to engage in this reflection is during Tefillah, prayer (see here and here).

This leads one to fulfill the goal of Chassidus: to bring the spiritual to dominate over the physical.[5] For when the Neshamah shines, one naturally casts aside materialistic desires and preoccupations (“chumriyus”—see here), and views all the physical as nothing but a tool to be used to fulfills the Torah’s instructions, “All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven,”[6] and “In all your ways, know Him.”[7]

May Hashem help us to go from strength to strength in this endeavor!

Based on the Rebbe Rashab’s Hemshech 5672, Vol. 3, pp. 1310-1311.

[1] Cf. Tanya, ch. 32: “...כי יסוד ושורש כל התורה הוא להגביה ולהעלו' הנפש על הגוף מעלה מעלה”.
[2] Iyov 19:26.
[3] Tanya, ch. 3, beg.
[4] Zohar 2:42b.
[5] In the original, “hisgabrus hatzurah al hachomer.”
[6] Avos 2:12.
[7] Mishlei 3:6.

Dedicated by Dovid and Bracha Tsap as a merit for their daughter Sara Rachel bas Hinda Zelda Bracha, in honor of her birthday on 10 Cheshvan.

Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Alan Gross (Aba Chonah ben Hava Chana), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).

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