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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chanukah: Hiskashrus cleanses from spiritual defilement

Hiskashrus cleanses from spiritual defilement

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

“They found one flask of pure olive oil sealed with the imprint of the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest).”[1]

The physical defilement of the oil in the Beis HaMikdash was merely an external, physical manifestation of the inner malaise—the popularity that secular wisdom had gained among the Jewish people in general, and particularly among the Misyavnim, or Hellenists—the assimilationist Jews who had adopted Greek philosophy as their lifestyle.

This represents a certain kind of inner spiritual decline from which we can derive a lesson today.

Every Jew has a natural sensitivity to the refined spiritual explanations of G–d’s greatness, particularly as explained in the teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidus. This is found in the intellect of his Nefesh HoElokis, the Divine Soul.

A spiritually healthy Jew limits the intellect of the Nefesh HaSichlis, the Intellectual Soul (see here), and subjugates it to the ends of the Nefesh HoElokis.

However, when one becomes preoccupied with using one’s intellect in a way that lacks submission to the will of Hashem and of the Divine Soul, instead pursuing secular pursuits and studies for their own sake (as explained earlier here), the intellect of the Nefesh HaSichlis has become predominant.

This “defiles” the “pure olive oil”—the natural sensitivity to G–dliness of the intellect of the Divine Soul.[2] In this state, although the Jew is fully intellectually capable of grasping secular studies that discuss physical phenomena, he comes up against a dullness and resistance when he attempts to study spiritual concepts.

How can he possibly emerge from such a degenerate state? This is the lesson of Chanukah. There always remains “one flask of pure olive oil sealed with the imprint of the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest).”

To explain, it is stated of the Cohen Gadol: “His glory and beauty consist of sitting in the Beis HaMikdash all day. ... His house shall be in Yerushalayim, and he should never depart from there.”[3] Yerushalayim represents yirah shaleim,[4] complete fear of Hashem.

Thus, the Cohen Gadol represents the very core of the Jew’s soul, the Pinteleh Yid, the soul-level of Yechidah, a level that “never departs from Yerushalayim”—from complete fear of Hashem. This level is completely united with Hashem and can never be sullied by the person’s actions, although it can definitely be “asleep”—hidden and dormant in one who has fallen.

Now, the Yechidah may “wake up” when the Jew is faced with a test of faith, and inspire him to give up his life rather than deny Hashem. [5] However, that is an extreme circumstance. How does one awaken the Yechidah of oneself or others in the state described above, and bring it to fully illuminate the flame of the Neshamah[6]—which is compared to a flame, as it is written, “The Neshamah of a man is Hashem’s candle”—on all levels?

For this one must connect with the Cohen Gadol of the generation, a Jew who “sits all day in the Beis HaMikdash”—in an atmosphere of holiness and purity; moreover, he “never departs from Yerushalayim”—from a state of pure and complete fear of Hashem.

The Cohen Gadol, the Rebbe,[7] gives to all those who connect themselves with him a “flask of pure olive oil” with which to kindle and illuminate their own Neshamos despite its defilement and desecration.

However, just as on Chanukah, we are required to celebrate through both “Hallel vehoda’ah,” praise and acknowledgement, so is it with hiskashrus, bonding with the Rebbe. Hoda’ah, acknowledgement and faith are indeed necessary, but not sufficient. One must also engage Hallel, praise,[8] which represents investing intellectual effort to understand the greatness of Hashem (see here) as explained in Chassidus (which is compared to oil), thereby fulfilling the exhortation, “Know the G–d of your father”[9] until it illuminates every level of our souls with purity and holiness.

Adapted from the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, Vol. 2, pp. 277-278.

[1] Shabbos 21b.
[2] For oil is compared to wisdom (Zohar 3:7b).
[3] Mishneh Torah, Hilchos K’lei HaMikdash, 5:7.
[4] Likkutei Torah, Rosh HaShanah 60b.
[5] Tanya ch. 19.
[6] Mishlei 20:27.
[7] Cf. Igros Kodesh, Vol. 5, p. 33.
[8] Shabbos ibid..
[9] I Divrei HaYomim 28:9.

  • Dedicated by Reb Yitzchak Kruk and family in the memory of Aryeh ben Yitzchak.
  • Dedicated by Yehoshua Solomon and family in the memory of Mrs. Molly Mitnick (Malah bas Elchanan).

Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Jacob Ostreicher (Yaakov Yehuda ben Shaindel), 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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