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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Intellectual Soul (pt. 2): Bittul--The key to objectivity

The Intellectual Soul (pt. 2)

BittulThe key to objectivity

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

(This post is continued from my earlier post, The Intellectual Soul pt. 1.)

As mentioned, the purpose of intellect and of the Intellectual Soul is to bring the person to transcend his own narrow self-interest and prejudices, and discover the truth of whatever subject he examines.

But if so, how is it possible that the Intellectual Soul of the non-Jews does the very opposite—it drags the person down into a state of coarseness?

The answer lies in the key to objectivity, bittul—which means self-effacement or humility.

When a person is consumed with the desire to promote his own self-interest, and he freely indulges his preferences, desires, and lusts, then no matter how intelligent he may be, and how much of an effort he makes to set aside his personal interests and be objective in his analysis of a moral dilemma, he is simply incapable of attaining true objectivity—although he may well convince himself and others that he has. And so the moral judgments that he renders will inevitably be hopelessly biased, and hence most likely incorrect.

How can one transcend personal bias and thereby attain truth? It starts with fostering an attitude of bittul—humility before Hashem and one’s fellow man.[1] This underlying philosophy then becomes manifest in one’s approach to worldly matters. The humble person will eschew hedonism and embrace a lifestyle of moderation and restraint in which fulfilling his responsibilities to Hashem and his fellow man is primary and material pleasure is secondary.

Although this order of priorities may necessitate sacrifice and hardship, it opens the person up to realize and connect with a higher truth. Since pleasure and personal comfort are not the goal of life, the person is willing to forgo them when a higher cause requires it of him.

To be continued, im yirtzeh Hashem (see here).

[1] Cf.  Tanya ch. 30.

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1 comment:

  1. Rambam commentary on tractate Avot, chapter 4, paragraph 4:

    G_d will not revive the arrogant [מתגאים] at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead...
    ...the humble ones [anavim] will live.


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