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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Kinds of Intellect

Two Kinds of Intellect

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

One can understand a concept in two ways:

Lowering the concept to the student: The teacher lowers the concept into terms to which the student can relate by using analogies, concrete examples, and elaborate explanations that convey the concept on the level of the recipient. This simplifies and coarsens the concept, robbing it of the abstract purity of its original state. The recipient remains unchanged in his intellectual domain; all that is expected of him is to pay attention to the lesson. When he listens, he learns new information.

Elevating the student to the concept: The student invests tremendous effort to develop, refine, and purify his faculties until he is able to grasp the concept as is, in its unadulterated state. He may also make some use of analogies and the like during the learning process, but these methods are more “transparent,” and his primary focus is on bonding with the concept itself.

This is the difference between human intellect, the intellect of the Intellectual Soul, and divine intellect, the intellect of the Divine Soul:

Human intellect seeks to bring the concept it strives to understand down into its own frame of reference, and only then is it able to accept and assimilate it. This selfish focus dilutes and coarsens the concept, leaving the mind in its original lowly state. The mind has merely learned some new information on its own terms, but it has not fundamentally changed at all. On the contrary, the more one understands, the more powerful and self-confident the mind becomes.

In contrast, divine intellect seeks to rise out of its parameters, to use intellect itself to transcend the limitations of ego, lose itself, and become subsumed within G–dliness itself.

This explains the difference between the approaches of human intellect and divine intellect to faith in Hashem:

Understanding leading to faith: Human intellect starts without faith, with its own existence as its first premise. Then, through intensive study and comprehension, it comes to accept the existence of Hashem and appreciate His greatness and unity. However, no matter how much it learns, it views Hashem and G–dliness as external subjects of study, not as all-pervasive realities to which it ought to surrender and abnegate itself.

Faith followed by understanding: Divine intellect starts with faith, a faith that stems from its fundamental G–dly makeup, which endows it with an innate sensitivity to the transcendent, absolute reality of Hashem. Then the intellect strives to not only sense this reality, but to understand it intellectually by toiling in study of Hashem’s greatness and unity as explained in Kabbalah and Chassidus. However, the goal of this cognitive process is to bond with the G–dliness whose existence this intellect naturally senses.

This also reflects itself in the emotions that emerge from these two types of intellect:

Selfish, uncooperative emotions: Since human intellect relates to everything through a selfish focus, its intellect need not be translated into commensurate emotions. For instance, one can appreciate the virtue of humility well, but be conceited and obnoxious.

Humble, pliant emotions: In contrast, since divine intellect seeks to humble itself before the Truth of Hashem, it also has a humbling effect on the emotions, making them susceptible and open to becoming aroused with the emotions that divine intellect calls for—love and fear of Hashem, love of Torah, love of one’s fellow Jew, fine character traits as taught in Torah, and so on.

Adapted from the Frierdikeh Rebbe’s Sefer HaMa’amarim 5691, p. 186.

Dedicated by avi mori Reb Kasriel Oliver (Kasriel ben Shmuel) and family in honor of the birthday of my dear sister, Bracha Tsap (Hinda Zelda Bracha bas Kasriel), on 2 Adar. May she be blessed with a sh'nas hatzlachah begashmiyus uveruchniyus!

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


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