Overcoming the Dangers of
Intense Religiosity (pt. 2)
Rabbi Yehoishophot OliverIn the previous installment, we discussed how good intentions and holy passions can go awry because of a lack of inner refinement.
A parallel phenomenon is found among the angels. As discussed earlier (see here), although the angels possess vastly superior intellect, they are fundamentally emotional beings, whose core is filled with passionate feelings of love and fear of Hashem, and so they are not truly intellectual in the way that man is.
Starting from Beriyah, each level in Seder Hishtalshelus (the spiritual multiverse—see here) devolves directly from the one above it. So Beriyah devolves into Yetzirah, Yetzirah into Asiyah, and the spiritual plane of Asiyah devolves into our physical world, which is at the bottom of the world of Asiyah. This means that all the beings that exist in Beriyah also exist in Yetzirah, but in a lesser, more egotistical state, and so on.
So when the intense love and fear of Hashem of the angels in the higher spiritual realms (Yetzirah, Yetzirah into Asiyah—no angels exist in Atzilus, the world above Beriyah) devolves into our physical world, which is the lowest of all levels—“the lowest level possible as regards the concealment of divine light, a double and redoubled darkness to the extent that it is filled with forces of Kelipah and sitra achra, which are literally against Hashem, saying ‘I exist, and there is nothing else but me’” (Tanya ch. 36)—these feelings go completely awry:
The angels’ love of Hashem turns into chessed (kindness and love) of Kelipah—the lusts and pleasures of the flesh that we (if we are G-d fearing, do our best not to) see in the secular society around us. (Once, Reb Itcheh der Masmid, a great chossid, had to visit the city of Manhattan (in the ‘20s, I think). His comment: “Do hobn di malochim gut ongemacht”—“here the angels really relieved themselves.”)
Likewise, the angels’ intense fear of Hashem turns into gevurah (strictness and fear) of Kelipah—all the forms of negativity, depression, conflict, hatred, and violence that so pervade the society and culture in which we live.
All these powerful and captivating negative energies that we perceive in the world around us are in fact the devolution—or, as Chassidus calls it, the pesoles, the “waste matter”—of that intense passion of the angels.
However, angels do not have free choice, so they cannot choose to refine themselves in a way that would prevent their passion from leading to anything undesirable. In contrast, although man’s capacity for emotion is infinitesimal when compared with that of the angels, he was endowed with overcome his emotions. He does this by choosing to choose to use his intellect in a way that refines himself so that his expression of emotions will not result in a negative outcome.
Stay tuned for the next installment!
Read this essay in full on Scribd here!
Dedicated by Reb Zvi Rona and family l'ilui nishmas Golda Ruth bas Moshe Zvi HaLevi on 22 Tammuz.
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