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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The power of self-refinement

In addition to our strivings for self-refinement being an integral part of serving Hashem, they carry the fringe benefit of enabling us to overcome our physical enemies.

Dovid HaMelech speaks of two distinct types of foes whom the Jewish people face: “the enemy and avenger” (Tehillim 8:3): The “enemy,” who fights openly, directly, and unashamedly; and the “avenger,” a hidden enemy who schemes to commit vile deeds through stealth (today this is termed a terrorist).

The evil inclination is also referred to as the enemy, and it can be similarly divided into these two types. The open enemy within refers to coarse, vulgar desires, while the hidden enemy is the evil traits that are subtle and difficult to detect.

Yaakov Avinu alludes to these two levels of evil in his words, “ ... That I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow” (Bereishis 48:22). A sword can only slay an enemy who stands nearby, while a bow can even slay an enemy who stands from afar. The sword refers to eliminating the “close,” i.e., obvious and easily recognized unrefined character traits, while the bow refers to eliminating ugly character traits that are “distant,” i.e., subtle and insidious, and therefore unknown.

There is a direct causal correlation between the physical and the spiritual, between our conduct and the world around us. Thus, when the Jew strives to refine himself and eliminate his ugly character traits, both the obvious and the insidious, this results in the elimination of the literal “enemy and avenger” as well.

What a tremendous responsibility this charges us with! Normally we think of ourselves, not being generals or even foot-soldiers in the Israeli army, as powerless in overcoming scourges the likes of PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, and their ilk. But in reality every single effort that we make to refine ourselves spiritually (and especially through prayer, as I will explain in a future post, with Hashem’s help) strikes these enemies with a powerful blow no less effective than that inflicted by a physical soldier.

Adapted from Sefer HaMaamarim Melukat, Vol. 1, p. 321.

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