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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Emotional transformation: The main goal of inner change

Emotional transformation:
The main goal of inner change

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Hashem exhorted the Jewish people, “Make for Me a Mishkan, and I will dwell in their midst.”[1] Chassidus quotes earlier sources[2] that explain that the reason that it doesn’t say “I will dwell in its midst” is to allude to Hashem’s desire to dwell “in their midst”—that every Jew make a Mishkan for the Shechinah, the divine presence, within his or her inner self. Thus, all the details of the Mishkan provide a lesson for us in our divine service, alluding to the correct approach to revealing the Shechinah within.

The Torah relates[3] that Betzalel decided to make the Mishkan first, and then the keilim, the vessels to be used there. This represents the two stages of within: The external structure of the Mishkan—intellect and the keilim—emotions.

To digress, as is known, the Nefesh HoElokis, also known as the Neshamah—the extra Divine Soul unique to the Jewish people—is called adam, man.[4] Sometimes Chassidus explains that this alludes to the relationship between the intellect and the emotions in this soul. Just as in a human, the brain is above the heart because the intellect is (or ought to be) controlling the emotions, so, too, in the Neshamah, the intellect dominates over and dictates the emotions of this soul. This is in contradistinction to the Bestial Soul, where the emotions dominate over and dictate the intellect.

At first glance, one might deduce from this that in the Nefesh HoElokis, the emotions are somehow of secondary importance. However, this is incorrect. The above merely describes how the emotions of the Nefesh HoElokis are to be evoked—via intellect. But in terms of their relative value, especially when considering how we should approach our service of Hashem, to the contrary—inspiring the emotions of the Nefesh HoElokis is the main thing, and the intellect is merely the means to that end, albeit a stage that is an essential prerequisite to emotions.

This is another interpretation of the fact that the Nefesh HoElokis is called adam, “man.” Adam has the numerical value of 45, which corresponds to the divine name of Mah, which refers to the emotions of the heart.[5] This means that the Nefesh HoElokis is called adam primarily because of its emotions. It follows that only when the emotions of the Nefesh HoElokis are manifest is the Nefesh HoElokis truly revealed within the Jew, and he is truly called adam.

Back to the lesson from Betzalel’s preferred order in constructing the Mishkan.

The Mishkan was, of course, a kind of edifice. Now, an edifice benefits the person by providing shelter and the like, but encompasses the person and does not relate to those within it on an individual level. This represents the concept of an ohr makif—a kind of influence that affects the person to a certain degree, but remains superficial, and does not permeate that person’s inner self.

In contrast, the keilim, each of which is designed to hold certain contents in a measured fashion, represent the concept of an ohr pnimi—a kind of influence that is measured to fit the level of the recipient, and therefore permeates and transforms that person’s inner self.

This may seem odd to some. Chassidus typically describes intellect as an ohr pnimi, for a teacher must deliver his or her teaching to the student in a way that the student can comprehend. Yet in the context of changing one’s inner self, intellect is described as an ohr makif, while emotions are called an ohr pnimi.

The reason is that although one typically identifies both by one’s intellect and emotions, of the two, emotions cut to the core of identity. We are defined by what we feel far more than by what we understand.

For instance, when a person understands intellectually that a certain course of action is wrong, but his emotions are excited by it and attracted to it nonetheless, we would correctly define this person by his desires and not by his abstract understanding. Moreover, emotions are the key to thought, speech, and action, so only through reaching suitable emotions can one come to proper behavior.

This is the deeper meaning of the verse, “Know today, and take to heart, that Havayeh is Elokim.”[6] First and foremost, “know today”—study about Hashem’s greatness until you reach hispa’alus sichlis—intellectual excitement. This reveals the Neshamah’s intellect.

But don’t suffice with “know today.” Go further: “Take to heart”—take the excitement at what you studied from the realm of abstract theory down into the emotions, to hispa’alus shebelev—excitement of the heart. Bring the heart to become passionate with whatever emotion ought to emerge from the concept that you learnt, whether love of Hashem, fear of Hashem, or the like.

So Betzalel made the Mishkan first, to represent the first stage (in this context)—“know today,” and then he fashioned the keilim, to represent the next stage, the goal of divine service—“take to heart.”

Then one may merit a personal fulfillment of the next phrase: “Havayeh is Elokim.” This means that then the most sublime aspect of the Shechinah becomes revealed in one’s innermost self, and this constitutes the ultimate fulfillment of “I will dwell in their midst.”

To be continued. Next, G–d willing, I need to explain the meaning of the inner revelation of “Havayeh is Elokim in the heart.

Adapted from Ma’amarei Admur HaEmtza’i, Shemos, Vol. 3, p. 671 ff.

[1] Shemos 25:8.
[2] Shelah, Terumah 325b.
[3] Vayikra 35:30.
[4] Cf. Bava Metzia 114b. See Ma’amarei Admur HaZaken 5466, Vol. 2, p. 460.
[5] Etz Chaim, Sha’ar HaTikkun, ch. 3. Ma’amarei Admur HaZaken, Parshiyos HaTorah, Vol. 2, p. 567.
[6] Devarim 4:39.

Dedicated by Rabbi Levi Kurinski (
Levi Yitzchok Halevi ben Chana Brocha) and family in honor of his birthday on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av.

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