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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Programmed Purity Vs. Frail Freedom

Programmed Purity
Vs. Frail Freedom

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

(This post is a continuation of this earlier post: Of Angels and Men)

Hashem’s creation is awesomely vast. It encompasses not only our world, but also the entire Seder Hishtalshelus, the awesomely vast system of higher spiritual worlds that ends with our physical universe (see here).

Yet all the beings that Hashem created possess a fundamental limitation: Each one is endowed with a very small repertoire of qualities and character traits. With these few traits each creature is equipped to carry out its individual role, but is unable to perform any other role.

In the animal kingdom we find that each species exhibits a distinct emotional tendency. For instance, the raven is cruel, while the eagle is compassionate, and so on.

So is it in higher spheres: The angels, which are compared to animals,[1] are also limited to the distinctive traits with which they were created. Gavriel, the angel of fire and strictness, is unable to deviate from its nature and be kind, while Micha’el, the angel of water and kindness, is unable to be harsh. Thus, of the supernal angels it is written that Hashem “established them forever and ever; He has established a decree that shall not be transgressed,”[2] for they are unable to change.

This is also the reason that “one angel cannot perform two missions”:[3] since its character is fixed, it is incapable of expressing itself in any other way.

In contrast, Hashem fashioned mankind as a microcosm of the Seder Hishtalshelus, and so his inner self encompasses all levels in miniature. Thus, he is endowed with the entire spectrum of character traits, ranging from the highest to the lowest and from one extreme to another.

We can observe this is in the classic episode of the binding of Yitzchak. Hashem asked Avraham, who personified kindness,[4] to deviate from his nature and act with such harshness as to kill another person—and not just anyone, but his only son. Yes, Avraham was ready to obey because Hashem requested it of him. But how could he have obeyed, if his defining attribute was kindness? The answer is that no matter how much a person excels in a particular trait, he always retains the ability to act differently. Thus, although Avraham excelled in kindness, he could still be cruel.

Conversely, even the criminal guilty of the most dastardly crimes, the sort whom all will agree belongs in an electric chair, is capable of being kind and loving.

This is the reason that when the Torah describes the creation of all the other creatures, Hashem is referred to in the singular—“And Hashem made the firmament”;[5] “And Hashem made the animals of the earth”;[6] and so on. Only in connection with mankind do we find the plural form—“Let us make man.”[7] This alludes to the unique multiplicity that Hashem implanted within the mankind such that his spiritual makeup parallels all the higher heavenly spheres, and thus runs the entire gamut of qualities.

Based on the Rebbe Rashab’s Sefer HaMaamarim 5660, p. 10.

(To be continued, G-d willing.)

[1] Sifri, end of Bahaaloscha; Bamidbar Rabba, end of Naso.
[2] Tehillim 148:6.
[3] Bereshis Rabbah 3:2.
[4] Avraham is associated with love and kindness, as it is written, “Avraham, who loves Me” (Yeshayah 41:9). Moreover, “The divine attribute of kindness said before the Holy One: ‘Master of the Universe, since the days of Avraham, I have not have to perform my job, for Avraham serves in my stead’” (Sefer HaBahir 191, cited in Pardes 22:4).
[5] Bereshis 1:7.
[6] Ibid. 1:25.
[7] Ibid. 1:26.

Sponsored by Pinchas and Feygl Cylich (Pinchos Boruch ben Yeshaya Yaakov and Feiga Matl bas Freidl) in honor of their parents, aleihem ha'sholom: Yaakov ben Boruch, Rayzl bas Pinchos, Yaakov Yisroel ben Shamai, and Freydl bas Mendl.

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

Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for (at least) $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Marital Harmony

On Marital Harmony

Rabbi Y. Oliver

Below is a compilation of translations of letters from the Rebbeim concerning marital harmony. 

One Should Only Rebuke One’s Wife with Soft Words

Don’t speak to your wife with harsh words. This will cause dispute and strife, and your goal will not be attained. Rather, speak with soft, calm words, as one speaks to his friend, and explain how one should not act in this manner, all in a soft manner, and then you will have an impact, and the goal will be fulfilled. This is crucial and very fundamental.

Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 233.

Promoting Family Unity through Joint Shabbos Meals

One of the first steps toward promoting family unity is to strengthen the custom for the entire family to eat a joint meal on the night of Shabbos.

Letters from the Rebbe, Vol. 3, p. 135.

Benefit of Compromise in Marriage

I hope that over time you will you will reach the conclusion that [in marriage] sometimes one should compromise, and through a small compromise one can gain a great deal.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 5, p. 81.

Don’t Emphasize Your Spouse’s Faults

Until Moshiach arrives, no one exists without faults. Thus, it is clear that just as one spouse has a fault, so does the other, and just as one would not want one’s own faults to be emphasized, so should one not emphasize and amplify the faults of the other. This is the way all Jews should relate to one another, but this applies all the more when relating to your husband, who is the father of your children.

My intent is not to criticize, but merely to draw your attention to the fact that your situation is not as forlorn as you present it, and it is not unusual, as it appears to you.

Each of you should ignore certain things, and it is preferable for each of you find ways to bring peace in the home. Once this is attained, this is the vessel through which Hashem will provide blessings and success, good health, livelihood, and nachas from children.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 5, p. 61.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Of Angels and Men

(kudos to in770.com)

Of Angels and Men

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

Meluchah versus memshalah

Chassidus distinguishes between two kinds of rule: meluchah, kingship, and memshalah, domination.

Meluchah exists when the people voluntarily appoint a certain person king, committing to comply with his every edict, as in the verse, “They accepted His Kingship willingly.”[1]

In contrast, memshalah exists when one party rules over another against or without that person’s will, typically through the use of force. Although the person submits, he does so begrudgingly. The domination of mankind over the animal kingdom is an example of memshalah: Only once duress is applied does the animal submit, because it lacks the intellectual ability required to choose to submit to man voluntarily.

This is the difference between mankind and angels. Man has free choice—the ability to consciously, freely choose to submit to and obey Hashem, or sin and rebel against Him, G–d forbid.

Angels, on the other hand, are referred to as animals,[2] and so just as animals can only be ruled through memshalah, so are angels only capable of submitting to Hashem’s rule through His memshalah.

To be sure, there is a vast difference between human memshalah over animals and divine memshalah over angels. Animals submit to humans out of fear of punishment, while angels submit to Hashem out of a passionate desire to connect to G–dliness. Yet the angels’ submission is still considered memshalah because it comes naturally and automatically, and the angels are incapable of consciously choosing to connect to Hashem.

Now, this is not to say that angels lack intellect. On the contrary, angels possess a level of intellect far superior to that of mankind.[3] This is even true of the lowest angels, but all the more so of the highest angels, those found in the world of Beriyah, the Seraphim (for more on these angels, see here).

The world of Beriyah is suffused with a revelation of the level of Binah (“understanding”) of Atzilus, the world above it,[4] which grants the Seraphim, who reside in that world, a sublime understanding of Hashem’s greatness. Thus, the Seraphim declare “Holy, holy, holy is the L–rd of Hosts,”[5] because they truly grasp, with their powerful, sublime intellect, how Hashem utterly transcends all the spiritual worlds. This awareness inspires them to an all-consuming love for Hashem and a yearning to become subsumed in that level of pure G–dliness. This feeling is so intense that they become burnt up and cease to exist.

Yet although angels possess intellect, their primary form of relating to Hashem and serving Him is not intellectual, but emotional. Angels are endowed with a powerful ability to experience emotions of love and fear of Hashem. These emotions are not produced by the angels’ intellect, but exist as an inborn desire that defines their very being. This is why angels are compared to animals, which are also naturally programmed to follow their instincts and desires, without any need for or possibility of a prior intellectual process.

Free choice

But if angels possess intellect, and their submission to Hashem results from their intellectual understanding of Hashem’s greatness, doesn’t that prove that they also have free choice?

No, it doesn’t. Yes, angels use their intellect to excite their emotions; however, intellect is merely the trigger. Understanding Hashem’s greatness to whatever extent is necessary for them sets off their existing inborn emotions of love and fear for Hashem, so that excitement is not in and of itself intellectually based.

In contrast, man’s defining characteristic is intellect, and he is capable of using his intellect to create emotions. These emotions exist and are defined entirely by the nature of the intellect that produced them.

This is also the reason that the emotions of angels—and animals—are so powerful. Had their emotions been created by their intellect, those emotions would be much weaker, because such emotions are inherently limited by the nature and depth of the intellect that produced them. But since the emotions of angels and animals exist independently of intellect, the nature and intensity of these emotions is not dictated and limited by intellect, and this enables their emotions to be intense and unbridled.

This explains further why Torah refers to angels as animals, why angels’ possession of intellect does not detract from their lack of true free choice, and why Hashem’s rule over angels is defined as memshalah.

developing worthy human emotions

Although mankind’s core characteristic is intellect, this is not to say that emotions are unimportant. On the contrary, man must not suffice with his intellectual grasp of G–d’s greatness; rather, this knowledge should inspire him to openly-felt emotions,[6] as it is written, “You shall know today and set it upon your heart that Hashem is the L–rd”[7]—“You shall know” must lead one to “set it upon your heart” (for further explanation, see here).

Such emotions (although weaker, as above) are settled and balanced, real and genuine, and will therefore also inspire the person to passionate observance of Mitzvos and good deeds, refined and loving treatment of others, and appropriate caution from falling into sin.[8]

In conclusion, These emotions are superior to those of animals—and in a sense, also to those of angels—because they are produced by the intellect.

Based on the Rebbe Rashab’s Sefer HaMaamarim 5660, p. 8.

[1] Evening Prayer Liturgy. For an earlier post that elaborates on this topic, see here.
[2] Sifri, end of Bahaaloscha; Bamidbar Rabba, end of Naso. Cf. Tanya ch. 36.
[3] Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, 3:9.
[4] For more on the difference between Atzilus and the worlds below it, the first of which is Beriah, see here.
[5] Yeshaya 6:3.
[6] Cf. Tanya ch. 16.
[7] Devarim 4:39.
[8] It is also possible for emotions of love and fear of Hashem to stem from the Jew’s natural, inborn love of Hashem (cf. Tanya chs. 18-19, 25, et al.), but that is beyond the scope of this essay.

Dedicated by Avi Turner and family l'ilui nishmas Nechama bas Reuven a"h, and by Mrs. Rivka Katz and family  l'ilui nishmas Reb Mordechai Meir haKohen ben Chaim Elazar haKohen a"h.

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

Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for (at least) $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.