Sunday, April 5, 2009

And on the eleventh day...

In the first part of the month of Nissan it has become customary to recite the portions of the Torah which deal with the offerings of the Princes of the Twelve Tribes. The Prince for the 11th day of Nissan, the Rebbe's birthday, was from the tribe of Asher. The Medrash says that each tribe is named with the redemption and praise of Israel in mind. The Prince of Asher, Pagiel Ben Achran, brought his because of the Jew's choice of Hashem to be their L-rd, and Hashem's choice of the Jew's to be his special nation. The immediate question is that it's only possible to make a choice between two things which are either equal or at least comparable. Between Hashem and all other (false) gods, there can be no comparison, and the same goes for the Jew and the non-Jew, the reason for which you should consult Tanya, Chapter 49.

We can understand this by first prefacing with an explanation given by the Medrash on the verse, in Eicha 3, 24, "Hashem is my portion' says my soul, 'therefore I have hope in Him". The Medrash says that this is like the parable of a king who comes to a country, surrounded by his many ministers, and the populace of the country come out to greet him. One person there says, "I choose this minister to represent and help me," while another picks one of the satraps. A third man chooses one of the King's secretaries. There was one smart man present who said, "I choose the King, because all the others are temporary, but the King lasts forever." So too the nations of the world serve the sun, moon, stars, or constellations, but the Jewish people only serve Hashem. The question is, what's the genius involved in picking the King? Everyone knows a King is much greater than his employees. And what's the reason the wise man gives, that the King lasts forever? Even if the King is just as temporary as his ministers, he's still greater.

Back in the earliest generations, when man first began to serve false gods, the feeling was that it was necessary. Just like a person thanks and tips a waiter for bringing him food, even though the waiter obviously had no hand in the preparation of the food, one should thank the sun and the moon for giving him sustenance. The people thought that just like the waiter does have some choice whether to present the food or not (and after all, he could have spit in it), the moon and constellations have some say in the amount of G-dly sustenance they pass onto man. The mistake of these people was that they didn't realize that the heavenly bodies are only like an axe in the hand of a wood chopper, a tool made by G-d and directed solely by Him. The early idolaters thought that they could influence the celestial bodies to give them more than they were supposed to get.

From this mistake came an even greater one, the belief that Hashem had left the world in the hands of his creations and therefore they were the be-all and end-all of divine service. They thought that this situation was comparable to a King who appoints a governor to rule over a province, leaving it entirely except in times of great need.

Obviously this isn't true, and Hashem continues to sustain the world in exactly the same manner as when he first created it 5769 years ago. It takes the wisdom of the Jewish people to know this, and therefore they don't serve the false gods, who only appear to run things, but rather worship the one true G-d.

There is only one problem with this explanation. The parable presented by the Medrash features ministers who have free choice, and therefore choosing them does positively impact the benefit they give out. We can therefore understand that service of the King itself, rather than the results it brings, is what the wise man seeks. From this we can understand in real life, that the reason the nations of the world worship the sun and stars is not because of their mistake, but because they would rather have physical benefits than serve G-d. There are two advantages to idol worship over G-d worship. The first is that the benefits provided by the idols is not dependent on self-nullification, and the second is that the benefit itself is greater than that received from choosing to benefit solely from the side of holiness.

In the desert the Israelites complained that they ate for free in Egypt; what they were saying is that their physical sustenance came without any corresponding spiritual struggle. The side of holiness only allows for benefit when the right thing is done, and even then it only gives according to a person's work. Kelipos get their life-force from a source above nature, where there are no barriers, and therefore they can provide virtually unlimited sustenance.

According to this explanation, the greatness of the Jew is that he declines to associate himself with the forces of darkness and instead chooses Hashem, even though this means he must work hard for less.

The wise man's reason for choosing the King and not the ministers is because the ministers are only temporary while the King lasts forever. What does this mean? The benefits which accrue to those who align themselves with the forces of darkness, even if these benefits are greater than those available to holiness seekers, are only temporary. After Moshiach comes, and evil ceases to exist, all the G-dly sparks which were contained within that evil will cease to exist. In addition, the benefits for those who choose the side of good will be much greater (after the coming of the Messiah) then ever went to evil-doers in the pre-Messianic age. This is expressed in the Talmudic saying, "If so much goes to those who go against His will, how much more will go to those who follow Him."

This explanation is not sufficient, however, because it implies that the only reason the wise man chooses the King is because he is smart and has figured out that with patience he'll have increased shtuff. This is problematic, because the Medrash implies that the Jewish people choose their King because of their soul, because of the greatness of serving the King, not because of the material benefits associated with that service. Instead, the Jew chooses Hashem because the great physical bounty which goes to the sinner is not given with Hashem's full will, as it were, but rather as a man throws a gift to his enemy behind his back, with disgust. Hashem gives the Jew because he wants to give the Jew, and the Jew takes this, because he wants to receive what Hashem desires to give. The benefits to those who go against His will are not everlasting, and therefore they don't have a true existence even when they are present.

Where does this benefit come from? It's siphoned of from Kedusha, from holiness, and this is the only way it exists. Since that Holiness with them is exiled, as it were, they (the Kelipos) are actually dead. The people who draw from them are also called dead, as it says in Talmud, that wicked men are called dead even while they're alive, because (as it says in Tanya) their life source is death. When a person chooses the King, he chooses life, not death, holiness, not impurity.

This explanation is still not sufficient, because at the end of the day the wise man is still making his choice based on his intellect, and the Medrash seems to be saying that his soul, which is above intellect, is making this choice. In short, the nature of man is to choose whichever path will bring him the most wealth, happiness, peace, or anything and everything good. This nature is what causes the nations of the world to worship their false gods, because they acknowledge only themselves, and therefore choose only that which benefits them. A Jew, on the other hand, because of his divine soul, is able to look beyond himself and choose to worship Hashem, even though he will get (at this point in time) less benefit, because G-dliness is truth, and his soul chooses to align itself with that truth.

In sif zayin the Rebbe brings a mashal from the siddur im da"ch of a king who makes a big expensive feast for his important ministers and honored servants. The leftovers from this mammoth endeavor go to the lowly maid/servants and even to the dogs of the palace. Certainly the king did not make the feast for these people and for his animals, and yet it's very possible that they get even more food than the people who the feast was made for! After all, the king's very important guests only receive the best of the best, and anything that's not perfect is thrown to the masses.

The Rebbe explains every aspect of this mashal , starting with the people who eat of the feast's bounty. First you have the dogs, who run under the tables and get the bones thrown there. The word in Hebrew for dog is "kalev", and this is interpreted as "Kulo Lev", all heart, because a dog is rules solely by his heart, by desires. A person's intellect naturally controls his heart, and some peoples' heart controls their mind, but to negate the mind totally and listen only to one's desires? This person is like a dog.

And you know what? They're treated like one too. Sure, they get all those juicy bones, but they're missing the meat! I think the maamar is talking about a cultural Jew here, someone who loves Judaism not because he believes in it but because it has great kiddushes after davening and the the dancing on Simchas Torah is a lot of fun. The only mitzvos this person keeps is those he enjoys, which provide him with pleasure. Now certainly it's better to do a little than nothing, but to be ruled solely by your desires? What kind of life is that?

The second level of people is the lowly maid/servants. They serve the king only because they're scared of getting hit by him, not because they understand or care. What kinds of Jews are these? The ones who keep Judaism only because of kabbalos ol.

I never used to understand why this level was referred to as "lowly". After all, doesn't chassidus extol at length the greatness of a Jew who serves his creator with kabbalos ol, acceptance of the yoke of heaven? The Rebbe answers this in the maamar, "d'avda b'hefkeira neicha lei." These people would much rather not serve the king.

What kind of people are we talking about? Those who were never taught why we do things, only what to do. Sure, many of them do things for a while, but as soon as they lose their fear, they're gone! They don't have any other reason to connect themselves to Judaism, so they leave. And whose fault is it? Obviously every person is responsible for their own actions, but really, where were their parents and teachers, who should have imbued them with a love and understanding of yiddishkeit? They failed. These people don't get to sit by the king's table, because they don't want to. They don't appreciate their Jewish heritage.

So what is the purpose of kabbalos ol? After all, from here you might think that it's worthless. In reality, kabbalos ol is very important, but only in the right circumstances. When you're dealing with an eight year old, you don't explain everything you tell him to do. But when you're dealing with a fourteen year old, if he doesn't understand (at his level) why he has to do something, then he's not going to do it. Even when dealing with a kid who has kabbalos ol, you only have a limited amount of time to rely on this blind acceptance. Unless you explain in a way he can understand why you're telling him to do things, he will give them up. Some people can rely on their kabbalos ol for years and years, but at some point, without a reason for their faith, they'll give it up. Or their kids will.

When is kabbalos ol a good thing? When a person has a crisis of faith, or a difficult time doing things, or doesn't yet understand, then it's a very good thing. But to base your entire Judaism on it? That Judaism won't last. And even if it does, it's a lowly Judaism, based on fear or habit, not on feeling or appreciation.

The great servants, in contrast to their lowly counterparts, serve the king not only with kabbalos ol (after all, they still must sublimate their will to his), but also with appreciation for the king. They might not understand why they're doing things, for after all, who can understand the will of Hashem, but they want to do what he wants. And why do they want this? Because they understand the greatness of the king. This type of person has a seat at the feast, he's steadfast in his Judaism, but he's not the ultimate. It seems to me that this level is that of the beinoni, or that of the person who wants to be, is capable of being, a beinoni (all of us). He struggles with his yetzer hora all his life, but that's because he wants to struggle, he wants to connect to and serve the king.

The ministers of the king serve him because they understand his ways, which is why many of the affairs of the kingdom are conducted through and by them. Even more than that, these ministers decide policy, because they know what the king wants done. This level is, I believe, the level of a tzaddik, who walks in the ways of his G-d.

There are many levels within this classification, which in general can be divided into two, ministers and great ministers, which I think represents tzaddik she'aino gamur and tzaddik gamur. These three general levels of people who sit at the king's table are all secure in their Judaism, with an intellectual and emotional basis for their belief and a desire to serve their G-d. Sure, they still struggle, and sure, life is hard, but with the proper foundation a house will survive the strongest earthquake, with the proper roots a tree will withstand the most powerful winds.

With this mashal we can now understand the greatness of the pekeach, the smart man, who chooses the king... in brief, a person could strive to be like the great servants or ministers, to become a beinoni or tzaddik, or like the Rebbe says, reach for the highest levels of atzilus. But if he does this then he's missing the point. The point is anah nesiv malkah-I choose the king! It's tough all right, believe you me, but it's the only true way of serving Hashem.

In the analog, the lowly servants represent the seventy guardian angels of the seventy nations, while the servants and ministers that the King serves at his table are holy angels who do G-d's will, the highest emanations of holiness, who are always with the King.

We can now understand the greatness of the Jewish people. That they don't want to receive anything like dogs or servants is obvious, but their refusal to deal with anyone but the King, in place of his highest and most trust-worthy ministers, is admirable. This is comparable to a person who visits a King, and passes through chamber after chamber, each filled with more treasure than the previous one, until he gets to the last chamber, which is more incredible than anything any man has ever imagined. Many people will stop at this last chamber, because they're filled with awe; only the true smart man will pass by and go to meet the King, because only the true smart man is filled with the desire, not to see the King's wealth, but rather the King himself.

This is what the Alter Rebbe said, "I don't want your Garden of Eden, I don't want your World to Come, I want you alone." The Alter Rebbe certainly knew how great these levels were, and in fact he had a greater knowledge of them than most people. And the highest levels don't hide G-d, rather they transmit his rays. And yet he only wants Hashem. This is why the Alter Rebbe specifically said, "Your Garden of Eden, Your World to Come", because even though they are Hashem's, he still wants only Hashem.

These two explanations of "I choose the King", that a person doesn't want even the highest spiritual emanations, but only G-d himself, and the simple meaning, that a person only serves Hashem and not idols, have a connection. The Garden of Eden is great, because it's an incredible spiritual experience, basking in the rays of divine glory. When Hashem himself is chosen though, it leads to complete nullification. If a person makes a mistake and chooses to bask, choosing pleasure in front of truth, then it can lead to a person choosing to worship false gods. He might even come to that these false gods have free choice. Idol worshipers thought that there was something to be gained from serving the sun and stars; choosing anything but Hashem, even his greatest spiritual worlds, is the same thing.

Even is someone wants the Garden of Eden specifically because it's Hashem's there is a problem, because he can come to think that Hashem gave it, or anything in the world, power to choose who to help, as was explained above. A Jew has to know that everything in the world comes only from Hashem.

The main mistake people make in serving idols is that they confuse something which is only a tool for the master. The sun and moon provide benefit for the world, but they have no choice in the matter. The benefit gotten is also mistaken. The physical world is not an ends, but rather only a means with which to serve Hashem. That's why some people choose to worship false gods, because they think that physicality is primary, and therefore they spend their lives trying to accumulate as much of it as possible. The same thing is worth the highest spiritual worlds; they too are only a means to an end, and choosing them is the first step on a slippery path to idol worship.

The source of gentiles is in the "outer will"; they only exist for another reason. They don't realize this, and think that they are the reason for existence, and from this comes the thought that whatever brings the most physical benefit also has the free choice to dispense that benefit. Jews, on the other hand, are the primary purpose of creation, and they therefore recognize that they should serve the primary, Hashem.

The Jewish people serve Hashem because of their souls and because of their intellect. The soul sees that it's source is in the inner will, that it is the purpose for which the world was created, and that affects the brain, that it too should be able to understand. From the intellect the choice in Hashem will permeate every thought, word, and action, causing a Jew to truly be a G-dly person.

King David asks Hashem in Psalm 70 to remember him. This can be explained with a parable. There was once a King who got angry at his flock of sheep (don't ask) and sent them away. At the same time he destroyed their enclosure and fired the shepherd. Later the King was reconciled toward his sheep, and brought them back. He also rebuilt their home. The shepherd wondered what was going on, and asked the King, "Hey, why haven't you rehired me?" So too David asks Hashem, from the end of Psalm 69, "You have remembered Zion and and rebuilt Judah (end of the aforementioned Psalm 69), but I have not been brought back?" Therefore David asks Hashem at the beginning of Psalm 70 to be remembered. The question is, if the King remembered the sheep, why didn't he remember their shepherd? The answer is that a person can have everything but still lack the main thing, which is a revelation of G-d. The purpose of the King is to teach Torah, and since the Torah as we have it now is nothing compared to the Torah of Moshiach, David asks Hashem to let him shepherd the Jews in this infinitely higher way.

Now we can explain the Jew's choice of Hashem and Hashem's choice of the Jews, that Hashem chooses the Jews because they are the purpose of creation, and this leads to the Jews choosing Hashem, because they recognize the truth. A Jew wants Hashem, to the exclusion of all else. Whatever Hashem wants, the Jew also wants. Since the whole purpose of creation is to make a dwelling place down here for Hashem, that is also the Jew's goal. Hashem gives physicality, and the Jew turns it into spirituality, and this will be fulfilled with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days, Amen.

43 comments:

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Nice post. Where can I get my hands on the maamar?

What's with this word "physicality"? I've only ever heard it used by shluchim. Is it yiddish or what?

The Real Shliach said...

It's in Sefer Maamarim Melukat Gimmel, and I believe it can be found on otzar770, but don't quote me on that.

Physicality=gashmius. And hey, if google recognizes it as a word...

e said...

Hi

e said...

Subscribing

e said...

Modeh, you totally need to learn this maamer inside. it might just cure you of your horrible snaginess.

Nemo said...

E- and how can we cure you of your snaginess?

e said...

Snaginess isn't my issue. heresy is. and it's incurable.

The Real Shliach said...

e: Hi yourself.

Nemo: what's worse, heresy or snagginess?

e: I can't wait 'till you return to the faith of your fathers in like thirty years...

e said...

TRS, the hi was part of the subscription process. return i shall never return

Yossi said...

well done with the ma'amer.

The Real Shliach said...

e: I know, that's what made it funny.

Yossi: nice.

fakewood inc. said...

to much judaism.

Crawling Axe said...

e, there is a Russian saying: “Don’t make my slippers laugh.”

Crawling Axe said...

My question is: it says that only tzaddikim can serve out of desire for yichud of HKB"H and Shchintei. Is there no hope or us, then? Is the best we can hope for is to be smart servants who get pnimiyusdik hashpoh? Or, perhaps, we can appreciate the goal and the capability of Chabad Chassidus and therefoe know the value of us being Chassidim?

sarabonne said...

Well I went through some 5 bouts of ADD reading this....but a very nice post indeed. Thanks.

Crawling Axe said...

Pictures in the middle of posts are a cure for the readers’ ADD. The only reason I went through the post without ADD is that I learned this ma’amor with another chossid all day yesterday (and then almost finished m"sh).

sarabonne said...

and I cured it by making a cup of coffee in the midst.

Crawling Axe said...

Drugs is not an answer.

The Real Shliach said...

CA: what does it say in Tanya re: the desires of a beinoni to become a tzaddik?

Sara: Glad you survived the experience.

Re: Pictures: Any suitable images for this post?

Coffee: A wonderful diuretic.

Drugs: No?

le7 said...

This has to be your longest post ever. You know how everyone knows the longest Kapittal of tehillim (and the shortest)? So, maybe we should, as TRSers learn the longest TRS post and the shortest one!

Crawling Axe said...

I don’t desire to be a tzaddik. I desire to be an alpinist. I mean, an altruist.

Images? For instance (source). Although, I like these images more as an interlude to Chassidus: 1 and 2.

Nemo said...

I didn't know that there was a difference between heresy and snagginess ;)

But in any event, Chassidus is the elixir for it all!

The Real Shliach said...

le7: I know there is a really short post somewhere, just quoting a passuk, from sometime in the late summer... good luck trying to find it.

CA: Gorgeous, mamash gorgeous, but what do they have to do with this maamar?

Nemo: Not according to your friend who had that blog (which I forget now), or e, I imagine.

Nemo said...

Friend? Huh?

Crawling Axe said...

Nothing. That’s the point. A little non-sequitur refreshes the reader’s attention. Try it.

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo: Remember that guy you got into an argument with in a car and who then started a blog, and who claimed that he knew chassidus like the back of his hand? Exactly.

CA: Not at all.

The Real Shliach said...

Here, this http://rationallypious.blogspot.com/ is the guy I was talking about. Does anyone here still follow his shtuff? I gave up a long time ago.

Nemo said...

Oh yeah, him. I still stand by the fact that he is quite well-learned.

e said...

Do lawyers "stand by" facts? I thought that was something that only yeshivah bochurim do.

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo: Then do you still stand by, "But in any event, Chassidus is the elixir for it all!" ?

e: When you're a hybrid like Nemo, you're entitled to a little leeway.

e said...

of course it isn't.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Snagginess and heresy are far from the same thing. I should know.

e: snagginess ? me? you wound me sir!

e said...

oh. then what are you?

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Jew-without-portfolio

e said...

oh, you're one of those?

Nemo said...

E- I suppose you're going to take this opportunity to edumacate ...

e said...

an astute observation, my dear.

Modeh b'Miktsas said...

Nu, please do so.

Modeh b'Miktsas said...

Nu, please do so.

Crawling Axe said...

Of course snagginess is the same as heresy. Ramak says so anyway. And Alter Rebbe sort of agrees. As well as Frierdiker Rebbe (but for a different reason).

E said...

Snaginess is merely one of the many forms of heresy out there--and it's not the one to which I subscribe.

Crawling Axe said...

A hose is pulling a cart and does its business on the street. Then the wheel of the cart cuts the product in half. What’s the difference between one half and the other? That’s the difference between one heresy and another.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

When you find a hose that can pull a cart I will get duly offended and argue with you.