The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume V, Issue 48
Shoftim 5761 August 2001
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2001 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
* The Denial of Idolatry
* A Portion of the World of Thought
* A Song,
* The Worm
* The Sanctified Body
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
It does not suffice to hate idolatry, to despise and loathe it, to seek its destruction, annihilation and extermination.
It is necessary to deny it, to believe that it is a nothing, an emptiness, a nullity and negativity of being, totally vacuous. Only because it has smashed forth to appear like something that exists and has being is it revealed--in its disgusting nature, its ugliness, its pollution and stench, and every evil blemish, every evil name and shameful name that it possesses.
The depth of true Judaism is of a piece with the denial of idolatry, which rises ever higher and makes profound the intimate connection between the holiness of Judaism and its hatred and despising [of idolatry],with every distancing, loathing and abhorrence of [idolatry,] that entire alien nature, which issues forth like the flow of "a ritually unclean woman, who is told, ‘Leave'" (Talmud).
All of this depends upon the depth of rejection of idolatry. "Whoever denies idolatry is called a Jew."
Orot Ha'emunah, p. 5
If you have a bad thought, regret it immediately and say to yourself, "What have I done, that I took a portion of the world of thought and brought it to a dirty place?" This way, you will become like dust, and you will bring this thought to the level of Nothingness. And then you will come to the world of love, in recalling, "If I love this bad thing--like a lust for a woman--how much more should I love God." If you hear a joke and it causes you joy, think, "This is a portion of the world of love." If you see or eat something that gives you pleasure, think, "This is something from the world of pleasure"--and be very careful not to make it into a physical pleasure...Say, "This is a portion of the world of pleasure, and you will come to the world of pleasure. Even as you sit here and eat, you are in the world of pleasure....
If you see something that you are afraid of, say, "Why should I fear this? It is a man like me--or, for that matter, an animal. God is enclothed in it, and how much do I have to fear God Himself."
If the middle of your prayer, people praise you for your concentration, cling to the world of praise...
Tzavaas Harivash 87
God, my heart is true.
Wake up, guitar and harp,
God, I will praise You in the midst of the nations,
So rise above the heavens, God,
In His holiness, God spoke!
And so I will laugh, I will divide Shechem,
And Moab is my washbowl. I will cast my shoe upon Edom,
Yes, but who will bring me to the fortified city?
So help us against our enemy,
With God, we can go to war,
The Baal Shem Tov said that when a wagon filled with hay travels, and one straw falls behind the wagon, it is announced from heaven to which place exactly the straw will fall. And the same holds for when a leaf falls from a tree. It is announced on every leaf at what time it will fall and where it will fall.
Once the Baal Shem Tov showed his students a leaf lying on the ground. He told them to pick it up, and they saw that under it was crawling a worm. The Baal Shem Tov said that the worm had been harmed by the heat of day, and so the leaf had fallen on it to give it shade.
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
In Likutei Moharan 72, R. Nachman states that the passages about great figures in Jewish history such as Yosef Dovid struggling with temptation cannot be taken literally.
In general, why do early Hasidic teachings so much stress tikun habris? One could posit the following. Our job in this world is to be awake and aware of God. Any other state is, if not a literal sleep, a trance. Taavah is a very profound and pervasive trance state.
One could also apply this idea about the trance to the mishnah that states, "Rabbi Elazar Hakapar said, Three things take a man out of the world:
jealousy, lust and the desire for honor" (Pirkei Avot 4:28). The simple meaning is that these bring about a person's death, for they lead to ultimately negative consequences. But one could say that within this world, they put a person into powerful trance states, and so remove him from being awake in this world.
The Gemara tells about Rav Amram, who arranged for the release of some Jewish girls from Roman captivity, and who were staying in his attic. At night, the glow of the face of a girl passing the entrance to the attic so enchanted Rav Amram that he took hold of a ladder that normally required ten men to move, brought it to the trapdoor and started climbing up. He only managed to stop himself by wedging his legs against the legs of the ladder and crying, "Fire!" When the people came and saw the situation, the sages amongst them asked if he were not sorry that he had shamed them. He replied that they would have been more ashamed if he had proceeded to finish his intent.
This rabbi is a tzaddik, meaning that he is awake and not in a trance. Therefore, he is not overwhelmed by gross desire.
The Gemara also teaches about the donkeys of tzaddikim that showed awareness of whether fodder had been tithed, whether they were carrying a person's correct wages, and the like.
Our body is compared to a donkey. Since Rav Amram was a tzaddik, his body was as affected by his holiness at least as much as the donkeys of those other tzaddikim were affected by their masters' holiness.
And so it is not that Rav Amram fell into a trance of desire. Rather, there was an imbalance between his body and soul, and his sanctified body, with its drive for holiness, took over. In its emotional, thoughtless way, it wanted to bring about a holy act. And so the strength of Rav Amram's bodily response is not indicative of his imperfection, but rather is an indication of his body's sanctification.
We might speculate that the ladder alludes to a person's ten spiritual faculties, which should be shared among mind, heart and body. But here the body took them all to itself. Watching as an observer his body running to do a mitzvah, Rav Amram jammed his legs against the legs of the ladder.
Perhaps this indicates that he took hold of that force and brought it into balance between right and left. And when he called out "Fire!," he was crying out about the hislahavus, the fiery inspiration, that he was experiencing in an inappropriate way.
We might draw two inferences from this.
The first is that just as a person can be imbalanced when his body takes over completely, he could also be imbalanced if he expresses his holiness only with his soul, ignoring his physicality or emotional side completely.
The second is as follows. What Rav Amram was intending to do was ultimately wrong. In fact, he was being tricked by his evil inclination, his yetzer hara. His yetzer hara is not our yetzer hara. Rav Amram's yetzer hara was his imbalanced and inappropriate drive for holiness. We could thus say that there is a continuum of yetzer hara. On the lowest level, it is merely a desire to do something grossly wrong. But as we move up the scale, it becomes more the desire to express in an inappropriate way something that is fundamentally a positive impulse. The yetzer hara is not the impulse but the unwise, uncontrolled means of expression. (This fits in with the statement in the Talmud that until he reaches the age of bar mitzvah, a boy has only a yetzer hara and no yetzer hatov, or good inclination. This is not to say that his desires are evil, but that they are not under mature control.)
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