The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review
Yaacov Dovid Shulman
|WINGS OF MORNING
Volume VI, Issue 11
Vayishlach, December 2001
Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2001 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (email@example.com).
* The Body of God
* The Society for Positive Mindfulness (Continued)
* "In the Destruction of the Wicked, There Is Song"
by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
The body of God is the
The body of God grows past
Dy, dying and lithe tiger
And yellow pansies tremble.
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe)
There are some people who think that only they are men of truth, men who possess a clear consciousness, and that only they have succeeded in deluding neither themselves nor others. And so when they feel within themselves some sort of inspiration towards holiness, they analyze it to discern whether it is genuine or a mere fantasy, or perhaps the result of some physical stimulus, such as a physical worry, happiness, or the like. These people are described in the verse, "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, who view themselves as possessing understanding."
We have already discussed how any type of inspiration, whatever its cause, opens the doorways of the soul, allowing us to bring our soul forth and draw it to holiness. Even if a person is deluding himself in regard to his inspiration and emotion, s long as he doesn't purposely intend to deceive himself or others, that inspiration is good, for even if the states of fiery enthusiasm that he experiences are spurious, at least one in ten will be genuine. But those people who are involved in self-analysis, who don't allow their feelings to emerge and spread because they are so busy examining themselves, will be left with their self-examination, and all their days will be no more than empty and dry, their hearts dulled and their minds darkened (may God protect us from them all). And I understand the works of our holy rabbis (may their merit protect us) to be saying this as well.
But on the other hand, do not imagine that you may pass through life without any self-examination whatsoever, not knowing whether you are in a place of holiness or (heaven forbid) of the Other Side (may the Merciful One protect us, may it not be even mentioned).
And so there are two types of self-examination.
A Hasid who is serving God may experience a moment of spontaneous inspiration and be affected by it. Even when this does not occur of itself, he brings himself to an inspired state (using the techniques mentioned until now, or other means). Only afterwards does he examine whether his experience was genuine. He "removes the waste from the fine flour," so that next time his feeling will be even more genuine. All of his self-examination does not lessen his inspiration, nor does it bring him to cease his fiery enthusiasm. Instead, his analysis is another method that he uses to serve God. First, he experiences fiery enthusiasm, and only afterwards does he examine himself; his self-examination is not a replacement for the holy service of inspiration.
This is different from the approach of those desiccated self-analysts who are hunched under their evil inclination (may the Merciful One protect us). When their analysis brings them to the slightest self-doubt, they reject their entire positive inspiration. Open your eyes and see that in this, the evil inclination has gained the upper hand.
A simple type of self-examination is to look at yourself and say, "My first goal in starting to serve God with mindfulness is to take one leap that will lift me beyond my body and senses, so that I will rule over them. And so I will now analyze myself in order to see if the service of God that I have engaged in has affected me that way. If I am really ruling over myself now more than I did before, then my service of God and fiery enthusiasm are genuine. If not (heaven forbid), then I erred and fooled myself."
But even if the latter is the case, do not grow feeble in your work and holy service. Strengthen yourself yet again, and begin anew–"turn it over and over" (Pirkei Avot); do not relent. Does a person stop taking medicine because it did not work the first time? No–he encourages himself and tries it again, and then a third time.
But you must also know the proper strategy for ruling over yourself. You might lack sovereignty over yourself. But it may nevertheless be the case that until now your service of God following our approach (the approach of the Society for Positive Consciousness) is indeed good. It may rather be some other failing that is keeping you from sovereignty over yourself.
Every type of rulership requires a ruling spirit. If an officer or soldier does not find the spirit of might within himself, he will not be able to stand in the midst of the battle, even if he is much stronger than his enemy. The Torah states, "The fearful man and the man whose heart is soft must return home." It is precisely the fearful man and the man whose heart is soft who return home–note that the Torah did not single out "the weak man." The entire ability of an army to overcome, conquer, and rule the enemy depends upon a spirit of might.
In the same way, although a person might submit to his desires many times (heaven forbid), it may be that this is not due to his desire being so vast, but rather to his being soft-hearted. Because neither a spirit of might nor a spirit of sovereignty has arisen within him, he could not use them to strengthen himself to battle and control even a weak desire.
Now we can see how sweet are the words of our sages, who explained the phrase "the fearful man and the man whose heart is soft" as referring to a man who fears "the sins in his hand." His sins are indeed in his hand–that is, under his control. And so he can turn them to whatever he wants, and even destroy them. His failing is that he is fearful and soft-hearted, and has not manifested the spirit of rulership within himself.
If a soldier were to wait until he went to war his mortal enemies before strengthening himself and manifesting the spirit of might within himself, he would not accomplish a thing. The enemy would overwhelm him before he could even lift a hand. How evil and bitter it would be for him then, when he would be no longer an officer or ruler but a slave. Instead, before he fights his enemies and while he is still at home–within and without–he learns how to arouse and manifest the spirit of might.
The same applies to the service of God. Do not wait until you come to a sin (heaven forbid) or even to a permissible desire. Instead, put into practice the words of my holy father (the rabbi and tzaddik), who said that a person must bind his personality traits to his mindfulness in all his affairs, even in non-religious pursuits.
Then not only will you stop and think before you to engage in particular behaviors, but you will arouse yourself to battle against them. Many times, you will refrain, even if they are not forbidden things and even if you do not have a strong desire for them. You will do so in order to animate within yourself a mighty heart and spirit. In this way, you will manifest self-governance.
Try this from time to time with trivial matters. For instance, occasionally drink coffee without sugar. Even if something of this nature appears comical to you, it is with such trivial steps that you will bring yourself to stand firm even in the midst of a great battle against forces that oppose your spirit and soul.
Bnei Machshavah Tovah
by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
We recognize that absolute goodness is something whose existence is total goodness and supernal delight. The perfection and broadening of that reality constitutes paths of goodness and an uplifted, edenic nature.
On the other hand, total and absolute evil constitutes the absence of absolute good and the diminution of the expanded states of the being of goodness. We recognize that total and absolute evil opposes goodness.
The lack and denial of evil is total goodness. The diminution and constriction of the being of evil constitutes the direction to the paths of goodness.
Pessimism is the gaze directed into the depth of evil.
There is a good within pessimism: the tendency toward its own self-removal. This is redemption from the being of evil–something for which evil itself (in the depth of its existence) so much yearns. Of course, this yearning will manifest itself in the upper aspect of evil, that aspect that seems to touch upon the border of goodness. This evil attains its happiness by rejoicing in its own annihilation. "In the destruction of the wicked, there is song"–even by the wicked people themselves, who cease their fury.
However, the lower aspect of evil does not reach perfection. More evil than the upper aspect, it does not yet recognize the happiness within its own annihilation. Instead, it yearns for existence and being.
Buddhism possesses something of that goodness within evil. Buddhism expresses well the desire for self-immolation, and is filled with such a great deal of this sort of spirit that this constitutes the general direction of that unique culture: leading the lowly aspect within evil to its upper aspect–i.e., to the desire for its own annihilation and then the goal itself: the self-annihilation.
Clearly, the innermost point of goodness within evil connects to good. And it remains afterwards, possessing an eternal existence. The desire for the annihilation of evil lives and exists forever within the arena of goodness, with an infinite happiness.
The joy of those who are just is in relation to the goodness that exists within goodness. This transcends all evil. These people experience a joy in the being of that goodness and in the level of breadth of its existence. Goodness within goodness gains strength in the Source of goodness, the Source of being and life–which is to say, the light of the Life of the universe, "He Who spoke and it was."
Ideal good and evil have to do with the totality of reality. When reality is appreciated as being good in its totality, then our consciousness is at peace and painful details are appeased, since they exist–at any rate–in a world whose foundation is goodness.
Coming to an understanding of divine good is necessary to the foundation of being. When we call to mind that all the universes together do not possess even the value of a spark compared to the cycles of eternal lights, to the light of God's Presence, then the light of goodness appears in our soul and the bitterness of life is sweetened.
Orot Hakodesh II, pp. 486-87
Class for Men: Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim ("Spiritual Training"), step-by-step guidebook on how to develop an awareness of our souls and of God, by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro (the Pieszesner Rebbe), Sunday night. For information, call (410) 358-8771.
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