” The Owner’s Manual to the Soul” Part 1
JUST WAY Gate One
We learn in the holy writings of Rabbi Meir Leib, known as the Malbim, that both man and the Holy Blessed One
ride the same chariot. The Holy King sits in the great Chariot; He is the Soul of the World, guiding and sustaining it. The soul of man sits in the small chariot, guiding it by the same agency of free will that the King employs to guide the great Chariot; man’s soul is as free in its actions and how it guides the chariot as the Godly Soul of the world is free to employ Its will upon the pattern of the world. 1 Concerning this the Malbim further teaches that man was created as a blend of the material and Godly so that he is a charioteer of the whole
1. Malbim parsha Bereshith.
|world, reflecting the physical and Godly aspects of its many realms. 2
Once we grasp the concept of our guiding the chariot of the world, we must find direction to guide us. For this, we may look in the Talmud, tractate Perek Shalom there, the sages teach that atonement is called “peace.” The Messiah’s first message will be peace. The covenant of priesthood was made with peace. For one who loves peace, pursues peace, gives the greeting of peace, and responds with peace, the Holy One causes him to inherit this world and the World to Come.3 All desire the life of this world and the World to Come. Why would anyone choose not to run forward in the way described above, guiding the chariot in peace? This difficulty is explained in this manner: A man who cannot see that it is possible that things that are impossible to explain by our perceptions exist is as a worm spending its entire life deep within a radish thinking he has surrounded himself with the sweetness of life. Try to explain to Mr. Worm about going to an apple or a fig for sweetness of life. Many miss the path of peace because they stay in the same place just as the worm stays in the radish. The way of life is peace, but he that gives money out to loan on interest or takes interest will not wake in the resurrection of the dead, as stated in Pirkei d’Rebbe ELiezer. Such a one does not have peace and so does not share in the World to Come,4 as he does not share here except on interest. Concerning him the Prophet Ezekiel reveals, “He has given money at interest, he has taken interest-shall he live? He shall not live” (Ezek. IS: 13).
We must heed the words of the Torah, “Love thy neighbor as thyself, I am God” (Lev. 19:18). We should follow the
4Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, ch. 33
instruction of Rabbenu Bachyah, peace unto him, as he teaches us in Duties of the Heart: “Brother, it should be our duty to be ready for the appointed time and prepare ourselves for the distant journey to the other world from which there is no escape, and which we cannot avoid. We should think of provisions to take with us where we should meet our great Creator on the Great Day of Reckoning” 5 So as we are in the chariot of the world guiding a peaceful way, gaining provisions on the journey to the other world, a man must beware, as Rabbi Abba teaches us, that a man walks in this world thinking it is his perpetual possession and that he will reside here from generation to generation, but even when he walks he is being put in chains and while he sits he is being tied to the conclave with other prisoners. And like the worm in the radish, he believes this to truly be life. But we must take up our provisions, staying free. With this in mind, we cannot unknowingly, as described above, be put in chains.6 As simply put by Rabbi Yishmael in tractate Beitzah the Torah was given to Israel because they are intense and worth it. If they had not been given the law, no nation could withstand them.7 From this we see that one such as Israel must merit the way of peace known as the Torah, but that Israel’s merit is essential and required, or else the world cannot stand such an individual. The Holy One says in His Torah concerning Israel, “You must sanctify yourself and be holy” (Lev. 20:7). “You shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation to me” (Ex. 19:6). This is Israel’s role in the plan of creation. The world depends on its function, as the body depends on its heart or brain to function properly.
For the world to function properly, Israel must do its part.
- 5. Duties of the Heart 2:233.
- Zohar 3: 145a.
- Beitzah 25b.
To explain this idea further, we can look to the teaching of Rabbi Chayah, of blessed memory, as he explains in the holy Zohar that the only aim and object of the Holy One placing man in this world is so that he can know and understand the Name of the Creator, Havaya (YHWH) is Elokim-meaning, the Lord is God.8 Thus the cycles of nature, which are regulated by the Name Elokim, do not become destructive because the world cannot withstand such an individual but, instead, one guides the chariot the soul of the world in the way of peace so that the Name Havaya, the Personal Providence of the Blessed One, is united with the emanation known as Elokim (revealed as the forces of nature), directing them in a peaceful way.
With the help of the Holy Ancient One, later we will try to understand the depth of these matters as much as is permitted and can be known. In this matter of raising ourselves and the creation closer to the Personal Providence and supervision of YHWH (the Name Havaya), we learn from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi in his Chassidic sefer Tanya that by concentration on words of Torah and meditation, one can truly express the Holy Speech with his lips and breath. Doing this, we draw down light of the Ain Sof, the infinite quality of the Creator. unto the vivifying soul that dwells in the ‘blood that is common in all living things and is sustained by the ingestion of mineral, vegetable, and animal matter, all these being elevated as they are absorbed in His Blessed Unity. This is the purpose of the descent of the worlds, and this is the essence of man’s intent in his service of the Creator-that is, to draw the infinite light of the Ain Sof down below,9 ultimately fulfilling the words of the Holy Blessed One. Rabbi Yudan said in the name of Rabbi Meir in the
|8.Zohar2:161b 9.Tanya 261
Midrash of The Song of Songs that the Holy Blessed One said to Israel, “Follow my oath and I will make you as the heavenly hosts.” 10 Concerning reaching this goal of becoming as the host of heaven, Rabbenu Bachyah tells us that it is our duty to use diligence and effort for the improvement of our noble souls, which are immortal, and whose interests we have been charged to manage. Turn from superfluities of this world and busy yourself with what you will need in the end; spiritual possessions remain yours and no one may take them. 11 Only with this foresight may we raise ourselves from our coarse physical natural awareness to gain a higher divine understanding of reality-ultimately gaining, as Rabbenu Bachyah spoke, spiritual possessions, so that ultimately the Creator’s Will can be fulfilled as stated previously, that we become as the hosts of heaven.
A necessary awareness that always helps us to see ways to raise ourselves all the time, all the days of our lives, we learn from Rabbi Kahana in the Pesikta as he teaches that those who mourn over the Holy Temple and yearn and wait for God to rebuild it will then rejoice in the Torah. 12 It is by this sense of loss, the awareness of the greater purpose in this world, that one can continually be motivated to bring back into the world the Divine awareness for all to see and share, this time in much greater force. Once one can see beyond the veil, the limiting physical awareness of the universe, then he can behold the divinity of the Torah, the blueprint of creation, bringing rejoicing in each letter like the host of heaven as they learn in the upper worlds.
With Divine purpose directing our ways in this world one can avoid the most common pitfall, as Rabbi Schneur Zalman
explains, when the innermost part of the heart-that part whose desire to serve the Creator comes from above intellectual motivation-becomes vested in its corresponding opposite, namely the soiled garments of mundane matters and worldly desires that are referred to as Babylon. Then this innermost Divine aspect is said to be in a state of exile and captivity, and this is the state of the exile of the Shechinah. 13 Its opposite is the revelation of the Shechinah, when one does not forget his purpose but actually spends time in the awareness of spiritual matters, ever yearning for a greater day. In acquiring this awareness, we are not to shun all material things; this is not necessary to separate ourselves from Babylon.
God describes the proper path in the thoughts of Rabbenu Bachyah, as from him we learn that, concerning material things, one must select those that promote physical pleasure and material well-being, but only to the extent of that which is absolutely needed and sufficient, rejecting excess or those things that will turn his heart away from his Creator. He will see the world and its possessions as only a means of providing for his appointed day, his later end. He will take only that which will accompany him on his journey and to this end will he labor with all his might. For his earthly needs, he will work as one works for others, in moderation, only to the extent absolutely necessary. 14 It is important to find the proper level of participation and our true needs while in our sojourn here.
To discover our true spiritual needs, that which we must find, Rabbi Shneur Zalman teaches that one with a soul that is contaminated from the sins of youth will need to make a forceful effort, greatly exerting oneself with much vigil and toil
- 13. Tanya 402.
- Duties of the Heart 1 :295.
and intense concentration, immersing oneself in the greatness of God for a considerable time, to reach awareness of the lower fear (awe, not fear of punishment). 15 It is through this intense concentration, and the fear it arouses, that one can begin to see his true need. Pushing aside that which is superfluous does not help to meet this end.
Another force that must accompany this fear of God. if one is to reach elevated consciousness, is faith. belief in the way of the law of the holy Torah, for without this one cannot approach the holiness of Divine service, as we learn from the words of Rabbi Shimon in tractate Menachot, where he teaches that a person who does not believe in the (priestly) service has no portion in priesthood. 16
Not only does one need to believe in the way of observance of the Torah, but also one must trust in the Holy Blessed One in all other things as well. Rabbenu Bachyah explains that if one puts his trust in anyone or anything other than God, God removes his providential care from that individual and leaves him in the power of the one he trusted. In describing this trust, Rabbenu Bachyah states that trust is the tranquility of the soul in the one he trusts.17 Since God has everything under his control. all who truly trust in Him are taken under the protection of the wings of the Shechinah, which provides all their needs, as all is His to distribute at will. With this lack of lacking, there can be nothing but tranquility of soul before the Divine Presence.
One must try to always place himself before the Divine Presence, fulfilling this with trust and faith in God to such an extent that, as the sages say, one should always try to give more and more to God. This way, we are always
- 15. Tanya 219.
- Menachot 18b.
- 17. Duties of the Heart 1:281.
coming closer to the Holy Blessed One, though, in essence. there is no closer or farther. for God fills and transcends all existence. and through it all is unchanging.
Sometimes this giving to God may. in a way. be against our nature. but if we do this without retaliating, God does the same for us. 18
Rabbi Miller explains to us how Jacob discovered the gate of Heaven on earth among simple natural objects around him. Moses attained his lofty prophetic stature from seclusion in the desert. God revealed himself to all Israel on the mountain. The people of Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness to compensate for their urban dwelling in Egypt. While dwelling in the Promised Land, they lived a simple. natural life, dwelling in tents for centuries. It was not until the time of King Solomon that they turned to luxuries and this is the very thing that contributed largely to their downfall.
Repeatedly, the people of Israel have been despoiled of their possessions and compelled to live simple lives. The physical possessions of Israel throughout history seem to be separated from them as a lamb in season is sheared of its coat. Being denied places to live they were forced to seek. refuge in the bosom of nature (the Name Elokim).19
We see that in the past. the path used by Israel to ascend to God has been living a life excluding what people today call luxuries, living a simple life. The ultimate expression of this elimination of physicality is found in the circumstance of Moses being alone with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. Yet all Israel spent much time in the desert, away from the habitations of men. Such living allows the
- Ibid. 295.
- The Secret of Happiness 9.
mind to be free from the burdens of material concerns and allows one to spend a great amount of time contemplating the greatness of the Creator. from Whom all life comes.
Rabbi Miller further shows us, concerning our way of life, that all one’s spirit. body, wealth, ability. and power are given to promote and preserve the world in righteousness and love. The earth is not ours, but we belong to the earth to respect it as Divine soil, and every one of its creatures is a fellow being to respect and love. As such. we endeavor to bring it closer to its goal according to the will of Elokim. These words indicate the sublime mission and lofty privilege of man. 20 With these thoughts in mind, we will not develop a lust for wealth and money and begin to think of them as the goal in life. as explained in the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.21 But we shall proceed with wisdom in the words of the Malbim:
“All precious things together cannot compare with the survival of the soul. which is the end purpose of man and of his hopes. to bring the soul into the purity of holiness.”22
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto teaches that one must approach watchfulness. meaning to become aware of the states of our actions whether they are beneficial or not. We must also perform all our positive actions with great zeal. and remove bad traits. One also should separate from permissible pleasures for the sake of Heaven. One looks into the Torah for ways to serve God: separates from idle conversation; and lives in a state of (relative) seclusion, with purity of mind and heart. The removal of haughtiness may bring one to the next level of improvement. the level called “holiness.” which is a gift from God.23 As holiness is a gift from God, so is
20. Ibid. 33.
2 I. Rabbi Nachman’s Stories 283.
- 22. Path of the Just.
- 23. Malbim parsha Lech lacha.
its method of attainment, which we are beginning to describe. This may be understood from a common parable of the sages, showing how a man goes to a doctor to receive direction in curing his illness-but instead of taking the prescription given by the doctor, he goes to his own laboratory in the garage, and makes his own medicine or follows no remedy, and dies. This is analogous to one who disregards the Torah, which is our Healer’s Remedy for the diseases of the soul from the evil inclination. The Blessed One created the disease and also its cure.24
Concerning the nature of this disease, brought forth by the evil inclination, Rabbenu Bachyah teaches bodily pleasures come to man’s soul first in early youth and the attachment to them from the onset is very great, strong, and urgent, overcoming his other faculties, even the intellect for which sake man was created. Man must overcome his animal instinct for lust of animal enjoyments and revitalize his noblest endowment, his intellect. As the sensual animal lust in man is the product of natural forces and a combination of his physical elements, those such as food and physical pleasures add to its vigor. The intellectual soul, the purpose of man’s creation, is a stranger to this world. So, for its nourishment, to strengthen it, God has given us the Torah. It is the Torah that is the food to strengthen the Holy Soul within us and cure diseases brought forth by the evil
inclination. 25 .
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, gives us an explanation of a common disorder brought on by the evil inclination, where one says, “Let us be like every one else. Its symptoms include development of gross corporeal tendencies, wherein all one’s desires, the essence of
- 24. Path of the Just.
- Duties of the Heart 1: 195.
one’s being, becomes reduced to coveting personal wealth, excessive eating and drinking, clothes, and all manner of physical pleasure. Indulging oneself in all desires of the hour without discretion eventually removes all restraints on human decency. This gives way to complete abandonment of modesty and a total loss of all sense of shame.26
The Malbim shows us how the Torah redirects greed and lust when stating that the body’s imaginative faculties of striving, as well as its passions, tend to be destructive. These are the being of the vitalizing animal soul, yet they can be controlled for the benefit and happiness of the man when properly utilized. The drive that sends man searching for material riches can be the force directing acts of kindness, and the drive of one’s passions can be directed at cultivating the garden to supply everyone’s needs.27 From this, we see the importance of proper direction for the protection and preservation of our soul.
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