Kabbalah is Very Simple – There Is Only Ohr and Kli

Learning from RABASH disciples that sat and learned with the Rebe for years, is experience beyond any possible description. On one hand you observe and learn the most complex spiritual structures, yet you must always be able to break it down to two components – Ohr and Kli, while one of the components is constant and the second is the only variable in the existence.

Many people assume that it is possible to simply open Talmud Eser HaSefirot or other Baal-HaSulam books, read the text and understand on their own. This is not the case – without oral tradition that was heard directly from the Rebbe, one will be lost in Sulam’s texts, point that has been proven to me again and again. Once Baal-HaSulam said after a lesson looking at his students’ notes: it will take 20 years only to understand what you have learned today. He was not far from the truth – it has been almost twenty years since his son, RABASH, left us and his students started tedious work of compiling Talmud Eser HaSefirot with commentaries that they heard during the lessons. Twenty years later, and seven out of sixteen parts have been completed. Each word spawns pages of explanations and drawings and one chapter from the book becomes a book on its own.

As our sages taught – Kabbalah can be only transferred from Rebbe to student – there is no other way, even in our era of technology and connectivity.

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6 Responses to Kabbalah is Very Simple – There Is Only Ohr and Kli

  1. We do say that there is only Ore and Kli and it is true, but the problem is that when it comes to real situation it isn’t so easy to remember that, and even if we do remember, it take a tremendous work to deal with the situation according to the formula”Ore-Kli”, because Ore always comes in Lavvushim and Kli should be discovered and it should be Ore Hosser and not our Ego reaction.

    So to begin with we have to make any efforts necessary, but to put aside all the people involved in the situation( because the Ore is always comes in the form of this or that situation, as percived by our Ego), and to say to ourselves that it is Creator that influences us in this way, whether it is felt as pleasant or not by our EGO. and it is called that we managed to make Sfirra Ketter( to see the Creator behind the situation), which gives us Ore Neffesh, and it is a very valuable Ore, though its name come from Neffisha, and in the case of dealing with the situation it means that at least we don’t react streaight forward and we manage to stop ourselves and to think over the reaction, because the first reaction is ussually of our Ego and it is always a wrong one.

    So if we manage to understand that situation is given to us by Creator, then we can move to the creation of the next Kli- Kli of Hokhma, which means that we ask ourselves what the Creator wants to teach us through this situation, because we believe that The Creator is Good and means only Good, whether we feel it right now or not, when we manage to hold our mind from any other thoughts, but that the situation is from the Creator and it is going to teach us something useful, we’ve got Kli Hokhma, and Ore Ruakh, which moves us in thinking in a certain direction.

    Now we come to the next step of understanding of the given situation, and this stage is used for analysing the model we are dealing with, for ex. I felt hurt by being left at home with the children while my Husband went to see his parents, so the model is the feeling of unfair relationships and devision of the duties, so I have to find out which way I would like to be treated, and what right solution there is for this situation. I have to find out where, and when do I myself behave this way. It may not be my hasband, and it can be my children, or parents, or co-workes, and I have to change my ways of treating them in the previous manner. So i build one more Kli- Kli Binna and I get Ore Neshamma( of course of this spesific step) into my attitude to the outer world.

    Next step comes, when I have to speak to my hasband, and to find the way to explain him what I feel without blaming him on the one hand, and on the other hand making it very clear that I am very much upset, by such a situation- it is a question of building Kli deZ”A and as we know it consists of 6 sfirrot, and each of them should be consided. We of course begin with the Hessed Sfirra, and we have to remember that if we hurt somebody’s feelings there is no reason to continue to speak to that person, because all he feels is you blaming him and all the rest is left unheared. So we beging with positive numbering where your husband did behaved kindly and thoughtful and we discribe how good it was felt when you are thought about, and only then we come to say, that you would like all the plans to be discussed when these plans involes you both, and you give the example of being left with children, you do it in a queit tone, and only ONCE(Limited Gvurra), there is no need to say it several times, because the Ego may spoil all the previous work, and again you come to positive example, of how it was good to feel when you planed the visit to your relatives and by mutual agreement find it better for you to stay at home, but because it is mutual decision, it was absolutly fine with you( it is Tifferet Sfirra)

    next step is to present your “speesh” to the Creator and to tell him what you feel and what you want to speak to your hasband about, and it is KLi Nezzakh, because you are asking the Creator to give you the only right way of dealing with the situation, and it will be a part of your Soul Correction and will remain as Kli in your soul for ever.

    Next step is Kli- Hod, where you have to thank the Creator for teaching you and showing you the understanding, that though at the moment you feel very hurt you are ready to serve the Creator in any role He needs you. and that you are very thankful of being chosen for this complex,but very inportant work of correcting the Kli Kabbalah from Lekkabel into Lehashpia.

    Next come Sfirra Essod, where you once again thinks over all the details of the coming conversation and reminds yourself that you are going to speak to your hasband, but you are going to do it as if you were speaking to him in the presence of the Creator, which will help you to build a conversation in the FORM of Lehashpia.So your Kli deZ”A is ready and you feel full of enegy to act, it is Ore Hokma, and you are filled with the wish to solve the situation immidiatly, and here we have to remind our selves that there is one more Kli- Malkhut, and it doesn’t take anything for itself, it means that we will make our convesation not when it suits us most, but when We see that the husband came from the work, he took shower, he ate, and the children are in bed and the situation is very suitable for the conversation, then we make a decision and invite the hasband for a talk.

    After the conversation you thank the hasband for being kind and understanding, and you thank the G-d for helping you to conduct the conversation on the level of Binna, and not falling down into our Ego.And it is KLI Malkhut, which was lifted to Binna, and we get Ore Yekhidda in the form of very uniqe way of the communication on a very difficult problem with unexpectedly wounderful results.

    This is more or less the prossess of intereaction between KLi and Ore, and our “mark” if we did it sucsessfuly, will be more difficult situation to deal with= more Nitzuzzot de Kdusha to correct, and more Klippot=Levels of Ego to deal with, but it is the only effort which is worth from the point of view of eternal spirituality, and the only way that brings us to sucess in dealing with our children, perants, co-workers and all the world, because by acting accourding to the Esser Sfirot we solve the problems and make our relationship better, stronger, and the world come closer to the purpose of the Creation.

    Of course it is easy to say than to do, but if we try our best, little by little will become masters of our Ego, which will serve us as Hommer Dellek for the next higher spiritual levels.

    The

  2. Kabbalah is not only very simple, but what is more important it makes a lot of sides of your life realy very simple.

    If you study it regularly and learn to implement its laws to the day by day situations and learn to see the world through the laws of spirituality, a lot of complecated issues will stop to bother you, because they are complecated because there is no clear point of view for them in your personality.

    The moment you take a system of Torah and Mitzvot observation and learn through the Talmud Esser haSeffirot how the really built and works, you will be more at home in this world, you will be sure of your decision making and you will enjoy the results of your activity, because if you act according to the spiritual laws, your actions are welcome Above and are called spiritual Kli=vessel and as we know that the only thing we need to get the Light is the KELLIM, and the Kellim are the wish to correct and improve my existence in this world and to make it a better place to live for us and our children.

    So the only problen with us and this world that we try to live the lives againt the spiritual laws, the moment we stop to resist the spiritual Devine order of this life, it will become simpler, happier and much more intresting because the energy spent on resistence to the spiritual laws will be spend on creativity and development of the potentials and a lot of wonderful discoveries are ahead for us.

    We should always rememer that all the guenious is simple, and the principle of Light and Kli for sure is.

  3. Maharal
    by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

    Chapter 1: Mishna 3: Part 2

    Antignos Ish Socho received (the Torah transmission) from Shimon HaTzadik. He would say: Don’t be like slaves (servants) who serve the master in order to receive reward. Rather be like slaves without any intention to receive reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

    How come the Tanna didn’t teach us more directly “Serve G-d from love”?!

    Our love of G-d is supposed to be fundamental, emanating from our sense of being an attachment to the Divine reality. It is supposed to be independent of our feelings of appreciation for the good that G-d has done for us, or in order to receive good from G- d. Teaching us to “serve out of love” could be misinterpreted as being based on feelings of love one should have due to the wonderful things G-d has done for us. For that certainly could lead one to feelings of love for G-d, and one who serves G-d in response to good that has been received, or in anticipation of that good, is considered a completely righteous person. However, the Tanna is teaching us the fundamentally proper way to serve, motivated by an intrinsic desire to serve G-d and to fulfill His will, independent of any reward, leading to an inherent attachment to the Divine. Greater than simple appreciation, this drive is motivated by the recognition of the reality and the greatness of the Divine, leading to a fundamental desire to fulfill His will.

    (In response to the following question: The second half of the Mishna presents a non-existent example as the desired behaviour! It would have sufficed to simply teach that one should not serve in order to get reward. The Maharal explains the following.)

    Simply teaching “Do not serve G-d in order to get reward” would have implied a PROHIBITION on doing so, which is not correct. We have shown that a person serving in this way is in fact a righteous person. The Tanna wants, instead, to teach the fundamental way of service, which is independent of any reward. Therefore the conclusion of the Mishna is necessary “Rather be like a servant who serves with no intention of receiving reward.”

    On the other hand, the Tanna could not simply teach “Serve G- d as a servant who does so for no reward” as the paradigm for correct service, since such an example is virtually non-existent. Rather, the two contrasting statements are necessary to communicate the message fully: Don’t be like a servant who is motivated by the reward, which is not the essence of service and does not emanate from love of the master; rather serve as one who is not motivated by reward — even though this is not common — but by love, the inherent desire to serve and be close.

    After counselling us on “ahava,” service motivated by love, we are also taught about “yirah,” fear. For the natural attitude of one who loves another is closeness and connection. This closeness has the potential to neutralize fear and awe. (“Familiarity breeds contempt…”) So the Tanna teaches us that even though you are supposed to serve out of love, becoming closer to G-d, this should not lead you to relate to Him like you would to a friend or peer. Remain conscious of the enormous gap between G-d, who is “in the heavens,” and you, who dwells on the physical earth. This will ensure that your love and closeness to G-d will not neutralize your awe of the Divine.

    (If we love G-d, if we are close to him, if we are “buddy- buddy” with G-d, rationalizations for improper behaviour become much easier, we can easily “take Him for granted,” become less careful about transgressions. “G-d understands.” “He won’t mind.” Our awe of G-d and fear of potential punishment avoids this pitfall.)

    The proper term for fear and awe is “yira’at shamyim,” fear of heaven, for it emanates for a recognition of the contrast between Divine and Transcendent G-d (in heaven), and finite, physical man (on the earth). We never find the term “ahavath shamayim,” love of heaven, for love emanates from an attachment and closeness (“…to love G-d…and attach yourself to Him.” Devarim 30:20), and “shamayim” is far removed from us.

    After Shimon HaTzaddik taught of the foundations of the worlds existence, Antignos taught how man, for whom this world was created, is supposed to serve his Creator, which is the fundamental purpose of his existence.

    The teaching of Antignos embraces the totality of service of G-d, embodying both love and fear. An individual action can be motivated by either love OR fear. But MAN is supposed to constantly embody both traits simultaneously, leading to an ideal relationship with his Creator. It is appropriate that this integration of love and fear be taught by Antignos, as an individual, while the coming Mishnayoth are authored by “pairs” of Tanaim. Each pair will be split between one teaching a behaviour based on love and one based on fear. But in the essence of service of G-d, which is what Antignos is teaching, there must be an integration and unification of love and fear.

    (I would like to add a few paragraphs from an article I wrote on the subject of repentance motivated by love and fear, which raises issues that will give added insight to what the Maharal writes here.)

    In Netivoth Olam, Netiv Ahavath Hashem, at the end of Ch. 2, the Maharal brings the Gemara in Avoda Zara (19a) and our Mishna. He explains that one who serves in order to get reward is not committed to truly SERVING; rather he is actually working for someone else to get a payoff for himself. This is legitimate when serving a human master, says the Maharal, for no servant’s CREATION can be said to be for the owner, and he has no inherent responsibility for service to another. Man, however, was created for the purpose of serving G-d, and as such, his service should be performed for no other reason than that it is intrinsically man’s purpose (“avodah b’etzem”). So the service should be with no intention of receiving any “payoff.”

    There is an intermediate level, one who serves G-d out of recognition of all the good G-d has bestowed upon him. This is more elevated than one who serves for the “payoff,” but it is still not “avodah b’etzem.” True “avodah m’ahava,” service of G-d from pure love, is independent of anything G-d does for us, and even if we are subjected to difficulties and suffering (lo aleinu), since we exist to serve G-d as our inherent mission of our existence, we willingly do whatever we are asked to do. This is true service, “m’ahava.”

    In Netiv HaTshuva, Ch. 2, the Maharal discusses the distinction between Tshuva m’ahavah (repentance motivated by love) and Tshuva m’yirah (motivated by fear) discussed in the Gemara in Yoma (86). Tshuva m’ahava brings immediate rectification, while tshuva m’yirah requires a healing process that comes from G-d. Explains the Maharal: One who serves G-d from love has the love and attachment to G-d from within himself (m’tzad atzmo), while the one who serves G-d from fear is dependent on something outside of himself, the fear coming from G-d. Therefore the therapeutic nature of tshuva also requires input from G-d.

    We operate on many different levels, with many different motivations. Much of our lives are devoted to fulfilling others’ expectations of us, or trying to acquire things which are outside of us. This makes our mission as well as our success dependent on things which reside outside of us, rather than having our motivations and standards of accomplishment be dependent on our recognition of what our potential is, and driven by our sense of what our responsibilities are, what G-d created each one of us (individually) to accomplish.

    This drive emanates completely from within us, and is independent of anything outside of us. It is up to us, and depends on our attitude, as well as our sense and recognition of responsibility. This is the secret to serving G-d with no intention of receiving reward.

  4. Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
    Pounds of Flesh Into Pounds of Soul: A Conversion Scale
    by Rav Noson Weisz

    There are large sections in the Torah that are addressed to the Jewish body politic as a single, united entity rather than to individual Jews. The account of the blessings and the curses on Mt. Grizim and Mt. Eival, and the 98 curses of the Tochahcha,the rebuke, are the subjects that take up the bulk of our parsha and belong to these public sections. The blessings and the curses of our parsha land on the doorsteps of individual Jews in their capacity as members of the Congregation of Israel. Individual merit or iniquity is not a factor.

    PUBLIC CONSEQUENCES

    To be absolutely certain that there is no misunderstanding concerning the public nature of the consequences presented, the blessings and the curses are imposed in the context of a dramatic ceremony in which the entire Jewish nation actively participates. Six tribes on the peak of Mt. Grizim another six on the peak of Mt. Eival, answering “Amen” to the curses and the blessings uttered by the Levites positioned in the valley between.

    The 98 curses listed in the Tochacha at the end of the Parsha are clearly addressed to the Jewish public regardless of individual merit. Most of them concern national calamities in which the righteous necessarily suffer along with the wicked. The death of the innocent and the righteous in the context of the actualization of the curses is taken for granted as a matter of course. Those who question God’s attribute of Justice on the grounds of the undeserved suffering of the righteous in cataclysmic events such as the Holocaust have not fully understood the Tochacha.

    JEWISH IDENTITY IS SUPER-GLUED

    Moreover it isn’t only those Jews who consider themselves members in the Congregation of Israel who are struck. Jewish history teaches us how very difficult indeed it is for individual Jews to opt out of the tragedies foretold in the curses. Voluntary assimilation and/or conversion have been tried all through history by large numbers of individual Jews as a means of escaping their Jewish destiny. Such attempts have generally met with mixed success at best. They tend to work in good times and break down when the curses kick in. The most recent case in point is the Holocaust.

    The Nazis sent people whose entire connection to the Jewish people was a single Jewish grandparent to the gas chambers along with the racially ‘pure.’ Some of these ‘Jews’ were the descendants of individuals who had demonstrated their desire to opt out of their membership in the Jewish people by deliberately choosing to assimilate into the German ‘volk.’ Perhaps they dreamed of raising German rather than Jewish children. But when tragedy struck, it embraced these estranged Jews as well. The individual Jew is chained to his destiny and his people no matter how hard he tries to escape. He remains a child of Abraham regardless of being separated from the Jewish people by geography, irrespective of differences of culture, despite his lack of allegiance to the Jewish religion and its traditions, in the face of his determination to abandon any Jewish affiliation.

    The immunity of the bond of Judaism to the forces of separation indicates that a Jew’s connection to his people is spiritual rather than physical. It would appear that Jews share some sort of common soul. When your affiliation with your nationality is based primarily on geography and culture, it is easy to sever the bond by simply moving to a different portion of the earth and internalizing a different culture. A principle of unity that is based on a common soul is not as easy to dissolve. How does one distance oneself from his soul?

    SEEING IS BELIEVING

    One of the great ironies of Jewish history is the fact that the evidence of this indestructible quality of unity possessed by the Jewish people is provided by the curses the Jewish people have suffered as foretold in the Tochacha of our parsha during our long exile. The period of redemption that preceded it, the rosy portion of our history, showed the very opposite of unity. When we were a people in our own land, the outsider looking in at the Jewish people could have detected only dissension. During the first Temple period, Israel split into two separate warring nations, while tradition teaches that the second Temple was destroyed by the groundless hatred Jews felt toward each other.

    It took the tragedies of Jewish history spread over our two thousand year Diaspora to confirm the existence of Jewish unity as a real phenomenon. These tragedies struck Jews of every stripe indiscriminately, whatever their level of commitment or estrangement from their Judaism. But the actualization of the Tochacha did much more than establish the unshakable unity of the Jewish people as an undisputable fact. The tragedies of Jewish history also reveal that Jewish unity is built on the perception by the rest of mankind of a shared spiritual quality among Jews. The recognition of such a common spirituality is the only way to account for the mysterious phenomenon of anti-Semitism, the virulent force that energized the actualization of most of the curses.

    Discrimination against a social group is invariably associated with a clearly visible trait that sets the members of such a group apart. Thus racial discrimination is based on shades of skin color or shape of eyes; religious prejudice is caused by other forms of worship conducted in different churches to other gods; the intolerance of foreigners is prompted by differences in language and culture and so on. The great puzzle associated with anti-Semitism is that the prejudice against Jews has no visible marker that could serve as its trigger. Anti-Semitism survives total assimilation. Discrimination and persecution of Jews continues long after the Jews being persecuted have lost any obvious trait that can be used to distinguish them from their persecutors.

    THE NEED FOR TRIGGERS

    Even a great miracle such as the splitting of the sea had to be triggered by some mechanism in the natural world:

    “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and God moved the sea with a strong east wind all the night, and He turned the sea to damp land and the water split” (Exodus 14:21)

    The sea didn’t simply split; it was moved aside by the force of a powerful wind. Even if we regard anti-Semitism as a supernatural phenomenon it must have some mechanism that triggers it. There must be some way that Jews are identifiably different from the people who hate them. There has to be some apparently threatening factor that triggers the hatred.

    We know it isn’t physical. Jews have been hated and persecuted throughout history when they looked no different, acted no different and spoke no different from their host cultures just as much as when they wore markedly different clothes, lived apart and spoke a different language.

    We know it is not behavioral. At times Jews were hated because they were too poor, at other times too rich; sometimes too clever, at other times too primitive; sometimes too pushy, at other times too obsequious; once we were hated for being stateless, now we are hated for the pride we take in our own country. There is no end to the contradictory and irrational causes that have been offered to justify anti-Semitism.

    But if the trigger isn’t physical or behavioral there is only one remaining alternative. It must be spiritual.

    Only if we assume that Jews have a distinct quality of soul that sets them apart from the rest of humanity, a spiritual essence that other human beings are sensitive to can we come up with a trigger for anti-Semitism. The existence of this detectable spiritual quality also provides us with a key we can use to unlock many of the secrets of Jewish history. Without accepting the existence of this spiritual quality in Jews, we have no way to account for their unique status among mankind. For the non-Jew, discovering the underlying cause of anti-Semitism may not be very high priority, but for Jews it is crucial. Understanding anti-Semitism is the only way we can understand our history and come to terms with who we really are.

    THE CHOSEN PEOPLE

    True, the existence of this unique spiritual quality makes us ‘chosen.’ But how can the victim of thousands of years of apparently baseless persecution and prejudice be criticized for pointing out that he must have somehow been ‘chosen’? He isn’t just spouting hot air; the objective facts are there to support him. No other people have been persecuted so universally, so persistently or for so long. No one can deny that Jewish history has set us apart and made us demonstrably different from the rest of mankind. Our claim to be a ‘chosen’ people has been painfully substantiated by our history.

    It is essential that all Jews recognize and understand this unique spiritual quality inherent in themselves. All the suffering predicted in the Tochacha, most of which we have already endured, was inflicted to drive home this one single message. The curses are not to be understood as punishments. They reflect the fact that we Jews differ spiritually from the rest of mankind; the sort of life-style that is appropriate for other people is so inappropriate for us. We are primarily spiritual; we need a Torah life style not only to earn our reward but because it is the only sort of life that suits us. We inevitably suffer when we attempt to live as others do.

    SURVIVAL

    Now let us see how the existence of such a soul helps to explain much of our history. One of the miracles of this history is the phenomenon of Jewish survival. Without a country to call our own, scattered across the face of the globe among different peoples and cultures, often forced to abandon our homes and wander the world in search of a safe haven, we have not only survived intact, we have positively flourished. The Talmud, the major commentaries on the Bible, the Codes of Law, and the major works of Kabalah were all written in the midst of the turmoil and suffering of exile. Conditions that wreak havoc on the physical world and all that it supports lend extra strength to spiritual phenomena. The relationship between physicality and spirituality is identical to the relationship between Esau and Jacob; when one stands tall, the other falls. (Rashi, Bereishit 25:23) When physicality shrinks, spirituality expands.

    There is no mystery to our survival. It is the body that is sensitive to geography and to physical privation and abuse. The soul, being immaterial, cannot be bound by physical space or subdued with beatings. Because the unifying factor implanted within the Jewish nation is spiritual rather than physical, it could not be extinguished by the tribulations of exile. The pattern was set long ago during the very first Jewish exile in the land of Egypt.

    “But as much as they would afflict it, so it would increase and so it would spread out; and they became disgusted because of the Children of Israel” (Exodus 1:12)

    The more they tormented the Jews, the more their population grew, infuriating the Egyptians further and leading up to the next stage of persecution. Nachmanides (Ibid.) remarks that the censuses of Bamidbar show that the population of the tribe of Levi was much smaller than that of the other tribes. He attributes this to the fact that the Levites, being the Jewish priestly class, were largely exempt from the harsh edicts and the forced labor imposed by the Egyptians on the other tribes.

    PROPER SOUL ENVIRONMENTS

    On a deeper level, the fact that Jews have come to possess this special spiritual quality perfectly accounts for the harshness of Jewish fate.

    Extended periods of prosperity threaten Jewish survival in a way that persecution cannot.

    “He would make him ride on the heights of the Land and have him eat the ripe fruits of the fields; He would suckle him with honey from a stone, and oil from a flinty rock; Butter of cattle and milk of sheep with fat of lambs, rams born in Bashan and he-goats, with wheat as fat as kidneys; and you would drink the blood of grapes like delicious wine.”

    The inevitable result?

    “Jeshurun (another name for Israel) became fat and kicked. You became fat, you became thick, you became corpulent – and it deserted God its Maker and was contemptuous of the rock of its salvation” (Devarim 32:12-16)

    SPIRITUAL RHYTHM

    Spiritual life has its own internal rhythm. Man was created as a mixture of body and soul so that the spiritual light of Divinity could be allowed to shine in the furthest reaches of physicality. By expressing his soul in the physical activities required to fulfill the commandments of the Torah, man enables the light of his soul to penetrate deep into the world of physicality.

    As we have explained, the spiritual essence of physicality is that it appears to be self-sufficient. Thus while the universe needs the constant ceaseless input of fresh Divine energy in order to continue in being, the physical world conceals this reality almost perfectly. Even the most gifted minds often fail to detect the guiding hand of God behind physical reality. Man was created with a soul and placed in this physical universe to expose the Divine light that keeps it running. In all the phenomena of the observable universe the single factor that cannot be explained in physical terms is man’s soul. As we have shown, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism clearly demonstrates the existence of such a soul. Suffering its effects upon the Jewish people serve as a living manifestation of the existence of the soul.

    But the positive is always stronger than the negative. As Nachmonedes points out, the existence of the spiritual world could be demonstrated just as well by the existence of a Jewish people who enjoyed a miraculous level of prosperity. If they were always victorious without suffering casualties against enemies with superior armies, if all Jews lived to a ripe old age, if no Jewish women were barren or miscarried, if there was never any drought in Israel and if the Jewish people enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity, they could demonstrate the existence of spirituality just as convincingly as by surviving the slings and arrows of anti-Semitism.

    Because God’s initial desire is always to express His traits of mercy and kindness, the Jewish people begins its mission of demonstrating God’s light in the physical world by enjoying the miraculous level of benefits described in the blessings. But as physicality expands, spirituality contracts. To keep this from happening, physicality itself must be regarded as an expression of spirituality. Over time this becomes increasingly difficult, and the spirituality of the Jewish people begins to contract. As their connection to God becomes weaker, their prosperity and well being can no longer demonstrate God’s light. If the recipient of God’s bounty declares “My own power and the might of my hand has produced all this wealth” (Devarim 8:17) what should others say?

    The wealth and prosperity of the Jewish people ends; the conditions described by the Tochacha kick in, causing the spirituality of the Jewish people to expand as their physicality contracts. As the spiritual aspect of the Jewish people expands, the sleeping forces of anti-Semitism awaken. The physical persecution of Jews grows more widespread. As the physical aspect of the Jewish people contracts further, the spiritual aspect of the Jewish people becomes markedly predominant. The unity and the spiritual uniqueness of the Jewish people become visible. The noticeable difference between social groups that inspires group hatred is fully triggered. Once again Jews demonstrate the existence of God’s light in the physical world, this time through the miraculous power of their endurance.

    LOOKING AT OTHERS TO FIND YOURSELF

    All too often it is the Jews themselves who are blind to their spiritual aspect, yearning to be no different than other people. It is presumptuous in the extreme to think of oneself as special or ‘chosen’ in some way, even if this quality of chosen-ness has been the source of great anguish. Tragically, many of us continually attempt to live according to a life-style that is based on a misapprehension of ourselves. Being unwilling to believe that we are different from other people, we refuse to live differently. We reject the Torah life-style that was especially designed to suit us.

  5. Maharal
    by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky
    Chapter 1: Mishna 4: Part 1

    Yossi ben Yoezer Ish Tzreidah and Yossi ben Yochanan Ish Yerushalayim received (the tradition) from him (Antignos Ish Socho). Yossi ben Yoezer says: Your house should be a meeting place for wise people. Attach yourself to the dust of their feet. And drink thirstily of their words.

    Antignos Ish Socho taught about man himself attaining personal superiority through both love of G-d and awe of Heaven. Yossi ben Yoezer and Yossi ben Yochanan follow this by instructing man on the bringing of superiority in to his home, the home being the immediate extension of the individual, through the service of G-d with both love and awe.

    First we are taught “Your house should be a meeting place for wise people,” making ones dwelling place a center for wisdom. The superiority of ones dwelling place also bestows excellence on the individual himself.

    On the other hand, “attach yourself to the dust of their feet.” While one must strive to create an attachment to wise people and become close to them, he must be careful not to treat them as his peers. The supreme importance of wisdom requires that one recognize the great distance that exists between truly wise men and himself, even as he strives to attach himself to them. This attachment requires humility, represented by his attachment to the “dust of their feet.”

    Finally, “drink thirstily of their words.” Physical thirst indicates a deficiency of liquid in his body, and one who recognizes that deficiency seeks to fill it by drinking, in order to quench that thirst. A man who lacks wisdom is also deficient, and it is the words of wise men that can fill that deficiency. A person who feels that lack drinks thirstily of the words which will alleviate it, just as fervently as a thirsty person drinks water.

    There is a broader perspective. Man’s proper relationship to wise men is really a paradigm for the association that exists between man’s physical body and his “sechel,” transcendental wisdom. Firstly, “sechel” transcends physical man, and he struggles to attach himself to it, reaching up to cling to it, even in a limited way. So, too, man’s desire to have wise men in his house is to enable him to “reach up” and make some contact with them, all the while realizing that due their elevated state a full attachment is beyond him. Secondly, while “sechel” looms far above man, he can have some connection with it. Attaching oneself to the dust of the feet of wise men indicates that while these wise men are beyond man, it is possible to have some connection with them. (see Chapter 2, Mishna 10, where Rebbi Eliezer teaches too “warm ourselves from the fire of wise men, yet be careful no to get burned…”) Finally, the “sechel” is necessary for man to be considered a total human bei ng, and the lack of sechel makes him incomplete (See the Introductory section, where the Maharal discusses the animalistic dimension of man without Torah and “sechel.”) The thirst for the words of wise men derives from the need to fill the fundamental deficiency man has when he lacks wisdom. All three lessons of the Mishna represent man’s association with sechel.

    With this in mind, we gain a new insight into Yossi ben Yoezer’s lesson of how man can perfect his home. A perfect home would serve as the “body” wherein wisdom resides, just as man’s body is the dwelling place for his sechel. This can be accomplished by making ones house into a meeting place for wise people, attaching oneself to them in any way that one can, and thirstily drinking their words.

  6. Nitzavim(Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
    Do not separate From the community
    by Rav Zev Leff

    Today you are all standing before the Lord your God.(Deut. 29:9)

    After the 98 curses that the Jewish people heard at the end of Parshas Ki Tavo, they were devastated and questioned whether they could possibly withstand such terrible punishments. Moses encouraged them with the opening words of this week’s parsha: “Today you are all standing.” Although you have sinned many times, all of you still stand today before God.

    Was Moses trying to minimize the severity of the Divine reproof, or imply that it was only a threat that would not be carried out? Furthermore, how could Moses say that all were alive and well despite their sins, when in fact tens of thousands had perished in the Desert?

    Rather, Moses’ intention was to assure the Jewish people that the purpose of the curses was not to wreak vengeance on them for their sins, but to insure their survival as a nation. And, therefore he told them collectively – kulchem – you still stand today. After all the sins and all the punishments, the community is eternal. The concept of death does not exist with respect to the community. Those who perished died not as individuals, but as a part of the Jewish community, which is eternal, and therefore they still survive.

    Conversely, one who separates himself from the community and says, “I will do as I see fit,” will not be forgiven and will be utterly destroyed. Our relationship to God is only through the community. The Torah was not given to individuals; nor were the covenants made with individuals. Our relationship to God is as members of the Jewish community. Maimonides (Teshuva 3:24) classifies a heretic as one who keeps all the mitzvot but separates himself from the Jewish people. Without a link to the community, there can be no link to God and Torah.

    * * *

    HILLEL’S TEACHINGS

    Hillel taught (Avos 2:5): “Do not separate yourself from the community.” The Mishnah then continues with what seems on the surface to be additional, unrelated teachings of Hillel. However, a deeper study of the Mishnah reveals that they are in fact the rebuttal of various arguments for cutting oneself off from the community.

    “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.” Do not think that you are strong enough spiritually to function on your own without the supportive Jewish community. Do not rely on your apparent spiritual security, for it is never guaranteed.

    “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” In your criticism of the other members of the community, don’t convince yourself that you would be better off separated from them. Rather, judge them favorably and understand the circumstances that generate those actions which offend you. See their good points. Avoid what is negative without separating yourself entirely.

    “Do not make a statement that cannot be easily understood on the ground that it will be understood eventually.” People are sometimes frustrated that their views and opinions are not accepted by the community, but one must realize that the fault may lie in his views and not in the community. Perhaps his opinions are not fit to be heard and accepted.

    And finally, “Do not say, ‘when I have time I will learn,’ for perhaps you will never have time.” There are those who feel that communal responsibilities infringe too greatly on their time and potential for personal development. They therefore conclude that disassociating themselves from communal involvement will give them more time to learn. Never reckon that time can be generated by avoiding a mitzvah. That time might never materialize. God will not permit one to benefit by neglecting his communal responsibilities.

    * * *

    LINK TO THE COMMUNITY

    One of the benefits of being part of the community is that as part of a united entity one’s individual failings may be overlooked. The Jewish nation is eternal, pure, and holy, and one benefits by strengthening his connection to it. But he cannot reap the benefits from the community without accepting the concomitant responsibilities. Do not delude yourself that “Lema’an sfos harava es hatzeme’a” – that two adjacent fields are of necessity irrigated together, even though only one of them deserves the water. That is a fantasy.

    Although each individual must be concerned with his personal judgment on Rosh Hashanah, as a community we dress up and eat as a sign of confidence that God will exonerate us as members of the community. The Ten Days of Repentance are days for intensifying our link to the community. For that reason, every individual during that period has the same assurance that his entreaties to God will be heard that the community does year round. During those days the individual and the community become one.

    Thus, the cantor (shaliach tzibur) on Rosh Hashanah is granted a special power to represent every individual, even those who are proficient in prayer, and therefore not included in the shaliach tzibbur’s prayers the rest of the year.

    Elisha the prophet offered to pray for the childless Shunamite woman on Rosh Hashanah. But she responded, “I dwell amongst my nation.” Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains her response: “Don’t single me out, for the power of the community is greater even than the prayer of God’s chosen prophet.”

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