Haksharat Ha'avreikhim--A Young Adult's Spiritual Guide--Chapter Three: To Experience Feelings and to Be a Feeling Person
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Piaseszner Rebbe)
Even if you have not yet attained hitlahavut (fervor), if you can fill yourself with feeling, that is the beginning of the manifestation of your soul upon which God’s light shines from above.
Your feelings of delight and holiness that occur when you pray, serve God and learn Torah, that flash of a spark of delight and those holy flames come from your portion in Gan Eden that you will feel then when you sing and learn Torah, yearning for God, and God will come to rejoice in Gan Eden with the tzaddikim and you.
The Hasidic masters found an allusion to this in the words, “You shall see your world in your lifetime” (Berachot 17). You can see your future world even while you are still alive. The feeling and delight that you experience as a result of serving God in this world is an illumination that comes from your upper world.
The Zohar teaches, “Rabbi Shimon said ... The food of the world to come exists in this world in a very small measure. And the power of that food of the world to come that exists in this world may be found in the sweetness of the Torah” (Zohar Chadash, B’har).
And we learn in Beit Aaron (Sh’lach), “Although this world and the world to come are diametrical opposites, they are connected to each other. As people, ‘If you have this world, then you have the world to come as well.’”
“Having this world” doesn’t refer to eating and drinking and other desires, but rather, when a person has the world to come even in this world, when he tastes the world to come in the mitzvot (coming to him through a hidden light), then he will experience the same thing in the world to come. But a person who does not have a taste of that in this world will not be able to taste it in the world-to-come.
If you are praying and serving God, yet your prayer and service do not rise in holy flames, if you want to be inspired so that at the very least you will be filled with feeling, so that you will not pray coldly and dryly but with vitality, yet you are not succeeding, do not stubbornly demand that you must grow inspired. It is human nature that when a person stubbornly tries to attain something, he can trigger the opposite of what he wants. If he wants to remove a bad thought, it begins to pursue him. If he wants to draw close a good thought, it grows hard for him to grasp, or he cannot hold on to it and it falls apart.
If you stubborn insist that your prayer and service of God must be inspired, must be fervent and filled with feeling, it is likely that your heart will grow so dulled that you will be astonished at yourself. “How can it be? Before I started praying, I felt sparks of inspiration. I imagined that flames of holy fire would take hold of me. But now that I have begun praying and performing mitzvot, there is no fire and no flame. I cannot even sense my heart.”
But you who yearn for God, do not be afraid. Do not be deterred by this, you who desire God’s holiness. This is human nature, and to overcome it we must make use of all sorts of stratagems.
When you are serving God simply, accompany your service with a simple thought. Have in mind the following: “I am a servant of God. My Torah learning, prayer and performance of mitzvot serving God are portions of the divine. I cling to God not only with the intellectual aspect and study of Torah, because the Torah is the knowledge of God and His will (cf. Chovat Hatalmidim, chapters 9 and 12). The actual performance of mitzvot and the words and letters of Torah and prayer are Divine Names, sefirot and holy angels from a supernal holiness. When I pronounce them, God and His holy chariots pass through me. And I am responsible to connect myself and cling to this supernal holiness, which grows tangible and is drawn down into me.”
When you believe this and bear it in mind with a simple faith and strong thought, from this itself you will receive vitality.
The holy text cited before states on Shabbat Shuvah: “When a Jew acts, he must feel in his deed a life-force and a flavor that lasts for a long time. Even if you are only like an ox to the yoke and a donkey to the burden, this too should be a source of pleasure to you: that you are able to do God’s will like an ox to the yoke and like a donkey to the burden. And when you derive pleasure from this, then you will taste it, with God’s help.”
With this you will understand that there is no contradiction in the words of our holy tzaddikim (heaven forbid) regarding something that may have already troubled you. On the one hand, the holy texts caution us at length that all divine service, Torah learning, prayer and mitzvot must be carried out only with vitality, feeling and passion, and that is one’s portion in Gan Eden. But in other places, the holy texts state that a person shouldn’t serve God in order to attain this passionate intensity. Instead, he should engage in simple service of God. In those holy texts, we learn about shavuot [?], “When you pray, do not seek passionate intensity. Just take care to put yourself into the words and service, and the intensity will come of itself.”
To explain: this passionate intensity is the core issue. Yet when you are praying do not seek it, do not focus stubbornly on it. Only serve God simply and then it will come of itself.
We do not comprehend and understand the heights of the meaning in the holy words of these masters. But on our level, it means as follows: when you pray, do not seek passionate intensity and the like. A person doesn’t always get what he stubbornly insists on, and sometimes he can even arouse the opposite of what he wanted. Rather, only serve God simply. Then the passionate intensity will come to you of itself.
And now you may ask: “What should I do if that passionate intensity doesn’t come of itself? At first, I thought that I should stubbornly insist on it, and, almost as if in spite, it remains hidden from me. Yet now that I am not stubborn about it, it still remains hidden. So is there nothing I can do, heaven forbid? Has God pushed me away from Him, heaven forbid, so that I cannot hear His words and I will serve Him be with a closed mind and a dulled heart?”
Here I will respond to you in brief. Shlomo Hamelech proclaims in his holiness, “The beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7). The Torah is like a hammer that splits a rock, and a spark reaches every part of our limbs—every crevice and crack in his body and soul—and it illumines their darkness.
On our level, this verse simply teaches the following. A person can’t use some piece of intelligence without acquiring it. It must be his, so that he is intelligent. Even if it were possible to insert some particular intelligence into a boor, since it is not his and he is not intelligent, he only has this particular bit of knowledge, but he cannot act on it and use it. He cannot analyze this nor any other piece of intelligence in order to understand it. Only when he himself becomes intelligent can he make use of this intelligence, and only then can he gain intelligence so that at any moment he can comprehend any topic that he wants to understand.
What happens with our emotions is similar. We cannot feel any emotion, unless we are emotional, unless we are people who can experience feelings. Even when it comes to physical matters in which a person is almost totally immersed and which affect him a great deal, not everyone experiences them in the same way. One person responds emotionally to every little thing. Every slight concern makes him worried and frightened. Anything positive, even some slight positive assurance, makes him happy. Also, his worry and joy are intense. When he is worried, he is completely bitter and upset. And when he is happy, he is so filled with emotion that he practically jumps out of his skin. And the same holds for other emotions: he easily is angered and he easily feels compassion for others. Such a person cannot merely be called an angry person, a depressed person, a happy person or a compassionate person, because he gets emotional about anything and its opposite. We can call him an “emotional person” who is easily swept away by everything.
Then there is the opposite: a person with a cool spirit, hard as a rock, who doesn’t easily feel emotion, and even then only to a small extent.
Even the animal spirit of a Jew is a vehicle for his divine soul. The essence of that animal spirit comes from the level of the face of the ox upon the divine throne. When we serve God with energy and effort, these themselves are transformed into holiness (as we learn from the holy texts). So our service, a holy service of God, depends upon our animal spirit and human nature. Noam Elimelech teaches that we can even bring the heat of the evil inclination into holiness, whereas it is difficult to bring the evil inclination of coldness into holiness. Also (as I cited at the beginning of Chovat Hatalmidim, in addressing teachers and parents), R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi states in his commentary on the siddur that a person who is naturally volatile in his heart is susceptible to attaining a passionate intensity with fiery flames of yearning. It is difficult to arouse a degree of interest in someone for serving God unless his nature is prepared for it, but if it is not, his service of God is more difficult. And a volatile person is more liable to reach such a passionate intensity than a person with a cold spirit.
R. Shneur Zalman writes there only of yearning and of how it ascends so high: “the fiery flames of yearning.” Therefore, he speaks of the nature of a hot-tempered person, who is naturally inclined to come to [such an elevated state], for although a hot-tempered person’s heat leads to anger, he can also use that heat to rise to an elevated yearning that rises to God like a flaming fire.
But [I am not addressing] such a state. As I previously said, I wish to inspire at least the beginning of a movement of your spirit, an initial fluttering of its feathers, a beginning of feeling and emotion. Not only a particular fervor and elevated fiery inspiration, but everything—your will and traits—depend on [that beginning], so that you will not only realize intellectually that you have to desire being able to fear and love God, but that you will in fact be filled with emotion in your desire, awe and love.
And so I will not limit myself to speak only of the nature of a hot-tempered person, but of emotion in general: including anger and compassion, weeping and joy, for [such emotion] prepares you for [spiritual] inspiration.
And so now we come to learn how, with the help of He Who arouses the slumbering, we can become emotional people. 
Even if someone mistakenly claims that fervor in serving God is optional, something reserved for the elite, and even if you can persuade yourself that you can be a fine young Hasid without fervor (even though I personally can’t conceive how you could be a Hasid without fervor, which is the first step of Hasidism, the path of the prophets)—still, at least everyone understands that if you lack feeling—which signals the beginning of the arousal of your soul—you can’t be called a Hasid.
Not only that, even to be an ordinary pious person is impossible if you only invest your intellect: i.e., thinking, this is good and the other is bad, I should do “a,” I shouldn’t do “b.” If you serve God with your intellect alone, so that you know only intellectually that you are supposed to fear God and love Him as well as His Torah, His commandments and His children (the nation of Israel), but you don’t have any emotional connection to this, you are very much like a person trying to influence someone else who lacks intelligence and is attracted to everything mean and harmful. And not only does this other person (really, this other aspect of yourself) fail to feel anything when it comes to goodness and holiness, but to the contrary he is aroused by ugly things, by bestial physicality, and is drawn to them irresistibly.
Influencing yourself intellectually is like a father trying to control his unbalanced son. Can a father with a healthy mind supervise an insane son constantly, day and night, a son who at every moment is eager to destroy, and who, as soon as his father looks the other way for a moment, will turn the entire house into a shambles?
In the same way, there is no way that you can control yourself with your intellect alone, if you and your feelings have not yet entered the realm of holiness but remain as physical as a dog or a rodent. Even when you are sleeping and your intellect is at rest, don’t you have to be a Jew then too? And how can you control yourself then if even an alert person cannot control an insane person with constant vigilance?
Worse than that, if you try to control yourself through your intellect, in the end not only will your mind not rule over you and your physical feelings, to the contrary, they will rule your mind and pervert it so that it considers bad to be good and vice versa.
The verse states, “A man considers the way he acts as justified” (Proverbs 21:2). Why does a thief justify his evil ways? Why doesn’t he understand a simple thing that everyone understands? The reason is that his being and evil drives have perverted his clarity of mind.
The hairs of my head stood on end when I heard old Hasidim complaining that they cannot withstand their temptations, not even those that they had conquered in their youth. The reason is as stated: in their youth, they served God only intellectually. They didn’t propose to improve themselves and their feelings and to use them for good and holiness. Instead, they only restrained themselves, they only held themselves back from destructive passions. Once they grew old and weak, their ability to restrain themselves back weakened. They no longer suffered from passions that also grew weak due to their physical infirmity. But of those passions that have not been very much weakened, they continued to suffer and could barely withstand them.
Not every desire weakens when the body weakens—in this, every individual is different. Sometimes a person has a particular susceptibility to some desire—eating gourmet foods or drinking alcohol, speaking disparagingly of others, engaging in sexual misconduct—and when his body weakens with old age these actually intensify, just as a sensitive person is easily aroused or irritated. Now this desire gnaws at a person when he is weak and lacks the strength to restrain himself, and then, God save us, his life is evil and bitter indeed.
Even though only a minuscule percentage of Hasidim fall into this despond, still, who can guarantee that any one of us won’t be one of those who fall as he grows old? A person who hears of such things cries and is moved, and his whole body trembles.
Our entire goal and desire is to overcome the roar of our impulses more and more, to purify ourselves and sanctify ourselves, to add more purity and sanctity every day and every year, to take one step after another until we at last rise from this world to the purity of God’s holiness, and in the sweet flame of His holiness be absorbed like a burning wick into the flame of the torch.
But if it is possible that when we grow old we will just sully ourselves more, pollute ourselves more, then we are lost, then we will fall to the depths and remain there, heaven forbid—Have mercy, Hashem, protect us, oh God.
So the only conclusion to draw is that the only way to serve God is to sanctify ourselves and our feelings, becoming people who are moved by holiness. A person’s emotions determine who he is. If they pull him to the east, he’ll be dragged after them; if they pull him to the west or north or south, he will follow; if they pull him to the abyss, he will follow; and if they raise him to the firmament, again, he will follow....
But when you are open to your emotions—I mean to say, when your heart and feelings have softened, and with them you can feel what is good and what is bad, what is life and what is death—and you take this feeling to heart and it inspires you to choose goodness and life, and you recoil from evil and death, then even if you haven’t reached perfection, even if you have a great deal more to work on, you are no longer like the insane son mentioned earlier. You are more like a wise son who knows what is good and reacts profoundly to it, because he knows that he must fear God (and not just in his thoughts), and his heart trembles when he considers God’s infinite, endless greatness, rising beyond all worlds, where even the angels shiver before Him.
Let’s say that a person is alone at home and some evil thought or urge strikes him. Suddenly his body shakes violently from his head to his feet. His hairs stand on end, and he thinks, “God is standing before me and He watching me,” and his heart begins to yearn to come close to God, and he bitterly regrets his wrong thoughts and desires that had taken a hold of him.
He is so upset that words flow out of him of their own volition, “I am so low. Perhaps I am doomed to remain on this level forever in this world and the next world. Master of the universe, have pity on me and lift me out of this trash-heap. Purify me, help me serve You in a holy way.”
And when a person looks at himself in this way, he is like a sick person who recognizes his disease clearly and knows how low and ill he is—and this is the first entrance into himself and his soul.
But only if you can inspire yourself at will are you like the wise son who has integrated wisdom into his being. If sometimes you are filled with emotion, but it isn’t under your control, so that when it happens, it happens, and when it doesn’t happen, you remain as cold and heavy as a log, then although you are better than the completely insane son, you are not quite a wise son. You are like a son who has periods of lucidity and periods of illness. When he is well, he can distinguish between good and evil, and he wants the good—even though his knowledge of it is not as clear as that of the son who is healthy and always wise, and even though his will is not as clear and strong. But in his periods of insanity there is absolutely no difference between him and the insane son.
If this son could at least choose when his mind would be clear, his illness wouldn’t be so bad, but his problem is precisely that he cannot control it, and when an evil period arrives, a spirit seizes him, not the contrary. And who can at that point guarantee his deeds?
Also, a person who grows emotional but it is not under his control, who does not have the wherewithal to impel himself, he is better than the person who is entirely cold and dry, for he at any rate experiences occasional moments of emotion, but generally speaking the quality of his emotion is weak and meager within him and only has an effect in his heart and mind, but it lacks the power to affect and set afire his entire being—his body and his energy and his traits—but even more, what good will an emotional period do him if it occurs once a year, on Yom Kippur, or even twice or three times a year, in purifying and sanctifying his entire being all the days of the year, with their hours and minutes?
I do not make the mistake of thinking that I can find a strong and certain means to make it possible for every individual to hold the reins in his hand so that he is not moved by anything lowly, and to make it possible for him, at every hour that he wishes, to be moed by holiness, so that his thoughts are purified and his entire being will rise in a flame of fear and love.
Once, in the days of the holy Baal Shem Tov there was a great, well-known man, and the students asked the holy Baal Shem Tov how they can know whether he is truly great or not, for they wish to know his quality. And he told them in his holy manner to ask him for counsel on how to completely free oneself from thoughts, motives and confusions that are not good, and if he gives them that counsel they should know that this person is false, for there is no counsel to completely rid oneself of these. Rather, this is an on-going work all the days of one’s life, for each individual in his situation, and this constant work affects everyone in this world and it is the purpose of the existence of man in this world, for God created him for this purpose, for a constant work that is more precious than the service of the angels, who do not have an evil inclination and such work.
And see Tanya (Part One, Chapter 27), that only people who are completely righteous never have any evil thought arise in them, not those who are “middling” (benonim), [the latter] having the work to push away and reject every such thought that arises within them, heaven forbid, and every time that such a person pushes it away from his thought, the Other Side is subjugated, and in response to an “awakening from below” comes an “awakening from above,” so that the Other Side from above is subjugated (see there).
Thus, my goal here is only to make your work easier, and to “soften” you, with God’s help.
And with God’s help, you will be able to make your way much easier, for your spirit, which shall be aflame, shall penetrate into your emotions and the limbs of your body, so that they too will burn with flames of holiness, and as a result the quality of the thoughts that are not good will be blunted and weakened, they will not arise in you with as much strength and arrogance as at first, and their quantity too will diminish, and they will only arise on occasion.
And the matter, young man, depends upon you, that the more you engage in the holy service in the revealing of your spirit, the quality and quantity of your thoughts that are not good will diminish.
Moreover, even when some such thought dares to tread across the threshold of your mind and heart, it will not have the opportunity to remain there for some period of time and sully, heaven forbid, as you are unaware, the vessels and nerves of your mind and heart, but at the moment that its filthy foot steps there, as though without your conscious awareness, someone will grab its dirty neck, and angrily and noisily cast it far from you, like an arrow shot forma bow, until its neck is broken.
And contrarily, pure thoughts will increase in you, in their quantity and strengthen in their quality, not only on rare occasions and not only as the shadow of an idea and weak thought, but that your mind and heart will be filled with strong, many and frequent thoughts, with a strong will that burns at times for a great love and an eternal love. And it will be good for you.
Some self-styled clever person may challenge you as follows:
“If feeling is a manifestation of a part of the soul, and this can be attained by an emotional person, then we will have to say that anyone who is very nervous, who gets very upset at everything and whose feelings are intense, is manifesting his soul to a great degree and is an elevated personality!”
And he may challenge you even more: “How can you claim that emotion is the result only of the activity of the soul and its manifestation? Actually, person is more affected by his nerves, [which cause] his heart to pound and his breath to deepen. Emotions are merely a physical phenomenon.”
Don’t be taken intimidated by this question and impressed by this analysis.
Instead, respond with a simple question: If [emotion] is no more than a physical phenomenon, why is it that when the soul leaves [the body], the nerves, heart and lungs no longer function? [Obviously, emotions are connected with the life force. Here] we are speaking of the vital soul (as cited earlier from the holy Zohar). This soul is close to the body. It nourishes the body and unites with it. Like all activities of the soul that appear to us, it works through the vehicle of the body. So also in feeling, the action of the soul is revealed. Nevertheless, it acts through the body and works through the nerves. The only difference between it and other activities that are closely bound with the body and action is that we can sense emotion in itself as coming from the soul, although we do not discern that our other activities come from our soul.
And since this vital soul is so close to the body, they influence each other. soul feels emotion as a result of some physical pain or something that our body loves. And when we think of something that we love or hate, even if we haven’t actuality dealt with it, our soul experiences emotion and our body is also affected, so that we are filled with feeling and our heart races and we breathe deeply, and so on.
One may ask another question.
At times the prophets and students of the prophets engaged in simple activities to make themselves happy, such as Elisha’s musician and the group of prophets that Saul met when he returned from the prophet Samuel, who were preceded by Aharp and tambourine and flute and harp, as they prophesied” (Samuel I 10:5).
Yet many people use music to cheer themselves up, but they act without restraint and sin. [Why doesn’t music affect them as it did the prophets?]
The difference is that from the very beginning, the prophet intended to manifest his soul (as stated earlier). To attain this manifestation, he needed joy, so that God’s Presence would rest upon him, since God’s Presence only dwells where there is joy.
We cannot say that whoever is joyful and manifests part of his soul [in joy] attains prophecy, no more than we could say that a person who is wise, mighty and wealthy—conditions for being a prophet—will prophesy.
Whenever a person is joyful, he reveals part of his soul. If he is pious, his service of God is elevated, since he is worshiping with a revealed soul. If not, then he misses the propitious moment and with a revealed spirit he goes and sins. This is due to flawed traits, as mentioned in the previous chapter.
If a person who serves God will work to make himself easily emotional, he will find it easier to uncover his soul, and his service will be more uplifted. But not everyone who is emotional is serving God, just as not everyone who is joyful prophesies.
But we can say this: the nature of Jews tends toward nervousness (in a talk that has been published, I discussed the particular acts that cause Jews to be nervous, and now speak of the general nature of a Jew towards nervousness] This is because they are fundamentally the children of the prophets. If they use this tendency of theirs for serving God, as a result they will reach an elevated worship, even divine inspiration. But if not, it like someone who was born with a keen mind. If he doesn’t use it for wisdom, he is in greater danger of becoming irrational than someone else.
A person’s emotion, which made him fit for an elevated worship, self-effacement, intensity and divine inspiration, can instead result in wildness and nervousness (heaven forbid). And with this you can understand to some degree the words of the verse, “when people came to mock the prophet, they called him crazy” (Kings II 9:11).
“Every good trait has failings that accompany it, and this is the complete service: to bring into the light of the world the good traits cleansed of all of the dross of their failings.”
Rav Kook, Midot Harayah: El Hamidot
"A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it. What has never been gone into impartially has never been properly gone into. Hence skepticism is the first step toward truth. It must be applied generally, because it is the touchstone."
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is known for his stress on the importance of simple faith. In line with this is his story of “The Clever Man and the Simple Man.” The simple man eventually becomes the king’s prime minister. The clever man is an arch-skeptic who questions everything: the existence of the king who has summoned him, the authenticity of the wonder worker who can help him, and the identity of the devil and his demons who are tormenting him.
In brief, I would like to suggest a contrarian view of the story in which the skepticism and this-worldly cleverness of the “clever man” is actually a positive value.
Rav Kook once said, “I am the soul of Rabbi Nachman.” Rav Kook was known for blending and balancing apparently opposing dynamics: “These and those are the words of the living God.” More radically, one may therefore retroject and say that Rabbi Nachman was Rav Kook, and that he too sought to balance opposites more than was superficially apparent—perhaps because he considered that such an approach was not appropriate to be shared openly with those about him in his particular cultural and historical milieu.
Perhaps both characters in the story are incomplete and need to be balanced with the quality that the other possesses.
The Hebrew terms for “clever” and “simple” are both ambiguous. Chacham, “clever,” also means “wise.” Tam, “simple,” also means “simple-minded.”
When the king (who in the story presumably represents God) summons the simple man to his presence, he is pleased to find that the simple man has been schooled by one of his ministers in the “wisdoms” and “languages.” If this-worldly “wisdoms” and “languages” are so irrelevant to true wisdom and simplicity, why should God be pleased that the simple man has acquired them?
One may say, as Rabbi Nachman says, that the true tzaddik should study this-worldly wisdoms, because he is able to elevate the hidden sparks of holiness within them.
As for the clever man, he is mocked for questioning the presence of the king particularly because it goes against the universal assumption that the king does exist. Later on, when he questions the authenticity of the wonder worker, he is beaten. But being mocked, going against a group consensus and being beaten are not an argument against truth.
Indeed, Rabbi Nachman himself preached skepticism not only toward non-religious belief systems but toward other Hasidic leaders.
Therefore, the problem with the clever skeptic may be not that he applies radical doubt but that he applies it unreasonably so that it becomes his obsessive idée fix.
He too is on a path of truth-seeking. Unlike the simple man, his path is more tortuous and takes longer. Like the simple man, in the end he too acknowledges the truth.
Rabbi Natan teaches in Likutei Halachot (Hilchot Pesach 8) that the difference between matzah and chametz, between holy thought and foreign thought, is in the realm of reality that can be used either for good or for evil. That difference can be extremely slight.
Skepticism cannot be a recommended path and faith cannot be discouraged. Yet, as Rav Kook teaches, “there is such a thing as denial of faith that is like acknowledgment of faith. And there is also such a thing as acknowledgment of faith that is like denial” (Orot Ha’emunah).
And to end with another teaching from Rav Kook:
" In too great a measure, faith destroys the world. This is true not only of false faith. It refers even to true faith, when that faith affects the individual and communal soul more than necessary to bring about a proper balance with other energies, spiritual and this-worldly.
"At that point, faith weakens the world.
"That is why the world always contains so many factors that diminish faith—despite the fact that the tendency toward faith is so strong. The situation then remains in balance. The world receives the good within faith in proper measure.
"This process pertains not only toward faith but also toward wisdom, ethics and every ability. Just as every positive phenomenon has factors that support it, so does it have a unique set of influences that disturb it.
"When each case is looked at in isolation, we would think that those factors that support the good help the world, and those that disturb it harm the world. But when looked at in a total context, we see that both of them build the world—the first positively and the second negatively.
"Usually, the final generation of an era utilizes negative energy. This is because an era comes to an end when the finest aspect of its spiritual strength has worn out its ability to influence.
"Before, it had influenced so much that it had gone beyond its measure. The preponderance of goodness that it had brought had made the world unable to accept it.
"Now the world attempts to shatter it.
"And so the generation that ends one era and begins the next uses negative energy.
"But as soon as that negativity is revealed, its purpose of finalizing matters—of “smoothing the bushel”—is completed. At that point, the weakness and emptiness within the negativity are exposed.
"That negativity sets its own limits, which keep it from excessively spreading. The undue expansion of its first appearance now is rectified in the over-all balance.
"Nowadays, we see a movement toward denial of faith, as part of a characteristic arrogance of the times. For instance, there is biblical criticism, with its pretense toward scientific authority. On the other hand, there is a revelation of new information that supports faith.
"These two constitute the divine symmetry of the balanced spirit of faith."
Orot Ha’emunah, p. 24
Hat tip to:
Gila Fine's Strangers in Strange Lands: Tales of Traveling Rabbis
Prof. Don Seeman's Love and Fear: The Ethics of Rav Kook
Hakhsharat Ha'avreikhim--A Young Adult's Spiritual Guide: Chapter Two: Passion and Feeling, and Why They Are Necessary
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Aish Kodesh)
I already discussed in Chovat Hatalmidim the necessity for passion: the passion of our nefesh in serving God. And I said that in our generation we cannot wait until a person grows up, but we must begin with the youth.
Since there I spoke of and addressed young people, I discussed this only briefly. The main tenor of my words was about how important it is in simply serving God, and that when the nefesh is hidden and when a person is uninspired, he cannot overcome his evil inclination and physical desires. Only when a person transcends his sins (Bereishit Rabbah 22) when his nefesh is revealed [to him] can he take hold of himself (cf. Chovat Hatalmidim 8).
But I only alluded to how necessary such passion is in a higher service of God, when we can use it to rise to the paths of our tzaddikim, the path of Hasidism, and in this way come closer to God.
More than that, there I spoke in a general fashion and only discussed how necessary and very important inspiration is. But I only touched on the ways and means of how to inspire oneself.
But here and in my projected work, Chovat Ha’avreichim, which I hope God will assist me in completing [translator’s note: tragically, the rebbe was murdered by the Nazis before he could write more than an extended introduction], I wish to speak at greater length about all these things, about what Hasidic techniques we can use to simply serve God, of how we can take the reins of leadership over ourselves, with God’s help doing so just as a person controls his possessions—as long as he wants to.
And we will also discuss how a person can rise by following the heels of our tzaddikim upon the high road of Hasidism, which is the path of the prophets—everyone of us on his level.
And so I have to provide some more explanation about what passion is; the difference between passion and feeling; and how powerful it is in beginning the process of revealing the nefesh.
“What do the five repetitions of ‘bless, my soul’ in King David’s Psalms correspond to? They correspond to nothing but the Holy One, blessed be He, and to the soul... Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, sees yet is not seen, so does the soul see yet is not seen...” (Berachot 10a).
It is well-known that even though the Gemara compares the soul to the Holy One, blessed be He in five aspects, there is still a great gulf between the soul and the Holy One blessed be He. The principal difference is that the spirit is contained within the body, surrounded by it and affected by its circumstances, unlike God, Who is not contained within any world, and Whom the world does not surround. To the contrary, He surrounds the world, He is not affected by the world, and the world does not add anything to Him. Rather, He acts upon the world (cf. Zohar Pinchas 255a and other holy works). So when we want to speak of elevating the spirit and of its invisible aspect, as well as of its revelation and how it is revealed, and to explain this by reference to God’s concealment and revelation, we have to first make it very clear that not everything that is said about the spirit applies to God, heaven forbid, just as these five things that the Gemara cites as similarities are not equal in every regard.
“Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, sees and is not seen, so does the soul see yet is not seen.”
In order to understand how the spirit reveals itself, we should first look above. The Holy One, blessed be He said, “I am given names in accordance with My deeds” (Shemot Rabbah 3). God is hidden and He transcends all names. God Himself should not be referred to by holy names, because we can assign a name only to something that reveals itself. However, when God acts in His worlds, a spark and illumination of His divinity is revealed. And we call that illumination by His divine names. So “El” corresponds to lovingkindness, “Elokim” refers to might, and so forth—in accordance with God’s action (as is known from the holy books).
So we know that the spirit, which sees yet is not seen, is revealed through actions. In those actions, the spirit is completely different from God. The spirit can also be affected. In general, God brings things into being from nothingness unlike the spirit. And there are an endless number of other significant differences. But we are limiting our discussion to the revelation of the spirit and its actions.
First of all, the spirit is affected by the world through the medium of the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. When we touch something and know that it is snow because it is cold, we are not sensing the cold within the snow. Rather, we are sensing the cold of our hand that touched the snow. A part of our hand was affected and grew cold. This reaction rises to the brain and to the spirit that rests on it. If the cold increases, we are more affected and he shivers.
Similarly, when we see, our brain and spirit do not sense something outside of ourselves. Rather they sense the form that is imaged within the eye on the retina.
In other words, our limbs, brain and spirit are affected by the world as a result of cold or an image. This is what we know. With this, we know about the things of the world outside of us that arouse this reaction. If a strong light shines in front of us, after it is removed, we continue to see its afterimage, because the effect on us remains for a while.
The same goes for the senses of hearing, taste and smell. In all of them, something is affected—the eardrum, the tastebuds—until they are apprehended by the brain and spirit.
Even though the Gemara states that only the soul and not the body gets any benefit from smell, no one can deny that if a person’s nose is damaged, he will not smell. The smell results from an effect on the nose that reaches its culmination in the spirit. What the Gemara means is that the body does not benefit from this reaction as it does from eating—only the soul is benefited.
Through these five senses, we apprehend the world. Once we know about the world, we can act and speak in order to get what we need and want. If not for these fives senses that affect us so that we see, touch and smell and hear sound outside of ourselves, we would not know that there are such things in the world, and we would not be able to use them.
Not only do we learn about something in the world by being affected by it, but a spark of our spirit hidden within us becomes known and revealed to us in this way.
Our spirit is hidden not only from others, revealing itself only through its actions, but it is hidden from us as well. We only know that our spirit hears when it is affected by a sound. We only know that his spirit is revealed through the sense of touch when we touch something. All of our spirit in general is revealed to us only when it is acting.
The same holds true whether the spirit is influenced by the world or it influences the world: when we move something or learn something, then the power of our might or the wisdom of our spirit are revealed.
However, since the actions of our spirit are only directed to using the things of this world—whether in being affected by or affecting the world—the part of our spirit that is revealed matches the measure and form of that worldly thing. The whole point of our actions is some this-worldly matter: to feel something and to know whether it is snow or fire, to hear a voice and know who is speaking, to see something and to know whether it is a table or some other item. So people’s cognition about such activities does not deal with what is taking place within a person but about whatever it was in the world that brought about that activity: that he heard a voice or saw or touched snow and a table. Even the person involved doesn’t feel any movement within himself, but only the thing outside himself that caused the movement: the voice or the fire.
Perhaps because from our childhood we have directed and devoted our senses and activities to the goal of being in contact with the world, of knowing it and affecting it, our senses have grown accustomed from childhood to being overwhelmed by the things of this world, until their movement within us has grown weak, and we do not feel what is taking place within ourselves, but only what we are accomplishing on the outside: that we hear a voice or see a table—even though our spirit is being affected, and our spirit is the locus of our knowledge within that activity. It makes no difference whether we are being affected or doing the affecting: when we are acting, when we come to move a table, for instance, our only goal is the movement of the table. Our entire mind and desire are given over to that. Therefore, in our action we do not feel what is taking place at that moment within ourselves. Even if we engage in hard labor so that afterwards we feel that our spirit worked so hard that pat of its strength has left us, during the activity we didn’t feel our soul’s activity at all. Even afterwards, all we feel is a lack of our spirit’s strength, and nothing more.
However, emotions are different. When we feel desire, love or fear, then the emotion itself is not a means to attain a need or for engaging in action in the world outside ourselves. The feeling of love between a father and son, two brothers or two friends is not a means to bring them to give each other presents and help each other. They just love each other. Because of their love they will at times give each other gifts and help each other. But they always feel a love and yearning for each other, even without engaging in any activity. To the contrary, when they are far from each other, their love and yearning grows even greater. The same goes for fear, hatred and anger: they are actions in and of themselves. Sometimes that action draws some physical activity in its wake, and sometimes not. But principally their effect is on our own spirit.
If we ask someone, “What is happening inside you when you feel love for one person or hatred for another?” he will not reply that it is a means of giving the first one a gift and striking the second one. Rather, he feels love and yearning for the first person, and hatred, anger and revulsion for the second person.
This is true even for desire. It would seem that desire indicates our wanting something of this world—to do something or refrain from doing something. Nevertheless, desire is not limited to specific actions as are our senses. A person may desire much more than he works for. Often he may desire something that he doesn’t intend to pursue, because he realizes that it is an impossibility or something not worthy of him.
And so desire is also not merely a means of attaining some this-worldly activity.
I am not saying that emotion is a completely intangible action of the spirit, acting in and of itself, independent of the body and with no vestment whatsoever, because we cannot sense a completely intangible action of the spirit in and of itself. And there still needs to be discussion about to what extent the spirit can remove its vestment and still be sensed.
I am only saying the following: that when a person’s spirit acts, those actions are so mantled and clothed in some external this-worldly manifestation that even the person carrying out these actions of his spirit doesn’t notice them. And if the stimulus of this world that had caused the action is removed (such the object that he sees or the voice that he hears) then the part of the spirit that saw and heard also disappears from a person’s awareness.
We can in some way compare the manifestation of the parts of the spirit as they interact with the things of this world to a mirror. When we look in a mirror, we do not see the mirror itself but the reflection of something that is not in the mirror or a part of it. In the same way, all that we see in the parts of our spirit as it acts are images of the world, not our spirit itself. What is a person sensing in himself as he senses something in the world? He senses a voice, the coldness of snow, or whatever—but not his essence, not his spirit and its action.
However, the action of emotion is different. Although emotions also act through the agency of our body, mind and nerves, and are affected by external phenomena such as a desired object, a beloved or hated person and the like, we feel their action—meaning, the movement of our spirit—within ourselves.
If we ask a person about a sound, “What do you feel inside right now?,” he will answer, “I sense the sound—nothing more.” But if we ask him about a feeling of intense love that he feels, he won’t say, “I feel my friend Reuven.” Rather, he will reply, “I feel love.” Only when we ask him, “Whom do you love?” will he reply, “I feel love for Reuven.”
The essence of his feeling within him is his spirit expressing itself in the act and emotion of love. His spirit clings to something external to itself, such as Reuven, like a flame that clings to a log. It clings to the log, but it does not take on the appearance of the log. It has its own independent appearance.
This is what the Zohar was saying before: that inspiration—meaning, an emotion—even the lowest one could have, is a person’s spirit, because it is the beginning of the revelation of the spirit that a person feels when his spirit acts.
Now we can understand why our holy masters were so concerned about faulty character traits, citing the Gemara’s statement that “the heavenly punishment for bad character traits is worse than the punishment for forbidden sexual liaisons.” This is so because our spirit is revealed through the emotion of our character traits. When a person habituates his character traits from childhood to be aroused and brought to emotion by foolish and empty things of this world, he damages parts of his spirit, because he is forcing those parts against their will to deal with foolish things, to the point that they will of themselves have lowly emotions: love for degraded things, like the two angels who fell and were hurt in this world. (Cf. my Chovat Hatalmidim Chapter 10).
Simply put, this is why, when it comes to engaging in activities, we do not sense any part of our soul, whereas when it comes to emotions, we do have a greater awareness of our soul.
Action is lower than emotion. Therefore, only a small, barely noticeable part of our soul is revealed when we engage in action. But the spiritual root of our emotions is higher, and so a greater part of our soul is revealed through them. Therefore, we become aware of our soul.
Nevertheless, why don’t we at least sense something when we engage in activity, particularly if we do something formidable, using a great deal of strength? Ultimately, after all, some portion of our soul reveals itself this way—yet we sense nothing. But on the other hand, we sense even the slightest emotion.
More than that: the root of activity is lower than the root of emotion. But the root of the realm of the senses is higher than that of the emotions. (We learn in Eitz Chaim, chapters 74 and 75, that the root of emotions is in the divine name whose numerical value is 45, whereas the root of sight is in the divine name whose numerical value is 72, and hearing and smell are rooted in the name whose numerical value is 63 [and the latter two are higher than the former].)
Nevertheless, the part of our soul that comes forth via our activities and senses remains in concealment, whereas it is more revealed through emotion.
And now, having established that we access our soul through our emotions: Is it possible to imagine the greatness that we can reach when we sanctify our emotions and when all of our worship of God is accompanied by emotions?
We will then unveil our soul as we serve God. The fire of our soul will not cling to some foreign substance, like fire clinging to wood, but rather the fire of our soul will cling to the fire of our emotions, like a flame connected to a burning coal. This is because our emotions directed to God have been aroused, and our soul is aflame with love and fear of God.
The power of emotion is so great that all of our [other] abilities become subservient to it. When we feel a powerful urge toward love or fear, we do not even need to eat or sleep. This is the power of our soul unveiled, before which everything else falls away. The greater our emotion and feeling, the more our abilities and senses fall away. And if this grows until it rises in a flame like fiery, flaming coals, then our entire being falls away.
And that is hitlahavut: fiery passion.
There is a way of measuring our feeling to determine how much it is regesh (emotion) and how much it is hitlahavut (fiery passion).
We have no understanding of the hitlahavut of the tzaddikim of previous generations and are certainly unable to measure it. In fact, we grow abashed just to hear the fiery words with which they describe their hitlahavut.
At the end of Noam Elimelech, the first epistle states that “love brings a tzaddik close to madness.... When such tzaddikim learn the holy Gemara with great love and holiness, a fire literally consumes them.”
And the second epistle states, “When these tzaddikim learn Gemara, they clothe themselves in great dread, trembling, fright and fear of God, blessed be He, and their Torah shines in their faces ... The love of the Torah and its light burns in them unceasingly ... and a great love burns in their heart until the light is visible in their faces and their fear falls upon others, and sinners flee, seized by a great fear that comes from the great holiness and fear of heaven of these tzaddikim.”
And Meor Veshmesh by his student states (in Va’etchanan), “Holy books state, and I have also heard from the deeds of holy supernal people, that when a Jew learns Torah with great hitlahavut and clinging, then a fire flames around him and he sees everything as it was at the time of the giving of the Torah, when all seven heavens were opened for the Jews. When a Jew learns Torah in this way with so much hitlahavut, his prayer makes an impression above ... and brings down goodness to everyone in the world.”
For people such as we are, on our level, there is a means by which we may gauge when we are experiencing hitlahavut (a fiery passion), which is higher than hitragshut (emotion).
As long as your emotions of longing, love and fear of God are still accompanied by a desire for this world and its objects, then what you are experiencing is only emotion.
But it may be that your emotions burn so strongly that at least for the moment you spurn the entire world and its desires, and you only long and yearn for God, for His holiness and His Torah. At least for this moment your soul has lost its [other] desires and it burns for God. And in addition, your emotions are stronger and more powerful than you, so that for now you cannot contain them and keep yourself from being filled with love, fear, and so forth. If you are praying, even if you have not been aflame during the entire prayer from beginning to end, when you are aflame you cannot contain this emotion, you cannot pray coldly even if you would want to. On our level, this is considered the beginning of hitlahavut, and not just hitragshut.
Just think of shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah or Kol Nidrei and Neilah on Yom Kippur, when your physical desires, yearnings and longings have ceased because you are so filled with feeling so that you have reached hitlahavut. At that point you cannot contain yourself and hold yourself in. You are entirely aflame, and your entire being is composed of the flames of your soul burning in the fire of God.
In this we have come somewhat close to our goal.
If an act is entirely emotionless, it is hard for a great light from above to rest upon it, because such a light needs a revealed spirit as its vehicle if it is to dwell in us.
But when we serve God with hitlahavut, since our soul is now revealed and our senses have somewhat fallen away, more from above can rest upon us.
This is not the entirety of Hasidism. But without this, Hasidism is not possible. Serving God with hitlahavut is the beginning of Hasidism. Hasidism without hitlahavut is an impossibility, because Hasidism proceeds in the path of the prophets, and to have such an influence from above, our soul must be revealed.
We do not dare to think that we could reach the heights of the holy, Godly tzaddikim in the Hasidic path. It is difficult for us even to immediately and regularly reach the hitlahavut (emotion to the point of lack of self-consciousness) pertinent to our level. So how do we begin?
We begin with emotion. And to feel emotion, we must be aroused. As the Zohar cited previously states, that is the beginning of hitlahavut and the movement of the soul. Then, with God’s help, we can reach hitlahavut.
In order that our emotions and hitlahavut will come to the fore and endure, we must serve God with our physical strength. If not, our emotions and hitlahavut will sink back down. Our emotions and hitlahavut do not only come from external causes. They are a revelation of part of our soul. And if the body and physical strength in which our soul is clothed do not join our soul in its work, then how can the heart of our soul be revealed through sustained hitlahavut?
When we come to arouse ourselves, we will find it easier if we vigorously engage in serving God. It may be difficult for us to force emotions. Unless they come of their own accord, we have to employ stratagems and techniques. But we can force ourselves to serve God with our physical vigor. Even if we do not want to do it, we can make ourselves do it.
This makes us firm in our service of God. Sometimes we are willing—but even if our evil inclination should burden our heart with laziness and dull our mind and heart, we can still force ourselves. We can learn Torah, we can pray, we can perform mitzvot. And in accordance with what has been said here, when we act vigorously, our soul is affected and comes forth a bit.
But when our soul is all by itself, when we feel no emotion, then our soul is so deeply immersed in our body and in our activities that we are no longer even aware of it. Our soul may do something and reach out, but we are totally unaware. And this is particularly true if our heart is steeped in foolishness and empty thoughts are running through our minds at the time that we are engaged in holy service of God.
But we can empty our thought of anything unclean and direct it to consider that we are standing before God and serving Him humbly and with a broken heart. Then, even if we do not do anything specific to arouse our emotions by serving God with our vigor and effort, we will be able to grasp our soul by its neck and even against its will pull it out of its hiding place. It would be most unlikely if at that point we didn’t sense a soul characteristic: at the very least, a feeling of love, fear and longing for God.
In Chovat Hatalmidim (2:2), I talked about a person who dances on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah: because he is dancing vigorously, he shakes himself free of the dust somewhat, and his soul is uncovered. And the same goes for a person who prays vigorously and loudly.
If we dance feebly on Simchat Torah or just think about it, or if we just mumble the words of prayer, we have done nothing to arouse our soul. But when we dance vigorously and pray loudly and vigorously, then we will arouse our emotions.
As the holy texts say, “Our voice arouses our directed intent.” This is because, by acting with vigor, we bring our soul forth, even against its will.
Hakhsharat Ha'Avreikhim: A Young Adult's Spiritual Guide--Chapter One: How Do We Start to Improve Ourselves?
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (author of the "Aish Kodesh")
CHAPTER ONE: HOW DO WE START TO IMPROVE OURSELVES?
It is clear from our holy texts that the ways of the holy Kabbalists and Hasidic masters (who serve Hashem in the path of the holy Baal Shem Tov and his disciples) are the ways of the prophets of God.
“Rabbi Yaakov said of himself, ‘In what way do I deserve divine inspiration so that I can be amidst the faithful prophets, the students of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, before whom supernal and lower beings tremble?’” (Zohar: Terumah, p. 154a). In his humility, he expressed astonishment that he was able to be amongst these faithful prophets, the students of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. And the work Maor Veshemesh teaches in a number of places that the path of the tzaddikim of the Baal Shem Tov’s lineage in every generation is that of the prophets of God.
The holy prophets, the masters of the Zohar, the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov and their students are angels of God beyond our comprehension. Their holy, heavenly path is hidden from us and we do not purport to rise to their high level and to be great as they, who are fiery angels. But there is one thing for which we yearn, and which we are obligated to achieve: to serve Hashem—the God our forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—with a whole-hearted service, complete in all the limbs of our body and spirit, so that not one strand of our physical being nor one spark our of spirit should emerge beyond the holiness of Hashem that fills and surrounds us.
And another thing: it does not suffice for us to be like a slave who serves the king behind the millstone, far from the king, not hearing the king’s words and not enjoying the king’s radiance—a service with a closed mind and dulled heart. We wish and yearn to be a child: “you are the children of Hashem your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1). Then in our service of God—in our Torah learning, prayer and in other mitzvot—we will feel that we are close to Hashem. Just as a child is overjoyed to see his father after not having seen him for years and after having yearned for him so painfully, we too yearn and long for God. “How do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, desires someone and dwells with him? When we see that it is the desire of that person to pursue and attempt to reach the Holy One, blessed be He, with his heart, spirit and will. Then we know for a certainty that the Divine Presence is there” (Zohar).
Then when we serve God we will feel our spirit rushing to its Father, yearning for Him all day and all night, running, melting, melting into the bosom of its Father in heaven. And we will feel ourselves close to God and we will delight in the radiance of His glory—not only in prayer and service, but at all times.
If a person is on a trivial level the entire day, and at every hour of the day his soul is buried under a carpet of foolishness, then he will also be trivial when he learns Torah, prays and serves God, so that even when he serves God his spirit will not arise (heaven forbid).
We have to be Jews throughout the day. Throughout the day we have to be close to God—sometimes with greater inspiration and other times with less, but we are always Jews, always children of the Holy One, blessed be He. Everything we do should be with our spirit until even our thoughts are always clear, strong and connected to God’s holiness.
Then our spirit will be so much stronger than our senses that our senses will no longer be able to confuse and draw aside our thoughts, telling us that all we see is this world and all we feel is physicality. And even more than that, our senses themselves will be influenced by the thought of our heart, so that they too will see the holiness of God spread across all reality, and we will know and see that even in this world we are in the Garden of Hashem, in Eden before God’s throne of glory.
How may we attain such a perfect service, if we in some small measure yearn to know the ways of the prophets, the Kabbalists and the tzaddikim of Hasidism? “Go forth in the footsteps of the sheep” (Song of Songs 1:8). At the very least, we may see their holy footsteps and roll in the dust of their path, absorbing into ourselves the paths of Hashem. So we must know what the bottom step of all this holiness is: how can we, who yearn and long to be Hasidim, begin to attain this?
The initial revelation of divinely holy people comes when their Jewish spirit, a portion of supernal divinity within them, is revealed to them. Then, with their spirit revealed, they are ready to become a vehicle for this great and elevated manifestation.
R. Chaim Vital writes in the introduction to his Shaarei Kedushah that sometimes a person’s spirit is so purified that it is revealed to him and guides him in all his ways. That is to say, there can be a tzaddik who has attained no more than the manifestation of his spirit—not even prophecy or divine inspiration—but this too is something that guides him on his path to God.
You may [already] be scrupulous regarding all the details and fine points of the laws of the written and oral Torah, and all the customs of the holy Jewish leaders.
And you may desire to be even more of a Hasid. In that case, you must go beyond the basic obligations—and you do so not only by serving God beyond the letter of the law with your physical actions, nor even only with your mind and thought, but with your spirit too.
You must add spirit to your service. Then your spirit will be revealed, and your entire body and soul will serve God. Then you can trust that God will bring you to become a Hasid.
In this vein, Rashi explains that a “master of the spirit” (Pesachim 40a) is a “Hasid.” The beginning and core of Hasidism is to be in touch with our spirit.
I have already spoken at length in my Chovat Hatalmidim about how we have to inspire our children to serve God. I don’t expect that every beginner will be filled with great fervor, much less the fervor, fiery love and awe possessed by the great tzaddikim—but that at the very least he will feel something. “Let us go the house of God with feeling” (Psalms 122:1).
The Zohar states, “The nefesh (spirit) is the inspiration from below. It is connected to the body and nurtures it ... and it clings to the body. After [the nefesh] is rectified, it becomes a throne upon which rests the ruach (higher level of spirit) when the nefesh is aroused ... After both are rectified, they are ready to welcome the neshamah (soul, the next level up after ruach)” (Zohar: Lech Lecha, p. 83b).
In other words, even when a person arouses the most feeble inspiration and feeling in serving God, even if it is a feeling from his basic life-force nefesh that is contiguous with his body, his nefesh is already somewhat unveiled—and not only his nefesh, but his ruach is also awakened, and he is also revealing his neshamah.
“Everyone wants to fear Your name” (Selichot, Day One). But the awe and fear of Hashem that many people have is only in their mind: in their mind, they know that they should love and fear God, but to their regret, and even to their sorrow, they don’t actually feel any love or awe.
Also, some people know simply and clearly that they have to want and to yearn to live a pure life every day and to always connect themselves to God (in this world and the next) through learning Torah, praying, performing mitzvot and good deeds with a nefesh that is revealed and connected to God, to His purity and holiness. Nevertheless, they only desire to desire. They only know that they should be yearning, but they don’t feel any desire or yearning.
I am not only talking about those people whose hearts are completely closed, who never have any feeling, whose spirits are hidden beneath such a great mass of rubbish that they cannot even pierce it with a finger. I am speaking even of those people who sometimes do have such a desire and feeling, who are filled with feeling many times, except that their feeling and desire are not under their control. When they are spontaneously aroused, they desire and feel. But if not, they are at rest and nascent—even descending.
The situation of these people is not much better and not much less dangerous than the state of the first class of people who are entirely blocked off. It is as though they are being shot about by a slingshot. One moment they truly desire and yearn and are filled with holy feeling, and the next moment, they are lowly, drunk, falling and rolling in the dirt, with no desire or yearning for anything holy.
To the contrary: sometimes a person like this is affected by evil thoughts and desires. He may recognize that he is in a bad situation. He may be worried about the danger to his body and soul, which are immersed in a foul, choking swamp in which he is about to drown. And he wants to desire and awaken himself. He thinks how of happy he would be if he could save himself from this swamp—if he only had a spark of desire and yearning.
But he won’t be able to do so just using thought and desire, because only a person who has already done a great deal of holy work on himself can, solely by using his mind, affect himself even when he is not filled with a feeling of holiness. [Such a person can affect himself] that much more when he meditates more on God’s greatness, and on loving and fearing God. This is because every day his body and its inner power with his thoughts and desires are coming to his holy consciousness.
But that is not our state in this generation, when our bodies are not immersed in the service of God, and our brains and minds have not been uplifted and strengthened in holiness. It is hard for us to control ourselves simply with thought and desire. We can control ourselves only when we are able to fill our entire body with a feeling of holiness, at will, whenever we want to experience that feeling.
Our sages have stated that “the righteous are the masters of their hearts,” whereas others are ruled by their hearts (Bereishit Rabbah 34).
Everything depends on this. If a person is totally controlled by his heart and cannot control any of his desires, he is wicked.
But even those precious young people who are not under the control of their desires, who battle their inclinations and win without falling under its sway and without committing an actual sin, whom God has inspired to want to be Hasidim, who at times are filled with feeling—if they cannot control their hearts and cannot inspire themselves at will to experience emotion when emotion is required, they will not reach any elevated level. They will not even come to the “heels” of Hasidism, and in fact they too can be slung by the slingshot [from the heights to the depths].
And so I ask God to help me discover and then show others ways by which they can master this and activate their desire (which is the desire of the nefesh, as the holy Zohar states) whenever they think it appropriate, and experience emotion when they know that they should be filled with emotion.
I have faith in Hashem, the God of Israel, who illuminates the Jews’ hearts, always going before them in a pillar of fire to illumine the path for them, the path of Hashem, so that they will traverse it day and night, that when I succeed in demonstrating a way of volitionally moving our nefesh even slightly, even if our choice just makes the ends of its feathers tremble, then we will be able to walk in the heels of Hasidism, and we will not remain on one level but rise to its zenith and reach the palace of Hashem with His holiness, the Garden of Eden upon earth.
בעיר הודי, ישב בודד
,גורו אחד ומתבודד
,בא חברו, גורו אחר
,הוא בא בזמן, ולא איחר
,יחד, אלה שני גורים
",הב," קראו לכל עוברים
,לבם מלאים וחפיצים
.בקשו תרומות מתנוצצים
קיבלו זהב, קיבלו כל הון
ושרו רוממות ורון
עד שאמר גורו אחד
(ראשו היה לבן כגד)
אני רוצה שמחה, ששון"
,יותר מכסף וכל הון
,אני רוצה אורה ויקר
כי כל זה פה הוא מפואר
,אבל מספיק! זה לא ה'זה
,זה לא הסוף. זה סתם יפה
"--...זה סתם קטן ולא מגניב
.סתום הפה!" רעו השיב"
,גם השמש הוא שותק
,גם הבור היום הוא ריק
,אבל לבו, לבו חושק
.ולא להמברגר או סטייק
ושם ישבו וגם חלמו
.ימים עברו, שנים חלפו
"!ראו, באים אורים גדולים"
"!אמר אחד—"תראה, מדהים
האור של חסד ושל עוז
הסוף של רשע ושל בוז
הארת אורים וגם תומים
מעל תהומים מטומטמים
מאיר הילו עלי ראשים
מאיר האור ליהודים
וגם מהם אור לגויים
!כתוש המן ביום פורים
,עולם מלא שמחה, משתה
!שם עמלק הנה נמחה
עכשיו כל אבן היא שירה
וכל גרגיר היא עיר בירה
ואין אבק לפני השמש
ולא נשאר אבק של אמש
,עכשיו, במקום זהב והון
.יקרת האור ושיר ורון
Here's the English:
In an Indian town, there sat alone
One guru, meditating.
His friend came, another guru,
He came on time, and wasn't late.
Together, these two gurus
"Give!" they cried to all of the passersby,
Their hearts were filled and desirous,
They asked for sparkling donations.
They got gold, they got all wealth,
And they sang exaltedly and melodically,
Until one guru said
(Whose hair was white as coriander)
"I want joy, gladness
More than silver and all wealth
I want light and preciousness,
Because everything here is beautiful
"But enough! It isn't 'that'
It isn't the ultimate, it's just nice,
II's just small and not cool..."--
"Shut your mouth!" his friend replied.
The sun too was silent,
The pit too today was empty,
But his heart, his heart yearned,
And not for hamburger or steak.
And there they sat and there they dreamed
Days passed, years flew by,
"Look, great lights are coming!"
One said--"Look, it's amazing!"
The light of kindness and of might,
The end of evil and of contempt,
The shining of the perfect lights
Above the foolish depths
A halo shining upon heads
Light shining for the Jews
And also from them a light to the nations
Haman is crushed on the day of Purim!
The world is filled with joy, feasting,
The name of Amalek is erased!
Until every stone is a song
And every grain of sand is a capital city
And there is no dust before the sun
And no dust of the previous night remains.
Now, in place of gold and wealth
Precious light and song and melody.
Yaacov David Shulman