Monday, February 07, 2005

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The Donkey.

The book HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, has daily sayings by the 6th chassidic leader, or rebbe (aka grand rabbi) of the Lubavitcher hassidim, as organized by the 7th rebbe. It contains daily instructions and insights on a variety of issues, but occasionally provides a chassidic/kabbalistic interpretation of a passage of Torah or jewish law.

For today, Monday, 28 Shevat, 5765 which is equivalent to the english date February 7, 2005, it discusses the law of assisting a person with an overloaded beast of burden (such as a donkey), even if he is your enemy, from the kabbalistic perspective...


One of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings:

"When you see Chamor, a donkey" [1] - meaning when you carefully examine your Chomer ("materiality"), your body,

"you will see... "your enemy" - meaning, that your Chomer hates your Divine soul that longs for G-dliness and the spiritual,

and furthermore, you will see that it is "...lying under its burden" placed upon it - (the body) by G-d, namely, that it should become refined through Torah and mitzvot; but the body is lazy to fulfill them.

It may then occur to you that ..."you will refrain from helping it" - to enable it to fulfill its mission,

and instead you will follow the path of mortification [2] of the flesh to break down the body's crass materiality.

However, not in this approach will the light of Torah reside.

Rather... "you must aid it" - purify the body, refine it, but do not break it by mortification.

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1. Sh'mot 23:5.

2. There was indeed a method of subordinating the body through afflicting it with ascetic practices, but the Baal Shem Tov rejected this path. He saw the body not as an obstacle to the spirit, something intrinsically evil and ungodly, but as a potential vehicle for the spiritual, a means for the soul to attain heights otherwise inaccessible.

The "enemy" is to be transformed into an ally, an instrument.

In great measure the Mitzvot employ gross physical matter to fulfill G-d's will, e.g. leather for Tefillin thongs, wool for Tzitzit, etc.

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