Monday, April 16, 2012

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The End (Well…not really)

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003      A few years ago, I began this series of articles called, “The Spiritual Perspective.” They began with a brief forward explaining the purpose of the series. I also wrote the conclusion knowing full well where I intended to bring the readers. The problem is that the series has turned out to be ongoing, and the conclusion that I was saving for the end will never be read. So I am sending out the conclusion now. I do plan on continuing the articles (G-d willing) as the stories come into my life. First, to remind you, here is the foreword.

Foreword - The Problem

     According to most opinions, there is a Jewish crisis going on today. Apparently, a huge percentage of nonreligious Jews are flocking to other religions, while very few are coming to their own. It seems that the crisis is not only in the Torah-ignorant community, but has hit the religious community as well. Today, young Jews are leaving Torah lives at an astonishing rate. Of course this means rampant intermarriage and the loss of those future Jewish families. This is a catastrophe. What to do? Like all things in Jewish life, there are various opinions on the subject.

Conclusion

     The ultimate goal of the spiritual search is to reveal G-d’s Presence. This is possible right here in this lower world. This revelation is called the Shechina. G-d, being unlimited, must be everywhere at all times. One of His names is the Place (HaMakom). Even the physical place permeates all locations and levels of the entire creation at all times. How much more so must the spiritual Place permeate all? But still, although He is all, the physicality is not His revealed glory. By design, His glorious Presence is being hidden by His physical creation. How do we uncover this glory?

     We are told that the Shechina is only revealed in joy.[i] This means that for this wondrous experience to happen, we must serve G-d with joy. It will never come in sorrow. The Gemora explains that the joy spoken of here is the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah.[ii] Why has G-d arranged it so this highest spiritual revelation comes only from the joy of doing a mitzvah, and not from any of the other wonderful joys that His creation has to offer? Doing mitzvahs requires a physical Torah life, and not just a spiritual Torah life. The spiritual Torah leads us to the highest vision possible. The physical Torah leads us to a practical Jewish life with a vibrant Jewish family at its center. And when done properly, it will also lead to the most cherished revelation possible.

     When we understand the spiritual aspects of the mitzvah, it helps us to do the mitzvahs better. The spiritual result of the mitzvah reveals what is actually happening when the mitzvah is done. This strengthens and encourages us. It also helps us to experience the great joy that is inherent in serving G-d.

     This is why we search spiritually. Not that we are going to force open the gates of Heaven by doing a mitzvah. If just doing mitzvahs opened that gate, millions of Jews would be talking about this experience. Not even doing the mitzvahs while concentrating on their spirituality will force that gate to open. That gate is an entirely spiritual gate and it opens only from the top down.

     But finding the spiritual truth of the mitzvah helps us to do the mitzvahs properly. This reminds us of our true purpose for being here on Earth. Fulfilling our purpose in life brings us to the great joy of serving Him as His Torah instructs. In this joy we will be able to receive the much greater joy of seeing His Presence.[iii]

     There is a well known story of a rebbe who, as a mere four-year-old child, cried that G-d appeared to Avraham but He had not appeared to him.[iv] From this story we see that even small children can have the revelation of G-d be their heart’s desire. We also see from this that we must make striving to reveal G-d’s Presence part our standard education. And this education should even be for children, and not reserved only for those who are qualified to learn the deepest mystical subjects.

     Where do we find a source to justify this search? “ … There you shall seek out His Presence …”[v] Moshe was telling us to seek His Presence where our sacrifices were offered. This was wherever the Mishkan or Temple stood. That was where we were to offer our sacrifices, and that was the place where we were to seek out His Presence. Today, while we do not have a Temple, our sacrifices are offered in our hearts, and in our spiritual service to the world. It is within these that we are to search for Him. 

     When the physical Torah is taught along with its spiritual perspective, the children will not need to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Spiritual awareness gives life purpose. We become motivated and glad that we are here. Life becomes an opportunity instead of a burden. It is well known that a solely physically motivated life leads to senseless greed. It is also well known that a spiritually motivated life leads to giving. And giving is its own reward.

     He reveals His Presence to us when we please Him. Besides thinking spiritually, what can we do to hasten this most cherished experience? What pleases Him the most is when we serve Him with joy, thank Him for the good that He has given us, help others to learn His ways, and live together in peace.

    May this happen to all of us today.


[i] Gemara Shabbos 30b

[ii] Gemara Berachos 31a

[iii] Gemara Shabbos 30a

[iv] Sichat HaShevuah, Darchei Ha Chassidut

[v] Deuteronomy 12:5

2 comments:

yaakov said...

for me, chassidus..tanya, rebbe nachman and rav kook gave me wonderful insights that my soul loves. they gave me a way to look at chumash differently.
also, since i have always loved literature, i am able to appreciate the many poetic parts of chumash..sometimes just a sentence or two.
the big question is how to mekarev so many of our brothers and sisters who appear to not even be "interested in religion"?

some say it's a shabbat dinner and singing...

i think there needs to be more articles and books about what works both in israel and galut. it's a very important topic. many in the religious world don't realize that people who aren't yet "connected" to observance need patience, and lots of spirituality and meaning...when they begin to see the deeper meaning of a mitzvah it helps. they usually won't just do it and wait.

our ravs say we have to use much kindness and patience in this area. much ahavat yisrael.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this, Reb Gutman.

I found out the hard way that beginning observance when I was older made it harder for me to connect to its spiritual heart. I was raised secular, so when the time came I had to search high and low for true spirituality. The revelation that it had something to do with Judaism, which was presented to me as a lot of actions performed by rote, accompanied by an ancient language understood by few, was quite a shock to me. Perhaps this was good enough when the hope of complete redemption was far into the future; but now, it is certainly not, even if, G-d forbid, it is put off a couple hundred more years.

HaShem provided an environment (Israel) where Hebrew can be a person's native language, a great aid to those who merit such a gift, and where Torah culture can be redeveloped and flourish, preparing us for Geula Shleimah. I am very grateful for being able to live in Israel at this time, even with all its difficulties.

Rote observance is only the beginning - it takes time to get used to speaking a language you aren't used to, let alone understand what it's saying. Translations only go so far in aiding understanding the words and the spirit in which the actions are undertaken.

Perhaps I am repeating the obvious - but perhaps not. I hope these words will reach someone outside the fold, to whom the message will be fresh.

CDG, Yerushalayim

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