Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Condensation of Tanya (Part 5)

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

PART FIVE: Ch's 35-40

1. We'll once again harken back to Tanya's "motto" that “the matter is very near-at-hand to you ... so that you can do (i.e., accomplish) it” (Deuteronomy 30:14), and focus this time on the final theme of accomplishing things. We'll do that by relating the utter momentousness of observing the physical, practical mitzvot; and most especially in a spirit of love and reverence.

2. At bottom, the importance of the physical, practical mitzvot lies in the fact that the Divine Presence only manages to dwell upon our animalistic spirits and our bodies as a result of those physical mitzvot. in fact, when we fulfill those mitzvot, our physical capacities come to be utterly subsumed in G-d's radiance and will.

3. That's so vitally important because it fulfills G-d's desire to have "a dwelling-place in the lower worlds", which in fact is why this physical, garish, and lowest of worlds -- which came about as a consequence of a series of descents of the upper worlds, step by step -- was created. For indeed, we enable G-d's Presence to dwell in this world by overcoming the other side and turning darkness to light by fulfilling His mitzvot here, and we strengthen His illumination in the upper worlds at the selfsame time.

4. In fact, though, the reality of G-d's Presence in this lower world will only *fully* manifest itself in the World to Come, after the dead would have been resurrected. And that will be on par with the revelation our people enjoyed at Mount Sinai (which was undone with the sin of the golden calf, when we and the world at large were once again diminished).

5. As such the World to Come will only come to full realization as a consequence of our deeds, here in the world as it is now, while we're in exile. For when we fulfill mitzvot here we suffuse the world with "Ohr Ein Sof" (the most sublime and recondite manifestation of Divine Presence, literally translated as "[the shining of the] Infinite Light" or "[a revelation of the] Light of the Infinite").

6. But not only do we allow for that revelation when we engage in physical mitzvot, we also disallow the "luminous" husk its potency (see Condensation 1:5) and manage to subsume it within holiness by applying its life-energy to the fulfillment of mitzvot. So, for example, when we eat kosher food at appropriate times and say the requisite blessings for it beforehand and afterwards, all our limbs and organs -- as well as the luminous husk -- associated with that action are subsumed in holiness at that point. Understand too that once *all* of our people fulfill all the mitzvot all luminous husks will be subsumed within holiness.

7. Now, the three utterly *impure* husks can't ordinarily be subsumed in holiness, even when we engage in mitzvot, though they do derive their power from (the source of) holiness, through the agency of the luminous husk. But RSZ contends that when the luminous husk is subsumed in holiness in the course of the World to Come (see #4 above) that phenomenon itself undoes the fact that the three utterly impure husks draw from holiness, and sees to it that it will all be undone. And that will itself result in the world being cleansed of all physicality, when it will experience the revelation of G-d's Light.

8. But it's important to underscore the fact that Torah study is *also* essential in the course of fulfilling G-d's will to dwell in this world. Since when we study it, our entire beings (mind and speech *as well as* body) are subsumed in holiness, and we touch and affect deeper parts of our being and the universe through Torah-study accordingly.

9. Let's return to the importance of fulfilling physical, practical mitzvot. Know that there are two levels involved: there's the purely physical level, and then there's the inner, more spiritual causal level (i.e., what motives and impulses you bring to the act, and what you hope to accomplish). Each contributes to the displaying of G-dliness in the world it's own way, but the causal level contributes more so (especially when you mean to attach yourself onto the Divine Presence through your mitzvot, and you do them in a spirit of great love and reverence).

10. For, indeed, when your aim is to attach yourself onto the Divine Presence and you do it in a spirit of great love and reverence -- if you do so *as a reflection of an intellectual grasp of G-d's being* and thus become *a selfless "vehicle" to His Presence*, then you're actions would be on par with those of the "great tzaddikim", which is the very highest level. (Of course, the benefits you'd reap from Torah-study also depends upon your motivations.)

11. It's nonetheless important to fulfill mitzvot and to study Torah even lovelessly and unreverentially, or for ulterior and self-serving motives. But know that when you do so in a spirit of love and reverence for G-d and for altruistic, selfless reasons, all of that act as "wings" (i.e., great spurs) to your Divine service and it greatly advances your being.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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