Friday, April 20, 2007

A Ma'aseh Re: The Ohev Yisroel and Adding Holiness

I heard the following shiur as it relates to Parshas Tazria. It connects three parallel disputes about whether the main avodah for a person is mainly to completely and directly remove the bad from within himself, or focus mainly on being mosif kedusha, adding holiness instead.

The first of these three dichotomies arises out of the beginning of the parsha, which relates to a woman’s nida status after giving birth. Consider the difference between a nida and a zava; A nida’s purification can be after only seven days from the time her nida status begins. She continually removes and removes the source of the tumah, the dam, until immediately after the 7 days, on the night of the 8th day, she immerses and is puified. The entire process is one of removing the source of the tuma, and nothing else. On the other hand, a zava, in addition to her days of removing the tuma, always has 7 clean days, 7 days of purity/tahara following the tuma. The zava, then, represents the idea of overcoming tuma by being mosif tahara, adding holiness. That is the significance of her 7 days of tahara/purity. We’ll come back to this at the end.

The second example of the okair tuma v. mosif kedusha dispute can be found in relation to the days of sefira that we find ourselves in at this time. During this time, we mourn the deaths of the 24,000 talmidim of Rebbi Akiva. They died in a plague because “מפני שלא נהגו כבוד זה לזה,” they didn’t accord each other the requisite honor (Yevamos 62b). Rav Moshe Wolfson explains, based on the words of the Ari Z”L, that these 12,000 pairs of students were the gilgulei neshamos, reincarnations, of the 24,000+ members of the tribe of Shimon who sinned with the daughters of Midian. When Moshe Rabbeinu was about to judge them, Zimri, the nasi/prince of the tribe of Shimon, intervened, arguing that Moshe was like an interloper judging them. Rather, he, Zimri ben Salu, should judge them himself. Because of this attribute of ga’avah, arrogance, one thing led to another until Zimri himself was mezaneh publicly with the Midianite princess, Cosby bas Tzur, necessitating the intervention of Pinchas. The students of Rebbi Akiva, these gedolei Tana’im, wanted to be mesakain, repair this trait of ga’avah/arrogance from within themselves as a result of the fact that they were gilgulim of these members of the tribe of Shimon who also suffered from ga’avah. To do that, they all made a pact with each other that they would not treat each other with even an ounce of honor, in order to make themselves humble and thereby accomplish the tikun to their neshamos’ sin of ga’avah. However, perhaps due to their being spread out all over Eretz Yisroel, they perhaps took their approach too far and thereby suffered the plague. This represents the danger of this very direct, to the heart, approach to uprooting evil directly, as opposed to being mosif kedusha, focusing on adding holiness.

The 3rd example of this dichotomy: There is a ma’aseh regarding the Ohev Yisroel of Apt and the Kotzker. The Ohev Yisroel put together a Bais Din to judge whether or not they should place the Kotzker in Cherem for the way he was conducting his Chassidim. The Kotzker did not come to this hearing, but some of his talmidim did, including the Chidushei Harim. After the hearing, the Ohev Yisroel told the Chidushei Harim that he was not going to put his Rebbe into Cherem, but that when he becomes Rebbe, he shouldn't conduct the Chassidim the way his rebbe, the Kotzker does. And how did the Kotzker conduct his Chassidim that was so problematic in the eyes of the Ohev Yisroel? They were so committed to obliterating ga'avah from within themselves and from within their midst, that they went to exteme lengths to take the bull by the horns, and remove ga'avah in all of it's forms. Two examples: They would all stand up out of respect for anyone they considered a true anav, humble person, even if that person was ignorant, poor, and without Yichus, in order honor anava, and break their own egos. Also, if anyone came into the Bais Medresh wearing fancy clothing, they would take it away from him, and embarass him with words, as a tough-love way of oliterating ga'avah. This direct approach was not approved-of by the Ohev Yisroel, who felt that it was too sharp and direct a form of avodah for our generation.

The Ohev Yisroel held that the avoda of our generation is not so much to focus on attacking the evil within us. Often times that approach has disasterous side effects in the form of giving up, depression, and internal separation. The proper approach is to pile onto ourselves so much good, kedusha, avoda, tefilla, mitzvos, and hosafas kedusha, that the evil within us will "be batel me'eilav," nullified automatically. This can be compared to "חמץ שנפלה עליו מפולת הרי הוא כמבוער," Chametz on which a building has fallen, is considered destroyed automatically [thereby exempting a person from destroying it directly] (Pesachim 31b). When a person piles on so much kedusha, the evil within him is simply crushed under it's weight and is nullified in that way.

Returning to Nida/Zava; Perhaps that is why we are noheg b'zman hazeh Dirabanan, that all women are machmir to be metaher like a Zava, adding 7 days of tahara, purity, onto the D'oraisa 7 day requirement. As explained above, that is a reflection of the avoda of our generation, which is to focus more on adding kedusha, than on obliterating the bad within us in a direct way, which most of us are not ready for.

May Hashem help us add kedusha, mitzvos, Torah, tefilla, and Avoda, and thereby wipe out the evil within us automatically!

-Dixie Yid

Artwork: "The Utterance" by Yorem Ra'anan


yitz said...

Hi Dix, I like the post, but have a number of questions/he'aros.
Firstly, the Nidda/Zava analogy seems to miss the mark, as the Halachos re: Zava go beyond those of Nidda, not instead of them. Certainly today's practice as you describe at the end is a chumra [although universally accepted], but NOT a different approach.
The Shevet Shimon / talmidei Rabbi Akiva "gilgulim" is interesting, BUT ... Although the Arizal knew this, somehow I wonder if an "average Joe" [or Yosef] would have such an awareness of exactly who he was a gilgul of, & what midda to correct. Interestingly enough, however, they say that the Apta Rav [yes, the Ohev Yisrael] did have an awareness of [some of] his previous gilgulim, to the extent that on Musaf of Yom Kippur he would say, "v'kach hayisi omer - and thus would I say" instead of "would he say" in referring to the Kohen Gadol.
Finally, the Ohev Yisrael /Kotzk story -- where is this found? I seem to recall a famous Chasuna in Ustila, wherein the other Chassidic groups were going to put Pshis'cha [the forerunner of Kotzk] in cherem, and the Ohev Yisrael made peace. But a Beis Din, Kotzk, etc. -- this I've never heard. If you can point me to a source I'd much appreciate it!
Thanks for a really good, but challenging post!

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Yitz, thanks for the comment! To address your points:

As far as Nida vs. Zava; Yes it is of course true that the halachos of a Zava add the shiva neki'im that go above and beyond the 7 day requirement of the D'oraisa din of a nida. The chumra/din dirabanan that we keep today is to be machmir to add the shiva neki'im in addition to the minimum 4 days of tuma, on the off chance that the woman is a zava, not a nida. I was attempting to bring down what I understood in the shir as a deeper reason why hashgacha has it that we keep this chumra today across the board; that was based on a comparison between the deeper spiritual elements of zava vs. nida. Perhaps I was making some of these jumps in my head without putting all of the connections in between the steps in my thinking into writing, so I was not so clear. Actually, that has been one of the aspects of my writing that I've been concerned about; not spelling out the connections between ideas that might exist in my head, which might cause a lack or clarity, or simply a different meaning to a reader. Thanks for pointing out the issue to me here so hopefully It'll help me improve the clarity/organization of my writing.

2nd: When you say that you doubt the average Yid would know who he was a gilgul of and what he was trying to be mesakein, I'd say two things: One: these were not your average "Joe/Yosef" as you said, but were rather gedolei tana'im, talmidim of Rebbe Akiva. The talmidim we are talking about are the greatest of the generation, huge Tzadikim, notwithstanding the chut-hasa'ara faults the gemara tells us about them. So I don't find it so unbelievable that people of that caliber would have a connection to their previous gilgulim. If the Ohev Yisroel could do it as you said, and if the gemara has ma'asim about AMORA'IM doing greater things, like being Mechaye Meisim, this doesn't seem so far fetched.

2nd point about that: I heard that vort in the name of R' Moshe Wolfson, so to the extent that that authority helps, so be it. Also, like any Agadata/drush, we can take that vort purely literally, or perhaps for the musar/hashkafa lesson within it.

As to the Ohev Yisroel/Kotzker ma'aseh, I can't really respond adequately. That's the way I heard over the ma'aseh. There's not much else to say. I think I didn record the facts (at least relative to the differences you mentioned) pretty acturately, compared to the way I heard it. It could be there is another story you're not aware of or perhaps even my source mixed a name or two. I don't know but that's the only source I have. Sorry I can't give you something in writing, like I could with some of the ma'asim I've told over from Sipurei Chassidim.

I really appreciate you putting so much thought into your reading of my post! It really adds a level of responsibility, and consciousness about the fact that people really do read this stuff, and I have to make sure to proofread better and be accurate, and not loose with words/ideas at all. Yasher Koach!

-Dixie Yid

yitz said...

I just wanted to say that I'm happy to see that this was an old Chassidic debate--because it was such a formative discovery for myself.