Monday, July 23, 2007
One Must Destroy in Order to Build
I was reading a recent post at Beyond BT that's worth seeing. In it, Katrin told the story of the great tragedies in the life of a Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt. The tragedies he endured in his life and story of the death of his wife at the age of about 30, reminded me that sometimes Hashem knows that the only way to allow people to grow to a greater level is by first destroying them.
This is a great truth that we must accept if we want to grow into bigger Jews. One must destroy who he is now (including the good parts) if he wants to attain a new, higher and more exalted level than before. A greater self cannot be built on a lesser self. The lesser self must first be obliterated. There are many places where one sees this universal truth.
In hilchos Shabbos, destroying is not forbidden unless it is done in order to build. Tearing is only proscribed when it is along a seam in order to re-sew another garment. This indicates that the true purpose of "destroying" is as a "constructive" force, when it is used in the purpose of building something greater in its place. Therefore, when one is mevatel and he obliterates his current self, it cannot be done in a destructive way, but rather it must be a destruction similar to the dismantling and tearing in hilchos Shabbos, which is done in a constructive way, to build something greater in its place.
Even the neshoma after Geheinom, which is delighting in a sublimity of Divine revelation that we, who are still confined to human form, cannot fathom, must go through a type of destruction in order to ascend to higher levels of Gan Eden. When a neshoma is enjoying pleasures of the Divine Presence that we cannot contemplate in Gan Eden Tachton (lower Gan Eden), it cannot fathom the even greater Divine light of Gan Eden Elyon (upper Gan Eden). In order for that neshoma to ascend to the higher level of Gan Eden, it must first immerse in the Nahar Dinur, the "River of Fire." This Geheinom-like process of suffering and destruction is necessary in order to attain the higher level of Gan Eden Elyon.
Why is the necessary to destroy one's lower level in order to attain a higher level? To not do so would be comparable to pouring fine wine into a vessel with the remnants of cheap wine still in it. The greater level of the finer wine will be nullified by the presence of the cheap wine. To reach a qualitatively different level, the old level must be destroyed so it does not ruin and nullify the effect of the higher level.
A friend of mine offered another moshel. We know that everything in the world is moshol for the true spiritual reality so this concept is found in the physical world in innumerable ways. My friend pointed out that when one want to build his muscles, it is not enough to build them by working them out through exercise and lifing weights. The muscles must be worked so hard to the point of becoming ripped in many places. It is only through the rebuilding of the muscles after ripping that they can achieve the bulk the bodybuilder desires.
This is why Hashem decreed that we go through hundreds of years of slavery and exile in Egypt. He intended to make us feel so broken and cut-off from Him, that our entire relationship with Hashem that had been built up by the Avos was destroyed. It was only after this cutting-off and destroying in the Kur Habarzel (Nesira) that we could re-create our relationship with Hashem as one of Panim b'Panim and not Achor b'Achor (intimate love similar to that of husband and wife and not cool love similar to that of parent and child) through the miracles and the Sinai experience.
This is also why every single peshat that you will hear or read from a rabbi or friend is preceded by a Kasha, a question on your existing understanding of some pasuk/gemara/mishna/halacha. Even if the kasha is weak, people always start off by asking one. This is because of this unconsciously known general truth. Only when there's something you don't understand and your previously conceived understanding of some text is nullified by a kasha can you then be opened up to hear the new pshat. People never just start a speech by saying a new peshat on a text without first asking a kasha on some other understanding of that text.
There are countless other examples of this. I am actually somewhat uncomfortable writing this post without citing any sources. I don't like to do that at all because no one knows whether I am saying things that come from my own imagination or are based on some true source (except those that already know what I'm saying). However, I really don't remember which seforim or shiurim I've learned many of these examples and ideas from specifically. It's more of just a compilation of some of the ideas I know in this topic so I apologize for readers who have nothing to look to that I can cite to double-check the accuracy of what I've written.
May Hashem give us the bravery and strength not to be afraid to be mevatel our current selves in order to build greater selves.
P.S. Passionate Life quoted this piece in his blog, Passionate Life, in a very interesting post of his own on why Emunah in Hashem's Torah is vital to the marital relationship.