Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When the Soul's Pressure Makes the Heart Want to Explode

Rav Kook in Oros Hateshuva 15:4 talks about the bitterness the soul feels when the life of the person in whom it is trapped, does not give the soul it's powerful, true and full expression. He says that the soul contains (much like an atom) a tremendous amount of power. It desires to channel that power into an explosion of holiness and avodas Hashem.

When don't give it that expression, but rather only try to passify that inner pressing against the heart through shallow means, after time the pressure on the heart only continues to get even stronger. My Rebbe explained that when the energy is merely channeled into a new job, going back to school, a new hobby, a new car, a new girlfriend, a new blog, or whatever other type of emptiness, then the soul is not satisfied. It is like a tiny seed, with the potential to create a giant Redwood tree, that is never planted and allowed to express its desire for greatness. The soul will actually never find it satisfaction until it is finally given its true expression.

Rav Kook then asks what one must do to start allowing the neshoma to express its self. He says that one must begin to water that seed from the elevated fountains of holiness. And what does that mean? My rebbe explains that this means that one must begin to feed his soul with the Pnimius Hatorah, the inner teachings of Torah.

Now it doesn't matter whether what moves the person is learning Tanya or Sfas Emes or Meor Einayim. Nor does it matter if it's Nefesh Hachaim, Maharal or Rav Dessler. Although the majority of one's time is spent in understanding nigleh, Gemara and halacha, the standear curriculum of the yeshivos will not be enough to split the atoms of our and our children's neshamos and release all of that energy that longs to be expressed.

I had one kalta Litvak from my Kollel days who decried the fact that we've had such a yeridas hadoros that today, even regular people are daring to study Derech Hashem, even (gasp!) in English! Baruch Hashem that people don't listen to that kind of thinking. Our generation needs something deeper.

And Rav Kook explicitly says that it the soul will not be satisfied with substitutions for Pnimius Hatorah, the inner light of Torah, be it in the secular or the holy! This means that, as controvertial as it may sound, our souls will not be satisfied by the standard learning and practicing of Gemara and halacha alone. Of course, these must be the main staple of a Jew's spiritual diet, but they alone will not quench the soul's thirst for holiness and they will not show it how to fully express its self in this world.

I was thinking to myself: Although I, B"H, have some time each day to learn and daven a little bit, the majority of my time is spent on my full-time job and on the intense studies of evening law school. The vast majority of the time, don't I have no choice but to be frustrated by not being able to express my soul's yearning for constant avodas Hashem?

Then I remembered what Rav Shwartz wrote in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. In addition to making consciousness of Hashem's existance, presence, and constant hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence, our avoda is to constantly daven about every detail in life. The way to solidify consciousness of Hashem and avodas Hashem into every moment of life, especially the mundane, is by constantly davening about every detail of life.

"Hashem, why was I given this assignment by my boss right now? It is because it is Your will that I do that right now." "Hashem, why must I negotiate with small-minded people? Because it is Your will that I remember You in the midst of smallness." "Hashem, why do I have to spend dozens of hours doing detailed legal research and writing about ADA disability law? Because You have placed me here to remember You while I work on details."

May Rav Kook's teaching about awakening our souls with Pnimius Hatorah and the Bilvavi's advice on bringing "G-d consciousness" into every moment through constant tefillah help lift us up to actualize the great spiritual power within.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of micahgoulart)

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Anonymous said...

Now this is the kind of post I missed! This is what makes your blog a place for me. Please continue this type!

Chaim B. said...

There is a Midrash (sorry - can't recall mareh makom, Maharal quotes it in a few places) that compares the soul to a bas melech who married a villager who lives like a caveman. He constantly tries to give her gifts that would make any cavewoman happy, but she is never satisfied because she is a bas melachim. The neshoma wants spiritual sustenance, but the guf tries to placate it with things like a new car, etc.

Anonymous said...

Looked up the Rav Kook. Did not see that he says explicitly that gemara alone can't do it. Of course, gemara alone is not at all a proper Torah curriculum for many reasons. But perhaps it does take care of the aspect you describe.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Glad you liked it!


I'd also heard that story but I never heard anyone quote it in the name of the Maharal or the Midrash. I'd be interested to see where it is if you ever run accross the ma'areh makom. Thanks.

Anon 1:54,

Like I said in the post, he doesn't mention Gemara specificly. But he's referring to *something* when he says that there is no substitute for penimius haTorah in either secular *or* sacred. Since after a certain grade in school, Gemara is almost the exclusive topic of study, it seems to be that's what he's referring to. Again, he's not saying not to study it, ChV"Sh and of course. Rather, he's saying that you can't have *only* that.

-Dixie Yid

Chaim B. said...

The Midrash is Koheles Rabbah ch 6 and it is explained in Maharal, Tiferes Yisrael end of ch 3.

Rav Kook writes, "Therefore, in latter generations [i.e. ours] where the darkness of unbridled desire is so strong and the strength of the body so weak, making it almost impossible to withstand being swallowed into a purely physical existance, it is *necessary* to enlighten with the light of the hidden torah which has no boundaries..." (Orot haKodesh I:73 However, see the rest of the quote re: his comments on the approach of the Rambam).

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chaim, thanks for the ma'areh makom! How did you find that so fast?

I think I originally heard the story from Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair at Ohr Someach.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

this is big chizuk and ohr