Thursday, July 15, 2010

Divine Reciprocity

I present to you a translation from Reb Kalonymos Kalman's sefer Derech HaMelech for Shabbos Chazon. This took a lot of effort, so I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: This is not a "literal" translation; the English language simply cannot perfectly translate some of the expressions, syntax, and feel of the rebbe's writing.
Additionally, the rebbe's writing is lucid, fluid, and precise. Any lack of clarity or clumsiness in the text is solely a product of my own limitations.
This is my way of trying to spread - albeit feebly - the rebbe's works...

Shabbos Chazon 5696

Zion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to her, through righteousness. (Isaiah 1:27)

          What is the need for the repetitive language of the verse? If “Zion will be redeemed”, then surely “those who return to her” will be redeemed as well…?

          The Medrash Tanchuma states:

Moreover, the Holy One, Blessed is He says: “…appoint the Levites over the Tabernacle of the Testimony”, for any who cleave to a matter and are found trustworthy to God are trusted forever.

          Because the Levites cleaved to God, and were found trustworthy [as it says regarding the sin of the Golden Calf]: “And the sons of Levi gathered unto him”, therefore, God says “…appoint the Levites…

          All Jews believe in God. As a result of that belief, they draw down His holiness to this plane, as the sacred texts explain that the word for “belief” also connotes “pulling”. Conversely, God ‘believes’ (as it were) in Israel, in their desire for Him, service of Him, and their innate holiness; as a result of His ‘belief’ in us and our servitude, He draws us upward and attaches us to His holiness. When does God ‘believe’ in man? When – like the medrash describes – one is tested and found to be trustworthy by God; then he is trusted forever.

This is the essential task of man: he should work on himself, fixing himself in his characteristics and traits - all of them, not just one negative aspect, or a singular fault. For the essential difficulty in battling the Evil Inclination is that we cannot completely extricate ourselves from his grasp, as we find in the sacred texts. We could fight him off one hundred times, and he would still come, still try and seduce us; if only we could strike him but once with a killing blow…then, even the weakest of Israel would be emboldened and strengthened beyond his own capabilities. What wouldn’t a person do for his God? He would even give up his life, casting himself into the inferno for His sake; he is only held back by the burden of the Evil Inclination, who is inescapable, indefatigable.

Therefore, all the strengthening that a man experiences, all his reinforcement stems from God’s belief in him, and the fact that God attaches him to Himself, through his service. To what extent does God establish this attachment? According to the amount of effort that man exerts himself to be found trustworthy.

This is not limited only to those who have surpassed great trials, epic achievements like that of the tribe of Levi or Joshua, when he battled against Amalek. Rather, in all aspects of service there can and must be an element of cleaving to God. One who utilizes his hands - or any limbs – in service of God, of course this is considered service; however, he is not considered to have given himself fully over to the service of God in the manner described to be considered trustworthy:

Only one whose thoughts and yearnings are constantly directed toward God; one who is constantly worried about his lowly state and the fact that he cannot stand in the King’s presence all day; one who – when it comes to serving God – gives himself over entirely, and searches for ways to connect to God with an even stronger, unbreakable bond. This man serves with strength and commitment; every element of his service is an aspect of this effort to cleave to God in trustworthiness, and it is easy for him to stand against his Inclination.

In terms of being a completely righteous person, in all matters, unfettered by the Evil Inclination - this is very difficult indeed. But to be completely righteous in one thing, in one aspect of living in which he has no Evil Inclination – every single person is capable of reaching this level. For example, is any one of us inclined to desecrate the Shabbos, God forbid, or to eat forbidden foods, chametz on Pesach? And yet we see that there are others who are in fact inclined to do so, and transgress these matters. The reason is because we cleave to God in these specific matters (through observance of the halacha); God in turn believes in us concerning those things, and His belief in us draws us near Him in holiness - allowing such matters (like those examples mentioned above) to become engrained in our being entirely.

This is also an effect of our belief in God: when we serve Him with effort and commitment, then He believes in us. His belief in us strengthens our own belief in Him – and vice versa. “An arousal from below causes an arousal above.” – The degree that a person believes in God, this arouses God’s belief in him. Through these ‘mutual’ beliefs we are strengthened and connected to Him in a way that the Evil Inclination cannot recover from; quickly, we rise and ascend God’s mountain, to the place of His holiness. Thus, it is not possible for a man to attain a strong faith if he does not struggle with great effort and yearning to serve God, nor can he remain in a state of holiness without this strong faith. A man who sees that he is fickle – sometimes he works, other times he leaves his tasks, etc. – he knows that his belief, his faith is weak. He cannot arouse his belief in God, to draw it near and attach himself to it through service and holiness.

This is not to say that he has to be consistently on one level of service, for such a thing is impossible. A person must always be either ascending or descending. And yet, even when he lacks enthusiasm, when his service is weak – he is still a servant of God, and must certainly guard himself from sin.

Now, there is a type of belief that when a person sees a “sign” or experiences some form of salvation from God, he then believes in those things that are not as apparent. But complete belief is really when we do not see anything, quite the opposite – we see the enemies of God succeeding, and our loved ones suffering…! Even then, we believe: “I have kept faith although I say: ‘I suffer exceedingly.’” (Psalms 117:10) Even when “I say” words of supplication and Torah and still “I suffer exceedingly”, still “I have kept faith” in God. The result of this is that God believes in us - if only one would accept upon himself to strive, and choose willingly to sacrifice himself to Divine service despite blockages and setbacks in his path, God forbid.

It is impossible for a person to be considered wise if he has knowledge in only one area of interest: he has to be knowledgeable in many things, and then he can increase his wisdom in a particular field. This is also true of temperament; he must be good in all areas, not just one. Similarly, it is impossible to arouse one’s inner reserves of faith if he doesn’t work to nullify his sense of self, his ego - to some degree – in all matters. For what really causes damage to a man’s faith? - The fact that he “cannot grasp”, he “cannot understand”, and according to his “knowledge” things seem to be confused and distorted.

People say by way of questioning:

“I see that those who hate the Jews are successful, while the Jews are on a very low level. Moreover, within the Jewish community there are those Jews - true servants of God – who are very low, while the transgressors enjoy success. But we are not allowed to question anything, after all: ‘God is righteous in all His ways.’

A man only says this once this “question” forces itself into his mind; he pushes it away, but realizes that it is only “gone” in the most superficial of ways. In truth, in the recesses of his mind – without him even being aware of it – this thought can weaken his faith. This can be compared to a stone slowly eroded by water. This question – although it doesn’t seem to be such a terrible thought, because he recognizes that he cannot fathom God and His workings, and he continuously pushes it away – since it remains in his mind it chips away at his faith every time it arises. And this is directly tied to the extent that his “self” carries significance to him. Someone who’s “self” is important to him in other aspects: he sleeps as long as he wants to sleep, eats as much as he wants to eat, because his “self” wants what it craves, and he demands respect – his “self” is the foundation for his outlook. Therefore, his thoughts, his “comprehension” is the basis for everything as well; however much he wants to push that doubtful thought aside, it will still damage his faith, without his being aware of it.

On the other hand, one who – in all matters – submits himself and nullifies his sense of self (i.e. in terms of controlling his impulses of physicality), the same occurs with his thoughts. His “knowledge” is negated and his faith in God is strengthened without anything constraining it. Those who agonize over the damage done to their faith know that they need to mend their character traits.

And he trusted in God, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6) the sacred texts write that this is the greatness of charity, which atones for sin, in addition to sustaining the poor man. This is in part because a person puts a lot of effort into earning money, and now gives it to charity; in essence, he is giving part of himself. This is the explanation of the verse: we interpret “him” to refer to him giving himself If he would not give himself to God, then he would not be able to trust in Him as stated; since he believes in God, he arouses God’s belief in him as well, and attaches himself to God.

“Zion will be redeemed through justice”, but even after one has experienced redemption, he can regress, and return to that situation, God forbid. Therefore, “those who return to her,” meaning those who have returned after the redemption – “through righteousness” they give themselves to God and cleave to Him in faith and attach to Him.

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