Wednesday, July 27, 2016

533 - Da'as Atzmeinu 2 (Korach)

Rav Wolbe states that his intention is not to give an all encompassing description of the numerous character traits. Rather, his goal is to clarify the proper way to relate to various different middos and traits that are found within ourselves.

Chazal (Sanhedrin 91a) relate an interesting conversation that took place between the Roman emperor Antoninus and Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi. Antoninus contended that both the body and the soul have the ability to absolve themselves from punishment in the world to come. The body can claim that it wasn't he who was at fault for the misdeeds. The proof is that from the time the soul took leave of the body the body lay lifeless in the ground. On the other hand, the soul counters that he certainly wasn't to blame and it too comes armed with proof. From the time the soul left the body it has been floating in the air like a bird. Accordingly, challenged Antoninus, it seems that one cannot be tried and punished for his transgressions!

Rebbi responded by way of a parable. A king had a beautiful orchard and he enlisted two guards to protect the gorgeous fruits - one blind and one lame. The lame man said to his blind friend, "I see delicious fruit. Please carry me on your shoulders and I will pick fruits for both of us." That is what happened and they both enjoyed a feast. Sometime later the king visited his orchard and asked the guards what happened to all his fruit. The lame man responded that he certainly could not be accused of perpetrating the crime because he doesn't even have legs with which to walk. The blind man claimed that he couldn't have been at fault since he couldn't even see the fruits in the first place. What did the king do? He placed the lame guard on top of his blind friend and judged them as one. So too, Hashem takes the soul and returns it to the body and judges them both together.
In a similar vein, says Rav Wolbe, the functions of the body and soul (כוחות הנפש והגוף) are both employed as "guards" for the orchard of pleasures in this world. The only difference between them is that the physical functions are blind while the functions of the soul are lame. The pleasures involved in living, eating and drinking, creating a family and love of one's children, prompt the body to do everything in its power to remain alive and carry out these activities. The bodily functions do an excellent job of ensuring proper existence in this world. Yet, they are "blind," since they can't see the goal of their work.
In contrast, the soul is the guard gifted with sight. It sees the goal and has the ability to give direction to our lives. It guides us toward what we should strive, for Whom we should work and what we are meant to achieve. It guards a person from abusing his strengths and working for naught. The problem is that it is "lame" since it is lacks the ability to execute its desires. For that, it needs the body which was created with the ability to perform all the various functions needed for proper survival.
However, there is a catch. Fulfillment of any craving brings us pleasure, and thus, from day one we have become accustomed to a never ending cycle of hunger - appetite - tasting food - pleasure - satiation - pleasure of feeling satisfied. The same applies to the rest of the bodily desires. This cycle triggers the imagination, causing it to create a picture of the pleasure, not as a means of survival but as an end unto itself. Instead of the hunger working to ensure that the body receives proper nutrition, the "guards" of the body begin to misuse their position and cause the body to crave food and other necessities purely for the sake of pleasure. Pleasure without purpose defeats the very purpose of our existence.
With this in mind, there is no reason to be embarrassed from any of the desires and cravings found within us. If Hashem put them there then none of them are lowly since they are all imperative for our existence here on earth. Our job is to make sure that they remain aligned and to avoid searching for pleasure in the wrong pastures!

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