Wednesday, July 27, 2016

536 - Da'as Atzmeinu 5 (Pinchas)

There are four basic elements that make up all matter: fire, water, wind and dirt. Rav Chaim Vital writes (Sha'arei Kedusha) that, so too, all Middos are rooted in these very same four elements. After clarifying for ourselves what our main Middos are, we should try to classify the Middos into these four categories. Doing so will point the direction that we should follow when trying to rectify our middos.
The element of fire symbolizes the drive to advance and conquer. It manifests itself in the negative middos of arrogance, and in turn anger when things don't go as wished. Additionally, it propels a person to pursue honor and it breeds feelings of hatred when others stand in his way. The flip side of these middos is the virtue of anivus - humbleness which prevents anger and breeds love.
The element of water symbolizes food, and the love and pursuit of pleasures. Included in this category is jealousy and the obsession with money or other desires. The positive side is using all pleasures for their specific purpose and not for partaking of pleasures for the sake of the pleasure itself.
The element of wind manifests itself with "shooting the breeze" i.e. speaking for no purposeful reason. Included are lying, flattery, speaking lashon hara and self glorification. The opposite is opening one's mouth only when doing so is commendable or needed.
Dirt, the final and lowliest element, is the cause for feelings of depression, laziness and despair. The parallel positive middos are the cognizance that everything Hashem does is for the best and the ability to serve Hashem with happiness.
Rav Wolbe urges us to study the first two chapters in Rav Chaim Vital's Sha'arei Kedusha which discuss the four elements and the importance of having good middos. Therein he writes that there are 248 limbs and 365 sinews in a human body. There are also 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments which parallel each of these parts of the body. The fulfillment of the mitzvos is what gives "life" to the parts of the body, and it was with this intention that we were commanded to perform the mitzvos and fulfill the dictums of the Torah.
Although Chazal relate to various negative middos in the most severe terms, interestingly enough, the middosare, for the most part, not included in the 613 commandments of the Torah. Rav Chaim Vital explains that good middos are crucial for the proper performance of the mitzvos. Accordingly, the acquisition of good middosprecedes the performance of mitzvos and thereforemiddos are not discussed in the Torah. Moreover, someone who has already acquired good middos will be able to perform all the mitzvos with much ease!
Good middos are not only the essential ingredients for good relationships, they are also the essential ingredients for the performance of the mitzvos. So invest some time into avodas ha'middos and reap the priceless dividends!

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