Category Archives: D’vekut
“We can overcome the negative influences in our immediate environment, just as the Macabees conquered the Greeks and rededicated the holy Temple. The question is how? What does it mean to us today that the Greeks defiled all of the oil in the Temple then?
“Defiling the oil” at the individual level is a reference to the increased power and control of the person’s animal or natural soul in its battle with the divine soul for control of the body. Increased power of the animal soul means that a person’s spiritual senses are blocked giving them an increased awareness and pleasure in the physical world around them. Still, in the end, a small vial of pure oil will be found, sealed with the seal of the High Priest, and with this vial we are able once again to fully connect to holiness and light up the darkness around and inside us, as it says in Proverbs, “G-d’s candle is the soul of man”.
The ‘High Priest’ is the inextinguishable point of one’s Judaism….
How can this be? Do we live in some kind of fairy tale or dream that we can fall so low and still rise out of this deep pit? The answer is better than the question! “The hand of the High Priest is there to intervene. Maimonides describes how the High Priest must be: “His beauty and power is that he sits in the holy Temple the entire day, even his home must be in Jerusalem – whose name is derived from the words, “Yira shalem”, meaning total and encompassing awe – he never leaves”.
In the individual, the “High Priest” is the inextinguishable point of one’s Judaism, called Yechida of the soul, the 5th and highest level of the soul that is always tied to the Divine. Every other level of the person’s soul has a balancing evil counterpart, while Yechida is unique in its pristine purity and completeness, existing above all the others. The problem is that sometimes, especially when faced by a trial, this level of the soul, the High Priest within us, can fall asleep (Tanya ch. 19), and our vial of oil becomes hidden.
If we search, we will find….
Two ways exist to recover our vial of oil: The first is to find and connect ourselves to the High Priest in our generation. He is the Jewish leader who, like the High Priest of old, never leaves the “Temple”, never leaves holiness, just as the Jewish people were led to victory by the Priests during the battle with the Greeks. Only he is able to give to all those connected to him, their vial of oil that can light up the soul, even if it appears that all of the oil in us and around us has been contaminated. But, it is up to us to search, and if we search, we will find.
The second way is to totally immerse ourselves in the study of the Torah, especially the inner dimensions of Torah, which is compared to oil. It matters not if part of us says we do not need to study, or if we think we learned enough, or even if we completely understand what we are studying. Just as the Jewish armies were ready to battle to the death against the Greeks, we need to push ahead beyond our normal capacities and the limitation of our strength and intellect until, like our ancestors, we are victorious in the battle. This is why Chanukah is 8 days – the number eight representing “beyond nature”. Through our victory and the recovery of our vial of oil, two things will be accomplished: the destruction of the evil within us and the impact on those around us. And as the Torah promises, when you influence those around you, the impact on ourselves is 1000 times more.
We can see this hinted at in the first verse of parashat Miketz, “It was at the end of two years that Pharaoh dreamed and behold, he was standing by the Nile [in Hebrew, ‘Y’ohr’, like the word for ‘light’, ‘ohr’]”. Rebbe Bunim of Parshischa would say to read and interpret the verse as follows: It came time to end the years of Pharaoh’s dreaming (i.e. the evil part of our nature). So what did the person do? He stood by the source of the light (ohr), as the verse says: “The Mitzvah is the candle. and the Torah is the light.”‘
Shabbat Shalom & Happy Chanuka! Shaul
Binding Myself to G!d:
The practice of putting on t’phillin (phylacteries) can be a powerful way to ‘bind the body to G!d’, to physically attach the body – which at times might seem gross, or un-spiritual – to G!d, to the soul. The body, in truth, is already holy and spiritual, but our work is to take command of this holy vehicle and put it into the service of G!d and the soul. The body on its own is ruled by animal instincts; through conscious effort we place the body in control of the soul, in Divine service, service to others, to the world, to something outside of its own personal wants and needs. Putting in t’phillin with this intention may physically help someone achieve this transformation.