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Godly Senses

The ultimate purpose of creation is to make God a dwelling place here on earth. This is the mitzvah of “And they shall make for Me a Temple and I will dwell in their midst.”[1] It is the promise of “If you will walk in the path of My statutes…and I will make My dwelling place amongst you.[2]” As we know, the entire world is filled with God’s glory[3]. Nonetheless, in our simple experience of reality, we do not feel God’s presence. Thus, bringing God’s Immanent Presence (Shechinah) down to the world through the souls of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel and throughout the world is the great responsibility that rests on our shoulders.

How do we bring God’s Presence down to earth? We have to purify our physical senses and bind them to spirituality so that we experience God’s Presence in every facet of reality. When our senses are sullied and coarse, they cannot perceive Divinity. Using our senses for forbidden input corrupts them. When we see, hear or touch things that are prohibited, we impair our ability to experience God in reality. This ability is not impaired only by prohibited experience, but also by neutral experience. If we use our senses to experience reality, relate to it and are impacted by it as being detached from its Divine source, we tarnish those senses. This undermines our perception of true reality and embeds within it a false worldview, in which God has no part.

To our sorrow, this false perception of reality is our basic experience. Even if a person is careful not to use his senses for anything prohibited (quite an achievement), using them for neutral things is our inborn nature. The world inundates our senses with a deluge of experiences that are separate from God (both permissible and prohibited), which scorch the soul. How can this be rectified?

The soul that ‘swallows’ negative experiences, needs to be ‘koshered’ – just as we kosher non-kosher vessels in a pot of boiling water. We need to do something that will cause the soul to discharge these experiences. Hence, when the soul leaves this world, it has to immerse in the River Dinur (River of Fire), so that it will forget the visualizations of this world – the experience of this world’s reality. (A person who has sinned and performed prohibited acts is cleansed in purgatory, while all souls immerse in the River Dinur to purify them from permissible experiences). Rectification on our way to the World of Truth, however, is not enough. Our goal, after all, is to bring the Shechinah into this world – preferably without boiling cauldrons or fire.

Our master the Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that the rectification and elevation of our senses – and with them, all the reality that they perceive – is by using those very senses in a rectified manner. For example, if a person looks at the letters of the holy Torah with love, looks at a picture of a tzaddik, or performs the mitzvah of “lift your eyes to Heaven and see Who created these things”[4], he rectifies his sense of sight and elevates all the neutral visuals that he has seen – and even those that are forbidden. When we hear words of Torah, stories of tzaddikim, or stories of Divine Providence with an inner sense of hearing that feels God’s Presence – we rectify our sense of hearing and elevate all the neutral things that we heard: the news and even gossip and evil speech.

The ultimate purpose of elevating the senses is a rectified world in which God’s glory is revealed. “And all flesh will see together that the mouth of God has spoken.”[5] “For eye to eye they will see when God returns to Zion.”[6]

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[1] Exodus 25:8.

[2] Leviticus 26:11

[3] Isaiah 6:3.

[4] Isaiah 40:26.

[5] Isaiah 40:5.

 

[6] Isaiah 52:8.

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