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Healing Faith

The matzah that we will eat in another week is called "Michla DeMehemnuta" (Food of Faith) and "Michla DeAsvata" (Food of Healing). In the rectified state, it is faith that brings healing (as opposed to a less favorable condition, where healing from illness arouses faith). How does faith heal?

Faith hovers like a 'surrounding light,' without needing to engage with the specifics of reality. From its perspective, everything is always good, healthy, and whole. Illness is only felt when looking inwardly at reality, becoming painfully aware of all its deficiencies. For the encompassing faith to bring healing to the specifics of reality, it must be internalized and turned into inner knowledge that is expressed in all areas of life, bringing complete healing. In the spiritual realm, this inner knowledge is expressed in the observance of the 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. In the physical realm, it is expressed in the health of the 248 organs and 365 tendons (of a person, the 'small world,' and of the world, the 'large man'). Faith in God must become a guide in daily life, accomplished by fulfilling His commandments. Faith in God's goodness must manifest in reality, in visible and revealed good.

How can we bridge the gap between complete faith, and reality, replete with its ailments? How does faith, in which everything is whole and good, not stifle the sense of need and urgency to act that arises from reality? How does awareness of the difficulties of reality, of which it is said "He who increases knowledge increases sorrow,"[1] not lead to despair and blemish faith? To connect faith with knowledge, we need a force in the psyche called desire.

Desire is a fusion of pleasure and will. The sensation of future pleasure, when what is desired is achieved, makes the will profound, devoted, and much more empowering. The connection of pleasure and will is itself a product of faith. For example, when we strengthen our faith in the coming of Mashiach, we begin to feel the pleasure that will be present when the Mashiach arrives. As the sensation of pleasure intensifies, so does the desire-will to bring the Mashiach into reality. The two components of desire complement each other and bridge the gap between faith and knowledge: the sensation of future pleasure sweetens the despairing distress and turns the urge for change into joyful and believing renewal; the sensation of will overcomes the action-less perfection that may accompany faith (as the verse says, “The believer shall not make haste”) and spurs us to effect change.

The figure who most perfectly balances faith and knowledge-healing in the soul is the Mashiach: On one hand, no one believes more than he in his coming “today” (as he responded to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi's question of when he will come). On the other hand, no one is more sensitive to the pains of exile, like a leper who feels the afflictions and illnesses of the entire people of Israel in his body. Hence, the Divine attribute of 'desire' characterizes him more than anything, as it is said about him “Yet it pleased God to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of God shall prosper in his hand”.[2] Mashiach recognizes that God desires to afflict him so that he can physically feel the hardships of reality and tend to its healing. He is capable of accepting these sufferings with love and joy, because he also feels in them the future comfort and pleasure that will come. It is specifically in the wake of this that he merits the state of “the pleasure of God shall prosper in his hand” in bringing the true and complete redemption.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:18.

[2] Isaiah 53:10.

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