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Mashiach and Jewish Leadership

Mashiach and Jewish Leadership: Part 29 – The Joy of Fulfilling Mitzvot

As with the two previous aspects of foolishness we see once again that the third level of holy folly follows the three stages of Divine service. First one enters into a state of submission, in order to free the ego from its inhibitions and to make "space" for experiencing the joy of the moment. Separation is accomplished by "putting the self to the side," so as not to detract from the pure intent of the mitzvah, to bring happiness to others and G-d. Finally after creating joy for others, one is able to taste the sweetness of joy emanating from the mitzvah itself.

Within the initial submission there must be a hint of sweetening in order to motivate action and within the level of sweetening there must be the "nothingness" of submission, in order to not get carried away with oneself. Thus is revealed the Kabbalistic notion that "the end is wedged in the beginning and the beginning in the end" (Sefer Yitzirah). While the foolishness of punishment relates most to submission and the foolishness of "insanity" to separation, holy folly corresponds most closely to the state of sweetening.

Reflecting once again on the verse which has served as our source for the concept of folly, we notice it states "a little foolishness." This seems befitting of the first two levels of foolishness, but appears limiting in relation to the overall goal of serving G-d continually with joy. Theoretically, there should be no limit to exuberance and ecstasy when approaching a mitzvah or the service of G-d.

There are two ways in which we can understand the word "little" in this context. David's statement to Michal–"…and I was lowly in my own eyes…"(Samuel II 6:22)–is more than an explanation of his inner feelings but is in actuality the prerequisite for enacting all levels of spiritual service. Making one's ego small creates more space for Divine wisdom and inspiration to enter. Great joy is born from the spiritual awareness and womb of "nothingness." When the ego is rectified and dedicated to serving G-d and making others happy, it becomes easy to "let go" and partake of the joy of a mitzvah.

Chassidut teaches on the verse (Deuteronomy 7:7), "It is not because you were the most numerous of peoples that G-d chose you, for you were the fewest of all people…" that G-d chose the Jewish People because of their ability to nullify their will to His will and by a Jew's instinctive selflessness in relation to others. The "smaller" we become as individuals and as a people, the greater we become in the eyes of G-d.

A second insight relating to "a little foolishness" is a statement in the Talmud that anyone who says Hallel everyday is "cursing G-d." Hallel is a compilation of Psalms of praise and thanksgiving included in the prayers only on the three pilgrimage holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, on Chanukah and the new moon. Reciting Hallel is to directly experience and express the miracle or festive energy of these special days. In our present state of consciousness it would be deceiving oneself and G-d to claim to feel the ongoing miracle of Creation in such an intense way as to justify reciting Hallel daily. In the world-to-come, a state of consciousness will be reached when the daily recitation of Hallel will be an appropriate expression of our awareness of G-d's continual presence and goodness.

Although we can not as yet expect to serve G-d unceasingly with such joyous ecstasy, it should nevertheless be a goal. On a transcendent level, the mitzvot are themselves only a means to enter into an elevated state of awe–and even higher–to a level of selflessness that reveals the joy of a mitzvah as its true intended purpose. The statement of the sages that "the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah" can be understood as "the reward of a mitzvah is the joy born of its fulfillment."

An enigmatic statement in the Talmud declares that after the Mashiach comes all the mitzvot will become null. At this lofty level, a mitzvahbecomes nullified in the light and spiritual pleasure of the joy emanating from it. As a candle at high noon is null to the brilliant light of the sun,mitzvot in the future will exist, but will become null in comparison to the dazzling light it produces within the soul. The inner revelation of light and pure joy derived from the fulfillment of mitzvot, especially those performed in the spirit of holy folly, will reveal that action is indeed the essence. When holy folly becomes infinitely great it will have the power to transform any mitzvah and produce spiritual pleasure beyond our present capacity to comprehend.

The Jewish leader, who is deeply connected to every soul, seeks to lead through example, inspiring those around him to relate to the world in a truly joyous manner. In so doing he helps clarify the spark of Mashiach within himself and others that waits to be revealed. When properly developed, this spark is transformed into the dynamic of leadership so needed by the Jewish People and the entire world. Ultimately each person is responsible to clarify and rectify his own spark of leadership, until the individual sparks combine to create a beacon of hope in a world of spiritual darkness.

There are countless practical applications and opportunities to manifest the five dynamics of leadership in our daily lives. As idealistic and transcendent as they may seem at times, they are the vision which drives us towards a balanced and integrated present and even more, a glorious future. Even the realization of but a spark of each dynamic is a step well worth taking as it says (Avot 2:16): "it is not upon you to finish the work, nor is it your prerogative to desist from it."

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