CheshvanReconstructing Rachel

Reconstructing Rachel: Return to Jewish Nature – Part 3

Secrets of the Jewish Year
Holiday Messages and Meditations on the Jewish Year

Reconstructing Rachel:
Return to Jewish Nature

 Part 3
Reconstructing Rachel in our Service of God

The coming chapters were translated from Rabbi Ginsburgh's Hebrew article,
"Binyan Hateva Heyehudi."

In the previous chapters we learned how we can return to true, Jewish nature on a national level. In the following chapters, we will explore the ways in which we can return to our true, Jewish nature in our service of God.

Seven Paths in Service of God

From the Ba'al Shem Tov we learn that there are seven paths in the service of God, corresponding to the sevensefirot from chesed to malchut. The Ba'al Shem Tov delineates three basic types of people who are not walking in the path of God — be it because they never learned about God or because they have fallen from a higher level of Divine service. Each of the three types reacts to their situation in a different manner:

  • A person who is not walking in the way of God, but does not feel that anything is amiss.

  • A person who knows that he is not walking in the way of God, but who continues in his ways and does not pray for Divine intervention to help him to mend his ways.

  • A person who is not walking in the way of God, but cries out to God with all his heart to help him.

Blithe Self-Deception

The first type of person described above is in the very worst way. Not only is he not conscious that his ways are negative, but he is quite satisfied with his life and actions, convinced that his ways have proven themselves to be right. Immersed in evil, this person is so self-centered and proud that he may even develop theories to explain how his behavior is actually the most true and rational.

Natural Despair

The second type of person knows that his ways are wrong, but despairs of any possibility of change or rectification. He believes that life is unchanging and inflexible — what was in the past will be in the future — one has little or no power to make a change. This person is not necessarily unhappy and does not necessarily feel a desperate need to change. He is conscious that he should improve his ways. However, he flows along with the natural tide of his life, convinced that real change or improvement is beyond the realm of his capabilities.

The Fighter

The third type of person knows that his ways are wrong and truly wishes to change. This person also does not believe that he is capable of changing his ways. Unlike the second type, though, he does not fall into despair. When his own strength of will fails him, he turns to God, begging Him to extricate him from his straits. Although this person's actions are still not positive, the Ba'al Shem Tov said that he is on a spiritual level at which he effects unifications (of which he, himself is unaware.) Of all the types of people who are not walking in the way of God, this person is on the highest level.

The Types, the Sefirot and the Axes

Now that we have a basic understanding of the three types, we can understand how they fit into the basicsefirotic model, and how the other types will also fit in. Common to the three types of people that the Ba'al Shem Tov described is the fact that they are not yet consciously serving God. They thus correspond to the lowest, most vulnerable triplet on the sefirotic structure — netzachhod and yesod.

Each of these three sefirot is positioned on a different axis on the sefirotic structure, right, left and middle, respectively. It is important to understand why each type corresponds to its particular sefirah, why each sefirahis positioned on its particular axis, and what implications this holds in our service of God.

The Higher Triplet

The three types enumerated by the Ba'al Shem Tov can be classified as two who have a consciousness of their negative ways and one who oblivious or proud of his negative ways. Of the two conscious types, one is willing to accept his current situation and the other strives to improve himself. In the higher triplet of types we can also expect to find two types with similar consciousness of their situation — with one tending toward despair and the other to prayer — and a third type with a more prideful consciousness.

The Haughty "Tzadik"

Parallel to the first type described by the Ba'al Shem Tov in the lower sefirot, the first type in the higher sefirotalso suffers from a prideful consciousness. As this type is in the higher triplet of sefirot, he serves God — performing His commandments, studying Torah and doing good deeds. However, he is bursting with pride of his "righteous" nature, certain that all of his deeds find favor in the eyes of God and that no one is more righteous than he.

Rote Service of God

Parallel to the person who despairs of improving in the lower triplet, the second type in the higher triplet also lives in despair. Unlike the first type, he fulfills God's commandments without feelings of pride. They are second nature to him. This very feeling of "second nature" prevents him from "taking off" and ascending to a higher, more heartfelt level of Divine service. Like his counterpart in the lower sefirot, he is convinced that he is incapable of achieving greater heights and filling his Divine service with deeper meaning.

The Indefatigable Prayer

Parallel to the person who strives to better his ways in the lower triplet, the third type in the higher triplet eternally struggles against what he sees as his base nature. Although he is actively involved in fulfilling God's will, he knows that there is much room for improvement, and strives to constantly better his ways. This person is well aware that all the good that he does is unnatural to him. He battles his evil inclination and knows that without Divine intervention he hasn't a chance to emerge victorious. This person constantly prays for God to help him to conquer his natural evil inclination. In his consciousness he is eternally thankful to God for helping him to overcome his evil. He simultaneously prays that God will continue to help him to come closer to Him. This person is the proverbial "Intermediate" (beinoni) of the book of Tanya — a spiritual level that we must all strive to achieve.

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