CheshvanReconstructing Rachel

Reconstructing Rachel: Return to Jewish Nature Part 4

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

The Jewish Month of Cheshvan

A Deeper Understanding:
Relating the Types to the Sefirot

In the previous chapter we explored three basic types of people in their service of God. These types can be defined as natural, unnatural and highly self-conscious.

The Right Axis: Flowing with the Natural Tide

A person who lives naturally, "flowing along" with things as they are in despair of the possibility to change his ways is located on the right axis of the sefirotic chart. This is the axis of natural flow and expansion. The movement of the right axis is the natural drift of water, gliding effortlessly from above to below. The right axis is the axis of love. When a person is motivated by love (watery love and not fiery love, which is characterized by actions over and above one's natural inclinations) his actions are natural and flowing.

When this natural flow in not rectified, it leads to despair. Nature is defined by the perpetuation of a given reality and the underlying belief in the cyclical nature of life. Service of God within the framework of nature is service that strives to be no more than "everyone else," incapable of changing the course of eternal reality. On a deeper level, the major force in unrectified and unmotivated natural flow is the law of entropy. Although at first glance the "natural types" may seem to be free flowing and unfettered, they in fact exist in straits from which they cannot escape. 

In ancient times, the law of entropy — the unrelenting disintegration of all reality – was most compellingly embodied by the Egyptian high priest. (The Hebrew word for "Egypt," Mitzrayim, is cognate to the Hebrew word for "straits," meitzarim). This belief reached its high point in the despair of Western religion in the possibility that man can change for the better. The unrectified flow of nature toward disintegration is the religion of Egypt — the religious source of all that which limits and imprisons man in his present state.

The Lower Right Axis: Netzach

If you believe that something can be broken, believe that it can be fixed

The person in the lower triplet on the right axis despairs of changing himself for the better. This is a flaw in the emotive power of netzach, whose inner dimension is confidence. The archetypal rectified netzachpersonality is Moses. His holy trait of netzach connects to the eternal and unchanging reality of God, which is above the ever-shifting human reality. The rectified trait of netzach in the World of Action is the power to fight despair, to overpower the disintegration of entropy and to initiate change and rectification. The personality that most exemplifies the struggle with unrectified netzach is Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, whose very name, Nachman, equalsnetzach (148) in Gematria.  Among Rabbi Nachman’s most famous teachings are "There is no despair at all in the world," and "If you believe that something can be broken, believe that it can be fixed."

The Upper Right Axis: Chesed

The person in the higher triplet on the right axis corresponds to the emotive power of chesedOn the surface, it does not seem that a person who serves God with the cold despair of ever ascending to greater spiritual heights fits into the definition of chesed —which expresses giving and love. Chassidut explains that with all the will to give and expand typified by the emotive power ofchesed, it is flowing but weak. The giving of chesed alone (without the addition of gevurah"might") is giving that has become second nature, void of the strength of purpose to overcome obstacles and to give even more.

The Left Axis: Unnatural Effort  

A person who lives unnaturally — who does not flow with the natural stream of things and strives to overcome his nature and to ascend to greater heights — is part of the left axis of the sefirotic chart. This is the axis of contracted gevurah"might." The movement of the left axis is ascent, as fire that aspires upward in an attempt to free itself of the wick that confines it within the reality of nature. The person on the left axis is motivated by the understanding that he must exert effort to extricate himself from the confines of his natural state.

When a person has basic fear of Heaven, he is more open to constantly improving his "natural flow."

Significantly, the personality types that are on the left axis, as exemplified in a rectified manner by fear of Heaven, are considered more positive. When a person has basic fear of Heaven, he is more open to constantly improving his "natural flow." This is the most direct path to true service of God.

The Lower Left Axis: Hod

The person in the lower triplet of the left axis — whose deeds are not positive but who prays to God to extricate him from his straits — corresponds to the emotive power of hod. A hod personality is full of thanks while admitting that he has erred. He does not accept his present reality as a pre-drawn conclusion. As one of the character traits of hod is passivity, this person will not initiate action to extricate himself from his present reality. He will rather suffice with prayer to God. The upward movement of the left axis is expressed in the emotive power of hod as non-complacency with one's present reality.

The Upper Left Axis: Gevurah

The person in the higher triplet of the left axis is the beinoni ("Intermediate") of the book of Tanya. He serves God against his nature. For this reason, he is constantly in a state of thanksgiving to God and prayer to Him. This corresponds to the emotive power of gevurah. In gevurah, non-complacency with one's present state is expressed with initiative. This person constantly strives to overcome his evil inclination. Because he is conscious that it is not natural for him to overcome his evil inclination, he is in a constant state of awe (the inner dimension of gevurah), apprehensive of the possibility that he will fall from his present state of Divine service. This leads him to sincere and heartfelt prayer to God to always help him to ascend to greater heights. 

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