Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tazria: The Dark is Darker But the Light is Lighter

In earlier times, the appearance of tzaraas on one’s person, home or belongings was an indication that something was wrong with the person’s avodah. The question is, why is there no more tzaraas today? When tzaraas was visible was it more of a berachah or a curse?

Let’s talk a little about free choice. For every person and in every season in history there needs to be enough of a balance between the clarity of Hashem’s presence in the world and the forces of evil.

Klal Yisroel were at a level where their relationship with Hashem was very explicit. There were prophets. There were  ongoing manifestations of Hashem’s graphic and dramatic intervention in our lives in such a way that one could not deny that there was a Creator. There was a personal relationship between the Creator and man.

Along with living in a time of great revelation, there was the fact that people – their neshamos, their bodies – were unobstructed in such a way that the Ribono shel Olam’s message to man could be transmitted so clearly that a person’s skin erupted in tzaraas. That was a form of indirect prophecy; it was Hashem speaking to a person and telling him that there is something going on.

However, commensurate with that comes whatever forces of evil that are necessary in order to create the requisite balance. If we were to have that kind of open expression of the Divine, there would have to be some very formidable forces to provide a counterbalance so that there is no free ride. We don’t have prophecy today, nor do we have indications that are terribly clear about what we are doing that is not right. That part of it is clearly not in our best interest because when we were living in a time when there was an immediate cause and effect relationship, we knew when we were veering off the path. But since we are living in a time when the kedusha is less explicit, the forces are going to change commensurately so that the force of evil that confronts us is not going to be of the same caliber as it was then.

The blessing and the curse are inseparable. We could not have the blessing today unless we could withstand that magnitude of evil. Therefore, we still find ourselves in a place where we have free choice. The bechira in that time was benefited by the fact that you had the council of these afflictions to tell you when you were off base, but then you also had to contend with a very strong pull towards avodah zara, for example, which we cannot really fathom today.

The question of “was it better or worse to have tzaraas” is not necessarily determined by the explicitness of these phenomena, because if you were to ask somebody at that time how hard it was to hold on to holiness, they still would have told you that it’s a big battle.

Rav Tzadok Hakohen brings in the name of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa that yeridas hadoros, the constant incremental decline as the generations move further and further from Sinai, is an issue of diminution in one’s personal greatness. We can’t approach today what it was like to be a Rebbe Akiva or a Baal Shem Tov. The Rebbe Reb Bunim says, however, that even though in every generation the greatness becomes smaller and smaller, the "nekuda hapnimis", the innermost core of a Jew’s soul, becomes purer and purer.

History is a kiln. You put something in to be purged. It can only achieve its purity by being subjected to enormous heat. So even though we are smaller, the inner essence is becoming ever closer to where it is supposed to be.

At the end of history – where we find ourselves today – we are in a very, very dark forest. We are deep in a place where light seldom reaches us and in very minute quantities.

In survival training, they bring these young kids out to the middle of nowhere and give them nothing but a matchstick, a paper cup and a needle (or something like that), and they’ve been taught skills of survival so that they know what to do. They know how to build protection out of branches and leaves, how to look for water, how to do all the things they need to do. The objective is for the participants to come out of this experience somehow stronger in character and self-worth.

That is where we are now in history. The Ribono shel Olam trusts us to finish up history by sending our neshamos into this very, very dark part of time where there is not a whole lot of light by which to make our way. On the other hand, as the Rebbe Reb Bunim says, our neshama is growing stronger. That makes us the ones who are best equipped to write the last chapter of history.

When we talk about man’s soul we are dealing with something that is manifest in a certain progression. The highest component of the neshama cannot interact with the physical world. We start out with the lowest form of the human soul which has the closest relationship with the body: nefesh habahami, the animal soul. Then we have progressively higher and higher manifestations of the neshama, and each one interacts only through the mediation of the others. The highest, innermost part of the neshama, the part that was originally the closest thing to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, has no way of touching the physical word. The world is too coarse.

As time goes on and history progresses, Klal Yisroel goes through all of the challenges and adversities that it needs to in order to  complete its work. The neshama is gradually completing its mission and thereby becoming stronger, more luminous, purer. And when it reaches the end of time, the barrier that disallows the luminosity from taking over will be removed. And then the full brilliance of the neshama will become manifest. All the things that in some way sullied the neshama get worked out over time. Then the last barrier will be taken away.

True, we cannot do the sort of things that previous generations could do. But what we are supposed to be doing is proceeding, and the closer we get to the end the closer we get to finishing up.

Does spiritual clarity make choices any clearer? The dark is darker, but the light is lighter.

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