Based on the Book:
In our first class we discussed the following:
We introduced the book in a general way including an introduction to the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Saffron his student 5 generations removed from his physical life. We also discussed the idea of the Shechinah and repairing the Shechinah from the holes or damages we have created within her. We discussed the concept of Good and Evil and how evil can come from good. We discussed why HaShem created evil as a tool for spiritual growth. Now for class 2 which starts with Section 5.
Hebrew Verse Transliterated
Aval BeEmet Ati Shapeer, Ki HaRah He Kisay All HaTov, Kimoh "WeParah Hakariv", Shehakariv Labam LaAviham Shebashmim
Here Rabbi Saffron continues with the passage he is quoting from Rabbi Yaakov Yosef: "In truth, this makes sense to me meaning Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, for evil is always, also, a throne for good. This is similar to how the Midrash interprets the verse from Exodus: "And Pharaoh approached." Yet this verse also literally translates as, "Pharaoh causes them (the Israelites) to draw close." The meaning is "Pharaoh causes their hearts to draw close to their Father in heaven." This ends the passage from Rabbi Yaakov Yosef who was quoting the Baal Shem Tov.
And so in truth, it all makes beautiful sense, for if we follow the Zohar's advice, then evil becomes a throne for good just as the throne supports the preeminent one who sits upon it, so does evil serve the principle attribute which is good. Evil instigates us to seek relief from the pain it causes, or to deepen trust in the goodness of God despite appearances to the contrary. In the process, we grow in maturity, expanding consciousness, and deepen our relationship with HaShem. And what produced all these holy improvements? One has to admit that it was the threat of or actual discomfort of evil. In this way evil becomes a throne for good. We will now provide a biblical example. When the Israelites escaped from Egypt they camped by the sea. Pharaoh approached in hot pursuit. The terror of an impending massacre propelled the children of Israel to access a super rational trust in God. They had developed certainty in HaShem. The Hebrew word for approach הקריב Hey Kuf Reish Yood Bet also translates as "cause to come close." Pharaoh's evil and murderous intent caused the Israelites to come close to their Father in heaven. To turn their hearts to God, to access a whole new depth of faith.
There are many faces of evil but they divide into two main categories called natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes disasters like earthquakes and floods that can take the lives of thousands in a single sweep yet there is no one to blame directly. The catastrophe was not due to the action or inaction of a single or identifiable human agent. In legal parlance these natural calamities are called acts of God and indeed they are.
Moral evil results from a perpetrator who intentionally inflicts the wrongdoing. Cruelty, theft, murder, abuse, genocide -- these are all moral evils. Human beings are free agents, who make choices and are responsible for the physical, legal, and spiritual repercussions of those choices. Moral evil can properly apply to willful acts by identifiable human beings.
In the passages translated herein, Rabbi Saffron does not distinguish between these two categories. Perhaps because the Baal Shem Tov teaches that every tribulation whether natural or inflicted by a depraved perpetrator is also, in part, an active act of God, who is called HaShem. The Baal Shem Tov asserts that every circumstance of our lives -individual or collective, good or bad, just or unjust, natural or contrived -- happens because the master of the universe determined that this was the most efficient and least painful way to accomplish a necessary Tikune, a necessary correction.
This does not mean that we do not prosecute moral evil. The Torah is filled with moral directives and instructions about how to punish offenders. Yet at the same time the victims are also exhorted to trust that the ordeal served some mysterious purpose in their lives which will eventually become clear, whether in this world or in the next. (This idea will be developed at length section 15).
And it is also possible that natural evil is not so simply a blameless event. Perhaps it is a heavenly response to human wrongdoing. The Bible testifies that Noah's flood was prompted by the unrepentant cruelties and perversities of that generation.
From the Baal Shem Tov's perspective, all those who are confronted with evil (whether natural or moral) should examine their deeds, converse with HaShem to discern His message, and simultaneously pursue justice through the courts or even take up arms, whatever is the most appropriate response under the circumstances.
Hebrew Verse Transliterated
Rah Mabichen Et Hatov, SheEim Lo He' Harah Weharashayim, Lo Hayah Nichar Hatov Kalal, Wehe' Nachashiv Calah HaYood, WeAyin Yood HaRaAyam Weharashyam Hamitzrayim, HAarah Mebachen Et Hatov, WenatAla Hatov BeHatgalot Ohr Gadol, Ki Kavod YedaAt Ki Ain Shum Rah BaOlan Ki Kol Hamachshavot Zarot Weraot, Hen MaAhavat RaOt Wekiyotza Kulam BaAin LaTachlit HaTov, LaOrer Adam LaAchavat Hashem Yetabarecha
Evil distinguishes good in the sense that if there were no evil villains, it would not be possible to recognize virtue at all. Good would be effectively non-existent. It is only through iniquity and evildoers that will oppress the innocent and good, by contrast, becomes noteworthy and perceptible. And this causes the good to ascend to even higher levels and find the opportunity to arise and for it to now reveal its great light. The foregone conclusion is that there is no 100% evil in the world. All these godless and evil thoughts have fewer roots-they come from higher love. But these lofty lights have fallen and are now manifest as illicit loves, yet since their hidden roots are truly good, they will produce good by eventually awakening cells or their victims to an even deeper love of God.
This is what the Sefer Yetzirah intends by its mysterious claim, "Good defines evil. And evil defines good." If not for the contrast provided by iniquity and evildoers, it would be impossible to discern their opposite. Good would be completely invisible and effectively nonexistent. Instead, now, with the contrast of bad we can enjoy the gift of good. In fact, one could even say that it is the criminals and the evil minded oppressors that enable us to appreciate the value, the gift, and the pleasure of good. The more intense the evil, the more radiant and precious the light appears. The darker the backdrop for more luminous glow.
And when evil catalyzes positive effect the sparks get raised, which is always good. On the most basic level just approaching right in contrast to wrong actually redeems the evil that provided the contrast. The awareness of, "Oy! If I do not want to end up in that man's shoes, I need to make different decisions now-" that insight actually redeems (in some slight and subtle way) the one whose bad example prompted it.
The implication is profound. When evil is viewed from a larger perspective which includes the long chain of cause and effect initiated by its cruel stings, we always find that in the end hideous evil has produced an even greater measure of good. That is the spiritual law. When isolated and viewed as a slice on its own, evil is pure unqualified chaos and suffering. But when viewed from this comprehensive perspective, evil is not simply evil, it is a dreadful though surefire catalyst for good. From a Kabalistic angle this makes sense, for if one traces evil back to its first root, then we always finds fallen love or misdirected lust which are the same thing. Evil always originates from some faulty but Holy root. A hairline crack at its core, inherited from primal primordial events, gross, course, or more deviant as it moves down through the worlds. But it hits the physical plane; this gaping soul wound now harbors a repository of darkness. But in the end, the evil will redeem its fall in love by catalyzing a whole new capacity to know and love HaShem.
There are many faces of evil but they divide into two main categories called natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes disasters like earthquakes and floods that that can take what the lives of thousands in a single suite (act) if there is no one to blame. The catastrophe was not due to the action or inaction of a human agent. In legal parlance these natural calamities are callbacks of God, and indeed they are.
In my opinion an act of God is actually an act caused by acts of man and mankind. They are wakeup calls to a community to do Teshuvah. Unfortunately, people choose to not see this connection. They say we will build again right here. They do not change. Therefore, the actions needs to come again to wake them up or HaShem Forbid come in a worse way. The negativity that created the Act of God has been cleansed, if people changed even one iota it would not be necessary to come again. One of HaShem's Attribute of Mercy is Patience. HaShem waits until the negative actions reoccur and then sends another more severe act of HaShem. Eventually people die if they do not change. What is a small change? Move away from the cleansed area. Do not rebuild in the same location. Accept the loss of all of the physical items as a substitute for your own life which is what is truly needed to be sacrificed to cleanse your negative actions.
Moral evil results from a perpetrator who intentionally afflicts the wrongdoing. Cruelty, theft, murder, abuse, genocide-these are all moral evils. Human beings are free agents, who make choices and are responsible for the physical, legal, and spiritual repercussions of those choices. Moral evil only properly applies to willful acts. In the passages translated herein Rabbi Safran does not distinguish between these two categories. The reason? Perhaps because the Baal Shem Tov teaches that every tribulation whether natural or inflicted by a depraved perpetrator, is also, in part, an act of God. The Baal Shem Tov asserts that every circumstance of our lives-individual or collective, good or bad, just or unjust, natural or could happen because the master the universe determined that this was the most efficient and least painful way to accomplish a necessary-unnecessary correction.
This does not mean that we do not prosecute moral evil. The Torah is filled with moral directives and instructions about how to punish offenders. Yet at the same time the victims are also extort extorted to trust that the ordeal serve some mysterious purpose in their lives which will eventually become clear, whether in this world or in the next. This idea will be developed at length in section 15. And it is also possible that natural evil is not simply a blameless event. Perhaps it is a heavenly response to human wrongdoing the Bible testifies that Noah's flood was prompted by the unrepentant cruelties and persecutions of that generation.
From the Baal Shem Tov's perspective all those who are confronted with natural or unnatural chaos – meaning Acts of God or simple chaos in their life should examine their deeds, converse with meditation, if necessary, to discern his message, and simultaneously pursue justice through the courts or even take up arms whatever is the most appropriate response under the circumstances.
chanoch's CommentaryIn my own experience this past week after arriving in Salt Lake City, I fell out of bed to the floor while sleeping. As you see I walk with a cane. Getting up from the floor is not an easy task for me as it once was. It is an indication that I have done some negative acts that I have yet to do Teshuvah. Most people having had this event happen would have laughed at it. Which I did since joy is the tool to respond to all chaos. In addition I asked myself why was this happening at this time and in this place and this issue. What is the lesson for me to learn? What is my wakeup call all about? I tell you this as a teacher to a student to realize your teacher is not such a nice person. I tell you this so that you will consider simple things like everyday events to be possible wakeup calls for you. Use the tools of Kabbalah if you know them to evaluate these simple everyday events of chaos and stop accepting the physical perception of the physical world. You and I live in the physical world yet we are told in the Torah to see the physical events as spiritual events as well.
Hebrew Verse Transliteration
Webecall Davar Rah Mebachayan EWt HaTov, Wecashvah Lo EYazah Hatlahatot Medah Nafolah YaAmein BaAhmonah Shelimah, Ki Gam Shem Yechodo Yitbarach, WeZeh Shniirah Rah Bo LehaAlota LaTov Amiti LeAhhavta HaShem Yitbarech, Ki Kamo SheOmdah BeRah, Eiom YaHaMod BaNisyon, Welo Hamashiach Et Nafsho Achar Harah YitAlah Nafsho Lomdaradet Ruach HakBarigah Echad Lehotov Shevo, Kemo Shedoah Mekamah MaAshyot, Hovoh Bakadmonim.
It is always true that evil hones while it begets good. And when there appears some passionate impulse from a fallen stimulus, one should believe in perfect faith that even here in this fall, in this place, HaShem's oneness resides whenever the evil appears, it comes to catalyze a true good, which always results in a deeper love of God. For just as when a person finds himself confronting evil, if he can hold his own and pass the test and not allow himself to be drawn to be evil, you can elevate his soul food levels of divine inspiration in a single instant by accessing the good that is very fair as the higher, hidden root of that evil. There are numerous stories of our ancestors describing this experience in the simple stories of the Torah.
chanoch adds: If one wants to learn Torah at a Pshat – simple unclothed way – do it this way. Look for the simple spiritual along with the simple physical understanding.
The illusions of something other than God are examples of evil manifesting. This manifestation takes place in many ways on many fronts both outside and in. The fact that it reflects our core soul - wound, inherited from primordial times does not negate our duty and capacity to choose a spiritually productive response. Evil comes to hone good - period. When illusion causes a lust for something harmful or forbidden, the first step is to remember and know that God is present in this fallen moment and even within the thought itself. This is what it means that God is one and there is nothing but God. The second step is to know that this difficult moment is rich in potential for good. The third step is to know that this challenge with its hidden spark of divinity will definitely succeed in actualizing its potential producing this good. The only question is when will the good appear from within the illusion of evil; will it be sooner or later? And that depends in part (chanoch adds: if not in whole) on us. If we can find the strength and the will to resist its undertow. It is possible to harness this wayward impulse, and extract its potential for good right there on the spot. The rewards of this strategy are great individuals report a kind of spiritual opening, akin to prophecy, that occurs when they pass such a test and their lives are changed forever.
chanoch adds: We all remember that moment in our lives when HaShem shows us the goal of Good. If you don't remember that moment you can not be on a spiritual quest. This is what is being referred to in the paragraph above.
The following story describes an incident, where evil's net of illusion was quite elusive. A test arose in which both options have merit-each choice could plausibly claim to be the high road. The more evolved the person the more subtle the evils they are expected to discern - slight trespasses that would not even register as such for most people. Even on this rarefied level a right choice can change one's destiny and release an unexpected shower of divine inspiration.
In the year 1573 there lived in Israel and Israel's holy city of Tzefat a simple Jew who knew how to pray, but who never learned to study Torah. Despite his lack of normal religious training was exceptionally proper in his deeds and modest in his ways. One night, when he had completed his midnight prayer, Elijah the prophet who appears to the most selective and worthy of scholars knocked at his front door.
When the man asked who's there? “I am” a heavenly voice responded, Elijah the prophet, may he be remembered for good. The man opened the door, the prophet entered, and his home filled with light and joy. Elijah explained he had come to teach this man the blessed secrets of Kabbalah. Elijah even proposed to reveal the most sought-after mystery of all. The secret of what will be in the end of days, and when and how the Messiah will arrive. All this Elijah offered with one condition: the man must share with him what he did on his Bar Mitzvah day that was so meritorious that the effect was the reward of the Prophet Elijah being in his house today.
The man sat for a moment and considered how to proceed. Less than an instant passed before he spoke, but these are the thoughts that raced through his heart in that split second:
On one hand this was the greatest gift a person could possibly receive, there was no greater honor than knowing this information and that his own soul desired nothing more than to learn with Elijah the prophet and be initiated into the mysteries of Messiah.
Yet his Bar Mitzvah deed was something that he has done in complete concealment to avoid an ego gratification so as to keep it utterly pure and for God's sake alone. How could he break his silence now?
But he would say only what was done and he would only be telling Elijah and not the world. Surely Elijah has his best interests in mind. Surely allies wouldn't ask such a thing if it wasn't the right response.
But as he moved to speak, his secret is soul screamed, " No!" Even this would tarnish the purity of his action. Even this would detract from that pure and selfless offering to God. If he now used that private and tender moment for self-gain (even if Elijah the prophet) it would betray the intimacy with HaShem created by that action. "No, I cannot fulfill your request," said the man. "No!"
What I did then I did only for God's glory. Can I reveal it to You: if for this reason you can't tell me what you were sent to reveal, so be it; it's not necessary if I have a tradition that what one does for God should be hidden from the eyes of the world. It is just for the blessed holy one alone.
Elijah disappeared and ascended to heaven where there was a great commotion. They were impressed by this man that he rebuffed the profits offered to reveal the secret of when the Messiah is coming because he wants only for the sake of heaven. He did not let his ego's craving for status and recognition prevail. His commitment to integrity overrode his desire for secrets that are not only a pleasure unto themselves but are also how success is measured in this lowly world. The heavenly court considered the matter and ruled Elijah the prophet should appear to the subject again and teach him what he was sent earlier to teach. Elijah returned to the man and patiently began teaching Torah. Elijah reveals to him all the secrets he had been willing to forego and more.
A simple Jew became the foremost Torah Scholar of his generation, of all the righteous men; he received some of the highest marks of recognition.
Actually these marks of recognition were inadequate for someone of his soul stature. When he left the world it was determined by the Heavenly Academy that no one knew of his greatness and his holiness. The day came when after discussion and argument that his reward would be to go to this world again. Heaven would this time force him to reveal himself. And through him a new path would be blazed to revive the world with the spirit of purity in the spirit of holiness and a new life will shine each and every part and certainly in God's name would be sanctified and the earth filled with divine knowledge. This would hasten the redemption of this pious man in his next incarnation, he would become known as the holy Baal Shem Tov.
chanoch's CommentaryHopefully, you learned the lesson that the judgments of the heavenly academy are very different than the judgments of mankind in physical bodies. The Besht was sent to this world so that his actions while in that incarnation would elevate the level of his soul in the Heavenly realms.
Hebrew Verse Transliteration
Ki Ayakar Mah Shenaberah Adam BaOlam, Lehayot Lo Lev Tahor Welev Ehmet,WetzarichLaAmod Bamebachen Hazeh Hu Gam Kein Tov, Eim YeAlhu YitApach Lemalach Tov Kadosh, Eim Cain Harah Hu Kisay El HaTov, Ci Ayin Yood Hataohrrot Harah, NaAsey Meyon LeShechina Nahatahafkot kall Hachshikot Lechashik Echad, Noam HaShechina
The most essential trait that a person needs in order to accomplish the purpose of his creation in this world is a pure heart and a true heart. In this virtue is only acquired by passing the tests that life brings. This means that the challenge and by extension the Challenger is also good, for it catalyzed the elevation and positive transformation of the soul, and for that it is rightly considered a good and holy angel. In this way, evil becomes a throne for a good. The wayward impulse creates a challenge that, when overcome, turns it's impure spot on the soul into a place where the Shechina now dwells. The wayward and fallen desire was transformed into a single desire for the blessedness of no on motion with the war should be, and the radiant light of the Shechina.
HaShem created people with talents and missions that are infinitely diverse. Yet there is one task that we all share: no one crosses the finish line without cultivating a pure and honest heart. This precious treasure never comes as a free gift. It is only - yet always - the fruit of an exertion to choose good despite the threat of ego discomfort. We are always facing the test and the same test repeats itself until finally we not only choose right, but do it with the whole heart. The test is always an encounter with evil whether from inside or out. And since the test is the only way to acquire that most precious of soul gifts - integrity - the test along with the illusion that defines it is ultimately good. Since it eventually produces good, it is rightly considered an underground agent of good. It is also called an angel of good. This is what the Baal Shem Tov means when he describes evil as a throne for a good. On the other side of the past test, the Shechina now dwells were evil previously stood. The heart is clean, its desires corrected, and we awaken to a stronger and single-minded passion to know God and seek divine light.
Hebrew Verse Transliteration
Wecain Kol Hamedot Haraot GeUu Wemachashavot Az Shel GeUu, Lehashatarrah All Zolato, BeAvodah Zerah Shel Rav WeRavi, Wecashboyen Ahninim Ehlu, Mechashavot kaEhlah, Wahem BaAin Latikon Nafsho, Ki Ain Shum Davar Bemakarah, WeEim Adyan Lo Nithar Nafsho Mekal Wecal Macholi Hamar Hazeh, Shehaya Avodah Zerah Mamash, Azi Ohmdin Alav Reshaim Gamurim, Asher Alayhem NeAmar Tanah Avon All Onim
This applies to all the wayward impulses - arrogance and the idolatrous thoughts that underlie arrogance, for example the drive to rule over others including the idolatry of seeking the status of Rabbi or Chasidic Rebbe. When these impulses activate and thought such as these arise, they come to rectify one's soul. Nothing happens by chance, if his soul is not cleaned of these bitter ailments, these hidden and perhaps subtle conceits for self-worship is a real expression of idolatry, then for certain, odious enemies will rise against him, enemies to whom the verse applies: add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not be admitted into your holiness.
The oral tradition teaches the first two of the 10 utterances are comprehensive, and all the other mitzvot are simply details of their fulfillment. The first mitzvah in the Anoki HaShem Your God, etc. which declares the fact that God's existence is the root of all the 248 positive directives, those that require us to do a certain active service. The second Mitzvah is the “do not do idol worship,” which forbids the worship of idols, and is the root of all 365 negative Mitzvot. The relationship of these two Mitzvot implies that each action of commission – of doing is potentially a subtle form of idolatry. There may be no graven image involved but there is always a trace of self-worship. Narcissism is also idolatry.
Arrogance in the drive for power and status, even though a noble pursuit like the rabbinate, are infected with self-worship. The self-serving impulse, when it first appears, is beyond our control; we are not to blame. But then we arrive at a choice which is a decision point. Actually a test, an opportunity to choose the high road and renounce the false God. With each passed test we become a little more cleansed, which means a little more pure, and a little closer to HaShem. The incentives are not just abstract. True, we forego self-gain to serve the higher good, but, in truth, the profits are great.
A test is actually an opportunity for spiritual growth. If we pass the test we now have the opportunity to understand our spiritual path from the beginning in a deeper more fulfilling way. If we do not pass the test do not despair. The universe will give you another opportunity. Yes, this next opportunity will be a little more difficult; yet we always know that eventually we will have a reincarnation where this test will be passed. Always. Never will we be unable to eventually pass each test. It is just a little longer process or path.Chanoch's Commentary
This is going to become a difficult line to understand. We never forego self-gain. As one grows spiritually one realizes that we are created as a desire. The selfishness that is inherent in all of us has a purpose. There is an aspect of light in this selfishness which must be revealed. WE NEVER LOOSE OUR DESIRE FOR SELF GAIN. What we eventually learn is that to keep what we desire permanently, we must share it so that we can keep it permanently.
If the above paragraph is not yet understood come back to it in a year. Read it again and determine if you understand it. If not, stay on the path. If yes, remember when you think you understand something it is your ego stopping you from going – growing deeper into your spiritual path.
As long as the soul remains imperfect, the tests will continue to come. And as long as there remains a speck of ego that secretly thinks it is God, HaShem will bring enemies into our life to serve as humbling reminders that we do not rule the world. As surely as honey draws bees, arrogance draws enemies. Though it may be well hidden, and even well-controlled, every particle of speech or action we do causes ego inflation. This ego inflation must be searched out and destroyed. HaShem has zero tolerance for idolatry. There is no measure so small that it drops off the screen. In fact the opposite. The more enlightened a person, the more glaring his imperfections, and the more intolerable to themselves, the people around them, and especially HaShem. When a principle of contrast is applied, as discussed above a black dot against the spectral background is barely visible. A black dot upon a white curtain becomes an unsightly blemish. This is what it means that “HaShem holds the Tzadikim accountable to even a hair's breadth of deviation”.
The test brought about by the presence of enemies is harsh and often cruel. Some enemies are evil through and through, while others simply have blind spots. Either way, the place that spurs these often vicious attacks is a dark precipice of soul illusion where even evil can rule. Remember ultimately evil is part of the illusion. This illusion can be so strong as to invoke the statement from Psalms, “Some enemies are so heartless, add sin to their sin so they become irredeemable and never again enjoy the gift of manifesting your holiness.” This applies to an exceptional category of enemy that will be explored further on.
Please note that it is best not to define your enemy this way until you satisfy the potential change that HaShem wants from you, by manifesting that change. If HaShem did not want that change he would not have sent you the “enemy” to test you and allow you to grow by changing yourself. After you have changed yourself, you can determine if this enemy requires this curse/Blessing. Most times you will have realized the Blessing this person has done for you and decide to not curse him as described above.
Debrief: every affliction is designed to bring some cleansing of soul. The humbling ordeal of being pursued by a vicious enemy scours hidden traces of pride.
It is time in the process to bring the beginning of the understanding of the relationship between two completely righteous men. The Baal Shem Tov and The Gaon DeVilna.
The Gaon DeVilna lived at the same time as the Baal Shem Tov. The Gaon DeVilna was the leaders of the group that came to be called the Mitnagim which means the “opposers.” The Mitnagim did not agree with the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov on many levels. The Baal Shem Tov was aware of this enemy as personified by the Gaon DeVilna the leader of the Mitnagim. He traveled to Vilna to see him. The Gaon DeVilna, rather than see the Besht excommunicated him from Judaism. Of course, he did not then have to meet with him and the Besht gave up trying to accomplish this goal of healing the breech within the ranks of Judaism.
The ex-communication only applied to those who followed the teachings of the Gaon DeVilna. The people who followed the teachings of the Besht did not pay attention to the ex-communication order. Yet the real truth is that the ex-communication gave impetus to the spreading of the teachings of the Besht. As modern publicists teach there is no such thing as a bad press. This means that any publication of your name attracts people who will think for themselves and decide which of the two choices is right for them.
Becharofin Ugdufin, Kemo SheaSu Lemarin Ohr Israel, Ulroven Shel Tzedakim Haholchin BeMarot Umadrigot Alyonim, Roain Masof HaOlam WaEd Sofo, Tzofin Kal Chadari Heyaclot HaMercavah, Uvnakel Shivah Bilvam Azoe Hetanshiot Hara Hu Ovadah Zerah MaMash, Wehashi Bochen Lavot Ukliyot, Ulcan Magrah, Bahem Nechashim Uravim “zocheli Afar”, Sheain Lahem Chalak Beolhe Yisrael,
These enemies come with insults and humiliations, like the enemies that rose against the Baal Shem Tov, our teacher, the light of Israel, as well as to the vast majority of the most enlightened Tzadikim, who are distinguished by their spiritual visions bordering on prophecy and the exalted level in which they lived their lives. This more exclusive cadre of Tzadikim see from one end of the world to the other and are privy to all the inner chambers of the chariot. Yet when someone is on this extremely lofty level, it is easy for thoughts of self-importance to creep into his heart, and in an instant he is pushed out of both worlds, for narcissistic self-importance is literally idolatry. HaShem, who sees into the hearts and kidneys - subconscious roots of emotion, insites serpents and scorpions and poisonous crawling creatures of the dust against such a Tzadik. The Human serpents harassing the Tzadik have no portion in the God of Israel.
Enemies are often so consumed by hate filled delusions that they lose all contact with truth. It is possible that their tirade of insults and accusations has no basis in reality. Such were the enemies that harangue the Baal Shem Tov. And such were and still are the enemies that harassed the truly pious, for there are virtually no Tzadikim that do not find themselves pursued by a vicious enemy at some point in their life. It is a test and a milestone that all tzaddikim must pass. It is part of the path: for the higher they climb, the more enlightened they grow, and the wider their vision becomes. Eventually the soul breaks free of the great mirage and the Tzaddikim see from one end of the world to the other. This is what it means to harness the chariot and enter the inner chamber where the secrets of life and purpose, evil and suffering, free will, and destiny shine like an open book. Yet all who enter this elite cadre of truly enlightened souls are constantly challenged to stay humble. They are light years beyond the masses and share more in common with angels than with Homo sapiens. Given the superior standing, it is virtually impossible for them to avoid a fleeting thought of self-importance. Yet on their level minor lapses are like bringing an idol into the Holy of Holies. The consequences are unimaginably harsh. The offenders are instantly bounced from the inner sanctum and incur a spiritual death that devours their quality of life in this world and cancels their portion in the world to come. Conceit is always a sin; its consequences are infinitely magnified when the culprits are those who frequent the King's inner chamber and possesses the keys to enter at will.
Anything is better than being guilty of that. Anything is better than desecrating the Holy of Holies. HaShem looks into the hearts of Tzadikim and sees this danger is real and must be averted at all costs, for their sake, even more than His. The solution was to bring enemies into the lives of the Tzadikim to keep them humble. And even more, the fire of this discomfort burns out the impurities of soul that would otherwise puff into arrogance. Enemies both prevent and atone for self- worship. The higher the Tzadik, the more ferocious the fall: serpents, scorpions and poisonous vermin in human form. The worst of them being consumed by their own hatred. Because they spend all their merit in the perverse satisfaction of watching the Tzadik squirm, they pay dear for this strange pleasure. And even if they are Jewish, they lose their portion of the God of Israel, their eternal share the world to come, or so it seems, for the moment.
Definition of a Tzadik for this Discussion
Rabbi Safran used the word Tzadik throughout his commentary and directs his teachings to such a one. The term Tzadik carries a variety of definitions, both rigorous and generic. Rabbi Safran's teachings apply to all uses of the term.
1. Someone whose desire/nature is to completely clean and free of any impulse to act contrary to spiritual law, God's will, and Torah. This person is referred to as a Tzadik, as opposed to Benoni.
2. Someone who controls his or her wayward impulses and never acts on them. A person who never sins, though he/she does still experience urges to the contrary. This person is referred to as a Tzadik as opposed to a Chasid.
3. Someone who is more right than his or her antagonist in the dispute at hand. This person is referred to as a Tzadik as opposed to a scoundrel.
4. Someone who thinks he or she is more right. Even if objectively, that is not the case. This person is referred to as a Tzadik in his/her own eyes.
In general, both parties in a dispute feel that they are the righteous and innocent victim of the others offense. This makes them at the very least, category four Tzadikim and Rabbi Safran's teachings apply to them both.
And furthermore, as HaShem declares, concerning the people of Israel, your nation is comprised of only Tzadikim. This means that we are all at the very least, Tzadikim in training. Eventually, we must come out of hiding, and manifest the saintliness. That is the very truth of our soul. And so, in this sense as well, Rabbi Safran's teachings apply to all of us unripe subdeacon.
Benoni means, literally, intermediary. In this context, it refers to someone whose desire/nature is not yet completely purified. Spiritually unproductive impulses still arise, yet a Benoni never acts on them. The Benoni's outer behavior is like a Tzadik, but his inner psychic reality-with its admixture of pure and impure impulses-is no different than a sinner.
A Chasid means pious one. In this context, it refers to someone who has reached the highest rung of spiritual attainment and purification. The term Tzadik, in this context, refers to someone who has contained, but not yet transmuted, his/her wayward desire/nature. The title Chasid, as used here does not refer to the Baal Shem Tov's followers, who are also called Chasid.
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