Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Hayom Yom - 16 Elul - Saving 'One' Soul


“The Alter Rebbe explained the statement ‘Whoever saves the soul (life) of a single person of Israel, it is as if he saved an entire world’: One must see a Jew as he “is found” in the first thought of Adam Kadmon [the highest level of holiness, which is the source of the unity of Jewish souls.] And there “is found” every single soul together with all the generations of its offspring until the coming of the Moshiach, the righteous Redeemer. And when one does a favour to a Jew, one does a favour to all these souls until the end of all generations.”


Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in a web of confusion when it comes to our duties in this world. Each of us wonders what is required of us. Each of us wonders which parts of Torah we should learn next. How much have we learnt and mastered? Have we “grown” enough in our Torah learning? Can we read and understand Rashi correctly? What of Tosefos? Are we fluent in the Rishonim and Acharonim (the earlier and later commentators)? Can we Pasken in Halacha yet (derive the law)? Have I learnt more than my fellow – especially considering the time I’ve already spent in full time Torah learning?

Our thoughts can simply overwhelm us as we try to understand our purpose in this world and the supposed achievement we are required to accomplish. Chassidut – as it so often does – turns the tables. Just when we figure we have worked it all out and that life is all about making huge strides in Torah learning and growth (which is also to be admired!) – the Alter Rebbe teaches us the true reality of the life of a Jew. While we may think it’s all about mastering the entire oral law – off by heart (no less), the Alter Rebbe focuses on an area which must touch each of us in every single way – every single day (and every single moment.)

With only one word to describe Chassidut – the total realisation of life and purpose comes into focus and view. Achdut (Unity!) All of existence is unified because G-d (so to speak) is completely unified with everything. There is nothing else besides Him.

In particular, when G-d created the world, and began to form the series of worlds that lead into this material world (known as the material world of Asiya – as opposed to the higher spiritual world of Asiya), He began with the highest of all worlds known as Adam Kadmon – or Primordial Man. Another 4 main worlds followed – Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya (being the lowest.) To know the secrets contained in Adam Kadmon would be to say that one has achieved “touching” G-d so to speak – touching Him in sight, hearing, smell, taste – and even touch. Hidden inside this world is to be found all of creation as it exists at all times and in every place. The fullness of “man” is to be found here.

In particular, hidden inside this world, there is to be found the absolute unity of the Jewish people. Every single Jewish soul – linked with every other soul. Were we to have the merit to be able to glimpse with our physical eyes at the unity of Jewish souls contained therein, we may imagine seeing a spiritual body – something like our physical body – only that it is spiritual. Every soul – completely linked to every other soul – with absolutely nothing separating them. And hidden inside this world, we would see how each soul links to the other, to its ancestors (as in this world) and its descendants (as manifested in reality in this world.)

Our duty in this world is to see this in reality and actuality as well – no less! Our duty is to realise that without this complete unity – we are nothing better than separate blades of grass apparently growing in their own way with their own lifestyles and happenings. Unlike (apparently separate) blades of grass, we are completely unified.

This means that when we do a favour to another Jew, we are not just helping that person, we are also helping every single other link in the chain of connection connecting this soul with its ancestors – and all the more so – its descendants. Our favour does not just touch the life of this person, it will touch the life of every other descendant that issues from him.

Our smile may seem to only illicit the smile of another. Yet, because of this kindness, the effect may well result in this person meeting a marriage partner, marrying and having 20 children – all of whom learn the value of giving (even a smile.)

Our one dollar note of charity may seem to be just a green piece of paper being able to achieve not much more than the value of the paper itself… but perhaps it is this dollar bill that will be used to purchase the winning lottery ticket that this poor person will purchase (as it is all they have!) – and so because of this, not only one life is changed, but many generations thereafter.

Favours have no limits. A kindness can be done to all, and the variety of kindnesses that can be done is only limited by infinity without constraints itself!

We can of course think about all the terrific learning we will be doing soon – completing the oral law to outsmart our friends and showing how learned we have become. Or we can focus on a purpose rooted in the highest levels of G-dliness, concealed in the world of Primordial Man. We can see each other as G-dly links of a chain, intertwined, intermeshed, interlocked, interwoven and intermixed with each other, all a part of the same unity of G-dliness. We can see each other as being our very own selves. We can realise that saving the life of another (through a smile, a dollar, or a much needed kindness) does not just save that person, it saves every single other soul that will issue from him during his lifetime. In return, and because we are so interconnected, we can know one thing for sure – we are also saving ourselves and the entire world – because we are all in actual fact one body.

The Baal Shem Tov could not have made our purpose in life clearer when he said, “Sometimes, a soul comes down into this world for 70 or 80 years just to do a material favour to another Jew, and how much more a spiritual favour.”

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