Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Body and Soul - A Good Team!

The verse in Exodus (23:5) states: “If you see your enemy’s donkey crouching under it’s burden, you may wish to refrain from helping him. (Nevertheless,) You shall surely help him.”
The Baal Shem Tov explains: The Hebrew word for donkey – Chamor, refers to the material – to the physical body. The Baal Shem Tov uses this analogy often in speaking about the body. It really is just a donkey – an animal body used to be the chariot to the fuel inside it i.e. the soul.
Torah, Judaism and Chassidut, are not about destroying the body ever. Contrary to the “great” ascetics and the like and the “great” giants of the generations who stress that the only way to purify oneself is through fasting weeks at a time, whipping oneself, insulting oneself and depriving oneself of every conceivable pleasure in the world, the Baal Shem Tov explains this verse as teaching us what Torah is really all about.
"When you will see the “Chamor” of your enemy...": The start of one’s progress in developing a relationship with G-d, in purifying oneself begins with a person seeing their material self as their enemy. When a person begins to work on himself and improve himself, he will find that at the beginning of his struggle, his physical obstructs and hinders his spiritual growth - the soul sees the body as an enemy and the body sees the soul as its enemy.

"...crouching under its load...”: Under such “hostile” conditions, the Torah and its commandments become a burden to the body, even though the Torah is in a “space of it’s own”, given to man specifically to refine and elevate the physical. Not recognising what is for its own benefit, the body resists the “load.”

One's first inclination may be "to refrain from helping him", to negate the material – to do away with the physicality of things. Says the Torah "nevertheless, you should help him" - cure the “donkey” of its folly, refine and develop its tremendous potential.

How does one do this? First, make the body aware "that he's a horse", bring it to recognise the coarseness of its undeveloped state. Then, "whip the horse so that he should cease to be a horse," directing its energies and resources to positive and G-dly ends."
In other words, make the horse realise that it has a job to do. It shouldn’t simply stand still continuing to think over about its station in life as being a horse. Actually a horse has an important purpose. It acts as a chariot for the one who is using it to get to a destination.
So too, the body is nothing more than a chariot. It is not something ugly or base. Actually it serves a most special and holy mission – to allow its rider – the soul, to travel upon it so that it too may reach its destination.
Together, body and soul work as a team. The soul, appreciating the body for the good that it gives to her, and the body, appreciating the soul for riding upon her and giving it the ability to serve a worthwhile mission in this world.
Together they meet with success!

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