This was originally written as a response to a couple
that wrote expressing concern over the spiritual implications of recurring
problems with their mezuzot and his tefillin. Each time a scribe checked them,
something invalid was found, and even though they immediately would have it
corrected, a new problem would be discovered the next time that hadn't appeared
or been noticed previously.
...one of a Jew's purposes is to rectify his possessions...
A person's possessions are affected by his current
spiritual state. We know from the Talmud and other sources that one of a Jew's
purposes is to rectify his possessions, and the great sages were also very
respectful and careful with their (and of course, others') possessions.
Furthermore, the term used in the Shema for
"possessions" is ma’odeha, "your might," which in Chassidut is explained
to also mean the transcendent states of the soul. These super-conscious (i.e. as
yet unconscious) states in one's soul-root can descend and manifest themselves
into one's possessions. In other words, what's going on with one's possessions
can reflect what's going on in one's soul-root before the person is even
aware of it himself.
This is seen in the laws of tzara’at, "leprous"
plagues that people used to get. The Rambam explains that these plagues would
first appear on one's house (in which is manifest the "distant
transcendent state" of the soul). If he didn't improve his behavior, they would
appear on his clothes (the "close transcendent state"). Only if he still
didn't improve his behavior would they finally appear on his skin.
Now, tefillin and mezuzot are one's most
holy and representative possessions. They are both related to the house, since
the compartments of the tefillin are called batim - "houses," and the
mezuzah signifies that the house and all its contents are holy and dedicated to
G‑d. More specifically, the mezuzah reflects the "distant transcendent," and the
tefillin, being something that is worn, reflect the "close transcendent." In
terms of levels of the soul, mezuzah reflects the yechida [the higher of
the two transcendent soul-states] and tefillin the chaya.
Thus, if there is some defect in one's tefillin and/or
mezuzot, it means that there is some subtle imbalance in his superconscious
soul-powers. This "defect" may or may not have yet affected the conscious part
of the soul. If not, and it is corrected in the tefillin/mezuzot, it can be
"caught" before it enters consciousness.
Where do all these soul-imperfections come from?
Where do all these soul-imperfections come from? The
fact that one has them (as manifest in his tefillin/mezuzot) does not
necessarily mean that he is such a bad or evil person. It may simply mean that
he is spiritually active. When one is experiencing and exploring new levels of
spirituality, he inevitably encounters admixtures of impurities in his personal
interpretation of what he is experiencing. These impurities must be expelled,
just as when one eats even the purest food, there are parts of it that cannot be
assimilated and must get excreted.
The more spiritual changes one undergoes, the more
expelling of impurities there will be. It doesn't mean that things are bad, just
that things are happening.
Thus we find that many tzadikim check or even
change their tefillin/mezuzot often. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, for example, was
known for also frequently advising people to check theirs, often with
[First published in Ascent Quarterly #23 (Dec.