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The Chasidic masters teach that it is up to us to draw out the light from the darkness.

Desires from Eden

Desires from Eden

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Desires from Eden
The Chasidic masters teach that it is up to us to draw out the light from the darkness.

“Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah taught that a person should not say, ‘Pork is so disgusting that it is impossible for me to eat it!’ Rather one should say, ‘I would like to eat pork, but what can I do if my Father in Heaven forbids it to me!?’” (Torat Cohanim, Kedoshim 20:26, also quoted in Rashi)

Before Adam’s sin the spiritual force in the physical world had an intense desire for fulfillment and expression….

The only one who can say “I would like to eat pork, but what can I do if my Father in Heaven forbids it to me?” is a true tzaddik who never sinned or fell prey to physical temptations in his life. The tzaddik’s divine service is to refrain from forbidden physical desires since it is decreed from G‑d. But the divine service of the baal teshuvah (repentant) is altogether different. The baal teshuvah, who has tasted the forbidden and is trying to make restitution in this physical world, must return to G‑d until he comes to the point that eating pork and indulging in other forbidden temptations would be absolutely and totally disgusting to the point of utter revulsion. Then the baal teshuvah’s return is from love. 1

Torah…instructs us how to discern and reveal the spiritual within the physical…."

Before Adam's sin the spiritual force in the physical world had an intense desire for fulfillment and expression and to praise the Creator. After the sin the physical world became shrouded with a dark, filthy garment which obscured the underlying spiritual foundations of the world and actually encouraged one to chase after purely physical and carnal desires. Therefore, as a countermeasure, G‑d gave us the holy Torah, which instructs us how to discern and reveal the spiritual within the physical and to shed the coarse and filthy garment. Then the world is elevated, returning to its original state and moving closer to perfection. When we utilize the physical not for our own enjoyment, but in accordance with the commandments of the Torah, then the spiritual in all things is cultivated, refined and uplifted.

It is known that the sin of Adam caused a weakening and eventual fracture in the vessels that contained the divine light, and fragments of these vessels fell; each one attached to a spark of the divine light. The fragments of the vessels embody evil, the overwhelming desire for carnal and sensual pleasures. The sparks embody the divine light, the true reality of all Creation.

Even in a transgression there is a spark….

Our task in this world of Tikun, like peeling away the husk and extricating the fruit within, is clarification (or "sifting") - extricating the holy sparks from the impure fragments of the vessels thereby restoring them to their source and repairing the cosmic unity. (Eitz Chaim 39:1) It follows that even in a transgression there is a spark that needs to be redeemed. There is really only the spiritual influence of G‑d in the world and nothing else at all. He creates all that is in the world as it is written, "G‑d has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom reigns over all." (Psalms 103:19) Therefore it is up to us to draw out the light from the darkness.

This is the process of free will to do good or evil, and therefore of reward and punishment. If there were not two paths, then reward would not be incumbent. When there are choices and one chooses a path of good and holiness, then in a process that is really cause and effect, one earns reward. Our sages learned out this lesson from a verse we say every day in the first paragraph of the Shema: "You shall love the L-rd your G‑d with all your heart [in Hebrew, 'l'vavecha'], with all your soul and with all your might [material resources]." (Deut. 6:5) "With all your heart" actually translates to "lee'bcha", with one beit/veit instead of two. Due to the additional vav, the Sages teach that we are instructed to serve G‑d with both of the vav's (hearts) - with both of our inclinations which are rooted in the heart, the Positive Inclination and the Evil Inclination. (Talmud Brachot 54a) When one pushes away the advice of the Evil Inclination and instead heeds only the Positive Inclination, one is really revealing the good underlying the evil and draws out the holiness that is hidden in every physical thing. Through encountering sensual desires and controlling them, we become partners with the Creator in Tikkun Olam, restoring the cosmic unity. (see Zohar Terumah 163a)

There isn't a transgression without a mitzvah that corresponds to it….

Therefore a tzaddik that never knew any sin in his life, in that he never was drawn after physical and sensual desires, must therefore raise up the sparks that are in the sensual and physical desires. The tzaddik is enjoined to claim, "I would like to eat pork, but what can I do if my Father in Heaven forbids it to me!?" He declares his desire to taste it then rejects it since the Torah forbids eating pork. But the divine service of the baal teshuvah is different. The baal teshuvah, since he has already stumbled and indulged his desires, needs to remove his soiled garments. A baal teshuvah must purify and refine himself, combating and resisting his sensual desires until he is disgusted and nauseated by them; until they become thoroughly abhorrent to him.

Since the tzaddik didn't sin, he can't possibly despise desire the way the baal teshuvah can. He sees the mixture of good and evil before him; the desire with the spark of holiness inherent in it, and he can't fully revile it since he never fell prey to its temptation. Therefore the tzaddik raises the sparks by resisting their temptations. But as long as the baal teshuvah doesn't come to despise his physical and sensual desires, he can never be sure of his teshuvah.

Therefore the Torah cautioned us before we go out to war: "When you go out to war against your enemies, G‑d will make you victorious over them and you will take captives." (Deut. 21:10) The war is the war against our enemies: physical desire and the Evil Inclination. These enemies should become revolting to us to the point of absolute disgust. If we go out to war like this, in a spirit of teshuvah, then "G‑d will make you victorious over them…", we can be sure of G‑d's promise to place out enemies in our hands.

"And then you will take captives…": After teshuvah, we will recognize that all of the desires and temptations of the Evil Inclination were really illusory. Their attraction was actually the spark of holiness inherent within which required rectification. The Sages expressed this idea of the correspondence of good and evil in the Midrash "With the limb one committed a transgression he should try to do a mitzvah. If the hands shed blood let them turn around and repair that by giving charity. If the feet ran to commit a transgression, let them run to do a mitzvah." (Vayikra Rabba 21:5) There isn't a transgression without a mitzvah that corresponds to it.

When we repent our hearts should be filled with love and awe for G‑d. We need to be fully aware of the tremendous capability we have to learn Torah and to do mitzvot and good deeds

Rebbe Simcha Bunem of Pishischa teaches that during the generations after the giving of the Torah, when the likelihood of war was great, the context of the verse was a real war, and any lessons concerning the Evil Inclination were only an allusion. Now that we are not concerned about war, the primary concern of the verse is to warn us about the wiles of the Evil Inclination.

Footnotes
1.
Pirkei d' Rebbe Eliezar, 11; see also for example the story of the awe of G‑d possessed by Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair's donkey in Talmud Chullin 7a
Binyomin Adilman is the former head of the Nishmas Chayim Yeshivah in Jerusalem. Back issues of his weekly Parsha sheet B’Oholei Tzadikim, from which this article was taken, may be found on www.nishmas.org.
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