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Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha 5777

Ein Ayah: Getting Beyond the Needs of a Fleeting Life

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:271)

Gemara: [Rabbi Shimon and his son] left [the cave]. They saw people who were plowing and sowing. They said: “They are neglecting eternal life and occupying themselves with fleeting life.”

 

Ein Ayah: The greatest individuals protest the evil they see in the world, as it oppresses people and deprives them of the light of their lives. However, as much as these wise and lofty people may oppose evil and try to remedy problems, they will not be able to rid the path of life of the obstacles that evil plants along the way. This is because evil comes from the situation that one leaves an ideal situation and lowers himself to be a slave to his physical needs, which confuses his mind and pollutes his heart. Thereby, life becomes one continuum of bad things that result from a person’s deterioration.

Actually, this deterioration is something about which he has a choice. After all, man can elevate himself enough to realize that he can reach contentment by completing his divine image with the light of wisdom and uprightness, which emanate from the “river that flows from Eden.” When this light shines in the midst of one’s heart, he can live without toil. This is because the elevated light of the pleasantness of knowledge and justice gives pleasure to one’s life and elevates his spirit. Then, he would not need the burden decreed upon society to bring their bread through the sweat of their brow and be slaves to the lower elements of the life of the body and the country.  Rather, one’s body can grow strong and his spirit can soar to the point that simple fruit satiates him, and he could live happily in any climate.

Only then, when one reaches the level to appreciate closeness to Hashem by grasping truth and justice, does he have true peace in his heart in a manner that allows him to draw close to a life of health through nature. Then he does not have a need to occupy himself with mundane activities, for he has enough to make him happy. Mundane life will not bring disease and hardship, and he will have a long life full of light and happiness.

Since the average man fails to reach his potential, it is no surprise that life is flawed, and no one can solve society’s problems. That is why most good people ceased criticizing the evil kingdom, as they realized that it is only one element of the evil that besets mankind’s system. One side of the problem is that man has to work the land through so much toil and, in general, exert himself to provide his material needs. Hashem does this to distract the person from the lowliness of his desires, which he would pursue if he had extra time and energy on his hand instead of pursuing la ife of spiritual light. That is why he needs to be busy with basic physical attainments because without toil, many people will lead wild lives and look for all sorts of things to fulfill their imagination.

But why should one get to this point, when he can throw off the burden and fill his mind with contemplation of holy things that he holds in his soul and enjoy his connection with Hashem? Then nature will be blessed and apparently miraculous bounty can become normal, allowing a person to not need to occupy himself with significant toil on daily material life. Therefore, [someone on the level of Rabbi Shimon felt the need] to make a general protest about over-dependence on standard material needs, which is the source of many bad things, in order to raise the banner of mankind. The phenomenon of neglecting eternal life in favor of fleeting life lowers the spirit and pollutes the heart, and lowers one’s spiritual aspirations until the only way to contain him is by making him a slave to a ploughshare. By returning to the higher level, everything can be remedied instantly, and only higher-level teshuva is necessary.
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