Friday, May 11, 2012

E pluribus unum

It is said that even if Hashem did not give us the land of Israel and the Holy Temple, just bringing us to Mt. Sinai would be enough. The famous question is asked: what do you mean, it would be enough? The whole point of bringing us to Har Sinai is to give us Torah, which we would keep in Eretz Yisroel. The answer is that it would be enough, because when Jews received Torah, they were unified as one person. (We learn that Jews were tired before receiving of Torah. Why were they tired? Because it took them an effort to become unified. We learn from this that Jews get their strength from argument, which is why the main pastime of a frum Jew is to learn Gemara and argue.)
        Being unified “would be enough”, because unity amongst Jews results in the unity between the holy Names of G-d, between Him and His Presence, and between Him and this world. (For a detailed kabbalistic explanation of this process, see Derech Mitzvosecha, mitzvas Ahavas Yisroel. Suffice it to say that each Jewish soul contains sparks from all the other Jewish souls, and unification “below” draws forth the unification “above”.)
        This is why it is said that loving your fellow as yourself is the basis of the whole Torah. The point is not so much that the purpose of Torah is to bring peace amongst people (how exactly does putting on tefillin result in peace?), but that all Torah mitzvos accomplish the same thing that the single mitzva of ahavas Yisroel accomplishes: unity between G-d and His Presence in this world. And this is the whole purpose of creation and giving of Torah.

Now, the concept of unity is a tricky one. How can two separate entities become unified? This problem of disunity existed throughout the history of creation and of Jewish people. It all started from shviras ha’keilim, the breaking of the vessels of the chaotic world of Tohu (don’t worry, I won’t talk about that in detail now). The sfiroes of Tohu did not get along, couldn’t cooperate, each thinking of itself as the most important one — and kabloom! Chernobyl b’ruchnius.
        And the story repeated itself many times and indeed still goes on today. The theme of disunity is the theme of Omer. As everyone knows, the students of Rabbi Akiva quaralled, had no respect to each other, and a plague sent by G-d and augmented by socialized healthcare system killed many of them, r"l, in this very period of time.
        But what does it mean that they quarreled? These were the greatest sages of their generation, and they couldn’t get along? What were their disagreements about? What were the disagreements of the Jews in the desert about that they had to put aside to receive Torah? Now that we are writing a string of questions, what was the deal with the sferoes of Tohu? We shall examine these answers after the commercial break.

The Rebbe writes in the sicho devoted to Lag B’Omer that you can’t really blame the Jews in the desert, the spheroes, the students of Rabbi Akiva. They were not arguing about petty matters. They were not practicing sinas chinum. They didn’t care about chitzoinius (“your shtreimel looks worse than my hat”). Each of them had a shitta. Each of them had a job to do, a role that they played. And they took that job seriously.
        Think about it: if Chessed is merciful, and it’s taking its own job as the source of mercy seriously, how can it tolerate Gevurah? What do you mean, gevurah? Chessed! And Gevurah had the same attitude. In order to “live and let live”, to “agree to disagree”, one has to take a slightly mild view of one’s own shitta. Look at it with a bit of sense of humor. And these guys couldn’t afford doing that. They were responsible agents of their missions. The sages really believed, each of them, that they were right. Of course, each one of them was, but it’s all nice and good for us, sitting here in our b’dieved armchairs, to say “eilu v’eilu”. For these people, their shittos were their whole world.

So, what is one to do? Well, says the Rebbe, this is a serious problem. This is not just a problem for the sages or spheroes or the Jews in the desert. This is a problem for any two people that are trying to create a relationship. Any kind. Two friends, two colleagues, a husband and a wife, a parent and a child, etc. How can two people become one? What do you mean, one? If I am X, I am X. I cannot be Y. I can tolerate Y. I can respect Y. I can agree to disagree, even, but to be absolutely completely unified with Y? But then what happens with my identity, my “job” (which I take seriously) of X?
        Elsewhere (Inyanei Toras HaChassidus), the Rebbe explains that giluim (revelations) of G-dliness are always in conflict with each other. Because, as explained above, in order for each gilui to be itself, it must be itself and nothing else. Gevurah is Gevurah. End of story. That is why we can’t eat meat with milk. Meat is Gevurah; milk is Chessed. They don’t mix well.
        But the Essence of G-d, says the Rebbe, does not have that problem. Because the Essence includes all the revelations in itself (in potential). So, when the Essence is brought into play, no threat to the identities of individual revelations happens — and they can co-exist. Which is why G-d Himself can disobey rules of logic and do things that are mutually exclusive. Which is why, when Moshiach comes and G-d’s Essence is revealed (may it happen now), there will be no contradiction between the fact that G-d is revealed (which, under normal circumstances, would destroy this world) and, at the same time, the world exists and is a world, with its physical matter. (And, incidentally, we shall be allowed to eat meat and milk together.)

So, what’s the solution to disunity? Bring G-d into the equation. When the spheroes gain the awareness that each of them is not just Chessed or Gevurah, but Chessed and Gevurah that are each doing a job for G-d, this awareness allows them to co-operate, since each of them is doing essentially the same thing (serving G-d), albeit in a different way. The deepest identity of Chessed is not its vessel, but its Light, and the whole point of the Light is the idea that it’s on a mission from G-d (“light reveals the luminary”). Furthermore, this co-operation allows them to do their jobs better. And voilá, the world of Atzilus (aka Tikkun) is here. Jews are given Torah. Sages stop dying.
        And two people become one. This is the only way. In order for a relationship to be that of true, absolute unity, not just tolerance, one needs to bring G-d into it. G-d in the relationship is what allows the two people to become completely one and at the same time each retain his-or-her unique identity.

Gutt Yom Tov, y’all. May we merit to see speedily the time when the greatest unity of all possible is achieved: that between G-d and His nation, with the coming of Moshiach.


The Real Shliach said...

Hilarious commercial break. Wherever did you find such brilliance?

Michael said...

Very, very nice. Only one quibble: what is you Mokor for the notion that milk and meat will be mutar in Moshiach's times?
Also, what did the Rebbe want from R'Akivas's students? Since they lived before Yemos Hamoshiach. Can't you just say: I am right,and I know I am right, but respecting another Talmid of R' Akiva is more important than himknowing that I am right.

A Suede Ḥossid said...


Re: milk and meat: first Gutnick Rambam (don’t remember which chapter right now). They specifically state the reason they are forbidden now and the reason they shall be allowed. Unless it’s Gutnick Chumash (parsha with milk and meat laws).

Well, perhaps if they tried to reach beyond giluim, they would be able to see that others’ approaches are equally valid. But I am not sure.

Michael said...

Re: milk and meat. I really, really never heard of it, so maybe your right, maybe your not, but either way, I respect you.
Seriously, though, I am not talking about seeing the validity in the other person's approach, I am talking about saying that we should respect people that are wrong, as well. Not pluralism, where everyone is right, but not killing the other guy because he is wrong.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

So, are you saying that we should allow gay people to get married, even though we think that's wrong?

The Real Shliach said...

As a card-carrying libertarian, I certainly believe that gays should be allowed to get married.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

To each other or to members of the opposite gender?

The Real Shliach said...


Certified Ashkenazi said...

What about the fact that the Rebbe was against gay marriage?

The Real Shliach said...

I wasn't aware that the Rebbe set the agenda of the libertarian party.

And anyway, was he?

Certified Ashkenazi said...

Well, you're the real shliach. I am just a pseudo-chossid.

Yes, he said that allowing gay to marry is like allowing people to kill themselves. In either case, you're not violating anyone's rights.

The Real Shliach said...

What does that have to do with anything?

What that said regarding marriage or legalization?

Certified Ashkenazi said...

What does the Rebbe and agenda of libertarian party have to do with anything?

(As an aside, true libertarians believe in the ideals, not in the party message. Ron Paul, for example, is not a member of libertarian party at all. This is different from many Republicans who will vote for Romney, even though they disagree with his views.)

The topic was on whether gay people should have a right to marry. The Rebbe compared that to a right to commit suicide.

I am sure, however, that the Rebbe would also be in favor of anti-sodomy laws, as those proposed in Texas (and struck down by Lawrence vs. Texas decision).

The Real Shliach said...

I was writing in the name of card-carrying libertarians, and you brought up the Rebbe. As far as I know the Rebbe was not a card-carrying libertarian.

I don't suppose you have the location for that Sicha, do you?

Would he?

As an aside, how do you reconcile your libertarian views with your Lubavitch beliefs?

Certified Ashkenazi said...

But why did you bring up libertarians? I was answering Michael's statement that "I am talking about saying that we should respect people that are wrong, as well. Not pluralism, where everyone is right, but not killing the other guy because he is wrong."

(skip to the last part)

It seems, based on the above sicho, that he would. In fact, anti-sodomy laws are a direct application of Noahide laws. There is no Noahide law against a gay person "marrying" another. This idea is just nonsensical al pi Halacha, but so what? On the other hand, sodomy is clearly ossur.

Who said I reconcile them? The Rebbe's position on governments (and the position of Torah on the same) is not clear to me. I know some statements that both the Rebbe and Halacha make on the governments, but I don't understand the nuances.

Would the Rebbe say, for instance, that one must obey the laws of Nazi government? How about Communist government? Would the Rebbe say that his shluchim in Ukraine must recite a brocho when meeting local crime lords? How about his shluchim in England when meeting the Queen?

On the other hand, my libertarian positions are clear to me.

I'll give you another example: Rambam writes that one may beat his wife if she doesn't cook him supper. Rema says he may starve her until she reforms her behavior.

My understanding of these halachos is not clear. I understand what they are saying, but I don't know what their reasons are, what the strength of halachos is (perhaps they were existing minhogim?.. perhaps such activity was allowed as long as it was a commonplace behavior in the families?), and what their application for modern times is.

I do know, on the other hand, that it's immoral to beat one's wife.

So, when making a choice about wife-beating, I will err on the side of caution, Rambam notwithstanding.

e said...

this is the kind of stuff you have to deal with when you accept "revealed truths."

Certified Ashkenazi said...


Certified Ashkenazi said...

Specifically regarding the Rebbe's views on gay marriage, I would say that in an ideal world, the Rebbe's views would be applicable, and I would support the government's ban on gay marriage (or sodomy).

But, the practice shows that supporting government's enforcement of a particular religion is bad for Jews. That's even the case in Israel, where the religion is Judaism. As a result, you get things like state-appointed poskim declaring that it's muttar for soldiers to listen to kol isha, and therefore, they should be forced to do so. Supporting government's violation of natural rights is also bad for Jews.

So, today we may cheer for the government to ban gay marriage, and tomorrow the government will say that we can't shecht animals, perform a bris, or educate our kids privately. All these things are already happening in many European countries today.

So, the safest environment for Jews is one in which human rights are respected.

The Real Shliach said...

I was merely expressing my opinion as a card-carrying libertarian. Not that I am, in fact, a card-carrying libertarian, but if I was then I would certainly support it. In fact, even as a regular non-political-party-affiliated person I support their rights.

I think that the Rebbe's view would be a bit more nuanced.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

Why would the Rebbe's view be more nuanced about sodomy than about gays' rights to marry? A right to be called "married" by the state, get tax breaks, and get visitation rights is a non-issue halachically. Sodomy clearly is.

The Real Shliach said...

Why would you think I was referring to anti-homosexual laws and not gay marriage, or vice-versa?

e said...

I was pointing out that you need to do lots of mental gymnastics to reconcile two views. If one set of views wasn't considered true because god said so, that you would just discard it.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

We wouldn't discard it; we would not have it at all. But since we do have it, we have to deal with it.

It's sort of like saying: "Evidence from Colombo et al. suggest that long-term potentiation is presynaptic. While evidence from Lisman et al. suggests that LTP is post-synaptic. If only we didn't have evidence from Lisman!"

The same goes for US legal system too. On the one hand, you have evidence that the 14th Amendment was passed to make Civil Liberties Act constitutional, which would mean that basic human liberties must be incorporated. On the other hand, early Supreme Court decisions suggest that only those rights that were granted to people as citizens of the Union, not natural rights as well. So, if only we didn't have those Supreme Court decisions, there would be no argument about incorporation. But we do...