Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quiet and dry

One rap star, who had once claimed to be a part of Chabad movement, remarked, upon his apparent “conversion” to a different branch of Chassidus, that he was not inspired by Lubavitch style of davening. “A Lubavitcher whispers when he davens,” he said. “[A member of another Chassidic group] screams.”

(When I heard this story for the first time, I remarked: “It is not polite to yell at the Eibeshter.”)

I have heard a story about one “Polish” Chossid remarking that Chabad is like a handgun without a flint. A complicated mechanism, with the many hammers and springs and wheels... but the spark is not there.

And true — Chabad Chassidim (the real Chassidim) and especially Rebbeim have always been known for the very quiet nature of their avoidas ha'lev, the service of prayer. Why is that?

I heard today a description of three levels of avoida in the Beis HaMikdosh. The first level was karbonos, the sacrifices. In order to burn all the meat, the kohanim burnt large pieces of wood, stacked on top of each other. The fire was roaring — Gemara remarks that sometimes things would be thrown off the platform by the fiery winds. The combustion of the fire was fighting with the moisture of the wood and the flesh: two opposites, one trying to overcome another in a roaring struggle.

When Menoira was lit, it was silent. The flame burnt the finest, purest olive oil. This was no struggle. A peaceful co-existence of the flame, the wick and the oil.

When the ketores (the incense) was lit, there was neither flame nor smoke. Apparently, when the incense was dried very well (and made into a very fine powder), it would not even give off smoke (the smoke is a result of moisture remaining in the incense); nor would it burn with a flame. It just quietly smoldered away, releasing the smell.

The first level of service represents the struggle between the spiritual (fire) and the physical (water), the struggle between the G-dly Soul and the Animal Soul. As the former tries to subdue the latter (in a process called iskafia), their fight releases much heat, passion and noise.

The second level represents a union between the spiritual and the physical — and, likewise, the union between the G-dly and the Animal Soul, where the first transforms the second in an act of ischapcha. The flame and the oil co-exist in shleimus, and there is no need for all the noise and outward expressions of the combustion. And yet, two distinct entities exist on this level — albeit at peace with each other.

On the third level, the level of ketores (which, according to Chassidus, corresponds to Atzmus Ve’Mahus of Hashem), not only is there no noise or struggle, not only is there no outward release of “emotions” (even in a form of a quiet smoke) — there is not even a separation between the flame and its fuel. There is complete unity. Similar to Achdus Hashem, the Oneness of G-d — Oneness not only in His Essence, but also with His Creation, both spiritual and physical, both Light and Darkness.

The first Rebbe of Chabad, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was known to say, while davening: “Ich vil nisht Gan Eiden Tachton. Ich vil nisht Gan Eiden Elyon. Ich vil Dich Alein.” (“I don’t want the Upper Gan Eiden. I don’t want the Lower Gan Eiden. I want You Alone.”) Rebbeim Chabad were not satisfied with having His Light. They wanted His Essence too. And they reached what they wanted. But that is not what is special. What is special is that their shared Him with their Chassidim.

Also see on the subject: “Emotions which have not been internalized

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