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Tuesday, February 18, 2020 23 Shevat 5780


The first Lubavitch/Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya and Code of Jewish Law, once remarked that a Jew must "live with the times." His son explained the meaning: A Jew must live with the Torah portion of the week - i.e., he must assimilate the lessons of the weekly Torah portion


In Alone, Out Alone
The very first subject discussed in this week’s Torah portion (which comes on the heels of the portion that describes the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai) concerns a Hebrew servant who is about to go free after serving his six-year term of indentured servitude.
The Torah states: “If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself…”  It has been pointed out that the numerical number of "Eved Ivri", Hebrew servant, is 358, the same numerical value as the word Moshiach. Moshiach, of course, is the ultimate servant of G-d.
The Baal Shem Tov taught us that every Jew possesses a spark of Moshiach. Our challenge is to fan this spark into a blazing flame.  And this is what the Torah means when it says, “If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself.” The concept of marriage, according to the teachings of Chassidus, is the union of the soul and the body. To get out of exile we must keep that union intact.
There are some who believe in crushing the body to strengthen the soul. This approach was common in the pre-Chassidic era, especially amongst those steeped in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah.  Why did the Kabbalists favor ascetic practices?  Kabbalah is a discipline that is inherently beyond the grasp of the human mind. How, then, does one study a subject that is outside the realm of comprehension?
The answer is that the term “study” has to be used advisedly when we discuss Kabbalah. When we write a profound idea on paper with a pen in our hand, our hand and the pen are not receptive to the ideas we have written; they are only a conduit enabling the ideas to pass through us and onto paper. Similarly, when a Kabbalist studied Kabbalah, it was with his soul, not his mind; the mind is no more than another conduit permitting the flow of knowledge to the soul, where it was absorbed from a higher world. Therefore, the Kabbalists had to divest themselves of their bodily interests so that their souls should shine.  We can regard this approach of the Kabbalists as the unmarried approach, where the emphasis is on elevating the soul and suppressing the body. There is no marriage here, and no union between them.
The Baal Shem Tov, although steeped in Kabbalah, changed course. The Baal Shem Tov, and especially the Rebbes and leaders of Chabad, emphasized the need to work with the body. The body is not an enemy that has to be shunned, the Baal Shem Tov stressed. We must instead create a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul.
Some think that the Baal Shem Tov realized that it was asking too much from seekers to continue the custom of the Kabbalists to shun their bodies. They believe he relaxed that demand and “allowed” us to maintain a wholesome physical existence.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The Baal Shem Tov’s emphasis on the union between body and soul is actually a catalyst for moving on to a more advanced spiritual level. It prepares us for the Messianic Age, when the physical and spiritual will mirror each other. Moreover, as that Age arrives, Moshiach will reveal the G-dly source of the body and its physicality, a source that is actually higher than the source of the soul.
We can now interpret the idea of Moshiach coming by himself and going out by himself as it applies to our personal Redemption through uncovering the spark of Moshiach hidden within us.  If we try to ignite the spark of Moshiach, the deepest and most sublime aspect of our soul, by being single, we will leave exile single.  If we ignore the role of the physical in the pursuit of Redemption, then we will surely be redeemed but only our soul will be redeemed; our bodies will remain attached to exile. The process of Redemption will be left incomplete.
However, if we endeavor to reveal the spark of Moshiach in us while in a state of marriage, i.e., the soul in complete concert with our body, then we will leave exile with both our soul and body intact; both realizing their full potential.

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