Akiva Lane

akivalane@gmail.com

 

  • After creating the Universe and life, Hashem surveyed His creation and crowned his efforts by creating Man.
  • “Hashem breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Neshama).”
  • The word for breathing in Hebrew is Nesheema.
  • Adam – and all of us – get our Neshama from Hashem’s breathing (Nesheema) directly from Him into us.
  • This Neshama makes us spiritually human, and it is a great gift that comes directly from Hashem.
  • Adam awoke with a tremendous and heady feeling of Hashem’ness within himself, having received his conscious spirit from the Creator of the Universe.
  • That is the greatest gift, and it comes via the “breath” of Hashem.
  • Adam, and all of us, can have two diametrically opposite reactions when we feel the power of our Neshama – Hashem’s Nesheema – within us.
  • The first reaction is one of gratitude and humility.
  • We can react, “I am so thankful that Hashem gave me this magnificent gift directly from Himself.”
  • To express our gratitude, we can desire to understand what Hashem wants us to do, and follow it as precisely as we can.
  • Just as we benefit every moment from this great gift, we can want to devote the great power of our Neshema to the Will of the One who bestowed it on us.
  • The second possible reaction is the polar opposite.
  • We can feel the power of the Neshama pulsing within us, the very power of Hashem within us, and say:
  • “Just as Hashem has no boundaries, I don’t want to have any boundaries.”
  • “Just as Hashem doesn’t have to listen to any commands, I don’t want to listen to any commands.”
  • “I love the powerful feeling of the Neshama from Hashem within me, and just as Hashem’s power is not restrained, I don’t want to be restrained.”
  • These two reactions are opposite from one another.
  • The first reaction is one of humility and gratitude.
  • The second reaction is one of power and arrogance.
  • It is ironic that the source of both reactions is the same – feeling the greatness of the Neshama within us.
  • Hashem wanted Adam to know that the preferred and wiser reaction is to feel a sense of boundaries.
  • So Hashem gave Adam a command to follow, to encourage Adam to be aware of his limitations.
  • Hashem told Adam, “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
  • Hashem wanted Adam to be aware that the feeling of Hashem within him should not be confused with actually being too much like Hashem.
  • The Nachash (serpent) encouraged Adam to adopt the second attitude, to push away restrictions.
  • The Nashash said, “You can be like Hashem. You don’t have to listen to commands from Hashem. Just as Hashem doesn’t kowtow to anyone, you don’t have to kowtow to anyone.”
  • Adam opted for the second choice, of not wanting to be restricted, with disastrous consequences.
  • It’s important to recognize that it is the very feeling of the power of the Neshama that Adam felt within him – the power of Hashem’ness within him – that motivated him to not want to obey restraints.
  • This feeling of the power of his Neshama led Adam to make the wrong decision, with the result that he stumbled and damaged himself, and made a terrible error that damaged his relationship with Hashem.
  • The feeling of Hashem’ness that gave him the illusion of being invulnerable and error-proof, actually made him more vulnerable and error-prone.
  • It is truly ironic that it is the feeling of the power of the Neshama – interpreted incorrectly – that is the source of the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination.
  • The Yetzer Hara is the feeling of power that wants to push away boundaries.
  • These boundaries are necessary for our protection, and for a relationship with Hashem.
  • This theme of not listening to what Hashem wants, and resisting restraint continues in the Chumash.
  • Cayen didn’t want to be restrained when he felt anger and jealousy towards his brother.
  • Hashem said to Cayen, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you don’t do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to trap you, but you must rule over it.”
  • Cayin chose not to be restrained.
  • The generation of the flood didn’t want to feel boundaries, so they did whatever they wanted, partaking in any immorality that took their fancy at the moment, until the generation brought destruction upon themselves.
  • The same was true of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Messechet Shabbos 156b says that one of the reasons we wear a Yarmulka is to remind us that Hashem is above us and has rules that He wants us to follow.
  • “Rav Nachman ben Yitzchak’s mother was told by astrologers, Your son will be a thief. So she did not let him be bareheaded, saying to him, ‘Cover your head so that the fear of heaven may be upon you.’ One day he was sitting and studying under a palm tree that belonged to someone else. His head covering slipped off, and temptation overcame him, and without thinking he climbed up and bit off a cluster of dates with his teeth.”
  • The third paragraph of the Shema says that we should attach Tzitzit onto the “confei” (wings) of our garments, so that we should look at them and remember Hashem’s commandments. The metaphor implies that we all have wings that need to be tied down.
  • In Chagigah 12a Resh Lakish says: “When Hashem created the sea, it went on expanding, until Hashem said, “Enough”, and He thereby created dry land.”
  • This can be seen as analogy to the part of us that wants to expand our actions according to whatever our desires want, without limitation.
  • Throwing off all restraint usually results in what is said in Mishele (Proverbs) 16:18: “Pride comes before destruction, and arrogance before a fall.”
  • Let’s give an analogy of a man with a very successful furniture factory.
  • He takes in a young man into the business, and teaches him all the details of manufacturing and sales that make the business successful.
  • The owner then gives this young man 10% of the business.
  • However, instead of remaining a faithful employee, the young man sells his share of the business to someone else, and uses the money and knowledge to open up a competing furniture factory.
  • He figures, why should I obey the dictates and rules of my boss, now that I have the knowledge, money, and ability to run my own business?
  • At the end of the harvest season we move out of our secure and fortified home into a flimsy Succah.
  • With our produce in storage, there is a tendency to feel smug and invulnerable.
  • This can lead to an arrogance that can be self-destructive.
  • One reason we move into the Succah with its weak roof is to remind us of our vulnerability and fallibility.
  • Even though our store-houses are full, we must resist the temptation of feeling arrogant, and remember that the better path is one of gratitude and humility.
  • The Greeks with their exceptional philosophy, writing, and math worshipped the human being, and rejected the idea of abiding by the rules of an amorphous Hashem.
  • Their flash of civilization from Homer to Aristotle lasted a mere 100 years.
  • Greek philosophy was the underpinning of the Haskala, the Jewish ‘renaissance’, where so many frum Jews threw off the yoke of Hashem’s will to follow the path of self-expression without boundaries.
  • People declared that they were ‘frei’ (free) of the boundaries of Yiddishkeit.
  • This led to a spiritual dead-end that the Torah community is still recovering from.
  • Some of us can feel this same conflict when we daven the Shemoneh Esray prayers.
  • While we try to put our Cavanah into the brochas that are fashioned in the spirit of gratitude and humility, we can sometimes feel our Cavanah side-tracked by an inner voice that says, “I can feel of the power of the Neshama inside me, and I don’t want to be restricted by humility and obligation”.
  • Likewise, one of the key to a successful marriage is mutually accepting limitations based on gratitude and restraint.
  • It’s been said that keeping Shabbos is the door through which Jews enter religion, or Chas Ve Shalam exit it.
  • When Jews feel comfortable with the sense of gratitude and obligation to Hashem, Shabbos is the greatest of joys.
  • When, Chas ve Shalom, Jews are focused on busting through restrictions, Shabbos feels imprisoning.
  • Our Neshama feels the heady feeling of power because it comes from the breath of the all-powerful Hashem.
  • It is essential that we don’t get carried away by that feeling of power.
  • We must not give into the illusion of invulnerability, that can lead to a desire to cast away the restrictions that Hashem tells us in the Torah.
  • Those restrictions provide the boundaries that protect us and bind us to Hashem.
  • Within the context of the rules of Torah, we must grow and actualize ourselves and develop our abilities to the full extent possible.
  • The engine of our Neshama makes great growth possible.
  • Adam made the mistake of rejecting commandments because he was fooled that the power of the Neshama within him enabled him to dispense with the boundaries and rules outlined by Hashem.
  • Let us be wiser, and choose the path of humility and gratitude, that protects us from our own surging desires, and strengthens our connection to Hashem.

 

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