Sunday, August 6, 2017

Body Or Soul?

By Rav Itamar Schwartz 

The Inner World – A Perceptible Entity

It is difficult to express these ideas in writing, and I will define why that is.

I have come to write this sefer because of an inner mission – an awareness of a particular world that exists, which in reality, is more real than the world we sense, but is very hidden from people.

This inner world is enchanting. It is a world of pleasure and connection, but it is not a world of fantasy. It is a world more real and clear than the world we know with our senses: the world of the table, the chair, the lamp, and so on.

Sometimes, when we attempt to enter a deeper world, there is a tendency to think that since it is less known and less familiar, perhaps it is just a figment of the imagination. Perhaps it is just a product of the delusions of those who want to experience all kinds of things, who create entire structures out of all of their fantasies.

But the truth is that the inner world is more perceptible than the world we actually inhabit! One who doesn’t realize this is like a blind person who can’t see what’s in front of him, and might ask of those nearby, “Are you certain that there is a table here? Maybe there isn’t?”

They will all respond, “We are 100% certain that it exists. There isn’t even the slightest possibility otherwise.” They sadly shake their heads over the fact that he cannot see, and say with a mixture of sadness and compassion, “What a pity. If Hashem will send him a full recovery, he will be able to see. Then, he will discover that there was no basis for his doubts.” 

Everyone can see if there is a table present. If one is in front of a table and asks if people are certain of its existence, the only reason for his doubts is his own blindness.

The inner world is clear, definite and absolute. These matters are non-negotiable. This is not an issue that is only 70, 80, or 90 percent likely. This is no less than 100 percent definite.

I am not sharing this concept for the sake of education, and certainly not just to reveal some new idea, but to introduce the reader to an existing, real, and enchanting world.

Before America was discovered, people didn’t know it existed. Once it was discovered it, it proved to be a real land that people could stand on. America is not just an idea; it is a real country.

So, too, regarding these concepts we will discuss, the goal is to reveal an existing entity, not just fleeting ideas. We want people to be able to sense it, not just be aware of it. We want to allow people to experience and “breathe” a new world, and not just to know something new. Knowledge is also useful, but the goal is the recognition of a new world.

We will try, with Hashem’s help, to present the facts in simple and easy language, so that they can be clear enough to be accepted in the mind. Then, we will try to experience and “breathe” this new entity.

Can a Person Identify With His Spiritual Component?

We are all aware that man is not merely skin, bones, sinews, and flesh. There also exists within him a spiritual energy that keeps everything alive. When the spiritual energy departs from the person, he dies.

After death has occurred, the bones, the skin, the flesh, and the sinews are at first still intact, but the person can no longer move. This shows us that the essence of man is not just a mixture of material elements, but rather a composition of the material and the spiritual.

Although this information isn’t new to us, it still forces us to ask ourselves: Are we experiencing and using this inner spiritual energy that we know exists within us?

When we move, speak, and think, we know that the ability to do so originates from the spiritual force. But are we aware of the presence of an inner spiritual force at work then, or does it just feel like we are simply using a part of the body?

For example, when a person is walking, he is certainly using his legs, but his legs alone cannot make him walk. The proof is, as we mentioned, that a deceased person cannot walk. That being the case, we know for certain that when one walks, it is the spiritual energy that enables him to do so. When this person is walking, is it the spiritual energy allowing him to do so that he identifies with, or do his legs “take him” to his destination without any awareness of how it all happens?

If he is identifying with the true source of his walking ability, he experiences it and “breathes” it. But if not, he will still be walking, but he will feel that he is walking because of legs made of flesh, skin, sinews, and bones. He’ll identify with the materialistic aspect of it, and thus, the inner, spiritual world will be hidden from him, and he won’t recognize it.

Although he may believe and even know that it exists, he is like a person who possesses a safe with a million dollars inside of it at home, but doesn’t know the code required to open it. He is very wealthy, but cannot do anything with the wealth.

We are all extremely wealthy; there is a Divine neshamah (soul) contained within every one of us. Do we have the code required to open the safe and make use of its vast riches? We are all in possession of this priceless treasure, but do we learn about it and use it?

The Jew, in particular, more than other creations, is primarily a neshamah. The neshamah is the focal point of the spiritual power hidden within him. When a Jew walks, his primary awareness and identification must be focused on his neshamah, and not on his material components – his hands, legs, flesh, skin, sinews, and bones. He must literally identify every moment with his neshamah.

It is not difficult to identify with the neshamah; it is simply a change of perspective.

Marriage – a Change of Identification

Let us imagine a single man, who has always been accustomed to a certain schedule and way of life. He feels free, so to speak. No one restricts him. When the time comes, he enters the covenant of marriage, and his life takes on a different schedule. He is committed to his wife, and is not as free as he was before.

He is almost automatically going to start thinking and feeling differently. Even when he is out of the house, he will know that he must return home by a certain time. He is no longer a bachelor who can come home any time he wishes. He already identifies himself as a married man.

This identification has many consequences, but our point is that he does not merely have knowledge that he is married; there is a new kind of personal identification. From the beginning of the day, he already knows that he may not make an appointment with someone for 2 AM. He has to check what’s going on at home. Once he is married, he knows that he must be practical and always keep in mind that he is no longer living alone. The reality of his life obligates him to recognize that there is now someone else with whom he shares his life.

No one should need to teach him that he is now married; it should be in his consciousness. He understands on his own, “I am married, and now I have a partner to take into account.” 

There is a change in his identification – the way he sees himself. He should not need to study this. Rather, the very knowledge of that fact gives him a new perspective on life.

A Meaningful Change Generates a New Sense of Identity

If we think about it, we will discover that all stages in life work this way. We undergo many changes.

Here is another example: A person might be in a hospital for a week or two, for whatever reason.

When he awakens on the first morning, he opens his eyes and asks himself, “Where am I? What is going on here?” Suddenly, he recalls, “Last night, I went to sleep in the hospital, and so, I woke up in the hospital. No one came and moved my bed out during the night.” This is on the first day.

By the second or third day, the moment he awakens, he remembers that he is in the hospital, and that this is a significant fact in his life. His schedule in the hospital is very different from the one at home.

It takes some time to digest this change and realize that he is no longer at home, but some place else. As a result of the awareness, he will begin to arrange his schedule accordingly.

These were two examples. Now we will think about the lesson.

Man – a Neshamah Covered with a Body

We are composed of material and spiritual parts – the body and the neshamah. As a rule, most people we encounter identify with the material. Before beginning practical work, our first responsibility is to identify ourselves differently, to begin seeing ourselves as the spiritual entities known as neshamos (souls).

I do not mean to imply that we have no body; of course we do. We live here, in this material world. We’re not yet in Gan Eden (Paradise). However, there are two possible ways we can identify ourselves:

The first perspective is as a body that has a neshamah inside it; that is to say, one primarily identifies with the body, but knows that there happens to also be a neshamah inside. The second perspective is as a neshamah covered with a garment called the body. One identifies with the neshamah, but knows that it is covered with a garment called “the body.” Let us consider: Does anyone identify with his shirt? At night, it’s already off and ready to be washed. In the morning, he wears a new one.

We can identify with our clothing to the extent that there is a different feeling when we wear a nice suit than when wearing rags. But that is completely different from thinking of yourself as a suit. Rather, a person will view himself as a person who is clothed.

If we consider ourselves as clothed neshamos, the identification is vastly different from that of a body with a neshamah inside it. 

As we mentioned in the beginning, these are not just ideas; we are trying to convey the existence of a world that can be felt, sensed and “breathed” so that it will be as real, and even more real, than the world currently familiar to us.

A person has a neshamah and a body. The neshamah is a spiritual entity, and the body is a material entity. Does anyone wonder if the body is not a real entity? It is clear to all of us that it is absolutely real.

If we would ask someone, “Do you doubt that the neshamah is an absolute, real entity?” he would say, “No! I know and believe that it is real.” But if we ask, “Do you sense the reality of the neshamah?” the person would generally either respond, “No,” or “I wish it were so.”

“The Beating in the Grave”– for One who has Identified with the Body

When a person dies, his neshamah leaves the body, and he can no longer identify himself as a body. The body will no longer be real then, because it simply won’t exist. But if one waits until death, the process of changing that identification will be most difficult. Chazal (our Sages, of blessed memory), referred to this process as “chibut hakever” (the beating in the grave). 

What is chibut hakever? Here is a simple example: Earlier, we discussed the change in perspective and identification of a person who was single and then married. Anyone who has experienced this knows that the change is very pleasant, usually with only minimal difficulty, and even that difficulty lasts a very short time.

But there is an opposite situation, which is very difficult: A woman who was married, and, G-d forbid, became a widow, goes through a very difficult process in adjusting to her new, lonely identity of widowhood. Although the woman knows intellectually that her husband is gone and will not return until techiyas hameisim (the resurrection of the dead), it is very hard for her to adjust to the identity of a woman living alone in her daily life. For decades, she was accustomed to living with another person, and it is extremely difficult to undo this habit of fifty or sixty years. Anyone with personal experience with widows can attest to this fact.

When the body and neshamah are together for years, and one day, the person dies, it is like the death of a spouse. The separation is too difficult to bear. If a person always considered himself a body, and then when he dies the neshamah suddenly leaves the body, he no longer has a sense of identity, because his entire identity has been taken away. Lacking a strong sense of identity with the neshamah, he will be like someone from whom everything was taken.

This is the deep meaning behind chibut hakever. There are additional meanings, but for our purposes, the suffering refers to the fact that one’s prior identity is gone, and he has nothing to replace it with.

If while alive, he did identify with the neshamah and considered the body only a garment, he will not suffer from chibut hakever at the time of his death. One is not troubled by removing his clothes at night, placing them in the laundry, and preparing new clothing for the next day. To the contrary, the garment was a bit dirty, and it will be very pleasant to wear a new garment the next morning. It is not difficult to change garments. This is especially so if today’s garment was old and tomorrow’s is new.

If one has identified with his neshamah and considered the body merely a garment, his death will be like a person removing an old shirt and donning a new one. When a person leaves this world, he is clothed with garments – not the garments called “the body,” but a kind of spiritual garment, like the “tunics of light” possessed by Adam Harishon (the first man). An old “shirt” is removed, and a new one is given in its place. This is a very easy and enjoyable process.

For whom is death difficult? Only for someone whose sense of self was that of a body with a neshamah inside, whose connection to his neshamah was very weak. When he dies, he loses his whole identity. His feeling is: “I have lost everything!” He gets a neshamah in its place, which is in fact a great treasure, but since he has not had the merit to recognize it as such, he does not know how to work with it. Thus, he feels completely lost.

We must all undergo this process of changing from the perspective of being a body containing a neshamah to that of a neshamah that has a garment – the body – but we have the choice of when and how to make this transition. Will we change while still alive here in this world, or only at death? Will it be gradual and relatively painless, or like a sudden electric shock?

The Wicked are Considered Dead Even When Alive

Moreover, if a person chooses to wait until death to identify with his neshamah, then he is already dead, even while he lives. Why? Because what keeps a person alive is his spiritual energy, his neshamah. But if he identifies with the body, and he doesn’t identify with that neshamah, then it is as if he has already died.

Of this, Chazal said,[1] “The wicked, even when alive, are considered dead.” One with a body and no neshamah is dead. So, too, one who does not identify with the neshamah is like a person with only a body and no neshamah, like a dead person. Even if Chazal had not said this, we can understand it on our own. He is considered as though he is dead because he has no spiritual energy.

If we look around us, we will realize that everyone in this world is drawn after material pleasures. Each person has some kind of material pleasure that pulls him. Each person is affected differently, but the common denominator with nearly everyone is that the material world has captured them, and they are imprisoned by this pursuit after the material.

One who pursues the material and identifies with it is like a dead person! We go outside and see that everyone is looking for something, but no one knows exactly what. They all feel that something is lacking inside. One person thinks that by going to some concert, he will fill his emptiness, another thinks that by taking a trip, he will feel better. In the best case, it helps for that moment, and maybe for a day or two more – a trip abroad might add another week – but after that, the sense that something inside is dry and empty will return and persist.

What is lacking there, deep inside?

It is not just something that is lacking. Everything is lacking! There’s nothing there! A person is a neshamah covered with a body, but if he identifies with the body, then everything is lacking!

If a person cannot pay all his monthly expenses because he only has 80% of what he needs, he will find some way to survive. But one who is already without a penny to his name at the beginning of the month is totally lost!

One who identifies with the material is like someone drowning in a river, who feels that these may be his last minutes, and he must use all his strength to save his own life.

The People in our World are in the Stage Just before Death

The people in our generation, who are totally engrossed in materialistic pursuits, are like a deathly ill person (gosses, in the language of our Sages). There is almost no real vitality. Material pursuits are followed by more and more material pursuits, without end or limit. We see advertisements and posters, and are drawn to one thing after another. He works to buy and buys to eat, and so on, pursuing the material more and more. This is like being dead.

This is the state of our generation. We need a techiyas hameisim (resurrection), and I don’t say this as mere parable or poetry. This is the reality!

What is techiyas hameisim,? When the neshamah returns to the body. When a person dies, the neshamah leaves the body, and at techiyas hameisim, it will return. What is the difference between before death and after death?

Before death, one identified with the body, and the neshamah was merely inside it. He cannot identify with the neshamah in an absolute sense, so it must leave, because this is not its place. This is like when one rents an apartment and the time stipulated in the contract is completed, so he must leave. The neshamah feels like a renter in the body. When its time is completed, it must move out.

But if one completely identifies with the neshamah, then here is his place. He is the owner; why should he leave? At best, there will be a change of clothes, but why should he depart from here?

That is the difference between the light of techiyas hameisim of the future and the light we experience now. When the neshamah returns, it will come with an identity of a neshamah covered with a body as its garment. Even then, there will be some change of garments, but the neshamah will have an absolute and lasting existence, and will never need to leave.

The current state of the world is physical death. We do not experience even a thousandth of a percent of the vitality that exists in the neshamah; we only have a spark of a spark. This is all that remains. 

A Change of Identity is Akin to Conversion

To make sure that we don’t completely die, we must restructure our lives. We must build a different identity. To help you understand the nature of this change of identity, we will present another example:

When the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai, G-d determined who is a Jew and who is a non-Jew. But this is not a final determination, because nearly every non-Jew can change his identity by converting (according to the laws of conversion). If he wants to convert, he must be circumcised, immerse in a mikveh (ritual bath), and commit to keeping all the laws of the Written and Oral Torah. Thereby, he changes his identity from non-Jew to Jew. This process will totally transform his personality. 

When we consider this example, we will understand that our situation is no less than that! We must undergo a real change of identity. Just as a non-Jew who converts changes identity from non-Jew to Jew, so too, for us to change from our identification with the material world (which is really the domain of Esav, not Yaakov) to identification with the spiritual world, we need to undergo a process that is similar to conversion. 

The non-Jew only needs minutes to go through the steps that will change him. Circumcision, immersion – in half an hour, it’s all over. Yet this is a process that totally transforms him.

If we think that our mission is simply to change one behavior or another, we must know that this is a mistake! I don’t mean to say that everything we do is fine. Certainly not! Each person knows that he has deeds that are not proper and must be improved. But this is like a person who decides not to convert, but rather, to go in steps. “Today, I will fulfill one mitzvah, tomorrow another one, and so on.” It is obvious that the first mitzvah will not have the potency of a mitzvah. He is still a non-Jew, and the act is not considered a mitzvah.

Now, our case is not exactly like that, because any mitzvah done by a Jew has a spiritual light, but we want to emphasize that in our time, the process needed is not one of making minor improvements. We must overturn our entire way of life!

For example, if one is driving a car and gets a flat tire, he pulls over to the side of the road, undoes some screws, changes the tire, and continues on his way. But what if his car collides with a truck and crashes into a wall? There is nothing left to do with the car other than to sell the frame for its metal. It cannot be fixed. He can only request some compensation from the insurance company. If he receives enough money, he can buy a new car; if not, he will have to borrow from the bank. But the previous car is finished! He has to start again!

We must understand that the state we are in is like a car that has collided with a truck and crashed into a wall. Nothing remains.

We are so crushed by our current state that we don’t even pay attention to what has happened to us. We are completely absorbed by materialism. A person is satisfied with reading a nice leaflet with Torah thoughts on Shabbos. He might even have the opportunity to hear words of inspiration once a week. But where is his whole life? What is his identity? The average person is far, far below where he needs to be.

Excuses Don’t Give Life

One might say, “I have no time. I’m busy. I have a wife and children. I need to make a living.” That’s all true, but what can we compare him to? He is like a person in a hospital with a severe illness in his kidney. The doctor explains to him, “Either we do a transplant, which costs $30,000, or in two months, it’s all over; you will die.”

The patient says to the doctor, “But I’m in a difficult financial situation. I can’t do it.”

The doctor will respond, “If you can’t, then you will die! The loan funds don’t give away $30,000; the government doesn’t give it away either, so this is the situation. You must decide. Either find a way to get the amount and, with the help of Hashem, live, or, G-d forbid, you will die.”

All the excuses and answers, even if 100% correct, will not keep him alive. We can compose a whole book of excuses, but excuses don’t give anyone life.

A person may have a whole bundle of excuses for identifying with his material component, and the Heavenly court might even sign on it, but after the signature, they will add, “He died with justification.” He has a rationale, but he has no life.

You cannot live in a way that is totally the opposite of reality. If one tries to walk upside down for even half a minute, he might succeed. But no one considers going around that way all the time. Our existence is simply inverted. In the words of Chazal,[2] “I have seen an inverted world.” Everything is inverted. Instead of making the neshamah the focus of life, and the body a thin garment for our use, we do exactly the opposite. We constantly identify with the material, and feel we do the Creator a big favor by participating once a week in a Torah class! 

This is the total opposite of the reality. I have not met anyone who eats a piece of cake Thursday night and says, “I have fulfilled my responsibility to eat for the week.” Why? Because he gets hungry! It does no good to assume you have thereby fulfilled your obligation to eat. If your stomach feels hungry, you need to eat!

If we would feel spiritual hunger the way we feel physical hunger, we would solve the whole problem of life. The problem with life is our wholehearted identification with the material aspect of it. People think they have specific problems. One has this problem, another has a different problem. This may be true, but underlying it all is a single root problem; namely, that we have the wrong sense of reality.

“We are Orphans with no Father”

We were created properly and gradually drifted away, until, finally, we completely forgot who we are.

The passuk says,[3] “We are orphans with no father.” The commentators are troubled by the redundancy: Why does it say “We are orphans” and also says “no father”? Obviously, if there is no father, the children are orphans.

When a father dies, the orphan at first remembers him clearly, and is in pain, but then, very gradually, he forgets. If one has reached the state where he doesn’t even remember having a father, he embodies, “We are orphans without a father.” We don’t even remember that we had a Father!

We originally had the proper state of being a neshamah with a pure garment, the body. Over time, we made the neshamah secondary and the body primary. Gradually, the percentages changed. At first, the body occupied 70% importance and the neshamah 30%. Then, we shifted the balance, and made it 71 to 29, then, 72 to 28, and so on, until we reached the ratio of 99.9% percent body and 0.1% neshamah.

We must completely change our perspective on life. We need an absolute turnaround. We need a totally different identity.

The Change of Identity is a Process that Takes Time

This new sense of identity cannot take hold by hearing about it just once. One must undergo an inner process in order to digest who he really is.

To illustrate: One day, a man becomes the father of a new baby boy. In the middle of the night, he wakes up when he hears someone crying. At first, he doesn’t understand what awoke him. It takes a little while to absorb the fact that a baby was born to him a few days prior, who is presently crying. He is used to thinking that if someone is crying, it is either from the downstairs neighbor or the upstairs neighbor, because he doesn’t have such a situation in his home. After 20-30 seconds, when he becomes somewhat more alert, he grasps that it certainly is his son crying.

In other words, it takes time to adjust to the change, as we mentioned.

It takes time for a person to change his self-concept. There can be no drastic change here; drastic changes are destructive and disastrous. The change must be gradually built through an internal process. 

Here is an example to consider: A person goes to an office for home sales, and asks to see building plans. He spends a half hour or an hour examining various plans to see which home matches his needs. He brings his wife, shows the plans to his father, goes back and forth, and finally decides: “This is the home I want!”

He asks the clerk what the price is, and when told the amount, immediately writes a check and asks, “May I have a key now?”

“What key?” he is told. “These are merely plans. The building isn’t standing yet. What are you talking about? First you sign a contract; then, when we sell a third of the apartments, we will start to build. With Hashem’s help, the apartment will be ready within two years.”

But he has no patience. He wants the keys as soon as he sees the plans.

If we will examine this idea further, we will understand that to hear and understand is only like a plan. It could be a very good architectural plan, but a plan is not an actual building. Once there is a plan, contractors are brought in and construction starts.

When we understand that knowledge is only like a plan, we see that the next step is to start building an inner structure of life. It takes at least two years to build an actual structure, such as a material building, depending on how many floors are to be built A thirty-story building takes much longer. 

Our neshamah is much deeper and much greater than a thirty-story building. Consequently, the process of building the self should take a very long time.

The Form of Practical Work

As was mentioned, this is an introduction. What do I mean by this? 

We have discussed the basis, the perspective of where a person should want to place himself. But these are only plans. Once we agree on the plans, we can build a structure of practical work.

This practical work requires various stages, an investment of time, and a graduated process. In the material world, a person can see plans for an apartment that is appealing, but the price might be double what he is prepared to pay. He has never seen such building plans, but he has also never seen such a price. He may have wonderful plans and ideas, but he is not prepared or willing to pay the price.

If there are people who have decided that the ideas presented here indeed represent their plan, the next step is to commit to bring the plan from potential to actuality, through their readiness and commitment.

We all live in the material world. As we explained at length, we identify mainly with the material; much less so, with the spiritual.

In the material world, it is obvious to all of us that one who wants to support his family does not just buy a lottery ticket once a week and expect to fulfill his obligation that way. Even a regular lottery ticket buyer, although he longs for a miracle, usually also has a job. He can spend a little money once a week, and if the miracle happens, he can quit his job.

But as long as he hasn’t won, even though he will hold on to the ticket, he would not hand in a letter of resignation to his boss.

A person understands that in spite of all these hopes, if he wants to support his family, he must rise early in the morning and work all day. Some may have a slightly different schedule, but there is a daily process, practical work, and a life that is developed as a result.

One cannot base his work schedule on his mood – showing up for work only if he had a good night’s sleep, and not showing up if the baby kept him awake or he was upset by a family member. No business would retain such a person in its employ.

We all understand that this is the way of the material world. If one wants to keep a normal job, he must show up for work on time. There are sick days and vacation days throughout the year, but there is a system. People work! This is clear to anyone with a sound mind, without the slightest doubt.

Yet when we speak of the spiritual world, it seems totally different to people. We identify with the material world, so we understand that to create a normal life – not to be wealthy, but for a basic livelihood of food and clothing – one must work.

But this is not so clear with the spiritual world, because that world is so much less real to us. We don’t experience it as powerfully, so it seems to us that we can make significant strides in our growth from a speech here, an idea there, a lecture during a holiday, or a weekend retreat. These are all good and wonderful, but they are like desserts served after a meal, which are not filling on their own.

If there is an interest for a series of talks, the listeners must realize that it has to be more than talks. There must be a commitment to work! There is no difficulty in speaking and speaking, but it can all remain theory. You can make a book out of it and distribute it all over the world, yet it is possible that no one will act upon it.

The teachings presented here should be a process of work and progress. If people are ready, and relate to these ideas, and feel a will to build their lives in this way, we will try to continue and teach, according to the abilities that Hashem will supply.

But if we are to continue, there is a condition – not an arbitrary condition, but one that is essential. If a person wants a value to be truly developed inside him, there must be a consistent process of building. When one wants to erect a building, workers must show up each day and add one brick at a time. They don’t just put one brick here and then another one somewhere else, and they also don’t start with the third floor balcony. The entire structure must be organized, one brick above the other.

Here, too, I want to make it clear that we are not just dealing with words alone, but with the process of building one’s life. This requires total dedication.

May Hashem allow these words to be helpful and accepted in the hearts of the listeners, and may we reach the state where our world will be the world of the neshamah. We will live with the neshamah being tangible to us. We will “breathe” and experience it. We will devote our lives to the mission for which we were placed in this world. We must understand that we are not doing this as a favor to anyone; we are developing ourselves for our own eternal benefit – in this world and the next.

[1] Berachos 18b; Kohelles Rabbah 9:1

[2] Pesachim 50a

[3] Eichah 5:3