A Dvar Torah for Parshat Va'eira: Exodus 6:2 - 9:35)
and Likutey Moharan Book I Lesson #79
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © January 15, 2021
Is it best to know G-d through the intellect or the emotions?
This question has divided Jews for a very long time. It even led to the destruction of the Second Temple! It nearly destroyed the emerging awakening movement of the BESHT, the Baal Shem Tov. The initial chassidim were condemned by the “Mitnagdim” or “Opposers” due to their emphasis on the emotional connection one can develop with the Beloved through hitbodedut or personal prayer.
As a group the Mitnagdim have pretty much faded away. Today Chassidut is generally accepted as normative part of orthodox Judaism. Today however this spirit of opposition and condemnation is returning, although its emphasis has changed.
There are Jews today, including many chassidim, who speak flawless Hebrew, who know and quote the Talmud, the Tanach, the Zohar, the Kabbalah, and other materials in flawless Hebrew and/or Aramaic. And yet they often seem incapable of completing a sentence without adding Hebrew quotes that their hearers don't understand. The purpose of speech is communication, not showing off language skills! Just saying...
Because of their admirable intellectual acuity some of these people believe, some even openly claim, that they are “ascended masters.” They believe their intellectual knowledge makes them tzadikim, righteous people. It does not. They consider themselves to be better than the common riffraff, Jew or Gentile. It does not and they are not.
On the other hand, there are Jews who care little to nothing about the Talmud, the Tanach, the Zohar and other traditional materials. They publicly support things condemned by Jewish Tradition and Scripture. Some even oppose Israel's existence and support abortion! Why? Because they follow the emotions of their eyes and hearts. Because they have become overly assimilated. They deal in emotional reactions without intellectual Torah based perceptions.
Who is correct?
Let's consider, as discussed in the “Sparks of Chassidut” section of this week's Gutnick Chumash Parsha reading, the necessity of balance.
Moshe Rabbeinu operated primarily through his intellect. Motivated by his intellectual prowess he even seems to challenge HaShem! At 5:22 he cries out: “O G-d! Why have you mistreated Your people? Why have You sent me?...”
And yet through Moshe everything was transmitted. He was rightly and highly regarded by HaShem. He was the greatest human who ever lived!
Because Moshe followed the way of the intellect he needed to understand HaShem intellectually. And so he cried out, “Why have you mistreated Your people?” And Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come let us reason together, says HaShem!” Without the intellect we are ignorant and have no way to seek HaShem!
On the other hand, our Patriots, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, related with the Holy One primarily through their emotions. Because the Patriarchs served HaShem mainly through their emotions, we don't find them debating the intricacies of Kashrut, which style of kippa to wear, movement sectarianism, who it is permissible to talk with or pray with and who are not, how the inclusion of an aleph here or a Gimel there or some mystical codes from the Middle Ages supposedly reveals hidden meanings. No, they just served HaShem with love and emunah as He led them. Rebbe Nachman teaches us that emunah, motivating faith, and personal prayer is the most effective way to know and please Him.
Was Moshe correct and the Patriarch wrong? Were they correct and he wrong? Of course not.
At Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-87 our Rebbe says:The Mitnagdim (opponents of the Chassidim) say that the main thing is to study Torah. The Chassidim say the main thing is prayer. But I say: Pray and study and pray.
We are One! Truth is One! Know, Love and Serve the Holy One with both the intellect and the heart, the conscientiousness and the emotions. Knowledge is not enough! The emotions are not enough! A bird requires two wings to fly and we require these two wings to ascend. Study Torah, Pray. Study, Pray.
And yet, both sides so often condemn the other. My brothers and sisters we must understand that all Jews are Jews! We are One in HaShem despite our diverse views and disagreements. And, we must honor and assist those who stand with us. Our prophets said the Gentiles would come in the day proceeding HaMashiach, and they ARE coming like never before! Sadly many Jews are pushing these sincere seekers away. How can the nation of priests reject their laity?
Some of you may be thinking, 'We know this, what's the point?' The point? Let's turn to Rebbe Nachman's Likutey Moharan Book I #79
Even as there are many different ways to know, serve and love HaShem as King -- as Torah, as Father, as friend, Confidant, Beloved and so on -- so too there are many ways to oppose the evil that is now upon us. It is no longer when or if the storm will arrive, the Storm Has Arrived.
Forget the past, what will you do now?
As Joshua declared:
If it displeases you to serve Adonai, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my household, we shall serve Adonai!"
What will you do?
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