Rectifyinfg The World of Emotions
The soul is divided into three, main sections. These three spiritual sections of a person are called the nefesh – animal soul, the ruach – literally, spirit and the soul, or Divine soul. The main challenge of this generation is the birur, or clarification process, that’s required at the level of the nefesh, which encompasses the world of emotions.
These spiritual sections of a person are mainly expressed via our emotions, intellect and our soul.
- Emotions – when we’re dealing with the nefesh
- Intellect – when we’re dealing with the level of soul called ruach which manifests in spiritual striving, and a wish to attach ourselves to spiritual matters.
- The Urge and desire to disconnect from this world, and from materialism – which comes from the Neshama – soul.
Each one of these three spiritual sections of nefesh, ruach and neshama contain both good and bad, and we need to try to strengthen the good aspects and get rid of the bad aspects.
That means carefully observing to see what is really good, and what is really bad within us.
Raising love back to its root
Let’s start with the nefesh, which is the world of emotions. Everyone one us contains many different emotions and feelings, but the Torah tells us that there are two main emotions, from which all other emotions spring and these are ‘kindness and strictness’, or ‘love and fear’.
Love is connected to the aspects of kindness, connecting to others and giving, while fear is connected to feeling scared, and the aspect of strictness and harsh judgment that exists in the human heart.
The force of love that exists in the human heart is a positive and holy force for the good but it also has to be channeled to the side of holiness.
There are three kinds of ‘holy’ love:
The love of Hashem
The love of the Torah
The love of the Jewish people, aka ahavat Yisrael.
Of course, there are also what’s called ‘fallen loves’, which are in opposition to these, and that’s the ‘loves’ or desire for this world.
People ‘love’ a lot of things that can harm them or destroy them. We have to do the work of birur, to clarify that the things that come from the side of ‘holy love’ should be strengthened, while those that come from loving this world have to be rebuffed.
We need to know a very important spiritual principle here, which is that a person can’t merit to achieve ‘holy love’ until he’s completely repelled the love he feels for the things of this world.
This is because the ‘holy love’ can be found in every single one of us, it’s inside every single Jew, but it’s just hidden and concealed from us – and what’s covering it up is the ‘love’ we feel for this world.
The more a person can push away his ‘love’ for the things of this world, the more he’ll merit to reveal the ‘holy love’ that exists inside of him.
When we merit to do this, we’ll start to feel that this ‘holy love’ is infinitely stronger and deeper than the love we have for this lowly world. The problem is, that the yetzer hara- evil inclination is always trying to entice us with the enjoyable experiences to be had in this world, in order to place more and more veils over our hearts which will prevent us from feeling true ‘holy love’.
There is also a ‘lust’ from the side of holiness
The nefesh also contain attributes, or middot, that are closer to the ‘not good’ side, but even these attributes contain some good. For example, anger and harsh judgment. In nearly all instances, these are character traits that we need to be rebuffing, and working on overcoming and improving.
The very small amount of ‘good’ that they contain can only be used when we harshly judge, or get angry with someone who is mocking the Torah, or the path of emuna – faith.
But feelings are also connected to our desires and lusts, and there is actually a lust that comes from the holy side.
It’s written in the holy books that there were tzaddikim who didn’t use to eat the day before Shabbat in order to come into Shabbat with a real lust to eat. They did this because on Shabbat, it’s a mitzvah to eat, and to enjoy the Shabbat food, as Rebbe Nachman said:
“The food eaten on Shabbat is totally holy; it’s totally Divine.”
Usually, the world of desires is found very close to the yetzer hara. One of the most difficult tests of our generation is to stand up in the face of our overwhelming desires and lusts, and especially the lust for money, and the lust for intimate relations.
Here, we need to know a very big spiritual rule about lusts and desires that is brought down in the books of Chassidut:
There is a connection between a person’s feelings, and a person’s lusts and desires.
Whenever a person falls into negative feelings, this wakes up inside of him a very strong lust for the vanities of this lowly world.
And the opposite is also true.
When a person merits to rectify his inner world of feelings, his rectified feelings then cause his desire for material things, and his lusts, to weaken.
For example: The lust to eat is connected to the attribute of love. When a person feels a lack of love in his life, that awakens a lust for food. The person is satisfying his ‘lack’ of love by overeating. How can he fix this problem? By strengthening the side of ‘holy love’.
Another example: Our holy books speak a great deal about how much destruction and devastation the trait of arrogance and pride can cause. In fact, Rebbe Nachman teaches that the main spiritual rectification of a person depends on distancing ourselves from arrogance and pride as much as possible.
Chazal say: There is a very profound connection between arrogance and pride with the lust for illicit intimate relations. When a person is arrogant, when he’s proud, he awakens the lust for intimate relations – and again, the opposite is also true. When a person works on rectifying his arrogance, and he merits to attain some humility and lowliness, he effectively also rectifies his lust for illicit relations.
In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at the second part of the soul, called the Ruach.
In the mertit of R’ Eliezer ben Etya, Yitzchak ben Saida, Achya Yitzchak ben Anet, galit Geula bat Ronit, Mordechai Menachem ben Miril. And all of Am Yisrael.