There is no lack in spirituality
When on the path of learning for the purpose of inner work, we seek to attain two main goals:
- To build the internal foundations proper for our work
- To know how to work on – and with – ourselves in practical terms.
It is common, when learning the inner wisdom of the Torah in this way, that a stray thought finds its way into our heart: 'What will I get out of this? After all, I don't remember all of the points of work that we spoke about in previous weeks, and I didn't always have the time or the opportunity to apply what we learned. I also didn't always see how we can realize these things in daily life. Sometimes, it seems that we keep saying the same things over and over?!'
'After all, I do know that we need to rectify our desire to receive, so that it will become clothed in the purpose of giving. I know that I need to be unselfish, that I need to set goals to move towards my purpose, and not to live in the past. But I don't truly see how this is creating any change in me. If I were to add something to my knowledge – another Torah portion, another book of Prophets, more halachot, another page of Gemara – then I would know that I had progressed another step.'
So the stray thought reflects and ponders in our mind, even without our noticing.
Therefore, I would like to answer this reflection and to give it pause for thought so that it might be a little less resolute. It would be good to relieve its bitterness just a little, lest it distress our soul as we walk the path of truth.
The ways of this work are not always clear. But we must know that the more we speak of these things, the more fully they open within our consciousness in greater clarity and intensity. Thinking and speaking about these things has the added merit that through repeated learning we can deepen our understanding, and better grasp the connection between them to the whole of man's reality. Then, we may also live these understandings just a little. If we continue to act, even upon just a small part of the truth, our Nefesh will continue to grow. Even if it seems to us that our knowledge and understanding has left us.
If we ask what we learned two months ago, we may not remember. Ba'al HaSulam says (TES, part 2, ohr pnimi ch.1:4) "There is no Lack in the spirit". This is a spiritual law that applies here as well: every action that we perform in spirituality, in our intent to serve the Almighty in the path of the truth, is never found lacking. Rather, it is preserved and grows our Nefesh, even if we don't see or feel it right away.
Our Nefesh seeks out work; this is its true nourishment in this world, the nutrients from which it can grow, even if we do not see the fact that we are growing. Like a child whose mother promises him "If you eat, you'll grow big and strong!" He finishes his meal, and walks up to a mirror. Surprised, he turns to his mother and says "Mother, you said that I would grow! I ate all of my food, but I didn't grow. I look just the same as I did before I ate!"
So it is with the work of our souls, we need to see it from a wider perspective. Man must not test the growth of his soul by any momentary feeling; man must test himself only after a period of time.
The Torah is ordered exquisitely after the pattern of the human soul. We move along in measured steps through the points of inner work. In Parashat "Bereshit" (Genesis), we learned about the creation of desire and of purpose. In "Noah", we learned that man must seek out this desire, which was created in him. When he discovers it, he must turn his despair from the feeling of lack into unwavering dedication to go beyond his limited ability to know. We learned how to build an ark, which is the framework of our faith, within which moves the scientific and logical aspects of man's soul. In "Lech Lecha", we learned that after discovering our desire, we must remove all those wants that are not aligned with Hashem, and to seek out our true desires in the way of faith.
Thus, each week, we learn something new. Even if each new understanding includes within it all of our previous learnings, the Nefesh continues to move forward and to grow.
Excerpt from Parashat Vayirah
"HaTorah, Ha'Adam, vemah sheBeineihem" ("Between Torah and Man"), Rav Adam Sinai.