The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 4 Dec. 1999

TORAH TEACHINGS

Needed: Women With the Holy Spirit

To solve our profound spiritual problems and uncertainties in this time what we need are people who have the holy spirit, who can give us clarity from Above. Human beings can talk to God. What keeps us from this is nothing but true desire and sacrifice. One (not the only) form of holy spirit is prophecy. I recently came across a Talmud teaching and comment in volume 5 of Michtav MaiEliyahu by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler that elicited my own thinking. By the way, Rabbi Dessler, a tzaddik of the last generation, is one of the great modern Jewish thinkers. He was part of the Musar movement (concerned with character perfection and ethics) but was grounded in Kabbalah and Hasidism. Michtav MaiEliyahu has been partially translated as Strive for Truth (the first two Hebrew volumes of five have been translated into six English volumes). It is very popular and easily available. On p.336 of volume 5, Rabbi Dessler quotes Megillah 14: "'Helkiyahu the Priest, Ahikam, and Achbor ... went to Huldah the Prophetess ...' [2 Kings 22:14]. ... [The Talmud asks:] Why did King Yoshayahu ignore Jeremiah, who was alive then, and send this delegation to Huldah? Rabbi Shila said, "Because women are compassionate." Rabbi Dessler asks: "At first, it's difficult to understand. A prophet speaks what God says. What does compassion have to do with it? But [what Rabbi Dessler calls] the 'shadow of the body' is able to affect, albeit finely, even prophecy. (According to Rabbi Dessler there is no totally pure spirituality in the body, and the body always has some affect on the soul, even in prophecy.) A prophet speaks according to his or her nature and the nature of the female body is to be more compassionate than the male body. This Talmud teaching and Rabbi Dessler's comment, elicited my own thought: This teaching tells us why we not only need prophets and people who have the holy spirit, it also explains why we need women prophets. In our time, when we are weak and yearn for God's compassion, we need holy women who will bring us the message from on high. But who will try for this? Who will reach for the highest for our sake as well as her own?

Uttering Blessings for Real

Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the Slobodker Rabbi, the great Musar teacher, taught that when people bless each other with the blessing appropriate to the time, for example, "Good morning," "Good Shabbos," "Shavua Tov" [Good Week], this is actually a form of blessing and prayer for each person you say it. On Shabbat-- that he should experience peace and joy; on Motza'ei Shabbat -- when you say "Shavua Tov," that he succeed in his activities that week and be saved from the reverses that are common during the work week. If a person says these phrases with kavvanah [holy intention], concentrating on the meaning of the words, and not by rote and routine, their inside is covered with love and compassion for people, applying to the condition and situation of each person, and to everything that is liable to happen to him in the future ... Stories tell how the Elder of Slobodka made blessings like this with great kavvanah (See my booklet An Open Heart: The Mystic Path of Loving People, p.31). A story about another tzaddik says he made blessings in the synagogue with such powerful emotion, with all his heart and soul, that he became so fatigued, he had to have help to go home. My rebbe, the holy and pure Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, always made blessings to express well-wishes for people, and he taught us to do so too. A friend of mine, also a disciple of Shlomo, once taught me how to give a blessing. After a discussion we had, he knew what I needed, so he blessed me. He put his hands on my head and blessed me for at least two minutes, as tears streamed from his eyes. I truly felt that I had been blessed.

The Need for Prayer

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the previous Rebbe of Lubavitch, told:

There was a Lubavitcher hasid named Rabbi Yosef Levitan who was a deep thinker and very knowledgable about hasidic teaching. By nature, he was depressed, always withdrawn and pensive. He would spend a number of hours thinking about a hasidic concept. In the same city there was another hasid, named Rabbi Avraham the Melamed [schoolteacher], who was always happy. Once, after prayers, Rabbi Yosef asked Rabbi Avraham the Melamed, "Why are you so happy?" Rabbi Avraham replied, "You spend all those hours meditating and you still haven't reached the goal, namely, knowing that the whole earth is full of God's glory and, therefore, a person should be joyful." [Although he meditated at length on these concepts they did not enter his heart and affect his emotions-- because he didn't meditate about them during prayer and didn't pray about them.]

Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak concluded telling this story by saying, In order to feel and experience "the whole earth is full of His glory" one has to draw this concept into the heart, which will act on the middot [feelings]. Then you can be joyful from "the whole earth is full of His glory." (Sefer HaSichot, 1941, p.41)

The heart is the source of feelings. We must get the information of God's glory to our heart. How? By meditating on the concept during prayer and praying about it. For example, find verses in the prayers that express this concept and make a note in place to pause there and meditate. Also, during your prayers, pray often: "God, I know that Your glory fills the earth. Let me experience this always!"

Make Your Neighbor Beloved

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch taught:

Love of Israel is a vessel for love of God. And just as the Rabbis say: 'you shall love the Lord your God'-- the name of heaven should become beloved through you, that is, not just that you love God, but that your behavior should be such that the name of heaven [God] becomes beloved through you, by others. ... So too with love of Israel: Your neighbor should become beloved through you, that you should praise the virtues of the other person and magnify them so that your neighbor is beloved by others. Not only should you not see the others' faults ... you should magnify their virtues and say, "In that [bad] environment and that place, and, still, he is this way [at least manifesting a little good], etc.!'-- so that your neighbor is beloved by others" (Sefer HaSichot, 1944, p.87). Many people know that loshon ha-ra (slander), which means diminishing another person in a third person's eyes, should be avoided. But we have to go beyond that and make another person beloved not only in our eyes but in the eyes of others.

The Kotzker Rebbe said: "There is no such thing as a ninety year old hasid. A ninety year old hasid is like three thirty year olds." (Pe'er Yisrael, p.501)

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.