Friday, May 28, 2010
BeHa'aloscha 5633 Second Ma'amar
The ultimate service of God is for all of our desires to be totally aligned with God’s desires. The sole motive for every one of our actions should be to fulfill God’s will. However, God created us with very strong personal desires. It is extremely difficult to negate our desires. [In fact, it may not even be the correct approach. When Chazal tried to negate the inclination for intimate relations, hens stopped laying eggs. The world is not able to function without base desires. M.D.T.] How then, can we reconcile our desires with being dedicated to serving God?
Addressing this issue, Chazal give us the following advice, “... עֲשֵׂה רְצוֹנוֹ כִּרְצוֹנְךָ .../… Do His will like you [do] your own will …” (Avos 2:4) The Tanna is teaching us that our will and personal desires have a purpose in helping us to serve God properly. From our strong cravings we learn how to crave to achieve God’s will as well. In this sense, our personal desires are a good thing. God created us with personal desires so that we may experience desire and infer from them and the experience how to relate to God’s desires as well.
By learning from our own desires how to serve God better, how to yearn to accomplish His will, our desires are elevated to the level of serving God as well.
The Sfas Emes teaches us that to the extent that we crave to do Mitzvos and good deeds, our desire is infused with God’s holiness that affords us a certain protection that prevents us from swerving away from accomplishing God’s will even though we have our own. In fact, our own desires become subordinate to God’s. The main thing, is the craving, the hankering to achieve God’s will. When we are led to this craving for closeness to God by our experience with our own base desires, all of them become part of our service to God.
This may explain a pasuk in this week’s parsha, “... הִתְאַוּוּ תַּאֲוָה .../… they craved strongly …” (Bamidbar 11:4) Why does the Torah tell us that they had a strong desire instead of simply relating the transgression? What is this coming to teach us?
The Sfas Ems explains that the nation was on a very high spiritual level, far removed from the base desires with which we are familiar today. They had just spent a full year basking in the spiritual starting with the revelation on
Mount Sinai and then experiencing the Divine Presence in the Mishkan, the miracles of the manna and the clouds of glory. Their high level meant that they did not experience base craving with which we are familiar. This had a deleterious effect on their ability to experience any kind of craving. So, they forced themselves to crave meat.
For that generation, this was the wrong approach. God considered it a sin. However, we do crave physical things. It is part of our makeup. By cultivating a strong belief that God created us this way in order to better serve Him, we create a harmony within us. All our desires, even though they seem to pull us away from God, are actually vehicles for coming close to Him. Thinking of them in this way and using them to strengthen our desire to accomplish God’s will creates a harmony of purpose within us. May we merit it!
Many of us have big issues with our base desires. How can we lead holy lives and serve God properly? The important thing to always remember is that God Himself created us with these desires. They play an important role, not least of which is the very issue the Sfas Emes discusses in the ma’amar. Thinking of ourselves as somehow to blame for our base desires is actually a form of k’fira because it is saying that they originate with us instead of coming from God. And since they come from God, He gave them to us for our benefit, to help us come close to Him. This very realization is already a complete mindset change for most of us.