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Sunday, 13 September 2015

How to love annoying people

Daf Yomi Nazir 21

The great Chasidic master, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was thrown into jail on trumped-up charges of treason.  But he had gained a reputation as a saintly, scholarly individual and news of his captivity reached the ears of the Czar.  The Czar was a learned man and an avid reader of the Bible.  He had been perplexed by a certain passage in the Torah for some time and so he decided to visit the rabbi and address his query to him.  Not wanting to arouse suspicion and questions from the prison guards, he dressed himself in simple garments, hiding his true identity.

As he entered, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stood up and greeted him as the Czar.
“But how did you know who I was?” inquired the startled ruler.
“Everything in this world is an emanation of the supernal worlds – the Heavenly sphere,” the rabbi responded.  “When you entered, I sensed a very faint emanation from the supernal realm of malchus – kingship – and realized that you must be an earthly king.”

If a person declared, ‘May my hand be a nazir’ or ‘May my foot be a nazir,’ he has not declared anything real.  If, however, he declared, ‘May my head be a nazir,’ or ‘May my liver be a nazir,’ he becomes a nazir.  The general rule is if his declaration evokes a limb that is essential to life, he becomes a nazir.

When our Sages offered examples of limbs that are essential to life, it makes sense that they chose the head.  Clearly, decapitation is not the healthiest lifestyle choice.   But why choose the liver as an example?  Wouldn’t it have been more logical to choose the heart or the lungs as limbs that are essential to life?

A nazir vows to abstain from cutting his hair and drinking wine.  Which two limbs symbolize these aspects of abstinence?  The hair grows from the head.  And alcoholism leads to poor liver function.   So these two limbs were the perfect choices to describe vows of nazirism as they relate to life-essential limbs.

Did our Sages know that alcohol affects the liver?  Were they doctors or scientists ahead of their time?  Not necessarily.  But they did perceive the spiritual source of everything physical in this world.  Just like Rabbi Shneur Zalman who sensed the supernal emanation of kingship in the Czar, our Sages understood that in the supernal realms wine was related to the liver.

This world is a reflection of Heaven.  The more you focus on the supernal source, the less you will be weighed down by the physical constraints of this world.  And that’s important, because when you only see things the way they appear in this world, it can be extremely challenging to fulfill G-d’s will.

Take, for example, the mitzvah of loving your fellow as yourself.  Now some people are pretty annoying and irritating.  How are you meant to put up with them, let alone love them?

The way to love them is to stop being distracted by their external physical shell.  It’s their body and animalistic soul that are annoying.  Their soul is pristine.  They were created in the image of G-d.  What’s not to love about that?  That is who they really are.  They are a piece of G-dliness!  Once you view people as they are at their source, you will be brimming with love!

Stop viewing the world at face value.  One of your secret powers as a Divine ambassador is x-ray vision – if you hone your skills, you can see people and the world around as they are at their spiritual source.  May you learn to perceive every individual’s true identity and love them wholeheartedly!