Thursday 14 August 2014

036) Created Or Inherent Spirituality - Which Is Stronger?

To the layman it may seem that spirituality is, by definition, spirituality. It may seem that there can be no differential between one kind of spirituality and another. In truth, however, that would be like saying that art is art and there is no differential between one kind and another.
In broad terms, the Kotzker Rebbe distinguishes between two very different forms of spirituality. Essentially he differentiates between the type of holiness one is (potentially) able to achieve during the week, and between that which one is (theoretically) able to achieve on Shabbat:
During the week, the type of spirituality one achieves is predominantly a result of NEGATION of the physical.  Whereas on Shabbat, it results from the INCORPORATION of the physical. The latter is superior.
 (Amud HaEmet  p62, par2)
As a rule, the weekday spiritual encounter generally involves some form of battle against materialism. We engage in practices that remind us of our mission to try subdue the physical world. For example, we wear Teffillin to remind us that any contact with materialism has to be controlled and directed, so that we don’t become victims of a world that can very easily suck us under.
On Shabbat, however, the emphasis is completely inverted. For example, we no longer guard our food so much, because we eat big meals. We no longer guard our time so much, because we are encouraged to relax. Even sleep becomes more noble. We sing. We go for walks. We talk. Our study schedule is not so demanding. The holiness of Shabbat is therefore attained through incorporation of the physical, not through its negation. And strangely enough its holiness is superior to that attained during the week.
The Kotzker explains the reason for this:  During the week, whatever spirituality we find is mostly as a result of our efforts and our strivings to become better. On Shabbat, in contradistinction, the spirituality ‘descends’ upon us, almost as if it were a ‘gift’. The latter is superior to the former.
This distinction is an important one. Forget the weekday and the Shabbat for a moment, and let’s apply this principle more laterally: There are two types of spirituality we can experience. The first is the ethereal environment we create when we follow the rituals and dictates of the law. Don’t underestimate the power of this spirituality. It can be very tangible and very real. But it comes about as a result of some sort of fight which we win against the world around us.  Negative elements are identified and duly negated.
The second type of spirituality, however, involves no such battle. It results from a process that is far more natural. The holiness in the moment is identified and simply allowed to become incorporated within. Very little change is required. It is almost as if the spiritual beauty in everything around us suddenly becomes apparent and the need to fight simply goes away.
Put another way: The first type of spirituality is created by our religious laborsThe second is discovered and one realizes that it was there all the time. The first is created by observance. The second is discovered by observing.
Unfortunately, many who master the first category, have difficulty in mastering the other. Those who are masters of observance are often not comfortable to let go and allow the inherent holiness of the surrounding world to rain down on them. And those who see and trust the beauty and goodness even within the secular and the mundane, often do not see the benefit of ritual and observance.
To be truly spiritual means one has to be comfortable with both approaches.
Yet, in the Kotzker’s world (not that one should ever have to choose between the two – because the real Torah personality masters both), it seems that he believed that the second category was still superior.
NOTE: Someone read this blog before it was published and asked: Surely that which one achieves through one’s own efforts are worth more than something given as a gift? To which I responded: Yes. It is tempting and pacifying to think like that. Imagine a child who saves up a few cents. Very noble.  But in a real monetary sense, those few cents are nothing in comparison with a larger amount of money received say through an inheritance. So too in spirituality. The little one achieves is very noble and nice. But it pales into insignificance when compared to that which comes from the world of the Spirit itself

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