Two realities

In an emailed newsletter from Beis Hamussar that I received today was the following:

If we were asked to encapsulate all of Rav Wolbe’s teachings in one sentence, the task would seem impossible. He wrote numerous seforim and gave thousands of discourses over the course of his life. How could one possibly summarize so much in one single sentence? However, Rav Wolbe himself did just that when he sat with a group of former talmidim.He asked them to relay what they understood to be the focal point of all the discourses that they had heard during the years they had studied in his Yeshiva. Each student offered an opinion, but Rav Wolbe was not satisfied. “The message I was trying to convey in all my discourses” he said, “is that we should realize that ruchnius (spirituality) is no less a reality than gashmius (physicality).”

For example, we must believe that just as eating something dangerous is detrimental to one’s body, transgressing a commandment is at least as detrimental to one’s soul. Conversely, performing a mitzvah does more for us (and the world around us) than the food we eat.

This yesod of acknowledging the reality of ruchnius might have been the basis for this idea found in the introduction to Da Es Atzmecha by Rav Itamar Shwartz (the mechaber of the Bilvavi seforim):

I have come to write this sefer  because of an inner mission – an awareness of a particular world that exists, which in reality, is more real than the world we sense, but is very hidden from people. The inner world is enchanting, it is a world of pleasure and connection, but it is not a world of delusions.  It is a world more real than the table.  It is clearer than the familiar world of the table, the chair, and the  lamp.  Sometimes, when we try to enter the inner world, there is a feeling that since it is unfamiliar, maybe it is just our imagination, maybe it is just delusions of people who want to experience all kinds of things, and so they create a whole structure out of all their fantasies.  But you must know that the inner world is more realistic than the world we live in.  However, just as a blind person doesn’t see what’s in front of him, and he might ask, “Are you certain this exists?” 

Both Rav Wolbe zt’l and R Shwartz are teaching us that there are two realities. Most of us want to see the results, peiros (fruits), or the carrot at the end of the stick (even if the carrot is imaginary) in our spiritual efforts. It doesn’t work like that. This idea, the reality that is referenced above, is something that isn’t on my mind enough. Try as I might to be passionate about living a life of Simchas HaChaim, I find it easy to be focused on the reality that is only preceived by my five senses.

I have no idea if the spiritual reality is something that my kids have been taught about.  I know that they understand that each mitzvah we perform perfectly creates a malach that is our advocate in Shamayim.   It seems to me that our acknowledgment of the reality of ruchnius has to be as strong as our acknowledgement of the neshama.  We have a body and a soul, both are real.  This sort of gives a new spin to the phrase, “Keeping it real”.

One thought on “Two realities

  1. Michael Kopinsky

    To me, the spiritual reality that we’re talking about isn’t just one of Angels Up There Dancing. It’s one of my own personal identity down here being one of spirituality. The spirituality that is part of my identity is just as real as my creativity, my personality, my sense of humor, or my green eyes.

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