By Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
Rabbi Shneur Zalman in his seminal book the Holy Tanya begins chapter 35 with a very powerful and relevant questions for most of us. A question that many of us will ask ourselves at one stage or the other, if life is taken seriously. Before I get to the question and somewhat of an answer, let me begin with a story.
Rabbi Shmuel Munkes travelled to Liozna in White Russia and got there late at night. It was very cold and noticing a light in one of the homes and wanting to warm himself up, he knocked on the door. Little did he realize, this was the home of none other than Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
At that very late hour, the Rabbi himself opened the door, and asked the visitor what he wanted as he kept on pushing his way further into the house. Rabbi Shmuel said he wanted to stay for the night, to which Rabbi Shneur Zalman responded, he would call his in house tough guy/bully, to chase out the uninvited intruder.
Rabbi Shmuel, being a jovial good humored individual, and understanding the Rabbi would certainly not send him out into the cold, took the comment as a spiritual message and responded, he wasn’t intimidated. Because, his very own (internal ) bully was stronger than that of Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
We all have inside of ourselves if we cherish every day, a constant uphill struggle. There is always room for personal improvement and growth, but it’s not easy. Sometimes just keeping up with the status quo is a struggle. We can give up moving along and/or just stop trying. However, as long as we see every day as another G-d given opportunity to progress further and further, higher and higher, and become more than the day before, we inevitably must work against the pull and draw of gravity which is downward.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman asks this question.
If it is true that most people will never make it to the spiritual final line of perfection, as a matter of fact, most people are wired intentionally, in a way that they have no other choice but to struggle, and will never be completely liberated from this tug of war, why even try to conquer the opposite force inside?
Everyone’s soul is sent by G-d to dwell in their body of flesh and blood which by its very nature pulls the soul in the opposite direction, contrary, and in reverse from spiritual fulfillment. As long as a person lives in their body of flesh, and in this physical world, they are challenged and are faced with the deceit and dishonesty of this physical existence versus the deep and rich underlying spiritual reality.
In the words of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, “Why then did their souls descend to this world, to strive in vain, G‑d forbid; waging war all their lives against their evil inclination, yet never being able to vanquish it?”
I recommend everyone get the Tanya and read for yourself the lengthy explanation. In a nutshell, here is a little of the answer.
We are all placed in this world to fulfill a spiritual and G-dly mission. We are serving G-d throughout our lives by observing His wishes and commandments. This is what earns us virtue, everlasting eternal rewards, and enriches our souls, forever.
When it comes to food, there are sweet and spicy foods and each one has its own flavor and enjoyment to the palate. The same is with the different kinds and types of missions G-d puts us on, and to borrow the imagination for a moment, the different types of enjoyment G-d has.
For most of us, our entire raison d’etre is fulfilled not by victory, but by the constant struggle and daily drudgery of hard personal work . This to G-d, and in the end for ourselves, is immensely more valuable and enjoyable, than what appears an easier life would be for ourselves.
To read more articles from Rabbi Ezagui visit him at koshercaffeine.blogspot.com