Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Different Ways to Connect the Holy and the Mundane

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 7:1)

Gemara: Rav Huna says: If one is walking on distant routes or is in the desert and he does not know when Shabbat is, he counts six days and then observes one day as Shabbat. Chiya bar Rav says: He observes one day as Shabbat and then counts six more days [of presumed weekday]. What is the basis of their argument? One opinion follows the creation of the world, [which started with six days and ended with Shabbat]. The other opinion follows Adam, [who, being created on the sixth day, observed Shabbat right away and then had six weekdays].

Ein Ayah: Holy (kodesh) and mundane (chol) are interconnected. Without kodesh there is no value to chol, whereas the former elevates life to the level that the latter can be used in a proper way, as the mundane also contains sparks of sanctity. Generally, things follow a set pattern. The mundane exists, does what it needs to, and enables sanctity to shine upon it at the right time.

A person who is involved in all of this can be confident that the mundane can bring the sacred. This works as long as the individual goes along with society, as existence of the world gives spiritual expression to everything in the world, connecting things to the “general path.” Providence will not allow him to remain in the middle of the way, to be entrenched in chol without a prospect of its turning into kodesh. This is because “general sanctity” is prepared to shine on all around it at the right time, without the individual having to do something specific to reach it.

Someone who is separated from the activity of the community, for example, if his harsh conditions required him to embark on treks to isolated places, is in a different situation, which has two elements. The hidden character of his soul, as a member of the community and one who enjoys the spiritual advantages thereof, can take an approach that connects to general existence. He can follow the example of the creation of the world, in which chol came first and the light shone after the dark after chol prepared the way for it.

However, if one wants to be sure to be connected to sanctity, not only in terms of what he desires, but also in terms of practicality, it is dangerous to begin with the mundane. This is because he can get bogged down in the cholso that the light of sanctity will be totally hidden from him. If he is acting as an individual, he should follow the lead of Adam, who first was connected to Shabbat, and as a result, the subsequent cholwas full of grandeur. He will thereby avoid sinking into the depths of chol, lacking the glory of kodesh.

Separation from being part of a group has its impact on a person by removing the assurances given to the community. This is the case whether he is forced to go on a lonely route or whether he purposely separates himself by going to a desert for its lifestyle, which enables him to avoid the complications of dealing with people of the prevalent cultures of the time, which prevent the life of sanctity from being revealed. Even in the latter case, where his intentions were nobler than those of the masses, such a loner does not have a strong assurance of success. For the greatest promise of spiritual success is in being connected to the whole unit. One then follows the established path instead of having to agonize over whether to take the path of putting the cholbefore the kodeshor the kodeshbefore the cholto ensure that the cholwill be elevated.

“My foot stood on straight ground; I will bless Hashem in congregations” (Tehillim 26:12). “Hashem sat individuals in a house” (ibid. 68:7).

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