Dvar Torah for Parshat Acharei Mot


Based on Likutey MoHaran I, 66 and Likutey Halakhot, Hekhsher Keilim 4

[Rebbe Azaryah] gave another interpretation [to the verse, "I went down to the nut garden" (Song of Songs 6:11)]: Just as when a walnut falls into filth, one picks it up, wipes it off and washes it so that it is delicious to eat, so, too, when Jews get filthy from sin a whole year long Yom Kippur comes and cleans them, as it is written, "For on this day your sins will be atoned, so that you may be purified" (Leviticus 16:30).

Shir HaShirim Rabbah 6:11:1

If you're reading this then certainly at some point in life you've thought about your capabilities. Maybe you can play a musical instrument. Perhaps you have the talent to communicate effectively through writing or orally. Whatever talents you have and whatever talents you lack there's definitely something you're capable of: being a good Jew. However, there is the opposite side of the coin. One can also be a, well, a not-good Jew. It all depends on how you actualize your potential.

Rebbe Nachman teaches us that all of life - indeed, all of Creation - is an on-going actualization of potential (Likutey MoHaran I, 66:2). The Rebbe writes that initially the potential and the product are one, bound together in the mind of the doer. If, for example, one wants to build a home s/he must first contemplate what it will be like when finished. When that is clear one gets to work and starts building. Thus, the sof maaseh (final product) is contained in the machshavah t'chilah (initial thought). This is true if you're working on a physical house, a home to raise children, or, for the Creator, the universe, a "home" for the Shekhina.

You and I are also creators. Although we can't dictate the circumstances in which we operate (i.e., our capabilities) we can and must decide how to use them. You have a car and a license. Do you drive a get-away car for bank robbers or do you drive some boys to yeshiva? That's an easy one. But let's admit it. Sometimes we misuse and abuse our potential. So instead of our gifts blossoming within us so that we wind up as "delicious fruit," they push us into the mud and filth instead. What do we do when that happens?

We start again to create. We make another attempt to translate our Torah knowledge into action. Rebbe Nachman quotes the holy Zohar that says that each Jew has two ruchot (spirits), an upper one and a lower one. The upper one is your chokhmah (wisdom), which is the thought that most resembles your purest spiritual essence. This thought is so divorced from this world that it cannot be put into words. The lower spirit is what you do, the acts and the actions that define you.

And the two are really one. The upper spirit is the root from which the lower one is nourished. Neither is stagnant. Both blossom and wither in accordance to their proximity to the Torah and those who most embody it, the tzaddikim. Because the holy Torah is the blueprint of Creation, its upper spirit. The mitzvot are its definition. The lessons of the tzaddikim and their unequaled observance of the mitzvot is the human manifestation of same.

Because those capabilities which you have - the collection of God-given tools which best allows for manifesting your essence - and use to do a mitzvah, actualize the holiness potential contained within the pieces of creation used in the mitzvah's performance. This is the true Creation and it contradicts and undoes the negative expression of one's essence.

Even though this can take place any time, when one repents or does a mitzvah, it happens most strongly during the Ten Days of Repentance, which begin on Rosh Hashanah and end on Yom Kippur. For Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of Creation, the most powerful actualization of potential. However, Adam sinned that very first day. Nonetheless, God in His mercy allowed Adam the opportunity to repent. The repentance procedure is completed on Yom Kippur when all the gates are opened to the great tzaddikim, which is why the kohen gadol (high priest) was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies only on that day. From there he would draw the most sublime upper spirit, which would allow the Jewish people to actualize their collective and individual holiness potential which would rectify their sins. Today, when we cry out in the N'eelah prayer at the conclusion of Yom Kippur we are attempting to do the same thing.

And we have to make a little bit of every day Yom Kippur. We need to cry out to God to allow us to use the gift of the coming day to actualize our holiness potential, to clean off the mud so that He finds us "delicious."

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!