The Journey of the Soul – M’nuchat HaNefesh 6
The Journey of the Soul
Calmness of Soul
אֲדֹנָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ
A-dnai sifatai tiftach, ufi yagid tehilatecha—
G‑d, Open my lips, that my mouth can declare Your praise
Calming the Soul amid the Storms of Life
When one’s mind is settled then man has free choice and the control over his spirit to take the time to focus his thoughts upon exercising his sovereignty [over his animal spirit] and to devise strategies that activate and restrain his animal spirit for his personal benefit in this world and in the World to Come. Cheshbon HaNefesh Rabbi Mendel of Satanov Feldheim page 109
Mishlei (Proverbs) 17.3
מַצְרֵף לַכֶּסֶף וְכוּר לַזָּהָב וּבֹחֵן לִבּוֹת יְהֹוָה
The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; but the HaShem Tests the hearts.
Who may abide the day of His coming?
And who shall stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner’s fire. Malachi 3.2
Mishlei (Proverbs) 20.27
נֵר יְהֹוָה נִשְׁמַת אָדָם חֹפֵשׂ כָּל חַדְרֵי בָטֶן
The spirit of man is the candle of the L-rd, It seeks out all the inner most recesses..
HaShem Judges us based on our heart and the effort and difficulties faced by each of us. The only way to acquire calmness of soul is by working on each of our character traits in order to refine them and release the sparks of holiness in each and every part of our soul. There are many Mussar books that list and describe different aspects of our souls and we can use these tools to work on our refining process. The goal of Mussar is refining our character, refining the world around us so that all the sparks of holiness that we encounter are returned to their original Source.
There are two important principles important to those following Mussar. First, one must understand the process of thought formation. If one does not know or recognize one’s own character then one would have no idea what needs correcting. Character traits are internal expressions of one’s soul. Our thoughts are revealed through our actions and give us a clue about our character traits. We must explore these inner workings of our hearts, our soul in order to understand what needs refining.
What upsets our balance? We must determine this in order to acquire equanimity.
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Tehilim (Psalm) 16.8
Rabbi Akiva once entered a city. Upon arrival, he sought a place to lodge; however, no one provided him with one. He said, All that G-d Does, He Does for the good! So he went and slept in a field. He had with him a rooster, a donkey and a lamp. A wind came and extinguished the lamp, a cat came and ate the rooster, a lion came and ate the donkey. Said he: Everything that G-d does, He Does for good. That night, an army came and took the entire town captive. Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples: Did I not tell you that everything that G-d Does, He Does for good? (If the lamp had been lit, the army would have seen me; if the donkey would have brayed or the rooster would have called, the army would have come and captured me.
Rabbi Akiva had a donkey, a rooster, and a lamp with him. A donkey represents our animal instincts. It symbolizes pure materialism without spirituality. A rooster has the ability to distinguish between night and day. In fact, one word for rooster in Hebrew (sechvi) which also means insight, and consequently symbolizes our own intellectual capacities. Therefore the rooster in Rabbi Akiva’s story is a metaphor for our intellectual yearning. We all strive for perfection in our understanding of the world. The lamp symbolizes our spiritual pursuits, as the Torah says, The lamp is a mitzvah and the Torah is light.
We are always striving for the perfect balance between our material needs and desires, our intellectual ability and understanding, and our spiritual objectives. But we never find it. The lions and wildcats come and devour the product our toil. The wind comes and blows out our hopes.
But this all for the best…
Everything that G-d does, He does for good
Blessings and Peace