Ho’da’ah – Gratitude – Saving the World, Part 2

Here’s the second installment of the last exciting article:

What are We Missing?

The secret is this:
The true nature of ho’da’ah and the connection between admission and gratitude, is the recognition of personal chisaron, deficiency and imperfection. It is taking ownership of what one is missing. Both thanks and admission of guilt flow from this concept.
But why is this so central to our personal growth, and the rectification of the whole universe?

To answer that we need to ask another question: What was Hashem’s goal in creating the world? One of the main ways we were given to understand this in simple terms is: Hashem created the world in order to give us pleasure, to grant us good. He wanted to do good, and to express Himself by being good and giving good.[1]
But in order to really experience pleasure in receiving a gift you must need it and want it. What if you gave me the gift of a six foot statue of Elvis, for example? I have no need for it. It doesn’t do anything for me. The truth is, I don’t want it in my house at all! To a lesser extreme, What if I gave you a fillet mignon steak after you just finished your Shabbos meal? Certainly you would not enjoy it as much as if you were hungry, and I hope you wouldn’t be able to eat it at all.
Hashem therefore needed to create a lack so you can enjoy what you receive from Him. He created a desire to receive. And He wants to give Himself and create relationship, to fill this lack.
However, this creates a problem, because now you are the receiver. God is the giver and you are the receiver and you are diametrically opposed. In the spiritual realm this causes distance, it’s like you are “from another planet.” You are the exact opposite – as East from West far and white from black. And what are you lacking? You’re lacking Him. It seems like total distance.
To rectify this Hashem created a system. He gave us Himself in the Torah, and through performing Hashem’s mitzvahs for His sake, performing kind deeds and studying Torah our desire to fill our lack becomes spiritual, not self-centered and self-directed. Then we want to the mitzvahs to receive His reward, but we want to do that for His sake, because it’s what He wants for us.
It’s a beautiful amazing trick… it’s for your sake, but you take for Him because He wants to give – and it becomes godly.

A Choice of Needs

Lacking, missing, imperfection is so key to what we are doing here.
If a person is forced to receive a gift it is no gift. A forced relationship is not relationship – it’s a form of slavery. When we choose we make the relationship we make ourselves. Free choice is necessary so that we won’t be like the passion ruled animal or the robotic angel.
An animal gets its physical needs to make it happy, to get what it’s missing, whereas a malach receives its spiritual needs – and they have to fulfill their drives. As human beings we are composed of both the physical and the spiritual – the soul and the body – and as such we have the ability to choose which desires we want, which needs we want to fulfill, physical or spiritual needs. This is where our free choice lies.[2]
Our lack is so important, it’s so pivotal. How will we relate to it, what will we do with it? Everyone is born with an ego, and the inherent desire to shield ourselves from blame and knowledge of our own imperfections. “I didn’t do it,” we say. “It’s not my fault it was him, it was you, it was society, it was my circumstances – it was nature, my brain, it was nurture, my parents etc…” What are we really doing when we shift the blame?
Ultimately Hashem is the true master, but what are we putting in between Him and I? We know that all the excuses we may have were created and orchestrated by Hashem. So essentially, I am putting my imperfections underneath Him, but between Him and I, above me. When I do this I am a slave to my nature and nurture, I am serving Pharaoh, my nefesh ha’behamis, my animal soul.
But when I acknowledge that my chisaron is a part of me, I take ownership of it. Now the chisaron is an aspect of myself that I can choose to get rid of. It needed to be a part of me because if I was perfect I would be Hashem, without lack, or defect I can’t receive… there’s no gain.
I have to have the chisaron and own it, transform it. To be human is to be imperfect.

Godly Imperfection

On a deeper level it can also be said that we are on a mission from God. Hashem has an ultimate perfection, a static perfect that is totally infinite beyond infinitude and that was, is, and always will be. “I am Hashem I do not change.” He cannot change or grow, as it were. But of course the Eyn sof, the infinite One, can do whatever It wants, in any manner… Hashem adjures us to be His messenger, to have chisaronos and fix them, so that we become more and more perfect.
So with creation there is always relative imperfection – even though where I am now is perfect just as it is. The later concept must be true because Hashem made me, and we know all is works are perfect – “Ha’tzur tamim pa’alo.”
But be careful, if we go along that road to long without coming back we go the road of Achar, formerly Elisha Ben Avuya, and his predecessor Eisav. The Midrash says Eisav was called such as it is from the same root as the word “asui, finished.” He said he was finished, completed – “This is how I am, God made me this way!” We believe that’s true. If you want to stay an animal. But a person, an Adam, is a constantly perfected being “adame l’lohim – I make myself like God.” Infinitely more and more like Hashem with higher and perfection…
There is no rest for the tzaddikim… but that is part of their reward, constantly growing and becoming more perfect.
Tune in next time...Paradox and more!

[1] See Derech Hashem, chpt. 2, and Da’as Tevunos at the beginning. Hashem doesn’t have to do anything, to be good, to express His good, or do anything in any particular way. Everything here is according to post-creation logic in terms we can understand, that He created so that we could have a way to relate to Him. He is totally unlimited by anything, and His real essence is unknowable. We know Him through His actions.
[2] Michtav M’Eliyahu, Vol. III

One Reply to “Ho’da’ah – Gratitude – Saving the World, Part 2”

  1. B”H
    Hey Shmuel!! Nice post. You’ve summarized quite well all that we’ve been learning together in R Ashlag’s Hakdamah of the Zohar and in Das Tevunos.
    By the way I don’t want that 6 foot statue of Elvis either. I’m proud of the fact that the one time I was in Memphis, TN I made it a point not to go to Graceland. But there was nice Chabad House there where I spent a Shabbos and a Kroger that had a decent Kosher Food section. And hold that filet mignon for me until the first day of Pesach, which is my one “meat-atarian” day of the year.
    Kol Tuv!!!

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