Sunday, February 26, 2012

PATHWAY FOUR. BELIEF: The foundation of divine service

A musician was playing a sweet and enchanting melody causing all those listening  to be moved to dance; whoever was closer to the source of the music, the musician, was all the more moved captivated by the melody. In came a person with impaired hearing, who was unable to hear the melody. Observing the people dancing excitedly, he commented, “What are these meshugoyim doing?”

In the analogue, G-d is the musician; holiness and spirituality which emanates from G-d, is the sweet melody; belief in G-d provides one with the ability to be receptive to holiness, and the stronger one’s belief, the the more intensely one experiences G-d’s ‘melody’. The deaf person is the skeptical non believer, who is non receptive to holiness. He observes people involved in prayer, in the fulfillment of commandments, and in the study of Torah, and he wonders – what are these crazy people doing.

Of course, from the believers vantage point, it is the non believer who is deficient, in a sense ‘deaf’ to the ‘Divine melody’ on account of his lack of belief in G-d.

This wonderful analogy encapsulates the fundamental role of belief in spirituality. One’s sensitivity to holiness and spirituality is commensurate with one’s belief in G-d.

The two emotions of love and reverence toward G-d are considered to be the foundations of all the commandments in the Torah. For the commandments divide into 248 positive precepts, and 365 prohibitions. Love of G-d motivates the fulfilment of the positive precepts, for if one loves someone, he wants to connect with him, and the manner that one connects to G-d is through the fulfillment of His commandments. Reverence of G-d, motivates the restraint from transgressing any of the 365 prohibitions, for one does not want to behave in a manner that is disrespectful to G-d. Therefore all of the commandments essentially hinge upon the existence of these two emotions.

Yet, these emotions also have a foundation, and that foundation is belief. Without belief in G-d a person cannot come to feel any genuine feelings toward Him at all, after all, how do  you develop feelings toward something that, to you, is not real.

For example, a child may feel frightened by the ‘presence’ of a monster in his bedroom closet; so frightened in fact, he cannot fall asleep. His parent, however, casually walks into the room and opens the closet door despite the child’s earnest plea not to open it and avoid getting devoured.

Why is the child afraid, but not the parent? Simply, because the child  believes that there may be a monster in his closet, while the parent does not believe it. Belief being defined as the sense that something is true, or real. And it is the belief in something that determines whether there is an emotional response to it or not, as well as the type of emotional response.
Therefore, only if a person has a solid belief in the existence of G-d will he come to develop the emotions which motivate  divine service. This teaching is summarised by the words of our sages: “613 commandments were given at Sinai; came Chabakuk [the prophet] and stood them on one [internalization of belief]”; the commandments are contained within love and awe, and love and awe are contained within belief.

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