The Physicality is What Elevates

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Rabbi Akiva Bruck writes, in his parsha sefer From Behind the Curtain on Parsha Vayeira, “[o]ne of the most fundamental ideas which the Chassidic masters wished to impart is that we all have the ability and the obligation to find the spiritual within the physical — to pull away the masks clothing this physical world and reveal Hashem’s presence within every aspect of creation.”

The Baal Shem Tov brings that Avraham Avinu was close to HaShem because of his interconnectedness with the physical world. In fact, we come to know that HaShem had to restrict His essence to “make room” for the physical realm to exist. At the same time, HaShem’s expansiveness is infinite and cannot possibly be fully constrained. Therefore, every part of the physical realm must have an essence of kedusha in it. 

The Ramchal brings in Derech HaShem that man is placed in a world of concealment in such a way that we have to strive to grow close to HaShem.

We have physical mitzvos that enabled us to have an aliyah physically, and in doing so, we can remove the klipa blocking the kedusha. As I’ve shared from my Rebbe before, we are the spiritual vacuum cleaners for the world. We purify and find the sparks of kedusha. We are the elevator of spirituality. However, just as an elevator relies on a pulley system of cord above it, so too we are tethered to the physical realm and must continually exert effort to climb using physical means: davening, berachos, and more. 

The Arizal brings that gilgulim can be found in fish and meat. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh expands on this concept, that gilgulim are found in everything. For food objects, the gilgul receives its aliyah when we say the berachos and have kevanah. As a result of our physical actions, we elevate the physical, both the object and ourselves. 

Just as there can be an aliyah, so too there can be a yeridah – a spiritual descent. According to the Bobover Ruv, the Baal Shem Tov brings that we must have a yeridah in order to have an aliyah. We cannot continue to climb without rest, and we cannot remain stationary. It’s not in our essence. Therefore, we sometimes fall, just like, as the Ruv illustrates, like the flames of a fire licking the air above it, rising and falling in its appropriate time. Our constant connection with HaShem is a disadvantage – we grow accustomed to the closeness and no longer appreciate its greatness. Thus, HaShem gifts us with timely and appropriate yeridos in order to keep us connected, giving us the desire to be close to HaShem the way we once were, enabling us to grow to new heights. 

One cannot intentionally have a yeridah however, as that what Adam HaRishon’s cheshbon was with the Aitz HaDaas, according to Rav Dessler in Michtav Eliyahu. We can’t seek the yeridah, and why would we? Shouldn’t our desire solely be to grow, not wither? HaShem alone chooses with yeridos are appropriate for us in a way we can handle them, as none of us are wise enough to know when enough is enough.

What to take from this? We can learn a lesson from the parsha. Avraham was face to face, to say, with the Shechina. He sees three wanderers and interrupts his conversation with HaShem to greet these guests. Chazal bring in Shavuos 35b that from this we learn welcoming guests is greater than receiving the face of the Shechina. The Bobov Ruv expounds on this that Avraham recognized if HaShem willed him to see these guests, then it was HaShem’s wish for him to tend to their needs.

That’s the essence of this parsha, Vayeira. Rashi addresses that the word is repeated. The first time, Avraham saw the guests. The second time, Avraham understood. What did he understand? The Ruv writes, he understood that welcoming guests was the ikar. 

Which brings us to where we began. Welcoming guests is a very physical mitzvah, and it’s one that is the epitome of Avraham Avinu. His sukkah had four entrances, so that he could welcome guests from all over, all the time. Hospitality was his shtick. 

If we are to want to be closer to HaShem, this is a lesson we should hold dear. Just as HaShem is hosting us every second within the hidden kedusha embedded in this physical realm, so too we should host others, and in so, we are replicating the very action HaShem does every second for us. So, it seems, hospitality is one of the most important physical mitzvos that is available to us that enables us to emulate HaShem to the best of our ability and obtain an aliyah at the same time. 

May we all be zoche to host others.