People Of Form & People Of Matter
Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Parshas Tzav:
I heard a parable from my master, my grandfather [the Baal Shem Tov], may his memory be a blessing. When a king wages war, he uses many types of soldiers. Some are foot soldiers, and other ride on horseback. During the war, those who are on foot stand in joined ranks, linked and interlocked with one another, for they are bound together with rings of iron; and they stand in the depths of the battle so that is impossible for them to flee one way or another.
But as for those on horseback, even though they are also in the battle, when fighting breaks out violently around them, they escape on their horses and do not risk their lives. The foot soldiers, on the other hand, sacrifice themselves in battle for the glory of the king. When Hashem has helped them win the war, then those on horseback come and take the spoils, because they have horses and can carry burdens on them. But the foot soldiers do not take any of the spoils, except for a little bread and water in order to keep themselves alive at least for one more day, for the burden of the weight of the spoils is a heavy load for them, and the foot soldier’s life is enough spoils for him. He trusts: “Don’t we all serve one king for his supreme glory? When I lack something in peace time, then the horsemen will give it to me from the great spoils which he took, for we serve one king. We certainly have a greater share in this spoils than they do, for it was we who, with Hashem’s help, brought about the victory at the risk of our lives.” But those who were on horseback do not do this, and they do not want to given them even the food for one meal, saying that they brought about the victory.
The moral is clear. The spiritual people - the people of form and service (אנשי הצורה) - are the foot soldiers, continually risking their lives for the glory of the king, the King of the World. They are the ones who win the war, bringing an end to all the accusers and adversaries who arise against them and desire to keep the divine influx from the world; through them the flow descends to the world. But those on horseback are the physical people - the people of matter (אנשי החומר) - who ride on great and good horses, their good fate. At the time of victory, when bounty reaches the world, they snatch a great abundance; but the spiritual people are content with enough for each day, as is the way of Torah and those who have trust in Hashem. And it is sufficient for them that, through the victory, the King’s glory has been increased. They think that the physical people will surely supply them enough for their needs since the spiritual people are really the more important of the two. But it does not seem so to the physical people, and they do not want to give them anything. "All the bounty belongs to us," they say.
Eventually, though, Hashem will take notice, and will look upon His servants and their actions. Then, in His great goodness, He will certainly reward them with all manner of goodness and prosperity; for He knows the truth, that the victory depended upon them, and that they deserve all the rewards and bounty that descended in the first place.