"The Air Was Not Good"
Earlier this year, I had the zechus of having a shiur over the phone with the Sudilkover Rebbe on a one paragraph mashul found in the Likkutim section of Degel Machaneh Ephraim.
"There is a parable of a prince whose father sent him to another country where the air was not good. He gave him a garment so that when he went outside he could wear that covering against the air that wasn't good. The characteristic of the air was that of deforming a person's body; and as the deformity entered the body, it also appeared in the garment. One had to keep watch against this. The moral is that the king's son is each person, and the garment is his neshoma. This is enough for one who understands."
The Sudilkover Rebbe explained this mashal word by word as follows:
There is a parable of a prince (בן מלך): This prince is every Jew. He must constantly remember that he is indeed the son of the King and not a commoner.
whose father sent him to another country where the air was not good: Our Father - the Ribbono shel Olam - sent our neshomas from under the Heavenly Throne down into this world; a world whose very atmosphere may be corrosive to us at times.
It is important to pay attention to the Degel's word choice when describing the air. He did not descibe it as "bad". Rather, he wrote that it was "not good" (לא טוב). He chose these words to remind us to always maintain a focus on that which is positive.
He gave him a garment so that when he went outside he could wear that covering against the air that wasn't good: Hashem did not create us like an animal, as a body that follows our natural inclinations and base desires. Hashem clothed our body with a soul comprised of five levels (nefesh, ruach, neshoma, chaya, and yechida). It is this soul that allows us to continue to live and exist in this world.
The characteristic of the air was that of deforming a person's body; and as the deformity entered the body, it also appeared in the garment: The neshoma may become blemished through the actions of the body in this world; though the gazing of an eye, the listening of an ear, or the speaking of a mouth.
One had to keep watch against this: The air of this world confuses a person and leads him to believe that it is governed by moral relativism and that there is simply nothing wrong with any action that contradicts the Torah; it tells him that deeds are deeds and nothing more.
A person, however, must know that there is no such thing as a meanlingless or futile day. Each one of us must remember every morning when saying Modeh Ani that we would not have woken up unless Hashem continued to need us and expect us to fulfill a unique and vital mission in this world.