Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Shoresh Neshoma

Illustration from Pardes Rimonim (Koretz, 1786)

A Simple Jew asks:

You once wrote, "We know that some people are rooted in Chesed and some are rooted in Gevura."

When I look at my wife, I can see a clear example of a person whose neshoma is rooted chesed; she does not need to work at chesed because it comes so naturally to her and it bound up with her very essence. Being married to her helps better draw this quality out of me and allows me to grow into the person I strive to be.

If a person were to ask me what middah my neshoma was rooted in, I would not know how to answer. I am not pure chesed, like my wife, nor pure gevura like Rebbe Baruch of Mezhibuz. Perhaps I am combination of middos and only a true tzaddik could reveal to me what my shoresh neshama is.

Have you ever given consideration to trying to figure out what your shoresh neshoma is? If you had to take a guess, what would you answer?

Chabakuk Elisha responds:

First of all, let me preface my remarks here by saying that I am not an expert on these matters by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, this is a subject of lengthy discussions in the writings of the Ari Zal, especially in Sha'ar HaGilgulim (and Sefer haGilgulim edited by R' Meir Poppers. I am really not knowledgeable in these areas; for those who are seriously interested, seforim and experts are out there that can be consulted. With this disclaimer, I would say that as far as I know, simply put, we're all mixed up - we all have mixed shorshei neshamos, mixed "soul roots."

Shoresh neshama is often simplified to either Chesed / Gevura, or shoresh Kayin / shoresh Hevel (remember this conversation in the comments here). There are discussions about how to wear one's Talis (rolled on the shoulders or hanging down covering the arms) based on one's shoresh neshama. The Minchas Elazar writes that one should figure out which shoresh they come from for this reason (see Sefer Darkei Chaim V'Shalom, where he is quoted as saying that if someone, for example, is naturally afraid of water and drawn to visual arts, he is likely to be from Shoresh Kayin; and if someone is gentle by nature and a gifted orator, he is probably from Shoresh Hevel; and he refers the readers to further examine their traits as they are described in Rav Chaim Vital's Sha'ar HaGilgulim).

But this is not so simple as it sounds. As I understand it, Chesed (Hevel) & Gevura (Kayin) are used here are general terms: There are seven middos (chesed, gevura, tiferes, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchus), and they break into three basic groups: Right (chesed/netzach), Left (gevura/hod) and Center (tiferes/yesod/malchus). One's shoresh can be from any of them, and to further complicate matters, there are combinations and sub-combinations as well.

To quote Rabbi Sears: "Neshamos are collectively like a great tree with many roots (shorashim) and branches, stems, buds, flowers, petals, etc. And everything becomes increasingly diversified in combination with all the elements that make up the tree. Just as during the days of sefirah, we relate each day to a different combination of sefiros, such as chesed she-b'chesed, gevurah she-b'chesed, tiferes she-b'chesed, etc., so too, each neshamah is related to a certain stem, branch, root, etc. and it is self-understood that this gets a lot more complicated than the days of sefirah."

So it seems to me that we are not simply pure chesed or gevurah. Furthermore, I would even be hesitant to say that the Kotzker or Reb Boruch'l was from "pure gevurah"; rather it would probably be more accurate to say that he was "predominantly of gevurah d'kedushah" (or something like that).

And if all this wasn't enough, the modern man has further complications, since the "we" that we take ourselves to be is not equivalent to a single soul with a single source anyway. I don't want to get into a lengthy conversation about ibbur neshamos (souls spiritually "impregnated" within other souls), gilgulim (transmigrated souls), etc, but we are commonly made up of multiple soul roots. Maybe this would help make it a little easier to understand:

We have the concept that one's name reflects his essence. In sefer Pri Haaretz, R' Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk comments on a relatively new phenomenon: people have started using multiple names. In the past, people almost never had multiple names; they had names like Avrohom, Yitzchok, Shmuel, etc. Seldom was anyone the bearer of two or more names, like, say, Chabakuk Elisha. R' Mendel explains this as a reflection of who we are today: While, once upon a time, souls were once from a single shoresh, over the various incarnations those souls have been mostly rectified, leaving only fragments that still need to come into this word for their tikkun. Thus, today we are made up of these multiple soul fragments, with different roots – perhaps even conflicting roots – which is the reason for the common practice of multiple names (reflecting the "multiple personality" of the soul's identity).

To further illustrate the point: it is customary to remove (or cover) knives from the table when saying Birchas Hamozon. The commonly given reason for this is that there was a man who became so distraught after reading the third brocha (regarding the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash) that he picked up the knife and stabbed himself. This story took place on a weekday; so, too, this custom is generally only practiced during the weekday, and on Shabbos this is not viewed as a great a concern. However, according to Kabbalistic sources, one who is from Shoresh Kayin should remove the knives even on Shabbos.

Someone once commented to R' Gedalya Kenig Z"L (founder of the Breslev comunity in Tzefas) when he removed the knives on Shabbos, "Shoresh Kayin?" To which he answered, "Today we all have an element of Shoresh Kayin!"


At December 19, 2006 at 8:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i once started theorizing about my own neshama and my rav mentioned to me that R'Kook apparently said nowadays it's more beneficial to pay attention to your particular sensitivities and inclinations than to worry about your soul root.

At December 19, 2006 at 12:13:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> nowadays it's more beneficial to pay attention to your particular
> sensitivities and inclinations than to worry about your soul root.

And where do you think they are coming from? Exactly from that root.

By the way, I've heared from talmidim of Reb Gedalya Kenig ztz"l, that he once said, that since we are today have mixed shoroshim, the tales should be worn covering the shoulders (which is normally for shoyresh Hevel). That's how I do it. Though I don't know why it is like this.

At December 19, 2006 at 12:18:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also it worth to note, that a neshomo with mixed shoroshim has several disadvantages (complex and difficult personality and the like), it has a big advantages as well (comparing to a non mixed). For example in earlier times, for many it was very hard to learn nistar for example, because their shoyresh was far from it (Gemora divides Yiddin to baaley Kro, baaley Mishna and baaley Gemoro etc. This reflects various shoroshim which define what area of limud one is closer with). However today, with mixed shoroshim much more have access to nistar and all areas of limud.

At December 19, 2006 at 12:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Yid,
Yes - Thanks for pointing that out! BTW, Interestingly, I heard the opposite bsheim the Tzemach Tzeddek: that since today we have mixed shoroshim, the tales should be worn rolled on the shoulders (which is normally for shoyresh Kayin).
(And that's how I do it. Though I don't know why it is like this.)

At December 19, 2006 at 1:01:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> I heard the opposite bsheim the Tzemach Tzeddek

Is it written anywhere?

At December 19, 2006 at 1:18:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told that it is in Maamorim of T"T - but I didn't find it (which dosen't prove anything, beacuse I didn't have access to them all).
I origionally heard it from Yossi Jacobson, who was going to find it for me, but unfortunately he didn't end up having the time to look it up (he also said that he thinks he may have seen it in Maamarim hakitzarim from the Alter Rebbe, but he wasn't sure - I didn't find it there either (which also dosn't prove it's not there).

At December 20, 2006 at 7:21:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@A yid,

great, so we're all following minhagim we don't understand..

and "duh" @ And where do you think they are coming from? Exactly from that root

the point was, instead of trying to discern from what part of what world you come from, discerning what brings you closer to haShem is a more productive route for the modern day Jew.

Also, the mixed soulroot thing is not such a new thing... already when our nation was formed we were mostly gilgulim of the dor hamabul. not to mention that the same exact nefesh+ruach+nishama+chayah+yechidah (NaRaN'CHaY)never happens twice, so anyone who is a gilgul now has mixed roots. (unless the roots you are refering to are the 600 000 soul roots of the jewish people in which case I suppose you could end up w/ a NaRaN'CHaY all from the same soul root -- since it would seem there's more than just one NaRaN'CHaY in each of the 600 000 soul roots. I derive this from the Maor Eynayim's saying there are 613 (mitzwoth) x 70 (panim) x 600 000 (jews) = 25 746 000 000 (that's 25 billion) different jewish souls ----- though, if we say there are (only) 5 parts to each of the 600 000 soulroots, just all of the possible rearrangements of these soul-pieces is a MUCH larger number: 600 000 ^5 = 7.77 x 10^28)

but like you, I don't understand that much about all this, so I could be mistaken.

a side point: the ben ish hai said he was a gilgul of kayin and hence shaved his head because gilgulim of kayin aren't supposed to grow out their hair at all. whereas gilgulim of hevel can even have long hair.
(so if we just start doing things because we are gilgulim of kayin and/or hevel it's going to get pretty drastic)

At December 20, 2006 at 11:42:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way. See an interesting maymor about the difference of dynamic (chosid) and static (misnaged) avoydo. (It is written by Yehoyshua Munsheyn). He brings there many sources. I thing such dynamic things as avoydo according to the shoyresh is more chasidic apporach, even though it really can be drastic if misused, but static approach is not better at all also.


At December 20, 2006 at 11:13:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Yid:

If Reb Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal, said that we should all wear the talis draped over our shoulders down to our wrists, like shoresh Hevel, it seems odd that his sons do not have this minhag, but only lower the talis over their shoulders in "Ahavas 'Olam" before kriyas Shema'.

Please ask around about this!

At December 21, 2006 at 11:25:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so odd really. Firstly - he could give them different instructions according to their qualities, you can ask them if he did (I'll try when I'll have a chance), and secondly, they themselves not always follow all hanhogoys of Reb Gedalya ztz"l.


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