Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach
A young father found himself in the unenviable position of having to change the really messy diaper of his one-year-old son. Annoyed that his wife was unavailable, he made no attempt to hide it. He was nearly finished when the baby emptied the contents of his bladder on him, causing him to jump and give a little scream. His reaction and the look on his face triggered the little boy to start laughing.
Without thinking, and obviously not expecting a response, he blurted, “Why did you do that? Why are you laughing?”young father found himself in the unenviable position of having to change the really messy diaper of his one-year-old son. Annoyed that his wife was unavailable, he made no attempt to hide it. He was nearly finished when the baby emptied the contents of his bladder on him, causing him to jump and give a little scream. His reaction and the look on his face triggered the little boy to start laughing.
His infant son looked at him and said, “Seriously? I’m pretty sure that I’m doing a great job of acting my age, and looking quite cute while doing it, thank you. With all due respect, maybe you need to work on the whole grownup thing.”
The obvious question about the marriage analogy (previous essay) is that it was from the perspective of the husband, or in the language of Chassidus, the mashpia (giver), whereas in the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people our role is that of the wife or mekabel (receiver). To answer that question, we need to examine the concepts of galus (exile) and Geula (Redemption) as explained in Chassidus.
Traditional Torah sources present the idea of exile as punishment for our sins, plus a loyalty test to see who will remain faithful to Torah and mitzvos, which will be rewarded after we have been cleansed through suffering with the coming of Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov taught that something deeper is going on here, since from the perspective of Hashem’s infinite super-love for all Jews and each Jew as an individual, this hardly makes any sense. Even from a traditional reward and punishment perspective it makes little sense, since the Torah concept of punishment is to lead to repentance and improved behavior, whereas the history of exile clearly shows that it is having the opposite effect.obvious question about the marriage analogy (previous essay) is that it was from the perspective of the husband, or in the language of Chassidus, the mashpia (giver), whereas in the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people our role is that of the wife or mekabel (receiver). To answer that question, we need to examine the concepts of galus (exile) and Geula (Redemption) as explained in Chassidus.
As Chassidus explains, for G-d to express his great love for the Jewish people, He has to exercise infinite levels of restraint. If He does not conceal the true reality of His Oneness, there is no “space” for us to even exist. Even after we exist in the sense that each person experiences “his own” individuated sense of self as something real, if He were to reveal His infinite love that finite self would be completely overwhelmed. The question is how much to reveal and how much to hold back.
As we explained in the marriage analogy, first comes self-altering super-love (seven days of feasting), and then the developing of that love into a long-term relationship (the first year). However, these are only preparatory stages to building an everlasting edifice. We understand an everlasting edifice in terms of bringing children into the world who will produce future generations, but what does it mean in terms of the relationship? What it means is actually a paradox, because it means creating something that is both impervious to change and in a constant cycle of growth.
Okay, sorry, I know that sounds far out, so let’s try plain English. Fact: no matter how powerful a love is, we are easily distracted from that love when we get involved in “stuff.” Fact: living life, raising a family and paying bills requires being involved in a lot of “stuff.” Yet, nobody thinks the purpose of marriage is to start off in love and have it fade slowly over time due to all of the distractions of life. We all know instinctively that love needs to grow, not stagnate, and certainly not just to slip away and devolve into peaceful (or less peaceful) mutual co-existence. So we need two things, bulletproof protection against anything that would weaken our relationship and a way for it to grow.
How does love grow? There is only one way in the world; reciprocation. Superficially, reciprocation means you do for me (take out the garbage) and I do for you (wash the laundry). I hope whoever is reading this already knows that doesn’t really work, no matter how many hashkafa lectures or self-help books claim that it does.
The way the mashpia/mekabel relationship works is that, after the initial super-love connection, the mashpia (as obligated) takes charge of the relationship by finding ways and means to express his love (“and he should make his wife happy”). It is the role of the (emotionally receptive) mekabel to reflect that love back, happily. This stimulates him to give even more of himself, and as she recognizes, receives and reflects back, this creates an ever-growing cycle of love.
The problem is that love will not continue to grow indefinitely with the built-in imbalance of mashpia/mekabel. True love is not being on the receiving end all the time and only serving as an emotional mirror to somebody else, even to the other half of my soul. It needs to express itself through giving and not just reacting. So if the mashpia really loves the mekabel, he needs to pull back and give her the opportunity to initiate, to allow her the time and space to be the giver and he then receives and reflects her love. He has to show her that he loves her so much that he can hold himself back from showing it so that she can become an equal partner in the relationship.
The real paradox of adult reciprocal relationships is that it requires the traditional roles of mashpia/mekabel, as well as the ability to transcend those roles, meaning that each side of the relationship goes beyond their natural selves to allow the other to express their love, because super-love means that I need to give over my very self to you. If our love is such that our entire selves are fully invested, then there is no outside force that can pull us apart.
The Baal Shem Tov revealed that every Jew can be a Chassid. By definition, that is someone driven by overwhelming love to “do kindness” to Hashem, to be a giver and not just a receiver. The way to do that is by fully appreciating that Hashem is everything and everything is Hashem, and that Hashem’s decision to create an alternative reality to the true reality, which is that He is the Only One, is purely an expression of His super-love for me (and every Jew).
The Mezritcher Maggid taught that Hashem further withdrawing His revelation in galus is an even greater expression of His super-love, because there exists an even higher level of maturity in a love relationship, where both parties are adult partners in the relationship. That means to adopt the “husband” role, taking on the job to “make” Hashem happy, to be the “giver” and not just a “receiver.” The sins that lead to galus are a result of our being distracted from the relationship. When we achieve a balanced relationship through transcending our natural inclination to just receive, and we become “equal” givers in the relationship, at least insofar as we give our very sense of “self” (which is the only thing we can call “our own”) completely to Hashem, then we are able to receive the revelation of Geula when Hashem will give His “self” to us completely.
What would be the next step after the generation of the Mezritcher Maggid was a matter of dispute among his disciples. How do we carry on these teachings in a world where Hashem is hiding Himself even more, and where people are less spiritually sensitive to be able to see that this is an even greater expression of super-love? With the founding of the Chabad approach, the Alter Rebbe showed how this is all meant for us to achieve an even higher level of maturity in our relationship with Hashem. Or as the Rebbe Rayatz put it: The Baal Shem Tov revealed the ability every Jew has to be a Chassid and the Alter Rebbe taught every Jew how to actually be a Chassid. ■