From the teachings of Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch
(translated and presented by Rabbi David Sterne)
The holy Ari of Tsfat mentions that the numerical value of the
word 'choleh', meaning "sick," is forty-nine. One who
has achieved the "forty-nine gates of understanding" but is
missing the fiftieth gate (which even Moses, greatest of all prophets,
achieved only at the end of his life) is called "sick." This
means that virtually all of us are spiritually sick on one level or
How can we be healed?
Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber, the great Chassidic master better
known as the Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1860-1920),
explains that the answer lies in "seeing" (a direct, firsthand
experience) rather than in "hearing" (an indirect, secondhand
Hearing is associated with the intellect. We can hear
great wisdom from a number of sources, as part of the chain of transmission.
We learn by listening to others talking and explaining. We achieve understanding
by hearing what others (who presumably understand) have to say on the
It is this state of affairs that the Ari calls "sick."
As long as we don't have immediate/direct experience, we are not well.
And in this day and age, we are far from a direct experience of G dliness
As intrinsically high as the soul is, it is enclosed in
a physical body, in a physical world that hides anything G dly. As long
as we don't "see" G dliness, the fiftieth gate - the gate
of G dly health and spiritual wellness - is beyond us. We may have a
deep understanding, we may have a thorough grasp, but as long as we
haven't "seen" G dliness, we are sick.
So, is there hope for us?
First of all, it wasn't always that way. Once, when the
Temple stood, we could experience "spiritual eyesight" by
just going up to the Temple Mount. There, "as one came to be seen,
so was he shown." As one came to fulfill the Biblical command of
being seen (by G d) at the Temple, so was he shown G dliness. All who
came to the Temple could see, according to their spiritual level, open
and revealed spirituality within the Temple's confines.
But we lost this avenue to G dliness. We became so tempted
by philosophy and logic that we substituted it for spiritual pursuit.
When we forgot that there is a "fiftieth gate," beyond understanding
and intellect, we lost it. When we forgot to put our egos aside to "see"
G dliness, we lost it.
But, we did not lose all.
The Rebbe Rashab tells us that by intense meditation and
concentration on G dly topics, as described in the inner dimension of
Torah, we can build a Temple inside ourselves. By learning and focusing
on the details of G dliness, we can make ourselves into more spiritual
beings, and in so doing, reveal G d to the world. When we fulfill the
commandments of the Torah and work on our grasp of G dliness, especially
as presented in the writing of the Ba'al Shem Tov and his students,
we begin to "see." We become more holy and begin to approach
the fiftieth gate, the level of seeing G dliness.
Ultimately this is what will bring the Mashiach, who will
re-build the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Temple was destroyed some two thousand years ago during
the month of Av-the month of "hearing" - and ever since, we
haven't been well. But, the Temple can and will be rebuilt when we cultivate
our ability to "see"-by studying and grasping the inner dimensions
of the Torah - thus bringing ourselves to the threshold of the "fiftieth
gate" even in our lifetimes!
[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem."
Rabbi David Sterne is the founder and director of the "Jerusalem
Connections" organization in the Old City of Jerusalem.]