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The Healing of Hearing by Seeing

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 another.

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 experience).

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 subject.

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 and spirituality.

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.]



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