The sad news about the petira of Aharon Soffer brought tears and outpouring of sympathy and pain. With the funeral and shiva pending, we hope that Hashem finds a way to comfort the parents and the family. It is tragic and a great loss for klal yisrael.
We had a week of searching, of living in that unknown zone that every parent relates to. Where is my child?
Our experience as souls living in time and in a world where Hashem hides Himself is a moment by moment opportunity of being in that world where Hashem hides Himself and making an effort to remember that outside of time and where there is no world He is not hidden and His Good is understood. There is, by Divine design, a unique human experience of doubt that being a soul in time and space is intended to deal with.
We want what is comfortable and what fits our sense of what is good and pleasant. We fear and suffer when it seems that what we desire, when it is so naturally deep and obviously good and normal in our eyes, is not our experience.
The terrible tragic accident that resulted in the petira of Aharon Soffer follows fifty days of unheard of missile strikes and horrific criminal acts against the Jewish people. The inner realities of fighting for our survival and attempting to eliminate people who are committed to killing us and reclaiming Israel and Yerushalayim aligned our actions with Torah values. What Israel did is what every government and military is designed to do, protect its citizens and prevent invasion. Yet when looked at with an eye only toward the outward appearances, emotions became enraged against Israel.
Aharon did not survive long enough to be found alive. During the week of searching, it was unknown if somehow his life was part of the Jewish People’s struggle to survive and fight our enemies, with fears that he might have been abducted by terrorists. The search team did not eliminate such a possibility although there was no evidence that a nationalistic motive was involved.
Who knew at every moment what happened to him? Hashem alone. Who knew at every moment what missiles were being shot, what dangers were posed for the Jewish Nation? Hashem alone. And Who helped? Hashem protected Israel and Hashem gave siyata deshmaya so that the remains could be found.
The human suffering has been enormous. The doubts, the fears, the dangers, the threats to Israel’s existence, the anti-semitism and more affect the perceptions of souls in time and space by triggering our senses. Our senses swirl with competing forces – what I want, what Hashem wants. And it is not a fair fight.
How do we keep from drowning in the overwhelming experiences of darkness triggered by our will competing at this time with Hashem’s Will?
We are in Elul, a time when we create an arousal from below in order to evoke an arousal from above on Rosh Hashana.
What is that arousal from below?
It is a procreative act, one that is designed to bring tzelem elokim hidden in our natural existence to connect to and increase tzelem elokim revealed in the Torah, tefilla and acts of kindness we do that brings Hashem’s light into the world. The procreative act requires choice, emunah, free will, and speech in an effort that is neither natural, logical, nor intuitive. The act of creating an arousal from below is an activation of our transcendant soul powers of will and faith and pleasure, a yearning to bring imagination to glue to Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy. Hashem wants us to acquire the tzelem elokim that is hidden in our taivas/desires and ego/arrogance/gaivas. Hashem hides something in our taivas and gaivas that when we, with love in our hearts, choose to uplift through emunah and choice by saying Hashem Echad, brings an increase of joy, pleasure and good into our lives.
Submitting to Hashem’s will is not like giving in with someone in a conflict resolution struggle, where there is a winner, a loser, someone right, someone wrong, someone happy, someone unhappy, both unhappy. NO! Hashem allows a part of Himself to be concealed in a dark place just to give us the opportunity to freely choose to uplift it. To acquire the tzelem elokim from its hiding place in taiva or gaiva, we make a kinyan, we have to give something valuable to us. And that valuable thing feels like our very lives in totality. Our physical existence, our sense of autonomy, of being in control, of having a will and a determination to accomplish – that is the cash on the table that we make the kinyan to acquire the tzelem elokim hidden in this world through the procreative act of Shema Yisrael…..Hashem Echad. When we uplift our imagination from our natural instinctive, logical goals to cling and submit to Torah, prayer and acts of kindness, we acquire with the mesiras nefesh access to the tzelem elokim that had been buried in our subconscious or unconscious mind, our gaivas and taivas. For our effort, Hashem lovingly gives us all the good in the world, the pleasure of reflecting Him in the world and very often the good that we hope for on a personal and physical level.
The personal and physical that we see as good for souls in time and space was not given, lo aleinu, for Aharon Soffer. We look at the loss and we feel the suffering of the parents and family. We do not know from Hashem’s perspective anything more, only on faith do we accept – Baruch Dayan HaEmes. We don’t know what the inner purpose or meaning is.
The cries of anti-semitism in the world, condemning Israel for defeating its enemies, looking at Israel’s determination to destroy the enemy as if the enemy were not attacking and threatening Israel is a caricature beyond belief. People accusing Israel are looking at the outer appearances only, without questioning the intentions and motivations and worse, continuing the blindness of inner meaning by equating the struggles of Hamas and Israel. Why is it that the inner meaning is not being understood in a true way?
We don’t know the inner purpose of Hashem nor can we understand the meaning in terrible tragedies. We are limited in what we can understand because we are in the kelipas, the natural coverings concealing Hashem’s presence in this world.
Shame adds another layer of concealment to the layers of concealment of Hashem’s presence in the world. When there is terrible shaming, annihilation, abandonment, harsh punishments, and more, part of the animal soul stops looking for inner meaning because it is too busy trying to survive those wielding the punishments. When the ego and emotional makeup of a person become damaged from being strictly dealt with, from not having a relationship with Hashem as one of a loving Creator Who desires for us to acquire pleasure by choosing to uplift ourselves from our natural urges to emulate Him, then a person views themselves as good and does not understand that certain tactics and choices that assert strongly their desires could be causing damage. In those moments, their inner experience is full of doubt and confusion, needing to believe they are good and right yet feeling unbounded and aware of being destructive and not knowing what else to do. Such confusion and doubt is a nightmare of suffering, for the imagination keeps a choke hold on tzelem elokim to keep it from being uplifted and connecting to revealed tzelem elokim.
Torah, tefilla and acts of kindness are there for our imagination to cling to in order to pull us out of the quicksand of confusion and doubt. In a certain sense, being in the peril of the choke hold over tzelem elokim that thrusts us into confusion and doubt can add inevitable and excruciating suffering. We can make efforts to uplift concealed tzelem elokim through a kinyan of mesiras nefesh and an act of creative combining of imagination, will, choice and speech. That creative act is the functioning of a soul in a covering of taiva and gaiva called a body in a world, to bring through free willed choice a connection with revealed tzelem elokim, a revelation of Torah, avoda and kindness. We feel relief from the confusion and anxiety when we do it and that is how we know that the process is, in fact, pleasing to Hashem and that He gives us that calm because we truly did the effort He desires of us, to uncover and uplift tzelem elokim hidden in the kelipas so as to increase our ability to reflect His Attributes into the world and experience pleasure. Amazing experiential insight teaches with a feeling what all these words are attempting to describe.
We are here to make this union every moment. Doubt is what signals to us that we are at bat. Where the battle lies is in a part of us that feels internal but is really external, something stored in our unconscious and subconscious based on our desires and belief in the illusion of having independent existence when in reality we are here in bodies as a glorification to the body given by Hashem in order to relate to Hashem by submitting and uplifting tzelem elokim from the concealed parts. Hashem desires for us to acquire the pleasure of reflecting Him into the world, a pleasure that is the greatest when we choose it. Thus He creates the world, time and souls and gives us choice and speech. The emunah and the decision to activate awe of Hashem are up to us. We have real free will.
We cannot go into the mind of Hashem Himself to understand His Will and question what He deems as good. But we do have permission to go into our own minds and understand and question what judgments we are making and whether or not we have been intrinsically honest or are hiding from some rough landscaping affecting our thinking rooted in subconscious damage or unconscious and untrained urges. If the damage is great, we may become stuck in creating meaning based only on outer appearances and blaming and shaming as a result. Yet this is something that, if we turn to Hashem and ask for His Help, He can and will help with. In Elul, we can find the parts of us that remain at a basic level posing doubts and confusion and attempt to gain some insights and to ask Hashem all year to please help us at our behira points to conduct ourselves in a way that will reflect Torah, avoda and kindness over our natural urges.
But it takes Torah to help us understand where our focus is, to uplift from the mask of nature tzelem elokim through the mesiras nefesh of submitting internally experienced externalities called ego in order to glue imagination from what is natural to Torah avoda and kindness. This is the procreative task for which we have been given free will, a soul, speech and the soul power of faith.
When we understand this, we have the intellect to approach our natural slippings. Striving to uplift what we unmask in order to increase lovingkindness that we can reflect in the world is our functioning. It is a mistake to under-estimate or generalize based on outer appearances alone and doing so only increases our own suffering with doubts and distance from feeling the good and love from Hashem. Shame, blame, hatred, violence are firey but cannot last, for what lasts is the truth, Hashem’s goodness. We can avoid many perils by having the wisdom Hashem intends for us to base our choices on. Imagination must be grounded in absolute truth and not in outer appearances. If we cannot introspect on inner motives or see our own mistakes because we are too covered over with blame, shame and abuse and pain, we can still ask Hashem to help us uplift the tzelem elokim trapped there. Hashem makes nature, including our nature, and if we ask sincerely, He helps us. One who comes to be purified will be helped. It is a divine promise. Hashem gives the transcendant powers of emunah and ratzon to us.
The tragic loss of Aharon Soffer teaches us how the unavoidable natural experiences of being in a body in time and space produce doubt and imagination that exacerbate suffering at a time of loss fearing impending tragedy that conflicts with our obvious desires. Real time doubt is unavoidable and distressing.
The outer appearances of the conflicts Israel is facing teach us how on the surface, dialogue does not always reflect absolute truths and how emotionally that does not always matter to people, that people can easily align their emotions with the values displayed based on outer labeling and appearances, albeit not necessarily absolute truth. Shallow looks are sometimes deemed to be sufficient for taking actions that are rationalized but far from good according to Torah.
And in Elul, we have these examples to help us see and understand ourselves a little better. Where are we suffering and how can we look inwardly and not just relate outwardly, and activate emunah, choice, speech and will to demonstrate our commitment to connecting what is in the realm of natural urges to the service of Torah tefilla and kindness?
May Hashem accept our suffering as a kapara and our efforts as being loyal to Torah tefilla and kindness, and may klal Yisrael be deemed to be the generation meritorious for redemption b’ahava.