Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spirtual love vs material love

Meshech Chochma(Vayikra 19:18):
Bereishis Rabba (41:1): A tzadik flourishes like a date palm… Just as a date palm and cedar tree have desires also tzadikim have desires. What are their desires – it is for G‑d…. Rav Tanchum said that there was a date palm in Chamaso which did not give forth fruit. A palm tree gardener passed by and commented that this date tree is longing for palm tree in Jericho. Once the two were grafted it bore fruit. The key to understanding this medrash is from the tradition that the yetzer harah does not have an influence except on which the eyes see (Sotah 8a). Lust for material things only is aroused by what the eye sees and then the heart desires(Bamidbar Rabbah 10:2). Similarly Megila (15a) says that the mere mention of the name of Rachab (who was very beautiful) caused a person to be sexual aroused. But that was only if the person knew what she looked like. However what the eye hasn’t seen the heart doesn’t desire.

In contrast the lust of tzadikim is not that way but comes from the power of the mind… Their desire is solely for spirituality and getting close to G‑d and not for material things. This is stated in Shemos (33:20): No man can see me and be alive. Thus we can understand the lust of the date palm and the cedar tree to which tzadikim are compared. It is not based on material desires. Therefore we see that the date palm had desire for that which it couldn’t see. The tzadik has gained control over his material nature and now has desire for that which can’t be seen – which is G‑d. This is also the proper understanding of “You shall love your fellow man as yourself I am G‑d.” Just as you have been commanded to love G‑d even though He hasn’t appeared before you – similarly you shall love and value every single Jew – even though he is so far away from you that you have never seen him.


  1. "The key to understanding this medrash is from the tradition that the yetzer harah does not have an influence except on which the eyes see (Sotah 8a)"

    - is the implication from this that blind people do not have a yetzer harah for physical pleasures?

  2. Oddly enough I read an essay by Rav Soloveitchik last night from Out of the Whirlwind that said much the same thing.
    The problem is that in the English language, lust is not used in verb form like love is. You love someone but you cannot lust that person. If lust was a verb like love then we could easily differentiate between the two forms of what we now call love.

  3. I don't know about the metzius, but that's seems to be exactly what was assumed about Yitzchak Avinu as a result of his blindness.

    מדרש תנחומא פרשת תולדות סימן ז'
    אתה מוצא כל מי שנתייסם בעיניו כאלו הוא מת כיצד אמר רשב"י אין הקב"ה מיחד שמו על הצדיקים בחייהן אלא לאחר מיתתן שנאמר (תהלים טז) לקדושים אשר בארץ המה וגו', אימתי הן קדושים כשהן קבורים בארץ שכל זמן שהן חיין אין הקב"ה מייחד שמו עליהן, כל כך למה שאין הקב"ה מאמין בהן שלא יטעה אותן היצר הרע, וכיון שמתים הקב"ה מיחד שמו עליהן, והרי מצינו שיחד הקב"ה שמו על יצחק הצדיק בחייו שכן הוא אומר ליעקב (בראשית כח) אלהי אברהם אביך ואלהי יצחק, רבי ברכיה ורבנן רבנן אמרי רואה את אפרו כאלו הוא צבור על גבי המזבח, ורבי ברכיה אמר הואיל ונתייסם בעיניו כאלו הוא מת לפי שהיה גנוז לתוך הבית ויצר הרע פסק הימנו לכך כתיב ויהי כי זקן יצחק.


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