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The Wisdom of the South

The verse in Jeremiah states, no rx “I have surely heard Ephraim complaining.”[1] Chassidut explains that someone complains because they have found in their psyche two opposite impulses. The simplest such impulses are known as the good and evil inclinations. Even when one learns Tanya, price and reads that one has both a Divine soul and an animal soul, nurse he may not internalize the fact that this is not describing some theoretical situation; this is really how his psyche is! But, as a person matures in his understanding of Chassidut, he sees more and more that he is on a psychological see?saw; alternating between two personalities.

Jeremiah states, ”I have surely heard (???????? ???????????),” which literally means, “Heard, I have heard.” One explanation for the use of the double verb is that Jeremiah at times hears Ephraim going in one direction, and at times he hears him going in the opposite direction. This is the prelude to Ephraim’s teshuvah (return to God and His Torah).[2]

Individual and Society

If these two personalities are something that we all have, why is Ephraim (?????????) brought as such a prominent example? We can find the answer by looking at the letters of his name itself. With regard to the first three letters, ?? indicates the individual (as in the word “individual” ??????), whereas the first letter ? symbolizes the oneness of the Almighty.

The fact that the second and third letters follow, or are “drawn to” the first, symbolizes how each individual member of the Jewish people is drawn to God’s unity and oneness, represented by the letter aleph (?).[3] But, the first three letters are also drawn towards the fourth and fifth letters of Ephraim’s name; the yud and mem (??). In Hebrew grammar, these two letters are a suffix that indicates plurality.

This means that a plurality (??) exists even within an individual (??). In our drive to actualize our fullest potentials, we must also learn to balance between the animal soul on the one side, and the Divine soul on the other. When each of us is able to manifest our abilities to the fullest, we are all also granted the highest level of life—or the pinnacle of all our pursuits—our connection to the aleph (?), or the oneness of God.[4]

This is one possible explanation for what it means to “complain” (??????????), and why Ephraim (?????????) is torn between these two extremes more than others. Whereas the animal soul only cares about its own individual cravings and pursuits, the Divine soul seeks to connect and unify with the Godly oneness as manifest in all.

Expressing our Uniqueness

In Rabbinic literature, a desire to express uniqueness is referred to as, “The general that requires the individual.” Each person wants to reveal their latent powers and abilities, which is one of the reasons why people want to have children. By having offspring, they reveal their potential. This concept certainly relates to Ephraim (?????????), as his name is conjugate to the verb, “to be fruitful” (??????).

Healthy Anxiety

The form of anxiety that a person feels when they see themselves as having a split-personality is potentially something most positive. A person who harbors false beliefs, or worships idols (as did Ephraim), becomes very anxious and nervous as a result.[5] The best way to cure such false anxieties is to redirect them in a proper and positive way. A person who fluctuates between two impulses, or who is confounded by his two personalities, also has the ability to make the bold decision to “have nothing more to do with idols.”[6]

As will be explained in our upcoming article on Mother Rachel, Ephraim is also the child that Rachel most weeps for. Even though his situation seemed hopeless, in the end he was called the “most precious” child.[7]

Each member of the Jewish people experiences this “split personality” between either being far removed or precious. Although Mother Rachel continues to weep, she has also been promised by God that those children that seem far from the fold of Judaism, will eventually return and be considered the “most precious” children of God in the end of days.

 Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Ra’anana, 6 Tishrei 5774

[1] Jeremiah 31:17.

[2] As was explained earlier in the shiur, relating to the verse; ?Ephraim [says], ?I have nothing more to do with idols?? (????? ?? ?? ??? ??????). Hosea 14:9.

[3] Which has a numerical value of 1.

[4] This paragraph of course summarizes the formation of the name Ephraim (?????????).

[5] The word for ?idols? in the verse, ?I have nothing more to do with idols?? (????? ?? ?? ??? ??????), is ?????, which is also used to designate nerves, or having a nervous tendency or anxiety. From this we can learn that whoever has false beliefs, similar to what idolatry was, is prone to suffer from anxiety or nervous tension.

[6] Hosea 14:9.

[7] ?Is my precious son Ephraim…? (????? ??????? ??? ?????????). Jeremiah 31:19.

The All-Encompassing South

In some of our previous articles this year (5774), sildenafil we offered a few two-word phrases that carry the initials ?”? (that have a numerical value of 74). Another such phrase that is particularly appropriate to the Torah portion of Lech Lecha is “the depth of the south” (?????? ???????), remedy which appears in the earliest Kabbalistic text, prostate Sefer Yetzirah.[1] As this book is attributed to Abraham, the central figure of our present Torah portion, it is doubly fitting that we should discuss this phrase now.[2] Abraham himself was a traveler who is clearly associated with the south, as the verse states, “And Abram traveled back and forth to the south.”[3]

The general orientation of today’s maps is that south is downwards, and indeed, the Torah defines the eastern territory of the Land of Israel with the words, “and the border descends”[4] from the highest point, above the Kinneret in the north, down the Jordan River, leading to the Red Sea, where Eilat, the southernmost city under Jewish control today, is located.

However, in the Torah the south is often referred to alternately as the “right,”[5] and this too is most appropriate for Abraham who is the archetypal figure associated in Kabbalah with the right and with the sefirah of loving-kindness, which is represented by the right hand.[6]

Yet a third orientation of the map is found with regard to the layout of the Temple, where for someone entering the Temple (from the west), south was to their left. In this context, the sages teach us, “One who wants to become wise should turn southwards, because the menorah [representing wisdom] is in the south.”

To complete this meditation, we need to add the fourth direction, in which south is at the top of the map, where north is usually marked. Indeed, the sages explain that the meaning of the word “south” (???????) is actually two words that mean “Living at the height” (???? ????), because when the sun is at its highest it is in the south.[7] This means that as one travels southwards, one is constantly “taking-off”; rising higher and higher in the spiritual realms. This concept of rising ever higher is the source of spiritual and material wealth. Indeed, if one takes a voyage beyond the border of Eilat, one reaches Ophir and Tarshish,[8] two countries that are renowned for their gold.[9]

In total, we see that the south is associated with all four different map directions!

Down: “And the border descends,” from which we learn that the south is at the bottom of the map.

Right: The loving-kindness of Abraham, the person who first; “travelled back and forth to the south.”

Left: “One who wants to become wise should turn southwards, because the menorah [representing wisdom] is in the south.”

Up: “Living at the height” (???? ????), because when the sun is at its highest it is in the south.

The Wisdom of Removing Boundaries

There is a Chassidic interpretation that explains that the phrase “and the border descends” (??????? ?????????) means that the border is dropped (i.e., that the boundaries are removed). This is referring in particular to social boundaries that divide people. Whether you belong to one community or another; whether you have this custom or that; whether you are more or less religiously observant; all these limit us in our social interactions. But when we travel further and further south, all these borders begin to disappear.

Removing boundaries can be achieved through either of two traits: joy or love. When someone is at his son’s wedding for example, he may reach such a high state of joy that even if his worst rival walked in at that moment, he would joyfully embrace him. Similarly, if we truly feel great love for each other, all the boundaries between us just melt away.

However, there is a limit to the boundaries that we can remove, as we learn from the borders of the Land of Israel. When we go too far south, crossing the final frontier of the Holy Land, we reach Egypt (?????????), the most suffocating constraints (????????) of limitation. In Egypt one becomes enslaved by his own passions, and he may find it impossible to extricate himself from them. Egypt is somewhere we can only be redeemed from by a miracle, as the sages state, “No slave ever escaped from Egypt.”[10] This idea reflects the fact that God Himself put a limit to creation. This is the meaning of the Divine Name pronounced Shakai (????) that God put a limit to creation by saying “Enough!”

So the lesson we can learn from the Torah portion of Lech Lecha is that love is good, more love is better, but too much unbalanced love is self-destructive.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class in Eilat, 4th Cheshvan 5744

[1] Sefer Yetzirah, 1:5.

[2] Actually triply, as this class was given in the far southern city of Eilat!

[3] Genesis 12:9.

[4] Numbers 34:11-12.

[5] See for example, Exodus 26:18.

[6] Patach Eliyahu.

[7] Nachmanides, ad loc. Exodus 26:18.

[8] There are varying opinions as to what these countries are called today.

[9] Ships were launched there, in order to bring gold back to the Land of Israel.

[10] Mechilta 18:11.

2 Responses to “The Wisdom of the South”

  1. jeff shapiro phd says:

    I don’t get it that coming into the Bait HaMikdash from the west, the south would be to the left.

    Please explain.

  2. Joseph Bradley Alexander says:

    (Applause)—>(Standing Ovation), Thank you.