Friday, June 12, 2009

The Stuff Of Which Our Souls Are Made

...he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire. ~Wuthering Heights, Chapter 9

I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of creation if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees — my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath — a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff — he's always, always in my mind — not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself — but as my own being — so, don't talk of our separation again — it is impracticable. ~Wuthering Heights, Chapter 9


Wuthering Heights is the tale of a great, passionate but ultimately wholly destructive love. Catherine and Heathcliff are made of the same stuff; their souls originate from the same place. Their existence is predicated upon one another. Yet it is the very fact that they are so similar, so alike, which damns them. Both stubborn and headstrong, they cannot bend. They are like cedar oaks, mighty and powerful, but unyielding. They have none of the ability to bend that originates with the reed. Linton is too weak for Catherine; she cannot see him as anything except a puling, whining dog. Her ideal partner would be one whose soul was different from hers but who still had the ability to bend rather than break.

I think it makes sense that Catherine and Heathcliff are mistaken about one another and believe each other to be their ideal partners. It is easy to be mistaken when one's soul is made of the same stuff as someone else's; it comes from the same source. You recognize one another and the light that your soul throws off. It is this recognition which leads you to believe that you are meant for one another. In truth, while there is something deeply special about the bond you will share, it cannot be that. For if one's soul is exactly the same as someone else's, they will end up opposing one another. Heathcliff and Catherine are passionate, stormy and sparks fly off the page when you read about them. However, they also destroy one another with their words. There needs to be a balance; the cedar tree must have its friend the reed.

I think it pains the soul to let go of someone whom it recognizes from its birthplace in heaven. The soul cries out to return to heaven, and so when it sees another soul that is made of the same stuff and comes from the same source, it recognizes that piece of heaven and longs for it. But ultimately, that is not the proper union for anyone. Despite its longing, souls must combine opposites. There's wood, water, earth and fire, and each of these elements must be present in different combinations within a person. Earth might wish to cleave to earth, but only with water can earth allow seeds and saplings to grow.

It is a natural desire to long for the soul that is made of the same material as yours. Despite this, this is not what God intended. It is the medley of the elements and the meeting of souls from different places in heaven that God wished. Unfortunately, it is very painful for souls made of the same material to break away from one another, for they recognized each other from long before. It is necessary, but causes excruciating pain to the soul. Thus, the soul cries out to God, who hears its plea and sheds a crystal tear. The soul questions: What good does this tear do me, O' God? How does it help me? And God answers: Only in time shall you understand.

But one day the soul will realize that the tear was a gateway. It will wander through and find itself in an illuminated, beautifully colored world. Surprised, the soul will question God. Turning back, it will see the tear has become a mirror. And strangely, the soul will realize that in fact the tear is a diamond. Its facets reflect the soul's own brilliance; it was cleansed due to its suffering.

It was given to me to know what my soul looks like. God ensured that I knew since I was very little; I know where it lies in my body and precisely how it is shaped. It is shaped like a sword, almost a crescent, and begins at my right shoulder, reaching to the left side of my abdomen. It is transparent, but the edges are rimmed with blue light. I do not know what this means. Perhaps the crescent suggests the waxing and waning of the moon, even as I have been given the ability to shift between euphoric and tragic experiences. Perhaps the sword suggests the battles I have yet to fight, and please God, to win. What is certain is that my soul is always purified through suffering.

God loved Chana, and yet he kept her barren for many years of her life. Her husband adored her, and yet she wept. Penina teased her and hurt her, and only then did she speak out. She told God that she would make herself a sotah in order to snatch a child from His throne. That is the reward for the sotah who has been falsely accused.

I inherited my name and everything it entails. Chana prayed in an unusual way; I do, too. It is through my fingers, in the words I write. Chana only cried out to God after He tortured her, and this is what He does to me as well.

טז אַל-תִּתֵּן, אֶת-אֲמָתְךָ, לִפְנֵי, בַּת-בְּלִיָּעַל: כִּי-מֵרֹב שִׂיחִי וְכַעְסִי, דִּבַּרְתִּי עַד-הֵנָּה. 16 Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman: for out of the abundance of my complaint and my vexation have I spoken hitherto.'

God, judge me kindly despite my sins. I have intended well. I have sinned out of an abudance of love rather than hatred. I have railed against you, but You know my bitterness. Comfort your child, the daughter who seeks you. At times I have been angry at you. I believe You think I am stronger than I am. You have given me paths to walk where others have fallen. You have pained me very much. I know You do this to purify me. I know You do it so that I may know you better. I know, God, that you love me, and you break me in order to create me anew. Only sometimes I think myself fragile, despite the fact that You know I am not.

The Rav states: "Prayer and tzara are inseperably linked. Who prays? Only the sufferer prays. If man does not find himself in narrow straits, if he is not troubled by anything, if he knows not what tzara is, then he need not pray. To a happy man, to contented man, the secret of prayer was not revealed."

I approach you with my whole soul; I have offered up prayers with all my heart. I know that with this pain I am purified; only sometimes, I think it is too much for my soul to bear. As my Creator, I know You know better than I what I was made to do and why I am here. I know You will give me the tools to accomplish my task, and some of these tools can only be provided through enlightenment, and enlightenment is achieved through pain. My soul is afire with white light; you have cleansed it utterly. I can only imagine what path You have next laid out for me to walk. You have more faith in me than I do. Had You told me what You would bid me do, and at what price, I am certain I would not have trusted myself to accept Your command. But I am Your creation; You forged me and made me. You shall continue to try me, until I am made perfect and one day you shall declare that your daughter has found favor in Your eyes, at which point I will be permitted to die. Only then can my soul fly up to you, pure as You have forced it to become, and rejoin those who dwell in Your presence. Only then will You grant me peace.


Uri said...

What an incredible post!
Such sadness!
May you find the contentment you are looking for and May G-d grant you joy and fulfillment!

Have a good shabbos!

Anonymous said...

Someone once said "I thank God, who is Just, and realize how great His kindness and compassion are and have been. God ensured that I would be well-cared for and happy; He is good. I apologize for my mistrust."

Joel Rich

Aaron said...

I simly love the way you write.
May God continue to be good to you Chana.

Chana said...

Thanks, Uri and Aaron. Joel, I live each day as it comes. Some days God is good, and I feel that utterly. Other days, I have been thrown down upon the ground. The words you cite are not a contradiction.

Anonymous said...

Some of us are not fated to find contentment (bikesh yaakov leishev bshalva) and experience the dialectic that R'YBS always returned to. Perhaps HKBH's words to Iyov are instructive - "where were you when I created the world" and we need to remember whether we feel (since in reality he is always so) that day that God is good, and we feel that utterly or on Other days, we feel we have been thrown down upon the ground, we need to simply ask ourselves what does HKB"H want us to do now.

Been There and Done That Joel Rich