Thursday, September 17, 2009

Man Is Pure

Excerpt from "The Resurrection of the Dead and The Immortality of the Soul"
from On Repentance in the Thought and Oral Discourses of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
compiled by Pinchas H. Peli
translated from Yiddish into English
pages 201-202


Indeed, the penitent does not mold himself ex nihilo but from something. Though his "something" before repentance consisted of the "abominable and despised and abhorrent," it is a cornerstone for Judaism, emphasized especially in Hassidism and in the Kabbala, that however great a man's transgressions may be, they fail to penetrate to the innermost core of his soul. Always, and under all circumstances there remains something pure, precious and sacred in man's soul. If all were corrupted, if sin were to annihilate the whole personality without leaving a trace- then repentance would be an impossibility. The idea that in the mystique of man's soul there is an aspect that remains as a pure core, despite the impurity, is reflected in our daily prayers: "My Lord, the soul You gave unto me is pure." The sinner represents only a pseudo-personality, his external self only. All the desires and ambitions which dragged man down to sin were empty and vain. Man's one true aspiration, superseding all others, is to draw near to the Almighty. Mountains of charred ashes and layers of sand may have covered his soul and concealed the burning ember, but it nonetheless continues silently and secretly to flicker. Even then, all that a sinner need do is shake himself out of his state, wake up and identify with his real "self," and reach the sublime moment of prayer directed towards the Almighty, "Who hears all prayer" and about Whom it is said: "Towards You all flesh shall go." All flesh; the gates are open to all those who knock upon them in sincerity.

And from this we learn that "all of Israel has a share in the World to Come," that it is the innermost, untouched core of the soul which is forever pure, that enters the World to Come.

1 comment:

The Talmid said...

Rav Ahron Soloveichik also discusses this same point in his essay "Jew and Jew, Jew and Non-Jew" in Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind, especially on pp. 88-91 about Elisha Ben Avuyah.