Thursday, November 13, 2008

Angel and Tzaddik

Why is it permitted to ask a Tzaddik to davven on one’s behalf, but it is not permitted to submit the same request to an angel? The Rebbe explains:

One meshulach (fundraiser), a fool, when given a pidyon (written request for blessing from a Tzaddik) to give to the (Previous) Rebbe, would refuse to take it, saying that one should request from Hashem directly, and not through intermediaries.

The truth is, as explained in the responsum of the Chasam Sofer,[1] ... that there is a difference between angels and [Jewish] souls. Requesting via angels is considered a request via intermediaries (which is forbidden), while the request via souls, who are higher than angels, is not considered a request via intermediaries, for “All Israel are partners, one body and one soul. When one Jew feels pain, his fellow also senses it, and shares his pain. ... Since they are both in pain, it is better for the head to enter (and plead for Heavenly mercy) than for the foot to enter. The Talmidei Chachamim (Torah scholars) are the head.” This is especially true of Jewish leaders (“nesi’ei Yisro’el”) who are the “heads of the thousands of Israel,” the level of the “head.”[2]

Thus, in this case the principle “The prayer of the sick person himself is more effective than the prayer of others for him”[3] is not applicable. This principle is referring to others, while nesi’ei Yisro’el are not others; rather, they are the “heads of the thousands of Israel.” Therefore their prayer is like “the prayer of the sick person himself,” just as the head prays for the foot.

On the contrary, the prayer of the nesi’ei Yisro’el is even more effective than the prayer of the sick person himself,[4] for the Nasi, who is the head, feels the illness more than the foot. The reason for this is twofold:

  • the head is higher than the foot, since the intellect resides there;
  • the only reason that the foot feels the illness is on account of the sinews that stem from the brain, for all sensation stems only from the brain.

However, all this only applies when the person recognizes that he is a foot, and devotes himself completely to the head—the Rebbe. However, if one thinks that he has a head as well, and comes to the Rebbe in such a state to hand over a pidyon, then it is indeed questionable to employ an intermediary.

To seek the Rebbe’s advice would not be problematic, for one can ask any Jew for advice. In fact, the Talmud relates[5] that Rav studied from a shepherd for twelve months. However, giving a pidyon (without recognizing the Rebbe as one’s head) raises the question of an intermediary.

All those here are surely devoted to the (Previous) Rebbe. Even those whose devotion is lacking (can be considered devoted, for) since their inner self is devoted to the Rebbe, it is sufficient for them to verbally declare that they are devoted to him (in order for their presentation of a pidyon not to be problematic; see also here). This is similar to Maimonides’ explanation concerning the benefit of “forcing him until he says, ‘I want.’”[6] Since his statement “I want” is consistent with his true desire “to be one of (the people of) Israel ... to perform all the Mitzvos.”

There is thus no basis for a question concerning the issue of (submitting a request for blessing to) an intermediary, not even concerning “an intermediary who joins.”

The knowledge that one is only a foot and the Rebbe is the head is also relevant to the manner in which one fulfills the Rebbe’s command:

The Rebbe may issue a command to do something that involves suffering, or even a command to increase in Torah study and prayer in a way that the person must sever himself from eating, drinking, and sleeping. Even when he carries out the command obediently—knowing that he is merely a foot, and as such he must follow the head’s command—the thought might enter his mind that were the Rebbe to know how hard It is for him to do this, the Rebbe would not have commanded him to do it.

This can be answered based on what was said earlier concerning the head and the foot: Not only is the head able to sense better than the foot, as it is higher, but even the foot’s sensation of pain is in fact the sensation of the head. Thus, if there is a separation, G–d forbid, between the foot and the head, the foot will feel no pain. Thus, when the head commands the foot to place the heel into boiling water, the foot must obey immediately, without thinking twice, and the foot must understand—this degree of understanding the foot is “allowed” to have—that the head feels the pain.

Toras Menachem—Hisva’aduyos, Vol. 2, pp. 31-32.

[1] Shut Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, 166.

[2] Tanya ch. 2.

[3] Bereishis Rabba 53:14.

[4] Bava Basra 116a.

[5] Sanhedrin 5b.

[6] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Divorce, end ch. 2. When a husband stubbornly refuses to give his wife a get, a certificate of divorce, the Jewish court forces him to do so until he says “I want.” Maimonides explains that since deep down, every Jew truly wishes to obey the Torah, this declaration of willingness is regarded as genuine, and the divorce is valid.

In my own words: Extending a request to Hashem via an intermediary is only problematic if he is indeed a separate entity from the person who submits the request. However, the Tzaddik is a Neshama klalis, a general soul that contains the souls of other Jews, just as the head contains the life of the body. Thus, the Tzaddik is not a separate entity, but an extension of oneself. Put differently, one’s own spiritual self is in fact an extension of the Tzaddik. Thus, just as my head can davven for my foot, so can I ask the Tzaddik to davven for me.

Therefore, not only does the Tzaddik feel my pain, but my pain is the Tzaddik’s very own pain, which he feels even more acutely than I do myself. Conversely, the Tzaddik’s pain is in fact my pain, even if I do not feel it tangibly.

Thus, the Tzaddik is my head regardless of whether I recognize it. However, if I fail to recognize it, or I recognize it on some level but do not devote myself sufficiently to him, and I treat him as a separate entity, then asking him to pray for me is indeed problematic. However, since the person believes in the Tzaddik and, at least deep down, wishes that he could be devoted to him, it may be derived from Halacha that a verbal declaration of his intent is sufficient to reveal his true desire, even if he is yet to bring this true desire to conform with his daily life. His request for blessing is then not problematic, G-d forbid, but on the contrary, it is desirable.


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