Chapter 3: Corrections Through the Ages
The Evolution of the Correction Method
Moses Says, “Unite!”
The solution came in the form of Moses’ Torah, but also with a new precondition for the execution of any correction from that time onward. To receive the Torah, writes the great commentator, RASHI, the people of Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai “as one man with one heart.”[i] That utter and complete oneness later evolved into one of Israel’s most prominent characteristics—mutual guarantee—the noble trait that distinguished Israel from all the nations of the time.
Upon their acceptance of the condition to be as one man with one heart, Israel received the Torah, the instruction, the code of law that would help them tame the ego. With it, they became a society whose every member—man, woman, and child—attained the Creator and lived by the law of mutual guarantee, in equivalence of form with the one God (or force) that Abraham had discovered. The Babylonian Talmud writes, “They checked from Dan to Beer Sheba and no ignoramus [uncorrected person] was found from Gevat to Antipris, and no boy or girl, man or woman was found who was not thoroughly versed in the laws of purity and impurity [corrections according to Moses’ law].”[ii]
With their newly acquired unity, Israel conquered Canaan—from the word Keniaa (surrender)[iii]—and turned it into the “Land of Israel”—a place where the desire for the Creator rules. The Temple that Israel established in the land represented their high level of attainment, where they continued to develop and implement Moses’ method.
And yet, as our sages write, “The evil inclination is born with man, and grows with him his whole life,”[iv] and “The inclination in a man’s heart is evil from his youth, and always grows in all the lusts.”[v] Still, Moses’ method of correction, the laws we call “the Torah,” remained intact through the first and second Temples, and even through the exile in Babel.
But as the spiritual decline of Israel continued, the people found it increasingly hard to hold on to their unity and connection with the Creator. As a result, the Second Temple was at a lower spiritual degree (level of connection, or equivalence of form with the Creator) than the first. Kabbalist Rabbi Behayei Ben Asher Even Halua explains, “Since the day when Divinity was present in Israel, upon the giving of the Torah, it did not move from Israel until the ruin of the First Temple. Since the ruin of the First Temple … it was not permanently present, as during the First Temple.”[vi]
Eventually, the level of egotism increased in the people of Israel to such an extent that it altogether detached them from each other and from the Creator. Indeed, it was the detachment from each other that caused their detachment from the Creator, from the perception of life’s fundamental force. This, in turn, resulted in the ruin of the Second Temple, and the last and longest exile.
In his book, Netzah Yisrael [The Might of Israel], Rabbi Yisrael Segal describes Israel’s fall from grace: “In the Second Temple there was a special virtue, that Israel were not divided in two; there was only unity among them. Therefore, the First Temple was ruined by transgressions that are Tuma’a [impurity], and the Lord does not dwell among them in the midst of their Tuma’a. But the Second Temple was ruined by unfounded hatred, which revokes their unity, which was their virtue in the Second Temple.”[vii]
Similarly, the great scholar and poet, Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra, wrote, “‘And you shall step on their high places,’ ‘And I will let you ride on the high places of the earth,’ and the reason is the unfounded hatred that was present in the Second Temple until it generated the exile over Israel.”[viii]
[i] Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzhak (RASHI), The RASHI Interpretation on the Torah, “On Exodus, 19:2.”
[ii] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Sanhedrin, p 94b.
[iii] “It is called ‘The Land of Canaan’ because all who wish to dwell in it must be subjugated by suffering all his days” (Rav Chaim Vital (Rachu), The Book of Knowledge of Good, Bo [Come])
[iv] Midrash Tehilim [Psalms], Psalm no. 34.
[v] Rabbi Chaim Thirer, A Well of Living Waters, Toldot [Generations], Chapter 25 (contd.).
[vi] Rabbi Behayei Ben Asher Even Halua, Rabeinu Behayei about Beresheet [Genesis], 46:27.
[vii] Rabbi Yisrael Segal, Netzah Yisrael [The Might of Israel], Chapter 5.
[viii] Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra, Ibn Ezra about the Song of Songs, 7:3.