Shabbos Parashas Vayikra

In the section of this week’s parashah that discusses the offerings a person must bring when he sins, the word the Torah uses for person is נפש – soul. The Midrash expounds (Vayikra Rabbah 4:7‑8 – see Berachos 10a for a similar teaching):
In Tehillim 103 and 104, David HaMelech uses the expression “Bless Hashem, O my soul” five times. Why did David choose his soul to express his praise to Hashem? He reasoned: “… Let the soul, which fills the body, praise Hashem, who fills the world. … Let the soul, which bears the burden of the body, praise Hashem, who bears the burden of the world. … Let the soul, which outlives the body, praise Hashem, who outlives the world. … Let the soul, which is unique within the body, praise Hashem, who is unique within the world. Let the soul, which does not eat, praise Hashem, who does not eat. … Let the soul, which sees but is not seen, praise Hashem, who sees but is not seen.  … Let the soul, which is pure within the body, praise Hashem, who is pure within the world. … Let the soul, which does not sleep, praise Hashem, who does not sleep.”
A person’s soul rules over his entire body, and the body cannot make any move without the agreement and cooperation of the life force that the soul provides. Indeed, as the Torah says in Bereishis 2:7, the body comes from the earth, and it is only when Hashem breathed into it the soul of life that man became a living being. The soul is unique in that it is the only source of true life within man, while the body is merely a servant of the soul, putting its physical capabilities into operation to carry out the soul’s wishes. We have explained in Sefer HaMiddos, in Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect) and elsewhere, that the will of the intellect rules over a person’s desires and aspirations. It is therefore fitting for the soul to praise Hashem for all of the components of the body.
The Midrash also expounds (Vayikra Rabbah 4:4): “Ten things serve the soul: the food pipe for food, the windpipe for voice, the liver for anger, the lungs for absorbing liquids, the intestines for grinding, the spleen for levity, the stomach for sleeping, the bile for jealousy, the kidneys ponder, and the heart decides.” A similar list appears in Berachos 61b; there it is stated that the kidneys advise and the heart understands. Let us understand what function the kidneys serve that leads the Sages to say that they “advise,” and what our Sages mean when they say the heart understands. We build on the statement in the Midrash that “the soul is pure.” We know that people occasionally do evil deeds or think evil thoughts. But we must not think that the soul initiates these evil deeds or thoughts. Rather, all evil within man stems from the organs of the body. Thus, as the Midrash says, the liver is the seat of anger, the spleen is the seat of levity, the bile is the seat of jealousy, and so on. The role that the soul plays is to decide whether or not to heed the negative impulses that arise from the body. Thus the Torah states (Devarim 30:19): “Behold, I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.”  
Given this explanation, we can understand well the Torah takes such a severe stance toward those who incite others to evil. As explained in Maseches Sanhedrin, the general practice in Torah death penalty cases is for the court to aid the accused in raising defenses, but the inciter does not receive such aid. At first, it seems a wonder that the Torah puts such great blame on the inciter. Is the inciter a greater danger than a person’s natural evil inclination? Let us explain the reason for the Torah’s position. The soul directs a person’s actions according to intellect and analysis, and according to the Torah, which spells out what person should and should not do. The soul is guided toward the right choice by written Torah works and the teachings of Torah scholars. And, as we said above, the source of the evil inclination is the body. The Torah’s deeper teachings classify a person’s evil impulses into two root categories: desire for pleasure and anger. These two root categories branch out into a great multitude of emotions and impulses, such as love of people or things that bring pleasure, coveting, hatred, ill-will, and so on.
The impulses that arise from the body generate specious fantasies. Each fantasy comes before the heart with its “advice,” so to speak, and the heart forms a response according to its inclinations. If the heart fortifies itself when the fantasy first comes upon it, it can easily reject it. But if the heart “understands” accepts the fantasy and allows it to enter its inner chamber, it will be hard afterward for the heart to weed it out and cast it away. And the fantasy highjacks the person’s intellectual powers, and sets them to work on developing ways to obtain the ephemeral benefit that it portrays.
Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 9:1-13): “Wisdom has built her house …, she also has set her table. She has sent out her maiden to announce from the city heights: ‘Whoever is a simpleton, let him come here. …’ The woman of foolishness croons, the simple-minded one who knows nothing.” When wisdom seeks to lead a person to do a good deed, it calls out to the person with the Torah’s sublime words, conveyed to us by Hashem Himself, addressed to our intellect. Not so with the evil inclination, which emanates from the body. The evil inclination does not stem from a trustworthy source, and it does not present reasoned arguments. It does not approach us with words, but rather with simple-minded fantasies.
We can now see how the inciter is worse than the evil inclination. The evil inclination tries to lead us astray through fantasies, while the inciter tries to lead us astray through words and reasoned arguments. And Shlomo teaches (ibid. 27:9, homiletically): “Oil and incense gladden the heart, and so does the sweetness of one’s fellow from the counsel he gives to the soul.” Words can have more power to seduce than fantasies that pop into a person’s imagination, and therefore it is crucial to do away with inciters.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.