Monday, October 31, 2011

Converts and Soul Roots

And Abram took Sarai his wife, his nephew Lot, and all their belongings, as well as the souls that they made in Haran; and they left to go into the land of Canaan [Lech Lecha 12:5]

When a person is in a state of small-mindedness (mohin d'katnus), he gives birth to the souls of converts. (1) This is the meaning of: "the souls that they made in Haran," which is the three aspects of Elokim in Smallness, having the numerical value of the word Haran (2).

(1) This idea, found throughout the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, is based upon the principle of root and branch souls. When a root soul falls to a lower level, it is in order to raise up the "branch" souls that are connected to him, who themselves are on a low level. Although converts may have very high souls - according to the Talmud, they observe the mitzvos with more exactitude than born Jews - before their conversion, their souls are locked in a Gentile body. A similar teaching can be found in the writings of the Baal Shem Tov concerning ba'alei teshuva - returnees to Judaism. Their ability to repent comes from the influence of a Tzaddik who has fallen to a lower level and raised himself again.

It is necessary to understand why G·d created a situation in which a Tzaddik falls from his level. It would certainly be better for him to remain constantly on his level and serve G-d with an expanded consciousness and to love Him perfectly. The Baal Shem Tov and my Master, Rabbi Dov Baer (the Maggid of Mezritch) explained it as follows. When the Tzaddik falls from his level and endeavors to regain his strength, he creates the souls of converts. This is like someone who wants to take his friend out of the mud. He also has to go down into the muck to raise him up." [See Kedushas Levi, by R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov, on the verse: "Your ointments have a goodly fragrance" (Song of Songs 1:3)]

(2) G-d's Name "Elokim" has the numerical value of 86. When multiplied by three, gives the number 258, which is the numerical value of the word "Haran." The implication is that when Abraham and Sarah were in the land of Haran - in a state of small-mindedness - they gave birth to the souls of converts: "the souls that they had made in Haran."

[See R. Yitzchok Luria, Etz Chayim, Sha'ar HaKelalim, chapter 13.3]

Sefer Baal Shem Tov: The Baal Shem Tov's Teachings on the Torah
Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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