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4 The Barrier to Divine Aid In a world in which only God and the emanated divine forces are real, spiritual perfection must ultimately be understood as the result of divine aid. Since spiritual perfection, for Meshullam Feibush, is defined as attaining a state of Ayin in which all sense of self has been voided through total immersion in the divine reality, the root cause of the human inability to reach this state is pride. This condition renders the human situation paradoxical, if not hopeless. On the one hand, an effort must be made to overcome those natural tendencies which characterize spiritual imperfection. Yet, success in such efforts themselves may lead to pride. On the other hand, as long as any sense of pride or self-interest remains part of the effort, spiritual perfection cannot be attained. Meshullam Feibush is acutely aware of this problem. A discussion of the inherent connection between moral development, spiritual perfection, and divine aid is not only central to his analysis of the religious life, but also contributes directly to his argument for faith in spiritual virtuosi , the true Zaddiqim. The contemporary situation that Meshullam Feibush describes is one that is wracked by contention and jealousy. Although true religious giants are present in the generation who could provide spiritual guidance, pride is so prevalent that their leadership is spurned1 Indeed hypocrisy is so ingrained that false humility is pursued as a virtue. In fact, I just heard during this Shavuot, directly from the Rabbi and preacher [of Zlotchov], our Master and Teacher, Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel, may his light shine, the following. The world thinks it is a mizvah to be a humble person. But, actually, this "mizvah" is not mentioned in the Torah. The Torah only speaks in praise of Moses. In reality, the "devil"2 put this matter into their hearts, that it is a mizvah to be a humble person. For first, he causes everyone's heart to swell with pride and makes him think that he is a great scholar, well-descended, rich, a Hasid and Zaddiq, full of moral virtues and upright, God fearing, pleasant and charming, and according to his degree, truly worthy to be greater than everyone else, [too superior] to turn to them or associate with them. But this [would be] an unseemly way to act (raq she-zo midah geruah) which would cause him to be despised by others. For they would take him for a conceited person. [And he thinks] it is really a mizvah also to be humble and self-effacing, and to speak with everybody, and to [allow oneself to] be insulted by all. So he pretends to be 96 Unitef of Heaven and Earth humble. All this is the seduction of the deviI.3 For first he puffs up his heart within him and it blazes to Hell below, and afterwards he adds this "mizvah" as a virtue (lL'-l11a'alllh),4 to add pride to his prideS However, this problem of pride is not merely a contemporary issue. It is a perennial problem that every would-be spiritual person must confront. In short, egotism is a natural condition of human birth6 It is so deeply rooted in human consciousness that one is not ordinarily aware of its presence. Meshullam Feibush helps bring the nature of this problem into focus by way of an analogy. God inspired me with an apt analogy concerning this? A person travels along a road in a coach and falls asleep. [While he is asleepJ, the coachman transports him over a high mountain. Once the top of the mountain has been reached, the road is straight, for the ascending slope has already been passed. So, later, when the sleeping person awakens and is told that he is on a mountain, he cannot believe it. For he sees nothing that would indicate [that he is on a mountain]. If he had seen the slope on which he had previously traveled and ascended, he would know. But now everything appears level to him. So how can he acknowledge that he is on a mountain? But he will realize it later when he has descended from the mountain via the second slope that leads from the mountain to the valley. [Only] then will he understand that he has been on the mountain 8 Pride is not distinguishable as long as a person has known no other state. One is simply born into it with no recollection of how it arose. The...


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