Mashiach and Jewish Leadership: Part 7 – Compassion – There is no Vessel as a Whole Broken Heart

The achievement of wholeness and completion depends on mesirut nefesh, the state of total dedication in the soul. A leader is one who inspires and directs others to reach their true, full potential. Even more so, a leader molds a group of diverse individuals to enable them to unite and dedicate their energies to one cause.

Kabbalah and Chassidut teach that other than G-d’s essential unity, there are three entities whose essence is defined by wholeness–Torah, the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. If a Torah scroll lacks one letter or even part of a letter, the entire scroll is invalid until corrected. The six hundred thousand males between the ages of twenty and sixty, who went out of Egypt, represent the totality of all primordial Jewish souls. We are taught that these souls correspond to the six hundred thousand letters of the Torah. Similar to a Torah scroll which is invalidated by a blemish in even one letter, so too, the Jewish People are considered incomplete if even one soul is in pain or has strayed from his Jewish tradition. Therefore “all of Israel is responsible for one another.”

The Land of Israel is likewise indivisible. The separation of even one part blemishes, on some level, the totality of the whole. For this reason all Messianic prophesies revolve around the Jewish People returning and redeeming the entire Land of Israel. Only when all the Jewish People return to the complete Jewish homeland will the prophesy that “from Zion will come forth Torah” be fulfilled. Then the oneness of G-d, the source of all perfection, will be proclaimed to the whole world.

An entity whose essence is wholeness is by definition indivisible. The Ba’al Shem Tov taught: “if you take hold of a part [of an essence], you take hold of the entirety [of the essence].” Every moment of time potentially contains all of time; every point of space potentially contains all of space. Conversely, if a part is removed from an entity that is by essence whole, its perfection is blemished. This apparent paradox can only be resolved through total mesirut nefesh, which allows us to grasp the essence of Torah, the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

The ability to connect completely to the Torah is no simple matter. Our Sages say: “The secrets of the Torah are only given to one who is worried in his heart.” The worry referred to here is not from a lack of trust or sense of security, nor is it caused by the transitory matters of this world. Rather it is a deep, existential uneasiness with our present, imperfect reality. We are taught to accept that “all is for the good” and that G-d is perfect, implying that all is exactly as it should be. On the other hand, it is clear that due to man’s free will, the present world situation, at least from a superficial view, is less a reflection of G-d’s perfection then man’s accumulative imperfections. More then just accepting the world as it is, we are commanded in the Torah and implored by our sages and prophets to become partners with G-d in rectifying and elevating the world. The sincere probing of the heart and mind, and the anxiety it causes, creates a vessel with which to receive the secrets of life and Torah, in order to sweeten reality. Torah gives direction and meaning to life, and though it does not guarantee ease and comfort, it does insure that life’s inevitable struggles and trials are for a constructive purpose. The secrets of the Torah when deeply integrated help alleviate and sweeten the suffering around us.

If the suffering and pain of so many leaves no impression on the heart and mind, there is no motivation to try to effect change. The incentive to perfect the world comes from a worried heart and the empathy one feels for all who fall victim to life’s seeming imperfections. Spiritual anxiety that leads to depression and the inability to act is a negative phenomenon. Yet, if directed proactively to assist those in need, spiritual unease is a very positive development. Even anger, considered one of the most destructive personality traits, can be transformed for the good. Anger at injustice, when properly guided, motivates action to rectify the problem.

Too often, modern models of leadership are depicted as cold, calculating individuals, whose concern for those they represent is secondary to their own sense of political survival. Contemporary society has a strange fascination with those ruthless enough to rise to power and fame through any means necessary. A true Jewish leader is one who works tirelessly for the sake of his community, leaving no stone unturned in his quest to assist others. The image of a Jewish leader is far from that of an insular man, above emotional attachment to his constituency. Compassion involves empathy of the most intimate nature. He who wishes to lead must have the utmost sensitivity to others’ suffering and pain, as is written: “For the compassionate one will lead them.”

For this reason the Sages teach that there is no vessel as whole as a broken heart. The desire to achieve perfection and completeness comes paradoxically through trying to rectify all that is presently broken in the world. This degree of sensitivity though, if not handled correctly, blinds one to the issues at hand and engulfs the soul in an emotional whirlpool. A perfect balance of caring and independent fortitude must be forged. No heart must be bigger, nor shoulders broader, than the individual who accepts the yoke of leadership. Every person has daily opportunities to show compassion and understanding, and in so doing reveal their innate leadership qualities. Even small gestures of caring should not be underestimated?for recipient as well as giver.

The Midrash relates that Moses was chosen to lead the Jewish people after G-d saw him searching for one small sheep that had become separated from the flock he was attending. If Moses could show so much compassion for just one solitary sheep, certainly he would be the perfect shepherd for G-d’s flock.

The importance of the attribute of compassion is seen in the Kabbalistic model of the sefirot. Each of the ten sefirot is associated with a particular Name of G-d. The four-letter essential name of G-d is associated with tiferet, (beauty) whose inner motivational force is compassion. As representatives of G-d, we must attempt to manifest this quality as much as possible in our daily lives. Through giving and consciously sweetening reality we create moments of rectification, islands of Divine perfection in a sea of human sorrow.

The above statement of the Sages: “The secrets of the Torah are only given to the one who is worried in his heart” is related to another verse: “Worry in the heart of man dejects it, while a good word gladdens it.” If the worry of the heart is not put into perspective it can lead to deep depression and paralysis. The Sages have suggested a number of ways to overcome dejection of the heart. A person can subdue the worry by rejecting it out of hand. Alternatively, through self-reflection, he finds the blemish in his own personality that is causing the worry. Another strategy is to put the thought out of his mind either forcefully or through changing his mind set to dwell on more positive thoughts. Lastly he can “speak out” and confide his worries to a friend.

The end of the verse “a good word gladdens it” illustrates how speech is the conducting force, restoring a measure of peace of mind. Through a simple word of encouragement or empathy, we can serve as interim leaders to friends and family. While everyone desires a life free from petty worries, the deep-seated anxiety of the leader is rooted in the inexplicable paradoxes of existence. Rather than being dejected by them, he uses all of his strength to bring sweetening and rectification wherever possible.

The first three words of the above phrase “worry in the heart of man” equals the numerical value of the word Mashiach, 358. Neither theMashiach’s own personal anxiety, nor mankind’s, will be relieved until he redeems the world from its suffering and unites G-d and man, thus bringing a sense of wholeness and completion to all of reality.


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