breadcrumbs from komarna

The stages of avodat HaShem are many, but it helps sometimes to have a guide. The Komarna Rebbe, in his Netiv Mitzwotecha, (Netiv HaEmunah:3 the last few letters) explains three major stages of Avodah in this world:
  1. Connecting Malchut to Binah - this is accomplished through cutting oneself off from the pleasures of the world, focusing intensely on Torah study. Yaakov Avinu did this in his avodah to be Yoshev Ohalim, sitting in the tent studying rather than interacting with the enticing world at large of Esav.
  2. Connecting Malchut to Hochmah - this next stage can only be achieved through engaging the world for the sake of HaShem with deep meditations and Yichudim while performing even the most mundane of tasks. Yaakov Avinu did this in his showdown with Lavan and all of his endeavors while away from home.
  3. Connecting Malchut to Keter - this final stage takes us beyond the world into the realm of nothingness, where we make ourselves infinitely small in the face of constant awareness of HaShem's Greatness. We see this trait in Yaakov Avinu when he returns from abroad and turns to HaShem as the source of his salvation, rather than his own merit, saying 'I have grown small from all of Your Kindness.'
After thinking about this for a few days I asked my Rav and he agreed with my assessment of this Torah:
  1. Malchut to Binah - this avodah is essentially connecting to the pnimiyut, the innermost essence, of the Torah. It corresponds to connecting to Godliness in its most basic sense, Elokut, in the nomenclature of the Baal Shem Tov. (The Baal Shem Tov says that everything in the world has three major aspects Elokut (God), Olamot (Worlds), and Neshamot (Souls))
  2. Malchut to Hochmah - this avodah is essentially connecting to the pnimiyut of the World. Which corresponds to the Baal Shem Tov's rendering of Olamot.
  3. Malchut to Keter - this avodah reaches connecting to the pnimiyut of your Soul. Which is Neshamoth according to the Baal Shem Tov.
I wish we could all experience life in a straightforward and rewarding fashion, but it seems that in our modern era we are vacillating between all three avodahs in a near-constant fashion.

Ironically, it's virtually impossible to do the avodah of Chochmah or Keter without first completing our avodah of Binah.

Since we don't generally have the luxury of stopping what we are doing and starting at the beginning, we need to be aware of and incorporate these ideas into our daily life as much as we can. Perhaps when we get to learn, we can focus on the avodah of Binah, when we're invovled in the day to day we can focus on avodat Hochmah, and when we're stuck in traffic, it's a wonderful time to work on avodat Keter.

Beyond that, we have to rely on HaShem to help us succeed despite everything that stands in our way. We may not be Yaakov Avinu, but HaShem is the same HaShem that helped Yaakov Avinu.


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