exile as scalpel

Two interesting points I've seen recently in Rav Avraham Azulai's Hesed L'Avraham:

He goes into great detail as to the suffering of the soul in Gehenom, purgatory, but the most important point changes one's whole perspective: The suffering of the soul is not a punishment, it is a purification process for the sole benefit of the soul. Normally we associate Gehenom with the non-Jewish idea of 'Hell,' but there is almost no correllation. Gehenom is a lot closer to vital soul-saving surgery performed on a soul in grave danger.

In that sense it might be possible to say that this world by default becomes a form of surgery with anesthesia. (In the most protracted sense.) Gehenom would be surgery without the anesthesia. Although I think all Kabbalistic texts agree that Gehenom is categorically less painful than reincarnation as a means of treatment for spiritual damage. I believe this is mainly because of the additional damage one will most likely cause in another reincarnation.

The point though, is that Gehenom, with all the rivers of fire, demons, and scorpions, is a therapy aimed at spiritual health, not at causing suffering. [This becomes apparent when we look at Pirkei Avot where we are warned not to think of Gehenom as a refuge after we die. (according to the understandings of the Notzer Hesed) How could Gehenom possibly be a refuge? It's a refuge from taking accountability for one's actions (vis a vis one's sins) because one might be tempted not to repent and simply let the fires of Gehenom cleanse one's soul. Talk about living life on credit.]

The second and related point of interest is that R' Azulai draws connections between the micro and macrocosm, explaining that exile is the spiritual equivalent for the totality of the nation of Israel, as the suffering in Gehenom is for a single Jewish soul. Just as Gehenom is a cleansing process for the soul, the exile is meant to cleanse and purify the Jewish people -- the redemption marks the completion of that purification.

(Hesed l'Avraham 5:12)


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