Concepts

Concepts

Jewish concepts behind this discussion:

“Introduction” Section:

Why do we need tools? At the end of the Torah portion of Beshalach, the Jewish people just before the War with Amalek, come to a place called Refidim. The sages say this place was called such because they were weary of learning Torah. Today there are people who are weary of learning Chassidut, and thus lift up their hands and cry out: Give us tools!!! But who needs tools? Only a person who is not well-versed in what he is doing. Someone who is an expert doesn’t need tools… If you find that your are searching for tools, then you should probably look for another occupation in which you will excel.

“A World Before Tools” Section:

… Many times the demand for vessels, for tools indicates a lack of expertise, beginning with an inability to meditate in the Chassidic way. Many people learn Chassidut today, but how many actually meditate, before davening (morning prayer), after davening. Who does this today? If you have a problem, what should you do? If you’re searching for solutions, the real solutions are through meditation. As it says in the Tanya, the greatest solution to everything a person may be suffering from is that “He who has mercy over others is given mercy Above.” This means giving tzadakah (charity).

“Selling the Stories” Section:

In Chassidut, there is a beautiful definition as to what light and vessel are. The exile in Egypt, all the stories we read in the Book of Shemot are all light; while the mitzvot are meant to give us tools to manifest these lights into reality. Now in Chassidut, one beautiful definition is that lights relate to understanding how things are the same/similar, while vessels/tools mean understanding how they are different… seeing differences.

The Zohar says that all the mitzvot of the Torah are like pieces of advice. There are pieces of advice that are universal, they are good for everyone, for instance giving tzedakah like we said. To be able to reach everyone universally, that is the essence of light, like the light of the sun that reaches everyone equally. But there are also specific pieces of advice, specific in the way that each person is different.

To be able to give particular advice, that requires an understanding in vessels/tools. One has to be a maven in differences between people. Light has the capacity to transmit what is universal to everyone. Relatively, light is a general concept, while the vessel is a particular instance. The Shulchan Aruch (The Code of Jewish Law) for instance, even though it contains thousands of particular halachot (Jewish laws), it is general, because it applies to everyone equally. But the particular has to reflect the difference between people. Hashem wants everyone to keep the Shulchan Aruch equally. But Hashem also wants each individual to properly treat their particular way of serving Him. What is a remedy for one poison, can be a poison for another.

“Making Products” Section:

The two universal tools are meditation and tzedakah. But now we are saying that tools and vessels come from having a sense, being a maven in particular situations. Where does one get such a sense, such understanding? Only from experience. It’s not really the product of having a toolbox. Someone who is an expert counselor, his toolbox won’t be useful for someone else. His tools are his experience, his immense knowledge. There is a principle in the Arizal that tools, vessels are formed when direct and returning light strike one another.

“End-User Content” Section:

The main example of this type of interaction is between a teacher and a student. The teacher teaches something and the student, who is not bashful, points out what he thinks is a difficulty. If the difficulty is not very good, then there is no striking of lights here. But if the student is sharp, and he has good taste and understanding, then the direct light from the teacher has awakened returning light from the student. They now meet each other, and by doing so they are described as striking one another. A vessel is formed from this. What we learn from this is that the teacher is not supposed to give tools/vessels at all. The teacher is supposed to give light. The tools/vessels are formed from the interaction between the teacher and the student. This is called the battle of Torah. About this it says that there is no one wiser than he who has experience.