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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

Condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:4

The Spiritual Complexity of a "Land-Based" Spirituality

R. Chanina ben Akavia said: Why did they say that the boats of the Jordan River are impure? It is because they are loaded on dry land and taken down to the river.
---- ---Adar I 29 5779
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Gemara: R. Chanina ben Akavia said: Why did they say that the boats of the Jordan River are impure? It is because they are loaded on dry land and taken down to the river.


Ein Ayah: [A body of] water is pure and purifies other things; it cannot become impure. Metaphorically, water represents hidden spirituality, divine wisdom that a man’s "hand" and intellectual abilities cannot control. It is as Chazal say: "The fish of the sea are covered by water, and evil eye has no impact over them" (Berachot 20a).

Lofty concepts flow from the purity of divine intellect onto a worthy person through his preparing his spirit, improving his actions, thoughts, attributes, and personality so that Hashem’s spirit falls upon him from the divine blessing of the sea of Torah and wisdom. Hidden spirituality joins the spiritual side that a person is aware of, which he incorporates into his thoughts. The two types of spirituality can be compared to dry ground (open) and sea (concealed). The latter is pure and flows from the divine "wellspring," from which man’s soul originates.

At times, man receives lofty spiritual outlooks not from their direct source but through the world of the physical senses and logic, which are represented metaphorically by the world of mundane, "dry" spirituality. He may take these outlooks into the world of "great waters." In such a case, vigilance is crucial. Such a "boat of the Jordan River" has contact with dry land, where it is loaded. Even when it is lowered into the water, it has the characteristic of land. Then, limited human logic may meet spiritual intellect because the contents of the "boat" were loaded on land. True, it is now connected to the world of the internal and lofty divine spirit within man’s soul. There is great purity in this boat, as its foundation is built upon divine matters, which Hashem bequeathed to man’s spirit, according to man’s level of preparation to receive it, as Chazal said: "One who sanctifies himself below is sanctified from above (Yoma 39a). "They shall throw upon them pure water" (Yechezkel 36:25), and they will be purified.
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