Monday, October 7, 2013

Growth - Souls and Angels

I sat last night in a class given by Rabbi Yoel Kahn in Boro Park. The following is a paraphrase of one of his teachings, embellished with my own examples. 

“...I will place you as a goer among these stationary ones” 
(Zechariah 2:7)

Rabbi Yoel asked, “Why are souls considered “goers” while angels are considered mere “stationary” beings, don’t angels also grow?

He explained that there are two kinds of growth. There’s incremental growth, where stage by stage, the new level is a neat continuation of the previous level. One can easily see how the new level is merely a natural outgrowth of the previous one. For example, what’s learned in second grade is neatly built upon what was learned in first grade.  

Then there’s a different kind of growth. It’s what is often referred to as a paradigm shift. There’s nothing of the previous level that can directly prepare one for the new level. The new level is such a leap from from the previous one that it barely feels related to it. For example, we live in three dimensional space. Now imagine if we awoke one morning and discovered that space added on another three dimensions. Now instead of going in three basic directions, we can suddenly go in six. Except as an abstraction, this is very hard to even begin to imagine. There’s nothing in our previous three dimensional existence that can prepare us for living with the freedoms to move in even more dimensions. This kind of growth occurs in huge leaps!

Angels grow incrementally. Their previous stages comfortably lead them into their new states. By contrast, souls grow in paradigm shifts, leaps! These leaps are so intense that between levels of paradise, souls need to immerse in a purifying stream of fire in order to forget whatever of the previous level can’t be carried forward into the new level. Only then are they exposed to the Torah taught on the new level of paradise.       

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