In your letter, you write about your opinion that "differs
greatly." You maintain that there is no need to suppress our G-d-given nature,
for there is a certain beauty within us that needs to find proper expression.
To tell you the truth, I am puzzled by what you mean when you
say that your "opinion differs greatly." I fail to see how your view is so
different, for I feel that this publication is a staunch proponent of the proper
expression of all aspects of nature, and not of the "suppression" of nature.
The proper approach, of course, is not to "deny" or to "defy
nature," but to harness and to lead nature and our natural impulses along the
proper path in the service of G-d, as it is said, "and you should love the L-rd
your G-d with all your heart (b’chol levavcha)," meaning, "with
both of your inclinations [i.e., the evil inclination as well as the good
inclination]." To this effect, the article in question (i.e., "Who is Master?")
speaks of the necessity "to employ and to harness our animal strength, as it is
said, are many harvests of grain in the strength of an ox.’"
We, therefore, both seem to agree that the problem is not
with nature itself but with our struggle to master or harness nature, or as you
put it: we must learn to respond to these urges (lust, power, etc.) in a
Judaism, by no means, denies the animalistic tendencies of
human nature, but on the contrary, it identifies and utilizes them in a
"responsible manner," that is to say, using them in the service of G-d.
Sublimating and elevating our animal instincts is truly "a very Jewish concept."
Indeed, it is a fundamental theme and obligation of Judaism.
Thus, we see that in the Holy Temple, the true center of
Jewish expression, the main form of Divine service involved animals, as it is
written: "A man who offers of you a sacrifice to G-d shall offer your sacrifice
of an animal – of the cattle and of the sheep."
Now, it must be made clear that "Jewish expression" means:
spiritual expression. Although the ultimate purpose of mitzvos is to
perform physical acts with physical objects accordant to the commandments of
G-d, mitzvos are like a body without a soul if they are not enlivened
with spiritual intent (kavana). And this spiritual intent is
symbolized by the physical act itself, as can be seen from the following
When "a man...offers ("yakriv"; literally
meaning, "draws close") ...a sacrifice to G-d," it is his intention to draw
himself close to G-d.
And how does he do that? The Torah teaches us that in order
to draw close to G-d, we must offer and sacrifice that which is most dear to us:
ourselves. To that extent, the verse does not read, "a man of you
who offers a sacrifice to G-d," but, "a man who offers of you a sacrifice
to G-d," teaching us that when we want to come closer to G-d by offering a
sacrifice, we must be prepared to give of ourselves.
And it is not enough that we give of our holier side, our
G-dly side alone; to truly get close to G-d and to fulfill our mission of making
for Him a dwelling place in the world, it is necessary to offer up our more
earthly and worldly side, our animalistic side. And so the Torah teaches us that
"a man who offers...a sacrifice to G-d shall offer [his] animal."
[Based on "Basi L’Gani" 5710; p. 2-3]
Of course, this process of offering up and drawing our
animalistic side close to G-d is often a serious struggle. But the struggle will
not go on indefinitely, for when the imminent Redemption finally arrives, the
inclination towards G-dliness will be second nature, and even our animalistic
side will desire to draw close to G-d.
The Alter Rebbe explains:
In the time of Exile, when the Holy Temple is not around, the
nature of man is to be drawn after his bodily needs and worldly affairs, and any
success he has in doing good and turning away from evil only comes about through
considerable effort and toil. But in the time of the Holy Temple, the Jewish
people are naturally drawn towards the service of G-d, to love Him and to cleave
to Him of our own accord and desire, realizing that He is the true source of
The rest of our worldly needs, however, such as eating and
drinking and pursuing a livelihood, are considered, in the time of the Holy
Temple, to be little more than a matter of mundane necessity, and not something
that is especially prized and desired.
(Adapted from Likkutei Torah, Teitzei, p. 40)
As the Redemption unfolds and the Holy Temple is speedily
rebuilt, we will all naturally strive with every fiber of our being, including
the animal inside, to get closer and closer to G-d.