These are the days of Hanukah, the festival of light, and the rabbanit begins with commentaries and clarifications of this fest. The talk of Hanukah tradition quickly reverts to more urgent topics like the separation of women from men (a burning issues these days especially in regards to seats on public buses). Although busy serving refreshment, Havah finds the moment to draw a map of the temple as a sure proof of the legitimacy of such partition.
The rabbanit reaches the Tanya and today’s lesson is about the two souls that constitute our psyche. At that point I’m confused; in the Kabbalah I’ve read, our soul contains five parts...
When I share that with Leah, she looks doubtful.
“What do you mean?”
I mention Shaar Hagilgulim (Gate of Transmigrations) and its intricate ideas of the soul.
Leah and Havah object: “We do not touch that material, too high for our understanding.”
I nod politely and Leah elaborates on the coexistence and conflict between our natural soul, which pertains to matters of this world, and our divine soul, spiritual and otherworldly.
Before we leave, I point at Rabbi’s Schneerson’s picture on the wall and mention something about his death.
Leah is truly alarmed. “No, not dead,” she exclaims. I don’t argue. This is Chabad’s unrestrained, enthusiastic meshikhism, the conviction that the rabbi didn’t really die and that he remains the Messiah. Irrational belief? A mystical denial of reality? Or perhaps the very essence of faith, namely the belief in what our eyes cannot see.
The enigma of messianic ardor poses an intricate puzzle, and my next few posts will be dedicated to tracing its emergence and historical manifestation through various figures, such as Sabbatai Zevi, whose influence continues to this day.