Fixing Your Fire - 011 Anger | Scattering of the Soul
דע את מידותיך הדרכה מעשית – אש|כעס 011 – רוח דרוח דאש
Wind-of-Wind-of-Fire: Clashing Within The Soul
With siyata d’shmaya, we continue to explain the element of fire and its resulting trait, anger. Currently, we are up to discussing wind-of-wind-of-fire.
The wind moves in six directions – east, west, south, north, up, and below. Wind is therefore an element that causes “scattering” (pizur), and it also clashes with anything that it meets, as it travels in its direction. In particular, when a person is ‘scattered’ all over the place, this stems from thesoul’s aspect of wind-of-wind-of-fire.
Three Scenarios of “Scattering of the Soul” (Pizur HaNefesh)
The Chovos HaLevovos says that “a pious person prays that he be saved from pizur hanefesh”, “scattering of the soul”, which his when a person is constantly moving in different directions [within his soul].
There are different scenarios of “pizur hanefesh” (scattering of the soul):
(1) Sometimes a person keeps moving around due to various external stimuli. We can see this particularly with children, who will move towards anything that catches their interest, and if there are many things catching their interest all at once, they will move all over the place. A person becomes ‘scattered’ due to external reasons when he is not solidly anchored enough to his inner world.
(2) Another source of pizur nefesh is when one become “scattered” within himself, due to things that he thinks about or wants (and, in actuality, the thoughts and the will have the same root). This happens to a person when he hasn’t yet given inner order to what’s going on inside himself.
Both of the above kinds of pizur hanefesh are based in the general element of wind, but here we will speak about [a third kind of] pizur hanefesh which stems in particular from wind-of-wind-of-fire [when the various abilities in a person’s soul are at contradiction with each other, creating inner turmoil].
When Inner Forces Collide
There is a concept that for every side that exists, there is always an opposite side, and there is always separation between the sides unless there is a middle point between them which connects them. In addition, two sides can be in contradiction with each other. For example, the directions of right and left are at contradiction with each other. The same goes for the opposing sides of east and west, north and south, and up and down. The element of wind, which is the element that gives direction to the soul, is essentially the very concept of two different sides scattered from each other, and in opposition with each other.
Thus, there are two distinct aspects contained in wind\direction [both in its properties as well as how it manifests in our own soul]: (1) scattering, (2) opposition\contradiction.
When the sides and directions within a person are clashing against each other, this is the wind-of-wind-of-fire in the soul, where the sides are at opposition with each other and they cannot harmonize. It is in essence a point of “Kaf HaKela” [a state in which a person is thrown around from one place to another] that is within the soul.
“Kaf HaKela” doesn’t just mean that a person is flung from one side to another and then back again. It is essentially a situation of an intense tug-of-war between the body and the soul, where the soul wants one direction and the body wants the other direction, and each of them is demanding their share. Besides for the actual punishment of “Kaf HaKela”, which is when a person is sentenced to be flung from one place to another place, there is also “Kaf HaKela” in the soul itself - when the abilities in the soul are at contradiction with each other; where the different aspects of the person are clashing inside himself.
For example, if there is a lack of balance between one’s element of water and fire, his fire will want to go higher and pull him upward, as it is the nature of fire to rise; while his element water will want to pull him downward, for the nature of water naturally descends. The person won’t be able to stabilize himself in any place he is, because he will be trying to go up and down at once. It is a form of suffering, and it all takes place within the soul, where, sadly, the soul of the person is not able to stay in any one place.
Disconnected from The Here and Now
Here are some examples of it which we can relate to.
When it comes to learning Torah, any sensible person will think about how much time of his Torah learning should be spent learning with iyun (in-depth learning), and how much of it he needs to devote to bekiyus (a cursory reading of the Gemara, which is not focused on depth of understanding). Of course, a person cannot always be totally clear about how to make the proper distribution between iyun and bekiyus, and it is really an ongoing issue in one’s Torah learning, and it changes with time, depending on a person’s particular circumstances in life. But any sensible person can achieve clarity in this area to some extent, and know more or less how much time he needs to spend learning with iyun and how much to learn bekiyus. But if someone has a lot of wind-of-wind-of-fire in his soul, when he is learning in a bekiyus manner, he will feel that he must learn iyun, and when he learns with iyun, he will feel that he must learn in a manner of bekiyus.
He is never “here” or “there” whenever he does anything, and, by acting this way, he will not either be successful in whatever he does.
Here’s another example. Some people, when they are taking care of their children, will feel that they should be instead helping other people during this time. They find it too hard to focus on giving all of their attention to their children with their full heart while taking care of them. And when they are involved with helping other people, they will feel like they should instead be helping their children right now.
They are never able to stay completely with where they are. Part of their heart is “there”, and part of their heart is “here” - they are always feeling torn between two sides, and they can never be completely in the here and now.
The amount of disconnection that this causes a person is tremendous. The person will not able to stay connected to whatever he is doing as he is doing it. Even if he somehow realizes that this is the place where he needs to be right now, he is not able to actually feel connected to where he is right now and to stay centered there, because there is always a part of him that is telling him he should be elsewhere.
There are many other examples as well of this problem which we can bring, but we can suffice with these examples.
A Gehinnom On This World
Some people have this problem only in certain areas of life; and with some people it dominates either most of their life or all areas of their life. In any case, a person who has a dominance of this wind-of-wind-of-fire in himself goes through a Gehinnom-like existence on this world, because he is always in a state of inner suffering. With such a lifestyle, he will also not be able to succeed in anything he does on this world. He cannot feel calm inside himself in any given situation, and indeed, it is not possible for him to be calm, due to the constant “scattering of the soul” taking place inside himself.
The Deep Source For Scattering of the Soul
There is a deep source for this problem that can develop in the soul. When there are clashes within the soul, it is really stemming from a combination of the the soul’s demand for true shleimus (self-perfection) as well as the soul’s desire for the many aspects that shleimus entails. A person cannot actually attain shleimus all at once, and so he is left with nothing but the many contradicting forces that are left over from pursuing it, causing him to feel “scattered” inside from all of these contradictions.
The soul pursues shleimus, which is one unified desire alone, and it also pursues different aspects of shleimus, which are many. At its root, this is one single desire in the soul for self-perfection; but at the branches of this nature, it spreads into many different aspects that it wants.
When a person wants many different kinds of things, and he cannot stay centered in any one goal at the moment, he develops the problem of a “scattered soul” that we are describing here.
Rectifying A Scattered Soul: Learning How To Stay Centered
In order to rectify the problem of “scattering of the soul”, we cannot use the elements of fire or water for this. The element that will rectify a “scattered soul” is the element of earth. Earth is the element that provides building and stability, which is exactly what this person will need, in order to be able to stay centered within the many different directions that are pulling him all over the place.
Therefore, to give a brief outline of the solution: A person should pick something to do and make sure to stay completely focused on it while he does it. He should decide that no matter what comes his way, he will not lose focus on what he’s aiming towards.
The point is to learn how to stay centered within what you are doing right now and to avoid any movement that pulls you outward. Getting used to this focused concentration on what you are doing at the moment is the beginning of the way towards developing inner stability.
When a person accepts upon himself this small “resolution” - to do something and not lose focus on it, and he focuses his thoughts on this resolution - his soul will feel calmed from this. This is because as long as a person knows that it is possible for him to be moved from where he is, his soul will feel insecure and anxious. But once a person has decided that he will not be moved from what he is doing, with a conviction that no matter what thought or desire comes his way, he will not budge from what he is doing in the moment - his soul receives the message that it will not be possible for him to move from what he’s doing, and it is thereby calmed by this secure kind of knowledge.
This ability (of focused concentration on what you are doing in the moment) is also used for evil, when it is used for the trait of despair, where a person is not willing to take in any other thoughts or desires that come into him, because he feels immobile to any kind of movement. But here we are speaking about the holy way to use this power of becoming immobile to any other movements, where one uses his power of focus to build for himself a point that he won’t budge from.
This provides him with a bit of stability within his soul, and he can further build upon this stable place in himself. Building this place of stability in oneself will feel like a ray of light to the person. It will be like an island in middle of the ocean for him, where he can be rescued.
Understandably, most people are not suffering from ‘scattering of the soul’ as we have described here at length, but those who people who do suffer from it are suffering terribly inside of themselves; it is Kaf HaKela on this world. But by learning how to stay focused on a particular act that you are doing, you build for yourself a stable place in yourself, which gives a person a place inside himself to hold onto amidst all of the clashes of the contradictory forces within the soul.
The Holy Use of Wind-of-Wind-of-Fire: Covering All of the Angles
So far, we have seen learned about the evil use of wind-of-wind-of-fire, where it manifests as “scattering of the soul”. Now let us see how this power can be used for holiness.
Wind-of-wind-of-fire is used for holiness when a person uses opposition for the purposes of building. In everything Hashem created, there is always a force that opposes it. For example, there is man and woman, who are of opposite natures; the masculine and feminine aspects of Creation are always opposite of each other. In order to understand any concept, we need to be able to understand its opposite (dovor v’hipucho), because by knowing its opposite, we can learn a lot about the essence of the concept.
When one is experiencing life only through the lower layers of his soul, he will think that he is either at one ‘side’ or at the opposite side, and he cannot harmonize with the opposite point of where he is right now. He will think that he can only be there, or there. If he thinks he is in two places at once, either he will become confused and not know where he is; or, he will feel what we call “split-personality disorder” (in Hebrew, “pitzul ishiyut”). This is actually the improper use of wind-of-wind-of-fire, which we are discussing in this chapter.
But when one is experiencing life through the higher aspects of his soul [because he has gotten deeper into his inner world], he reaches a point in view in the soul where he can contain everything, “klalut hakol” (the all-inclusiveness of everything). This ability in a person enables him to harmonize with all ‘sides’, with anything that contradicts or opposes his own direction.
In order for a person to reach the place of “klalut hakol” in the soul, he needs to always think into and reflect into the opposite side of where he is. This is the concept of dovor v’hipucho – to “think into the opposite”.
This is the first step: In whatever you encounter, you need to think of what its opposite would entail. This is because without understanding the opposite of a concept, one cannot understand a concept. The next step after this is to see the matter from all its angles.
The following illustrates the difference between the first and second steps. The first step would be like a person thinking about the opposite direction of where he is. For example, if he is in the east, he should think about what the west is; if he is in the north, he should think what south is. The second step is, that after you have conceptualized that the very idea that there are opposing directions, you can now see them as different ‘sides’, as opposed to ‘opposites’ of each other. In this step, you can contain the other ‘sides’ of where you are because you do not see them as being in opposition of where you are; rather, you realize the importance of understanding the opposite side of where you are, and that helps you contain it and harmonize with it.
Thinking Into The Opposite: Sharpening Your Understanding In Torah
This is also the depth of how Torah scholars are “mechadedin zeh es zeh”, they “sharpen” each other in their Torah learning, when their different viewpoints come into opposition with each other. When two different sides are contrasted with each other, there can be a “sharpening” of the sides, where each of the sides can be better grasped, now that they are being pitted against each other, which can ultimately lead to harmonizing them together.
This force in the soul, where one can think into the opposite of a matter and thereby sharpen his understanding of a matter, is like an inner ability of “chavrusa” in the soul - it is how one can “sharpen” himself from within himself. It is accessed when one gets used to thinking of all the possible sides of a matter, seeing all the possible options and angles of understanding and contrasting them with each other, which enables one to become like his own “chavrusa” to himself.
This is the holy way to use wind-of-wind-of-fire. One who gets used to this will uncover more subtle understanding in what he first perceived, by always getting used to “thinking into the opposite” of where he is. When one is learning Torah and he has a certain understanding of a matter, he should think into what the opposite of that understanding would be.
When a person is always “thinking into the opposite”, he is also able to come to the power of shalom (peace), and he will be at peace with those who think opposite than he does. He will gain the ability to contain in himself all the many different opposing directions that there can be.
Wind-of-Wind-of-Fire: The Power That Expands The Soul’s Perception
Getting used to “thinking into the opposite” keeps opening the soul, more and more, with each time that a person thinks into the opposite of what he is learning about. This is actually the depth contained in the soul’s element of wind, and it is specifically wind-of-wind-of-fire which enables a person to keep expanding and opening his soul, for it is this ability which enables a person to cover all of the angles of a matter.
When learning Torah, there are two different thinking abilities. One kind of ability is to see all of the information necessary to know about the particular topic one is learning about; to span the entire ‘hekef’ (circular view) of the particular sugya in Torah that one is learning. That ability comes from the holy use of wind-of-wind-of-wind in the soul. However, here we are describing a different ability, which enables one to cover all of the possible angles of understanding, which is reached when he “thinks into the opposite” of the matter. This is wind-of-wind-of-fire.
For this reason, it is only wind-of-wind-of-fire which enables a person to truly expand his soul, because it is only when a person thinks into the opposite of what he is learning about that he can truly uncover all of the possible angles of understanding, as opposed to merely gathering heaps of knowledge.
This is also the depth of what it means to have gadlus mochin, an “expanded mind”, which are possessed in full by one who is a gadol (a great personality). By contrast, a person with katnus mochin (“small-mindedness”) is when one’s mind cannot expand past where it is.
A person can know a lot of information of Torah, or he may be able to remember a lot of Torah knowledge, yet he might still have only a mind that is on the level of katnus mochin. (On a deeper note, this is also called “gadlus mochin within katnus mochin” – becausea person might be very knowledgeable, but that doesn’t automatically expand his mind).
Gadlus mochin is when a person’s mind has expanded due to always thinking into the opposite side of where it is; the mind can keep expanding when it comes across contradictory concepts. Knowledge in Torah is also helpful to the mind, but it is not yet gadlus mochin. A person only gains gadlus mochin when his mind can think into the opposite of what he learns and he keeps doing so, for it is only this kind of thinking in Torah which expands the mind.
This is why Torah is called “endless waters” - the Torah is endless when one keeps thinking into the opposite of the concepts in Torah he is learning about. When he uncovers that endless kind of Torah, on a deeper level, this stems from the Infinite, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
When a person develops this ability to constantly think into the opposite of whatever he learns in the Torah, he is always covering all of the angles of the concepts that he learns about, and this is the true holy use of wind-of-wind-of-fire in the soul; and it also is what rectifies impaired wind-of-wind-of-fire in the soul.
This power to “think into the opposite”, to be able to connect to opposites and contain them, is the very epitome of shleimus (perfection), enabling a person to continuously expand and contain everything.
Balancing Expansion With Boundaries
However, this power in the soul of continuous expansion must also be given balance. If a person keeps “expanding” in his soul and he does not have a concept of staying within boundaries, he will not able to put any constraint on his expansion, and he will come to forego the boundaries and rules of the holy Torah, chas v’shalom.
As an example of what we mean, there have been some people who were able to keep expanding in their souls, but they did not learn how to develop the power of placing boundaries, and as an unfortunate result from this, they came to ignore the rules of the Torah, such as what happened with those who went too far with their ahavas Yisrael, and the like. A person must have a sense of boundaries, and this will place some constraint of his continuous expansion and keep him from expanding too much.
Understandably, this concept of continuous expansion of the soul, via “thinking into the opposite” and being able to contain opposites in oneself, is a concept that is far from understanding of most people.
What has been described here is one of the fundamental ways of how a person can reach great depth of understanding within learning Torah. Besides for general exertion in Torah and clarity in learning Torah, which a person will also need to do in order to gain comprehension in his Torah learning, there is also a deeper ability of thinking in Torah: to “think into the opposite” of a matter that one is learning about. This is what enables a person to have a more all-inclusive view towards the Torah matter he is learning about.
It is as the Chazon Ish writes [concerning one who exerts himself in Torah learning]: “A new gate opens to him, and the intellect will then revel in endless bliss.” How does a person come to this ‘endless bliss’ in his mind? It is when he thinks into all of the angles of a matter in Torah, thinking into the opposite of each concept he learns about, and then he gains a connection to the infinite aspect of the Torah.
We have been brief in describing this concept. Every person has this deep ability in the soul of “thinking into the opposite” of a concept in Torah that he is learning, and to thereby cover all of the possible angles of the matter he is learning about. This gives a person access to “new gates” of wisdom (providing that he also has the conditions of spiritual purity, holiness, and that he is always doing Hashem’s will, with awe and love) in his Torah learning: when he uses this power of holy wind-of-wind-of-fire, as it has been explained here.