We are expected to seek refinement. The way G-d created us demonstrates that. Refinement is a soulful life in a body as opposed to a bodily life with a soul.
Today’s podcast is somewhat of a continuation of podcast 91, bringing back dignity. Today I’m going to be discussing seeking elevated refinement, which is really just another angle to the very same point.
A human being, when we were created at the beginning of creation, we were created uniquely from all other creations. When God created the animals, he created animals and there they were, there was a living animal. When he created vegetation, he said, let there be vegetation, there was vegetation. When it comes to the human being, God did something unique. And this uniqueness we need to pay attention to because it’s very telling about who we are and what is expected of us. God first creates our body out of earth. He doesn’t create a living human being. He creates a body out of earth. And only after the body is created, does God separately blow into the human being’s nostrils the breath of life, his soul. And what God is expressing in creating the human being uniquely and differently than all of the other creations is that we are made up of two entities, a body and a soul. And our mission is to live a soulful life, not a bodily life. We use our body, we embrace our body so that we can use it to live a soulful life. But, ultimately, we have a choice, to use our soul to lead a bodily life or to use our body to lead a soulful life.
And that’s the difference between or the choice between who is going to be the master. Is it going to be the body or is it going to be the soul? This is the meaning of the teaching from the great Hassidic master, the Maggid of Mezeritch, who said in Yiddish, a klein lechel in guf is a groise lechel in neshamah; a small hole, a flaw, a weakness in the body, is a great weakness in the soul.
Why? Because the soul can only be as effective as the body is capable of doing. When we don’t take care of our body, then our soul has a very weak tool to be effective with, to interact with the world with. Meaning, if we think about this statement, we understand that the entire purpose of the body is to be of service to the soul.
A refined individual is a person who lives a soulful life, not a coarse physical life but a refined, elevated, soulful life. And such a person’s entire physical interactions with the world is all about the soul. Whereas, when we see a person living a life which is all about themselves, their bodily life, their physical life, their indulgent life, that is a very unrefined and unelevated life.
Think about when you’re at a big celebration, an elegant affair, and they pull out the dessert buffet. Magnificent dessert buffet. And there’s a particular dessert that you like very much and you see a lot of people gathering around the table. And you’re thinking one thing, I hope that it won’t all be nubbed and there will be a piece that is left for me. That is probably a thought that almost every person you know has had at some point. That is a normal, healthy human thought. It is also a coarse thought. It is a bodily thought. It’s an indulgent thought. And we need to be aware of the fact that that thought is an unrefined thought.
I don’t say this as a condemnation, because I’ve had this thought many many times and I’m sure you’ve had this thought a number of times. That is part of being a human being, that our body pushes us to think this way. I am just encouraging that we recognize what it is and call it what it is. And the reason why this is important is because we live in a time, and maybe this is the way people have always been, where in order to take away the discomfort of that awareness that I am a coarse individual who desires bodily pleasures, we try and justify it and say, no, there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong with just indulging? And the answer to that is that it makes us less refined, it makes us more focused on our bodies. It’s very similar to whatever you put your mind to is what grows. If our mind is in the dessert, that is what our life becomes consumed with. When our life is focused on more elevated things, then we are not consumed with those indulgences that we enjoy.
And so the awareness of what it is that is going on when our body pulls us somewhere is vitally important.
This is the reason why when we need to depend on coarse language to get our point across, we are a coarse person. I don’t say this as a condemnation, I say this as self-introspection, as self-awareness. We should learn to communicate in refined language and learn how to get a point across, the very same point across with the same strength and refined language.
When I need to make a joke that is at someone else’s expense, that is unrefined, that is coarse, that is ugly. That is not the proper way that we should be functioning. An elevated person is sensitive enough to another that their sensitivities to the other stops them from doing something which is convenient and beneficial for themselves. When we go into an environment with a certain protocol, you go to a wedding and the protocol is to be dressed up and we walk in with our jeans and our sneakers, that is unrefined. That is unelevated. That is saying, I’m going to do what is convenient for me and I’m not going to give consideration to everything around me. That is really self-indulgent. And that is unrefined and we need to seek elevated refinement.
When I am consumed with my physical looks and I judge myself primarily based on the way I look, that is unrefined. That is making my life about externalities, about superficialities, about things that are not of true genuine value and importance.
Our lives are supposed to use our body; our lives are not supposed to be about our body. And I use the word “body” in a broad context, as body in the literal sense, as body in self, as body in physical indulgences and pleasures and desires, as body in the easy thing to do as opposed to the right thing to do.
We need to train our body to be obedient to our soul. We need to train ourselves to have self-control and not do what our body wants but to make sure our body is doing what we want. Whenever I exercise, I find exercise to be difficult. I don’t ‑‑ I know some people get into some type of a running mode or some other type of exercise where they actually look forward to the exercise. I have yet to achieve that. Every time I exercise I just tell myself one thing, I speak to my body and say, you need to be trained to do the uncomfortable thing that my soul is telling you to do because my life cannot be about you. That’s the value I get every time I exercise. I’m training my body to listen to my soul. This is what helps us elevate ourselves just a little bit more and become more refined people and then we are living the purpose of the human being.
The soul that was put into our body after our body was created comes into the body, elevates the body and we become elevated refined human beings.