Sound Bites: Purposeful Breath
Rabbi Yose taught: Every action in which a person engages that is not in the service of the Holy One, Blessed is He, turns into a breath that goes drifting through the world. And when the person’s soul departs, that breath whirls it through the world like a stone in the sling (David and Goliath), as it is written, “The soul of your enemies He will sling from the hollow of a sling.” (Samuel I 25:29) Who will sling? That breath conducting it through the world. So, everything done under the sun that is not in the service of the Holy One, Blessed is He, turns into a breath – but it is breaking of spirit, for it breaks the spirit, rising and falling in the world, as it is written, Breath (ur’ut ruach), and shattering of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
But whatever is service of his Lord is called ‘above the sun’ and becomes a holy breath. This is seed sown by a person in that world. What is its name? Righteousness, as it is written, “Sow for yourselves righteousness.” (Hosea 10:12) This conducts a person when his soul departs from him, raising him to a place where supernal glory is found, to be bound in the bundle of eternal life, as it is written, “Your righteousness will march before you.” (Isaiah 58:8) – leading you, raising you. To where? To the place of which it is written, “The glory of God will gather you in.” (ibid.)
All those souls conducted by that holy breath are gathered in by the one called “Glory of God”, enwrapped within it, as it is written: “The glory of God will gather you in.” This is called “Tranquility of Spirit”.
Happy are the righteous for all their actions make them worthy of the World to Come.
(Zohar, Volume 2:59a-b, Translation & Commentary by Daniel C. Matt – The Pritzker Edition 2007)
Breath is used to describe the effect of non-purpose driven action as we breathe without thinking. We take it for granted and forget that God used His breath, so to speak, to blow a soul into Adam.
The breath that is used to sound the shofar is directed upward, to ‘above the sun’ to remind us that we must live with a sense of great purpose, and that all for which we ask on Rosh Hashana must be to help us achieve our purpose, master ourselves and cleave to God.
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