Recommended Posts

Spirituals 101

People have been asking me about my “Spirituals.” Although convinced of the value of an annual physical examination, they are mystified by the idea of an annual Spiritual. It shares with a Physical the quality of an early detection system of disease. A Spiritual reviews general spiritual health; whether a person needs more exercise, is healthy, growing, developmentally appropriate etc. However, it is much, much more.

The Joining of the Spiritual and Physical worlds:

The Ramchal teaches that the Spiritual and Physical were two entirely separate creations. The two are so different that they cannot coexist. A Spiritual being, the soul, cannot be contained by a physical body.


The Ramchal continues, and explains that there was a third creation; that which allowed the spiritual soul to exist within the physical body. However, the soul’s inherent powers would immediately purify the physical substance of the body, and therefore, the same creation which allowed the soul to function with the body, placed a constraint on the soul to allow the person to choose whether or not to use his soul to purify his body. The soul in the body is a constrained soul, even before the two begin the process of functioning as a unit.

One stage of a Spiritual is to learn how to release the soul from this basic constraint. We recite a blessing each morning celebrating our ability to free the soul from this basic constraint: “Matir Assurim,” “Who releases the bound.”

The Kedusha Switch:
The third creation, that which allows the spiritual soul to function with the physical body provided for what I describe as a switch: The Kedusha Switch, as in, “Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav,” “Who sanctified us with His commandments.” (See Ohr Gedalyahu on Parshat Emor) It is this switch or mechanism which can be activated when physically performing a MItzvah. When activated, the Kedusha Switch allows the soul to be affected or energized through the physical Mitzvah.

My Uncle Noach zt”l explained that when we say that, “Mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma,” “A Mitzvah performed not as an expression of love may become an expression of love,” we are saying that there is a part of our soul that is activated by a Mitzvah if performed with the intention to activate our soul through the Mitzvah. The famous saying describes a reality, the Kedusha Switch. We need only have intention to achieve “Lishma,” “as an expression of love.”

A Spiritual focuses a person on activating the Kedusha Switch when performing Mitzvot, so that he eventually will achieve serving God as an expression of love.

Post-Sin Second Constraint:
Adam, the Primal Human Being, was placed into a world perfectly balanced between good and evil. Both were external to him, as he had never made a choice of one over the other.

Had Adam chosen to internalize good by eating of the other trees in the Garden, and avoiding the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would have internalized good. The balance of the world would have tilted toward good, allowing it, the now stronger force, to overpower evil and perfect the world.

However, Adam chose to first internalize evil. The balance was tilted toward evil, which could, at that point, overcome good. The world would be destroyed; creation, a failure. God, therefore, imposed a limitation on evil so that it could not entirely defeat good, however, in order to maintain the balance necessary for Free Choice, a similar constraint was placed on good. It could no longer completely overpower evil in this world. Good, God ‘s Light, the Spiritual, the soul, were all constrained more than before. The soul was and is doubly constrained. It cannot fully experience itself, its development, its accomplishments and growth. The soul is more frustrated.

A Spiritual also addresses this second constraint on the soul. It is this release we describe in the second blessing of the Amidah when we praise God, the Empowerer, as, “Matir Assurim,” “The One Who releases the bound.” This is the more powerful release, hence it is listed together with Techiat Hameitim, the Resurrection of the dead.

Matir Assurim is inherent in Creation; it describes the birth of a baby who is released from the bonds of the womb. We act it out when we rise from the bow for Modim, our knees bent, our backs folded as a child in the womb, we slowly open our body to express the potential release from all the constraints imposed on the soul.

Go Back to Previous Page

  • Other visitors also read