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Spiritual Schizophrenia

by Rabbi Immanuel Schochet

The Mystical Dimension, (vol. I, p. 41- 45)


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An exclusive study of the "revealed" aspect of  Torah, often referred to as "nigleh", may provide one with Torah-knowledge. He may acquire profound scholarship. Nonetheless, it allows also the possibility that the student-scholar remain separate from the Torah itself.

On a crude level it reflects the Talmudic metaphor of the burglar who prays to G-d and invokes divine blessing for his immoral activity.1   The criminal believes in G-d. He believes in the principle and efficacy of prayer, yet he fails to apply that on the practical or personal level. He fails to sense the inherent contradiction in his pursuits, the radical dichotomy between his religious involvement and his personal life coexisting as two altogether separate and unrelated entities.

A more subtle and sophisticated dichotomy is seen in the following incident: There was a man who had studied Halachot (the laws), Sifre, Sifra, and Tossefta, and died; R. Nachman was approached to eulogize him, but he said" "How can we eulogize him? Alas! A bag full of books has been lost!"2   The man had studied the most difficult texts; he had become very erudite, yet he did not comprehend and absorb what he had learned. He could quote chapter and verse, yet he and his quotations remained distinct from one another. 

Halachah is no less essential to the mystic than to anyone else
The  Zohar notes that the Hebrew word for donkey, "chamor", is an acronym for the phrase "a wondrous scholar and a rabbi's rabbi", "chacham mufla verav rabanan".3One can be known as the most wondrous scholar in the world, heading the most prominent academy to train rabbis and Torah-scholars - an expert in pilpulistic methodology; but if unaware of the soul of the Torah, if not touched and penetrated by the oil of the Torah, he remains an insensitive chamor, the proverbial "donkey loaded with books."4 He carries a whole library on his back, has stupendous knowledge at his finger-tips, yet is not touched by what he has learned.

A person like that may conceivably fall into the category of "a scoundrel and rake within the domain of Torah". He may know, observe and practice all the codified requirements of Halachah, yet be and remain a reprobate, a lowlife.5  

Halachah is no less essential to the mystic than to anyone else. Where the kabbalist or Chassid differs, however, is first and foremost in his approach, in his consciousness of the universal importance of halachah and its dynamic significance. To him the study of Torah is not only a Mitzvah on its own, or just a precondition for observing all other mitzvahs. It is also the means to become transformed, for himself to become a Torah, a personification of Torah. One of the great Chassidic masters, R. Leib Sarahs, thus said that he traveled far and wide to come to his master, the Maggid of Mezrich, "not to hear word of Torah from him, but to se how he laces and unlaced his shoes!" He saw in the Maggid that ideal personification of Torah, where every act and motion is an expression of the ideals of the Torah.6   


  • 1. Berachot 63b.
  • 2. Megilla 28b, see Rashi ad loc.
  • 3. Zohar III; 275b.
  • 4. Chovot Halevovot, Avodat Elokim, ch. 4 - Yoma 72b provides another source for negative possibilities from an exclusive study of the exoteric part of Torah. On the other hand, a study of pnimiut Hatorah precludes that dichotomy, because the ma'or of the Torah restores to the right path and goodness (Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7; Eichah Rabba, Petichta:2). See R. Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, Likutei Sichot, vol. IV, pp. 1039 and 1118.
  • 5. Ramban on Leviticus 19:2.
  • 6. See J.I. Schochet, The Great Maggid, p. 148.


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Torah » Kabbalah » About

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Laws governing the Jewish way of life.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.