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Greater Than Angels

by Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski M.D.


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‘Bad’ urges and ideas are not flaws that must be banished.

This … that I command you today — it is not hidden and not distant. It is not in heaven . . . Rather it is very near to you — in your mouth and your heart to perform it.” — Deut. 30:11-14

In psychology we find discussion of ''the disowned self;'' i.e., facets of an individual's personality which one may deny having. There may be a feeling that is so repulsive that we cannot admit, even to ourselves, that we are capable of having. Ideas and feelings such as these may be repressed; i.e. buried in the subconscious part of the mind, hopefully never to come to one's awareness.

An idea buried in the subconscious does not just remain dormant. Rather, it seeks to break into consciousness. A person must exert energy to keep the idea repressed, and sometimes one may develop one or more defenses to reinforce the repression. These defenses are often the cause of psychological symptoms.

Lust can be transformed into desires for spiritual goals, anger can be converted to intolerance of injustice, envy can be directed to wishing to achieve the spiritual heights of the truly righteous Tzaddik
There is a much more efficient way of managing unacceptable ideas and feelings. A person should realize that a human is a composite creature, consisting of an essentially animal body and a Divine human spirit. The body has all the desires and impulses of an animal, and the function of the spirit is to master these, and ideally, to channel these energies constructively.

Lust can be transformed into desires for spiritual goals, anger can be converted to intolerance of injustice, envy can be directed to wishing to achieve the spiritual heights of the truly righteous Tzaddik, etc.

Every impulse can be sublimated, but instead of sublimation on a subconscious level, it can be a conscious process. As long as an impulse is in the subconscious and a person is not aware of its existence, there is an internal struggle against an unknown enemy. If the idea or feeling can be admitted to consciousness, one is then in a better position to deal with it.

The Midrash says that when Moses ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, the heavenly angels objected, saying to G-d, ''Torah is too holy to be given to mortals who will not appreciate it and revere it. Let the Torah remain here, among us.'' G-d told Moses to rebut the angels' argument. Moses said, ''The Torah says 'You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.' Does that apply to you? The Torah says, 'You shall not steal.' Are you capable of stealing anything? The Torah says, 'You shall not murder.' Can you kill one another?'' With this argument, Moses triumphed over the angels and brought the Torah down to us.


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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.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzaddikim). A saint, or righteous person.
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
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.