Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The primacy of spirit in humans

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski is one of my favorite thinkers.
He challenges his readers to the moral dimension of learning and understanding.

Rabbi Twerski references Numbers 27:16, where Moses appeals to God, as to whom should be the next leader of the People, and God responded by choosing Joshua:
"Take Joshua...the son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit..."

"Take Joshua as leader, a man in whom there is spirit..."

It is an intriguing statement: God looked for qualities of spirit in choosing the proper leader.
The human being is comprised of a body and a spirit. The body produces all the cravings that stimulate pursuit of self-gratification. The spirit is the force that directs the person away from self-gratification, to be devoted to a higher goal in life. These two components are engaged in a struggle for mastery over the person. To the degree that bodily drives prevail, to that degree the person is self-centered. To the degree that the spirit prevails, to that degree a person can look away from his own needs and be dedicated to his mission.
Madregas HaAdam, 1.58: "Joshua had succeeded in achieving self-mastery, of vanquishing the bodily drives for gratification and making the spirit dominant."

Twerski comments:
Every person is engaged in the life-long struggle between the two opposing forces. Perhaps the extreme elimination of all self-gratification required of the leader is not achievable by everyone. However, let us remember that the physical component of the human being is essentially no different than that of lower forms of life.

''The superiority of man over animal is naught, except for the pure soul'' (Morning service, Nusach Sefard). Our dignity as human beings is directly proportional to the degree that we achieve self-mastery and dominance of the spirit.
This is truly remarkable insight, which affects every aspect of life.

If we are comprised of body and spirit, in the Image of God [Imago Dei], then what does this mean for our personal action? For our definition of humans? For our next day's plans? What is primary, what should take control?

Dr. MLK, Jr. answered this succintly and clearly: 'All reality has spiritual control.'

Scripture puts it this way: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God."

Something to think about!

God, help me!

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