It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. -Marcel Proust
On the eve of the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery, the Torah interrupts the dramatic narrative to discuss the rituals of Pesach which will be kept for generations, including the Pesach sacrifice which would be offered thereafter in the Temple. The description is quite specific, including details which were unique to the Pesach in Egypt, as well as to those that are meant to be continued for generations. The Torah even goes so far as to describe the positioning of the body parts of the sacrifice.
The Berdichever chooses that description for an explanation of the deeper meaning of human body parts, and how the human body is in some fashion a mirror of God’s divine attributes. Following is his explanation of a Kabbalistic view of the body:
The legs represent the attribute of “Emuna” (faith), which itself can be distinguished by two different characteristics. The first characteristic of faith is the belief that God is the antecedent of everything in our reality, and that our reality was created and is constantly sustained by God’s will. The second aspect of faith, specifically for a Jew, is the belief that we are His people, that He is close to us, that He listens to our prayers and is able, ready and willing to fulfill our needs.
The reproductive organ represents the bond, the connection which we need to create with our own faith.
The torso represents “Tiferet,” the glory or the splendor that we need to pursue, for God to be pleased with us, proud of us, to thereby bring glory to God.
The arms represent “Ahava,” love, and “Yirah,” awe. The right arm is “Ahava,” the love we must have for God; the left is “Yirah,” our need to be in awe of God.
The head, the seat of the intellect, represents our need to explore and consider the greatness of God, the myriads of ministering angels at His beck and call who themselves serve God with tremendous love and awe.
When a person brings all his body parts to bear in serving God, in all its representations, he then gains humility, to the point of basically reducing the ego and annulling oneself by comprehending the true spiritual reality of our existence.
That, the Berdichever assures us, leads directly to happiness.
May our body parts work healthily and in concert to fulfill divine goals, and indeed, lead us to greater happiness.
To Chaya and Jason Kanner on their amazing hospitality.