Gem of the Week from Rav Hirsch zt”l: Guard Your Soul


Everything rests on one basic fact: that the entire nation witnessed Matan Torah. This historical fact of the Lawgiving at Sinai, proven by the evidence of our own senses, must remain alive forever in our hearts and minds and must be handed down to our children so that they, too, may take it to heart and pass it on to future generations. A personal experience, perceived simultaneously by an entire nation, is the unparalleled, unique fountain for the historical fact of Matan Torah, and the transmission by an entire nation from parents to children represents a similarly unique unparalleled preservation of that experience in the basic awareness of all future generations.

Non-Jews develop their approach to history and nature without these two facts: the existence of one G-d, and the giving of the Torah. We, however, when we study science or history, base our arguments on facts known to us through our experience. In a world caught up in notions with shaky foundation, we maintain our intellectual independence.

But above all, shmor nafshecha meod. Once G-d has vanished from nature, it is man’s nature that dominates, and he worships his passions and urges. Just as we guard against un-Jewish outside influences, we must guard us from ourselves. Above all, we must guard our spirituality, never forgetting the events our own eyes saw, so that our foundational truths are handed down to our children with certainty. Let them know what you saw, and your experience will become the foundation for all your descendants.

Indeed, this is the only way historical facts can remain authentic even to one’s remotest descendants. The truth of written records rests on the fact that their contents have been handed down by all fathers to all sons, and are therefore beyond doubt.

So, for the sake of your souls, keep away from outside influence and remain faithful to yourselves and your calling. We are obligated to preserve the purity of our beliefs, that the one, invisible G-d is imperceptible, yet real and personal. We are warned not to blur this concept by assigning physical attributes to G-d. We are commanded to carefully watch over ourselves, so that nothing should ever cause us to stray from this belief.

Aside from G-d, there is one other invisible, imperceptible being whose existence is nevertheless absolutely certain: our souls. The soul that understands itself can grasp the existence of an invisible, imperceptible Being. Aware of itself, it also knows G-d. Just as we are sure of our own existence, so we are sure of G-d’s existence.

Our sages say: as G-d fills the world, the soul fills the body. As G-d sees but is not seen, the soul sees but is not seen. As G-d nourishes the world, the soul nourishes the body. As G-d is pure, the soul is pure. The soul bears the body, and G-d bears the world. The soul outlives the body, and G-d outlives His world.

This is why we must keep ourselves open to the influence of the soul. The soul knows that what cannot be seen is more real than what can.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Moshe Pogrow, Director, Ani Maamin Foundation

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Please note: The “Gem of the Week” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.



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