Monday, November 18, 2013

Yitkafia and Yit'apcha: Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

This coming Friday is the Yud Tes (19th of) Kislev, which is known in Chabad circles as the "Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut. It marks the liberation of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that Yud (the 10th of )Kislev marks the birth of a chassid, while Yud Tes Kislev marks his brit-milah (circumcision, the removal of the outer barrier).

In honor of this day, we will, G-d willing, attempt to explain Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which trace their back to the Alter Rebbe himself.

The first concept to be explained here are the concepts of Yitkafia and Yit'apcha. In one of his first Maamarim, the Rebbe explains that our Divine service in this world, known as Avodat HaBeirurim (sifting through and elevating the holy sparks of this world) consists of taking what is undesired and associated with the [cosmic] left (the side of impurity) and uplifting them and integrating them into the [cosmic] right (the side of holiness). He further states that this is service of Torah study itself, clarifying what is allowed and what is forbidden and elevating it to the "right."

The Rebbe then states that when it comes to this Divine service, there are two major approaches, Yitkafia Sitra Achra (holding back the evil inclination), and Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora (transforming darkness into light). Both have advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other.

The service of  Yitkafia involves the good inclination "dressing" itself into the evil inclination, and overpowering and overwhelming it, until it itself becomes subservient and nullified to the good. Yitkafia is the Divine service of the Beinoni (the "intermediate") and is applicable to every individual. It is compared to an actual war, a struggle exemplified by Jacob's (the good inclination) wresting with Esau's angel (the evil inclination). Vay'avek ish imo – “And a man (angel) wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:25)

The advantage of Yitkafia is that that the evil must fully acknowledge the good. Its disadvantage is that the evil never really goes away. Like the concept of nullification in Jewish law, sometimes nullification takes place when you have 60 times more of the kosher substance than the non-kosher one, sometimes you have 1000, and sometimes even 10,000. No matter the difference, the non-kosher substance never disappears completely, it is still there to some extent. 

Another disadvantage of Yitkafia is that the interaction between the good and the evil cannot help but slightly weaken the good, just like wen you pour sweet drinkable water over bitter water, the entire body of water now becomes drinkable, but is not as sweet as the original sweet water.

Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora involves a revelation of Divine light that automatically transforms the evil inclination into good. Its advantage is that it leaves no trace of the evil. The disadvantage is that the evil does not acknowledge the good inclination - it becomes transformed automatically, in the face of the new light that is revealed. 
The Rebbe compares the difference between Yitkafia and Yit'apcha to the two different ways a litigant can emerge victorious in a court room. One way to defeat the prosecution is by the defense offering arguments that successfully counter those offered by the opposing party. This would be equivalent to Yitkafia, where there is a struggle, a back and forth between the two sides. Another way the defendant can win is if the King himself appears in the courtroom. The revelation of the countenance of the King [and his decision as a matter of equity to side with the defendant] makes both sides work for the defense. This would be the equivalent of  Yit'apcha.

When it comes to our Divine service, we can fight the evil inclination by reading chassidic works that others related to morals and ethics that help us "know the enemy" and properly fight the evil inclination through Yitkafia. [It is worth noting that Yitkafia applies even in the realm of what is permitted, yet susceptible toabuse. One must know when it may be necessary to hold back even when doing something completely "kosher"]. Yit'apcha usually involves a revelation from above, Divine assistance in the form of a Rebbe's encouragement, for example. 

There is an even higher level of Yit'apcha. This level is above understanding and feeling, which comes from the very essence of the person, from his/her innermost desire to abandon all evil in order to be close to Hashem.  A person may not even know what is harmful spiritually and may not know what is G-dly either, but something inside him/her nevertheless pushes the person away from evil and to come closer to G-d. 

[In the coming days of Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah, may we all connect to this essence, to that pure flask of oil that each one of us carries inside, stamped with the seal of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol