Each Jewish person contains two aspects, the mystery of chitzoniyus (exteriority) and penimiyus (interiority.)

The external element relates to his personal life as he knows it from the time of his birth until the present moment, and his seeing himself as a complete being with an entirely independent existence. As it relates to avodas Hashem, this element manifests in a desire to achieve personal rectification.

The internal element is one’s connection to and association with the Shechinah, the collective soul of the Jewish nation. All of am Yisrael are arranged as a single body, complete in form, of which each individual is a single cell – a spark from this great torch, a drop of water from an expansive ocean. In this aspect, a person is not a complete, independent being on his own, but is rather seen as a limb or a cell of a much larger body. Indeed, just as the entire purpose of each cell and all of its functionality is focused toward the ends of the entire body, and not towards itself, so is the Jewish person in relation to the collective soul of the Jewish nation.

In the ideal and perfect situation, the external element of the Jewish person serves as a garment for the internal element. This means that each person utilizes the uniqueness of their own individual set of circumstances to reveal the great light that illuminates the collectivity of am Yisrael, the light of the Shechinah, the soul of the Jewish nation.

Although the external element is immediately recognizable and seems to stand out in its importance, in truth, the internal aspect is the primary essence of the person despite its being hidden and concealed within him. For it is indeed true that the concealed is always more primary than the revealed, as is known. God Himself, who is the most concealed of all, the Concealed of all concealed, the Hidden of all hidden, covered over from the eyes of all living, is most certainly the primary Root of all the worlds.[1]

The task of a person in this world is to battle against the illusion of the mighty images and commotion that may be seen by the eyes, an illusion which draws the heart of a person to believe that what the eye sees is reality – absolute and true. One must strengthen himself and bind himself – with depth of heart and deep listening of the soul – to the hidden interiority, to allow it to occupy the primary position in his life. And this is obvious.[2]

Thus, the primary identity of a person is the interior element within him – his portion of the Shechinah, and not the external circumstances of his personal life. Continuing with the analogy brought above, each cell in the body has its own life-force, but also lives in relation with the entirety of the body.

So too with each individual Jew. Each person has the perception of his individual, independent being which stands on its own, in addition to the depth of his essence, in which he is understood to represent a spark from the light of the Shechinah, a limb and a cell in the great body that is the collective Jewish nation.


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[1] See Leshem Shevo V’Achlamah, Hakdamos v’She’arim 7:1:3.

[2] See Oros HaKodesh 2, page 307 and on.

Rav Reuven Sasson
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