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Holding the Bag
A unique aspect of Chassidic philosophy is the way it melds study of the analytical, legal aspects and the mystical aspects of Torah. An example of this type of study is found in Keter Shem Tov, an anthology of sayings of the Baal Shem Tov. It discusses there how the Heavenly Yeshiva studies the well-known Talmudic passage of two people holding a single garment and arguing over who it belongs to. The ruling is that it must be divided between them.

Everything that G-d created in the physical world has a spark of holiness. When someone performs a mitzvah, this holy spark goes back up to its spiritual source, and from this source the person receives a reward for doing the mitzvah. When the mitzvah is done by two people together, they share the reward from that spiritual source.

This is the meaning of the passage “Two people holding on to a garment.” When Reuven, for example, shares with his friend Shimon that their mutual friend Levi did not act properly, and then Shimon speaks with Levi and has a positive influence on him, this is a situation of “two people holding on to one garment.” Both can claim that they deserve a reward for helping Levi, and indeed, the law is that they share the reward.

Chassidic teachings explain that the spiritual purification that comes about through studying the revealed Torah is called “Ohr Chozer,” a reflected light (from below to above). This is the work of a baal teshuvah, who transforms his past negative deeds to holiness. The lights drawn down through studying the hidden parts of Torah is called “Ohr Yashar,” direct light, from above to below, which is the work of a tzadik. The Zohar states regarding Moshiach that he will “cause the tzadikim to do teshuvah.” In other words, he will merge the two approaches of “direct light” and “reflected light,” by studying the revealed Torah as illuminated by the teachings of Chassidus.

References: Keter Shem Tov, ch. 106. Likutei Torah Shmini Atzeret 92b. Shir Hashirim 50b. Hitvaaduyot 5745 vol. 3, p. 1991.


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