Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Not everyone shares the same capacity for grasping abstract concepts.”

Two elements are required in order for a person to be a chariot and temple: his intellect must be sufficiently developed and the root of his soul must be lofty.

“Intellect” in this sense refers not only to one’s ability to intellectually grasp a physical concept, but it also connotes the ability to attain a complete and crystal-clear awareness even of concepts beyond the nature of the material world.

Not everyone shares the same capacity for grasping abstract concepts.

There are certain limits beyond which some people can push while others cannot, depending on their intellectual capabilities.

In other areas of life we see the power of the intellect and how it is unfettered by reality.

For instance, some people can read a musical score and enjoy the music without ever having heard it.

Others can read an engineering blueprint for a bridge and appreciate the interrelationships of forces and the beauty of the construction without ever seeing the bridge and without the bridge even existing. Many people can read a recipe and, without even partaking of it, can conjure up an image of the dish and “taste” it in their minds.

This phenomenon occurs by means of the intellectual ability to internalize an abstract concept by circumventing the physical senses. To a certain extent, every act of reading is such a process: the absorption of a reality not via the senses. It is the ability to relate to and envision an abstract topic directly, without resorting to any systern of interpretation.

The more abstract an issue is and the more distant it is from
the senses, the more intellectual ability a person requires to grasp it.

This is certainly the case regarding the Divine, which is immeasurably more complex and abstract than music or mathematics, and which does not have any expression via the physical senses.

However, intellectual ability does not suffice. In order to be a vessel for holiness, the root of a person’s soul must also be lofty. Even a person who is wise, scholarly, and highly educated (including in Jewish matters) will never attain a direct feeling
of the essence of holiness if he does not possess a lofty soul. A person with a lofty soul is sensitive to the Divine.

This is not a function of his intellect or of any other aspect of his being, but of the root of his

Just as there are people who are gifted artistically or musically, there are people who are gifted in regard to the Divine to holiness.

This is not an ability acquired
in the course of one’s lifetime, but a gift that a person receives (if he receives it at all) from the outset. This is not a quality of
the soul, but rather something far beyond: it is the soul’s root and essence.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz