Not Just What You Do, But Who You Are

Not Just What You Do, But Who You Are

Who are you? What does it mean to “be me”? What is a Jew? When the King, G-d, awaits us in the field during Elul, He expresses His true self, not just His majesty. This gives us a chance to learn who we are. In Part Four of Ani L’dodi, we discover that there’s more to us than just our human cognition, feelings, and drives—there’s our real self! This is Part Four of Five of our Elul series, the ma’amer Ani L’dodi 5726 (1966) by the Rebbe.

Part One: Elul—Being Proactive

Part Two: He Doesn’t Wake You, He Waits For You

Part Three: He Awaits you, Wherever You Are

Part Five: It Was You All Along

In his metaphor of the king in the field, the Alter Rebbe adds, “He shows everyone a smiling face, (ponim sochakos).”   ה) וּמוֹסִיף בְּהַמַאֲמָר ״וּמַרְאֶה פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת לְכּוּלָם,״
The king receives anyone who greets him with friendliness (seiver ponim yafos) and shows everyone a smiling face (ponim sochakos). What’s the difference between “showing” a smile and “receiving” with friendliness?   דְהַחִילוּק בֵּין ״מְקַבֵּל״ (בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת) לְ״מַרְאֶה״ (פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת) הוּא, דְלָשׁוֹן ״מְקַבֵּל״ נוֹפֵל עֲל דָבָר שֶׁיֶשְׁנוֹ מִקוֹדֶם (לִפְנֵי שֶׁקִיבֵּל) וְהוּא מְקַבֵּל אֶת הַדָבָר, וְ״מַרְאֶה פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת״ הוּא שֶׁהַפָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת שֶׁלוֹ (שֶׁיֶשְׁנָם גַּם לִפְנֵי שֶׁמַרְאֶה) הוּא מַרְאֶה וּמְגַּלֶה אוֹתָם לְזוּלָתוֹ.
Showing something—anything—is only showing when you have someone to show it to. If we have no one to show something to, then we’re not showing it. So when the king smiles at the people, he is showing his smile to them.However, we can only receive something which already exists. When the king accepts the people with a friendly face, he is receiving something that existed before he accepted it.

What is it that the king accepts?

“The king receives everyone with a friendly face” means that he gladly accepts the people’s willingness to approach him and greet him.   וְזֶהוּ דְלְאַחֲרֵי שֶׁאוֹמֵר שֶׁהַמֶלֶךְ ״מְקַבֵּל אֶת כּוּלָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת״ מוֹסִיף שֶׁהוּא ״מַרְאֶה פָּנִים שׂוֹחָקוֹת לְכּוּלָם,״ דְזֶה שֶׁהוּא מְקַבְּלָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת הוּא שֶׁהַרָצוֹן דְהָעָם (לְהַקְבִּיל אֶת פְּנֵי הַמֶלֶךְ) מִתְקַבֵּל אֵצֶל הַמֶלֶךְ ״בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת,״
“He shows them a smiling face” means that when the king accepts the people’s willingness to approach him, he shows them that he’s pleased.   וְהַהוֹסָפָה דְ״מַרְאֶה פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת״ הוּא דְכְּשֶׁמִתְעוֹרֵר בְּרָצוֹן לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה נִמְשַׁךְ לוֹ הַגִילוּי דְ״פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת” דְלְמַעֲלָה, הַתַּעֲנוּג (שְֹחוֹק) דְהַמֶלֶךְ עֲצְמוֹ.
The same is true of G-d and us. The King accepts our willingness to return to him (teshuvah) and is pleased. He then smiles at us showing us how pleased he is.We are shown G-d’s pleasure, a deep place within Him: pleasure is the drive behind people’s motivations.

If a person is making money selling a certain product, the satisfaction of making money will motivate him to find better ways to continue and make even more. If he stops seeing results, he’ll eventually try selling something else.

While people may be motivated by logic or emotional causes, the cause of why a person does what they do is the power of will. We do things because we want to.

What is behind a want?

The satisfaction and pleasure we’ll get from certain behaviors. Remove the satisfaction, and the behavior ends. Just as pleasure is the deepest expression of one’s self, so too when we evoke G-d’s “pleasure,” He expresses His true self, which is beyond description.

The pleasure G-d shows us when he shows us His “smiling face” is greater than the pleasure He feels from our willingness to return.   דְתַּעֲנוּג זֶה הוּא לְמַעֲלָה מֵהַתַּעֲנוּג (דְבְּחִינַת פָּנִים יָפוֹת) שֶׁמֵהִתְעוֹרְרוּת הַתְּשׁוּבָה, וּכְּמְבוּאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר 20, דְשׁוֹרֶשׁ הַשְֹחוֹק (פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת) הוּא בְּעֲצְמוּת הַתַּעֲנוּג (תַּעֲנוּג עֲצְמִי הַבִּלְתִּי מוּרְכָּב) שֶׁלְמַעֲלָה מֵתַּעֲנוּג הַבָּא עֲל יְדֵי דָבָר (תַּעֲנוּג הַמוּרְכָּב).
The pleasure which is made up of parts is limited. If something specific is causing us to feel pleasure, then our pleasure is dependent on that thing. Remove that thing, no more pleasure. A greater form of pleasure is the kind that is for no reason at all—pure pleasure.The pleasure G-d feels when He accepts our willingness to do teshuvah is not as great as the pleasure He feels and shows us when he smiles at us. The pleasure He gets from our teshuvah is caused by something—by teshuvah. The pleasure G-d then shows us when He smiles at us is unlimited.

The Rebbe is highlighting the difference between “receiving” and “showing.” G-d receives us in a friendly way because He’s happy we want to do teshuvah: He smiles at us just because He has a pure pleasure that “you are.” His “smiling face” is independent of what we do; it results from us just being our true selves.

The pleasure G-d feels and shows us when he smiles at us is greater than anything we could accomplish on our own. The pleasure He feels is greater than our fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos and even greater than teshuvah.   וְיֵשׁ לוֹמַר, דְעִנְיָן פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת בְּהַנִמְשָׁל הוּא הַתַּעֲנוּג דְלְמַעֲלָה שֶׁבְּיִשְֹרָאֵל עֲצְמָם21 (שֶׁלְמַעֲלָה מֵהַתַּעֲנוּג שֶׁמְקִיוּם הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת דְיִשְֹרָאֵל, וּלְמַעֲלָה גַּם מֵהַתַּעֲנוּג שֶׁמֵעַבוֹדַת הַתְּשׁוּבָה) דְתַּעֲנוּג זֶה הוּא בְּהָעֲצְמוּת.
The reason why a ba’al teshuvah (a penitent, returnee) is higher than a tzaddik (an absolutely righteous person). Teshuvah is from the soul and is beyond the limitations of one’s understanding of Torah. Torah states that certain things are allowed or not allowed, and this person went against those rules—against His will. Teshuvah allows a person to rise above those limitations and return His soul to G-d—teshuvah is the greatness of the Jewish soul itself.What we’re saying here is that the pleasure G-d feels towards us is greater even than teshuvah. If teshuvah is the greatest and truest expression of the soul, then G-d’s pleasure is greater than us.
G-d is showing His pleasure towards us—”a smiling face”—inspires pleasure for G-dliness within us. “Like water reflects the face, so does the heart of man towards another,” human nature is to reflect love back to those who love us. So much so that our pleasure itself will only be for G-dliness. His pure pleasure towards us motivates our pure pleasure towards Him. This pleasure drives us to fully return to Him and overcome any obstacles.   וְעֲל יְדֵי שֶׁמַרְאֶה לָהֶם פָּנִים שֹוֹחָקוֹת, שֶׁתַּעֲנוּג זֶה מִתְגַלֶה לְהָאָדָם (הַמִתְעוֹרֵר בְּרָצוֹן לִתְשׁוּבָה), זֶה מְעוֹרֵר אֶצְלוֹ (״כַּמַּיִם, הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים22) הַתַּעֲנוּג בֶּאֱלֹקוּת וְעַד שֶׁהַתַּעֲנוּג בֶּאֱלֹקוּת הוּא עֶצֶם הַתַּעֲנוּג שֶׁלוֹ, וְזֶה נוֹתֵן לוֹ הַכֹּחַ עוֹד יוֹתֵר לְהִתְגַבֵּר עַל הַמְנִיעוּת וְעִיכּוּבִים וְלָשׁוּב בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵימָה.
SummaryNot much else feels better than being accepted just the way we are. In Elul, G-d makes Himself available to anyone who wants to approach Him. He loves it when we even think of doing teshuvah because He loves our soul. Teshuvah is the process of making amends, changing our perspective, and correcting our behavior. Teshuvah is also how G-d allows the soul to rise above the boundaries of the Torah and become attached to Him. This ability is caused by G-d’s pure pleasure towards us, just because we are, and that inspires us to have pure pleasure towards Him in return.


20. ראה בארוכה תו”ח תולדות ב, ג-ד.

21. מהטעמים על המעלה דבע”ת על צדיקים היא שתשובה באה מצד הנשמה, שלמעלה מתורה (סה”מ תש”ה ע’ 125. ובכ”מ). ולכן, ע”י התשובה מתגלית (אח”כ) המעלה דישראל עצמם. אלא שאעפ”כ, ענין התשובה הוא רק הקדמה לגילוי התענוג שבישראל עצמם – כי הנשמה עצמה היא למעלה גם מענין התשובה (ראה בארוכה ד”ה שובה ישראל דשבת שובה ה’תשל”ז ס”ד (לעיל ח”א ע’ צט ואילך) בענין עיצומו של יום מכפר. ובכ”מ).

22. משלי כז, יט. וראה תניא פמ”ו.

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