There are times when I feel like a peeler by profession. From bananas to oranges, from apples to eggs, I spend way too much time peeling foods for my little ones. It’s almost feels like a full-time job! The kids just can’t wait to eat the good stuff.
Fruits and nuts aren’t the only things with a shell that has to be removed. Much of reality is covered in a shell, a layer that conceals the G‑dliness found in the world. For instance, when a succulent piece of meatMuch of reality is covered in a shell
sizzling on a barbecue is paired with a crisp red wine, this seems to shout
out corporeal pleasure, appearing to lack any holy purpose. But peeling the
shell would mean revealing the truth—that a good steak and satisfying meal
can be the impetus for concentrating on a deep Torah class. When a person is
hungry or distracted, his or her chances of concentration are low. Eating a
delicious meal ensures that the person can be present to learn.
There are other “prerequisites” to learning. As the great sage Rava once said: “Wine and fragrance make my mind more receptive.” He did what it took to relax his brain—by drinking a glass of wine—to prepare himself to delve deep into learning Torah.
Cracking a good joke also does not appear to be holy in any which way. Yet this same great Rava used to begin every Torah class with some humor to open the hearts and minds of his students. A bad mood is hardly conducive to learning; he knew that laughter would relax their minds and allow his students to be more receptive to his teachings. In so many ways, Rava “peeled the shell off the fruit.”
The Hebrew word for shell is kelipa,the name for that which “hides” G‑dliness. However, within kelipa are two categories.
The first type is kelipat nogah, the kelipa with a little light inside it. Using some creativity, most things in the world can be utilized for a higher purpose by peeling away the shell to reveal the inner hidden potential (think steaks and jokes). But then there are things that are off-limits, rendered by Torah as unfit to be used in the service of G‑d. An example for this category of kelipa is a non-kosher food, which cannot be eaten as a source of energy, even to accomplish great things. Acts forbidden by the Torah can never be “peeled.”
So yes, it’s a full-time job—this “peeling”—being conscious to how I can use the physical world to enhance my spiritual service, at the same time rejecting that which is not allowed according to Torah.
Tanya Bit: Peeling the layers of physical existence reveals that we can be serving G‑d around the clock, and not just in the synagogue.
(Inspired from Chapter 7 of Tanya)