My soul wants to go higher and higher. It loves when I sit alone in the fields and whisper prayers to Hashem. It feels good when I close my eyes, strum on my guitar and chant a sweet tune. It enjoys exploring deeply the secrets of the Torah. But sometimes the day to day grind of mitzvah observance almost feels like an obstacle in the way of my soul’s ascent to the heavens.
In Tinyana 7, Rebbe Nachman teaches that a true tzaddik must have two types of students. Some of his pupils are great servants of God themselves, while his others are sinners. Only the greatest tzaddikim can live in both worlds, spiriting the great ones to move even higher and encouraging the lower ones not to give up. In this way, the tzaddik unites heaven and earth (the great students and the lower students). In Nedarim 4, Reb Nosson describes how throughout our history there were many great people who didn’t understand this skill of the true tzaddik. Even on their elevated levels, they couldn’t grasp how a sublime and exalted God can have pleasure from the service of a feeble corrupt human. In fact, this was the mistake of those that entered the pardes and left somehow tainted, and this was the error of the spies as well.
The tzaddik, on the other hand, knows that “the highest form of knowledge is not knowing”. His firm emuna is belief in a God that knows more than he does. And somehow, in the merit of this great man and God’s infinitely great mercy, there is good to be found in those that stray. This is the secret of teshuva, something we mortals cannot understand.
This need to unite heaven and earth must be a personal goal too, so those who enjoy singing haunting melodies in the candle light (heaven), can also attend the stale afternoon prayer services in synagogue (earth). And those who find comfort in studying the dry intricacies of the Jewish code (heaven) will also sing songs of praise at their Shabbos meals (earth).
“The highest form of knowledge is not knowing” means it’s ok to admit that you don’t know something. And that you can be open to more than what you’re presently comfortable with. These are the rungs of the ladder that takes us from down on earth to high in the heavens.