The Heart of Jewish Mysticism
Literally, human feelings are a combination of thought and desire. Selfish desires are part of Ruach-Nephesh consciousness and higher desires belong to Ruach-Neshamah state of mind. Selfish desires cast deep shadows, like when the Earth turns away from the Sun. So, when people hide their faces from the bright light of Neshamah, they will always experience a dark night of the Soul.
Soul is a word that is used in many different ways. Sometimes, it's referred to as Yechidah, Chiyah and Neshamah, or the eternal aspects of our being. These three properties of the Soul can collectively be referred to as Neshamah. When the Soul steps down through the Abyss of Daath on the Sephirothal Tree, it becomes humanized in its association with the physical body (Guf). Its offspring are the life-force creations of the heart and the brain.When higher feelings like those of a Tzaddik have been educated and regulated by Neschamah (the Soul), then pure selfless actions will automatically form the patterns of ones life. When Neshamah is living in harmony with Ruach-Nephesh consciousness, the Soul is finally able to fulfill its mission on Earth.
Our day-to-day patterns of behavior are the sum total of all our experiences. These include joy, sorrow, disappointments and achievements. Most of our character traits we can observe, trace back and then evaluate. There has been a purpose behind everything we've ever thought, said and done. These experiences blend with our own light of Neshamah and our own shadows (or tzelem) that we cast below.
Our desires are the keys to understanding our feelings. So, let's try to examine what a desire actually is. A desire is the source and origin of a feeling. For example, if I experience a sensation of hunger, I desire food. At this point, two of the mind functions that reside in the Worlds of Briah and Yetzirah (imagination and memory), combine to present an image. Then, I recall a delicious apple that once satisfied my appetite and gratified my desire. But, if you eliminate memory and imagination from these two higher Worlds of consciousness, you will only be left with the sensation of hunger that is common to both man and animal. Thus, if you deprive an animal of its food, its cravings may lead to rage or danger to other animals. Taking this example a little further, if a person eliminates his feelings of imagination and memory (or Neshamah-Ruach consciousness), he too may succumb to rage or to committing acts of violence to get what he wants.
If we don't overcome our Nephesh desires, we will be enslaved by them and controlled by our animal nature. However, these same faculties of the heart and mind, when illuminated by Chiyah-Neshamah consciousness (divine wisdom/understanding or Chochmah-Binah), can create a great philanthropist, a humanitarian or a volunteer who is dedicated to repairing himself (tikkun) as well as the world around him. In other words, through the compassion of ones heart (Chesed), a person who once reacted impulsively from Nephesh consciousness can be transformed into performing the selfless works of a Tzaddik.
Clearing Away Mental Obstructions
The greatest foe to meditation is memory and recollection. This form of mental resistance can also be called fantasy or creative imagination.The moment the mind is restrained in concentration for the purpose of meditation, at that moment the images, impressions and sensations of the past begin to troop through the brain and constantly disturb the concentration. Hence there is a greater need for Chesed consciousness (mercy, loving-kindness), less Gevurah consciousness (contraction of Chesed consciousness), less dwelling on Malkuth consciousness (feelings toward physical objects) and less Nephesh consciousness (seeking sensations for the physical body).
If the mind is full of impressions, there is also a reproductive power that is magnified by Netzach-Hod consciousness of emotion vs. intellect that enlivens these images of the mind. Recollection of these images, or the collecting together of these impressions, constitutes the first and the greatest obstruction to meditation. True Kavanah comes from the kinship of mans Neshamah with the One Divine Source, Ain Soph! This is accomplished by balancing Ruach consciousness and centering the mind in Tiphereth (where Malkuth and Yesod below align perfectly with Daath and Keter above).
Mans Neshamah proves the Spirit of God exists, just as one drop of water proves the source from which it must have come. Tell someone who has never seen water, that there is an ocean of water, and he must accept it as a matter of faith or reject it altogether. In the Torah, the Second Day of Creation tells us that there was a separation between the expanse of the waters before the earth, sun, stars and moon were created on the Third and Fourth Days. This gives us a hint that even our physical Universe is just a drop of water that springs from an infinite divine source from which it must have come.
Once the meditator is free from doubt and skepticism, he will be able to cross the bridge from Malkuth consciousness to Yesod consciousness and thus be freed from the bondage of the mind. Once the Hebrews were freed from bondage, Moses was able to receive the Torah, and thus establish the foundations (Yesod) of Judaism.
Herein, lies the receiving of God's Law once the stage has been set for the Souls upward journey into Tiphereth consciousness. Tiphereth symbolizes the promised land of our inner illumination which transforms us into a Tzaddik. In Kabbalistic meditation, the same concept holds true, whereby the spirit of Ruach and the soul of Neshamah unite together and become one. Thus, the meditator will experience the No-thing of Keter by raising his consciousness across the metaphorical River Jordan and enter into the promised land of Kavvanah where he will always find the metaphorical milk and honey of a joyful and meaningful life.
The Genesis Connection: 7 & 11 by Robert Waxman
Primordial period = 7 days of Creation referred to in Genesis 1:1 (11).
Genesis 7:11 - The Great Flood begins:
7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
619 = 6+1+9= 16 = 1+6= 7 (symbolizes end of the primordial/ancient world of the 7 days of Creation).
The Great Flood ends:
8:13 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dried.
8:14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dry.
+ 1st month
+ 1st day
Total: 603 (covering of ark is removed)
+ 2nd month
+ 27th day
Total: 632 = 6+3+2= 11 (symbolizes the beginning of the new world after the Flood).
(By addition) 7 + 11 = 18 (Chai or totality of Life in both pre-deluvian and post-deluvian worlds).
Since God is all Life; 7 & 11 are Gods numbers:
YHVH - The Tetragrammaton (The Sacred Name):
Yod = 10
Yod + Hey = 15
10 + 15 = 25; 2+5= 7 (Yah = 7)
Yod + Hey + Vav = 21
Yod + Hey + Vav + Hey = 26
21 + 26 = 47; 4+7 = 11 (Veh = 11)
(By division) 11 divided by 7 = 1.57 or one-half of pi / 3.14 = the period of activity or manifestation in:
(By subtraction) 11
4 = Four Worlds of Existence: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah & Assiah
77 = spirit in Hebrew = 34 + flesh in Hebrew = 43 thus: 34 + 43= 77
*the ratio of the height of the Great Pyramid to its base is 7:11
Shemittot: The Law of Cosmic Cycles
7 symbolizes the original spiritual purity of man in the universe (Adam in the Garden of Eden as a metaphor):
Nephesh (Yesod, 1 Sephira) + Ruach (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiphereth, 3 Sephiroth) + Neshamah (Binah, Chochmah, Keter, 3 Sephiroth) = 7 Sephiroth on Etz Chaiim.
11 symbolizes spirit and matter are equal; physical life in the world of Assiah. Shem is the 11th generation after Adam and Shems begetting of sons and daughters is described in 11:11, a new civilization begins, the Shemites (Semites).
Science, Physics, String Theory:
An eleven dimensional theory of supergravity, which is supersymmetry combined with gravity. The eleven-dimensional spacetime was to be compactified on a small seven-dimensional sphere, leaving four spacetime dimensions visible to observers at large distances.
Putting Jewish Mysticism To Work by Robert Waxman
The average person who finds Jewish Mysticism in earnest is apt to make that first step because he may be questioning himself. This philosophy opens a window to another Universe. For the first time, he realizes that he is holding himself back and that the path of Gevorah-Malkuth may be overtaking his life. Selfishness, both inborn and cultivated, has created a shell around him whose cramping has become intolerable. Like a breath of open air it comes to him that there is no real necessity to be grasping, harsh, hot-tempered or manipulative.
With that realization, the aches of envy, hatred, malice and fear begin to leave his heart. As he moves from the depths of Gevorah-Malkuth he leaves behind Ruach-Nephesch consciousness and learns that unselfishness is the law of life. This is the meaning of Torah, The Law by which we live our lives based on the divine commandments of God.
Now for the hard part. A large percentage of humanity is not only selfish, but is desirous of remaining so. These individuals are not only deluded, but they are wedded to their delusions. The Dickens character, Scrooge is a perfect example of this type of person. There are millions upon millions of our fellow human beings to whom altruism seems to be a weakness in character, and to whom justice and fairness appear foolish sentimentalities. There are millions of people who will accept the gifts of a true philanthropist, but they do not understand or choose to emulate this type of moral behavior by giving to others less fortunate.
This world of ours can only be helped by an awakening of Neshamah-Ruach consciousness and integrating the attributes of Chesed-Tiphereth within us. This awakening can only be accomplished by fanning the divine sparks of Neshamah into one worldly flame of unity, kindness and love.
Discussion on The Sabbath
1) The Nature of The Sabbath (Shabbat):
Philo Judaeus (20 BCE - 50 CE), On The Cherubim, Part II, XXVI (87), Moses calls The Sabbath, which name being interpreted means rest, The Sabbath of God. Touching upon the principles of natural philosophy, of men in many parts of his law, for that among existing things that rest, if one must tell the truth, is one thing only, God. And by rest I do not mean inaction (since that which is by its nature energetic, that which is the cause of all things, can never desist from doing what is most excellent), but I mean an energy completely free from labor, without any feeling of suffering and with the most perfect ease.
a) What is your interpretation of the phrase: The Sabbath of God, and the word, rest.
b) What do you think Philo meant when he said, if one must tell the truth, is one thing only, God?
c) How can you be energetic and be completely free from labor at the same time?
2) Zachor, To Remember:
Moses Maimonides (1135 CE - 1204 CE), Guide For The Perplexed, On Prophecy, Therefore, we are told in the Law to honor this day; in order to confirm thereby the principle of Creation, which spread in the world, when all peoples keep Sabbath on the same day......The Sabbath, is therefore a double blessing: it gives us correct notions, and also promotes the well-being of our bodies.
a) Why should we commemorate the Creation? On Passover we remember the blessing of being freed from bondage. Why should we commemorate this same event on The Sabbath?
b) Why is The Sabbath Day to be observed and kept holy by the Fourth Commandment, while Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are not mentioned by any Commandment?
c) Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15, speak about The Sabbath and the concept of personal freedom. How do we remember and experience our sense of personal freedom on The Sabbath Day?
i) Are we still enslaved by certain aspects of our lives?
ii) Do we still worship idols of materialism?
iii) How does The Sabbath Day help us to remember our sense of spiritual purpose?
iv) What are some of the moral and health benefits which may be derived by observing The Sabbath?
3) Shamor, Observance (topic for small group discussion):
Jewish Virtual Library: The Sabbath or Shabbat is one of the best known and least understood of all Jewish observances. People who do not observe Shabbat think of it as a day filled with stifling restrictions, or as a day of prayer.....To those who observe Shabbat, it is a precious gift from God, a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when we set aside all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits.
a) As a group please make up a schedule of how you might observe The Sabbath Eve and Sabbath Day.
b) Please make a list of what you would and wouldn't do from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
c) What positive or negative affects does each member of your group envision by observing The Sabbath according to list above that you have all agreed upon?
How To Make Jewish Mysticism Practical In Today’s World by Robert Waxman
The student of Jewish Mysticism (JM) often falls under the influence of sectarianism which flourishes in the world, in almost every home and in every field of public life. JM is unlike most other philosophies because it teaches the value of correct use of thought, speech and action by allowing the wisdom of the Soul to express itself as the life of a person unfolds.
The teachings of JM are non-sectarian. They give a correct direction to our pursuit and application of true principles in any and every field. JM should never be hindered by false impulses, faulty propaganda and the selling of paraphernalia.
Just as liberty can deteriorate into license, just as love can deteriorate into lust, so the great spiritual laws of the Torah can be interpreted unwisely and thus deteriorate into dogma and monetary pursuit.
A natural question for the student of JM to ask is: What type of activities should be supported and labored for, while the student is busy with family, career and daily responsibilities?
The student of JM is the friend of all movements of pure intent, but it is the work of each student to select for themselves their field of activities in connection with organized movements. A student of JM is a philanthropist, and an appreciation of JM is to make those persons charitable who were not so before. JM creates charity which afterwards, makes itself manifest in works that each student was drawn to naturally.
In every conceivable case the student must be a center of spiritual action by performing Mitzvot, and each individual life must radiate the highest spiritual forces of Neshamah, which alone can regenerate the minds of others. The duty of the JM student is to become familiar with the great movements of the world, and to become aware of which ones are promoting unity, love and compassion represented by Chesed. With the help of JM, each student must use his or her own discrimination to point to ‘the true’ and warn against ‘the false’. Mystics may not be able to lead the world, as is ordinarily understood; but we can certainly help others by example - and when asked, we should answer with these three basic truths in mind:
1) Ain Soph – One God without beginning nor end;
2) Shemmittot – the great law of cosmic cycles and;
3) Gilgul – the eternal nature of the Soul and its transmigration.
In doing so, the central principles of JM must never be forgotten. To clothe, shelter and feed the naked body is a noble endeavor, but isn’t it just as noble to nourish the Soul and offer the sacred knowledge of Chochmah (Divine Wisdom) to the naked mind? Your actions will be your response.
The Purpose of Creation is to Be One with God by Rabbi Max Weiman
Practical and mystical Judaism converge on this point. Man's most essential question as a living human being is "Why are we here?" Every thinking person must ask this question sooner or later. The Torah's answer to this question is the very heart and soul of everything within the Torah. What could possibly be the point of all the commandments if they don't fulfill this purpose? We often view the commandments as being a set of rules for a healthy society, and they certainly are. Society is more civilized when no one steals, kills, rapes, etc. They are good for society, but that is a very superficial way of viewing the mitzvot. They do so much more.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Each one is a conduit or method of becoming one with God. We see that cleaving to God or imitating God is a general theme in the Torah, as it says in Deuteronomy 10:12, "..what does God, your Lord, ask of you? To be in awe of God, your Lord, to walk in His ways..." It also says in Deut. 11:22, "..love God, your Lord, to walk in His ways and to cling to Him." (see also Deut. 10:20, 13:5, 28:9) Philosophically speaking, the intention of the Creator in His creation was to give another being the greatest possible good, and the ultimate pleasure. As God is the source of infinite good and bliss, the greatest possible good and pleasure is to be a part of Him. To be given this good without any effort would be lacking in the essential quality of God that He Himself was not given goodness. The closest we can come to this is to earn it.
That defines the purpose of our creation but not the method. The method of us earning this greatest good is the struggle in a realm seemingly devoid of God, and striving to be one with Him. By fulfilling the commandments we are perfecting ourselves, emulating God, and becoming one with God all at the same time. The period of struggle is a finite one, and the period of experiencing what we have accomplished is infinite. In the end we must come out of the realm of illusion where God is not apparent, and go into the realm of reality. One act of goodness done by us, a simple "Have a nice day" when said with sincerity, makes us more Godly, and brings more Godliness into the world.”
A spiritual perspective on the commandments is to look at each one as a way of making God's oneness more evident in the world. There is a short phrase to say before the performance of a mitzvah to remind them of this, which translates as "For the sake of unifying the Holy One, Blessed is He with His Divine Presence, through He who is hidden and unseen."
Many of the commandments are easily mistaken as mere ritual. However, every so-called ritual act that's requested from us by God is actually a mystical connection that binds the soul to its source, the Infinite One. For example, on Passover we eat matza ostensibly as a symbol of the exodus from Egypt. The mystical sources say that Abraham, who lived many years before the exodus, also ate matza on the night that would one day be called Passover. He saw past the surface to the spiritual benefit that lies beneath. The matza is an expression of humility. The power of the holiday is the ability to nullify ourselves to God's will. This power is enhanced and activated through the mitzvah of the matza, which is like a spiritual injection meant to last until the next year. The forefathers' level of spirituality was so strong they didn't need to be told to eat matza on that night in the month of Nissan. They understood the mystical significance of all the commandments, and fulfilled them without any obligation.
Why did God create the universe? If He is infinite, then He needs nothing. It could not have been to fill any need or lack in Him. It must be that creation was done for the sake of the created. In order for the created to experience the ultimate gift, it must face moral challenges, and struggle to cling to spirituality. This is the way to become Godlike. We need a universe in which to experience these challenges. We need to have the potential for good and evil both inside and out. Why are there people starving in the world? So we will feed them. Why is there evil in the world? So we will fight it.
God's presence also must be somewhat hidden in the world lest we be forced by the power of it into doing His will. The word in Hebrew for universe is "haolam". This word also means "that which is hidden". God doesn't need robots. The essence of our existence is in using our free will to come closer to God. This is the "image of God" that's mentioned in the Torah.
There is nothing superfluous in the Torah. There is nothing extra in the world. For every human endeavor whether its work, sleep, sex, eating, or anything else, there is a principle of spirituality that the Torah teaches regarding that endeavor. There is a way to elevate the act. All physicality can be used for spirituality. With this in mind the Torah can be used as a spiritual encyclopedia. Man's personality and life experiences are designed to be the tests of our free will to become one with God.
The study of His will is not only the best way to know how to accomplish the task of our existence; it is also the act that carries with it the greatest ability to make us Godlike. Torah study is the mitzvah that can change us, elevate us, and sanctify us the utmost. This explains the intrinsic relationship between God, man, and Torah. It has to be that the Torah is called God's name, as we mentioned previously, because it is the instruction manual of how to connect to God. This study, which is the closest thing to studying God himself, is the most potent and holy aspect of Torah study. This is the perspective to have whenever engaged in the study of Jewish mysticism, you are making your mind and soul one with your Creator.
Mitzvot by Velvel Spiegler, Founder of The Jewish Healing Foundation
When troublesome events of any kind enter our lives, we judge the outcome as good or bad, what we prefer or what we don’t. Those kinds of decisions set up the opposing forces of either pleasure or pain. Naturally, we crave the pleasure. The pain leads to all sorts of emotional upheaval, which may ultimately lead to more serious physical illness. Our tendency is to resist such unwelcome events, which is the ultimate source of our pain. Mitzvot, one could say, is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance. Mitzvot help us surrender our resistance, our sense of inner self shifts from identifying with form—the thought or the emotion—to recognizing ourselves as that which has no form—our real Self.
How could we deal with the painful side of events? The ability to give unconditionally is the position between the opposing forces, much like the central column in the diagram of the Sephirot, which is neither positive nor negative, but neutral. In that detached mode we learn to perceive the world as it is; we can see the reality of life, the stillness beyond thought and emotions. The events occurring in our day to day lives are the collisions we encounter with other people, places or things. Each event is within the grand scheme of things and destined to take place. The only real choice we have in reaction to unpleasant outcomes is to recognize and accept the divine existence of the situation. This concept is common in spiritual traditions throughout the world but is prevalent in Judaism through the system of Mitzvot.
Selfless giving not only unlocks the illusion of life events; it is also a vital theme running through all of Jewish mysticism. Children, especially babies, are all dependent upon their caregivers to receive every essential need to sustain life; the shift from receiving to giving is the hallmark toward maturity. Not only is this true in life, but is equally true in the metaphysical realm. The precept for giving is well documented throughout Jewish literature from the giving of charity to the needy, to giving hospitality to guests, to giving the bride her dowry and giving of our time and effort to visit the sick. Mitzvot and giving are synonymous.
Maimonides, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, better known as the Rambam, sketched a series of steps, which evaluate gifts from self-centeredness to selfless, and it is the latter that feeds our lives spiritually. The art of giving is inextricably bound up with spiritual growth. The inability to give caused the vessels to shatter in the metaphysical realm that ushered in the need for Tikkun (repair). I’m proposing that the Mitzvot, the required actions of traditional Jewish law is the vehicle that teaches us selflessness. Giving from our heart brings us in touch with our authentic selves, the stillness within.
The third paragraph of the Sh’ma provides us with a neat summary of shifting from resistance to acceptance. “If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving, the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil. I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle, thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the Lords anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you shall soon perish from the good land that the Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:13). This verse is trying to say that the life flows, like a river, in one direction. We can either go with the flow or resist it. Accepting the flow brings about abundance in all walks of life; resistance causes misery. Mitzvot , it says, are like stepping stones in the right direction.
Jewish Mysticism introduces us to a concept called “sharing”. It is the essential element in the repair of the universe (Tikkun Olam), the purpose of all creation. Sharing, in this respect, emanates from the Sephira of Chesed (lovingkindness) and among other things asserts putting other people’s needs before your own. The challenge is to overcome egoistic urge of satisfying our own needs. For example, if I choose to give someone a gift with the intention getting something in return, even something as simple as a thank you note, I have defeated the purpose. We further learn that klippah, the shells that trap the spark of God in our lives, is the source of our ego consciousness. We become encased in a hard shell that separates us from the Source of Life.
It’s not so much the performance of the Mitzvah that counts, but it’s how we carry it out. For example we can create a kavannah, an intention which may be worded, “When I perform this Mitzvah I gaze beyond my thoughts and emotions and stand in the presence of the stillness within me”. Intending such an idea develops an awareness of our higher Self, who we truly are. This is the classic Hassidic notion of Bittul HaYesh, nullifying the ego. We may often wonder how these Mitzvot will affect us. We should not be concerned with the results of our actions—just give attention to the action itself;. The fruit will come of it’s own accord. Pirke Avot, a popular tractate of the Talmud, teaches, “He used to say: Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; instead be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving a reward. And let the awe of heaven be upon you.” Mitzvot are consecrated actions, a powerful spiritual practice.
“But there are 613 commandments, how can we possibly do them all? In today’s world there are only just a few that can be done. Observing Shabbat and the annual cycle of holidays are legitimate Mitzvot. Beyond that there are just a few more that can be a part of our daily worship. We might include eating more in accordance with the rules of kashrut, reciting a blessing before meals, or engaging in prayer at times during the day. The term used in Hebrew for worship is Avodah, meaning service, another way of saying selfless giving. Which ones to observe is your choice. Jewish Mysticism implies that certain spiritual forces are enlivened as the result of doing certain Mitzvot, but no one can say which ones.
Another question is—how conscientiously must we perform Mitzvot? The Shulchan Aruch, a offshoot of the Talmud, is the authoritative text, which details the complete performance of Mitzvot. It catalogs what the Rabbis legislated for Jewish spiritual living. The problem for today is that this literature was completed somewhere around 1500 years ago. Those were different times. Our world today bears very different values and conditions than those of previous centuries. Today we have greater access than ever before to information about world spiritual traditions, psychological research and current social trends. Especially now with liberal politics in vogue, and that we have no legislative mechanisms to establish a criteria for halachah (Jewish law). My guess is that by practicing those Mitzvot that feel comfortable, which ones work and which ones don’t, you will, in time, find a basis for adding more to your way of Jewish life.
In Hebrew the word for an illness is “mahala”, and the sources tell us that one gets well by transforming “mahala” into “ maholot”, another term for dancing. The Mitzvot are about dancing. The Talmud says that in the world to come, those who keep the Mitzvot will dance in a circle around The Holy One, He will lead them in a dance to immortality. The Mitzvot provides the lessons to this dance. They are like the footprints that are painted on the floor in a dance studio to teach the steps.
Velvel Spiegler www.jewishhealing.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Manual to Life in Focus by Israeli Scholar Micha Kovler
Note: The word “his” is used throughout this article mainly for two reasons: The first is simplification. The second is because I am a male, and writing my deepest thoughts in the female form was not being true to myself. This article is directed at both genders, and hopefully is not gender biased.
I once bought a digital camera to try and film my life and my family. My nephew Gilad, visiting on his summer holiday from the village, took possession over it in 5 minutes. He was 12 years old, just before his Bar-Mitzvah. I tried talking him into studying the manual carefully before operating it, but to no avail. He was so eager to start filming nothing could have dissuaded him off his target.
Few hours passed and Gilad came back from the yard. Studying the manual, we quickly connected the camera to the VCR to watch the results. Not surprisingly, we found most of the shots to be blurred out of focus, merely because Gilad was not aware that he had to adjust the camera viewfinder to his eye.
The Mitzvoth are no less than A Manual to Life. One can live without them, or exercising some parts of them, but the outcome will be “life out of focus” resulting in “Where did this evil come from?(1)” question.
A child is born without the concept of Good and Bad. Slapping a fellow child in kindergarten may bear the same value as giving him an apple until taught otherwise by his parents and society.
Alas, life is extremely complicated and as we grow up situations and questions we face become more difficult and demanding. We need the manual!
Let us look briefly at the Mitzvah that is perhaps the most common one to be ignored: “Mitzvat Isur Leshon Hara” – forbidding the “Evil Tongue”, or in it’s most common shape, slandering.
It’s lunch time. We are located at the water cooler area in a big corporation kitchenette. Mr. X is mentioning to Ms. Y of the horrific taste Mr. Z is showing in choosing his ties. We are now witnessing slandering.
Hebrew: “Ein da'var ka'she meel'shon ha'ra she'ho're'get shlo'sha”(2).
Translation: There's nothing worse than slandering, which kills three.
The three people are: The one who said it, the listener, and the person of which the comment referred to. Let’s see how it affects each and every one of the participants.
The person who said it – Mr. X.
The 3rd law of Newton clearly states: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. We also know that Mida Keneged Mida, i.e. measure for measure, guides the world. For example, in Parashat Beshalach we learn of the Egyptians who first drowned all the Jews first born, and later drowned themselves in the Red Sea.
The laws of the universe are true both in the physical and the metaphysical realms. Every action we take creates a certain “energy”. Words are a beautiful example: We can make someone laugh, smile, cry, angry; our words have energy to them, moving the other person’s emotions. Words of scorn have a negative energy imbedded. Once we give birth to such words and omit them we become the rightful owners of this energy. And as rightful owners, shouldn’t we retrieve what we lost? And so, we will!
The person who heard it – Ms. Y.
When we let words leave our mouth we should always be aware of the energy they carry. Negative words carry negative energy, and although Ms.Y may react with laughter (could be either a defense mechanism, embarrassment or other), the negative influence is making its way to her psych. In this case her relations with Mr. Z are affected. From that moment she cannot address him in a clear and pure way – or address Mr. X with respect in case ‘she is on Mr. Z’s side’. She bears a secret, a small one but still, that disables hers from relating to Mr. Z with love and respect. And most probably, she will avoid eye contact, gazing at his ties…
The person of which the comment referred to – Mr. Z.
Mr. Z in our case is affected deeply. His relation with Mr. X and with Ms. Y will not be the same. The feeling between him and the two others will be distorted, becoming ‘not clean’. Most probably he would feel their scorn, resulting in a negative chain of events.
When Old Hillel was asked to explain the whole Torah in one phrase he said: “Veahavta Lereacha Kamocha”(3) (Hebrew): Love your acquaintance(4) as you love yourself. Loving the other as you love yourself, seeing the divine spark in his/her soul and respecting him/her, will not allow words of unkindness.
In addition, this phrase can be interpreted differently. “Love your ‘Bad’ as you love yourself”. Acknowledge the ‘bad’ parts within yourself. Once awareness is there, these bad parts can be turned into positive energy in a process over time, as in Tzadik Katamar Yifrach(5). When you “know” your “Bad” you can control it and transform it to “Good” over time(6).
When Mr. X said those words to Ms. Y, his remark came from a narcissistic way of self-comprehension. He had put himself before Mr. Z and not on the same level. He has broken the essence of the Torah: “Veahavta Lereacha Kamocha.”
Exercising the Mitzvah of Guarding one’s tongue is a big step towards relating to the other with the same love to one’s self, resulting in a much better, clean and pure dialogue, a more harmonious being, and in short, Life in Focus! Try It, You’ll Love it!
Micha Kovler – All Rights Reserved (c)2004 - Used with Permission
1. Shofteem, 20:3
2. Beit Hamidrash, 4: KMH
3. Vayeekra, 19:18
4. The word “Reacha” in Hebrew has no direct translation in English. It is something between “your acquaintance” and “your friend”, closer to “acquaintance” in nature.
Compiled by Robert Waxman:
"The nature and fate of every generation is determined by the balance of the righteous and the wicked that are in it. When the righteous are in the majority and therefore have a pronounced influence, there is a harmonious unity within the Godhead through the union of the Shekinah and her husband, and the Sephirot are full of abundant influence.
The relative strength or weakness of the righteous determines the relationship between Keter Elyon (Arik Anpin) and the other Sephirot (Zeir Anpin).
“When God looks down upon the world and sees the deeds of mankind are virtuous, Arik Anpin (Macroprospus) is revealed to Zeir Anpin (Microprospus) and they all receive a blessing and water one another, so that the worlds are blessed and all the worlds are as one, and then it is proclaimed: ‘the Lord shall be one and his Name shall be one’ (Zechariah 14:9). – The Zohar
The Path of the Upright by Moses Luzzatto
“The highest level of holiness is a gift; all that man can do is attempt it through the pursuit of knowledge and constant concentration of the intellect upon the holiness of one’s acts.”……“Many customs and ways are known among people under the name of piety, but they are naught but images of piety, without shape or form and without correction; these result from a lack of true reflection and enlightenment among those who have these attributes, for they did not trouble or labor to learn the way of God with clear and straight knowledge, but thought they had become pious by following what came their way upon first thought, but they did not profoundly examine these things or weigh them upon the scales of wisdom”.
On The Mystical Shape of The Godhead
From the writings of Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezirech, “The Righteous One stands in the realm of nothingness”. This nothingness is the divine no-thing (Ain): it is that sphere within the Godhead from which all true creation springs. It is also the end of the road that the aspirant traverses during his absorption into the Sephirot. On the road to divine nothing, he must cast off all individual qualities and distinctiveness, making himself infinitesimally small, indeed nothing, in order to pass through “The Gateway of Nothingness” of which the Rabbi speaks. “The casting off of physicality” attained in prayer also belongs to nothingness, identified with the state of pure spirituality. Because he himself exists in Nothingness, wanting nothing for himself and having nothing that is his own, he becomes a purely spiritual medium through which flows the divine influx of vitality, proceeding from him to all beings.