Monday, June 21, 2010

Paradigm Shift


It has been a long and short sixteen years since the great spiritual leader Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson has departed. To many who just marked the anniversary of this very difficult date, he is known simply as the Rebbe, a term that carries multiple connotations of endearment.

Peering through the time tunnel of all those years since I first became introduced to his teachings, I reflect back on how my life has been so far touched by his teachings.

Truthfully, his teachings enriched my understanding in too many ways to innumerate. However, there is one teaching that keeps popping up as I look back.  However, in order to appreciate why this teaching hit the spot with me, I need to lead up to it.

It's human to make certain automatic assumptions about the very fabric of existence, simply taking certain features of the universe as axiomatic. For instance, it's common knowledge that certain people once accepted that the earth is flat. This was axiomatic to their world view. Many thought that if a sailor went too far out to sea, he'd slip off the edge of earth and be cast into space.

I have found a couple of my own similar "axioms" over the years that needed correcting. In my early teens I thought that time was simply part of the very fabric of existence. I thought that time had to be extremely primordial because everything needed a framework of time to exist in. If it had no time to exist, it would cease existing. If there's existence, then axiomatically there also had to be a time frame work to allow it's existence.

Based on this perspective, it seemed perfectly plausible to pop the question to a Rabbi, "Who created the Creator?"

He calmly responded, "Well, the Creator created time just like He created mountains and lakes. Since time is His own creation, He's beyond time, completely transcending it without being affected by it."

"Notions like before and after are functions of time. Without time, there's no before or after. Therefore, your question does not even begin."

I must admit that it was a real paradigm shift for me to essentially flip frameworks. Instead of thinking of time as so axiomatic to reality and unintentionally considering it an all encompassing framework, including of the Creator Himself, I now began to think of the Creator as the all encompassing framework for everything, including of time itself. From this point onward, I considered time merely a sub-framework (which still encompassed much of creation).

I encountered a paradigm shift of similar magnitude from studying the Rebbe's teachings.  Like time, I thought that logic and reason were part and parcel of the very fabric of existence. Only, this "axiom" I carried  into my adulthood; Possibly because Judaism, being quite at home in rational and logical thought, rarely challenged this "axiom". The few bumps I encountered carrying this "axiom" on Judaism's road I simply glossed over as ideas that might one day make sense when thought through more carefully (possibly in a mystical light).

When studying the Rebbe teachings I encountered for the first time that the earliest stages of creation were pre-logical and pre-reasonable. At these very early stages the Creator was just expressing His divine desire. Only later on in creation, He created logic and reason as a means for bringing His primordial desire into fruition. 

This is similar to an architect who first desires a certain house and only afterwards draft blueprints on a drawing board, charting a logical course to bring his desire into fruition.

Therefore, logic is just a created tool to bring the divine desire into fruition. However, just as the Creator transcends time, so too, He transcends logic. Logic is a creation just like mountains and trees (and time) are.  Consequently, reality passed through a phase when logic and reason had not yet emerged on scene. Creation was naked divine desire, yet to don clothing of logic.

When we look at certain Biblical commandments, many make sense, some don't. While it might make sense not to allow certain social ills that almost everyone can relate to, do all the ritually based commands readily make sense, if at all?

This was how the Rebbe's teachings paradigm shifted me, I was taught to realize that a command is a divine desire. As desire the commands were brought into being before logic was. Therefore, the commands are truly beyond logic. Therefore, they are not bound to follow logic. Sometimes on the way down to the earthplane, like much else of reality, the commands dress themselves in logic - either more fully or less fully. However, the logical side of a commandment, no matter how compelling, is only its clothing, not the real commandment itself.  The real commandment is a soul that logic cannot contain!


  1. God bless the Rebbe!

    You've said a mouthful and then some, but I agree with the Rebbe in this--plus I must add some of my thoughts.

    I agree God--the One God that we're all a part of--lives without time. He always has and always will--He can't change. We experience our wakening spirit when we wake up and wonder where we are, who we are, and what we are. I have awaken on occasion in a world without time. Caught partly in this world and partly in the eternal world, I'm confused until I realize what has happened. My first experiencing this occurred when I was a child.

    So there is no before/after time in the God you're talking about (sorry, but I will always believe man can obtain God and Godhead status). But you're referring to what I call Melchizedek. The real us has no beginning, no end, was never created, has no mother, no father, no history, etc. This circle is what man is here to obtain/complete. We have to live this status to understand it.

    God gave us logic and reason to bring this about. Meanwhile we're all in travail while we're trying to spiritually be "reborn".

    When we truly find God through the desire He's given us, (we're all on different spiritual levels, and it's a gift from our Creator as we're ready for it) there is naturally no commandments. These were only given so we can see the extent of our straying.

    When we all return to the God who never lost us, we'll exist in this timeless world. We can't age because there is no past/no future.

  2. However, as natural as you found yourself feeling timelessness, the whole notion was so new to me in my early teens. It knocked the sox off me. Over time, I got used to the idea. Sometimes, there's a gap between when you theoretically understand an idea and when you emotionally relate to the idea. That's what happened with me here.

    However, when the Rebbe taught that the will of G-d preceded the creation of logic, I took that a lot better. Probably, because (a) I was older and (b) years of studying Jewish mysticism had prepped me for such an idea. It hadn't come out of the blue for me.

    As for the possiblility of man attaining G*d head, Judaism's position to the best that I understand is that everyone and everything can reach this level, but will lose his/her/its identity when it does. The entity reaching this level becomes like a sunray within the sun. Of course, the sun includes too many sunrays within its body to count. However, within the sun, none of these rays have any separate identity. There's really only sun. So too on this level of Divinity there really is only G*d. Whoever and whatever reaches this level merges and disappears into Infinte Oneness.

    There's a lot more to Judaism's position. However, this is just a beginning point. Judaism believes really in more than just Monotheism. Judaism believes in Monism.

    If you're interested in further research, the best book outlining the thought process of this position (that I know of) is the "Gates of Unity and Faith" section of the Tanya. Your husband probably has a copy and it's available for study on as a web version of the book.

  3. Choni,

    I've known/heard about individuals who don't mind losing their identities and are ready to be a cup of water in the big, big ocean. Some say every now and then a glimpse of a soul can be recognized. However, I believe people can reach God/Godhead (imo, there is a difference) and stay that way indefinitely. I believe we were made and destined certain parts, but in eons and eons of time, if we are to join the God-force, I'm certainly not ready until all this time has passed. (Personally, I don't know if I'll ever be ready--that's not the part I play).

    I so agree with Rabbi Zelman and Rabbi Horowitz and love how they word and explain the Oneness of God--there is none else and what that means. (The others I read about in "Gates of Unity and Faith are great too. Thanks for pointing this out to me). I think the same thing but am unable to express myself so!

    I also believe in Monism and am delighted there are others who believe so similarly to me. I migrate toward the Zohar, love Chabad Lubavitch and Tanya.

    My prediction for you: Regardless of how much time it takes, or the age you'll be when you finish, I think you should seriously think of becoming a Rabbi. There is a longing in the depths of your soul which will never be satisfied until you accomplish this. You'll then be free!

  4. Judaism also believes that the soul merges into higher levels of Oneness, gradually over eons of time. What came from Oneness goes back to Oneness. By innate nature every detail is drawn to his/her/it's Source.

    I suspect you're right about becoming a Rabbi. It's not the first time I've heard it and very often that's what newcomers into my life call me. Thank you for your insight. Amen.

  5. Basically, I find those who search find the same truth regardless if one is Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc. We all come together as One with different roles to play. Some are at the level he can see the entire elephant (As ya know, this is one of my favorite sayings).

  6. Yeah ! I know that elephant ... :)