Sunday, April 29, 2012

His Hidden/Revealed Face

I read something interesting over the past several days in Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto's "Da'at T'Vunot" ("The Knowing Heart"): 

Briefly explained, he teaches that the body is a product of the Creator hiding His face. The soul is a product of the Creator revealing His face. Therefore, when a person allows his/her bodily drives to dominate, s/he draws to himself or herself the Creator's hiddeness. This can make life difficult.

However, when s/he allows the soul to dominate the body, s/he draws to himself or herself the Creator's revelation. This means that the Creator appears to be more openly responsive to what is occurring in a person's life. This can make life a lot easier.

Therefore, how a person is oriented (spiritually or physically) can strongly impact on the flow of his/her life. 

Any comments or thoughts?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Self Love

Tanya teaches ...
That since the Creator contains all, 
He knows all, simply by knowing Himself. 
Then it is probably also true that ...
He Loves all, simply by Loving Himself.

           (  (  (  (  (O)  )  )  )  )

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One of my Favorite Reasons for the World's Creation


Ultimately, logic is a creation, no less a creation than trees, mountains, sky or planets. Therefore, to ask why the universe was created is artificial. Questioning "Why?" presupposes the the presence of logic. However, logic was not yet created at the initial impulse of creation. It was awaiting it's creation along with the trees, mountains, sky and planets. In a sense, it's like asking a child why did he birth his own father? A serious confusion of cause and effect.

Yet, we see that the Jewish mystical sages have advanced various reasons for the creation of the universe. Probably, because they were trying to approximate within the more limited scope of logic the initial impulse of creation, even if imperfectly. However, at best it's like trying to capture vivid color on black and white film. It's unclear what colors the shades of grey really attempt to convey. It's a beautiful impression cast on an inadequate medium, leading to a imperfect result.  So why did the sages seek to convey this unbounded initial impulse logically? Why fetter this impulse in chains of logic? Why not leave it free? Quite possibly because whatever a person thinks the goal of creation is will serve as the core of his/her spiritual focus and ultimately, as the hub of all his/her spiritual activity.

However, because of logic's inadequacy to serve as the measuring rod of what had existed in a pre-logic environment, there are quite a few correct answers to this question; as no single answer seems to express the full story. One of my favorite reasons for creation is advanced at right at the onset of the holy work, "Tree of Life", by Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620) - the closest disciple of the most celebrated Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572). I will allow the power of his words to speak on their own (the brackets are my own):

[The Sages] said that the reason [for creation] was because He needed to be complete in all his deeds, latent potentials and in all His names of greatness, esteem and honor. Had He not brought out His capacities and latent potentials into work and deed, it would be, as if, He would not have been called "complete", neither in His deeds, nor in His names, nor in His appellations. 

For instance, the "great name" which is the four letters of Y-H-V-H, is called so because it points to the eternity of His existence; past, present and future - before creation, during creation and after it will revert to what it was. Had the creation of the universes, and all they contain, not been, then  the eternity of His existence would not be discernible: in past, present and future.  Thus, He would no longer be called, "Y-H-V-H". 

So too with the name "Adnus" [i.e. Mastery]. He's called so because [the name] demonstrates mastery. He has servants and He's a master over them. If there weren't created beings, He would never be able to be called by the name "Master".  Similarly, with the rest of the names. 

The same would apply to His appellations, like: compassionate, graceful and patient. He would not be called by them unless the world is populated with creations. It is only then that His working and latent potentials can emerge, allowing Him to be called "whole in all His workings and latent potentials", as well as, "whole in all His names and appellations", without any imperfections, heaven forbid.

This underlying reason for creation is well founded in the Holy Zohar (see Parshat Pinchas P.257B), "The 13th commandment is the Shema affirmation. It's meant to be known that He is called wise in all kinds of wisdom and understanding in all kinds of understandings ... However, before He created the world, He was referred to by all these levels on account of the creation which He will later create. For if the world wasn't going to be populated with creations then why would He be called compassionate or judge? It could only be on account of the future creations..."

Another similar quote in the Holy Zohar (see Parshat Bo P.52), "Had His light not been cast over all His creations, how would He be known, how would the verse (Isaiah 6:3) '...His glory fills the entire earth' be fulfilled?"    


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Aries & Capricorn

If Aries is a sheep then why is a goat also acceptable for the Passover offering? Rabbi Moshe Sofer explained that what makes a zodiac sign, is the constellation that rises in the eastern sky with the sun in the morning. In early Spring,around the time of Passover, Aries rises together with the sun. However, the goat is another constellation, namely, Capricorn. Capricorn is a six hours behind Aries in the sky. The Jews left Egypt at sunrise, when Aries was shining. However, about six hours earlier, when Capricorn shined, the Creator slayed the Egyptian first born while the Jews ate their very first Passover meal. Therefore, the sign of Capricorn also played a role in the redemption story. That's why a goat can also be used for the Pesach offering.

Meditative Focus


Despite having studied the Jewish mystical classic Tanya for years and years, I was left with a very blurry understanding of how the book's author, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, explains the role meditative focus plays to enhance the performance of a Mitzvah (a Torah commandment). Just this past week, while rereading this topic in Tanya, it finally clicked for me. The next day, I confirmed my understanding with a professional Tanya teacher.

What I discovered is that meditative focus is supposed to place the person in touch with the Creator's reaction to his/her Mitzvah. 

For example, if one works himself or herself into a deep enough state of love and awe of the Creator before praying, this ecstatic state can actually elevate the person to a spiritual level where s/he can taste the Creator's reaction to his/her prayer. S/he will actually glow with delight and shine from being placed in contact with the Creator's reaction; channeling the delight. 

However, because of the limits of the body the Creator's delight in our Mitzvahs can only be partially experienced by us in our current state.  However, when a person passes on, his/her meditative focus behind the Mitzvahs actually enhance his/her paradise. As a soul is less limited than a body, the person feels more acutely the pleasure the Creator had in his/her Mitzvahs, while on earth.  His pleasure wraps the soul like a garment. The garment serves as a filter, allowing the soul to be safely absorbed in the very brightly luminous delights of paradise. Otherwise, the lights would be too bright for the soul to take.

Accordingly, the level of meditative focus determines the level of paradise the soul is admitted into. If one generally worked up a deeper state of meditative focus, then s/he'll ascend to higher level of paradise. Generally, this state of meditative focus is developed though contemplation over deeply spiritual themes, like the Creator's Oneness or Kindness. If one wasn't in the habit of contemplating, the very fact the his/her Mitzvahs were performed with an appreciation of Whom the Mitzvah is being performed for, indicates that there was some latent emotional state behind the performance - even if not openly felt. In such a state, the person is admitted into a lower level of paradise, where the Creator's pleasure for such a Mitzvah resides. His pleasure wraps the soul as a garment, allowing the soul to take in the pleasures of lower paradise.

However, the tastes of paradise are not the ultimate. There are even deeper spiritual pleasures then paradise, which will first become available at the resurrection. Souls who spent years and years in paradise, ascending level to level into deeper divine bliss, will come scrambling down to the earth plane to experience the delights of the resurrection. This is an obvious indication that the resurrection has pleasures to offer that aren't available in paradise, even at the highest levels. At the resurrection our experience of the pleasure the Creator's took in our Mitzvahs will reach new unprecedented peaks. We'll need a special supply of strength to take in the ecstasy of that day. It will be that potent!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soul Space

Today, I was contemplating how social media is redefining our experiences of tribe or community. I have for the very first time became part of a few Facebook groups that really hit the spot for me. I felt like I came home. There is real resonance with the people on these groups from all over the world. We are united by a common deep seated interest in Kabbalah as a means for improving the world we live in and also for our personal spiritual connection. For the very first time, I feel part of a community without borders - a community not formed around a physical space, but, rather formed around a cyber space. These are my new neighbors. This group is my new neighborhood. Here I resonate, I shine. Here I am warmly accepted without judgement. Here I don't have to be perfect. Being truly plain old "me" fits in just fine. I can let my hair down. There's nothing to prove. I just share and allow in the sharing of others.

Then it dawned on me, "Maybe the reason why a cyber-community can replace a geographic one is because community was never about people sharing physical space to begin with. It was all along, about people sharing something else entirely - spiritual space, soul space or more accurately simply their souls. Souls know no borders. One soul is pliable enough to merge into another soul, granting both souls with the feeling that they've enlarged. If lots of people do this (knowingly or not), a true community or tribe is born. Passages between the souls have formed - bonding them together."

Maybe the next step in community development and communication is not cyber based social media, but, rather telepathy - soul talk?


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Flavors of Light: Pleasures & Happiness

The following is a supplemental essay to the first part of "Future Couple". Here's the link to "Future Couple" for reference:

Spiritual light constantly streams into our beings, dispensing her many sweet sensations. Among her many sweets are: pleasure, happiness, awareness, love, amazement, entranced by beauty, confidence, humility, a sense of connection and ability.  Wherever within us the stream of light travels determines what sweet sensations we experience. We receive light, but never shape her. We only expose her manifold latent flavors. Her stream can flow into us on any inner level. She can enter our souls, course onward into our minds, flow downward into our hearts and spread about our bodies or she can flow in the opposite direction from our bodies to our souls. No matter where her stream passes, at each inner location she exposes a very unique flavor - which can be dispensed as sweet thoughts, feelings or bodily delights.

The many sweet flavors dispensed by light are really expressions of the Creator's Infinity and Oneness. When experienced mentally, they are transformed into the sensations of cerebral pleasures and happiness. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch (1860-1920) explains at the outset of his teaching, "Make Happy, Be Happy", that when spiritual light streams through our minds' right hemisphere, we experience the pleasure of an intellectual flash. When the stream of light continues onward to our minds' left hemisphere, we experience the happiness of true understanding

Since the Creator is all that exists, by default, every taste is a taste of the Creator. The only question is, "Within every taste, which of the intertwined flavors is dominant, the flavor which expresses His Infinity or the flavor which expresses His Oneness?"

The taste of Infinity, with Oneness in the background, is the taste of pleasure. One is pleasured by the vastness of varieties and possibilities. There's a Chassidic teaching that a constant pleasure is not pleasurable. True constant pleasure requires great variety. In contrast, the taste of Oneness, with Infinity in the background, is the taste of happiness. One is brought to happiness by what comes together, i.e. by what finally connects. Imagine, the happiness of a reunion.

The reason why one of these sensations has to be passively in the background while the other is engaged in the foreground is because the two are never separate ~ the Creator's Infinity is Oneness and His Oneness is Infinity. Since in Him, they're both the exact same reality, the taste of one brings along the taste of the other.

In the messianic future, couples will be oriented to fill their lives with shared intellectual pleasures and happiness. In this sense, their prime activity will resemble souls in paradise. Messianic era couples, will strive towards greater and greater shared intellectual attainment into divine knowledge. This is exactly the way souls bliss in paradise.  Couples will become each other's primary study partners. As a couple attains deeper and deeper concepts, the male will primarily sense how the concepts run into the Creator's Infinity. He will expound on the vast reaches of concepts - how they stretch outward into ever greater abstraction. The female will primarily sense how ideas run into the Creator's Oneness. She will explain how ideas closely connect and are really closer to home than previously expected. What was thought to be out there is really right here. In short, he picks up on abstraction and she picks up on connection. In fact, since there's already some messianic light in the air today, couples can already start on this rewarding journey by spending some time together weekly in spiritual study and discussion.

Anything we experience is fragmented. This includes our perception and understanding of the most spiritual topics. Our perceptive faculties can't process the ultimate seamless state underlying our reality. The Creator is non-composite, i.e. perfectly seamless. Since our experiences do not match His seamless state, they should really have nothing to do with Him. So how do we taste flavors representing Infinity or Oneness? 

A possible response is that because the whole creation, spiritual and earthly, is happening inside of Him. Such experiences, which might appear fragmented, truthfully have everything to do with Him. They're not separate from Him.  Rather, they're seamlessly continuous with Him like dream characters are seamlessly continuous with the identity and mind of a dreamer. Only, as such experiences translate into the limitations of human perception, most of their content gets lost. The drop that remains comes across chopped up.  However, being Infinite, there are no boundaries to allow something to be "outside of Him". All's within!