Wednesday, May 26, 2010
שאו - Lift up, rise above your self-imposed limitations, above petty physicality, higher than the mundane world and the crass.
ידכם - Your hands which represent all of your actions in this world.* Your interactions with people, your involvement in the physical aspects of life. Every glance, every step, word...
קדש - Devote everything, your entire life, to transcedance, to the highest ideals, to holiness.
וברכו - And through this devotion draw down blessing to yourself and to the world.** Enrich the lives of others. Touch another person's soul with a smile. Spread the spirituality which you have merited to taste.
את ה- Your actions will bless the Eternal G-d of Love and Compassion. Transcendence breeds love. Every interaction will be surrounded with an aura of compassion and wisdom.
Below are two audio recordings of hispaalus on this pasuk:
* R. Hirsch on Shemos 30:18 writes regarding the כיור "The ministering priests themselves are continiously reminded that they do not enter the Sanctuary on behalf of the nation on the grounds that their 'doings and goinds' (יד ורגל) in their ordinary life are already sufficiently sanctified to justify their position...This symbolic nature of the priesthood is bestowed on the whole of the rest of their bodies by being clothes in their priestly garments. Only their hands and feet - the principle means of their doings and endeavours - remain unclothed. For these, comes the washing out of the basin." On Shemot 38:8 R. Hirsch continues "It is deeply significant that the vessel [כיור] which was to represent 'the moral keeping holy of one's acts and efforts, קידוש ידים ורגלים, was made out of women's mirros. Mirrors are articles which lay stress on the physical bodily appearance of people being an objection of special consideration. So that it was shown that the physical sensual side of human beings is not merely not exluded from the sphere which is to bsanctified by the Mikdosh, but that it is the first and most essential objection of this sanctification." R. Kook (Eyn Ayah) also views the washing of hands after the meal as an attempt to cleanse ourselves from excessive focus on the self which is often an outcome of eating. Symbolically, we wash the melach sedomis - the salt of Sedom, a place defined by selfishness - off our hands.
** For a new-age twist to this I found that raising my hands during the first part of the pasuk and lowering them down during the second part added an extra dimension to this meditation.
Monday, May 24, 2010
In Telz the theory was the same but their method was different. R. Yosef Leib Bloch advocated a calmer emotional arousal. He writes:
“A person should not force himself to learn with enthusiasm. He should not try to coerce his thoughts and energies towards this, because this way is unnatural. Furthermore, when someone "pulls" the enthusiasm forcibly ... he won't succeed, because the other forces and emotions which reside within him won't let one of the forces loose to be aroused and exalted by itself; they won't leave it alone. At this time - more than any other - the yetzer (impulse) that disturbs and hinders thought, stands vigilantly on guard so as not to allow the exalted emotion in man to achieve the pure, inner arousal which this sacred study ought to bring.
“So it is: man does not have the power to arouse his good feelings by forcing his nature; he cannot detach and hold the feeling of enthusiasm and excitement just in order to learn Mussar; he cannot push away at that time all that lives within him, to drive the yetzer from his heart...
“But rather this is the way to learn Mussar: The whole man, with all of his capacities and feelings, the man -as he is - should learn Mussar. He begins to learn calmly and patiently, with a sweet voice and profound observation; he hears every word he utters, examines it and feels it. The study, together with the pleasant and stimulating melody, energizes and brings the whole man to heartfelt inner enthusiasm... Then the whole man becomes exalted - his whole essence, the man with everything in him...”[iii]
In a different place[iv] R. Bloch expands on this approach:
“The most subtle impressions on a person, even if they are hidden from him, are very important…The goal is achieved specifically through these things which do not inspire much emotional arousal (hispaalus) and remain as subtle impressions since these reach to the most subtle “veins” of the soul and arouse them. When we do things more impactful and more identifiable – even when it seems to us that they make a great impression on the person and brings him to great inspiration and emotion – they do not, in truth, make such a great impression. This is because they make an great external impression which first moves the most petty aspects (kochos) of a person, then the impression fills the rest of the person, until the impression does not reach the higher and more subtle aspects of the person.”
[i] See R. Kook, Mussar Avicha, for a criticism of hispaalus.
[ii] See Ramchal, Derech Eitz Chayim concerning the power of hisbonenus.
[iii] Shiurei Da’as, Limmud ha’Mussar.
[iv] Shiure Da’as, Nishmas ha’Torah.
I just gave a shiur on Yir'as Shomayim. Since we have been discussing this topic, I would like to quickly mention the definition that I suggested (if anyone is interested in my mareh mekomos, I am happy to send them to you). Yir'as Shomayim is the perspective, both viz-a-viz oneself and the world, that Hashem is the Master of the World, that there is a particular order in the world, and that I can't act in a hefker way, rather only within the confines of that Divine order.
I was recently asked by a chaver a question that I have thought about on and off for a number of years - what is the best way of learning machshava. Should a person learn certain seforim, and if so, in what order? Should a person focus on topics? I would like present this question for discussion.
Since this question can be asked in different ways, let me define the parameters a little. Let's say that we are talking about a self-motivated person, in very late teens or early twenties, with some mastery of the Hebrew language, without much formal training in Jewish thought (besides basic knowledge).
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Let us add to this notion. One of the laws of ‘spiritual physics’ is that when a soul reaches out in an attempt to connect, it creates a magnetic pull whereby the recipient of this bid will experience a tug in his soul to come closer as well. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 1:12) shows us an example of H”kbh Himself modeling this for us, “They [the leviim] brought themselves closer to me…they brought me close [to them].” This may also be the yesod that Aharon HaKohen understood and acted with when iniatiing peace between enemies (see Rabbeinu Yonah on Avos 1:12).
At man’s core he is a spiritual creature with a burning desire to experience the taanug of connection. This connection is meant to take place in three ways – to G-d, to other man, to himself. When all the klipos are stripped away and a soul is given the opportunity to shine, this is the nature that will emerge.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
ספר מנורת המאור - אות [ריג]
והתורה שלומד ומלמד בעולם הזה מבכה עליו, כדגרסינן במדרש תנחומא: מעשה בחסיד אחד שהיה מתיחד במקום אחד והיה למד בו במסכת חגיגה. והיה מהפך בה ומהדרה כמה פעמים, עד שלמד אותה היטב והיתה שגורה בפיו ולא היה יודע מסכתא אחרת מן התלמוד והיה שוגה בה כל ימיו. כיון שנפטר מן העולם, היה בביתו לבדו ולא היה שום אדם יודע פטירתו. באה דמות אשה אחת ועמדה לפניו והרימה קולה בבכי ומספד ותרבה אנחתה וצעקתה, עד אשר נתקבצו ההמון ותאמר להם:
ספדו לחסיד הזה וקברוהו וכבדו את ארונו ותזכו לחיי העולם הבא, שזה כבדני כל ימיו ולא הייתי עזובה ולא שכוחה. מיד נתקבצו כל הנשים וישבו עמה ועשו עליו מספד גדול ועצום והאנשים התעסקו בתכריכיו וכל צרכי קבורתו וקברו אותו בכבוד גדול. ואותה אשה בוכה וצועקת. אמרו לה: מה שמך: אמרה להם: חגיגה שמי. כיון שנקבר אותו חסיד נעלמה אותה האשה מן העין. מיד ידעו שמסכת חגיגה היתה, שנראית להם בצורת אשה ובאה בשעת פטירתו לספד לו ולבכותו ולקברו בכבוד, על שהיה שונה אותה תמיד ושוקד ללמד בה. והלא דברים קל וחמר: ומה חסיד זה שלא למד אלא מסכתא אחת בלבד, כך, הלומד תורה הרבה ומלמדה לאחרים ומעמיד תלמידים הרבה על אחת כמה וכמה:
Rav David asked who is going to accompany us on our last journey.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Yona asked what about the end of the pasuk, loving Hashem? If we are to understand that Yiras Shamayim is the only thing which is in our control, then Ahavas Hashem is not. When it comes to loving Hashem, one can have all the proper thoughts and do the right actions but whether or not one will feel of love, is b'yiday shamayim. However, this is not the case with yiras shamayim.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed to us that when all the outer layers of Torah are peeled back, what emerges is one basic yesod: H”kbh’s deep, profound ahava for Clal Yisrael (The Zohar writes that were a person to be aware of H”kbh’s great love for him, he would have no choice but to run towards H”kbh with open arms. Any other response would be impossible). All of Torah flows from this root. As Rav Miller once explained to me, this is the fundamental teaching of all of Toras HaSod.
This paradigm is true of people as well. If we can find a way to peel back all the outer layers of a person, to navigate through the intricate web of features that have accumulated closer to the surface, we will discover an inner, vibrant self that is an inexhaustible fountain of love. We catch a small glimpse of this love as we see it manifested in those who appreciate the fire of Lag Ba’Omer, a day when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai penetrated deeply into himself in order to link his loving soul with the source of all love, Avinu Shebashamayim (a title we have from the teachings of his rebbe, R’ Akiva, Yuma 85b).
In the coming days and weeks, I would like to explore this inner goodness/love and a possible way to find it within ourselves.