Tuesday, June 04, 2013

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Eye to the Infinite - Man’s Uniqueness and Purpose

We are pleased to offer Eye to the Infinite, a Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations for Divine Awareness, in a weekly serialized form.

Eye to the Infinite – A Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations to Increase Divine Awareness. Copyright © 2013 by Aharon Rubin – serialized on the Mystical Paths blog with permission.

Herein lies the difference between the hid­den re­ality of In­fi­nite G-d – the All – and the Name of G-d[1] that is re­vealed within the sub­jec­tive re­al­ity (or nec­es­sary illu­sion) of the world, in vary­ing de­grees, lev­els and lay­ers. In the Shir HaYichud (Song of the Unifica­tion), of the third day of the week, we read[2]:

“He [G-d] has no limit,

He cannot be divided;

He encir­cles all and fills all.

[G-d!] Nothing is outside of You,

Nothing [takes up space] within You.

Nothing is separate from Your midst,

Nor is the slightest place without You.

From nothing are You withdrawn or separate,

Nor is any place empty of or without You.” The Ein Sof (Kabbalistic term for G-d, meaning “Without End” or In­finite) knows no boundaries, lev­els or separation of mat­ter or even of spirit. Crea­tion, however, oper­ates through the paradigm of con­striction, which enables the revelation of G-d’s Name. Since the In­ef­fable Name describes G‑d’s continual willing into being all of creation through levels of con­stricting and veiling of His Light, its revelation within creation is in relation to those levels. Creation works strictly within the pa­rame­ters of those lay­ers but man has the ability to ac­cess the Infinite, to reach inwards through his own under­standing and by the simple merit of his connection to the Source of all, and enter the hidden reality, making it manifest within the lay­ers of crea­tion, and ul­ti­mately within the physical world. Though (gen­erally) the various levels of crea­tion remain static within their given fields of spiri­tual en­ergy,[3] man is in a con­stant state of flux, spiritu­ally moving from one realm to another through his personal ex­pres­sion of as­piration, thought, speech and ac­tion, com­bined with indi­vidual­istic aware­ness of G-d’s Unity, af­fect­ing thereby the en­tire cos­mos – the physi­cal, the spiri­tual, even the G-dly realm. This is the se­cret of man’s purpose. “G-d created man in His form”[4] (Gen. 1:26-27), ex­plains Rabbi Chaim of Vo­loz­hin, [5] meaning that man with his Di­vine soul con­trols all spiritual mani­festa­tion and in­fluence. By dint of his soul’s origin, rooted within the G-dhead of Di­vinity, he has access to the highest mani­fes­ta­tions of the Infi­nite and is able to draw those down as spiri­tual influx. Man is thus a bridge be­tween the su­pernal and lower worlds, a conduit between G-d and His crea­tion.

Although the whole world is the Name of G-d in its various de­grees of revela­tion, it is specifi­cally that revela­tion of G-d’s Name[6] as it is in the highest sphere, the innermost reality, the world of pure Divinity known as the World of Ema­nation [At­siluth - אצילות], that is man’s unique privi­lege and mis­sion to make manifest in this lower, physical world. This is what King David re­fers to when he says,[7] “You have made him little less than Di­vine,” and, as a di­rect re­sult of that de­sign, “O L-rd, our Master, how mighty is Your Name through­out the whole Earth.”

Man’s uniqueness lies in his innate connec­tion to G-d in the darkest corner of creation, his po­ten­tial to re­veal G-d within this realm of gross physicality, to com­bine the Infinite with the finite, and his abil­ity to access spiritual reality through his sub­jective aware­ness within the natural boundaries of the universe. His strengths are his soul (as the Zohar says,[8]What is meant by ‘your strength’? This re­fers to the soul, a person’s strength”), his cogni­tive abil­ity and his power of focus.

By perceiving the Di­vine through intelli­gent cog­ni­tion and through faith,[9] the unique gift of the Hu­man soul, through seeing G-d’s Hand in nature or through ex­peri­encing Hashgochoh Protis (Di­vine Provi­dence), even a mere glimmer, the echo of G-d,[10] he re­veals that Di­vine influ­ence through fo­cus­ing on it, acting on it and fully ex­peri­enc­ing it. This is achieved by means of medi­ta­tion, prayer and deed that are mindful and in harmony with his convic­tion, which draw Divinity down into cor­poreal real­ity. It is the sub­con­scious awareness of this ca­pacity, his purpose to at­tach to Ein Sof and his innate attachment to the Divine that gives man his drive, his pas­sion to aspire.

The extent to which we can truly make G-d our reality is the ex­tent to which we can live a life of miracles. This is not a one-time event but rather a gradual journey of growth and introspection, a process through which the ideas, visions and understanding, gained through prayer and meditation, are continually integrated into our lives.

The higher man can grasp the metaphysical, the greater his ef­fect on the dy­namic equilib­rium of the cos­mos. As Rabbi Efrayim Moshe, grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, writes::

“When a person desires to cleave to G-d, he causes an arousal from below, which causes an arousal above, and in­flux and life is manifest for him and for all the universes.”[11]

The more vivid his vi­sion, the greater his de­sire for at­tachment and the stronger the pro­phetic[12] po­tential and re­sul­tant spiri­tual manifestation,[13] his abil­ity and capacity to reveal G-d’s Pres­ence within the world and elevate all creation, is di­rectly propor­tional to his emo­tion and perception, his hope and ambi­tion.


[1] This is why this Name is described as “holy and awesome”: holy means transcendence, awe­some de­notes G-d’s immanence; these two attributes describe G-d as He “con­stricts” His Light through His Name.

[2] אין לו קצה ולא יחצה, סובב את כל ומלא את כל, אין חוץ לך ואין בינותך, ואין בתוך ממך נבדל ואין מקום דק ממך נבדל, ואינך נאצל מכל ונבדל, ואין מקום רק ממך ונחדל.

[3] Rabbi Josef Gikatilia’s dissertation on Nochosh [the primordial snake]. The exception to this rule is called a miracle; see Eits HaDa’as Tov (Rav Chaim Vital), Psalm 114.

[4] See Pirkei Ovoth [Ethics of the Fathers], 3: 14, Sanhedrin 46b. (This verse is of-course theologically challeng­ing and begs the question, as G-d has no form, as stated clearly in the Ten Com­mand­ments, what is meant by “G-d’s form”? The an­swer lies in a deeper understanding of the Hebrew word for “form” or.“image” – “tselem”. צלם - “tselem” can be seen to be de­rived from the word צל – “tsail,” meaning “shadow.” G-d’s Infinite light is revealed through be­ing “down-sized” or constricted, using the process of the Sephiroth. G-d’s “form” or “Tselem Elokim” is His Infi­nite Essence ex­pressed within the Sefiroth. The Di­vine soul, a “por­tion” of G-d, when placed in man, based as it is on the arrangement of the Sefiroth, is there­fore G-d’s im­age too. It is through this dichotomy, the high­est Light placed within the crud­est vessel, that man holds the strings of all creation.)

[5] Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (1749-1821), prime disciple of the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797). Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 1. See also Shnei Luchos HaBris, Toras Odom.

[6] His actual Name, as opposed to degrees of manifestation from a metamorphosis of the Name in the lower worlds, as G-d “hides” and constricts His Glory.

[7] Psalms ibid.

[8] Zohar, Vol. I 196b

[9] There are three types of faith: 1. conviction based on logic, 2. blind faith, which in­volves an intellec­tual jump and ac­cepting what is not understood, and 3. intuitive faith, a deeper knowledge, a resonance with the inner reality based on being attuned with one’s G-dly soul. The He­brew word for faith, אמונה, means primarily strength or conviction. The faith of Judaism should not be ‘blind faith’ but should start with a strong conviction based on logic and blend with the intuitive, inner knowing.

[10] See Talmud Yerushalmi, Shabbos 6:9, Zohar Vol. III, 168b. Also Dover Tsedek (Rav Tzad­dok HaCohen), p. 174-176. Often G-d’s word is hid­den, distorted through veils of physical­ity (Me’or Einayim). With the correct mindset however, one can ‘hear’ G-d’s message in all cir­cumstances; even if unable to understand the message, the mere knowledge that G-d is continu­ally speaking to us, can be suf­ficient to break through out­side ‘husks’ and access G-d’s Light. (Baal Shem Tov – see Kesones Pasim 27a)

[11] In his sefer, Degel Machaneh Efrayim:

כשאדם מתאוה לדבק בקב"ה, בזה הוא מעלה בחי' מ"ן ונתעורר בחי' מ"ד מלעילא ונולד שפע וחיות לו ולכל העולמות

[12] The terms “prophecy” and “prophetic” are used here in their wider sense to mean any Di­vine communica­tion; this even includes an internalisation and experiential realisation of the soul’s longing for G-d (- see Epilogue). [See Derech HaMelech (The Way of The King): Rabbi Kalo­ny­mus Kalman Shapira ztv”l Hy”d (1889–1943).]

[13] See Zerah Qodesh (HoRav Naftoli Tzvi of Robschitz), Bereishis, first paragraph.

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