Sunday, June 23, 2013

// // Leave a Comment

The Eye, the I and the Ayin – Part 1

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.

Our sages[1] stress that physi­cal sight is only pos­sible by vir­tue of the pu­pil, that black sphere of emptiness at the centre of the eye[2] through which light can en­ter and fall upon the ret­ina. The optic nerve that transmits the electric signals from the retina to the brain also does so through a point of void, the scotoma or blind spot. Sight occurs through me­diums of dark­ness and nega­tion.[3] The laws of physics are a re­flection of G-d’s metaphysi­cal laws that gov­ern all universes; the cor­poral reality mirrors the spiri­tual. (In es­sence, the natural laws are a manifestation of G-d’s Name, expressed through the material world.) [4] Hence, “spiritual sight” likewise can only take place through a space of self-nega­tion.[5]

The sum­mit of quiet­ness and in­visi­bil­ity of self, the “eye of the hurri­cane” or “calm af­ter the storm”[6] reached dur­ing medita­tion, is the spiri­tual equivalent of the pupil of the eye. The self-ne­ga­tion while standing be­fore G-d[7] is the door to ex­perienc­ing G-d’s immi­nence, intro­duc­ing the mystical phenome­non of devei­kus,[8] the eye to the Infi­nite. That this point of nothingness is the door to the Infi­nite is hinted at in the Tal­mudic maxim, “אין הברכה מצוי' אלא בדבר הסמוי מן העין” – “Blessing is only found in that which is hidden from the eye”:[9] spiri­tual bless­ing, mani­festation of the Infi­nite in­ner re­ality of all creation, is expressed only through the nullification of the physi­cal.[10]

In his book of Psalms, King David says, “The eyes of all look hopefully towards You, and You give to them their suste­nance in its fixed time.”[11] G-d gives con­tinu­ously. Receipt of in­flux how­ever has to be fa­cili­tated by the re­ceiver through the for­mation of a vessel. For the in­di­vid­ual, this spiritual vessel is formed through affirm­ing the soul’s natu­ral ca­pacity to look upward towards G-d.[12] It­self a part of G-d, this long­ing to re­ceive His Presence or In­flux is part of the soul’s re­ality and sub­stance.

To consciously experience the soul’s longing and de­velop a clearer awareness of G-d, we must create a vacuum in our own ego­cen­trism, in much the same way as G‑d Himself forms a space, as it were, for our separate ex­istence. This vac­uum is formed by pon­der­ing G-d’s greatness and by re­al­is­ing our own futility, thus cre­ating a win­dow in the ego through which the soul can communi­cate its own percep­tion, the natural devei­kus of the part with the Whole.[13]

According to the mas­ters of Kabbalah, deveikus is a state of su­preme at­tach­ment to G-d. Since all Mitsvos are expres­sions of G-d’s Will and His Attrib­utes, we unite with Him by per­form­ing His Mits­voth[14] and by do­ing G-d’s ac­tions we experi­ence His Unity – an expression of sym­pa­thetic reso­nance. How­ever, even while “imi­tating” G-d as it were, one’s ac­tions in harmony with the Di­vine, to truly ex­peri­ence de­veikus, to mentally and emotion­ally feel G-d’s close­ness, one has to be­come a vessel to G-d’s at­trib­ute of Nothing­ness, to see oneself as an exten­sion of G-d, a physi­cal tool of His In­finite Self.[15]

In Kabbalistic texts, G-d is referred to as Ein Sof. Literally “with­out end,” Ein Sof describes G-d as be­ing without end, a Being Whose Infinite Nature defies defi­nition or classifi­cation. Any delinea­tion limits and implies an ab­sence of its op­posite; as G-d is infinite and incomprehensible, His Essence lies beyond description. We can only say what He is not: Ein Sof – He is not limited.

The Kabbalists also speak of G-d hav­ing the attribute of AYiN - אין, “nothing­ness.” This can be understood on two levels. G-d is be­yond com­pre­hen­sion or intel­lect, above crea­tion, physi­cal or spiri­tual. This point we call AYiN: a place of pure poten­tial, be­yond boundaries, from where the whole of crea­tion is constantly re­newed.[16] G‑d also negates Him­self, as it were, hid­ing His Infinite Es­sence in or­der “to make room” for His crea­tions, much like a fa­ther who hold­s him­self back to give space for His child to de­velop. The ultimate in hu­mility and self-ne­ga­tion, this “noth­ingness” of self, is the attrib­ute of AYiN.

G-d’s hiding, the apparent nega­tion of His Light, the pupil of G-d’s Eye so to speak, enables Him to view and inter­act with crea­tion as a separate en­tity apart from Him­self, and to re­veal Himself within it. Darkness is para­doxi­cally the catalyst to Revelation and Providence: only ob­scu­rity “allows” G-d to in­terrelate with His crea­tions,[17] and the deeper the dark­ness, the greater the Revelation po­tential. Though He is eve­ry­thing,[18] He thus ap­pear­s sepa­rate from crea­tion and can thus oper­ate within His own set pa­rame­ters.

[1] Midrash Rabboh Numbers, 15:7, Rashi Deut. 32:10 כאישון עינו: הוא השחור שבעין שהמאור יוצא הימנו , and Rashi, Psalms17:8.

כאישון: הוא השחור שבעין שהאור תלוי בו ועל שם שחרוריתו הוא קרוי אישון לשון חשך.

See also Rashi, Lamentations 2:18.

[2] Called Ishon – אישון. See Rashi, Mishlei 7:2,

ותורתי כאישון עיניך: שחור של עין שהוא דומה לחשך כמו אישון לילה

Interestingly, Rabbeinu Bachye explains Ishon to mean “small man,” see R. Bachye, Deut. 32:10, בת העין נקראת אישון על שם שיש בה צורת איש, ולשון אישון על שם קטנות הצורה

[3] See Ecclesiastes 2:13

[4] Thus the holy name Elokim, which means “Powers”, i.e. G-d’s supremacy and control over all powers, natural and supernatural, earthly or angelic, is not only the same gema­triah as HaTevah – “nature”, showing nature to be merely an ex­pression of G-d’s power, but is also the gematriah of כנוי Kinuy – lit. nick-name, i.e. natu­ral laws are merely the “outer” expression of the holy Ineffable Name; thus he who studies science properly, can gain an awareness of G-d’s True Name.

[5] Similarly, we empathise by lowering our ego boundaries. What we are essen­tially doing is negating a part of the self, or the ego, in order to consider another person.

[6] See Psalms 107:29.

[7] This is hinted at in G-d’s answer to Moses (Exodus 33:20), "כי לא יראני האדם וחי" – “No man can see Me whilst living,” i.e. while in a state of self-awareness.

[8] See Sha’arei Orah (Rabbi Yosef Gikatilia), Gate 1.

[9] Talmud Bavli, Ta’anis 8b, Bovo Metsioh 42a.

[10] In a similar way, the flip side to zero is infinity. By approaching zero, we come close to infinity.

[11] Psalms 145:15

[12] An explanation heard from my Father, ob”m.

[13] See Ibn Ezra, Numbers 20:8 – דע כי כאשר ידע החלק את הכל, ידבק בכל ויחדש בכל אותות ומופתים – “Know, that when the part knows the Whole, he will cleave to The All, and bring about signs and wonders.”

[14] The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the word “Mitsvoh,” besides meaning command­ment, has the addi­tional connotation of connecting to G-d. See note 248 and Talmud Bavli Bro­chos 6a.

[15] Vilna Gaon. See Siddur HaGra HaSholaym p. 25, פ' אמרי שפר.

[16] See Part Four, Chapter Six.

[17] This is the meaning of כסא הכבוד – “Kisei HaKovod” – the Throne of Glory. The word “Kisei” re­lates to “kisuy” – cover or concealment: paradoxically, concealment of G-d en­ables revela­tion.

[18] Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, also Hilchoth Yesodei HaTorah 2:10.


Post a Comment

Welcome to Mystical Paths comments. Have your say here, but please keep the tone reasonably civil and avoid lashon hara.

Your comments are governed by our Terms of Use, Privacy, and Comments policies. We reserve the right to delete or edit your comments for any reason, or use them in a future article. That said, YOU are responsible for YOUR comments - not us.

Related Posts with Thumbnails