Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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Eye to the Infinite - Ascending the Ladder

We are pleased to offer Eye to the Infinite, a Torah Guide to Jewish Mediations for Divine Awareness, in a weekly serialized form – with permission from and offer by the author…

Eye to the Infinite – A Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations to Increase Divine Awareness.

A Compendium of Meditations and Techniques, adapted from the Writings and Teachings of the Masters of Kabbalah and Jewish Theology.

The book and this post Copyright © 2013 by Aharon Rubin – serialized on the Mystical Paths blog with permission.

“And behold, angels of the L-rd ascending and descending” - (Genesis 28:12)

Stages and levels in approaching G-d un­der­lies a num­ber of Mitsvos in the Torah. Many commandments are made up of several parts. A Mitsvoh’s various com­po­nents and stages show the path to be taken in the spiritual as­cent as they corre­spond to levels within the soul’s psy­che, which in turn relate to the Ten Sephi­roth.[1] As il­lus­trated by the vari­ous names of G-d in the prophe­cies, these levels are pre­sent too in the vi­sions of the prophets, in­dica­ting the level of prophesy and the prophet’s particular level of aware­ness.[2]

It is important to acknowledge all levels of awareness. The Ari HaQodosh says that each level of awareness is composed of three parts, three stages in maturity: gestation, suckling and finally moichin – brains, or fully-fledged awareness. Every type of aware­ness, no mat­ter how seemingly small or in­significant, is a level of revela­tion, a particular name or description of G-d. As with the prophets of old, every person is “visited” by different ex­pressions of the Al-mighty’s Providence at different times and places, each per­son experiences G-d at differing levels. No two mo­ments are the same.[3] It is in­cumbent upon the individ­ual to util­ise the awareness he has, to be­ con­scious of its signifi­cance, to use it to probe fur­ther and to build on it. This mindfulness is a vital step in spiritual ascen­sion. Whether it be a level of awareness or a positive act, it is im­portant to be with that state and acknowledge it.

Let’s do that right now. Reading this manual is positive. So say to yourself, “I am do­ing the Will of my Creator.” Think about that for a few moments. Whenever you find yourself doing a posi­tive deed, experience the Creator’s nearness, acknowledge that state, stay with it and al­low yourself to take a walk in that Garden of Eden. This will deepen your experience and the effect of the deed. Not running away, being “in the moment,” will, paradoxi­cally, allow you to progress fur­ther.[4]

Several Mitsvos involve an element of mental ascen­sion. Each of the Mitsvoh‘s compo­nents provide a platform for con­templa­tion, a path for meditation. An example is the com­mand­ment of Tsitsis,[5] a Mits­voh that in­volves indigo-blue teche­les[6] strings tied to­gether with white strings on the four corners of a gar­ment.[7] The word Tsit­sis is derived from “tsits,” “to look,” suggesting that the Tsitsis are a tool by which to con­tem­plate G-d, implied by the verse, “and you shall see it [the Tsitsis] and [thus] re­member all the Mits­vos of HaShem.”[8]

Accord­ingly, Tsit­sis (fringes) have sev­eral dis­tinct medi­ta­tive elements. Making the Tsit­sis involves wind­ing the techeles string around seven white strings. The number of strings, windings and knots, cor­re­spond to various numbers of mystical significance. Ac­cording to some tra­di­tions, there are twenty-six windings in each tassel, equal­ling the numeri­cal value of the Tetragrammaton, and ten knots in groups of five corre­sponding to the Ten Sephiroth, on top of each tas­sel. These are to be used as a visual aid to “climb” the Sephi­roth tree.[9]

Atypically, a Tsitsis medita­tion is clearly delineated for us in the Babylonian Talmud.[10] The visuali­sation starts with the techeles. The marine origin and col­our are associated with the expansive calm, deep blue wa­ters of the sea, which association serves to still the mind.[11] One’s at­ten­tion is then drawn to the azure reflection of the clear, ce­ru­lean heavens of the Medi­terranean sky above in the ocean below, reminding one of Ezekiel’s vi­sions of the sapphire-blue firma­ment above the Chayos’ heads.[12] From there, you at­tach to the Kisei HaKovod, the Throne of Glory that lies above that fir­mament, the revelation of G-d’s Dominion, and so to G-d, Ruler of the universe.

Of all the colours in the rainbow, indigo (or techeles) is the near­est to black and the fur­thest from white.[13] The Ramban ety­mologi­cally re­lates the word תכלת teche­les (the indigo dye) to תכלית tachlis meaning the “end goal,” or “natural end-point,” linking the techeles’ dark colour to the last of the Sephi­roth, Malchuth, the Sephi­roh that repre­sents the end pur­pose, G-d’s origi­nal in­tention in creation, the revela­tion of His Sover­eignty upon Earth.[14] White, on the other hand, embodies pu­rity and unity,[15] it com­bines all colours yet is above colour, sym­bolising the G-dly Realm, tran­scendent yet im­manent, con­taining all yet para­doxically si­multa­neously re­moved from all creation.[16]

The indi­vidual is thus to approach a negation of the self[17] through meditating on the teche­les, whose colour, terminology[18] and symbolism depict the Sephiroh of Malchuth (Kingship), the at­tribute of G-d’s domin­ion, from whence he enters the G-dly Realm sym­bol­ised by the white strings. A spiri­tual journey of deveikus be­gins.

Tsitsis Visualisation

Look at the techeles string while wearing Tsitsis. (If you don’t have techeles, imagine one of the white strings to be teche­les.) Pic­ture the techeles-coloured sea, home to the techeles-snail. See the vast ocean, G-d’s creation, smell its salty spray. Ob­serve the re­flection of the blue sky. Turn your eyes upwards to the im­mense cobalt dome. Using the seven white strings and the one techeles string, contemplate the seven higher heavens and the blue-sapphire fir­mament above the four Chayos (the major An­gels). Think about the Kisei HaKo­vod (holy Throne of Glory), its infinite brightness eclipsing all creation, to Infinite G-d on the Kisei HaKo­vod, Who looks to each indi­vidual, the “seven eyes of G-d” [the Sephiroth] represented by the seven white strings. Now bring your mind down to this world. Bind your thoughts to the Tsit­sis. The four corners of the garment rep­re­sent the four Chayos. As the Shechinoh rests on them, so can It rest upon you. The five pairs of knots at the head of each Tsitsis tassel cor­re­spond to the ten Sephiroth. Use the knots to climb the Sephiroth, from Mal­chuth and Yesod, till Chochmoh with Kether. Bind yourself to the Ohr Ein Sof that flows through Kether and Chochmoh, and then through all the Sephiroth. All the Sephiroth are ways through which G-d di­rects the world, and are one, absolute unity. The knots go up to the one­ness of the gar­ment, repre­senting the Unity of Ein Sof, the Unfathomable Infinite One, blessed be His Name for­ever.

Visualisation Exercise

Whilst wearing the Tsitsis, look at one of the techeles strings. (If you do not have techeles, imagine one of the white strings to be techeles.) Pic­ture the techeles-coloured sea, home to the techeles snail. See the ocean’s vast expanse, smell the waves’ salty spray, marvel at G-d’s creation. Observe the reflection of the bril­liant blue sky; turn your eyes upwards, towards the endless, cobalt dome. Contemplate the seven heavens and the blue-sapphire fir­mament above the four Chayos’ heads. Then, the Kisei HaKo­vod above them, whose infinite brightness eclipses creation, to Infinite G-d on the Kisei HaKovod, Who looks with Divine Providence to each indi­vidual, the ‘seven eyes of G-d’ [Sephiroth] represented by the seven white strings. Now bind your thoughts to the Tsit­sis. The four corners represent the four Chayos. As the Shechinoh rests on them, so can It rest on you. The five pairs of knots at the head of each tassel corre­spond to the holy Sephiroth. Climb from Mal­chuth and Yesod, till Chochmoh with Kether. Bind yourself to the Ohr Ein Sof. All the Sephiroth, ways through which G-d directs the world, are one, absolute unity. Follow the knots up to the oneness of the garment. The garment represents the Unity of Ein Sof, the Unfathomable Infinite One, blessed be His Name forever.

( Interested in Techeles – Blue String Tzitzit on a Tallis or Tallit Katan? )

You can buy them at:

( ad and store not associated with the author Rabbi Rubin or book Eye to the Infinite )


[1] See for example Exodus 6:3 and commentaries ad loc.

[2] See Part 4, Chapter 9.

[3] Sha'ar HaKavvonos and Nefesh HaChaim.

[4] Me’or VoShemesh.

[5] Numbers 15:32.

[6] Techeles is a dark violescent/indigo dye, extracted from the chilozon (though still con­troversial, the chilozon [snail] is today widely under­stood to be the Murex Trun­culus sea snail), used to dye wool for the Mits­voh of Tsitsis and for certain clothes of the High Priest. From historical records, it is apparent that techeles was worn primarily by the royalty, and by the Levites at important occa­sions.

[7] Numbers 15:38-39. All males are required to attach Tsitsith (fringes) to the corners of their four-cornered garments. One of the fringes on each corner is to be dyed with techeleth (a special blue dye).

[8] See Ramban ad loc. 15:32, 39, Rashi 15:38 quoting Sifri 115, that the term Tsitsis comes from 'ציץ' tsits, meaning “to look,” a hint to the inner purpose of the Mitsvoh of Tsitsis.

[9] See Orach Chaim 24:5 quoting the Reqanati [Shelach].

[10] Menachoth 43b.

[11] Looking at one’s Tsitsis is actually prescribed by the Arizal as an antidote to anger. The sea is also kab­balistically associated with G-d’s attribute of Malchuth, the revelation of His do­min­ion: see Zohar Vol. III 226b.

[12] Ezekiel chap. 1. See also Zohar ibid.

[13] Goethe: “If darkness is seen through an illumined semi-trans­par­ent medium, a blue col­our ap­pears.” Theory of Colours, pp. 150–151.

[14] Ramban ad loc. See also Targum Yonoson and Rashi ad loc, and Zohar Vol. III 226b. Also Sha’arei Orah, Gate 10, Zohar III 275a, Metsudoth Dovid - Ta’amei HaMits­vos Le­hoRa’avad, Mitsvoh 84.

[15] See Metsudoth Dovid - Ta’amei HaMitsvos LehoRa’avad, Mitsvoh 84 and Ohr HaChaim ad loc. Also Daniel 7:9, Malbim ad loc.

[16] White light has been described as “a colour” composed of the seven colours of the rain­bow (New­ton) and conversely, as being above all colour – “the simplest, most undi­vided, most homoge­nous thing” (Goethe). These two apparently conflicting opinions echo the RaMaQ’s description of the two states of the Ineffable Name: that which lies above the Thir­teen Attributes of Mercy and Ten Sephiroth, i. e. the Source of all, and that as expressed through the Sephiroth.

[17] Interestingly, it is customary to cover the eyes and part of one’s face with the tallis while reciting the blessing on the Tallis. Covering the eyes (also found in other Mits­vos, noticeably the re­citing of the first verse of the Shema) is symbolic of the Sefiroh Mal­chuth (Divine Presence), de­scribed metaphorically by the Zohar as “the beauti­ful maiden with no eyes.” Covering the eyes or face is also a sign of humility and self-ab­nega­tion.

[18] Intriguingly, the Arabic for indigo is nil (see Teshuvos HaGe’onim Vol. 2, p. 333).

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