Sunday, December 22, 2013

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Another Excerpt from Eye to the Infinite

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What exactly is meditation? Would it be taking it too far to say that meditation is a Mitsvoh? Or that Mitsvos are medi­ta­tions? Sim­ply put, medita­tion is the focus of the mind on a specific thought, sub­ject or object,[1] the in­ten­sity of focus depend­ing on the method and skill of the meditator. The result of the prolonged purposeful fo­cus is a laser-clear con­scious­ness, free of con­flicting patterns and scat­tered thoughts. The ultimate goal is freedom of the ego, the con­sciousness that normally pervades and deafens a person from hearing or experiencing a higher consciousness. Medita­tion can be thought-orien­tated, or com­bined with speech,[2] or ac­tion-based - act­ing deliber­ately, with pur­pose­ and in­ten­t.[3] When the fo­cus is on G-d, or at­tachment to G-d, the medita­tion is a Mits­voh.[4]

Indeed, this is how the holy Baal Shem Tov explains the term Mitsvoh. As well as its literal meaning, “commandment,” Mitsvoh is re­lated to the verb לצוות – “to attach to”. Be­cause Mits­vos are G-d’s Will, through performing them, one connects to G-d, whether the mitsvoh entails action, intellec­tual fo­cus or emo­tional in­tent.[5] Thus the Zohar de­scribes the six hun­dred and thir­teen Torah ordi­nances as six hun­dred and thir­teen dif­ferent ways of attachment to G-d. Each Mitsvoh is an­other ad­vice, an­other pathway to the Creator.[6]

Torah and Mits­vos are a lifetime medi­ta­tion mo­dus oper­andi on G-d, a medita­tion ge­stalt that binds man and crea­tion to G-d.[7] This attachment is described by the Zohar, Rambam, Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon as the pur­pose of all the Mitsvos.

Each Mitsvoh is a meditative process that unites all one’s faculties to Ein Sof – the Infinite Creator, blessed is His Name. The Mitsvos involve all our being, our emo­tions and our intellect, enabling an unparalleled unity of consciousness and essence.

The exercises in this book centre primarily on this Divine precept and Mitsvoh - to cleave to G-d.[8] Though it may sometimes ap­pear that the medi­tation techniques and visualisations are similar to those of other disciplines, there are major differences. In medi­ta­tion, the place of focus is of paramount im­por­tance. In Jewish meditation, we always focus on the one G-d and His Presence, the One Who made a covenant with Israel. This is not the same as “univer­sal con­sciousness” or “the uni­verse”, “nothing­ness” or even “eve­ry­thing­ness”. Our G-d is not an omnis­cient but impersonal Creator, or a creator who has set the clock in motion and left it ticking. Our G-d is the personal G-d of Abra­ham, Isaac and Jacob, the G-d of the Mount Si­nai revelation, He Who pro­vides indi­vidu­ally for every living being.

Jewish medita­tion together with To­rah and Mitsvos create an ex­pe­riential knowl­edge of and close­ness to the G-d of Is­rael Who is everywhere and dwells with the seeker.[9] The seeker strives, not only to nul­lify him­self before G-d, his soul to be­come one with G-d, but to do the Will of G-d and be­come G-d’s partner in perfecting the world. It is this goal of per­sonal connection to G-d that is of prime impor­tance.

As the process of seeking and yearning brings down ‘light’ from the soul’s holy source, the seeker becomes a vessel to G-d’s Will and Light of Essence. His sig­nificance takes on infinite proportions.


[1] Or on emptiness. Focus on emptiness per se, as opposed to nullification of ordinary consciousness, is not generally practised in Jewish meditation, as will be dis­cussed.

[2] Speech may also be considered action; see Sanhedrin 65a and Shabbos 119a.

[3] Zohar I, 99b.

[4] Ma’alos HaTorah (Rabbi Avrohom of Vilna) in the name of his brother, the Vilna Gaon: any action per­formed for G-d (within the Torah’s parameters) is a Mits­voh.

[5] Toldos Ya’akov Yosef. Also Meor Einayim, VaYeiroh.

[6] Zohar Vol II, 82b. See also Toldos Yaakov Yosef, intro. Also Rambam, Iggereth Hamus­sar (Warsaw 1927 p.7). Also Rambam in Yad, Hilchos Yesoidei HaTorah, Chap. 2.

[7] Brochos 6a: כל העולם לא נברא אלא לצוות לזה and commentaries ad loc.

[8] Deut. 10:20.

[9] In actual fact, G-d is everywhere. But His Presence is felt by those who seek him and His Shechinoh is manifest with them. Thus, He is described as ‘dwelling in Jerusalem’ or in the holy Temple. As the Kotsker Rebbe answered his questioner “Where is G-d” – “Wherever you let Him in.”

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