Given November 25, 2017
We’re up to perek heh—chapter 5 of “Derech Ha’Shem” by the RaMCHaL, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzatto. In this perek, he talks about the components of the briyah—Creation What is Creation made of, basically?
Its components are comprised of the different types of beings. It’s fascinating to see who our “neighbors” are, if you want to use that word. You’ll find that there are a lot of interesting “beings” out there. They exist because they all contribute in some way to the whole purpose of man, and that’s really the essential idea. It’s the whole tachlis of the briyah—the purpose of Creation.
We know, of course, that there’s an individual being called the “Jew” and his job is to do mitzvos— commandments for the specific intent of purifying matter to dematerialize the universe. That’s really what it’s all about, to re-transform the physical universe called “Olam Ha’Geshem”—the physical ‘world,’ into a spiritual place.
Most people think that, if you does a certain job—this is true especially of other religions— you’re gonna wind up in a certain place. That’s what they think, that if you do the right thing you will wind up in heaven or wherever. But, it’s always another place because this place is terrible, so you gotta go to another place, but that’s a false idea. The truth is that the job of the Jew is not to go anywhere; it’s to stay here to retransform this world into a spiritual world. That’s the incredible thing. It’s not about leaving to go somewhere else. It’s a matter of changing the environment or changing matter itself, literally. The way we do it, of course, is though mitzvos. That’s the way we do it. That’s the purpose of Creation called zikuch—to purify, to decontaminate a substance which is contaminated. When you decontaminate it, you purified it.
Components and Mechanism of Creation Based on “Borer”
I once asked a guy about this malacha called “borer” regarding Shabbos. “Borer” literally means “to select,” right? So, the guy told me that he’s learning borer, that particular activity which is forbidden on Shabbos. If you have two things in front of you, have “good” and “bad” as relative terms, and you wanna select—let’s use the terms “desired” and “undesired”—and you take the undesired out and leave the desired, that’s called “borer.” So, I asked him, “What exactly is the essential idea of borer?”
He said, “I have been learning it for three months but I really have no idea. I can tell you what it is but I can’t tell you what’s called the “malacha”—activity, what that is. I don’t know.”
It’s astounding that I’ve met so many guys that learn borer and have no clue. They can tell you the halachos—laws, but they don’t really know what is it that the Torah is particular about in terms of what is not to be done. It’s called “hakpada HaTorah”—what the Torah is particular about.” What exactly is it? Every malacha—activity on Shabbos has some specific aspect which I call “forbidden key point” for which the Torah says “no.” That’s the idea. You have to identify it. Anyway, he didn’t know; most people don’t know. The interesting thing about it, and that’s why I bring it down, is because I said, “Okay, let me give you three examples…” and that’s all you need to know. Forget about two, three months in the kollel. Three examples, okay?
So, in front of you where you sit, on a table, there’s an apple. You take the apple and give it a crunch. What have you done? Besides the eating, you’ve displaced the apple. You repositioned the apple, correct? That’s all you’ve done. That’s not borer, right? That’s not “selecting.” You just repositioned an apple, right? That’s the effect.
Now, you have two apples. You take one to eat. What have you done? One thing you’ve done is to reposition one apple. The second thing you did is to separate this apple from that apple, yes? That’s not borer. I’ll give you a third case.
The third case is that you have two apples and two oranges. I don’t want the orange; I just want the apple. So, I take an orange away from the group. What have I done? The first thing I’ve done is to reposition the orange. The second thing I’ve done is to separate the orange from the apple. I’ve separated two things, but that’s not borer either. So, what is it?
Because you removed the orange which is a contaminant to the apple, you “purified” the apple. There’s a group of apples and the oranges were smack-in-the-middle of that group. You don’t want the orange. When you remove the orange, what are you really doing? You are purifying what’s left, which is only apples, decontaminating them. That’s borer.
You realize that borer is not “repositioning.” Borer is not “selecting” or “separating.” No, borer is to take that which is a contaminant—and there’s a definition for that—and separate it from a group of that which is desired, allowing the rest of the group to be only one substance, basically. That’s called “decontamination.” That’s borer.
What’s the mixture? Therefore, borer has to have two halachos, rules, always. There always has to be a mixture of a “contaminant” and a “desired” or else you are not “purifying.” If there’s something that doesn’t belong there and isn’t there, you’re not decontaminating, not purifying. There’s gotta be something you don’t want there with something that you do want; that’s makes a borer.
The second rule is that they must be close—proximity. There must be a group. If you have an apple here and an orange there at the other part of the room and I take the orange away, it was never contaminated. That’s why borer needs two conditions: that which you do not desire which is the contaminant, and proximity. Those are the two fundamentals of borer.
In the briyah, there’s borer. What is the borer? What are the components in terms of the state of the universe?
The first “state” is that of geshem—material, physicality. What’s the contaminant? The contaminant is the zuhama, the pollution of the Satan (that was inserted) after the sin of Adam Ha’Rishon. That’s the problem.
In terms of geshem, let’s say that the first act of decontamination is to remove the tumah, the pollutant, the contaminant, from a physical universe, to get rid of evil. That’s borer! When you think about that, it’s a classic act of borer, to remove tumah, zuhama, whatever the pollution of the Satan is. That’s the first act of borer.
If you remove that, the influence of the Satan in the physical universe—which is, incidentally, the second law of thermodynamics which says that everything decomposes—can you do anything else? Is the universe still contaminated?—yes. It’s contaminated with physicality. When you’ve removed that, you’re left with a spiritual universe.
We don’t realize that we don’t “create” a spiritual universe. It’s here already but it been contaminated with physicality! It’s an interesting way of looking at it. The spiritual universe has been rendered contaminated with a physical contaminant called geshem—materialism or physicality. It was rendered contaminated a second time after the sin of Adam Ha’Rishon. The Satan has now been empowered he injects into it, so to speak, a thing called “zuhama,” his influence, his pollutant, his contamination.
So, all of these “burdens” sit atop the spiritual universe. Therefore, we need to remove—what? The first thing to remove is that zuhama, that contamination of the Satan. That’s an act of pure borer, isn’t it? That’s why it’s prohibited on Shabbos because it’s one of the creative acts. The second act of borer is to remove physicality itself. Someone could say: What? What do you mean remove the physicality? That’s what the universe is! It’s not! We don’t realize this universe is spiritual. What has been embedded into, and onto, this universe is physical substance, the materiality of the universe.
The Job of the Jew: “Zikuch”
The job of the Jew is called “zikuch,” to purify this universe, to remove the zohama and the physicality of the universe leaving a spiritual universe. That’s the whole job of the Jew. But it happens in levels, gradations, because even spirituality is contaminated. It’s interesting. We don’t realize that even a spiritual universe has blockage.
For instance, if you remove the physicality of this world, this world of Olam Ha’Geshem, of materialism, of physicality, first we get rid of the zohama. That’s Mashiach ben Yosef. Then comes Mashiach ben David, right and he gets rid of the geshem. Then, we’re standing at the End of the world, the six thousandth year and the world is over. This coincides with the Gregorian calendar year 2240. This means that the world is over in 222 more years (as of the year of this lecture given in 2017). Even the mashiach’s reign has to end. Mashiach ben David removes what we refer to as “physicality.” At the end of the year 6000, which is 2240, we are to be in a world which is spiritual. That’s the beginning of the seventh thousandth year called the “elef ha’shvi,” but does that exist now?—yes!
It’s called “Olam Yetzirah”—World of Formation. This world becomes Olam Yetzirah; it’s added on and that takes a thousand years. Olam Yetzirah is now filtered, purified, right? Its blockage is removed because it also has a blockage. Even denizens, residents, of that world, malachim—angels have a limited view because there’s some type of a blockage there. From 6,000-7,000, this world becomes Yetzirah.
Then Yetzirah becomes Briyah which is a higher dimension. From the years 8,000-9,000, the spiritual world is further refined and it becomes Atzilus which is the greatest spiritual world of Olam Ha’Zeh—this world.
By the eight thousandth year, what happens? You have moved up. Look how many filterings you’ve done! You’ve done zuhama, you’ve done geshem—physicality, then you moved into Yetzirah, then into Briyah, and then into Atzilus. Atzilus is beyond...we cannot fathom any of these worlds.
From the ninth thousand year, Atzilus, yet a higher spiritual dimension, is filtered and becomes what’s called “Adam Kadmon” which is Olam Ha’Ba—Future World. That’s the highest spiritual world and there are no blockages in that world. This is the job of the Jew, to retransform...retransform...retransform. It’s a constant filtering process.
Therefore, to aid this process, the Ribono Shel Olam has to create many, many different components to enable the Jew to do this filtering process. This filtering process affects the Jew himself; he too changes during this process. As the world becomes filtered and filtered and filtered, its purification doesn’t only apply to the world; it applies to the Jew, to his own body. Right now, we are physical beings and then we turn into spiritual beings and become ever-higher spiritual beings until you get to Olam Ha’Ba, a “place” we have no concept of nor can imagine what we will be in that world. We are to become the greatest spiritual beings with the greatest amount of spirituality. This is a continual process until it reaches fruition. That’s the task of the Jew in a nutshell, and all the components that Ribono Shel Olam creates facilitates and ensures the success of this process.
The RaMCHaL now tells you the components of the world. He explains the basic divisions, how many types of “beings” there are and the nature of each, the laws that govern each, that limit each, the properties of each, each one’s limits and laws.
It’s like the laws that govern this universe such as those of gravity. There are all kinds of properties of matter. As such, there are really “kinds of universes,” three “kinds of dimensions,” so to speak. One is physical, obviously. The second one is called a “spiritual domain.” There’s also a domain called “G-D.” That’s the domain of the Divine. G-D is not physical or spiritual because even spirituality is just a different type of “matter.” It’s comprised of spiritual matter instead of physical matter. The Ribono Shel Olam is not of matter nor is He physical and He’s not ruchnius—spiritual. What He is, is unknown. This truth goes back to the first perek of the RaMCHaL in terms of Who G-D is. Never make the mistake of thinking that the Ribono Shel Olam is spiritual; He’s not, not at all.
Actually, that concept itself can be subdivided...I’ll just briefly mention...what is not physical, not spiritual is the “Ein Sof” which is the shechina—Divine Presence, the highest level of shechina. It’s the greatest Presence of G-D. That manifestation of G-D is not at all physical or spiritual, clearly not. Even the shechina is not spiritual at all but the Ribono Shel Olam is beyond the shechina. There’s G-D in terms of His “appearance” that can be known to man even though we have no concept of what the Ein Sof is, the infinite being called “G-D.” Then there’s Ribono Shel Olam as “atzmuso” which is Who He really is which is unknown. You can’t use words and it’s not spiritual. it’s “nothing” as far as we are concerned. It’s beyond the concept of “some type of matter” or anything like that.
RaMCHaL says that this world consists of gashmium and ruchnium. It consists of physical beings and spiritual beings. That’s the basic division of the whole briyah, basically. Then he asks, “What’s the definition of a “geshem”? How do we define “gashmium”? Those beings which are perceptible to us at any level, are “geshem.” A being that is imperceptible is “ruchni”—spiritual. It’s a very subtle distinction.
Were I to ask you,“Are those things in the world that are imperceptible, physical?” what would you answer? For instance, if you turn on your radio, it plays. How’d that happen? It’s called a “radio wave.” Is a radio wave physical? Yes it is, because you can receive the effects of a radio wave. Therefore, a radio wave is physical. However, a radio wave is not physical the way we imagine physicality. It's electromagnetic radiation; it’s energy. Is energy physical? Of course it is, but what is it? Nobody knows.
The world is divided into matter and energy. Matter we know because it’s perceptible, but nobody really knows what energy is. I always get a kick out of the old definition of energy, “the capacity to do work.” That’s not a definition; that’s a consequence. If you have energy, you can go do something but what is energy itself? Nobody knows. The major idea of energy is that it can “push.” It’s a force, a force that can push. That’s all we know about what it is. The way energy always manifests itself is through motion. In other words: how is something in motion?—because it has energy that’s pushing it. If everything in the universe were motionless, would there be energy? If nothing moved, if everything were absolutely stationary—and there’s no such thing; everything moves though it may move very slowly—would we say there’s no energy?
What is the measure of something moving?—heat. What is “heat”? Heat is nothing more than the random motion of molecules. If they move too quickly and bounce, bounding into your hand, it’s called “heat” and it can burn you. When you freeze matter, freeze molecules which is the smallest unit of matter above that of an atom, the molecules move very slowly. The motion of molecules is measured in terms of heat, so the faster it moves, the greater the heat. The slower it moves, the “colder” we say it is until it reaches “absolute zero.” Absolute zero is when the molecules stop all motion; it’s impossible to reach that state. They’ve already reached the stage of molecular freezing. I think it’s a millionth degree of absolute zero—which is incredible! if something is stationary, motionless, would it have no energy? Everything in the universe is moving, everything. Every molecule is moving so the question is: if there were no motion, would there be energy? The answer is “yes” because, according to Einstein, matter is nothing more than “frozen” energy. If you freeze the motion of energy, it becomes a particle—amazing! It’s one of the greatest discoveries of all, that matter and energy are equivalent.
I am trying to show that even energy is physical, even if we can’t see energy. A radio wave is physical. Is light physical? Of course, it’s physical. Nobody has ever seen light. Light enables us to see everything else but nobody has seen a light wave which is based on the photon.
The physical universe itself has many aspects that cannot be known directly but we can experience them. That’s the key to perception. Perception doesn’t imply “seeing.” It means we can experience them and, therefore, they are detectable. The physical universe encompasses far more than just “physical” things.
Participant: Is it possible to detect spirituality?
R’Kessin: No, impossible.
Participant: Let’s say the malach will move my cup and I see the cup moving. Does that make the malach physical, in a sense?
Participant: Why is it…
R’Kessin: ...because his ability to interact with that cup is through spiritual means.
Participant: But I see the effect of it.
R’Kessin: You can perceive the consequence but you do not perceive the spiritual being that is causing that. For instance, there are people, like Avraham Avinu, who have seen malachim. Remember, those three guys showed up, the ones who came to Shimshon’s father, Manoach. They saw them. How does that work? The malach creates a physical costume, but he’s not the costume. It’s as if somebody puts on a costume but he is not that costume. A malach is able to create a costume that he can put on, like donning a suit, and you could see the malach through the suit. If the malach took off the suit, you could never see the malach. That’s what the RaMCHaL’s definition means. You cannot see or experience, in any way, a spiritual entity unless he decides to use the physical world to costume himself. That’s an important idea.
Participant: When I’m sleeping, I don’t remember a thing. When I wake up, I thank G-D for returning my soul. So, I don’t know where my soul went. When I’m sleeping, am I in a spiritual world or am I going to a spiritual world?
R’Kessin: You are in a physical world but your neshamah....we’ll get to that (later) because that’s the combination. You hold on for that. First, I have to… RaMCHaL is classifying the entities.
So, he says that anything physical can be experienced in some manner. If it’s really spiritual, forget about it unless a spiritual being wishes, in some way, to garb himself in some physical matter and he can just control the matter.
These things, themselves, are subdivided. What are the subdivisions of the physical? I’ve given you one. Within “matter of the physical universe” you have matter and energy. The RaMCHaL says also that there are physical things called the “galgalim” and the “chochavim.” This is astrology. Astrology recognizes that the stars, the planets and their orbits actually have influence on us. This is, of course, rejected by science; they have “astronomy.” Astronomy is the study of the heavenly bodies but nobody ever assumes that any of these heavenly bodies—stars, sun, planets, meteors, comets—have any kind of influence on us other than, maybe, gravity if these bodies get too close. That they should have an influence on our lives, character-wise or whatever: forget it. There’s no such thing.
But in terms of the ChaZaL—and you see this from Mitzrayim—Egypt and so on, there is such a thing called “astrology.” Astrology says that the heavenly bodies, no matter what they are, do have an influence on our lives. Therefore, the RaMCHaL says that the physical universe consists of people and all the heavenly bodies which have influence over us. The heavenly bodies are clearly physical.
Later on, he tries to explain that. We ask: What do you mean? You have some star three billion light-years away? How in the world…? What does it even mean that there is some type of influence over us? It seems like such primitive understandings but what he probably means, and I think he explains it later on, is that it’s not that they can do anything; it’s that the configuration of stars and all the heavenly bodies act in ways which reflect the configuration of the sefiros. They’re indicators. Somehow, the influence of these sefiros, which we will learn about, are spiritual entities. It’s like a thermometer which is an instrument; it’s an indicator of your temperature. A thermometer doesn’t create temperature; it just measures it. The stars and all the heavenly bodies don’t create the shefa—influence on us. They exert influence on us because of the spiritual entity they reflect. They indicate, exactly, the gzeros—influences, the hashpah of the spiritual entities called sefiros.
These are what one can call “intermediaries,” mediators, barometers, indicators of the sefiros. If you know the real astrology, you can actually figure out, at any given point, the certain sefiros that influence this way and that way. It’s a whole chochma—wisdom which can be read through the astrological signs. It’s not that Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky, actually has influence over you. When you’re born, that’s when it really kicks off. If you’re born, let’s say, when Mars is in a certain “house,”—there’s this house and that house—it indicates that the forces of the sefiros at the time of your birth influenced that moment and indicate what those forces “gave” you, what they left you with. The planets are intermediaries of the sefiros.
Why the Ribono Shel Olam “needs” stars and all that...apparently, that’s the concept as to the purpose of astronomical bodies, their reflection of the true meaning of the sefiros. Those sefiros, those spiritual entities called “sefiros” which are emanations of G-D, are that which truly cause everything. That’s how you can understand astrology. So, next time you join Astrology 101, you’ll know exactly what the underlying idea is.
Participant: Blood moons.
R’Kessin: Yeah, I spoke about the blood moon, the tetrad. It indicates a gzera. The fact that there were four blood moons consecutively on four yom tovim—if you remember that—means that the messianic time would start. I gave a whole shiur on that. Yeah, that’s what it indicates. When the moon turns red so many times, it indicates that there’s something happening in the spiritual domain. It’s an indicator, like a thermometer, not that it has any power to do anything.
The physical universe consists of these two things: the planet earth and its residence among the “heavenly” bodies. That’s the physical universe.
The Spiritual Universe
The spiritual universe, the RaMCHaL says, are beings that have absolutely no materiality to them, nothing. Because of that, they cannot, in any way, be detectable either through experience or anything else. That’s what distinguishes them from that which is physical.
I would like to add one very important concept. People make the tremendous mistake as to what they think “spirituality” is. I’ll give you an example. For instance, in India, there’s a discipline called “Yoga.” What the yogi tries to do via meditation is reach certain states of consciousness. It’s an interesting discipline, to develop the ability to meditate.
Fundamentally, without getting into the whole thing, they have the ability to focus on a single object to such an extent that all thoughts, feelings, sensations are gone. It’s like a laser beam. They can focus their concentration to such an extent that they don’t experience anything other than that object until, eventually, the object itself merges with them—not literally—but with their consciousness, a state that, somehow, transcends all types of physical or mental experience. They experience tremendous ecstasy as a result. Yeah, it’s an ecstasy. They call it “samadhi.” What is that?
The taiyna—argument, claim says that it’s spiritual. They experience this super-conscious state called “samadhi,” also called “nirvana,” like a kind of Olam Ha’Ba. To them, that’s ruchnius—spirituality because their understanding of ruchnius is mistaken, that which isn’t physical. I’ll explain why it’s not correct.
Were I to experience it, it would be as if I am not experiencing anything sensory. I don’t hear anything. I don’t see anything. I have no sensations at all. I have no thoughts, no feelings. I become a pure conscious being that, in no way, experiences anything through my senses nor do I have thoughts or feelings. At that point, it’s almost as if they “become” consciousness. It takes a long time to practice but, when they do that, they have become removed from the physical body—not literally—but they have, sort of, pushed the physical body out even while they are still in the physical body. This they experience as incredible ecstasy. Is that spiritual?—no.
They mistake experiencing non-physicality as something spiritual; it’s not. There’s a “middle world” called “mental.” Man is capable of experiencing a mental dimension, a mental “world.” They’ve gone into the mental world but that doesn’t make it spiritual. “Spirituality” means to be in contact, so to speak, with a spiritual aspect of self. It’s not meant to avoid the physical. You’re in the mental dimension. Ruchnius is when you experience something from the spiritual world even though the RaMCHaL says that you cannot detect a spirituality. In a certain sense, you can because you are the neshama, you see.
The only spiritual entity that you can experience is your own neshama; that’s ruchnius. The yogis in India—I don’t know about Hinduism—having excelled in greatly heightening, focusing, concentrating—that’s true—awareness so as to actually experience an incredible ecstasy because they’ve “disconnected,” so to speak, from the body, but that’s not ruchnius. Ruchnius is about experiencing some aspect of your own neshama and that you can do. That’s the mitzvah of nevuah. Nevuah is a spiritual experience because you can experience something as a result of your neshama. You go through your neshama to experience it.
I wanna point that out that these guys are not spiritual individuals. The concept of “spirituality” has been so diluted and so deformed! A guy goes to a concert, to a rock concert, right? He hears these guys playing and everyone’s jumping around. You ask this guy, “How was the show?”
“Oh! It was so spiritual,” he might say. Excuse me!
They’ll go to a five-star restaurant and eat a gevaldicke prime rib. “Oh, was that spiritual!” you’ll hear them say. The word “spiritual” has been so beaten to death. Don’t ever get fooled by these guys. “I’m spiritual,” is quite the claim. He wouldn’t know spirituality if he tripped over it.
The yogis are closer to spirituality although it’s still not spiritual. At least they’ve, in a certain way, removed the physicality by their focus on something else. They’re so focused on something that they and the object merge. In so doing, they actually experience their “being” devoid of the physical. You have to experience it to know what I’m talking about, but anyway...
Participant: Do they do it for escape?
R’ Kessin: It’s certainly an escape but they don’t do it for escape. They do it because they wanna achieve that state. That state of samadhi or nirvana. That, to them, is ruchnius.
Participant: Will they be experiencing their neshama?
R’Kessin: No, it’s not that either. No, it’s not. The only way to experience ruchnius is by doing something spiritual like mitzvos or being a navi, doing what a navi has to do. You cannot experience a spiritual anything, even from the neshama, just because you concentrate on a candle. It doesn’t work that way.
Participant: The chassidim rishonim—first generation of chassidim would take three hours to daven, one to get up and then to daven. Was that spiritual?
R’Kessin: No. The chassidim ha’rishonim, the first generation sages, used to meditate on G-D to prepare themselves. You don’t mean them; you mean Pardes, Rabbi Akiva…
Participant: Took an hour and then to come back from where they were.
R’Kessin: No. They were so heightened in terms of Who they were about to face that it was, literally, as if they were there. In other words, they emphasized the reality of tefillah, of standing in front of G-D, that it wasn’t something… If a guy davens—prays, he must imagine that G-D is in front of him. He’s got to imagine that; know what I’m saying? G-D’s not in front of him but one has got to imagine that. That’s assuming he’s not traveling around the world with his thoughts, distracted about this, that, and so on. They focused, concentrated so much, on the Ribono Shel Olam, that they were standing in front of Him—not only intellectually—that it became a reality. Emotionally, they felt as if they were standing in front of the Ribono Shel Olam but that’s still physical.
The Ribono Shel Olam did allow for ruchnius to be experienced and that’s nevuah or ruach ha’kodesh, the real ruach ha’kodesh, the real prophecy, nevuah. Nevuah is a spiritual state that the Ribono Shel Olam allowed a person to be in but, even then, you have to understand how it works. Even a navi has to go through a certain process.
Let’s take the highest spiritual state of all which is that of nevuah. A navi attended a school to learn how to become a navi. He had to go to “college,” so to speak. One could call it a “prophecy college,” or a “university of prophecy,” and there were many in the olden days. Anybody could do that, attend a planned program. You had to develop your middos—manners, do the mitzvos, rise in level of kedusha--holiness. Eventually, you are taught meditation techniques and to meditate on Divine names. What would happen, which we’ll get into later, is that it would elevate you and put you into a trance state. You were not sleeping. You’re fully awake except your whole body enters a trance state.
It looked as if he were sleeping but the guy was fully awake inside. Then, his imagination—‘cause everybody has imagination when you can picture anything—turns it into a kind of movie. It was in real time. Suddenly, Olam Yetzirah, that upper world, would become open to his consciousness and he would, actually, be able to speak to beings, malachim, in that world. When he spoke to them, he didn’t see them as beings of ruchnius, as spiritual beings. They had to clothe themselves in imagination itself. In other words, it was the imagination that could clothe them so he could speak to them.
For instance, Rabbi Akiva, and Rav Yishmael Atzmo in the prayer on Yom Kippur...there was a decree that they had to die by Hadrian, Adriunus, remember? So, they sent up Rabbi Shmuel—it’s a famous passage in Yom Kippur davening—sent him up, right? He didn’t leave. He shut his eyes and meditated on Divine names and went into this trance state and, in his imagination, he saw malachim. In fact, he spoke to one of them. He appeared as a man dressed in white behind a curtain. The malach said: it’s over with, meaning the gzera—decree. He saw this being in that world of Yetzirah but only through the mediation of his imagination. It was his imagination which “clothed the being” and it was in real time. He was really speaking to a malach, which is incredible!
That type of ruach ha’kodesh, when you can actually speak to a real being, still has to go through the filtering process called “imagination” but it was real-time ruchni. That’s the most you can achieve, when you can, actually, engage with ruchniustike—spiritual entities, but it’s still done through your imagination. That, the Ribono Shel Olam did allow. That’s ruach ha’kodesh, the real ruach ha’kodesh, not today’s ruach ha’kodesh which is different. The real ruach ha’kodesh is the ability to communicate with somebody in Yetzirah.
The real nevuah, which is much higher than ruach ha’kodesh, entails being able to see G-D through the imagination in terms of what He communicates to you. It’s the same thing in that the experience has to go through the imagination. The koach ha’dinyan, the imagination of the person, garbed the shechina—Divine Presence, and the shechina would talk to him. That’s the nevuah of Yishayahu, Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel, all the nevi’im. How did it work? They were not awake. They were in a trance, and the Ribono Shel Olam spoke to them directly through the imagination; that’s nevuah. It’s a spiritual experience, but you can’t see the shechina or anybody, but the imagination can. It’s not undetectable except through the imagination.
These other guys, like in India, don’t speak to anybody. They do achieve a state whereby they can stop or put “into obeyance,” so to speak, the physical body. That’s why some of these guys can be buried—I think for as long as a week?—and can lower their heart rate. They have tremendous control over the body; we don’t realize the focus ability of consciousness. We do not realize our power of thinking. If you ever learn how to concentrate, it could be like a laser beam. You can do incredible things and some of these guys have done that. They have experienced ecstatic states but that is not ruchni. It’s that they’ve suspended awareness of their bodies and no longer are subject to nervousness and all the ticks and pains of the body. Such a practitioner doesn’t feel those things. It’s what they call an “out-of-body experience” like “astral projections.” It’s still physical.
I once spoke to—it’s a real thing—a relative of mine, a woman, and she said that she sat on a chair and, the next minute, she was looking down on her body. She was floating above it. It’s an “astral” experience which is a phenomenon people have experienced. The question is: what in the world is looking at who? Obviously, consciousness is able to exit the body, but it’s still consciousness. It’s an interesting phenomenon. In a certain sense, they’ve exited the body and they could look down at the body. Then, they say they could travel. That’s a very interesting field in itself, that of the “astral.”
Participant: Can he get stuck in that state?
R’Kessin: I don’t think so. I don’t think he gets stuck in that state.
Participant: Why did nevuah stop? Does it have something to do with the physicality?
R’Kessin: No. It’s because shechina left, closed, shut the door. That’s the galus—exile. Once the Beis Ha’Mikdash got destroyed, that meant that you could not access the shechina, not even through imagination. It was a curtain, closed. That’s the galus. The Ribono Shel Olam “left” so you cannot access the Ribono Shel Olam even through the imagination anymore. That ended.
To reiterate, the concept of “ecstasy through meditation” is not spiritual; it’s physical. “Spiritual” is when you actually can contact, in whatever way, a ruchniustische--spiritual being through the imagination, but the contact is a ruchniustische being. That’s also ecstasy but it’s a whole different understanding of what spirituality is.
Remember, a mental experience or a non-physical experience is not ruchnius. It’s merely another higher dimension of the physical world like radio waves, energy, and so on. Obviously, a person can be outside his body but that doesn’t make him spiritual, you see. Then you have the whole phenomena of what’s called NDE’s, near-death experiences. That’s an interesting phenomenon in and of itself during which people that are temporarily dead see a tunnel, see a light. There are theories about that but that, too, is not spiritual. It’s a non-physical state. It can be terminated. They go through a tunnel, and that’s death, during which time they become not only non-physical, they come in contact with the neshama and then they are in a different universe all together.
This concept of “gashmius” is a huge area for discourse. It just doesn’t mean that: well, these are spiritual entities and these are physical—no. The physical universe itself has many states: physical, mental, and so on. I’m trying to give you examples of that, the concept of energy, matter, etc. Basically, those are the two fundamental components of the briyah.
That’s what the RaMCHaL teaches in terms of the physical and the spiritual. Remember, you can have a spiritual experience but you cannot detect or experience the spiritual being directly. You can’t do that unless he chooses to clothe himself in physical reality or you can see it through your imagination, but you can never know a spiritual entity otherwise. When interacting with someone, you can see who the other guy is. You cannot do that to a true spiritual entity. Even though you think you have spiritual experiences, you don’t.
So, if you know some guy who runs over to you saying, “Hey! I just had a spiritual experience,” you know he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If he says, “I just spoke to G-D,” that’s a whole different story.
Participant: That’s padded cell time.
R’Kessin: Yeah, you have to have rachmanus--compassion on such people. I remember, there was once a joke about some guy who went into an insane asylum and he’s recounting to a psychiatrist how he was screaming, “I’m the messiah! I’m the messiah!” Someone on staff asks the psychiatrist, “What’s with this guy? He thinks he’s the messiah.”
Then this staffer saw that, a couple of doors down, someone is looking out the bars on his door, laughing. He asks the inmate patient, “What are you laughing at?”
The inmate answers, “Cause that guy’s crazy. He thinks he’s the messiah.”
“How do you know he’s crazy?”
“Aha! How he could be mashiach? I’m G-D and I didn’t make him mashiach.” Each person has his own meshugaas—craziness.
Participant: So, what of Moshe seeing G-D face-to-face? What is that? Was that through imagination?
R’Kessin: Yes. “Panim el panim.” Moshe was a whole different level of nevuah. Moshe Rabbeinu could have prophecy while fully awake, meaning he didn’t have to be in a trance. Moshe Rabbeinu could experience the Ribono Shel Olam but, again, even that had to go through his senses. Moshe was a navi. You cannot experience a malach, let alone G-D. That’s impossible. The Ribono Shel Olam appears to you and you can experience the Ribono Shel Olam which is, obviously, what a navi does, but it has to be through the intermediary of a physical world. Even if Moshe experienced the Ribono Shel Olam, heard the Ribono Shel Olam, there’s no source of the sound waves. The Ribono Shel Olam can create a sound wave with no source so that you hear a sound wave. Does he see G-D? Even if he does, it’s like a personal vision but the vision is really the imagination. Forget about a dream. If you have a vision, what is that vision? It’s, somehow, your imagination picturing something. Moshe Rabbeinu could have such a vision. Again, he’s using his koach ha’dimyon—faculty of the mind called the “imagination.” He would be awake, and that vision was without any filters. That vision means that Moshe Rabbeinu saw G-D in a vision as G-D would appear in Olam Atzilus—World of Emanation with the least amount of filtration. Everyone else who saw G-D did so through various filters.
Participant: He can distort it?
R’Kessin: Yeah. Every navi would see the Divine image but a distortion of that image depending upon how many lenses, how far away they were from the source of nevuah, the reality of the world or dimension they perceived which is that of Atzilus because that’s “where G-D is,” but only in a sense of His relationship to Olam Ha’Zeh—this world. The shechina—Divine Presence is in Olam Atzilus. Moshe Rabbeinu could speak to G-D and see G-D in Olam Atzilus in terms of the vision but there were no filters. It was as if he were right up against that world. The only filter or lense was the actual boundary itself. There were no other lenses that blocked that vision. He had the clearest vision that any man ever had of G-D. No person ever saw through the physical universe to that type of image or vision that Moshe Rabbeinu saw. His vision of G-D had untold clarity, incredible clarity, no distortions, nothing vague. His was the greatest form of nevuah ever known, but even he had to experience the Ribono Shel Olam through some type of a physical reality. There’s no other way to do it. You can’t even experience a malach except through physical reality, let alone the Ribono Shel Olam.
This is the physical universe that the RaMCHaL describes and, as I’ve been pointing out, what people think is spiritual is not spiritual, is really physical. There’s a “mental universe,” you see. It’s very important to make these distinctions about the Olam Ha’Geshem, the physical world.
The next thing the RaMCHaL talks about is spiritual entities. Who are they? How many are they? What are they? For that, we’ll continue next week. I hope you guys have a handle on this. Just remember: if you experience something spiritual, it’s not the real thing although it could be in real time but then you’re not a navi so it can’t be in real time.
Participant: What’s that near-death experience?
R’Kessin: What about it?
Participant: You’ve mentioned before…
R’Kessin: Well, they seem to be real. There’s a lot of people that seem to have them. It’s hard to say that they’re all frauds. It seems that, in certain circumstances, like surgery or complete exhaustion or, literally, when with heart stops, that the consciousness can actually leave the body and can look down and hear everything. In other words, we all have a mental body that can be separated from the physical. It’s like a mental body that coincides with the physical so that the (mental) “I” can be conscious of something outside of its body. You don’t need a body to be conscious of something; it’s interesting. The body’s almost dead when, in that state, the connection between the physical body and the mental body with its consciousness actually separates. So, is the person dead?—theoretically not because, when he’s dead, he can no longer enter the body. At that point in time, it would be interesting to (know), if the body is dead, is the experience is spiritual? Probably. But these NDE guys are still alive, right? They come back and tell you about it. How could they know what to tell you if they’re dead? Therefore, as long as their body is alive, they can separate from the body, can be conscious of the body, can hear conversations. There are some amazing stories.
I’ll tell you one story I once read which boggles the mind and I don’t know how to explain it, a story I read years ago in Reader’s Digest; it’s got to be thirty, forty years ago. It took place in Switzerland while driving along one of the mountain passes. Someone stopped because there must have been a traffic accident somewhere and the whole highway was backed up. One driver speculated, “I don’t know, but it looks… sounds pretty bad, probably a crash somewhere further up. I’m gonna pray for whoever is in that car, pray for that person.” So, this person started praying that the purported victim should be well, that G-D should be merciful. Eventually, of course, they cleared the accident and the traffic flow proceeded.
A couple weeks later, the guy gets a phone call. Who’s the phone call from? He got a phone call from the guy that was in the accident. He’s thinking: I had to have been a mile away. It’s astounding. The accident victim says, “I wanna thank you for praying for me.”
The guy says, “Praying for you? How do you know what I was doing? I mean you're a mile…you were probably dead or even probably dead or dying”—whatever, you know—"so how could you possibly know who I am and that I was stuck in the traffic and that I was praying for you?”
“I’ll tell you; I was out of my body and everybody was cursing me—This guy should rot in gehennom!”—so you can imagine all the commotion ‘cause they’re honking: Hey, what’s the hold-up? What’s happening here?—and everybody was cursing me, but I can hear all the curses when, suddenly, I heard you praying for me, heard you above all these guys cursing.”
The guy says, “Wow, that’s incredible! Fine, but how’d you know who I am or how to locate me?”
“I went down the line. I traveled. My consciousness traveled and I took a look at your license plate.” Fortunately, they revived him. They sent him to the hospital. From the license plate number, he looked the guy up. “I wanna thank you for what you did.” I mean, this story is like: excuse me?
That’s a classic near-death experience; there’s no way to explain it. There are many stories like this in which people could not have known what was going on but they did. Here, the guy’s out of his body and travels to see the guy’s license plate and the interesting thing is that he could hear all the cursing. I find that very interesting. He can hear them. When there’s a traffic jam, you know what guys do; they go crazy. That he could hear it, that he could visit the car and see the license plate is beyond belief!
What an NDE experience simply demonstrates is that a person can leave his body, that there is some type of being beyond consciousness. That being can have consciousness not in the body, which is astounding. Were this not possible how could any of these people have had this type of experience and know what they knew? That’s what I call the “mental world.” There’s the concept of an “aura” that you actually have around you and people can feel that aura. The aura changes color. It’s called “Kirlian Photography,” if I remember correctly.
Participant: Is that spiritual?
R’Kessin: No. It’s part of the mental world. It’s experienceable; that’s the whole point. It’s not ruchni.
Participant: They take a picture before a guy put on tefillin and after he put on tefillin. Hehas the aura and, before, he didn’t have it. It was attributed to the mitzvah.
R’Kessin: Oh! So, what that probably would mean is that the aura, which is physical, can change, just like the imagination. In other words, it still has to reflect, as an aura, just like the perception of G-D or a malach has to come through the imagination. It still has to be “clothed” in something physical. It can’t be purely spiritual. An aura, clearly, is part of the mental apparatus of a person.
Paritcipant: So, it came from within, is that what you’re saying?
R’Kessin: No, his mitzvah somehow tapped into ruchni and that ruchni released what’s called a shefa, a Divine influence, which goes down and taps into his aura and it’s that aura he’s experiencing, not the Divine kiddusha itself that makes the aura change.
Participant: That happens overnight or it takes time? It’s like a person who puts on tefillin. He doesn’t experience what he has with the ruchnius…
R’Kessin: It should be immediate.
Participant: They experiment with this.
R’Kessin: Yeah, it should be immediate. What you see is that there’s far more to the human being than what medical doctors think. They are not in contact with that mental world or the mental aspect of the human body, not aware that the mental aspect can leave the body.
Participant: ...and travel; the mental body could see and could travel.
R’Kessin: That’s because it’s not limited by space, obviously. It’s a great way to beat the high prices of airplane tickets, I tell ya.
Participant: What about Intuition? It’s like what they say about women, that they have more intuition.
R’Kessin: That’s a different phenomenon. That’s called the “yediyah”—insight. We normally think that a person has five senses, right? How do we access information about the world or about anything outside of ourselves?—the five senses, right? There’s seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. We access reality only through those senses—right?
Apparently, there’s what’s called “extra sensory perception”—ESP. There are different types of such perception enabling a person to access information outside of the five senses. I believe that the mind is really a “mental body” aligned with the physical body. If you can leave your body and still be conscious, there’s something else going on in the body.
It could be that your brain is seeing something from the mental level that you’re not experiencing. You have a mental “body,” can be experiencing information outside of the physical five senses. It’s not arriving through the five senses. It’s arriving because you exist on a mental plane and that would be extra sensory perception. A lot of people have claimed they have it but they don’t, but there are certain people that, apparently, do have this ability. They can access information outside of the use of the five senses. The question is: how? I believe, like I just said, that the mechanism is the mental body which is not tied down to the physical five senses, but that’s not ruach ha’kodesh. Don’t make that mistake. Since we have this mental body that coincides with the physical but can disengage from the physical at different times, it can access information beyond what the physical can. It has its own “machinery.” I believe that’s how it works.
Participant: Is that independent of imagination or...?
R’Kessin: It appears to your brain and has nothing to do with imagination. That would be nevuah. All of a sudden you just know something. How many times do you hear people say, “Uh oh! I feel something terrible has happened to…” and they speak of a specific time and place, and kach ha’ya—that’s the way happened. How’d they do it? The mental body can receive information independent of time and space, obviously, because there’s a very strong emotional connection going on. There’s all kinds of ways of doing that.
Participant: Husbands and wives live together so long so they know what each other is thinking.
R’Kessin: No, well…that’s only because they’re so used to each other’s behavior so they can predict it. That’s not ESP. There’s a phenomenon called “ESP”—connected to a lot of fraud out there—and there are people that have an astounding sense—for those who are not frauds that is—of the extra-sensory. I believe it’s because, coinciding with the physical body, there’s a mental body, and the proof of that is that you can leave it. That’s what astral projections are and all these other NDE’s.
The key is to remember that it’s mental, not spiritual; the guy’s still alive. Some say they see a tunnel and a light and they go through that tunnel and it’s over. That’s the death and then it becomes ruchni.
I believe there are many who lie, like these guys who say they see Yeshu coming to meet them. He ain’t comin’ to meet anybody. Well, he’s not comin’ to me; he’s dead. (laughter)
The main idea is that, because they’re still alive, the imagination takes over and provides what they think should meet them. If they had died, they’d have become ruchni. As long as the body is alive, what they imagine could happen based on whatever their belief system is, they will see that. That’s my take on this whole NDE…
Participant: In the hospital, the machines keep the body alive. What if the machine says you’re brain dead?
R’Kessin: What does it mean to be “brain dead”? How many times has it happened that somebody was pronounced “brain dead” and then the guy woke up a couple of days later? The brain is the most mysterious organ in the body. The human brain is the most complicated structure in the entire known universe. Nothing even comes close. It has a hundred billion neurons. It has quadrillion synapses that can connect to one another. Nobody knows what it is. It’s a work which is so beyond possibility of evolution, it boggles the mind. Nobody knows, really, what it can do. It is so complex. Nobody knows what “thinking” is. What does it mean “to think”? Does anybody know what “imagination” is? Does anybody understand what “creativity” is? Nobody even knows how memory is stored. How can a neuron store a yediah—insight, a fact? How does any of this work? It’s beyond comprehension how a brain could work altogether yet it works. Believe me, it’s far more than what most people imagine.
Your emotional capacity to experience your connection to Olam Yetzirah is still something you only experience in the physical. It must go through some physical “portal.” It cannot be purely spiritual. It could be through feelings, visions. You can hear something but you can never see the actual spiritual being and experience the actual spiritual being. It has to go through the guise of something physical.
I hope I have given you a broad understanding of the physical world, how broad it is. It’s not pashut—simple. You begin to see that all these experiences can be explained but, remember, spirituality is different. It is a domain which is unknown in the sense that you can never experience it while you’re alive. There are ways of interacting with the spiritual universe but not directly. It has to be done indirectly as prophecy or ruach ha’kodesh, the old ruach ha’kodesh, not like the ruach ha’kodesh today. That’s a whole different way of accessing information.
The physical universe is multifaceted, complex, and all of it can be categorized under what’s called “Olam Ha’Geshem;” that’s what the RaMCHaL is saying. Then the RaMCHaL explains about the spiritual universes and then we can see how they fit and come together.
Truly, it’s a beautiful topic to understand. This topic, too, is fascinating. I’ve explained stuff about which most people have no clue. Once you have a certain sense of the structure, you begin to see how everything seems to fit whether it be about yoga, astral projections, or NDE’s; it doesn’t make a difference. Just remember what I said about the mental body and how it is confused with the spiritual.
Participant: Do you remember during the Vietnam war there was a Vietnamese monk who burned himself to death in1963. He was protesting persecution of Buddhists and the war. He set himself on fire and he was completely calm. The whole thing was played on the news constantly. You can get it on YouTube. It’s amazing how someone could do that.
R’Kessin: That simply means that he had incredible control over his pain; that’s all it means. Some people have that. Some people can withstand pain to an unbelievable degree even as they’re dying—nothing spiritual about that. It’s impressive but that’s about it.
Participant: Eliyahu Ha’Navi...is he a physical being or a spiritual being?
R’Kessin: ...spiritual, but when he comes to visit you, to those he visits, he will assume the garb of a person.
Participant: He never died?
R’Kessin: No, he never died.
Participant: So, what happened to his physicality?
R’Kessin: What happened to his body?
Participant: What happened to that physical state that he always had? Was it transformed?
R’Kessin: Apparently, he had a zikuch—purification, yeah. There’s only three people that never died. They had zikuch which is astounding.
R’Kessin: Yeah. He’s one of the people that never died. Then, there’s—what’s her name—Serach bas Asher, and Eliyahu, and Chanoch. They never died. The Ribono Shel Olam took them and that was it. They were able to transform their bodies because you can’t go to the Olam Emes—World of Truth without zikuch. Who went up?—Moshe Rabbeinu. Remember that? He went up for forty days, didn’t drink or eat for forty days. How did he do that? When he came down, you couldn’t look at him ‘cause he'd had the zikuch. When your body goes through that zikuch, when it goes through purification, when the physicality of your body is removed, what shines through?—the neshama. You can’t look at a neshama.
Participant: So, what does it mean? Moshe Rabbeinu… What happened? Moshe Rabbeinu went and where did he go?
R’Kessin: He went up, probably, to Olam Yetzirah, but not just his consciousness; he went up. That’s the difference.
Participant: He and his body?
R’Kessin: He actually went up, yeah. You’ll have to find out who his travel agent was. Maybe I should know who his travel agent was.
Participant: He heard G-D’s voice. First two mitzvos…
R’Kessin: He really went up and, in order for him to go up, he had to have had an incredible zikuch of his body. He couldn’t go as a physical being. He was the only one who went up and came back again. Everybody else died. In order to do that, he went up with a body of the seven thousandth year. He was physical and his zikuch wasn’t complete, but his body became inert which is why he didn’t require any kind of physical necessity. His body became inert but he had a body. it was inert but it was still physical. So, he did experience a certain level of purification. Then he had that dialogue with the malachim but he’s, apparently, the only one that ever did that. Actually, Rav Yehoshua Ben Levi also did something like that.
Participant: In masechte “Shabbos,” two guys were digging in a field and they hit somebody and a voice said: Hey guys, take it easy. you know, like…
R’Kessin: Who, the dead body?
Participant: Yeah, on an amorah and he got up and he was talking to them. So, over there is zikuch that he had a certain amount of neshama left in him?
R’Kessin: Are we talking about tchias ha’meisim—resurrection of the dead?
Participant: No. They were in the field and they came upon his body. They disturbed his burial place.
R’Kessin: What seems to have happened is that there was a measure of tachias ha’mesisim; for whatever reason, that he was able to “reenter,” so to speak, the neshama, then was able to activate himself.
Listen! It’s brought down in the “Shifcha Ari,” that the Ari knew he was dying and he said there’s a gzera in shamayim that he’s gonna die, whatever the circumstances were. He told them, “I want you to take me, put me on the table, but don’t touch me. Don’t put me in the mikvah.” They did the tahara—purification and when the time came to put his body in the mikvah—ritual bath, they stood back and said: okay, we are following your instructions. We’re not going to move you and put you in the mikvah. What happened? The Ari got up. He was dead! He went into the mikvah by himself and then he went back onto the table and that was it. How did he do that? Obviously, there’s a certain faculty, a certain ability of tchias ha’meisim that these people have, or he wasn’t completely dead, wasn’t inertly dead.
Participant: Rebbe Yehuda Ha’Nasi, for twenty two years making kiddush...
R’Kessin: Sure, Rebbe used to make kiddush. Imagine what kind of kiddush that is?
Participant: What’s that?
R’Kessin: Again, either it was tchias ha’meisim, or, if not, then Rebbe wasn’t completely dead. In other words, the different chalokim--parts of the neshama that leave so that you’re left with what’s called “havla degami”—that which remains with the body. Either he wasn’t completely dead or there was a tchias ha’meisim. That was Rebbe.
Participant: Can you explain NDE that way, that the neshama comes out and that’s what travels…
R’Kessin: Nah, these guys… Rebbe was an ish kadosh—holy man. He was an incredible person. I mean, Rebbe can do that. These guys are still alive, never died, or else how can they come back and tell us, right?
Participant: Maybe a chelek—part of the neshama stays there and a chelek comes out?
R’Kessin: No, I don’t believe that. I believe that just mentally they were able to get out and then they can function. It’s not real death. Even by Rebbe, you have to ask yourself: what was it? Maybe he wasn’t... although they buried him. I think they buried him.
Participant: Rebbe was in an aliyah—attic for twenty two years so the neighbors found out.
R’Kessin: Yeah, the neighbors found out. The maid disclosed the fact to somebody. It seems that Rebbe was dead but his neshama was able to come back and interact with the world and say kiddush. He was buried, which means that his neshama can issue a sound wave that was kiddush.
Participant: Didn’t the Jews at Sinai, when they heard G-D’s voice, die and then came back and heard Him again with the second commandment and then died again and came back?
R’Kessin: That was a real death. That was a real tchias ha’meisim. Everybody died, yeah, because you cannot tolerate that type of exposure to G-D and live. So, like ben Azai, they all died. It was just overpowering. The neshama couldn’t withstand the body with that kind of exposure to G-D. The Ribono Shel Olam resurrected them, however it works. That was real resurrection.
Participant: People in this room, were our souls there?
R’Kessin: Yeah. Of course. Everybody was there. Not everybody had been born but everybody was there. Either you were there in a physical body or you were among neshamo—souls listening to this. Everybody was there. That’s why if you see somebody who looks very familiar and you can’t place where you know them from, you could say: oh! We probably were sitting together by matan Torah.