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Shiur #5 - Meditation, The Nature of the Soul and Nevuah - Part 5

Given: 1984

Summary Review

In terms of intellectual meditation, if one studies, becomes totally immersed in hashkafa—Jewish philosophy, if one become totally mentally involved in a such study, the study of the internal design of Creation, then you actually feel as if you live, reside, on a different plane or dimension of being, a different plane of reality. You begin to interpret events in this world from the standpoint of the framework of spiritual reality and not merely from this physical world’s perspective. You understand that world events reflect spiritual changes or necessities. They indicate changes in G-D’s hashgacha—interaction, intervention with the world for the purpose of bringing Creation to its intended state of shleimus—fruition, which is gilui yechudo—revelation of His Oneness, tikkun ha’klali—full rectification of Creation which is the intended state of Creation. You begin feeling as though you are part of another world, a visitor in this world.

You may think: why would anybody want to be in such a state? The truth is that such a state is the real state, the only state to be in. If one lives in the spiritual worlds but has to sojourn in this physical world, such is what a person should feel because then his entire attitude about the physical world is different. He understands that he will not put his energies or efforts into acquiring great material wealth or security more than is necessary. He will, instead, focus on another reality. He will endeavor to preoccupy his time and energies, of which he as little, with the necessities of the spiritual worlds. As I mentioned before, you can perceive many political events on the basis of what’s really happening in the spiritual world. It’s almost like somebody gives you eyeglasses with red lenses enabling you to see everything red. Immersing oneself in hashkafa enables you to see through an hashkafic lens where everything is interpreted automatically via the fundamental principles of hashkafa.

For example, you can begin to understand why there’s a State of Israel. Why do Zionists have the State of Israel first? Why does Meir Kahane exist? Why has America achieved the status it enjoys? Why do the Arabs seem to be one day up, the next day down? When you’re in the world of hashkafa, the spiritual dimensions of these events automatically present themselves. The events of the physical world become understandable, explainable. You redirect your energies and efforts accordingly, in the direction toward achieving the main goal or objective which takes into account the spiritual world in which all souls wind up. It’s the destination of all souls.

All souls must go through this world in order to get to that spiritual world. Being mentally involved in spiritual worlds aids you in keeping you on the correct course. Throughout your life, it is the course upon which you should be embarking. This is one of the benefits of studying hashkafa with this kind of intensity. But it’s true of all intents directed toward studying Torah, the study of G-D. The more intensely you involve yourself, the greater is your emotional capacity to reorder your life’s priorities toward the achievement of Olam Ha’Ba—Future World.

Intellectual meditation is a practical device to achieve may of the objectives that the contemplative state and meditative state would normally have achieved, that focused awareness, that directed contemplation would normally have achieved through prolonged and frequent periods of time.

Before I conclude this area on meditation I want to point out that the term in Hebrew for meditation is “hisbodedus”—which conveys the concept of self-isolation or self-seclusion based on the root “boded” or “bedud.” The state of isolation or seclusion, what these terms indicate, is that, despite the use of the word “meditation,” the practice of meditation itself is the isolation of self, its divorce from all the sensory and bodily sensations. In other words, the self is isolated from the external physical world because there’s no bodily sensations. The self is also isolated from all mental activities such as thoughts and images or feelings, that which occurs on the internal mental plane or mental world. Thus, the meditative state is essentially the self’s isolation from external and internal experiences. Therefore, “hisbodedus” is the word used; it means both “self-isolation” and “meditation.”

I’ve tried to cover, in a comprehensive fashion, the subject of meditation and now that we have an understanding of what the meditative state is, what contemplation, reflection, and concentration are—the three various techniques of achieving the meditative or contemplative state—we have an understanding of its objectives. There are four states of consciousness:

1- Reflection is when an individual has awareness of an object and this awareness is accompanied by a lot of extraneous mental input and bodily and sensory sensation, and feelings. There are many distractions.

2- Concentration is when focused awareness of an object is greater, higher, but still accompanied by extraneous mental activity, bodily sensation, sensory input and feelings.

3- Contemplation, which takes a lot of effort to develop, is focused awareness on an object or idea and is able to exclude extraneous mental input, able to clear out other thoughts, images, feelings and sensations either bodily or sensory. Distractions are largely excluded and awareness itself is more intense, not because the person makes it more intense but because distractions have been removed.

4- Meditation is the highest state of consciousness. It is super-focused awareness without any extraneous mental input. All bodily, sensory, input, all mental imagery and feelings have been removed and there are no distractions at all. Awareness is greatly intensified and focus on any object or idea occupies the entire field of awareness the person has. That requires a lot of self-discipline and practice to achieve.

We’ve also seen the underlying rationale for extraneous mental activity itself. Why do thoughts, images, feelings enter the mind uncalled for, unwanted? Why do these distract a person from focusing awareness? As I’ve explained, the reason why has to do with the concept of the “unconscious will,” that area within ourselves whereby we are unaware of the motive, unaware of the decision, unaware of the will and desire to produce such mental productions. This is what lies behind these mental productions.

We also discussed the three major techniques employed by people to develop the skill to achieve higher levels of awareness, heightened states of consciousness, namely, concentration for a specific duration on either a sound, a sight, or an image. There is more to it but this lecture is not a comprehensive study of meditation itself. I’ve brought up ideas of meditation important to know for the purpose of understanding Jewish meditation.

After I explained the three techniques, I listed all the possible objectives that could be achieved. The intended and desired outcomes are twelve in number. This was thoroughly discussed in lecture #4.

We saw too that one could achieve this higher level of awareness by means of a fourth method which brings the ability to focus somewhere down to our level, and that was by concentrating, by focusing awareness on any material thing, any object, for a prolonged period of time. This is the first requirement. Such prolonged focus done in frequent intervals is the second requirement. Such practice makes it possible to achieve a state of consciousness which approaches that of contemplation even though extraneous mental input is still present in the mind. This fourth means is called “intellectual meditation” and that is something which is more accessible to most people. Merely by concentrating for prolonged periods of time at frequent intervals, a person is enabled to focus far greater on the object of this awareness even if he’s not able to exclude the extraneous mental input which distracts.

Jewish Meditation Versus Yoga: Similarities and Distinctions

We now can go into the next area which is Jewish meditation. In that area, we will begin to discover exactly what meditation has to do with Judaism. How does Judaism use meditation as a device to achieve the last objective which I mentioned, the attachment to, contact or communication with, perception of, transcendental realms or worlds and also spiritual entities, and the ability to exert control on those spiritual entities to fulfill one’s own desires.

What is “Jewish meditation”? Is there such a thing? There is but it’s not what people think. I define it so you’ll know what it is and what it is not. It’s the employment of the meditative method to achieve specific spiritual phenomena for that person. It is not—and I underline “not”—a different kind of meditative technique or state from what has been discussed previously. It uses the same meditative techniques to achieve the same meditative state of super-focused awareness without extraneous mental input at all, but it uses it for unique spiritual objectives or outcomes. There is no difference between meditation in Judaism and meditation in any Eastern discipline such as Yoga or whatever other. Both require development of skill to achieve heightened awareness on a single experience exclusively, to the total exclusion of everything else. The only difference is that Judaism uses this technique to achieve certain spiritual outcomes, to experience certain spiritual phenomena unique to Judaism.

Yoga is very different. Yoga, for example, uses the techniques I’ve discussed to achieve “realization of self,” where “self” becomes aware of self in order to become part of “universal consciousness” which they identify as “god.” That’s an error which I will explain as I go through this shiur—lecture. The meditative practice to achieve “liberation of self” in which self comes in contact with self or, as they would say, “self knows self through self” is what they feel they want to achieve. They believe that when self has achieved awareness of that level of self, it is aware of its identicality with god. They call god “cosmic consciousness” or whatever. So, Yoga uses meditation to achieve a state, a level of self-realization.

Judaism does not use it at all for that. There are many reasons why not and which I will get into. I will devote an entire lecture to Yoga.

Judaism uses meditation to achieve an experience of spiritual phenomena. The object of awareness in Jewish meditation is the object normally used in regular meditative sessions. The object of focus, the object of directed awareness, is distinctly Jewish in nature, as we shall see. In other words, that which a person focuses on when engaged in Jewish meditation is very different from that which a Yogi is focused on when he engages in “yogic meditation.” They use it to achieve yogic ends. The word “yoga,” basically, means “union” related to the realization of self. For them, “self” is unionized, becomes one with god.

Jewish Meditation

Jewish meditation is derived from the discipline, the doctrine of “Kabbalah,” which is Judaism’s understanding of the internal design of Creation. When G-D gave Moshe Rabbeinu the Torah, He gave three parts: “Torah she’b’ksav”—written law, “Torah she’b’al peh”—oral law, and He gave a second division of the oral law, the principles by which the universe is governed, especially the mechanisms of G-D’s interactions with the world. When G-D interacts with the world, what is that mechanistic device that the Ribono Shel Olam—Master of the Universe employs to govern the universe? That is the content of the doctrine of Kabbalah. This is the totality of what Moshe received on Mount Sinai and was communicated, transmitted from generation to generation.

Theoretical and Practical Kabbalah

Part of this third division of Torah, of Kabbalah, involves “practical Kabbalah.” It is divided into two major divisions in terms of its utility, its usefulness, to an individual.

The first area of division of Kabbalah is called “theoretical Kabbalah.” What is it? I offer a definition; it’s the study of the mechanism of Creation. The structure, function, and progression of the components of the mechanism have been used throughout history of Creation as described by Kabbalah. We find many different terms in theoretical Kabbalah in this regard which I’ll mention but won’t go into.

For instance, “sefiros”—emanations, “partzufim”—configurations of emanations, “Adam kadmon”—primordial man, concepts in theoretical Kabbalah, are metaphorical language to describe certain ideas, mechanisms that describe how Creation “runs.”

The other aspect of Kabbalah is its utility. It allows for the employment of specific instruments, specific knowledge, to be used to achieve practical objectives or outcomes which may or may not be spiritual, which may or not be for the spiritual enhancement of the individual employing such knowledge. The utilization of this knowledge is “practical Kabbalah.” It does not necessarily mean the person is interested in achieving spiritual growth or advancement. Hopefully it does, but it does not have to.

The employment of meditation with regard to certain Kabbalistic instruments used as the object of awareness during meditative practice to achieve awareness of certain spiritual phenomena is called “meditative Kabbalah.” It is one of the major subdivisions of the overall division of practical Kabbalah.

Meditative Kabbalah—Jewish Meditation

What is “meditative Kabbalah”? When one uses certain kabbalistic ideas, or instruments, as the focus of awareness during the act of meditation in order to achieve to perceive certain spiritual phenomenon, that is “meditative Kabbalah.” One is using Kabbalah via a meditative practice. There are many other forms of practical Kabbalah, other ways of using Kabbalah as an instrument to achieve various objectives besides meditation but I won’t discuss them here or now.

Meditative Kabbalah is Jewish meditation. When one uses specific kabbalistic instruments—ones I will explain later--that is kabbalistic meditation. When one meditates using these kabbalistic ideas, focusing awareness on specific Jewish concepts while meditating to achieve spiritual phenomena, that is kabbalistic meditation. If one uses other instruments, then one is not engaged in meditative Kabbalah. Assuming that certain definite prerequisite conditions have been met prior to meditating, and that Kabbalistic instruments are being used, four kinds of transcendental experiences of spiritual phenomena can be achieved for the individual meditating.

All four experiences are true spiritual experiences—and I mean “true spiritual experiences” and this is what makes them “true”—the interface between the meditator and spiritual entities or between the meditator and transcendental worlds, or realms, or planes or dimensions, whatever you like to call them. It enables the meditator to interface or interact with spiritual entities and supernal worlds. This is why it’s a true spiritual experience, not a physical experience.

The first two spiritual phenomena are necessities for true spiritual growth and was achieved by millions of Jews. Sounds odd. How could something achieved by millions of Jews not be recognized by mainstream Judaism today? That is probably part of the hester—concealment. The truth is that meditative Kabbalah was extensively used by many Jews thousands of years ago and millions of Jews employed such a meditative device for spiritual advancement and growth. The first two spiritual experiences are really necessary. One must use them if one wants such spiritual advancement.

The Ribono Shel Olam wants Jews to use these meditative devices to achieve spiritual growth. That’s why He gave them in the first place. It wasn’t a luxury; it was a necessity. Therefore, millions of Jews took advantage of these first two spiritual phenomena.

The third spiritual phenomena which I will explain and which is an outcome of the meditative device on certain kabbalistic instruments can only be employed under certain conditions and is engaged in very sparingly. One must be cautious and careful. It cannot be done every time. It can only be done in certain circumstances or during certain times.

The fourth is completely forbidden for anyone to engage in—and I really mean “forbidden.” If someone transgresses and achieves such a phenomenon, which is possible to achieve, it meant that the person would certainly be annihilated, not because of the transgression per se but because of what he achieved.

The Four Spiritual Phenomena

What are these spiritual phenomena that I’ve been referring to?

The first phenomenon, and which is a necessity for spiritual growth, is called “ruach ha’kodesh”—holy spirit or Divine inspiration. It is possible to achieve ruach ha’kodesh, to become attached to a true spiritual entity.

The next phenomenon which is even greater than ruach ha’kodesh, which is actually the greatest spiritual phenomenon—and I mean “greatest” without reservation—that can ever be achieved by an individual while he is attached to a physical body is “nevuah”—prophecy. Most people misunderstand what prophecy is. I’ll speak about this in much more detail later but, just as an aside, prophecy has little to do with prophets. Do not think that a person would try to become a prophet in order to deliver messages to the Nation of Israel, the tribes of Israel. That had little to do with prophecy. In essence, it is a vehicle for enormous spiritual growth.

There are prophets, individuals, who attained the level of spirituality which we call “prophecy” which G-D used to deliver messages or revelations. There have been individuals who achieved prophecy, and G-D took advantage of a certain number of them to deliver messages or revelation, perhaps 30-40, but the essence of prophecy has nothing to do with what we think prophets are, individuals who deliver Divine messages, Divine exhortations. Prophecy is used, primarily, essentially, and fundamentally, to achieve enormous spiritual growth at the greatest level a person can achieve while alive, meaning while in a physical body.

These first two phenomena are necessary for spiritual growth. He who achieved them, achieved enormous spirituality which isn’t describable in our terms because we lack the prophetic experience so don’t have a common frame of reference. When I speak about this more in detail next week, you can get some kind of glimpse of what a prophet, or anyone who had such a prophetic experience, achieved.

The third spiritual phenomenon which is not necessary for spiritual growth and can only be used under special circumstances is called—for want of a better term, “white magic.” In Hebrew it can be termed “shinui ha’teva”—alteration of nature, of physical law. It can be achieved by an individual who meditates upon certain kabbalistic instruments. It’s referred to as “white magic” as opposed to “black magic” because the practitioner employs spiritual entities that are evil, who are not good, in order to do what he wants them to do.

If you were to employ evil entities, then you were into the fourth phenomenon called “kishuv”—sorcery or “black magic.” To engage in sorcery, or black magic, means that you had to have engaged with certain evil beings. Again, you did it via meditation upon certain Kabbalistic instruments and you allied yourself to these individual beings. It meant, ultimately, your demise, your annihilation because, once they become part of you, you can’t shake them. That is something no one is allowed to engage in. One can know about it but one cannot engage in it. Such “black magic” indicates the alteration of natural law having used the spiritual beings that are “black,” meaning “evil-natured.”

For those who don’t know what the definition of “evil” is—and it’s not that easy to define—it’s the negation or absence of “being.” It’s the privation of being. Good is the enhancement or the promotion of being. Evil people destroy or annihilate. They try to negate. Good people try to enhance, to promote being. So, spiritual entities that were evil were constantly out to destroy or detract from being.

These are the four spiritual phenomena that can be achieved by meditation on Kabbalistic instruments and what Jewish meditation is all about, to be used, specifically, to realize one of these four objectives.

In order to clearly understand Jewish meditation, I will divide the attainment, or the sequence of any given spiritual phenomenon, into four parts. In other words, there are, basically, four elements that I want to talk about which will enable a much easier understanding. If you wanted to engage in the attainment of prophecy, then we will talk about four elements, the same elements we would talk about if you wanted to engage in intermittent ruach ha’kodesh, Divine inspiration. The same thing goes for white magic and black magic—shinui teva and kishuv.

The Four Elements

What are these four elements I’ll be explaining? The first is called “mechanism” or “procedure.” What exactly is the procedure, the mechanism, that somebody engages in to achieve these spiritual phenomena, these outcomes?

The second element of the sequence is what is called the “results” of the mechanism’s engagement. What results from implementing the procedure? What is the immediate effect?

The third element is the “ultimate mechanistic consequences.” In other words, what were the ultimate, or desired, objectives achieved by the actual implementation of the procedure?

The fourth element in the sequence is the conditions that must be met in order for the objectives to be realized. There are two sets of conditions: prerequisite conditions and procedural conditions. The prerequisite conditions include those that must exist or be met or be fulfilled before you begin meditating, before that procedure is initiated. Procedural conditions are those which must be met or fulfilled during the ongoing implementation of the procedures.

I want to mention that, besides the four spiritual phenomena one can achieve, there is a fifth phenomenon which I’ll also talk about called “prophetic dreams.” They are not the same at the four I’ve already designated because one does not use a meditative device or procedure in order to do it. It is something that happens spontaneously but is still important to know about because it does happen to people and one should know how it is distinguished from a normal dream. Prophetic dreams or “chalomos,” differ from the other spiritual phenomena.

This outlines what I’ll be talking about which should give you a pretty comprehensive grasp of what can be achieved by Jewish meditation.

I want to mention again that it is very difficult to achieve the first two spiritual phenomena, Divine inspiration and prophecy. It is much easier to achieve the latter two, the alteration of natural law using white magic and black magic. Prophetic dreams, however, are not a matter of ease or difficulty. It happens or it doesn’t happen.

How: The Lower and Higher Souls

How does one understand the attainment of these four spiritual phenomena? You have to have prerequisite information. The “self” which is the nefesh elyonah--highest soul of man, is bound to the physical world. How?—by the nefesh tachtona—lower soul, which I’ve mentioned previously. The lower soul is the mind which is also physical. The “self” resides in the mind and the mind itself is connected to the guf—physical body. The nefesh elyona is bound to the physical world via the nefesh tachtona. The mind, which is physical, is bound, linked, connected, to the physical body therefore it cannot rise above or overcome this physicality since it is connected and bound to it. It cannot overcome the physical environment in which is finds itself.

Why not?—by Divine decree. G-D does not permit it to leave its physical abode. It cannot overcome the physical limitations since it is bound to the physical universe. Therefore, the self perceives only the physical world and perceives it only via its five senses. There are two fundamental physical limitations that are imposed on the self as a result of being bound to the physical universe.

The first limitation is that “self” does not perceive its true spiritual nature. It doesn’t see who it is. Nobody here knows who they are. Each of you thinks that he is an entity that is, basically, physical. This is a gross error. The self does not perceive its true spiritual nature, that it’s a nefesh elyona. The physical limitation imposed upon it by the fact that it is connected to the physical world not only obscures its true spiritual nature, but prevents it from perceiving the transcendental spiritual worlds. As I’ve mentioned before, the nefesh elyona, the “self” is actually “stretched out” onto all the transcendental worlds and, therefore, should be able to perceive any part of these worlds naturally, but it cannot. That is part of the physical limitation. It does not experience any attachment to any spiritual entity of these worlds nor can it communicate to any of these entities. This is the first physical limitation that the self has as a result of its being bound to the physical body.

The second physical limitation is that the self, the nefesh elyona, the higher soul, possesses every mental faculty independent of the physical body. In other words, if you were to take the self out of the body to be a pure spiritual being or entity, it would automatically, innately, by its own essence, be able to reason, memorize, imagine, will, have awareness. It does not need the physical body at all. It also innately, independent of the physical body, has all five senses, certainly those senses that make it possible to contact the external world or be aware of external reality. It does not need the physical body. It has these faculties, whether mental or sensory, innately, as part of its spiritual nature, its essence but, by Divine decree, it can only use these faculties via the nefesh tachtona, the mind. These faculties of the self, of the nefesh elyona, can only be expressed through the physical organ called the “brain” in which the mind resides.

This leaves us with a very important idea, that the expression of the faculties of the self via the mind is limited by the quality of that particular brain in which it resides. If the brain that a “self” resides within has the capacity for genius, it could realize that potential.

We should keep in mind that and it is physical neurons that determine this. There is a difference, physically, between a genius and somebody who’s not a genius. If the brain has such a capacity for genius, then the self can express its own faculties in a superlative fashion exactly in accordance with what the physical brain allows. If the brain is damaged or physically deficient—for instance, a child born retarded or a person with some kind of organic brain syndrome—then the self can exhibit only a fraction of its normal capability that it would have innately. It must, and can only, use its faculty with the physical capacity of the brain in which it resides. It cannot do more than that. That is by Divine decree.

Not only is it true of mental faculties, it’s true of sensory faculties. If the eyes of an individual are damaged, then the self is blind even though it, innately, can see independently of the eyes, as the brain perceives sight. If hearing is damaged, then it can’t hear. It is locked into the mind which is locked into the brain which is locked into the body. There’s nothing it can do. It must use the faculties of mind in order to express its own faculties. If the faculties of the brain are limited, then the self’s expression of its own faculties, whether mental or sensory, are also limited. If the physical faculties of brain, of mind, are superlative, then the self’s faculties can be expressed in a superlative fashion. This is all by Divine decree.

Obviously, the self can be enormously limited in terms of recognizing who it is. Self, therefore, is severely curtailed by the physical world, the physical body, and the physical mind it’s connected to. Is man lost? Is the self lost?—no, not by any means.

What G-D did was provide a mechanism whereby the self can attain a true spiritual experience, and this includes four ideas:

1- It can perceive spiritual entities and spiritual worlds.

2- it can become attached to spiritual entities and spiritual worlds.

3- it can communicate with spiritual entities of these spiritual worlds.

4- it can control or manipulate spiritual entities.

A person can attain a true spiritual experience of any of these even while the self is completely bound to the physical world and the body and the physical mind. It should normally be limited by physical, natural law, but the self can transcend—not the body because he remains connected to it; you can’t do that—it can overcome these limitations of physicality via a mechanism so that the self becomes aware of a different realm, aware of its existence. We know the self exists simultaneously in the other four worlds besides this physical world except for what’s been taken away from the self, its own awareness of the complete existential dimensions in which is exists. Self, via certain mechanisms, can lift the veil on the different existential planes that it’s connected to, the mechanism that was given by the Ribono Shel Olam to mankind.

The physical limitations and laws are not absolute and unchanging. They are able to be suspended by the self if it engages in the correct mechanisms and procedures. This suspension can occur even though the self is connected to the physical world and, therefore, normally, should be restricted. A mechanism exists whereby self, who is you—sometimes we forget who “self” is—can suspend physical law and limitations which are normally imposed upon it since it remains attached to its physical garb—mind, body, and environment—and experience spiritual phenomenon normally impossible to achieve. This mechanism provides the interface between the self, the person, while he’s attached to the physical world, and the supernal worlds and entities.

G-D gave man this capability for particular reasons. One of them is that G-D wants man to grow spiritually, as I said before. True spiritual growth can only be achieved via these mechanisms. It’s a necessity. Why it is not used today? What happened to these devices? I will talk about this after the lecture on the topic of Yoga when I get into the history of Kabbalah, the history of all these ideas that disappeared. We’ll be examining that history from the perspective of the internal design of Creation, not from a typical descriptive historical standpoint. We’ll see why it happened and if it will ever return.

The Ribono Shel Olam gave a person this capability to experience tremendous spiritual growth and, thereby, be able to correct or rectify Creation even better. The second idea is that the Ribono Shel Olam wants man to achieve the culmination of his endeavors even while he is still attached to the physical world. It’s almost like you worked so strenuously to know Who G-D is and what exists beyond this dimension, so here it is. A person can achieve that before the onset of the messianic period when all Jews will be prophets—non-Jews too to a certain extent depending on how good their actions are—but all Jews at that time will be prophets because prophecy, this kind of state of awareness of spiritual worlds, will be restored to mankind. A great many among mankind will have it, as I mentioned, even non-Jews, but theirs will go in different directions; prophecy will be a phenomenon which is to be restored to men.

Details of the Elements

I’ve mentioned the four elements to the sequence of the attainment of specific spiritual phenomena or experience. The first one is meditation, that procedure. The second was the results, the immediate effect of this mechanism, this procedure. The third was the consequences, the outcomes, objectives of this mechanism of meditation. The fourth element in the sequence is the pre-requisite conditions and those conditions to be met during the implementation of the mechanism.

Let’s study the results, the immediate effect, which is the second element of the sequence. Then, I’ll go back and present more on the mechanism itself which is the first element of the four. Then, I’ll go into the objectives and then the conditions that must be met before and during the procedure. It will be easier to understand this way.

There are several ideas that are very, very fundamental and which will constitute your entrance into the world of Jewish meditation.

Fundamental Ideas

All Creation is the result of the acts of G-D. When I say “all,” I really mean “all.” What is meant by “Creation?” It is the initial bringing into existence, into being, of the universes, and its continued, or continuous, maintenance of such being or existence. That is what is meant by “Creation.” G-D is the doer, the subject of the action and Creation. Both its inception and maintenance is the effect, the result of the subject’s actions. G-D exhibits the action, and the effects ensue.

How does G-D act? How does He do what He wants to get done? What is His instrument, His mechanism for action? In human beings, in man, we know what this mechanism is. If I want to do something, I move my hand and it gets done. The hand is my instrument, my visible means, my vehicle. It is the mechanism I employ to do things for myself. The hands are obvious to all, perceived by all. But what is G-D’s mechanism? What are the “hands” of G-D? When G-D wants something done, what’s the “in-between” that does it?

The answer is, of course, unknown. G-D acts through an invisible mechanism not perceived by any entity outside of G-D. All we know is that, suddenly, things get done; things pop into existence, events happen, and things get created or annihilated. We know that G-D is doing it but we don’t know how He does it. The mechanism for action by G-D is the link between G-D, the subject of the action, and the effect which is Creation itself. The link between G-D and Creation is “mechanism.” It’s the “in-between” area of Creation and the Being Who brings it into Creation.

The mechanism of G-D’s action is as mysterious and as incomprehensible as G-D Himself. This is important to know. Not only can we not know Who G-D is, we cannot know what His “link” is because He is identical with His mechanism.

How do we describe the actions of G-D? Within our own framework, from our limited perspective, how do we talk about this? We cannot easily talk about this mysterious mechanism because it’s invisible but we have to use some form of expression when we want to say “G-D acts.”

There are various ways. The first way is simply to say “G-D acts,” meaning, He acts via an invisible mechanism. That’s the simplest way to say it.

The second way is to say “G-D causes” to be or to occur. It’s, basically, the recognition that G-D performs an action but it doesn’t state anything more than the verb itself.

The third way is by employing a metaphor. We say that G-D is He Who “me’at ohr”—shines forth a light. You’ll find that terminology, that metaphor, used many times in Jewish literature or kabbalistic literature, that G-D emanates a light. The “light” is the metaphor that suggests visibility for an invisible mechanism. I see you, but how?—because light waves enable it even though the waves of light are invisible. So, light is a good symbol for that which G-D “sends forth,” an invisible mechanism to achieve a desired effect.

The fourth way is more technical and much more accurate. It’s really necessary to know this fourth way. We say that G-D is mashpia hashpa’ah—influences an influence. What does this mean? G-D sends forth, issues forth, from outside Himself, an influence or a force that can cause, that can influence. He issues forth a causative entity that, itself, can cause other causative entities to achieve effects. The difficulty is that this idea of hashpa’ah, this causative entity, itself, is a nivrah—created concept. Therefore, if it is a created entity then, it, itself, obviously, needs an invisible mechanism of G-D to create it, so we’re back to square one!

What is the invisible mechanism G-D uses to effect what He wants? The truth is that we cannot go beyond the hashpa’ah. G-D created a causative entity that actually can cause in G-D’s stead but, of course, He created that. We cannot talk about G-D nor His real mechanism. We can only talk about a mechanism which is causative, an entity responsible for Creation itself. What created the universe is the hashpa’ah, the creative entity itself. What created that is G-D and his invisible mechanism, one which emanates from Him and which influences and has causative capacities or abilities. The causative mechanism of G-D is identical with G-D and, therefore, it is ultimately unknowable and incomprehensible. We can only speak about the nivrah, the created entity called either “light,” or the “hashpa’ah” of G-D to describe His means of bringing about any effect He decides He wants designed.

Hashpa’ah: Divine Influence

We can now talk about G-D’s hashpa’os, influences, these things G-D created which can give rise to effects after them, but we cannot talk about G-D or His connection or link to reality. We have no idea what that means. As an aside, I once mentioned that G-D does not have existence, that He IS existence which is a fundamental difference. G-D is not included in reality, not one of the things that “is.” G-D determines what reality is because He is existence per se. If you could see pure existence without an essence, it would be G-D. Since G-D IS “being,” since He is identical with the idea of “being” itself, He can “make be” whatever He wants to be. He determines what is. In some way, existence is able to vary itself to “vibrate” itself, vary itself, in some invisible way to give rise to different kinds of existences. This is probably the only way we can grasp that idea.

You might ask how many hashpa’os are there of G-D. How many positive causative agents, how many influences are there that G-D issued or invoked? The total number of variations of Creation equals the total number of hashpa’os which were issued or performed or implemented by G-D. The total number of created entities equals the amount of hashpa’os issued by the Ribono Shel Olam.

There are two kinds, two general types, of hashpa’os, causative entities or forces, issued by G-D, distinguished based upon the effects that they do.

The first hashpa’ah is G-D’s creation of His kovod—glory, His shechina—Divine Presence. He created a manifestation, a representation of Himself that is perceived by His creations. G-D cannot be perceived by His creations in any way so what He did was to create the shechina. The Hebrew word “shechina” means “to dwell or reside among.” It is the presence of G-D, a created entity, that can dwell among men, that can be perceived by man, and the closest thing to G-D Himself. When we perceive His Divine Presence, we perceive G-D to the extent He can be perceived by man. We cannot perceive G-D Himself because, to know G-D is to be G-D. Therefore, if you are not G-D, you do not know G-D. The shechina is the closest manifestation or representation of G-D that can be perceived by created entities.

Another word for “shechina” is “kovod”—glory. This term means “my being.” The emanation of what is called “my being” is “glory.” Glory refers to the emanation of His “being.” When we say the “glory of the King,” it doesn’t mean, “king” but, in some way, means the “being of the king” which emanates a certain state, a certain reflection of His essence. The same idea is used for G-D when we say “G-D’s glory.” What is being referred to is that manifestation that can be perceived by man that, in some way, represents G-D Himself but it’s the only thing we can really perceive.

This has been the first hashpa’ah that we can distinguish, as that which created the “glory of G-D” or the “shechina,” the Divine Presence.

The second hashpa’ah, the second positive act, can be said to be “Creation and the maintenance of that Creation,” a creation comprised of the spiritual universe with all its beings and the physical universe with all its beings.

These are the two distinct divisions of hashpa’os.

Hashpa’os as Names of G-D

We now come into a crucial area. Every hashpa’ah, every act or causative entity that G-D creates, every hashpa’ah that was, is, and will be issued by G-D, has a name. It really has a name. This name, which is assigned to it or designates the hashpa’ah, is how we can refer to it. Every hashpa’ah has a name which is designated or assigned to it. If you want to refer to it, you must call it by its name.

The name is not really the name for that particular hashpa’ah but is, really, a “shem”—name of G-D regarding His performance or issuance of that hashpa’ah. That is what the name really is. When you say a name, for instance, “erech apayim”—long suffering, patient, what that means is that “long-suffering” refers to G-D insofar as He issues a causative entity that enables the phenomenon of “long-suffering” to exist so that we perceive it this way. G-D is not, actually, long-suffering, essentially. G-D creates an hashpa’ah, a created entity, that gives rise to long-suffering acts, acts that demonstrate patience. So, we, on this end of it, say “G-D is long-suffering.” That is the way it works.

The name is not the name of the particular hashpa’ah but the name of G-D regarding His performance of His issuance of that particular hashpa’ah.G-D has a different name for every hashpa’ah He issues whether it be in the past, present, or future. It comes out, therefore, that the total names of G-D equal every type of hashpa’ah issued by G-D which also equals the total number of creations made. It’s an exact equality, the names and the hashpa’os, those total number of created entities whether those created entities be objects, abstract concepts, whether an event or a possibility. All these different things are created entities and are equal to each other. G-D has the same number of names as amounts to the created entities, hashpa’os, which He did, does, or will do. That’s how many names G-D has.

The 72-letter name of G-D we can now understand. It refers to G-D as He is mashpiah the shechina itself. When G-D sends causative entities that cause His Divine Presence, the name for that is the 72-letter name of G-D. It is His name as He is mashpiah the Divine Presence. As regards the idea that He is creating His own Divine Presence to be perceived by man, the name for that, for Him, when He is doing that act, is that 72-letter name. That name designates the kovod, the glory, of G-D, which is the shechina itself. Since it refers to G-D creating His own Divine Presence, it is the holiest, the most powerful name of all.

“Holiest” we can understand, but what is meant by “most powerful”? That we’ll see. This 72-letter name was uttered by the Kohen Godol—the high priest, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, during the Avodah service, the actual service in the Temple, the Beis Ha’Mikdash.

I’ll give an example. The shem, the name, “rachum” designates or refers to G-D sending forth a hashpa’ah that causes effects to occur which we call, upon seeing its effects, “mercy and compassion.” That is rachum—mercy, compassion. When we refer to G-D as being compassionate or merciful, what we are really saying is that G-D sends forth a hashpa’ah which causes the effect of mercy to take place among men. We, therefore, perceive this as mercy or compassion.

The name “Elokim” is the name G-D when He issues forth a hashpa’ah that causes din—justice to occur among men. The definition of justice is “reciprocity of actions,” good for good and evil for evil. That is what “justice” means. What you do is what you get back. It’s an exact reciprocity of action. If you do good, justice demands that you be paid with good. If you do bad, justice demands that you be paid back in a detractive sense. The name “Elokim,” that name, means G-D as He is sending His hashpa’ah that creates the effect of din, justice.

The Purpose of G-D’s Names

Why does G-D want a different name for every action performed? Why a different name for every hashpa’ah used? Why does He want so many names? Basically, there are three reasons.

The first reason is that, by the fact that G-D has a name for every act He does, it heightens the awareness of G-D in terms of our understanding, our knowledge, of the almost infinite variety of actions performed by Him revealing Him to be the cause of everything—literally everything—that goes on in Creation. The fact that G-D is called a name by every single thing He does gives us the sense of awareness that G-D does so many things. We immediately feel that G-D is, literally, the cause of everything in Creation, that He does such an enormous number of things. We, therefore, begin to perceive the real truth that G-D is the absolute master of all existence, controlling all “being.” He has an aim to heighten our awareness of how intricately He is involved in Creation and that He is the only One Who is involved in Creation. Furthermore, Creation is a product of an almost infinite variety of His acts that we are aware of by virtue of the fact that our awareness is heightened due to the naming of each one, a name He dons.

The second purpose for the names is that they enable us to single out a specific hashpa’ah, or act, which we wish G-D to invoke or issue for our sakes, to be used in our service. By calling upon G-D with this particular name, we’re requesting, through prayer, for such a favor or kindness. This is why He has a name for everything He does.

What if I want to zero-in, single out, one specific act or G-D for which I want to pray to Him that He should use in my service, on my behalf? I call Him by that name. If I want G-D to be merciful toward me, I call Him “rachum.” That, immediately, makes me aware of what I want the Ribono Shel Olam to do. So, G-D “divides” His names among all the hashpa’os of Creation in order to single out, to focus upon, a specific attribute or act of G-D that I want Him to employ in my service. I will pray to G-D, call upon Him in that name, cognizant of what that name will do. It sort of “informs” G-D—though He does not have to be informed—of my being aware that it’s what G-D wants, initially, actually, essentially. He wants me to be aware of what I want of Him, and that it is G-D, and only G-D, Who can grant it.

This is the nature of prayer. We use many names of G-D when we pray. Each time we use a name of G-D, we are asking for a different kind of hashpa’ah. If you know the different names, you know what you’re praying for. That’s why prayer is divided among many names. Prayer consists of calling upon G-D for many different favors, many different kindnesses. Therefore, we invoke these hashpa’os by using the different names of G-D which refer to specific hashpa’os.

What is important to remember is that when you pray using the different names of G-D to invoke the different hashpa’os, the compliance of G-D to our request is dependent on His Will, not on our action. If G-D will answer us, it will depend on our merits, our sincerity, our desire for repentance, on our concentration, and so on. Based on these things, G-D decides to answer us or not. It’s up to Him. Prayer is not an absolute mechanism. It’s a strong mechanism but it is not absolute that it must achieve its intended purpose.

Before I get into the third reason G-D wants different names, I will tell you this; I will tell you how prayer can be an absolute mechanism. There is a Gemara that says that there is an agreement between G-D and the Jewish people, that if you pray using this formula, G-D cannot return your prayer unanswered. What this means is that that He may not fulfill everything you ask, but that you must come back fulfilled in some way. Some aspect of your prayer must be fulfilled and that is an absolute mechanism. If you invoke a certain kind of name of G-D, then the prayer must return answered, or cannot return unanswered. What is that mechanism? If you pray to G-D and say, “I ask you, I request of you, based on the thirteen attributes of goodness or mercy You possess….” In other words, “I pray to you based on the yud-gimel midos—thirteen attributes which You possess to fulfill the following request….” This is the formula. It cannot be returned unanswered. This is one way of using prayer as an absolute mechanism to fulfill whatever you want fulfilled.

The third reason the Ribono Shel Olam employs different names for every different type of hashpa’ah—and this is what relates to meditative Kabbalah—is that it is possible, based on this idea, to invoke, to activate that designated hashpa’ah which is connected to, or identified by, a particular shem, a particular name, if we meditate on that particular shem, name. Meditation, which is super-focused awareness devoid of any extraneous mental input on a particular name of G-D, is a procedure or mechanism which enables us to invoke or activate, to have issued by G-D Himself, the specific hashpa’ah which the name represents. This invoked hashpa’ah is used in the service of, in the direction of, the meditator himself. In other words, it is used according to his wishes. This is the third reason G-D has a name for every hashpa’ah, for the purpose of meditating on a particular name. If that name of G-D becomes the focus of awareness, and if you do it under certain conditions, then that causative entity represented by that name is activated or invoked by G-D to be used in the service of your wishes. That is an absolute mechanism. It must happen.


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