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Close to God

The four questions that we ask at the Seder table begin: “What is the difference between this night (of Pesach) and all (other) nights?”

The children at the Seder table ask their father to explain to them the meaning of all the unique customs that we perform on the first night of Pesach. We are all children of our Father in heaven, view and while turning to our physical father we simultaneously turn to Him and ask: "What is the difference between this night and all other nights? ..."

"Night" symbolizes exile. We begin by asking our father (and Father in heaven) to explain to us the difference between this, final exile and all previous exiles. This final exile of the Jewish People is the period in history that heralds the imminent arrival of the Mashiach, the redeemer of all mankind, who will bring peace to earth.

Just as in the account of creation where night precedes day, so the night of exile must precede the morn of redemption.

This final night of exile is darker, in a certain sense, than all other nights. Together with physical abundance to a degree that the world has never before known there is profound spiritual lack, "hunger and thirst" (in the idiom of the prophets) for knowledge of God and direct experience of His Providence over all. The more modern culture (with its great advances in science and technology) 'sanctifies' nature and its laws (the external 'clothing' of the Creator) the more Divinity (the Creator Himself) becomes concealed.

The gematria of "this night" (????? ???, 97), equals "time" (???). This final exile is in essence our very experience of time, of our transient, ephemeral state of existence on earth. Redemption is living above time in time, experiencing eternity in transience.

97 is a prime number. Beginning from 1, 97 is the 26th prime. 26 is the value of God's essential Name Havayah (???'?), which reads "was, is, will be – as one." "Exile" (????) equals 439 , also a prime number, the 86th prime. 86 is the value of God's Name Elokim (?-????), which equals "nature" (????).

Redemption is the revelation of Havayah in "this night" ("time") and Elokim, the Divinity inherent in nature itself, in "exile."
"Egypt" (?????) means "straights, patient " alluding to psychological blocks and states of confinement. Chametz (leavened bread) symbolizes egocentricity.

Egocentricity (chametz) is the source of all psychological confinement (Egypt). No slave could escape the confining borders of Egypt. The Exodus is the miracle of breaking through the borders of Egypt by nullifying one's sense of egocentricity.

There's really something else out there. It's not all me.

Ultimately, troche the "something out there" (not my initial sense of me) is God, who encompasses me in His true egocentricity, so to speak. All (including my true me) exists within the "I" of God.

The first word of the Ten Commandments, the culmination of the Exodus, is "I" – "I am Havayah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage." God's absolute "I" takes us out of psychological confinement and bondage to our exaggerated sense of ego.

In Hebrew, "something out there" (??? ????) equals 312 = 12 times 26, the value of God's essential Name, Havayah, whose 4 letters (2 of which are the same) permute in 12 different ways. Thus, All 12 permutations of Havayah (corresponding to the 12 months of the year etc.) equal "something out there."

In a previous post we saw that 312 = "He is not a body and not a power in a body" (???? ??? ??? ?? ????). A body is a state of confinement, a well-defined, created (finite) sense of egocentricity. A body is all "here" (in a negative sense) but not "out there."

But God is all "out there," and His "out there" encompasses everything that is "here."

In the Song of Songs, that we read on Pesach, the bride, the collective soul of Israel, says to her groom, God: "I find you out there, I kiss you" (????? ???? ????).

We kiss God "out there."
In the ten-rung ladder of spiritual growth outlined by Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, order three consecutive rungs are: "Cleanliness brings one to purity, purity brings one to chastity (i.e., prostate abstinence from overindulging in physical pleasures)."

These three attributes correspond to the three "garments" of the soul: thought, speech, and action (but not in that order), as well as to the three pilgrimage festivals, the regalim .

Cleanliness is primarily an attribute of speech. Maimonides explains that one of the unique properties of Hebrew, "the holy tongue," is that it is an essentially "clean" language" – no dirty words. As we saw in a previous post, it is Pesach that is the holiday of speech – freedom of speech. To speak freely does not mean to speak as you like, to use whatever words you like, whether clean or dirty. As we explained, to speak freely means to be able to give verbal expression to the innermost emotions of your heart. Such deep and authentic self-expression comes out (the secret of the Exodus) "clean."

The holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the Giving of the Torah, corresponds to the attribute of purity – more precisely, the purity of thought. For seven weeks the bride (the collective soul of Israel) purifies herself to marry her groom (God) on Shavuot. All her thoughts concentrate solely on her groom.

The holiday of Sukot corresponds to the attribute of chastity – chastity in deed. We leave our house and its physical comforts to dwell outside for seven days in a booth (Sukah). We identify with our ancestors who sojourned through the wilderness for forty years (on their way to the Promised Land) without home and other physical facilities.

The initials of the three attributes (????? ???? ??????) spell "balsam" (???), the first of the ingredients of the incense offered in the Temple service. A soul that possesses these three attributes is a fragrant soul, a soul capable of sweetening life's severities, bringing healing to the plights of the mankind.

The gematria of the three words, 1781 = 13 times 137 or "love" (????) times Kabbalah (????). In addition, 1781 is the gematria of the three primary sefirot (Divine emanations) down the middle line of the Tree of Life: keter (???, 620, "crown," the super-conscious), the source of cleanliness (i.e., God forgiving us and thereby cleaning us of all our iniquities), tiferet (?????, 1081, "beauty" and "compassion," the secret of the Torah given us at Sinai), called a "pure heart," and yesod (????, 80, "foundation," the "sign of the covenant"), which embodies the property of chastity.
Progress in science (and society) is made by taking note of details that a previous theory is unable to account for.

The history of modern science testifies to the truth of the above statement. But it also applies to social/political development and progress.

Every system or theory, medications whether scientific or political, more about has rules. The Torah, with its complex set of precepts for living a good life, has a myriad of rules. They are compiled in the Shulchan Aruch, the universally accepted code of Jewish law and custom.

But every rule has an exception (whether or not this rule has an exception gives rise to a logical paradox, but God is above logic and His Torah draws His infinite light, above logic, into finite strokes of logic).

Most good, God-fearing Jews live by the rules, as indeed God desires. They are generally unaware of the exceptions (and often are inclined to repress into their subconscious the very existence of exceptions). But the great tzadikim (righteous souls) of every generation are always conscious of exceptions to the rules, and to a large extent devote their lives to the exceptions.

A congregation of souls, all together, creates a rule. But each individual soul, when observed out of the context of the congregation, is an exception to the rule.

Political systems, based on political philosophy, tend to weave a network of policy fit for the rule, the congregation (the klal), but often lose sight of the individual (the prat), the detail that does not fit the rule. The true leader is the one who studies/judges individual cases (as portrayed in the Bible in the figures of King David and King Solomon) and bases his leadership around them. He is aware of a deep secret: The exception (the seeming insignificant detail that for some 'mysterious' reason does not fit the rule) enriches the rule and motivates progress.

And so it is with regard to the organic development of the Oral Tradition. In every generation new, individual situations arise, calling for new, inspired judgment. This finds expression in the wealth of responsa literature, the true sign of progress in the Torah itself.
Before Yisroel Ba'al Shem Tov there were three Ba'alei Shem: Eliahu Ba'al Shem, sales Yoel Ba'al Shem, treat and Adam Ba'al Shem.

"Ba'al Shem" means "master of the Name (of God)." By the power of the Divine Name the Ba'al Shem works miracles, especially to heal the sick.

The Ba'al Shem Tov is the master of the goodly Name, the Name of God Tov (???), which means "good" and whose gematria is 17. This is the Name alluded to in the very first verse of the Torah, the Name (Divine power) that unites heavens and earth, spirituality and physicality. Yisroel (Israel, the proper name of the Jewish People) Ba'al Shem Tov came to better (to do good to) our lives, to bring us to a state of consciousness that unites our inner, spiritual life and our outer, physical life. This is messianic consciousness, for the essential function of Mashiach is to unite heavens and earth (on various planes, e.g., to unite the wisdom of Torah and the wisdom of science).

Eliahu Ba'al Shem, Yoel Ba'al Shem, and Adam Ba'al Shem were the leaders of the band of the hidden tzadikim, each in his generation. Then came the Ba'al Shem Tov who began his adult life as the leader of the hidden tzadikim but later was instructed from heaven to reveal himself and his teachings to the world. From that point on, his great disciples and their disciples, to the present day, all assumed the leadership of the Jewish community as revealed tzadikim. Inspired by Ba'al Shem Tov, they succeeded to unite the hidden dimension of their own souls, their inner life, with their revealed dimension, i.e., to unite within themselves heavens and earth, and thereby reveal to the world at large the essential goodness inherent in all of God's creation.

The ten generations from the Ba'al Shem Tov to our present generation correspond to the ten sefirot (the Divine channels of creation), above which are three hidden "heads of heads," corresponding to the three generations of Ba'alei Shem that preceded the Ba'al Shem Tov (this means that we are now the 13th generation from Eliahu Ba'al Shem).

The sum of the three hidden "heads of heads," Eliahu (?????, 52), Yoel (????, 47), Adam (???, 45), equals 144,  = 122 (144 is also the 12th "love number," secularly referred to as "Fibonacci number"). Together with Yisroel (?????, 541), the fourth Ba'al Shem, the Ba'al Shem Tov, the full gematria, 685 (5 times 137 [the inverse of the fine structure consant], ????, Kabbalah) is the 19th inspirational number (following 613), i.e., 192 plus 182.

Eliahu Ba'al Shem (????? ??? ??, 494), Yoel Ba'al Shem (???? ??? ??, 489), Adam Ba'al Shem (??? ??? ??, 487), Yisroel Ba'al Shem Tov (????? ??? ?? ???, 1000, the secret of the 1000 lights given to Moses at Sinai) all together equal 2470 = 19 times 130 (5 times 26, God's essential Name, Havayah) = 5 times 494 (19 times 26), Eliahu Ba'al Shem, the origin of all (the unknowable head of simple faith in God)!
The sign of having done a good deed is feeling close to God. Feeling far, sale estranged from God is the sign of having done something wrong.

The 11th of the 13 Principles of Faith outlined by Maimonides is faith in reward and punishment. There is the reward and punishment of the future, dosage in the World to Come, more about but there is also immediate reward and punishment, in this world.

There is no better feeling than feeling close to the Almighty, and no worse feeling than feeling far and estranged from Him.

If a person does a mitzvah (a commandment of the Torah, a well-defined good deed) and still feels far from God (the Commander of the mitzvah) it must be that either he did the mitzvah by rote or that some egocentric motive entered his consciousness while performing the mitzvah. Performing a mitzvah for its own sake, to fulfill God's will and one's mission in life, will always bring with it a sense of closeness to God.

Sometimes one experiences a momentary high after performing a mitzvah and subsequently experiences a fall of spirit. The Ba'al Shem Tov explains that this is because the high was no more than a sense of self-satisfaction, not one of true joy in having merited to do good, in service of God. The sense of self-gratification that comes almost automatically with the performance of a mitvah is likened to the venom of a snake that bites the heel of man, symbolizing the end of a deed.

So don't confuse between the false, impure sense of self-gratification and the true, pure sense of feeling close to God.

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