Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY: Do-It-Yourself Reality.

One of the special delights that have evolved in my life the past few years is a new hevruta of study companions. You have the fruits of some of our studies in past entries. Currently we continue our study of Kedushat Levi, the Hasidic commentary to the Torah of Yitzakh Levi of Berditchev. here is the translation of a wonderful reflection of prayer and the zug (partnership) of God and humanity:

[An] additional explanation: Bereshit - [read it as] bet (two/double) beginning
The Blessed Name bestows shefa [beneficent outpouring] and we through our prayers make an opening in the divine outpouring [allowing it to reach the prayer], each according to his [i.e., human] will. 
This one [for example] will make an opening by means of the letters of chayyim (life) for [enhanced] life; That one with the letters of chokhmah (wisdom) for [greater] wisdom; 
Another with the letters of osher (wealth) for wealth.[1] 
And thus [it is] for all goods, each [may be used] according to our will. 

Look, for everything that is [found] in the [the realm] of the spirit, there is something analogous to it in the [realm of] the physical. 
So look, in the physical [universe] there is sound and speech.
 The sound is the matrix/container,[2] while speech is the opening [3] for the sound made through letters [to activate the shefa].  

Thus [for example] on Rosh ha-Shanah, the sound of the shofar is [or signifies] the outpouring from the Blessed Creator - it is the matrix.
 And when we say the malchut, zechronot, and shofarot [4], it is the opening by which we shape the outpouring of the Creator through the letters/words, every individual according to his will. 

[Hands-on Judaism: young Kolamites making their own shofar]

See, this outpouring matrix that flows from the Creator, it is the aspect [we know as] the written Torah [which is given to us]. 
While this opening we make for the outflow through letters, this is the aspect of the oral Torah, it being the will of Israel, when they make interpretation of the written Torah  [5]. 
So this [is the meaning of] bereshit - "double beginning [to the universe]" - the [combination of] written Torah and the oral Torah [bring creation into being].[6]

1. This is based on the word mysticism of Sefer Yetzirah, which regards the letters of the Hebrew Alef-Bet as the building blocks of creation. Very much analogous to the periodic table, where elements can be combined to make useful compounds, it is taught that proper application of the letters and words of Hebrew allows the adept to construct reality from them. This is also a testimony to the Jewish notion of humanity dignity and power. God gives us the raw materials of the natural (and supernatural) order, but we may mold them and shape them to our needs and the needs of the world. 

2. the translation of calul here is debatable. I welcome a better suggestion, 

3. Tzimtzum literally means contraction/condensing. The image is a space created in the membrane between the spiritual and physical realms to allow the shefa to enter one's life, i.e., spoke prayer attunes us to the divine "frequency," while the words themselves serve as the access code for translating the spiritual bounty into physical reality. 

4. the three liturgies that accompany the blowing] consists of verses that refer to these three themes. Each verse is specifically selected for their upbeat message for Israel and the world. The liturgy, of course, is a Jewish creation, an addition to the purely biblical command to sound the shofar on the holiday. The significance of this will be evident at the end of the homily. 

5. Here the theme of partnership (and mutual dependency) really gets highlighted, and in a somewhat counter-tradition manner. Jewish thinkers have tended to treat all the two Torahs, the written Torah and it's on-going interpretation, as God-given. Rabbi Yitzakh unpacks that flattening, monistic thinking by reclaiming the oral Torah as a human creation, and the very thing that renders the divine gift of Torah (Torah = divine outpouring) meaningful on the physical plane. Without us and our wordy, argumentative ancestors, the Torah would be divine, surely, but inert and unable to benefit the world, like a heap of iron ore that need human intervention to refine it, reshape it, and make it into tools.

6. The biggest metaphysical claim of all - that only through the combined efforts of God and humanity that the universe exists. 


Blogger Maggid said...

Just sayin'
I'm Grateful for You.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home