The Non-Sefirah Sefirah Daat by Shulamit Elson
On the Tree of Life, Daat (Knowledge) is not counted among the Sefirot, yet it occupies a critical place on Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man). Often called the non-Sefirah Sefirah, Daat’s location on the neck of Adam Kadmon is a clear indication of its importance. The neck is where God's spiritual force exerts its most persistent pressure as it attempts to make its way into our heart. This is why the Zohar refers to Jerusalem, which is considered the center of the spiritual world, and through which all spiritual power on earth flows, as “the neck of the Universe.” 1 It is also why God, in his wrath, called the Israelites a “stiff necked people” when, after he delivered them from bondage in Egypt, they turned away from Him in the desert to worship the golden calf. 2
The word daat derives from the same Biblical verse as the Sefirot Keter, Hokhmah and Binah: “I have filled him with the spirit of God (Keter), with wisdom (Hokhmah), with understanding (Binah) and with knowledge (Daat)…” 3
In Hebrew, the word "daat" is related to the word "yadah," which means “he knew,” as in the Biblical phrase “Adam knew Havah his wife.” 4 Here the word “knew” refers to a knowing that arises not out of the intellect but rather out of intimacy and relatedness. In the case of Daat, its intimacy and relatedness to the Sefirah Keter (Crown) allows Daat to perform its critical function as the exteriorization of this exalted Sefirah.
This exteriorization plays a fundamental role in prayer, and most specifically in the practice of Sound Prayer. The language of Sound Prayer is pure vibration. Using our voice to create sacred chants, our Sound Prayers take us beyond the language of our nefesh (animal soul) and offer us an opportunity to begin to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Life.
Because of the crowning place that Keter occupies among the worlds, its sound may not be used in prayer. Yet there is a need to draw on the power of Keter during our Sound Prayers. This is accomplished through the efficacy of Daat.
The placement of Daat at the throat of Adam Kadmon reflects that its power is directly related to our voice, which is the most spiritualized aspect of our physical being. The Biblical command not to speak the name of the Lord in vain relates to the importance of safeguarding the inherent power and holiness of Daat by maintaining the purity of our voice. The importance of keeping our voice pure is also a reason behind the imperative not to speak ill of others.
Sound Prayer uses Daat's special relationship to the Sefirah Keter to bring all of the other Sefirot together in balance and harmony. It is our voice manifesting through Daat that creates the tzinorrot, or channels, that connect one Sefirah to another.
THE MAKE UP FOR MAKING UP YOUR MIND
by Rabbi Dr Yehudah Leib Mirvis
The system of the ten Sefirot of the Zohar describes the workings of the divine mind and by inference, the workings of the mind of man created in the divine image.
Because these Sefirot are abstract concepts lacking definition, the Mystics are unable to describe them in concrete terms and use symbol-sets to convey an idea of their meaning. For greater clarity, the Sefirot singularly or collectively, attract large clusters of symbol-sets around them and the initiate, trying to find his way along the paths he tends to get lost in the maze. Unable to find enlightenment he seeks about the hidden mysteries of life, his mystic journey leads to even greater confusion.
Fortunately, we live in the era of the information explosion that has generated a vast terminology to describe our modern world and today it is possible to elucidate the concepts in language familiar to all. Here is an illustrative example.
The Sefer Yetzirah describes the three letters Alef, Mem & Shin of the Hebrew Alef-Bet as the three mothers. Alef may be identified with Keter, the first of the Sefirot heading the middle column; Mem may be identified with Hochmah, the second of the Sefirot heading the right-hand column, and the Shin may be identified with Binah, heading the left-hand column.
Mem is water, Shin fire and Alef spirit decides between them. (Sefer Yetzirah) The elements of water are undifferentiated. Water is holistic. These are the qualities of Hochmah, undifferentiated divine wisdom that transcends time.
Fire is unpredictable; it changes from moment to moment. These are the qualities of Binah, divine understanding to distinguish between one opposite and another, e.g. light and darkness, good and evil. Now, how does Keter decide between the one that is Hochmah, and the other that is Binah?
Through our understanding of cognitive science, we learn that Hochmah may be identified with the right hemisphere of the human brain, with Binah as the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is largely responsible for pattern recognition, intuition and sensitivity. Its imagery is like that of a universal map. It functions in analogue time and indeed, the round clock face is like a map of time. At a glance, we see the past, the present and the future. The left hemisphere rules over our rational, critical and analytical thinking, functioning in digital time. Here we distinguish between opposites and weigh up the alternatives. There is a continuous dialogue between the two hemispheres as a result of which, ideas are generated and decisions are made. This is the function of Keter.
Man is a unique creature for only he has a fully developed cerebral cortex, with both hemispheres functioning in liaison. Therefore, man is the Keter, the crown of divine creation. He alone has command of the middle column of royalty. He alone may see the whole picture, think rationally and exercise his free will in the choices he makes. Jewish Mysticism draws our attention to the tendency of man to rely exclusively on his left hemisphere to the exclusion of holistic thinking which gives a view of a majestic universe that may be sensed and enjoyed, and allows for intuitional thinking to give insight into the future that is otherwise unknown.
What Is This Thing Called Love?
by Velvel “Wally” Spiegler
We would probably have to go back prior to Creation to find a fitting definition for love. We could start the search by suggesting that love is the very first act of creation, and from there it mushroomed to the frivolous sentimentality that we find in motion pictures, pop music and pulp fiction, which today inflames the emotional excitement that many of us erroneously identify as love. Jewish tradition however takes a more serious view of love. The biblical references to love are plentiful—Abraham’s love for Sarah, Jacob’s passion for Rachel, bringing it all to life in the verse “and you shall love the Lord your God”. This forces us to wonder about the more subtle meanings to the concept of love.
Jewish Mysticism has something to say about love as well. The diagram of the Ten Sephirot in Assiyah (the world of action) categorizes three stages of human experience: the capacity for thought, our emotional makeup and the impulse towards action. The evolution of any creative act—any work of art or plan of operation always goes through this set of three stages. An architect, for example, who is commissioned to design a new office building, first conceives of the idea (the Sephirot of chochmah and bina), then invests his love (chesed and gevurah) of elegant design, to finally see the structure take shape (netzach and hod).
This brief glimpse of how the Sephirot transforms divine light into material substance, at least explains the role emotions play, but that still doesn’t answer the question—what is love? Perhaps the concept of Creation can make it clear. At some point in time before the Creation, God could not fulfil His intrinsic need to give. What was missing was a receiver, something or someone to whom He could bestow His gifts of benevolence. In His altruistic style, God withdrew Himself from His endless space to create a recipient. This phenomenon is called Tsimtsum, a paradox that finite minds are incapable of grasping. But put simply, God desired to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds" (Midrash Tanchuma Naso 16). The concept of God descending through Creation to progressively lower worlds is in order that He ultimately reunites and clings to the world, the object of His love.
Shevirat HaKelim (the Shattering of the Vessels) adds yet another piece to the puzzle of love. The original set of Ten Sephirot shattered because, except for the highest three, the lower seven were unable to give, they were endowed only to receive, much like a steam boiler that builds pressure, without an escape route, to the point of bursting. Every particle of matter from the realm of nuclear particles to the human species has but one purpose in this world—in the most elemental way, to give and receive.
We could conclude that giving and receiving are the most elemental form of love. It presents itself with every image of mother and child—a mother gives nurturing to her child (the receiver) who in turn provides delight to the giver, mimicking the intention of God. Consider that analogy in the case of two lovers, the grandiose balance of planets in space and the forces that hold nuclear particles together.
Love is probably the most powerful force in the universe, resembling a kind of “glue” coupling all of nature together. We experience this power through our ability of sensory perception particularly our capacity to feel—a function of the body, which behaves as an antenna, picking up the signals of love energy. It is available to us in unlimited quantities, which might lead us to question why we don’t love everybody, saint or sinner alike. The barrier to accessing this boundless flow is a product of our minds, our egos, creating preconceived notion s or decisions about what we consider right or wrong. If we can somehow drop that shield of resistance, the floodgates of love will open bringing with it love and peace around the world. This is because genuine love must be unconditional; it’s our egos that construct the resistance.
In browsing through the many Jewish periodicals that cross my desk, I find primarily articles on Israeli politics, the holocaust, Jewish identity and Jewish continuity, but the one thing that's conspicuously missing from any of these essays is love. It's as if love doesn't play a part any more in any of the current Jewish literature. It's as if we can solve all our problems through intellectual and political influence, rather than consulting our hearts. In a recent issue of Moment magazine, I could barely find a single reference to love in an article entitled, "Secrets of Great Jewish Parenting." Is it possible that we have effectively learned to disregard love as the medium of connectedness?
It's hard for me to believe that as a people whose spiritual writings is so abundant with thoughts and expressions of love—love for God, God's love for us, love for other Jews, love your neighbor. Have we become so cerebral as to close ourselves off from the one emotion that connects the entire universe? To talk about love, genuine love not the sentimental or sensual kind, seems almost as taboo as talking about sex and violence, yet to love is truly the most powerful truth and healing force we have.
Love is a two way street. The first objective is to learn to love yourself, and the second is to love all others. All the problems of the world are a result of people not feeling loved. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else which requires that you know and have experienced the feeling of unconditional love. To encounter that kind of love, you have to be accepted for who you are, just the way you are, regardless of your faults, your shortcomings, and your insecurities. Conversely how do you deal with someone else's unacceptable behavior? You can abandon and reject them or you can stop to realize that you don't feel loved enough yourself to be accepting and loving. The Hasidic rebbes were known to love their followers unconditionally, but today those teachers are not easy to find. A few of us may have been lucky enough to know a saint or a saintly therapist. Another way of understanding that kind of love is to know that we're loved unconditionally by God, our universal support system; it is confirmed throughout Torah literature and particularly in the siddur, the Jewish prayer book.
True love operates at the soul level by drawing us toward us toward other souls, situations or objects, necessary to rectify or complete some aspect of our purpose in the world. In that mode, love is sufficient to draw diverse energies together to complete tasks, manage organizations, or pursue worthy causes. We see the effects of love in all walks of life—in successful politics, family relations and community affairs. On a personal basis, love is the essential force bringing people together and keeping relationships on course; the erosion of love will invariably weaken, harm or destroy those relationships.
Fear is the polar opposite of love. Most of us are afraid that if we expose the truth about who we really are; we'll be unacceptable, unloved. So we resort to all sorts of devices—saying the right things, going on the right vacations—hoping that others will notice and love us. And just as we acquire the clothes, the car, we find nothing really changes and no one loves us any better. So why not give others a chance? Trust that if you tell them who you really are and what's really going on in your life, they'll accept you and love you unconditionally. The next time try a new answer to the question, "how are you?"
The love of others demands that we also accept each one for who they are, and to understand that they too are frail creatures sharing the same pain that we endure. Listening attentively to a person's problems and feelings without judgment or criticism is an exquisite act of loving support. On the other hand if I get angry with someone, I rejected him; I'm saying energetically that you don't measure up as a human being; you're simply not acceptable, you're not loved. Here's an example: let's say your kid is responsible for cutting the grass and you come home to find the grass uncut. You have a choice. You can scold him or simply ask why the grass didn't get cut. If you tell him that you understand his reasons, he can learn that he was wrong and still feeling loved. If you want to be a great Jewish parent, love your kids unconditionally and if you want to be a great Jewish mensch (a loving person), love everyone else unconditionally also.