THE VISION OF LOVE
By Rabbi Dr Yehudah Leib Mirvis
When you ask about love in Jewish Mysticism, Ahavat Hesed loving kindness, or rather love of Hesed, comes to mind. When you ask, what is Hesed? There is no ready reply.
When you ask the question ‘what?’ You expect the object of your quest to be clearly defined. Hesed, as one of the 10 divine Sefirot, cannot be defined; it is intangible, it has no measure.
The Sefirah Hesed is associated with the first day of primal creation, when G-d said, "Let there be light", and there was light. And G-d saw the light that it was good.
This light is the light of consciousness. The creation of conscious man, who may open his eyes to see the good in this world, is an act of divine Hesed.
It is our task as beings created in the divine image to emulate G-d. We need to open our eyes to see the light of goodness and then dedicate ourselves to opening the eyes of our fellow that he too may see the good, and do good. Through such acts of Hesed, we express Ahavah – love, of G-d and of our brother.
The Vilna Gaon (Aderet Eliyahu, Parshat Balak) points out that there are three aspects of seeing. First there is vision in the physical sense. We try to comprehend what we see to gain mastery over our environment. We seek, measure and analyze our findings to make rational decisions. This is the basis of our daily routine. It is the way of the philosopher and it is the way of the scientist who through his amazing discoveries has made life convenient and comfortable for us.
Logical conclusions as the consequence of analysis demand that we view things in categories of opposites. The thesis requires an antithesis to arrive at a synthesis. So, in differentiating we tend to look for the antagonistic. Schooled to take note of the unlike, we lay ourselves open to contention. It is not surprising that our world is full of strife and disputation, with peace hard to come by.
The second aspect of vision is seeing the signs. This is the way of the astrologer and the fortune-teller. Because of our strong desire to see ahead and need to know today what tomorrow will bring, there are those who become gullible to the wiles of the seer and get caught up and enmeshed in the cultic practices of the false prophets. They fervently believe that they have ‘seen the light’, and are convinced that they are witness to the hand of G-d pointing to the doom of mankind. Little do they realize that the right hand of G-d is Ahavah – love, because they are slaves to the power of darkness of the left.
The third aspect of vision is that of mystic insight. This is the true way of Jewish Mysticsm. It is the way to a higher purpose and the ultimate goal in life. It is the journey of spiritual transcendence with joy and bliss as the reward. It is the way of integration and not disintegration. It is the way for seeking similarities and common factors shared by the different peoples here on earth. It is the search for the means of unifying each man with his fellow so that as a united band we may take to the road to ultimate peace. This is the way of love.
The pure light of wisdom is undifferentiated, without dark and light hues. This is the light that extends from one end of the universe to the other, reserved for the righteous in the hereafter. This is the light of human consciousness in the highest grade. It is the light of love.
By Shulamit Elson
Gedullah (Greatness) is also called Hesed, or unconditional love. Its nature is such that it makes no distinctions and knows nothing of self-promotion or self-protection. During Sound Prayer, this is one of the two Sefirot we concentrate on to engender compassion in ourselves and in the world (the other being judgment) .
As the Bahir teaches, the unconditional love of Gedullah is associated with the biblical patriarch Abraham. Abraham, a direct descendant of Noah, is also, through his sons Isaac and Ishmael, the father of both the Jewish and the Arab peoples. According to the prophet Mikhah, God Himself gave Abraham the attribute of kindness, and the Hebrew Bible devotes several passages to his acts of generosity and thoughtfulness to strangers.
The nature of Gedullah is to seek no explanation and to give without reason, uncritically and without questions or condition. Visualized beneath the shoulder of Adam Kadmon on the right side of the heart, it is related to the right arm and hand.
Gedullah is the open palm of generosity that asks nothing in return. Its energy flows directly in an endless stream from the Eternal Source, untouched by worldly concerns. At one with its object, it is a continuous flow of love that kindles a longing to stay forever in its embrace. It is the very opposite of the separation and loneliness that we often feel in our normal state of consciousness.
Gedullah is the pure joy of seeing beauty everywhere and in everything. As such, it is the propulsive force that enables our spiritual yearning to flow upward to the Creator. Gedullah, like Hokhmah, is a door to the infinite, for it is through love of the Creator and the creation that we gain entry to the mysteries.
The experience of Gedullah during Sound Prayer can cause us to literally grow faint, as the intense beauty and purity of its unconditional love overwhelms us with a sense of the ineffable.
THE FIFTH AND A HALF SENSE
by Ayala Ben-Menahem
I feel sorry for the scientists in our contemporary world. Want to know why?It’s because science claims that anything that cannot be measured in alaboratory setting does not really exist. In light of that, these right-brainpeople develop instruments, perform tests, spend billions of dollars and all butignore the spiritual aspect of the cosmos. (Many stringent scientists even attempt to turn matters of the spirit into logical laboratory studies).Scientists today can explain a lot about how we see, hear, smell, taste and feelpressure, temperature and stimulation.
Here, now, is the million-dollar question: How is love measured? Can we know if a mother loves her son more than she loves her sibling or her husband? Can weknow if a young woman loves her best female friend more than she loves, let’ssay, her boyfriend? You would be correct in saying that this is not a fairquestion because there are different types of love. And this is the paradox. If love cannot be measured in a laboratory setting the, scientifically speaking,that would mean that it does not exist.
A relatively new term, the sixth sense, refers to affairs of the spirit such as ESP, psychic occurrences, déjà vu, etc. (How ironic that those ethereal matters can often be and are laboratory tested, but love cannot!) Love goes beyond our five physical senses, encompassing only spirit, yet not fully imbedded in the “I see dead people” world. It is part of the spiritual sixth sense that will always baffle scientists because they will never be able to testit under laboratory conditions!
That is why I call love the fifth and a half sense.
A story is told in the Talmud (part of the Oral Law which expounds on theTorah) about two prominent Sages who lived during the Second Temple, Hillel the President and Shammai Head of the Religious Court. A person approached Shammai saying, “Convert me but on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai dismissed him with no further ado. Approaching Hillel with the same request, the latter said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
As we have learned from Hillel, a premise (perhaps THE Premise) in Judaism, isvih-ah-hav-TAH lih-ray-ah-KHAH kah-MO- khahwhichliterally means “and you shall love your friend (fellow human being) as (you love) yourself.”
If we examine the word love in Hebrew, ah-hah-VAH,we feel a sense of openness, almost like fresh air or the exhalation of a deep sigh. The air starts in the lower throat, right above the heart, stopped at the place where the upper teeth meet the lower lip and then spring boarded out to the world. In Hebrew only consonants are written; vowels are glyphics added above, below or sometimes in between each consonant. Thus, the letters of the word ahavah – Aleph(the silent letter)-H-V-H) -- itself, harbor a deeper meaning. Aleph is a silent consonant that receives its sound from the "ah" vowel underneath and which is similar to the final Heh (pronounced like the laughing sound ha). (Perhaps you’ll never again look at the sound that expresses understanding, “ah-ha” the same way.) Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is actually comprised of three letters: one yod resting above avahv and one yod turned upside down,below it. One of the ways in which G-d’s name is written in Hebrew is two yods. Another way is yod–heh–vahv–heh, or Y-H-V-H, the ineffable Name. Thus, Aleph is composed of two of the letters found in G-d’s holiest name (yod and heh). Aleph means aloof, above everyone else. Is this not the perfect description for G-d? The second and fourth letters of ah-hah-VAH are both heh, the “h” sound. Writing the letter heh with an apostrophe after it is another way of spelling G-d’s name.
By transposing the letters, we have (A)-B (B and V are interchangeable in Hebrew) and H-H. Av (pronounced ahv) means father. Thus we have the word father (Av) and two hehs, or G-d squared – the only entity that is able to provide endless love. In the transposed word ahavah, we have Father, G-d, G-d. Could any word be more exacting to describe eternal love than one which also relates to G-d three times?
Love is that spark in us that emulates godliness and just as the existence of G-d cannot be proven in a laboratory setting, neither can love.
If we transpose the letters again, we have H-Aleph (silent letter)-B-H or the Hebrew phrase Hah-Aleph Bah meaning “the Aleph (an expression for G-d) bah, or “ [is] in her”. Here, “her” represents the spirit, nih-shah-MAH which, in Hebrew, is feminine. In other words, a part of G-d is in the feminine part of our spirits.
Jewish Mysticism teaches that, in reality, there is no time, space or motion. Love teaches us the same thing. Time, or age, has no bearing on love; it exists between people of any age. Space has no bearing on love; people can love one another from across the planet or even when they are “out of this world” in the outer space. Motion has no bearing on love; love is something that exists within us and cannot be displaced.
As previously stated, Ah-hah-VAH is an integral part of the Jewish faith, as is love in most other religions. In Judaism we have ah-hah-VAHT KHEH-sehd, the love of mercy, love of grace. This is a passionate desire to do good deeds, to show compassion to others, to fulfill the commandments or mitz-VOHT (be they the seven required by Noahides or the ten that were given later on) given by G-d to mankind.
Chessed is the fourth of the ten spheres that comprise the Tree of Life. It is the first of the spheres that enables man to perform a physical action. The first called Keter (KEH-tehr) is almost impossible for man to attain since it represents the pure G-dhood. The next two, Chochmah (Khohkh-MAH), Wisdom and Binah (Bee-NAH), Understanding exist in our psyche. In Chessed we have the chance to literally perform a deed of compassion or mercy.
One of the modern pieces of jewelry that is making a comeback is called the key to Paradise. It is said that anyone who has worn this “key” will be awarded easy access to this place in the next world. Upon examining the amulet, usually worn around the neck, one finds the Hebrew letters A-H and directly underneath them the letters B(V)-H where the last letter is tilted. If love is the key to Paradise, how much more graceful is the path leading there! How fortunate we are to be imbued with love (that spark of godliness), to experience it throughout our lives and to use it to enable us to enter Paradise.
May we all be blessed with the love of mercy, not only toward our families and friends, but to the strangers we meet and, in that way, merit opening the gates of Paradise with our spiritual key of A H V H.