Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guest Posting By Jonathan - Why Many Of Us Feel Filled With Contradictions

(Picture by M. Carbone)

From Kol Demamah Dakah, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, vol. 10, Rabbi Itamar Shwartz:

The Reisha DeLo Ityadah includes within it all aspects of the Six Thousand Years [of history].

[Translator’s note: Reisha DeLo Ityadah means literally “The Head That is Not Known.” This is the head of the parztuf of Atik, the very highest partzuf, which ascends up and out of the realm of Atzilut. In Shaar Atik of Etz Chaim the Ari describes in an abstract, almost probabilistic way the various combinations of sefirot that may exist within this head. These combinations give rise to Atzilut and all the other worlds below it. Because this head is not garbed within the lower worlds, however, its exact composition cannot be known with certainty.]

At the end of the years of exile, the aspect of the Reisha DeLo Ityadah awakens and is revealed to the souls. All the time, different revelations from the Reisha DeLo Ityadah appear, so the souls continually feel a little different. Actually, what is revealed to a soul from the Reisha DeLo Ityadah are not that soul’s own particular aspects, but rather, what are revealed are all the various aspects of the Six Thousand Years. Therefore at one time, a soul can feel as though it is from a particular root, but shortly afterwards, it feels as though it’s from a different root. Afterwards, it might feel it’s from still another root. It doesn’t know the explanation for this.

One needs to know that it’s impossible to fully understand these [different revelations]. One is obliged to understand, however, that these are revelations from above the vessel. These revelations do not reveal who the self is; but rather, they reveal in the midst of the self possibilities that are not of the self. It is rather like the revelation in the En Sof that each point includes all aspects. So it is here, too: each point can reveal all the aspects of the Six Thousand Years. There is a revelation now into a soul not of the aspects of this world, but rather, aspects of the Reisha DeLo Ityadah. Therefore, the essence of the inner work is to dis-identify with the existence of the self [the ego, “I,” or ani]. When one does not feel the self, one will not feel that the revelation defines who the self is. However, if one does identify with self, they’ll feel that each revelation is defining who the self is — and they’ll be filled with contradictions.


In this section of Kol Demamah Dakah, Rav Shwartz is interpreting, I think, the reason for the spiritual confusion of modernity — the overwhelming abundance of choices before us in thought and lifestyles. Today, it is hard to know who we are, because there are so many possible selves available for us to be. Even within our religion, there are dozens of well-known and thousands of lesser-known styles of how to be a Jewish self. This is to say nothing of the dizzying array of non-Jewish choices — choices that our generation, unfortunately, in proportions as never before, seriously considers and chooses. Most of us have tried out many styles of self, each time experiencing something different. I certainly have, immersing myself in one style of learning and then another: mitnagdic, then Chassidic in various schools, then just learning pure nigleh, then only nistar, and so on, diving into each in turn to the point where I felt a connection on a soul-level to its root. But which is my real root? Can I have more than one? Some of these selves contradict the others to a degree. Can these selves be the core of me?

Rav Shwartz is really speaking to my experience here. He sees not confusion or anomie in this scenario, because that is all only on the surface. Rather, in the true spirit of the mekubalim, with their unquenchable optimism, he sees the deep inner workings of the redemptive process. Why are we so confused about who to be, and feel so full of contradictions? It is only because we stand on the threshold of the redemption, when a light from outside of the system of this world has begun to shine down into the system. The light can confuse us because there is as yet no vessel for it; no categories of the self that can encompass it.

Our avodah now, as a result, is actually to dis-identify with all of those selves, all of the versions of the ego. We will then not be confused by the flickering images of that light shining upon our little self. There is no need to to say, “I am this,” or “I am that.” Rather, now it’s time to wake up to a wisdom for which there are no limiting categories; because our soul’s true root transcends the system of this world entirely.

I feel I should add that this is not an antinomian or anti-halachic teaching, as some secular scholars, in the school of Gershom Scholem, have claimed kabbalah tends toward. Rav Shwartz is clear when he states, also in this same sefer: “All of this [sublime understanding of the Reisha DeLo Ityadah] is in the soul’s inner perception. Since, however, we still exist within the worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah [ABY”A], within the body, we need to behave only according to the halachah, according the dictates of the worlds ABY”A, and not according to the dictates of the Reisha DeLo Ityadah. Herein is the root of the problem: the illumination is not matched to the vessel... It is incumbent upon a person to acknowledge that while the illumination is correct, there is at this time no vessel for it, and thus one cannot conduct oneself according to it... A person, however, who knows how to distinguish which aspect relates to the Reisha DeLo Ityadah and which to the vessel, and does not mix them—he has already been redeemed.”


At July 29, 2008 at 5:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous MENACHEM said...

Thank you for the article. Atik is connected with sifiras kesser wich is called the dark sfira due to are lack of understanding of it. Even though we cannot understand it we can reveal its power by uncovering it from within our soul. The human is an ``olam katan`` and has all the attributes of the sefiros within.

At July 29, 2008 at 7:16:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

Very illuminating!

Rav Schwartz has that special Chassidic knack for taking an abstruse kabbalistic concept and showing its relevance in ordinary human experience, as well as in avodas Hashem.

Thanks for translating and posting this insight into the mystery of Reisha D'lo Isyada, which by definition must remain beyond our grasp.

At July 30, 2008 at 6:30:00 AM EDT, Anonymous ben zeev said...

Does the end of your article imply that there are some people who don't need to completely follow halacha?

Also, why the need to emphasise that "within the body, we need to behave only according to the halachah"? Would we ever get a revalation from the RaDLA which goes against the halacha?

Thank you very much for the post.

At July 30, 2008 at 9:23:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Jonathan said...

You're all very welcome. I'm glad to have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for Rav Shwartz's work. He is truly an elevated intellect.

Ben Zeev: Clearly, we should all follow halachah. I actually added the last paragraph to try to avoid any misunderstandings about that. You also asked: Would we ever get a revelation from the Reisha DeLo Ityadah that goes against halachah? I don't know, but you're right, the Rav seems to imply that could happen. As he also explains, however, the revelations from the Reisha DeLo Ityadah should not be used to define who we are or to dictate our behavior. Rather, our avodah is to dis-identify with the revelations and the concept of self in general--to sort of see the self as merely a screen upon which these revelations are being projected, like a movie. We are not the screen, nor are we the movie, nor the characters in the movie.

At July 30, 2008 at 1:54:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

The Zohar states that on the highest plane, there is no dualism: no "this vs. that" at all. So this could be misinterpreted as negating the entire fabric of halachah. But in fact what it means is that we can't perform the all-important mitzvos of the Torah in a bodiless state in a purely spiritual reality.

At July 31, 2008 at 5:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger einov birosho said...

check out my post about diveikus.

At August 1, 2008 at 3:23:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Jonathan said...

einov berosho: I looked over your post on deveikut. I love it. Thank you.


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