Importance of Attitude, Ego and Higher Self, Universal Order, Extraordinary Influence;
Mysticism, Tree of Life, New Age and Eastern Mysticism;
Prayer, Affirmations, Standing Prayer/Amidah, Language
6. Unity versus Sin
7. Affliction and Redemption
9. Cyclical Time
List of Diagrams and Tables
Diagram 1 Tree of Life
Diagram 2 Three Columns
Diagram 3 Lightening Flash
Diagram 4 3 Patriarchs & 4 Matriarchs
Diagram 5 Holy One Blessed Be He
Diagram 6 Intellect/Sechel
Diagram 7 Yud (Seed)
Diagram 8 Bais (Womb)
Diagram 9 Path of Blessing
Table 1 Polarities
Table 2 List of Affirmations
Kabbalah represents the ancients' cryptic answer to the puzzle of human and cosmic existence. It reveals the fundamental patterns which are at the root of existence, the G-dly image in which we and the world are made. The following work attempts to translate traditional Kabbalah into the modern terms of personal development. It attempts to demonstrate the manifold parallels between mystical Judaism and the human potential movement.
Kabbalah is a system whose study redefines our concept of self. Through meditation on the divine we transform our being. The small sense of self is refreshed and expanded through the experience of our connection to the universal. Kabbalah provides us with a path for maximizing human potential, in the language of the mystic, for achieving ecstatic union with the divine. Kabbalah is psychospiritual self-development.
Prayer is the central mystical rite of Judaism. The Jewish prayer book or siddur is essentially a Kabbalistic manual. The Amidah, the Standing Prayer is the center or climax of the daily prayer service. Its nineteen benedictions provide the chief Kabbalistic vehicle for mystical meditation. The work that follows is an interpretation of these nineteen blessings in terms of psychospiritual self-development.
This psychospiritual interpretation is not meant to negate the literal meaning of the blessings or other renderings thereof. Such an interpretation, however, does have the virtue of conveying, at least in part, the deeper, more mystical significance of the blessings.
The Amidah is experiential. This work, therefore, is intended not as an intellectual expose, but rather as a manual of practice. The ideas contained herein are only suggestions of meaning. The reader is encouraged to prayer-fully meditate on the Amidah and discover for him or herself its power as a vehicle for psychospiritual growth.
It is hoped that this work will be of interest to Jews, orthodox and non-orthodox, as well as gentiles, who desire a greater understanding of themselves and their world. Psychospiritual Kabbalah is "the knowledge knowing which all is known."
It is hoped that the dissemination of this knowledge will contribute to “the spreading forth of the well-springs of [mystical] knowledge” which will hasten the coming of the final redemption.
Prayer, mysticism and personal development are all concerned with the refinement and transformation of self. Essentially prayer is a mystical vehicle whose goal is the development of personal or psychospiritual potential. The fulfillment of our psychospiritual evolution is the ultimate intent of Jewish prayer, ritual and ethics.
Prayer, mysticism and personal development share the same fundamental philosophical principals. They are as follows.
Importance of Attitude
Our inner, psychological environment determines our perception of our external environment. External reality is a reflection of state of mind. The mind is not a blank, receptive screen, but an active interpreter of impressions. That is, perception is not a passive, objective process. It is interpretation. State of mind determines experience. In the most real sense through our psychological attitudes we create our own reality. Secular philosophy along with modern physics and brain research tend to agree with this assertion of relativity.
It is attitude, then, rather than our circumstance which determines the quality of our life. Our appraisal of external events for better or worse determines our sense of well-being. "It all depends how you look at it." Changing our attitude changes our world. By missing or taking advantage of the opportunities abounding in each moment we set ourselves up for disappointment or fulfillment.
Jewish tradition prescribes prayer as a method of psychospiritual development to transcend our negative misconceptions, self-defeating habits and prejudices. These are the obstacles which prevent our meaningful, fulfilling experience of reality. They restrict the realization of our essential being. Prayer cultivates awareness of our greater identity. It affirms a mystical connection with the Divine Order of existence through our more perfect, Higher Self.
Ego and Higher Self
A moment's reflection reveals that we do in fact have more than one level of self. Ego is the psychological term which designates the conscious personality. This ego is our usual way of perceiving and reacting to our environment. It includes tastes, values, intellectual beliefs, emotional predispositions, etc. It is largely a product of our socialization. Our enculturation as children and in our adult life chiefly determines our customary, ordinary conscious state. This state of self is referred to in the language of the Kabbalah as Mochin DeKatnut, "small", "immature" or "constricted consciousness".
This contrasts with an extraordinary state of self, referred to in the language of the personal development movement as the Higher Self. In contact with our Higher Self we transcend the mundane concerns and stereotyped perceptions of our ego-personality. We experience our interrelationship with our environment and creation as a whole. This state of mind frequently manifests as we witness the grandeur of nature. It is associated with majesty, awe, love, peak athletic performance, meditation, etc. We speak here of "forgetting our self" and of "time standing still" as our ordinary ego-orientation is interrupted. In this state we become sensitive to non-conscious elements of our psyche. Identified with the truer, all-knowing perspective of our Higher Self, our life becomes infused with strength, fulfillment, meaning and purpose.
Some techniques of personal development direct their efforts to the enhancement and empowerment of ego. Their goal is the improvement of traits and talents of the personality. In contrast psychospiritual development requires the quality of bittul/self abnegation or humility. This involves the sacrifice of our negative egocentric attitudes. We need to transcend these self-frustrating misconceptions, replacing the narrow-minded habits of personality with an unprejudiced appreciation of our circumstances. Jewish tradition, epitomized in prayer, defines "self" in the highest terms. It concerns itself with developing our experience of the Higher Self. This experience is referred to in the language of Kabbalah as Mochin DeGadlut, "large", "mature" or "expanded consciousness".
Prayer, mysticism and personal development all presuppose order, a natural pattern which permeates creation. They assert that we are able to positively influence the quality of our life to the degree that we act in accordance with this, the world’s and our true nature.
Psyche, spirit and cosmos reflect each other. "The microcosm contains the macrocosm." Behind the complex multiplicity of creation lies a unifying template or blueprint. This most essential aspect of existence, the pulse and substance of life, is, in the language of the mystic, divinity.
The egocentric perspective cannot encompass the big picture. Viewed through this constricted consciousness experience seems disjoint and largely random. This perspective is antithetical to this experience of the Divine Order.
The supra-personal vision of the Higher Self looks behind the diversity of appearances and discerns pattern and purpose. This expanded consciousness recognizes a rich web of relationships, including synchronicity (meaningful coincidence), symbol and metaphor. Aligned with the Divine Order the world of the mystic is transformed from the profane into the sacred. The mystical goal of union with the divine is achieved through identification with the Higher Self, the Divine Soul.
Our ego works against change, striving to maintain the status quo of our familiar worldview. Social associations are made with those who share or support our point of view. Challenging assertions are ignored. We arrange and interpret experience to reinforce our preconception of reality. We cling to familiar misconceptions, unwittingly choosing frustration over change; "It may be pain, but it's my pain." Too heavily invested in our personality to reject even its grossly negative aspects we defend attitudes which restrict the development of our potential.
"Change comes from desperation or inspiration." Desperation arises when the painful frustration of our familiar worldview becomes overwhelming, forcing us to challenge our mistaken assumptions. Inspiration is the dawning of new, extraordinary awareness. It is the drawing in of spirit from outside the ordinary boundaries of self.
Mysticism refers to this process of transformation as "redemption". The term "redemption" implies an power beyond the ego-self acting for one's benefit; one is redeemed by someone or something else. Psychospiritual redemption is an extra-ordinary process, transcending and transforming our ordinary self. Connection with our Higher Self is the required catalyst for change. Through the agency of prayer and righteous acts we enlist the assistance of the Divine Order in our process of psychospiritual self-development.
The Tree of Life
The Divine Order underlying existence is described mystically as a dynamic interrelationship of archetypal forces. These primordial forces represent the most essential principles and core of reality. They are the truest terms, the most fundamental vocabulary with which to describe our life and creation as a whole. Kabbalah diagrams these archetypes as stations or sefirot on a composite symbol or glyph, the Tree of Life/Aitz Chaim (diagram 1). The Aitz Chaim is a map, a graphic mnemonic, which elucidates the psycho-spiritual-cosmic workings of existence. The conflict and resolution of opposites described on the Tree expresses the motive and drama of existence.
Tree of Life
There is a horizontal dynamic in the Tree. The Left Column is opposed in its tendency to the Right Column and this conflict is resolved in the balanced Middle Column (diagram 2.)
There is also a vertical flow in the Tree of Life. This "Lightening Flash" (diagram 3) describes the sequential emergence of the sefirot, from the top down, and the order of connection between the lower and upper worlds. All this and other aspects of the Aitz Chaim will be discussed at length in the body of this work.
New Age and Eastern Mysticism
Kabbalah is central or seminal to Western mystical traditions, orthodox and unorthodox. Included within the breadth of Jewish mystical tradition are reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, angels associated with all life and actions, numerology, astrology, palmistry, phrenology, the speech of animals and plants, magic, tele-transportation of self, clairvoyance and more. Although it may be embarrassing to our rationalist sensibilities to include these subjects within the parameters of Jewish tradition they are nonetheless firmly ensconced therein. However, the practice and even the study of such mystical arts and sciences is considered perilous.
The Zohar, revealed in 1290, is the primary text of Kabbalah. Along with the Torah and Talmud (codified in the second century B.C.E.) it was accepted as cannon, holy writ. Passionate arguments, often splitting the Jewish world, continue to exist as to the prerequisites necessary for the study of Kabbalah. However, there is unanimous agreement that the mystical perspective reveals the greatest truths. Kabbalah, the inner face of the Torah is the essence of Jewish religious practice.
There is also a tremendous similarity between Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah, both in philosophy and cosmology. This should not be entirely surprising seeing that Judaism is properly oriental, being from the Middle East. Meditation, spiritual guide or master, austerities, spiritual hierarchies and stages of creation, etc. are similarly conceived in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah. This, of course, does not deny that there may be significant differences in essence between these mystical traditions.
The Zohar in the first part of the following quote explicitly describes the fundamental importance of attitude in determining experience (see above). The remainder of the quote documents the connection between Jewish and Eastern mysticism.
"Rabbi Abba said: One day I came to a city of the people of the East, and they told me some wisdom that they had inherited from ancient times. They also had books explaining this wisdom, and they brought me one such book. In this book it was written that when a person meditates in this world, a spirit is transmitted to him from on high. The type of spirit depends on the desire to which he attaches himself. If his mind attaches itself to something lofty and holy, then that is what he transmits down to himself. But if his mind attaches itself to the Other Side [unholiness], and he meditates on this, then that will be what he transmits down to himself.
"They said, 'It all depends on word, deed and the individual's desire to attach himself. Through these he transmits downward to himself that side to which he becomes attached.'
"In that book I found all the [idolatrous] rites and practices involved in the worship of the stars and constellations. It included the things needed for such rites, as well as instructions on how one must meditate in order to transmit their influences to himself.
"In the same manner, one who wishes to attach himself on high, through Holy Spirit must do so with deed, word and desire of the heart, meditating in that area. This is on what it depends when one wishes to bind himself to something and transmit its influence to himself...
"I said to them: ' My children, the things in that book are very close to the teachings of the Torah. But you must keep yourself from these books in order that your hearts not be drawn to their [idolatrous] practices and all the facets mentioned there, and lest you be drawn away from serving the Blessed Holy One.'
"All these books can confuse a person. This is because the people of the East were great sages, who inherited this wisdom from Abraham. He had given it to the sons of his concubines, as it is written, 'To the sons of the concubines that Abraham had taken, Abraham gave gifts [names of G-d][and sent them… east.]' (Genesis 25:6) [This was originally true wisdom] but later it was drawn into many [idolatrous] sides."1
Prayer is the most prominent aspect of Jewish religious life. As such it is the essential core of the Jewish experience. The prayer service is at once a mystical rite and a system of psychospiritual self-development. It is designed to facilitate a mystical unification of the worshiper with the Divine Order, with G-d. Through sincere participation in prayer we move away from the consideration of our ego-personality and come to identify with the greater perfection of our Higher Self.
Probably the most common technique of personal development is the use of affirmations. Affirmations involve the frequent verbal repetition of statements of positive beliefs. We affirm as actual those qualities, which we desire. For example, "I am receiving love" or "I am prosperous" or "I am radiating perfect health."
Prayer is affirmation. It is a formula which affirms, not the ego, but our identification with our Higher Self. The images of prayer invoke a state of psychospiritual self-actualization. They speak of the self-integrated within the Divine Order.
The Standing Prayer/Amidah
The Standing Prayer/Amidah is the climax of the formal Jewish prayer service. The Talmud tells us "A hundred and twenty elders, among whom there were many prophets, drew up eighteen blessings [the Amidah] in a fixed order."2 The Amidah is the deepest and most characteristic aspect of Jewish religious expression. Its weekday version (using the order of prayer as prescribed by R. Yitzchak Luria, nusach ha'ARI , the acknowledged kabbalistic authority; Siddur Tehilat Ha' Shem, K'Tav, Brooklyn, N.Y.), considered herein, is said three times each day, morning, afternoon and night. The Talmud/Oral Tradition informs us that the ancients used to take three hours for each of these services; one hour of meditation to develop the praiseful attitude necessary to pray the Amidah, one hour to recite the Amidah and one hour to return to normal consciousness.3
Closer to our day, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the first Lubavitcher rebbe, in his masterwork the Tanya instructs his followers to take no less than one and one half hours for the morning service4, the most comprehensive of the day.
In the morning service/shachrit the Amidah is preceded firstly by the Verses of Praise/Pesuke d'Zimra. This section, featuring selections from the Psalms, is designed to inculcate in the worshiper a sense of love and awe for the Divine. This awareness of Divinity derives from our identification with our Divine Soul, the expanded consciousness of our Higher Self.
Then follows the Schma, "Hear, Oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One" with its blessings before and after. Tradition teaches that the proper attitude for the recitation of the Schma is one of readiness for self-sacrifice. Indeed, Jewish martyrs throughout the ages have declared the Schma with their last breath. In terms of psychospiritual development, this implies that the realization of the Divine Unity of creation, "the L-rd is one," requires the sacrifice of the ego-self with its sense of separate identity.
Next the Amidah is recited. It is said facing Jerusalem, standing with feet together in imitation of the angelic hosts, in an audible whisper, ideally with eyes closed and hands over the heart.
The Amidah is followed by a "cooling off" period. This section contains various psalms and other compositions.
Jewish tradition informs us that in prayer our attitude should be that we are approaching and then, during the Amidah, within the presence of an all-powerful monarch. This beneficent sovereign is the source and sustenance of our lives. Our prayers and supplications are effective at drawing blessings into our lives when we identify and align our being with Divinity through our Higher Self, our Divine Soul.
Sincerity and joy/simcha provide the necessary attitude/kavanah for effective prayer. Most essentially, then, we must maintain a positive attitude, firmly believing that our efforts at self-transformation will be successful.
The language of the Amidah, and of Jewish sacred writings as a whole, is often highly symbolic. Physical images are used to hint at and invoke inner truths. In the psychospiritual perspective external references are metaphors for states of being. The language of the Amidah is also ancient. With all this it may at times seem foreign and inaccessible. However, meaning and purpose reward our meditations on the Standing Prayer.
Master, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise
Shield of Abraham; the first blessing.
"Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our fathers, G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob, the great, the mighty, the awesome G-d, exalted G-d, who bestows beneficent kindnesses, who possesses all, who remembers the piety of the patriarchs, and who, in love, brings a redeemer to their children's children for the sake of His Name. King, Helper, Savior, Shield. Blessed are You L-rd, Shield of Abraham."
"Blessed are You..."
Here we are addressing not G-d in his various permutations as He comes down into this world, through , tzimtzum, hishtalshulus, the four worlds and the ten sefirot on the Tree of Life. The use of the word "You" indicates that we are addressing the G-dhead, G-d as He is for Himself before and above creation, I/Anochi. This direct address is possible because our souls issue from and remain connected to this highest level of divinity. Such is the dignity of prayer.
"..G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob..."
The first blessing invokes the patriarchs and the three pillars of the Tree of Life which they embody. Abraham is associated with the sefira Chesed/Kindness and the right hand column of the Tree of Life on which it is situated and in the human body with the right hand (including the arm, shoulder and in a more general way the whole right side.) Isaac is associated with the sefira Gevurah/Might, Restriction, the left hand column of the Tree and the left side of the body (particularly the upper extremity.) Jacob is associated with the sefira Tiferas/Beauty, the middle column of the Tree and in the human body with the torso as a whole. This triumvirate is reiterated as the blessing continues.
"the great, mighty and awesome G-d..."
These adjectives are references to the three pillars of the Tree; "great" [in Hebrew gadol, lit. big] refers to Chesed/Kindness which has the quality of magnanimity, generosity; "mighty" in Hebrew is gibor, the same word as Gevurah/Might; the Hebrew word norah/awesome is traditionally associated with Tiferas/Beauty.
Following this general invocation of the Tree of Life the first blessing reveals its particular association with Abraham and the sefira Chesed/Kindness;
"...exalted G-d, who bestows bountiful kindness(es) [Hebrew, chesadim] ...who remembers the piety [Hebrew, chesed] of the patriarchs...Blessed are you L-rd, shield of Abraham."
"...the great, mighty and awesome G-d, exalted G-d..."
Further, the name of G-d used twice in this blessing , k'ail (pronounced and spelt outside of a sacred context with a superfluous "k" to prevent using G-d's name in vain,) is associated with the sefira Chesed/Kindness.
Abraham established an inn in the desert. He was a chariot, a perfect vehicle for divine chesed. Chesed generously gives. It is expansive, unlimited goodness. "The world was built by Chesed" (Psalm 89:3). G-d desires to bestow goodness on creation; "More than the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to provide it with milk." Pesachim 112a
"...[A]nd who, in love [another reference to Chesed] , brings a redeemer to their children's children, for the sake of His Name."
G-d's Name refers to the Shechina, a feminine aspect of G-d, associated with the tenth sefira Malchus/Kingship. The Shechina is in exile with the Children of Israel and will be redeemed with them. (As is partially the case every Shabbos.) The theme of exile and redemption is the primary kabbalistic metaphor. It is at once a historical reality and a psycho-spiritual dynamic which replays repeatedly in our lives.
The penultimate line of this blessing "King, helper, savior and shield" illustrates an increasingly intimate dispensation of G-d's Chesed. The king is removed from his subjects, benefiting them from the distance of his palace; A helper is more personally involved with our lives, assisting us as individuals. A savior is even more committed to our well-being. His goal is not just assistance, but salvation. Most intimately, a shield, used in the closest proximity to our body, guards our very being.
Who Revives the Dead; the second blessing
"You are mighty forever, my L-rd; You resurrect the dead; You are powerful to save.
He causes the dew to descend.
He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.
He sustains the living with kindness, resurrects the dead with great mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the bound, and His faithfulness endures with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you master of the mighty. And who can be compared to You, King, who brings death and restores life and causes deliverance to sprout forth! You are trustworthy to revive the dead. Blessed are You L-rd, who revives the dead."
"You are mighty [Hebrew, gibor] forever, my L-rd...."
The second blessing of the Amidah invokes G-d's Gevurah/Might. Where Chesed involves unrestrained giving, Gevurah is limitation, restraint itself. Gevurah is Judgment, restraining Chesed in accordance with the recipient's ability to receive, the merit of the vessel. Tzimtzum, the diminution and constraint of G-d's essence as is necessary for creation, with all its particulars, is a function of Gevurah.
Gevurah is a necessary partner to Chesed. Unrestrained Chesed would abolish all individuality, dissolving everything in the unbridled greatness of G-d. The limiting function of Gevurah permits particular qualities and existences, particular players in the drama of existence. Chesed is the infinite possibilities, the limitless potential of the white canvas before it is touched by paint. Gevurah is the definition of the painting's composition. On a personal level Gevurah gives shape and substance to our lives. Without its defining, formative influence our lives remain idle and unrealized. Also, sometimes the surgeon's sharp knife can be the greatest kindness; the bitter pill may be the necessary medicine.
"He sustains the living with Chesed/Kindness, resurrects the dead with great mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the bound, and His faithfulness endures with those who sleep in the dust..."
The second blessing invokes images of Gevurah/Severity modified by G-d's Chesed: The blessing continues with further reference to Gevurah,
"Who is like You, Master of the Mighty/Gevuros [plural of gevurah]..."
(in summer say)"He causes the dew to descend"
(in winter say) "He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall,"
Water (as in reference to the wells mentioned above) is a symbol and an instrument of Chesed. The phrases "He causes the dew to descend" and "He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall," inserted towards the beginning of this blessing (the first in summer, the second during winter,) both invoke Gevurah tempered by Chesed. In reference to the first we note that according to Kabbalah dew is used to resurrect the dead. In the second we observe that the stormy wind is an aspect of power and might, while rain represents kindness and beneficence. Chesed, like rain, pours down on us from the heavens. Water, as the foundation of biological life, is a source of blessing for the earth, a fact very apparent to the early, agrarian Children of Israel.
"And who can be compared to You, King, who brings death and restores life and causes deliverance to sprout forth!"
Exile is a function of Gevurah/Restraint. Egypt, mitzrayim in Hebrew, the archetypal exile, is a cognate of the Hebrew word for constraint, mitzri. Both exile and redemption/ deliverance are necessary, the setting of boundaries and the appropriate transcendence of those limitations, the defining trials of our individual existences and our overwhelming inclusion in the fabric of creation.
Isaac lived a private life entirely within the land of Israel, unlike his outgoing, well-traveled father, Abraham. Abraham and Sarah attracted many souls to G-d with their generous Chesed. However, the effect Abraham and Sarah had on these people was not lasting, since the people were ultimately unworthy of the revelation bestowed upon them. Chesed gives without regard for the recipient's merit, his ability to receive. We have all had moments of inspiration fade over time. Similarly, the Children of Israel quickly lost the effect of the miracles they witnessed in the Exodus from Egypt, allowing them to sin with the Golden Calf at Mount Sinai.
This failure of Chesed by itself is alluded to by the fact that Isaac redug the wells that his father, Abraham, had dug, because they had become stopped up. Simply put, when you work for something, you appreciate it more than when it's given to you. When we act in such a way that our lives, in this restricted world, become a vessel for holiness, then we can retain the inspiration and Chesed that flows down upon us.
"You are trustworthy to revive the dead. Blessed are You L-rd, who revives the dead."
The kabbalists encourage us, "Every descent is for the purpose of an ascent." Although we may, in the dark night of the soul, feel lifeless, utterly constrained by our outer circumstance or our inner attitude, we affirm, through this blessing, that G-d is "faithful to revive" us.
Gevurah, the descent is necessary. The constraint forces us to confront aspects of our life we might otherwise ignore. Like a spring compressed, when release we leap upward, ascending to a higher level than before we were challenged.
The Holy G-d; the third blessing
"You are holy, and Your Name is holy, and holy beings praise You daily for all eternity. Blessed are You L-rd, the holy G-d."
Tiferas is at once the sixth sefira of the Tree of Life, the whole middle column of the Tree and the name of the six emotional sefirot, the middot (Chesed/ Kindness, Gevura/Might, Tiferas/ Beauty, Netzach Victory or Eternity or Ambition, Hod/Reverberation or Splendor or Endurance and Yesod/Foundation or Bonding) taken collectively.
Tiferas/Beauty is associated with Jacob, who we are told by the Zohar represents the perfection of Abraham and Isaac; he is "the crown of the patriarchs and their epitome". (Zohar 2:163b, p.126) This is apparent on the Tree of Life from the balanced and balancing position of the Middle Column (diagrams 2 and 5).
Kabbalah asserts that Tiferas/ Beauty results from the harmonious blending of various colors or elements. Tiferas/Beauty harmonizes Chesed/Kindness, the expansion of Abraham and Gevurah/Strictness, the contraction of Isaac.
Any extreme or exclusive point of view is dangerous. Chesed on its own would tend to give in too great measure, without regard for the recipient's ability to receive; too much ice cream will give the child a tummy ache. While unchecked Gevurah excessively limits exploration, growth and change. The creative impulse without medium and form (Chesed without Gevurah) lacks expression while too much structure stifles innovation. Discipline needs to be tempered with kindness and love requires certain boundaries, as any good parent or friend knows.
(It is just this unbalanced condition of the first sefirot, before their configuration in the Tree of Life, where there was a lack of influence one on another that caused the primordial Shattering of the Vessels. This destructive shattering is apparent psychologically when one emotional attribute, e.g., anger, love, fear..., exclusively dominates.)
Tiferas, as the six emotive sefirot taken collectively, is referred to as Zeir Anpin/the Short Countenance, also known as "the Holy One, Blessed Be He." The third blessing has the word "holy" four times among its only fourteen words. This frequency seems to indicate the association of this blessing with "the Holy One Blessed Be He" and so with Tiferas.
(Gematria/numerology offers intriguing support for this association.
Firstly, the name of G-d associated with Tiferas and therefore with Jacob, is the Tetragrammaton [appendices 1 and 4] the total of whose letters equal 26 [yud=10, heh=5, vav=6, heh=5.] The last word of this blessing, "hakadosh/the holy" has a numerical sum of 415 [heh=5, kuf=100, daled=4, vav=6, shin=300.] The sum of these values, 26 and 415, equal 441.
Secondly, the bible calls Jacob "eish tam/a simple [whole, complete, perfect] man."* The word "tam/simple", totals 440 [tof=400, mem=40.]
Hence, we observe that "hakadosh" plus the Tetragrammaton equals "tam" plus 1, or 415+26=440+1.)
"You are holy...."
"You", as mentioned in reference to the first blessing, refers to the G-dhead, G-d as He is for Himself, a state of Divinity which precedes even the most subtle forms of spiritual creation.
The aspect of this G-dhead which stands closest to spiritual creation proper is Zeir Anpin, "the Holy One, Blessed Be He. Zeir Anpin under favorable circumstances unites with creation, the Shechina, and so transmits G-dly sustenance down into this world.
"[A]nd Your Name is holy...."
Also, as mentioned in reference to the first blessing, G-d's "Name" is synonymous with His "Shechina, the Divine Presence in creation. The Shechina partakes of the exile of the Children of Israel. Her redemption, and ours, from exile (temporarily effected on Shabbos and to be completely accomplished by the Messiah) is accomplished through Her union with Zeir Anpin (and so with all higher G-dly realms) through our performance of mitzvot/sacred activities, making this world a fit dwelling place for G-d. The Hasidic movement instituted the recitation of the formula "for the sake of the union of The Holy One, Blessed Be He with His Shechinah" before the performance of any mitzvah. (Kavanah, the heightened awareness of the transformative power of sacred activity increases that power.)
"[A]nd holy beings praise you daily."
These "holy beings" are angelic hosts, who inhabit myriad spiritual levels subsequent to the initial point of creation in the World of Asiyah/Emanation. These purely spiritual stages (Beriah/Creation, Yetzirah/Formation and Asiyah/Action) prefigure our world, containing as they do the rarified essence of physical creation. They are templates, the idea and form of physical creation. The praiseful "holy beings" invoked here are the principles of these worlds, the instruments and messengers of G-d.
The tripling, in the body of the third blessing, of the word "holy", signifying the perfection of holiness, mirrors the same tripling in the Kedusha/Statement of Holiness (which is added in the public repetition of the Amidah immediately before this blessing.)
The Kedusha's central affirmation is "Holy, holy, holy is The L-rd of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." That is, when the earth, and our life upon it, is "whole", connected to the wellsprings of Divinity, then it is "full of His glory."
Who Graciously Bestows Knowledge; the Fourth Blessing
"You graciously bestow Knowledge on man and teach mortals Understanding. Graciously bestow upon us from You, Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. Blessed are You L-rd, who graciously bestows Knowledge."
Kabbalah is a map of the soul, a guide to the inner relationships of creation. The Tree of Life reflects man and humans reflect creation. Through the study of Kabbalah the inner dynamics of the world are revealed.
At the top of the Tree of Life is the head, just as the head is at the top of the human body. The three pillars of the Tree each hold one of the three component parts of intellect; Chochma/Wisdom on the right, Bina/Understanding on the left and Daas/Knowledge in the center.
Arranged on the three columns of the Tree of Life above Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferas respectively, these three columns and the sefirot upon them are considered male (right), female (left) and balanced (middle.)
These Chochma/Wisdom, Bina/Understanding and Daas/Knowledge are the three different types of intelligence or intellect/sechel. (Sechel is known collectively by an acronym of these Hebrew words ChaBaD.)
Wisdom/Chochma is the first spark of intellectual intuition. It is the unsprouted seed, containing in one point the whole tree with its many branches. Chochma is a dimensionless point, represented by the Hebrew letter yud. The word chochma can be divided and read koach ma, translated as "the potential of what" or "unformed potential." (Tanya p.77)
Chochma is prior to creation. It is the primary flash of conception, the germ of both intellectual and cosmic creation; "G-d formed the world with Wisdom (b'Chochma)."11 "How many are Your works G-d; You made them all with wisdom."14 Kabbalah associates Chochma with the World of Atzilus/Emanation, which serves as a transition from undifferentiated Divinity to the three lower worlds of creation proper, Beriah/Creation, Yetzirah/Formation, Asiyah/Action.
Bina/Understanding is the process of elaboration and revelation of the potential of Chochma/Wisdom. Binah is the womb, which gives form to the seed of Chochma. This image is reflected in the Hebrew letter beis (diagram 8) the first letter of the word Binah. The dot within the beis is thought of as the seed (Chochma) within the womb; "the dot within the palace"16 Binah is associated in Kabbalah with the World of Beriah/Creation (appendix 3). Here intelligence begins to take on dimension. We start to develop the various sides and angles of a concept, the length and width to shape our ideas, to form a perspective. Understanding is the awareness of relationship, the genesis of proportion. The idea is not yet firm or established. It is still embryonic. Our intellect is pregnant, readying to give birth.
Daas/Knowledge is the firmly, fully formed idea, the level of fact and data. Daas is associated with the World of Yetzirah/Formation (appendix 3). The seed of Wisdom develops into the many-branched tree of Understanding, which, in turn, produces Knowledge, the fruit of intellect. The flash of inspiration is brought down through the tzimtzum/limiting definition of form and an idea is produced. Or, in the sexual language of the Kabbalah, Chochma impregnates Binah, which gives birth to Daas.
Downward and upward movement along the Tree of Life and through the Four Worlds is the fundamental dynamic of Kabbalah and creation. G-d on high alerts us to the spiritual dimensions of existence. We elevate or prayers and actions (mitzvot) to Him and He sends down blessing. (The Hebrew word bracha/blessing means to "bend down.")
G-d on high, the Ain Soph/Endless, constrains His undifferentiated Divinity (through tzimtzumim, in the process of the orderly descent of the worlds, histalshulus) eventually giving birth to this low, physical world. (Physical action is constrained, slow and plodding, in relation to the freedom and alacrity of speech and thought.) On the other hand the ascent we effect in the things of this physical world through prayer and mitzvot bypasses the normal channels (the order of histalshulus) in its upward surge, rising to a level yet higher than that from which it originated, transcending the root of its Divine origin. The Kabbalists assert that "Every descent is for the purpose of an ascent;" like a spring which when compressed and then released jumps to great height.
We have already described the downward movement, the descent of intellect; how the intuitive spark of Chochma/Wisdom take on dimension in the womb of Bina/Understanding and gives birth to the tangible facts of Daas/Knowledge. We can also describe the upward dynamic of sechel/intellect. We can look at the system from the bottom up.
Facts, on the level of Daas, exist independent of relationship to other facts. Putting the facts together we arrive at Understanding/Bina, an appreciation of the relationships between facts. Understanding/Bina synthesizes facts into a hypothesis. It is an awareness of the patterns or systems of Knowledge/Daas. Wisdom/Chochma is an overarching insight into the grand workings of the system or systems. It is a super-theory or paradigm that encompasses the truth of the whole.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it may be helpful to observe that Daas/Knowledge conveys what happened, while Bina/Understanding explains how it happened and Chochma/Wisdom reveals why it happened.
Always keep in mind that while Kabbalah describes vast cosmic dynamics it is also describing something very familiar to you, the workings of your own body, mind and soul. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, "It is not far from you." (chap. 55? ooooooooo)
Daas/Knowledge is the transition between head and heart. It is the critical point where intellect/sechel interacts with emotions/middot.
The emotive attributes, the middot are the seven sefirot, Chesed/Kindness through Malchus/Kingdom (diagram 6). Collectively they are referred to as Tiferas/Beauty. The sefira Tiferas is at their center, associated with the heart in the torso of the human form as projected on the Tree of Life. Tiferas balances the right and left sides of the Tree, Chesed/Kindness and Gevurah/Severity, respectively.
Daas itself corresponds to the throat, the narrow passage between head and heart. Daas is referred to as the "Abyss" in recognition of the difficult communication that exists between heart and mind.
(Daas is often not pictured on the diagrammed Tree of Life, or counted as one of the ten sefirot. The transcendent sefira Keser/Crown is then included in the count instead. When Daas is counted we avoid a total of eleven sefirot by remembering that in the descent of the Four Worlds the lowest sefira of the superior world is also the highest of the next lowest World. That is, Malchus/Kingdom of the World Atzilus/Emanation is actually Keser/Crown of the World Beriah/Creation and Malchus/Kingdom of Beriah is actually Keser/Crown of the World Yetzirah/Formation, while Malchus/Kingdom of Yetzirah is actually Keser/Crown of the World Asiyah/Action.)
We know from our personal experience the precarious nature of the Abyss, Daas. The balance between our head and our heart is not always easy to maintain. We ought not to let our feelings run away with us in unbridled, reckless passion. However, neither should allow a dominating rationality to stifle or pervert our emotions. Ideally, the intellect guides the emotions, while the emotions enliven the intellect in a constant feedback loop.
Emotions add power and motion to intellect (as the word "e-motion" implies.) Without the passion of the heart our intellectual resolutions remain lifeless abstractions. Love and awe are the wings on which our prayers and mitzvot fly to G-d.
The necessary first step for psychospiritual redemption (development) is Divine inspiration. It is the extra-ordinary intellectual realization that there is a better, truer way to be. It is redemption from the slavery to false ideas and concepts.
This middle set of blessings begins then with a prayer for the spark of intellectual realization necessary to begin and further the process of redemption and growth. G-d's readiness to facilitate our development, through the workings of the Divine Order, is expressed as His "graciousness", mentioned three times in this blessing.
"Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah; draw us near, our King, to Your service; and bring us back to You in complete repentance. Blessed are You L-rd, who desires repentance."
"Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah"
Let us try to define what is meant by "Torah". Most simply it is a parchment scroll containing the Five Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, or in Hebrew, after the first word of each book, Bereshis ("in the beginning"), Shemos ("names"), Vayikra ("and He called"), Bamidbar ("in the desert") and Devorim ("words") respectively. In a broader sense it is the entire body of Jewish sacred writings, including also the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), the Writings (Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.), the Mishna, Talmud, and other rabbinic commentaries and works.
Kabbalah suggests an even broader definition of Torah. It asserts that this body of law, customs, ethics and historical narrative is only the way the Torah manifests in this world. The Torah also exists in purely spiritual states. The material concerns of the written Torah, agriculture, commerce, civil law, etc., are reflections of principles from these spiritual levels where such physical activities and situations certainly do not exist. This spiritual correspondence is also true for the details of religious observance prescribed in the Torah. The written Torah, then, is just an aspect of the greater or Universal Torah.18
The word "Torah" is related to the word "moreh/to teach". Classically there are four general levels of interpretation associated with the "Teaching", literal/pashat, homiletic/remez, allegorical/drash and mystical/sod. The first three provide us with guidelines to live a moral and ethical life, the sine qua non of personal development/redemption. Indeed, Judaism has contributed the moral values and ethical ideals which comprise the best of Western civilization. "The twentieth-century ideals of America have been the ideals of the Jew for more that twenty centuries."19 Kabbalah, the Sod/mystical, fourth interpretation, reflects the essence of redemption/psychospiritual growth.
"G-d looked into the Torah and created the world."20 The Torah is the blueprint for the world. It is the basic pattern of existence, the matrix for universal life energy. The written Torah is a guide to the Universal Torah. "G-d and the Torah are one."21 Its words, while literally true, are the outer garments for the mysteries within. Concealed in its stories and laws are the sublime truths of creation. As such the Torah teaches us how to align ourselves with the truth of existence, how to live in harmony with the Divine Order. It describes a way to rectify and perfect the material world, a system of redemption/psychospiritual development.
In this light it will be understood that the Giving of the Torah/Matan Torah at Mount Sinai, on the holy day Shavuous ("weeks;" called so in that it occurred seven weeks following the Exodus from Egypt), was not just the transmission of text from G-d to Moses. Rather it was the revelation on Earth of the highest level of Divinity. Actually, it was the reestablishment of this Divine Order, since until Adam's sin the world existed at that high level. "Sin", as we shall see in our discussion of the next blessing, is a denial of or estrangement from the Universal Torah. As such it causes a lessening of the revelation of Divine Order, both personally and cosmically. Our sages tell us that were it not for the sin of the Golden Calf, concurrent with Matan Torah, the Children of Israel at that time would have ushered in the messianic era, the final redemption.
"draw us near, our King, to Your service"
"Service" of G-d in its broadest sense refers to the performance of mitzvot/sacred activities which reveal Divinity in the world. In a more specific sense the service of G-d refers to prayer; "Today the service of the L-rd is prayer."22
Generally, there are two manners of service to G-d, that of a son or daughter and that of a servant. The first phrase of this blessing, "Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah,"
emphasizes the aspect of Torah and our relationship with G-d as children to "our Father". A child obeys his or her parents' wishes out of love. He is, at least to some degree, able to appreciate the reasons behind his parents' orders. This understanding motivates his service.
As a son and daughter serve their father out of love, so a father desires to do kindness (chofetz chesed) to his children. G-d gives us the Torah as a father gives freely to his child. Thus, Torah is referred to as an "inheritance"; "The Torah commanded to us through Moses, an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob [the Children of Israel]." It is a gift enabling our souls to reconnect with G-d.
It is complete in this world. Therefore, we may "return" (see previous phrase) to it wholly. The Universal Torah is the order of the world established by G-d. This Divine Order provides a channel for divine influence, a flow of blessings into creation.
The second phrase of this blessing "draw us near, our King, to Your service" invokes the second general manner of serving G-d, that of a servant obeying a king. A servant is motivated by fear, or, more properly, awe of his master. He is bound and obliged to serve and is quick to obey. He serves automatically without concern or consideration of the reasons behind the command.
From one point of view the service of a servant of the king is inferior to the service of a child of the king in that it lacks the closeness and understanding of the child's service. The servant's service is that of a subordinate who has a natural desire to be free. However, from another point of view, on another level the servant's service is superior to that of the child. The servant can come to serve the king in a state of self-nullification/bitul. This selfless service allows for a unity with the king. At this level of ego negation "The servant of the king is the king." ?oooooooooo
Prayer and Torah, it will be observed, allude to the upward and downward movement along the Tree of Life as discussed in relation to the previous blessing. Prayer goes from us to G-d, from below, up. While Torah comes to us from G-d, from above, down. The dynamic requires G-d's initial spiritual inspiration to "draw us near, our King, to Your service".
"bring us back to You in complete repentance."
Completeness combines, in a dynamic balance, the love and understanding of a son or daughter with the awe and automatic obedience of a servant. The Hebrew word here for "complete," "shalema" is related to the word shalom/peace and may also be translated as "whole" or "perfect". This, the third phrase of this blessing reconciles the first two. The loving service of the daughter or son is combined with the awe-inspired service of a servant. The love of Abraham is combined with the fear of Isaac in the wholeness of Jacob. Jacob who as we have seen is referred to as a "perfect man" (blessing #3). Opposing tendencies are brought into the harmony of a greater whole.
Prayer, in an arousal from below brings about an increased revelation of the Universal Torah. It opens wider the channels of blessings from above; "An arousal from below stimulates an arousal from above." However, it is also true that an arousal from above stimulates an arousal from below; That is, our fulfillment of Torah, which is itself a gift or arousal from above, sensitizes us to the Divine and so inspires our prayers and improves our relationship with G-d and hence our ability to serve Him, our arousal from below. Here again we witness the continuous feedback loop between the higher and lower worlds, the mutually stimulating interaction between G-d and His creation.
"Blessed are You L-rd, who desires repentance."
The word "t'shuva/repentance" literally means "return." Repentance is a return to the Divine Order, to G-d. This return is embodied in the person of the baal t'shuva/the master of return, he who has done t'shuva, who has repented of his sins.
The tzaddik/the righteous individual, who has never sinned, brings light and vitality to the world through the preset channels of histalshulus, the orderly evolution of the worlds. By contrast the service of the baal t'shuva adds a new influence to histalshulus. Love, the service of the child of the king is the natural inclination of the tzaddik, while awe or fear, the service of the servant, is largely reserved for the baal t'shuva. The fear of being removed from G-d is felt more intensely by the penitent Only he, through his sins, has experienced the suffering of existence contrary to the Divine Order.
This element of fear helps to explain the advantage, recognized by the Talmud, that the baal t'shuva has over the tzaddik. "In the place that the penitent stands the tzaddik cannot exist."22 The baal t'shuva brings the passion of his turbulent life to his service of G-d. Zealous intensity distinguishes his approach from the even-keeled manner of the tzaddik. Additionally, through his previous sinful associations the baal t'shuva is able to raise the sparks of holiness (see blessings 11 and 12) trapped in those "unclean" circumstances. His sins are converted to holiness25, adding new light to the order of creation.
Similarly, Torah provides for the orderly, measured sustenance of creation, while prayer adds an extra measure to that sustenance itself.23 (This advantageous aspect of prayer is described Kabbalistically as being due to the fact that the "root" of the Souls of Israel, best actualized at the time of prayer, is from a higher spiritual plane than the source of Torah.)
Bitterness and demoralization regarding our failings is counterproductive. Our failings are in fact special opportunities to develop, to serve G-d. (We must, of course, not indulge in sin, for sin itself renders us less sensitive, less likely to repent; "He who sins and says 'I will repent later' is not given the [spontaneous] opportunity to repent."26) Sadness and even depression are common during some periods of our lives. These are in spiritual terms exile, distance or descent from the presence of Divinity. However, every descent is for the purpose of ascent". Through t'shuva/repentance we return to G-d with increased strength. We ascend to a level higher than that from which we began our descent. Crisis is a period of accelerated growth. Adversity stimulates our best efforts. Challenge provides the impetus for our psychospiritual redemption/development. As King David sang, "Out of the depths I call to You L-rd."27
In the previous blessing/bracha, the first of this middle set, we ask G-d for improved awareness of truth, wisdom, understanding and knowledge. This, as we have suggested, is the necessary first step towards psychospiritual redemption. Having attained some greater realization of truth, and so of the erred assumptions of our life, we now repent of those errors. We petition G-d for a return to a more fulfilling, more self-actualized way of life. This return, leaving and returning, is the essence of the cosmic drama: It is the "L-rd who desires repentance."
"Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned; forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed; for You are a good and pardoning G-d. Blessed are You L-rd, gracious One who pardons abundantly."
The central statement of Jewish faith is the Shma, "Hear Israel, the L-rd our G-d, The L-rd is One." Most simply this is statement against idolatry or polytheism, there are not two G-ds. Monotheism was once a revolutionary religious and social concept, but today it is taken for granted. However, their are deeper implications of the Shma that are still revolutionary today.
The Shma is a testimony to the interconnectedness of a seemingly disparate world. It asserts that all the manifold aspects of creation are actually significantly and inseparably related. All parts are subordinate to and made meaningful through the ultimate wholeness of existence. By contrast, idolatry is the belief that some thing or power exists outside of, separate from and in addition to this purposeful wholeness. Polytheism is a denial of the all-inclusive unity of experience and existence, the One-ness of G-d.
The Shma affirms the interrelated significance of all aspects of our lives. All circumstance and coincidence are purposeful and relevant to our growth. By contrast, polytheism and idolatry assert the divisiveness of experience. The belief in the fragmentation of existence results in the illusion of randomness, meaninglessness and detriment.
This denial of the encompassing and permeating influence of the Divine Order in our world leaves us with conflict, contradiction and confusion. The mistaken belief in separateness, as opposed to wholeness, is the necessary precondition for and the essence of sin.
"Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned"
This conflict between fragmentation and wholeness is found in the philosophies of Reductionism and Holism:
Reductionism, which, at least until recently, has been the standard of scientific and rational thought, asserts that to understand some thing or system it is enough to study its parts and from this to surmise the action of the whole system. Reductionism, which tries to "reduce" reality to its smallest components, reflects the belief that the stuff of reality is largely distinct, separate, individual units. Classically this is expressed by the Cartesian credo "The whole is equal to the sum of the parts."
Holism asserts that the whole of something is greater than the sum of the parts. It emphasizes the significance of relationships between parts. Parts do not function and cannot be defined or described as separate, isolated units. When you take a part out of the whole of its context it behaves differently than it does in place within its system. Holism asserts the primary importance of interaction between the elements of a system themselves and also between the observer and those elements. Einstein's Theory of Relativity is an example of Holism in advanced scientific thought.
Reductionism compartmentalizes. It approaches things as isolated individual units and therefore misses the big picture, the pattern of the whole. Ignoring the relationships between pieces it misses the forest because of the trees. Without this meaningful web of relationship our world seems dominated by arbitrariness and ambiguity. We seem the victims or beneficiaries of random nature and capricious fate.
In contrast Holism asserts the absoluteness of relationship. All aspects of reality exist only within a meaningful whole. Instead of randomness there is purpose. Instead of arbitrariness, significance. Holism includes a correspondence between outer and inner reality. That is, the pattern of creation, Divine Order, is reflected in and by our being.
Sin is the tendency to fragment reality. Sin removes us from the state of wholeness.
Through denial of the interrelationships of existence we come to view our self as an individual personality essentially separate from everybody and everything. It then seems possible to benefit from wrongful action. Such action, motivated as it is by greed, hatred, destructiveness, etc., violates our interrelationship with others, reinforcing our sense of separateness, denying our connection with the Unity of Existence which is G-d.
Richness derives from experiencing the full interrelationships of life, the purposeful whole of the Divine Order as it embraces our life. It is an awareness of sacred and ever-present Universal Torah. Sin results in the loss of this sense of the extraordinary nature of our existence. Punishment, the separation from our true self, is immediate and inherent in the sin itself. Loneliness, alienation, estrangement, solipsism and meaninglessness result.
" forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed"
According to the Talmud a "sin" is an error committed inadvertently, through ignorance or carelessness, or done out of weakness. A "transgression" is an intentional violation of correct behavior.28 These two categories represent two levels of separation, two stages of exile.
Sometimes we are unaware of how our actions and attitudes contribute to our suffering. At other times we stubbornly persist in our negative ways despite our knowing that they are wrong. Clearly this later level of willful trespass, indicates a more profound spiritual separation and loss of wholeness.
Significantly, in this blessing we first ask G-d as our loving "Father" to pardon us. Only then do we petition G-d the "King" to forgive us. The correction of a more serious trespass may require the relative strictness of a king's justice rather than a father's mercy. The correction is more radical the farther we have strayed from wholeness.
"for You are a good and pardoning G-d."
Forgiveness is divine. It allows us to transcend our former errors and limitations and even to change our sins into merits, adding new vitality to the Divine Order.
As pardon requires repentance, so repentance requires pardon. Jewish tradition teaches that he who refuses to forgive his fellow after receiving a sincere apology is considered himself a sinner. Before repentance/t'shuva the sin weighs on the soul of the one who perpetrated the sin. After t'shuva the victim's refusal to pardon burdens the victim's soul.
On another level, to repent without feeling forgiven causes an unhealthy preoccupation with the past. According to tradition, this morbid guilt over our misdeeds is in fact more damaging to our being than the actual sins themselves; worse than the sin is the guilt over the sin. Guilt results in bitterness of spirit and depression which precludes psychospiritual redemption/development. We become preoccupied with our failings and are so prevented from experiencing our place within the Divine Order. Optimism is necessary for psychospiritual growth. It is necessary to "serve the L-rd with joy!"29
So great is the transcendental power of t'shuva/repentance that it is possible to repent for a whole lifetime of sins in a single moment; "A little light chases away a lot of darkness."30
Essentially, we sin alone. That is, sin exaggerates our separate individuality, severing our relationships with the society of our fellows and cutting us off from our heritage of Divine assistance. Repentance reconnects us with the Divine Order, our spiritual essence and so infuses us with a power greater than our self-ish ego. The word "atonement" may be read "at-one-ment", i.e., the state of being at one with G-d. This transcendental identification associated with t'shuva explains its superiority over sin and its power to correct and even convert our sins to good.
"Blessed are You L-rd, gracious One who pardons abundantly."
Forgiveness for our sins and transgressions automatically follows our regret and resolution not to repeat them. (Regarding sins against another, a personal apology is also required.) The surety of G-d's pardon is reflected in the phrasing of this concluding blessing, "Blessed are You L-rd, gracious One who pardons abundantly." Since we are commanded in the third of the Ten Commandments, "Do not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain," if G-d's forgiveness were not assured, then this might constitute a "blessing in vain."31
Following the theme of redemption of this middle set of blessings, we have, as expressed in the fourth blessing, an awareness of our erred attitudes and actions. This is followed by repentance of those errors and a desire to return to a state of greater truth and wholeness, as expressed in the fifth blessing. This t'shuva is facilitated through the new beginning conferred by pardon, as affirmed in this the sixth blessing.
"Look, please, upon our affliction and wage our battle; redeem us speedily for the sake of Your Name, for You G-d are a mighty redeemer. Blessed are You L-rd, Redeemer of Israel."
"Look, please, upon our affliction and wage our battle"
"Fortunate is the man whom you chastise, G-d..." Psalm 94
We perceive affliction because the kindness being bestowed on us is great beyond our perception. So counsels Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad hasidus, the Alte (old) Rebbe in his masterwork, the Tanya.32
The child cries in protests as his mother scrubs off the dirt which sullies him. Our small consciousness, our survival self craves the easy, comfortable way. Large or "cosmic" consciousness recognizes, or at least affirms, that everything that happens is for the best. All is for the evolution of the soul. Exile is for the purpose of a greater redemption, slavery for the purpose of a more lasting freedom. Every descent is for the purpose of an ascent, an ascent to a new height. Gam zeh l'tova; "This is also for good."
Lacking perception of the goodness of that which befalls us, we are unable to appreciate the corrective influence of our circumstances. They seem merely hurtful. Attached to our preconceptions, our old way of being, we painfully resist change. This negative attitude just adds to the difficulties we are already facing.
Our chief "affliction" are our self-destructive tendencies. Our main "battle" is with ourselves. We are our own worst enemy through identifying with our small, ego-self. In contrast, the broad G-dly perspective of our Higher Self recognizes the value of life's trials. Experience of the purposefulness of the Divine Order transcends the seeming senselessness of individual, ego-centered suffering. G-d is good in all His ways. All is happening for the purpose of spiritual redemption.
The story is told is of a hasid who on inquiring of his rebbe regarding some personal misfortune was advised that his question would be best answered by Yitzchak who lived in the next village. The hasid left immediately, excited that his query about his suffering would soon be answered, expecting that this Yitzchak must be a very important person indeed, if the rebbe deferred to him. Unable to locate "Mr. Itzchak's" house he was informed that the only Yitzchak in town was "Yitzy the schleper" (porter.) Approaching Yitzy's tottering, squalid shack he knocked and was admitted to an interior which bore the stark imprint of poverty. Yitzchak's face, etched with years of hunger and illness, lit up when his visitor informed him that he had come at the request of the rebbe. However, it twisted into gnarled puzzlement when the hasid informed him that the rebbe had sent him to Yitzchak for an answer. When he heard the hasid's question regarding his personal misfortune Yitzchak confidently asserted, "Now I know that you've got the wrong person. You see, I have never experienced any suffering."
It all depends how you look at it. "Think good and it will be good." Affliction is misapprehension. Honestly and selflessly "look upon" the difficulty. Revision the affliction. In the words of the blessing, "Look upon our affliction" and the goodness in it will be revealed.
"redeem us speedily for the sake of Your Name, for You G-d are a mighty redeemer."
Redemption, psychospiritual development, involves the overcoming of imprisoning ways of being. It implies freedom from both external oppression and from internal, or internalized, "affliction". This transcendence necessarily involves an unusual power which frees us from our constrained situation. An extraordinary influence is needed to release the inertia of our status quo. As it is written in the blessings preceding the Amida of the evening service, "The L-rd has freed Jacob [the Children of Israel] and redeemed him from a power mightier than he."34
The scriptural archetype of redemption is the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt. The bondage of the Children of Israel in Egypt was spiritual as well as physical. The Hebrew name for Egypt, "Mitzrayim", means "narrowness" and "constraint". The Midrash informs us that Israelites were held captive there not by force of arms, but by magic spells.35 Their souls were "constrained" in "narrowness", distant from their divine origins, in danger of extinction. They were psychospiritually brainwashed in a land referred to by scriptural tradition as the "Pit of Iniquity".
The order of prayer repeatedly emphasizes the supernatural nature of the Exodus from Egypt. Redemption breaks miraculously into the darkness of our lives. G-d freed the Children of Israel with "signs and wonders". Psychospiritual self-development involves an extraordinary reordering of expectations and perspective. Through the supernatural influence of our Higher Self we transcend the nature and bonds of our ego-self. We break the spell of our "constrained consciousness" and awaken to an expanded sense of our place within the Divine Order.
The basis of prayer is the acknowledgement that there is a power greater than our own efforts, more knowing than our own understanding. Through prayer, and other mitzvot/sacred activities we align our beings with the Divine Order and so make manifest its redemptive energy.
Psychospiritual self-development occurs through discovering new, extraordinary resources of strength and vision. These resources are ever-available as witnessed by the commandment to "remember the day of your going out from Egypt all the days of your life." (Deut. 16:3.) As we expand our idea and experience of self and connect through our large consciousness to this spiritual flow, we are able to resolve the contradictions and quandaries of a more constrained, egocentric perspective.
"Blessed are You L-rd, Redeemer of Israel."
The first three brachas (blessings 4-6) of this middle set progress through new understanding, resulting repentance and subsequent forgiveness. This fourth bracha acknowledges the conflict often inherent in the process of psychospiritual self-development. "Battle" must be waged against opponents, both external and internal. Defeat equals slavery to self-destructive attitudes. Victory brings the freedom to experience life truly and fully, i.e., self-actualization.
The flawed belief systems of our ego oppose our self-discovery. Psychospiritual development requires bitul/subordination of our personality to our true essence, our Higher or G-dly Self. Thus, we become receptive to the extraordinary assistance needed to transcend our limitations. Then the "Redeemer of Israel" "wages our battle".
"Heal us, O L-rd, and we will be healed; deliver us and we shall be delivered; for You are our praise. Grant complete cure and healing to all our wounds; for You, Almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer. Blessed are You L-rd, who heals the sick of His people Israel."
"Heal us, O L-rd, and we will be healed; deliver us and we shall be delivered; for You are our praise."
Health is freedom. Physical health is freedom from pain, fatigue and other physical abnormalities. Emotional health is the freedom to appropriately experience the full range of emotions without getting stuck in any one state. On the intellectual level health is the ability to think clearly and without bias and stereotype. Spiritual health is the freedom to act and perceive selflessly, to transcend the constraints of our ego-self.
Health is a state of dynamic equilibrium. Homeostasis ("similar state") is the tendency to preserve the functions of the organism within certain normal limits. The maintenance of health, of homeostatic balance, demands certain conditions. Physically we require adequate nutrition, exercise, rest, etc. Emotionally we need love, belonging, trust, consistency, companionship, etc. Intellectually we require stimulation and an unprejudiced mind, i.e., objectivity. Spiritually we need to feel our place within the macrocosmic Divine Order, to experience our Higher, G-dly Self.
Physiological and psychospiritual stresses tend to push our organism beyond healthy, homeostatic boundaries. Stress can be positive. It can challenge and strengthen us. However, certain types and levels of stress are excessive. This negative stress forces us too far or too long outside the natural parameters of health. These extremes of internal and external environment excessively disrupt the homeostatic balance. Deprived of normal requirements we tend to develop physical and psychospiritual pathology.
Our own efforts are often not enough to counter the effects of the disease producing stresses in our lives. We see this clearly in the case of physical disease where the body's natural healing abilities may be compromised or overwhelmed. Unable to throw off the burden of illness and reestablish homeostatic balance, healing at that point depends on therapies, extraordinary measures which stimulate and strengthen our own healing powers.
Psychospiritual sickness also often necessitates unusual interventions. Illness produced by unnatural stresses, requires unnatural, or rather, supernatural measures. Tuning into our supra-ego connection with Divinity, our Higher Self, is often just what the doctor ordered.
"Grant complete cure and healing to all our wounds; for You, Almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer."
All aspects of our being are intimately and inseparably related. Symptoms do not exist in isolation from each other or from the totality of our organism. Illness is not the product of random factors. It is, rather, a reflection of life out of balance. It is not the microbe, bacteria, virus, yeast, etc., that causes disease, rather it is our weakened immune system which allows the microbe to multiply and colonize inside us. The strength of our immunity is in turn effected by nutritional, psychological and other stresses.
In terms of physical illness symptomatic suppression reduces the intensity of the manifestation of disease without treating the origins of the condition itself. An antibiotic may succeed in poisoning infectious microbes, but it does little if anything to reestablish the impaired competency of our immune system. Reduction of suffering may be a noble aim, but it is much less of a service than is cure. Cure being the elimination of the root cause of disease. When the resistance, or constitutional vitality of our organism is stimulated and strengthened we achieve a greater overall state of well-being. Symptomatic suppression considers the fragmented view of symptoms in isolation. Cure is defined in terms of the unified organism. The direction of cure is movement towards greater overall freedom, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
Similarly, the varied manifestations of our psychospiritual dis-ease result from underlying weakness in the central foundation of our self. Ego dysfunction is only a symptom of this deeper disturbance. Genuine self-improvement, therefore, has little or nothing to due with developing our superficial ego-centered skills and habits. Psychospiritual redemption/transformation does depend on strengthening our connection with the transcendental root and core of our being, our G-d connection; "Grant complete cure and healing to all our wounds."
"Blessed are You L-rd, who heals the sick of His people Israel."
After the "battle", as evoked in the previous blessing, comes a time of regeneration and healing. Victorious battle and healing involve radical change. Both are stages of psychospiritual redemption. Both come to us from beyond the ordinary parameters of our life. They result from extraordinary influences, greater than the normal level of our being. Psychospiritual development is the process whereby we become fit receptacles for these always available, self-transformative influences.
Humility/bittul is the absolute prerequisite for change. If we imagine ourselves to be faultless, then we know no need to change. Knowing that one is sick is in itself more than half of the cure. Tradition explains that G-d exists everywhere except with an arrogant person. A proud heart is full of ego, without room for the influence of Divine Order. It is an unfit receptacle for transformative spirituality.
Psychospiritual self-development requires that we humble our ego. We must admit and abandon our erred attitudes and mistaken ideas. In there stead, through the fulfillment of the sacred activities/mitzvot of the Universal Torah, we align ourselves with the ideals of our Higher, G-dly Self. Then we draw into our lives the blessing of the "L-rd, who heals the sick".
Finally, we would note that the organism cured of disease is often healthier than the being who has never been ill. This phenomenon is well-known in terms of the immune system wherein we become resistant to microbes to which we have already been exposed. In psychospiritual terms this truth is indicated in the experience of t'shuva. Through repentance sins are converted to good in excess of the normal order of righteousness (see blessing 5). "Every descent is for the purpose of an ascent."
"Bless for us, L-rd our G-d, this year and all the varieties of its produce for good; and bestow
(in summer say) blessing (in winter say) dew and rain for blessing
upon the face of the earth. Satisfy us from Your goodness, and bless our year like other good years, for blessing; for You are a good G-d who bestows goodness and blesses the years. Blessed are You L-rd, who blesses the years."
"Bless for us, L-rd our G-d, this year"
Time was experienced in a radically different way by our ancient ancestors than it is by us. For them the year the cycle of the seasons was a reflection, a microcosm of all time. In contrast to this cyclical or circular conception of time we moderns conceive of time linearly. Time appears to us as a homogenous, yet distinct series of separate units, moments arranged like a long straight road, disappearing behind us into the past and in front of us into the future. For us moments stand isolated in time. They are disjointed fragments, connected only to the immediately adjacent past and future moments along the line. A moment's context is impoverished. Its relationship to other times is denied.
Cycles, however, are the rule in the natural world: seasons repeat; sunrise follows sunset follows sunrise; children are born and grow to have children, who also have children and also grow old; animal and plant life is ruled by cyclical behavior.
Therefore, for the ancient mind, immersed as it was in nature, the concept of linear time did not exist. It is a measure of our abstraction and distance from the natural order that our most meaningful experience of time is often only the numbers on a calendar.
In truth, moments of time were and are not separated by the periods "between" them. Rather, they are in a many-leveled relationship with each other. Our "year" is part of an interpenetrating web of all time. The holy days which punctuate the yearly cycle not only mark the anniversary of past events, but share the nature and significance of those events. The year and our individual lives recapitulate history.
Passover, the commemoration of the redemption from slavery is an auspicious time to escape the bonds of imprisoning attitudes. Shavuous, the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah, is an especially appropriate time to establish our connection with a higher order. Succos, when we dwell in simple booths, is a time to retreat from our established lifestyle and take stock of our ways. Varied, not uniform moments of time return in cyclical patterns. Whatever the measure, from the face of a clock to planetary orbits, time repeats itself.
Meaning results from the richness of context provided by cyclical time, feeling yourself intimately connected with what came before and what will follow. Interrelationship underlies purpose. Lack of relatedness yields a sense of insignificance. Psychospiritual development requires us to deemphasize our identification with the separateness and isolation of the ego-self. Through our Higher Self/G-dly Soul we experience ourselves as part of the Divine Order underlying existence. Harmoniously aligned with the Universal Torah we experience the cosmic significance of time and the universal nature of our life.
"and all the varieties of its produce for good"
The language of prayer may at first seem strange to our modern sensibilities. However, whether we know it or not, this imagery is most primal and resonant with the deepest levels of our being. Agricultural fruitfulness, the "produce" of the earth, is a metaphor for general fruitfulness and goodness of life. May "all the varieties" of our efforts "produce" "good". The highest achievement, the greatest good being psychospiritual redemption/development, the elevation of the things of this world up to G-d and the Indwelling Presence of G-d made manifest in this world.
"and bestow (in summer say) blessing
(in winter say) dew and rain for blessing upon the face of the earth."
"Dew and rain" are the essence of "blessing" for agricultural. The Hebrew word "p'nai/face", also means "innerness" or "essential": A face reveals the essential character of a person. Here p'nai refers not to the surface of the "earth", but to the innermost aspects of the world. In terms of psychospiritual development, our efforts and prayers ought not be directed towards fulfilling our superficial desires of our ego-personality. Rather, we should concern ourselves with "blessing on the innerness of the earth", the essence of Divine Nature which we share with the world.
"Satisfy us from Your goodness, and bless our year like other good years, for blessing; for You are a good G-d who bestows goodness and blesses the years."
Satisfaction is not always realized even in the midst of plenty. The Shma promises "you shall eat and be satisfied". Indeed, there are hungers and desires which are never satisfied. No amount of external substance can compensate for an impoverishment of spirit. Our psychospiritual attitude determines our perception of reality. We pray for the sensitivity to receive and appreciate the "goodness" of the Divine Order; "Satisfy us..."
"Blessed are You L-rd, who blesses the years."
After the crisis of battle (blessing #7) and the subsequent period of healing (blessing #8) are over our attention turns to increasing sustenance, blessing the produce of our life. "Blessing" is the fundamental spiritual substance and currency of existence. It is transmitted down the Tree of Life through the union of Zeir Anpin with Nukva, Tiferas with Malchus, the Holy One Blessed Be He with His Shechina. Acknowledging the sacredness of existence increases spirituality in the world and facilitates psychospiritual development in our lives. Blessing G-d increases G-d's blessing of us.
"Sound the great shofar of our freedom; raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You L-rd, Gatherer of the dispersed of His people Israel."
The sound of the shofar, the ram's horn, heralds the coming of the messiah. The messianic age, "the world to come," differs from this world in that in the messianic age there will be a revelation of G-dliness, whereas this age is characterized by concealment of the world's divine source and maintenance.
It is written "Where you find G-d's greatness, there you find His humility." This has been interpreted to mean that G-d's ability to conceal Himself is a measure of His greatness. That He can conceal His infinite magnitude to the point of creating a world seemingly apart from Him. In this world G-d's existence is concealed and can even be denied by creatures who are yet directly dependent on Him, moment to moment, for their existence.
It is observed that the fact that the king's commands are obeyed in the palace and in the capital city is not surprising. A greater testimony to his sovereignty is the fact that his edicts are obeyed in the distant provinces of the kingdom. Just so, G-d created this "distant" world, where G-dliness is concealed, in order that we should proclaim through our righteous activities G-d's Kingship/Malchus herein.
It is paradoxical, in the manner of much kabbalistic thought, that those dark times, when G-dliness is least evident, provide us with the greatest opportunities to proclaim G-d king, to realize the divine sovereignty underlying existence in general and our lives in particular. "There is an advantage of light from darkness." That is, a candle in a dark room has a greater effect than a candle in a sun-filled room. That is, our affirmation of G-dliness in this dark world through Torah and mitzvos is the purpose of creation, bringing our souls and our environment great merit. As the rabbis remind us, "Every descent is for the purpose of a [greater] ascent."
The soul's exile to these distant provinces, with their concealment and pain, is then in a very real way preferable to residence in the royal palace; as the Talmud states, "Better one hour of Torah and mitzvos in this world than a thousand years in the world to come." Still we pray for the messianic revelation of G-dliness.
This blessing invokes three stages of redemption or psychospiritual development, freedom, ingathering and unity "bring us together".
"Sound the great shofar of our freedom"
Freedom versus bondage is one of the primary metaphors of existence. These archetypes communicate with the deepest levels of our being. The conflict between freedom and bondage describes the critical factor of psychospiritual self-development. It is a continuous contest and the measure of our days.
As asserted earlier, bondage principally refers to the internal phenomenon of psychological bias. Intellectual and emotional prejudice prevents us from truthful experience of life. Indoctrination closes our minds so that we perceive only that which we already expect and accept. With this basis of misapprehension action and perception become perverted, ungenuine. The world loses its immediacy. It is as if we were watching our lives on television. Constrained by the stereotypes and superficiality of our false definitions we are cut off from the rich openness of authentic living,
Freedom is the ability to experience life truly and fully. The state of complete freedom is symbolized in scriptural language by coming of the messiah. The chief quality of the messianic age according to tradition will be the absolute revelation of truth. That is, then the true consequences and significance of our actions will be immediately apparent to us. Our perception will be unbiased; our minds, open and receptive; our experience, authentic. This state of cosmic redemption is both reflected on a personal level and facilitated macrocosmically through identification with our Higher Self, our Nefesh Alokim/G-dly Soul.
(Interestingly, This blessing seems to be associated with Hod/Splendor, the 8th sefira on the Tree of Life (diagram 1). According to the science of gematria, the numerical sum of the word "shofar", 586 (shin=300, vav=6, peh=80, resh=200) equals the total of the name of G-d associated with Hod (appendix 1), "Alokim Tzvo'os", 585 (aleph=1, lamed=30, heh=5, yud=10, mem=40; tzadik=90, bais=2, aleph=1, vuv=6, tuf=400) plus one. Those practiced in gematria will recognize in this more than a casual coincidence. This association of Hod with shofar is reinforced when we consider that besides its common translation, "Splendor", Hod has the additional meaning "Reverberation". Sound and radio waves reverberate as they communicate. Indeed, on the Tree of Life Hod is said to regulate communication. The "the great shofar" also reverberates.)
"raise a banner to gather our exiles"
Exile also primarily connotes an inner state of psychospiritual estrangement. Exile implies uprootedness, wandering, separateness and suffering. There is distance from the comforts and security of home, divorcement from the essential order and equilibrium of our Higher Self. The rich experience of a full life is impoverished.
In order to maintain this state of constricted consciousness the force of ego-centered opinion must continually deny truer perspectives on many of our life's situations. Our personal prejudices are arrogant illusions substituting for the self-affirming reality of authentic experience. Psychospiritual self-development first requires that we awaken from these dreams and realize that we are in exile, away from the wholeness of home.
The story is told of an absent-minded man who had been invited over to a couple's home for dinner.38 The food and conversation were excellent, but it was now already past midnight and the couple wanted to retire. After numerous hints the host was forced to politely, but directly tell their guest to go home. The absent-minded man shook himself as though waking from a trance and exclaimed, "I was feeling so contented here that I became confused. I thought that you were my guests and that this was my home." Entranced by our ego-self we sleep unaware of our full potential.
This ingathering of exiles corresponds to an ingathering of our attention from the desires and passions of the material world towards the divine principles (Torah) which underlie appearances. Having achieved freedom of perception through divine revelation of the world's true nature, we are free to refocus or lives, to ingather our exiled energies and faculties to serve that truth and through that Torah and mitzvos, to experience the unity of all creation.
(The Hebrew word "nace/banner" in this phrase also means "miracle". The sense of the extraordinary nature of psychospiritual redemption is brought out in the alternate reading of this phrase, "perform a miracle to gather our exiles.")
"bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land."
The ego-inspired illusion of separate individuality denies our connectedness with our fellows. This sense of separate self is then projected out onto the world which comes to be seen as fragmented and disordered. In contrast to this secular attitude, the Torah enjoins us to "Love your fellow as yourself."39 (This ideal is given great prominence as the opening line of the morning prayer service, nusach Ari .) However, the Tanya asks, realistically, how is it possible to feel as strongly for others as we do for ourselves? The Alte Rebbe answers that this degree of love for another is possible only because our self in its essence actually includes our fellow. Aligned with the Universal Torah we stand in genuine relationship with our fellow and with all life. Our Divine Soul is a common heritage. Our Higher Self is trans-personal. This interconnectedness of experience is a key feature of psychospiritual development. It is underscored by an alternate translation of this phrase, "bring us united from the four corners of the earth". That is, our exile ends when we will realize the unity and togetherness of existence.
"Blessed are You L-rd, Gatherer of the dispersed of His people Israel."
The pace and pressures of modern life set our head spinning/dreys our kup. Our awareness and allegiance are scattered by an ever-increasing competition for our ever-decreasing attention-span. Quiet, focused, meditative moments are rare as we rush between the jumble of our many commitments. Our energies are widely dispersed.
Psychospiritual self-development is a process of integrating the pieces of our experience into a unified whole. Fragmentation limits meaningfulness. Interrelatedness defines purpose. Practically we all benefit from a moment's peace and quiet. We need regular opportunities to gather our wits, to step back and gain perspective. This process of meditative centering suspends our identification with the external flow of events. Awareness focuses on the Order underlying the diversity of outward manifestations. Attention gathered, fixed on the Eternal, the sacred within and without us, we realize our place in the purposefulness of creation. Then we understand how blessed is He who is the "Gatherer of the dispersed of His people Israel."
This blessing follows directly the hierarchy of redemption as developed in the preceding blessings of this middle section. After the battle (blessing 7) comes recuperation (blessing 8). Then we attend to the basic needs of sustenance (blessing 9). Finally, in this blessing we shift our attention to a higher level of need. Here we pray for the refinement of our perception and the integration of our experience and being.
"Restore our judges as at first, and our counselors as in the beginning; remove from us sorrow and sighing, and reign over us, You alone, O Lord, with kindness and compassion, with righteousness and justice. Blessed are You Lord, who loves righteousness and justice."
"Restore our judges"
It is our arrogance, fueled by the cult of the individual, that convinces us that we are capable of making our own way in the world. We are our own hero, the captain of our own ship, our own, independent judge. To our own detriment, and that of the world, we have lost the counsel of the sages, the wisdom of the ages. Jewish tradition is built on the wisdom of persons of unimaginable spiritual genius, unique souls who showed us the way to align our lives with the Divine Plan.
In the biblical sense judges are individuals who are most able to interpret Divine Order into earthly law and circumstance. This divinely based "law" unlike common law is not a matter of socially agreed upon convention. Rather, it is a reflection, albeit diminished, of the fundamental pattern of existence, the Universal Torah. It is divine truth projected onto a lower, coarser level.
The theme of this blessing follows the sequence of these middle blessings. That is, after we are gathered into our land, as referred to in the previous blessing, we would in building society first establish a code of law and government. The rule of law and courts of justice to administer it is one of the most basic elements of civilization. Without justice we are left with the law of the jungle where might makes right.
This blessing also follows the sequence of this middle section regarding its inner theme of spiritual redemption or psychospiritual development. That is, first it is necessary to "gather" our attention from the multiplicity of misapprehensions which imprison our heart and mind. Then we need to establish a truer guide, a more complete standard of perception. We have to cultivate correct judgment; "Restore our judges", i.e., our ability to judge.
"as at first"
Psychospiritual self-development is not so much a process of forward progress and new acquisition as it is one of return and restoration, reconfiguration. We need to discover the potential that is already ours in our original, essential self. This discovery involves the stripping away of the encrusted attitudes and obscuring judgments which suffocate the free expression of our being. Nothing is lacking, except our intention. We possess already everything needed for this homeward journey. Nothing is lacking, except our intention, our judgment.
"and our counselors"
The quality of counsel received influences the quality of our judgment. External influences including social associations, media stimulation and formal education powerfully shape our attitudes and convictions. These influence for better the balance of power between our G-dly Soul/Nefesh Alokis and our Nefesh Behemos/ Animal Soul, our psychospiritual development. The development of our internal environment requires the regulation of our external environment. In fact, our internal, psychospiritual development most often depends on choices made regarding very mundane matters. Decisions made regarding social, media and educational associations may strongly help or hinder our growth.
Jewish mysticism asserts that, "In this world action is the main factor." Commission and omission, action and restraint are critical to our psychospiritual state. Physicality profoundly interacts with and effects spirituality. Therefore, Jewish tradition requires that we approach things physical in a sacred manner, using the perspective of our G-dly Soul/Nefesh Alokis rather than the materialistic, coarsely animalistic attitude of our Nefesh Behemos/ Animal Soul.
Psychospiritual development requires us to overcome our pessimistic denial of significance so to appreciate the potential for self-development in every circumstance. In the language of Kabbalah this process is referred to as the Elevation of the Sparks. The liberation of holy sparks from their exile in the gross coarseness of creation is according to mystical thought the purpose of creation. This process of purification, the integration of meaning out of disorder, is the purpose of psychospiritual development. (This imprisoning coarseness or disorder is referred to as "klipot/husks" and will be discussed in relation to the next blessing.)
"as in the beginning"
The state of integrated, purposeful experience is the original condition. Redemption is a reorientation to wholeness.
"remove from us sorrow and sighing, and reign over us"
The reign of unjust government results in frustration and disappointment. The rule of mistaken attitudes and beliefs brings "sorrow and sighing". These misapprehensions are referred to scripturally as "strange G-ds". They are delusions which exist outside of the perfection of the Divine Order. "Worshiped" by our ego-personality they prevent us from truly and freely experiencing life.
Psychospiritual development results from aligning ourselves with the Divine Law of the Universal Torah. This is accomplished by breaking the dictatorship of our ego-inspired worldview and accepting the guidance of our Higher Self, our G-dly Soul/Nefesh Alokis. Accepting the "reign" of a king is a metaphor for, this bitul/self-nullification. We pray to have removed our prejudiced perception and to allow our true self, our Divine Soul "reign over us".
"You alone, O Lord"
Idolatry is the denial of the unity of existence. It is the belief that aspects of creation function independently, that there is no absolute unifying Order. From this point of view certain events seem purposeless, the products of random chance and blind forces, mistakes. On a personal level our ego persuades us that we exist primarily as a separate self in an often meaningless or hostile world.
Psychospiritual development reveals the purposefulness of creation. Jewish tradition insists on the all-inclusiveness of the Divine Order, the Divinity of existence, the omnipotence of G-d; the Lord reigns "alone".
"with kindness and compassion, with righteousness and justice"
These four qualities describe the beneficence of alignment with the Divine Order. Kabbalistically they also indicate a specific path on the Aitz Chaim/ Tree of Life; "Kindness" is the 4th sefira, Chesed/Kindness; "compassion" or "rachamim" (sometimes translated as "mercy") is associated with the 6th sefira Tiferas /Beauty; "righteousness/tzedek" corresponds to the 9th sefira Yesod /Foundation, associated with "Joseph, the Righteous One" (appendix 4); "justice/mishpat" is an attribute of Malchus/Kingship, the 10th sefira in that the ideal king provides just government. (The association of justice with kingship is borne out by the special closing of this blessing used during the Ten Days of Penitence, "Blessed are You Lord, the King of Justice.") The path diagrammed by these four qualities starts on the Right Column of the Tree then runs down the Middle Column as illustrated in diagram 9.
Interestingly, this sefirotic path is held to be a route by which blessing descends to this world. According to the Zohar this is reflected in a chief praise of the prayer service, offered communally before the blessings preceding the Shma, "Blessed be the Lord who is blessed forever and ever":
"Thus in this benediction, 'blessed' represents the ultimate source whence all blessings emanate [Chochma]; 'the Lord' is the center [Tiferas] of all the supernal sides; 'who is blessed' represents the peace of the house, the fountain of the cistern [Yesod], providing completion and nourishment for all, while 'forever and ever' refers to the world below [Malchus], which needs these blessings..."40
"Blessed be" corresponds with Chochma and so with Chesed/Kindness, the Right Column, whose tendency is to generously bless (see table 2); "the Lord", the Tetragrammaton, Yahweh (yud, he, vav, he) (pronounced Adonoi), is ascribed to Tiferas/Beauty (appendix 1); "who is blessed" refers to Yesod/Foundation, the proximate source of blessing for this physical world (i.e., Yesod connects this world, Malchus, with the rest of the Tree of Life by virtue of its placement thereon-see diagram 9); "forever and ever", corresponds to Malchus/Kingship, this world, in that the Hebrew word for "olom/eternity" also means "world". Such associations add a dimension of meaning to prayer.
"Blessed are You Lord, who loves righteousness and justice."
Righteousness/tzedaka, often (imperfectly) translated as "charity," is the highest ethical virtue. It is one mitzvah said to equal all other commandments combined, the sacred activity par excellance. Charity or, as it is alternately known in Hebrew, "bestowing kindness" is an imitation of Divinity. The Tanya comments on the phrase, "Your commandment is very wide"41 and notes that the singular "commandment", not the plural, as would be expected, is used therein. Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains that "charity" is specifically G-d's commandment.
G-d, in the language of the first blessing of the Amidah, "bestows bountiful kindnesses" in sustaining His creation. Our free, altruistic giving according to Kabbalah constitutes an "arousal from below which stimulates an arousal from above." That is, through our charity we stimulate G-d's charity, His bestowal of blessings on us. Giving tzedaka/charity, doing righteousness to those in need has been of chief importance in Jewish life throughout the ages and is an acknowledged hallmark of the Jewish people.
Justice, the protection of the weak from the strong, is another column of Jewish ethics. The Jews have possessed for over 3300 years, in the Torah, a social covenant and legal code unmatched to our day. Indeed, the Jews are admiringly referred to as "The People of the Law".
"For informers let there be no hope, And may all the heretics and all the wicked instantly perish; may all the enemies of Your people Israel be swiftly cut off; and may you swiftly uproot, break, crush and subdue the reign of wickedness speedily in our days. Blessed are You Lord, who crushes enemies and subdues the wicked."
Informers are trusted individuals who work against us. They seem loyal, but in fact attempt to do us harm. These individuals are particularly dangerous in that they have us with our guard down and are often able to adversely influence us concerning critical matters. In psychological terms these "informers" are our dysfunctional, biased attitudes. They define our world in a way which prevents truthful perception and so precludes fulfillment. Against them we are defenseless. Indeed, we defend them. We refuse to change, to purge ourselves of these crippling character traits despite the evidence of their destructiveness.
"let there be no hope"
Psychospiritual development requires introspection and honest self-evaluation. We need to stop blaming external circumstances and other people for the way we are. Our negative thoughts and feelings are the results of our own biased perceptions. Our dysfunctional attitudes involve us in dysfunctional relationships. Our self-frustrating character traits create for us frustrating situations. At least they prevent us from rising to the challenge of difficult circumstances and learning the lessons therein. Growth requires that we stop investing in those attitudes which hurt the full expression of our being; that we no longer trust or hope in them despite their intimacy; "For informers let there be no hope".
"and may all the heretics and all the wicked instantly perish"
Heresy is a mistaken system of belief contrary to the Divine Order. Wickedness acknowledges, but willfully opposes that Order. Both mistaken denial and deliberate rejection of the purposefulness of life results in a loss of wholeness and diminution of being. Here we affirm our desire to completely and immediately eliminate those attitudes which impair our psychospiritual development; "may all the heretics and all the wicked instantly perish".
"may all the enemies of Your people Israel be swiftly cut off"
Ultimately we have to take responsibility for our condition. We see our opinions projected onto the world. The old adage "I'll believe it when I see it" should be reversed, "I'll see it when I believe it." We see what we believe. Interpersonal relationships mirror back our own misconceptions and psychospiritual maladaptations. Attitude attracts reality. We put ourselves in harm's way. We are our own worst enemy. Our enemies are our self-frustrating beliefs. These attitudes are intimate parts of our identity, who we take ourselves to be, aspects of our personality.
This blessing, then is a prayer for the immediate revelation and correction of our erred attitudes. Let us not put "hope" in attitudes ("informers") which betray our own best interest; may all arrogant misconceptions ("heretics") and destructive opinions ("the wicked") "instantly" be reformed; may all beliefs which prevent our self-development ("enemies") "be swiftly cut off."
"and may you swiftly uproot, break, crush and subdue the reign of wickedness speedily in our days"
The existence of evil in this world is the fundamental religious problem for many people; how could a good G- allow evil to exist? According to Kabbalah evil, "wickedness" is not only tolerated, but actually derives its sustenance from G-d, albeit in a very indirect, incidental manner, "behind the back" so to speak.
This mystical conception of evil may is classically illustrated by the use of two parables: Firstly, when a king has a banquet for his close ministers not only they, but the servants in the kitchen eat, too. Even more indirectly and incidentally, the dogs picking through the refuse also eat of the banquet. So in the creation of the world some vitality descends to the realm of wickedness (the dogs.) Secondly, a king wished to test the character of his son. Surrounded by the splendor of the palace the prince behaved virtuously, but how would he face temptation? The king hired an alluring woman to use all her charms to seduce his son. The woman reluctantly follows the king's orders. Although she tries earnestly, she actually hopes that the prince resists her temptations.
Without the possibility of evil there would be no free will, no drama in life. Then we would exist as the angels are said to, as automatons, robot-like carrying out the will of G-d. Our free will allows us to add goodness to, to contribute to G-d's creation.
The world of evil, "klipa" (lit. "husk" or "shell"), is said to be divided into four parts. Three "unclean" klipot are thoroughly corrupt, beyond any correction. The fourth klipa, "nogah/shining," is intermediate between the realms of holiness and absolute evil. The contents of klipa nogah can be elevated to holiness or submerged in evil. This pivotal aspect of nogah is illustrated by the example of food whose nourishment provides us with energy which we can direct either towards righteousness or wickedness, elevating or casting down the essential quality of the food. Similarly our business and social relationships can constitute a "sanctification" or a "desecration" of G-d's name. Nogah can constitute an affirmation or a denial of the purposefulness of life. As mentioned in our discussion of the previous blessing, the realization of purpose or the elevation of holy "sparks" exiled in the nogah of this world is the basis of sacred activity.
Illustrating the precision of sacred writings, it is taught by R. Schneur Zalman of Liada, the Alte Rebbe, that the first three verbs in this phrase, "uproot, break, crush", refer to the three unclean klipot. They have no living spark of holiness, i.e., no possibility of transformation to good, and so must be wholly avoided. This state corresponds to the refuse consumed by the dogs in our first parable. (Interestingly, the evil of all three unclean klipot will be converted to good in the messianic future.) The fourth verb, "subdue," refers to the subjugation and elevation of the vitality of the intermediate klipa nogah to holiness.42 This corresponds to the food consumed by the servants in the parable.
"Blessed are You Lord, who crushes enemies and subdues the wicked."
This hierarchy of negativity is referred to in this the blessing's conclusion. The distinction between the two categories of klipa, the redeemable and the irredeemable, can be fruitfully applied to our psychospiritual attitudes. Some character traits can be converted to assets while others need to be entirely abandoned. We ask G-d to "subdue" or reform our only partially corrupted attitudes and to "crush" our irredeemably self-destructive beliefs.
This blessing also follows the sequence of this middle set: Criminals are punished after the establishment of courts of justice (previous blessing). In terms of psychospiritual development, after proper judgment is achieved negative attitudes are purged.
"Upon the righteous, upon the pious, upon the elders of Your people, the House of Israel, upon the remnant of their scholars, upon the true proselyte, and upon us, may Your mercies be aroused. Grant bountiful reward to all who truly trust in Your Name, and place our lot among them; may we never be put to shame, for we have put our trust in You. Blessed are You Lord, the support and trust of the righteous."
The categories outlined in the first half of this blessing, besides their external references, also indicate internal states of self attained, even if only momentarily, by all of us.
"Upon the righteous"
The "righteous/tzadikkim" are wholly perfect in their action, speech and thought. They have effaced their lower self and have identified themselves with their Higher Self. That is, they have converted their Nefesh Behamis/Animal Soul to the service of G-d and are wholly ruled by their Nefesh Alokim/G-dly Soul. Rid of their ego-personality they have completed their psychospiritual development and unified their being wholly within the Divine Order. The world is said to exist on the merit of 36 tzaddikim.
"upon the pious"
The "pious/hasidim" are not as advanced as the tzaddikim. Still they have achieved a high level of psychospiritual self-development. Their thought, speech and deed constitute "service to G-d". Possessing an awareness of the sacredness of their activities they are as the Talmud informs us motivated to go beyond minimum standards of effort and enthusiasm in the performance of mitzvot.43 Hasidim, as the name implies, perform chesed/kindness on themselves, on others and on the world as a whole. That is, they bring blessings and sustenance into creation through their alignment with the Universal Torah.
"upon the elders of Your people, the House of Israel"
The "elders" are individuals who possess understanding and are able to judge. Over the course of their lives they have acquired a strong attunement to the Divine Order. However, they lack the spiritual perfection of the tzaddikim and may lack the enthusiasm of the hasidim. Generally, the "elder" is characterized by intellectual evolution; the chasid has achieved a high level of emotional enthusiasm (emotional sensitivity being somewhat dependent, and therefore presupposing, intellectual appreciation); the tzaddik combines dual perfection, intellect and emotions.
"upon the remnant of their scholars"
"Scholars" are advanced students. Their self-development, while prodigious, lacks the attainment of the three previously mentioned levels.
"upon the true proselyte"
The "true proselyte" represents a level lower still. They have only relatively recently committed themselves to a Jewish way of life. Although sincere they are generally less accomplished than the scholar. Of course, this is not invariably so. Again, these states, tzaddik, hasid, elder, scholar and proselyte, in terms of psychospiritual development refer principally to states of self. That is, we partake at least to some small degree or potentially in each of these states.
"and upon us'
The placement of ourselves at the bottom of this descending hierarchy, after even the proselyte, is a reminder expression of bitul/humility. Moses, the greatest figure in Jewish history, was also the "humblest of men".44 He considered that perhaps if another were given his talents and opportunities than that person might have accomplished more. We can see in this attitude that all personal talent ought not to be a source of arrogance or pride. After all we were born with certain innate abilities. Since we had nothing to do with acquiring these talents we have nothing to be proud of regarding them. Humility/bitul is actually the realization that the ego-personality is insubstantial. To begin with, there is actually no "self" to "negate".
"may Your mercies be aroused"
"An arousal below stimulates an arousal above." The sanctity of our activities in this world draws down divine "mercies" from above. In concert with this sympathetic principle we are commanded to "be holy for I the Lord am holy."45 We must empty our vessels of the prideful self to receive G-d's blessing. "G-d dwells everywhere except with a prideful person."46 The sense of ego self is incompatible with identification with the Higher Self.
"Grant bountiful reward to all who truly trust in Your Name"
Accidents are events which happen without reason, pattern or purpose. Chance is random, existing outside of and denying order. This is chaos. Many people experience life this way. They live in an accidental universe, often frustrating and frightening. It seems that they are often helpless pawns, victims of their relationships and their environment, stymied by their bad luck. The days seem ill-woven into a tapestry depicting nothing.
In contrast trust assumes reliability, consistency. Trust in G-d implies faith that the universe and our lives are purposeful and not random. There are no accidents. Nothing is left to chance. Science has in fact begun to appreciate that so-called chaos, seeming absolutely random phenomenon, is actually ordered. The closer, or perhaps more accurately, the broader we look, the more "chaos" appears to follow patterns. As Albert Einstein asserted, "G-d does not play dice with the universe." That events seem disconnected, like unrelated fragments is due to a deficiency in the way we think. Our linear, reductionistic reasoning and naive materialism prevent us from perceiving the patterns inherent in life's occurrences. We trivialize or ignore allegorical, metaphorical, analogous, coincidental and even cause and effect relationships.
G-d is intimately involved with our daily lives. He is not, as we have come to imagine, the negligent caretaker of the universe. Not a blade of grass grows without His involvement. Everything happens to us for a purpose, and the purpose is our psychospiritual evolution, our spiritual redemption. Occurrences seem unfair or undesirable largely from the point of view of our ego- personality. When we transcend this mundane perspective and identify with our Higher Self, when we "get philosophical about it", the truth is more apparent. Then we can say, "Gam za l'tova/this is also for the best."
The Divine Order prevails. Although you can't always get what you want, we do get what we need. Sometimes, of course, we need to be corrected and sometimes this correction involves pain. When we start with the premise that order exists in our lives, then relationships and patterns will become apparent to us, filling our lives with meaning and purpose: "Grant bountiful reward to all who truly trust in Your Name".
"and place our lot among them"
Here again we do not assert that we have such a distinctive quality as perfect trust in the Divine Order. Rather, we ask to be included among those who do. The quality of bitul/humility is an essential component of alignment with the Universal Torah. We must nullify the shortsighted, constricted consciousness of our ego-personality in favor of the expanded receptivity of our Higher Self.
"may we never be put to shame, for we have put our trust in You"
As we are unaccustomed to perceiving wholes it is easy to regard events as fragmented and senseless. As our faith in the purposefulness of life in all its details is not yet complete, protect us from the "shame" of doubting our trust in You.47
"Blessed are You Lord, the support and trust of the righteous."
This blessing is in line with the sequence we have been following:
First the basic needs, of society and of our psychospiritual development, have to be met, namely;
victory in conflict (blessing #7),
healing (blessing #8),
sustenance (blessing #9),
gathering of the dispersed (blessing #10),
the establishment of judges (blessing #11),
the eradication of evil (blessing #12).
Then, as in this blessing, we seek the refinement and upliftment of our higher qualities, namely, righteousness, piety, scholasticism, enthusiasm, intellect and emotions.
"And to Jerusalem Your city in mercy return and dwell therein as You have promised; and the throne of David Your servant speedily establish therein, and rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem."
"And to Jerusalem Your city'
Jerusalem represents the revelation of Divine Order on earth. The city was an embodiment of divinity, the earthly counterpart of a Heavenly Jerusalem. Its Temple in particular was the pinnacle of spirituality on earth. The Temple service aimed at increasing and revealing holiness in the world. This was our physical connection with heaven. Jerusalem was the navel of the world. The sanctity of this city, attested to by three faiths, may still today be felt by those who live or visit there.
Jerusalem is symbolic of a level of psychospiritual development which transcends the subjective. It is an objective sanctity, a supra-personal, holy experience. It is the revealed sanctity of place, environment and circumstance. Here the holiness, purposefulness of our circumstances becomes obvious. Here we experience the sanctity of our environment, the spiritual nature of the cosmos.
"in mercy return and dwell therein"
The Shechinah, G-d's feminine "Divine Presence", dwelt in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple. (The word Shechinah is from the same root as the word dwell/sishkone, found in this phrase. Shechinah actually means "indwelling".) Since the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) the holiness of Jerusalem has been dimmed. The Shechinah has been in exile with her Children of Israel.
The redemption of the Shechinah is described as her union with a masculine aspect of G-d, Zeir Anpin, "The Holy One Blessed Be He" (see our discussion of blessing 3 and diagram 5.) Kabbalah describes this union in frankly sexual terms. Sexual union is metaphorically and in ideal actuality a resolution and harmonization of polarities. It is the mystical union, which transcends self.
Mercy /Rachamim is the emotive attribute/midda associated with the sefirot Tiferas, the heart of Zeir Anpin (diagram 5). With all the foregoing in mind we may interpret "in mercy return and dwell therein" to mean, return Your aspect of Tiferas/ Zeir Anpin (mercy/rachamim) to unite with the Shechinah. The unity of The Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shechinah is the perfection and purpose of creation.
The tension of polarities motivates and sustains growth. The resolution of that tension is the goal of growth. Psychospiritual self-development seeks to integrate our experience into a meaningful whole. Growth involves an acknowledgement of the meaningful unity, inner and outer, of our world.
"as You have promised"
Redemption is promised; still our effort is critical. We are given the free choice each day and each moment to hasten or impede its arrival.
"and the throne of David Your servant speedily establish therein"
King David is associated with the 10th sefira, Malchus/Kingship. Malchus is the level of the Tree of Life or G-dliness, which includes this physical world. It is synonymous with the Shechinah. The "throne of David", then, would be that on which the Shechinah rests, united with Zeir Anpin. She contacts and is united with The Holy One, Blessed Be He/Zeir Anpin through the 9th sefira, Yesod/Foundation. Yesod, representative on the Tree of Life of the reproductive organs (see glossary, "Adam Kadmon" and appendix 5), is the most proximate sefira to Malchus on the Tree (see diagrams 5 and 7).
Kabbalah asserts that the "throne of David" signifies the dawning of the messianic age, the coming of the "Messiah son of Joseph". The Messiah son of Joseph will according to the Talmud herald the coming of the absolute redeemer, the "Messiah son of David".48 The association of the "throne of David" with Yesod is strengthened when we note that Joseph is the patriarch associated with Yesod (see diagram 4).
"and rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting edifice"
The Hebrew word "olum/everlasting" also means "world". Accordingly, this phrase suggests the universal significance of Jerusalem and the Temple through the alternate translation "Edifice of the World". The association with Yesod/Foundation is also hinted at in this phrase in that an "edifice" requires a foundation.
"Blessed are You Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem."
This blessing may be seen to represent a level of psychospiritual development higher than that outlined in the last blessing. The rebuilding of Jerusalem is synonymous with a general, suprapersonal sanctity of existence. It brings a greater manifestation of G-dliness than can be realized in the lives of "the righteous", "the pious", "the elders", etc. (blessing 13). The revealed sanctity of Jerusalem is a crown for our Higher Self. The previous blessing invokes the perfection of personal attributes, while this blessing affirms the perfection of environment, place and circumstance. Here the world as a whole participates in an obvious manner with us in life's Divine drama. Significantly, the language of this blessing, unlike the phrasing of the previous blessings in this middle series, does not directly make use of personal petition. Rather it prays for Jerusalem.
"The sprout of David, Your servant speedily cause to flourish and increase his power through Your salvation, For we hope for Your salvation constantly. Blessed are You Lord, who causes the power of salvation to flourish."
"The sprout of David, Your servant speedily cause to flourish"
The "sprout of David" is the Messiah son of David. He will bring to full flower the Messianic Age (introduced by the Messiah son of Joseph.) That age will be characterized by a complete, objective revelation of truth, the Divine Order. The importance of our circumstance and the ultimate consequence of our action will be obvious immediately. Matter will reflect and be entirely bitul/subordinate to its spiritual essence. Malchus/Kingdom, the tenth sefira (diagram 1), associated with both King David and the Shechinah, the realm of physical creation, will be redeemed from exile and united with the G-dhead.
Messianic redemption implies that the "sparks" of our authentic being will be liberated from the encrusted klipot/husks of our false assumptions. The shrouding delusions of our egocentric, ego-personality perspective will be removed. The snare of negative lifestyle and self-destructive tendencies will be finally broken and replaced by attitudes in harmony with the Universal Torah. Messianic redemption, then, is synonymous with the completion of the process of psychospiritual self-development as outlined in these middle blessings of the Amidah.
Blessing Affirmation & Aspect of Psychospiritual Self-Development
4 knowledge of a better way of life, truthful understanding
5 repentance, turning toward, return to the better way
6 forgiveness & release from the handicaps of negative ways
7 battle self-destructive tendencies
8 heal wounds of battle and sickness of negative lifestyle
9 basic sustenance, ability to maintain positive lifestyle
10 focus of dispersed energy for concentrated effort
11 judgment, secure establishment of healthy mechanisms
12 destruction or reform of negative tendencies
13 development of exemplary qualities and their perfection
14 cosmic, suprapersonal revelation of the Divine Order
15 final redemption, complete actualization of Higher Self
(These "stages" of redemption while not strictly sequential, do generally suggest progress from one stage to the next, starting with the awakening of knowledge and ending with complete actualization.)
"and increase his power through Your salvation"
The story is told of a tzaddik who lived in Israel hundreds of years ago. His disciples once came to inform him that the report was spreading that the Messiah had revealed himself in Jerusalem, many miles away. The tzaddik rose from his contemplation, went to the window and sniffed the air outside. Then turning to his disciples he announced that the report was incorrect.
This at first seems puzzling. Granted a tzaddik could sense, even by his sense of smell, a change in the world after the coming of the Messiah. Still why did he have to go to the window to judge? The answer is that for that tzaddik, in his "house", the Messiah had already come.
The "power" of the Messiah already exists. It is just not fully manifest. Tradition has it that the Messiah is present in every generation (and that he would reveal himself if the generation as a whole were worthy.) We each experience moments of redemption. These are times when we transcend our usual boundaries of perception and self. They are the "peak moments" when, through identification with our Higher Self, through the influence of our G-dly Soul/Nefesh Alokis we become aware of the absolute purposefulness of existence. The "salvation" of the Messiah, while an active principle in our lives, is yet incomplete. Therefore, we pray, "increase his power".
"for we hope for Your salvation constantly"
Psychospiritual growth requires our life to be infused with force, which transcends the limited power and perspective of our ego-personality. This phrase acknowledges this requirement of the extraordinary; "we hope for Your salvation constantly". We become receptive to the "living waters" of the Divine Order, this ever-available aid, to the extent that we bitul/nullify the intellectual and emotional biases of our personality and align ourselves with the Divine Order through Torah and mitzvos.
"Blessed are You Lord, who causes the power of salvation to flourish."
Divine sparks are exiled in physical creation. Our authentic, essential self is lost in a labyrinth of enculturated assumptions. As we arrange our lives within the purposefulness of the Divine Order we exit the maze of pathological intellectual and emotional indoctrination. Aligning our self with the Universal Torah "causes the power of salvation to flourish" in our lives.
"Hear our voice, Lord our G-d; merciful Father have mercy on us and accept our prayers mercifully and willingly, for You are G-d who hears prayers and supplications; and do not turn us away empty-handed from before You, our King, for You hear the prayers of all mouths. Blessed are You Lord, who hears prayer."
"Hear our voice, Lord our G-d"
This blessing is affirms the power of prayer itself, expressing the conviction that prayer is efficacious; "You are G-d who hears prayers". More specifically, coming as it does at the close of the middle set of blessings, it includes and affirms the prayers, which precede it (blessings 4-15).
"merciful Father have mercy on us"
According to Kabbalah the divine names "Lord/yud-he-vav-he" and "G-d/Alokim", as present in the preceding phrase, in a general sense refer to the Right and Left Columns, to Kindness/Chesed and Strictness/Gevurah of the Tree of Life respectively (diagram 2.) Mercy/Rachamim, as mentioned in this phrase, is an attribute associated with the sefira Tiferas /Beauty, and so, generally, with the Middle Column as a whole. This dynamic polarity between the Right and Left Columns, male and female, force and form, expansion and limitation, etc., finding its resolution in the Middle Column, is a fundamental principle of creation.
In this opening passage, then, we have the entirety of the Tree invoked, inclusive again of all preceding blessings. This inclusiveness is similar to that of the third blessing of the Amidah. The third blessing invokes the Middle Column, balancing the Right Column (blessing 1) and the Left Column (blessing 2) and so the entirety of the Tree of Life. That blessing concludes and completes the first set of blessings (1-3) as this blessing concludes and completes the second or middle set (4-16).
"and accept our prayers mercifully and willingly"
Why does G-d desire our prayer? Certainly He is not flattered by our praise. How is it that G-d is "enthroned among the praise of Israel"?49
Actually prayer and praise of G-d are for our sake. Through praise we perceive the "enthronement," the sovereignty of G-d in this world, in our lives. Through prayer we realize the significance of the Divine Order and the nullity of our ego-personality before G-d: "For with You is the source of life; in Your light we see light."50 Aligning our being with the Universal Torah we acquire the transcendental perspective of our Higher Self/G-dly Soul/Nefesh Alokim.
According to tradition G-d is fully responsive to the prayers of the completely righteous/tzaddikim. Free of intellectual and emotional bias tzaddikim have fulfilled their psychospiritual development. They have achieved authentic being. Thoroughly in harmony with the Divine Order their action constitutes perfect praise. Thoroughly humble, they take on gigantic proportions. Such is the origin of perfect prayer.
"for You are G-d who hears prayers and supplications"
According to Kabbalah our soul originates from the highest spiritual levels. Our prayers, by virtue of our soul's root, are able to connect and commune with G-d. Prayer, with proper kavannah/intention, rises and elicits heavenly assistance. The affirmations of prayer promote our spiritual redemption, allowing us to transcend our psychospiritual exile, the ordinary limitations of ego-personality, and connect with the potentials of our Higher Self.
"and do not turn us away empty from before You, our King"
True prayer is an ecstatic experience, the joy of the soul communing with G-d. By contrast, the rote, feelingless repetitions of words "turns us away empty from before You, our King". This "empty" feeling during and after prayer is a clear sign that our soul has not ascended, that our prayer was not completely acceptable to G-d. Tzaddikim have emphasized that we must pray with passionate kavannah. (Such fervor, however, need not be outwardly apparent.)
"for You hear the prayers of all mouths"
Prayer, according to Jewish tradition, must be spoken. Although our words need be actually audible to us only in the Shma and Amidah, our lips must always move. The significance of the spoken nature of prayer may be appreciated from the biblical account of creation in which G-d created the world through speech. Why, we may ask, did He need to speak? He could have created by thought alone. In response the Kabbalah emphasizes the advantage of physicality and action in this world. Indeed, this world is named Asiyah, "Action" or "Doing" (see appendix 3). Here "the main point is action." The physical reflects and influences the psychospiritual.
We are all familiar with how our mood can be affected by activity and environment. Similarly, most of us intellectually know how to improve ourselves. However, knowing is not enough. We need to do. Action is the critical factor. Through the action of speech G-d created the world. The activity of speech potentizes our prayer and affirmations. Thoughts without words lack full power. (Similarly, deeds, being more physical, demonstrate intent better than mere promises; "Actions speak louder than words.")
"Blessed are You Lord, who hears prayer."
The affirmation of prayer elicits blessing. In relation to blessings 3 and 14 we discussed that blessings are conveyed to this world (Malchus/Nukvah) through the agency of Zeir Anpin/the Holy One Blessed Be He (diagram 5). The Holy One Blessed Be He is particularly invoked in the third blessing (see there).
The Hebrew word "schamaeya/hears," has the gematria/numerical total of 416 (shin=300, mem=40, ayin=70, vav=6). Interestingly this is equivalent to the gematria of the last word of the third blessing, "the holy", 415 (he=5, koof=100, daled=4, vav=6, shin=300), plus one. Thus, the hearing of our prayer conveys blessing to our world through the agency of the Holy One Blessed Be He.
"Favor, Lord our G-d, Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to the Holy of Holies and accept their fire offerings and prayers lovingly and willingly; and may You always find favor with the service of Your people Israel. And may our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed are You Lord, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion."
"Favor, Lord our G-d, Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; "
The Hebrew word ratzon/will (want, desire, favor) appears three times in this blessing. Ratzon is part of Adam Kadmon/the Primordial Man projected on the Tree of Life, the Image of G-d in which human beings (and the world) were made.
Action: On the Tree of Life action is associated with Malchus/Kingship. Action is associated with the feet (or mouth) of Adam Kadmon/the Primordial Man. (Asiyah is the World of Action.)
Emotion: Emotions on the Tree of Life emotion are associated with the six sephiros Chesed/Kindness, Gevurah/Restriction, Tiferes/Beauty, Netzach/Victory, Hod/Splendor and Yesod/Foundation. These are referred to as the middot/emotions (literally "measures.") Collectively they are referred to as Zeir Anpin/the Short Countenance or the Holy One Blessed Be He or sometimes simply Tiferes after their central sefira. Emotion is associated with the torso (including extremities and genitalia) of Adam Kadmon/the Primordial Man.
Intellect: On the Tree of Life intellect is associated with the three sephiros Chochma/Wisdom, Bina/Understanding and Daas/Knowledge. These intellectual faculties are collectively known as sechel and are also referred to by the acronym ChaBaD. Intellect is associated with the head (and particularly the brain) of Adam Kadmon/the Primordial Man.
Will/Ratzon is the Crown/Keser (the tenth sefira on the Tree of Life) upon, above and encircling the head of Adam Kadmon. Will/Ratzon is a desire for something, a wanting. This is fundamentally above intellect. Intellect may inform will. That is, we may understand why something is desirable. For example, a music connoisseur's desire to hear a piece of music may be enhanced by an understanding of the theory behind its composition or a knowledge of its historical roots. However the desire to hear the music is fundamentally independent from any understanding. The wanting to hear the music is essentially apart from intellect. A clearer example of this separation would be someone's desire for chocolate which has nothing to do with any understanding of its molecular configuration or how the cocoa plant grows.
Actually Ratzon/Will is only one half of Crown/Keser. The other, and higher, half is Oneg/Delight. We want that which delights us.
Oneg/Delight directs Ratzon/Will, which in turn inspires Sechel/Intellect, which itself arouses Middot/Emotion, which empowers Asiyah/Action.
In the type of paradox which kabbalah delights in, it is first to be noted that action is the lowest level of the hierarchy of creation. The physical world, the realm of action is entirely constrained by coarse materiality. The realms of intellect and emotion are by contrast far freer. For example, you can think about more things than you can do. However, it is also noted that there is a special, direct connection between action and will which transcends or bypasses the normal channels, the intermediaries of emotions and intellect.
The example is given of the servant of the king, who fulfills the command of the king without any appreciation of the reason or motive behind the command. Lacking any emotional or intellectual understanding of the command, the servant, nevertheless, through his performance of the command, directly connects with the will of the king that is enclothed (or enclosed) in that command.
A person is limited by his emotional and intellectual capacities. His comprehension of his Torah study is limited by how intelligent he is. However, through the performance of the physical mitzvos he directly transcends these limitations and directly connects the Desire of the King, G-d's Will which caused the world, all the spiritual worlds included, to be created.
We see then that while action is from one perspective the lowest level of the hierarchy of creation, it is also the whole point of creation. As the rabbis attest, "There is an advantage to physicality."
Spiritual attainment must relate back to, effect and even be based on physicality. Unlike certain other religious systems, here there is no denial of the world as inherently corrupt or illusory. On the contrary, physicality is an arena for spirituality. This is the meaning of the assertion that G-d created all the spiritual universes for the sake of this physical world. Our ordinary reality, made extraordinary through our alignment with the Universal Torah and our Higher Self is a school for psychospiritual development.
" restore the service to the Holy of Holies"
The height of spirituality in the Temple service was the offering by the High Priest of incense in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. At no other time did anyone enter that awesome chamber. The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctum of the Temple in which was housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and the original Torah scroll written by Moses on Mount Sinai. As referred to in this blessing then the "service of the Holy of Holies," was the holiest offering performed by the holiest representative in the holiest place at the holiest moment, certainly a most special event.
From a psychospiritual perspective the service of the Holy of Holies refers to the innermost aspect of our being, our most essential, sacred self.
"and accept their fire offerings and prayers lovingly and willingly;"
The Temple service, invoked by this blessing, was the perfection and culmination of all other types of service to G-d. Animal sacrifices and offerings of meal and incense were burnt on the Temple's altars. Orchestra and choir accompanied these offerings to inspire the individual bringing them with the necessary frame of mind to make the offering acceptable. That is, the various offerings were intended to have a psychospiritual transformative effect on the individual bringing them. If such was not the case, then, in the words of this blessing, G-d did not "find favor with the service". Since the Temple's destruction prayer has substituted for the order of sacrifices. As we have discussed, the same criterion applies to our prayer. Prayer also needs to be accompanied by the proper intention/kavannah to function as a vehicle for psychospiritual self-development and so be "acceptable to G-d".
Fire transforms matter into energy. It liberates the energy locked in the molecular bonds of physicality. "Israel's fire-offerings", the burning of offerings on the Temple's altars accomplished the liberation of the spiritual essence of the sacrifice, the "elevation of the sparks." The materiality was etherialized, transformed into spirit. This is, as we have previously discussed, the role of all religious activity. Indeed, the purpose of all life is the purification of this physical world, creating a dwelling for G-d in this world, the revelation of G-dliness.
"and may You always find favor with the service of Your people Israel"
The measure of our sublime G-dly service is indicated by the spiritual quality of our daily activities, our interactions with others and with our environment: " may You always find favor with the service of Your people Israel".
"And may our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy"
May our physical nature bear witness to spirit. Let this world "see" its Divine Foundation; "may our [physical] eyes behold Your return to Zion".
"Blessed are You Lord, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion."
G-d's "Divine Presence/Shechinah," as has been discussed, is the Divine Aspect most intimately involved with the Children of Israel and with this world. (According to Kabbalah, the often-used phrase "the Congregation of Israel/Knesset Yisroel" specifically refers to the Shechinah.) The Shechinah is in exile with the Children of Israel and Her redemption is synonymous with theirs.
The Shechinah is also associated with the Sabbath (appendix 6,) the completion and perfection of creation. On each Sabbath the Shechinah is "restored to Zion" in mystical union with The Holy One Blessed Be He (see blessings 3 and 14.) Also, in the messianic age every day will be Shabbos. Through our Sabbath rest we align with the Universal Torah. In the completeness of our Higher Self, we partake of this perfection of the Divine Order, the restoration of "His Divine Presence/Shechinah to Zion."
"We thankfully acknowledge that You are the Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers forever. You are in every generation Rock of our Lives, Shield of our Deliverance. We give thanks to You and recount Your praises for our lives which are committed into Your hand, for our souls which are entrusted to You, and for Your miracles which are with us every day, and for Your wonders and beneficences at all times, evening, morning and noon. [You are] the Beneficent One, for Your mercies never cease, the Merciful One, for Your kindnesses never end; for we always place our hope in You.
"And for all this blessed, exalted and uplifted be Your Name, our King, constantly, forever and ever. And all living things shall forever thank You and praise Your great Name eternally, for You are good. G-d, Who is our everlasting salvation and help. O Benevolent G-d. Blessed are You Lord, Beneficent is Your Name, and to You it is fitting to offer praise."
"We thankfully acknowledge"
The Hebrew word "modeh/acknowledge" implies bitul/humility. That is, the abnegation of our ego-centered self in favor identification with our Higher Self. This implies the abandonment of the belief in our individual separateness and the acceptance of the relatedness of existence. "We thankfully acknowledge" the meaningfulness of the Divine Order as it manifests intimately in our lives.
"that You are the Lord"
Our close relationship with G-d is reflected in the use of the direct, intimate address "You".
"our G-d and G-d of our fathers forever"
The phrasing of this, the penultimate blessing of the Amidah, is quite similar to that of the first blessing. The first blessing also opens with the invocation "our G-d and G-d of our fathers". Additionally, as with the first blessing we bow at the start of this blessing.
"You are in every generation Rock of our Lives, Shield of our Deliverance"
In contrast to the unstable, shifting sands of our ego structure, our Higher Self has a strong, truthful foundation. Divinity is the bedrock of our identity, the "Rock of our Lives".
As noted in the Tanya the Hebrew word "tzur/rock" may be with slight alteration translated as "former" or "designer".51 Here again we acknowledge the purposefulness of the Universal Torah and affirm our place in it through invoking G-d as the "Designer of our Lives".
Also, continuing our comparison with the first blessing of the Amidah, we note that the word "shield/mawgain" appears twice there.
"We give thanks to You and recount Your praises for our lives which are committed into Your hand"
Our lives are in G-d's charge. Each moment of every situation and relationship provides us with opportunities for psychospiritual self-development. Our small self informs us that our lives sometimes have unnecessary, undesirable occurrences. From the perspective of this constricted consciousness/mochin katan things often seem unfair, random or purposeless. Through the true vision, the expanded conscious/mochin gadlut of our Higher Self the meaningfulness of our existence becomes apparent. Even adversity is seen as an opportunity to grow, a necessary opportunity and suffering is taken as a goodness too great to be revealed.
"for our souls which are entrusted to You"
G-d directs our life for the purpose of our psychospiritual evolution. Our environment is optimal for the spiritual rectification/tikkun of our soul.
"and for Your miracles which are with us every day, and for Your wonders and beneficences at all times"
We witness "wonders... at all times". The laws which regulate creation, including subatomic relationships, the physiology of life, astrophysics, etc., are wondrous in their intricate perfection.
We are surrounded with "miracles...every day". Miracles are occurrences, which transcend the established order of our lives. They are extraordinary interventions in the ordinariness of existence. As we have asserted, such extraordinary assistance is literally the object of and answer to our prayers. We, however, tend to deny the miraculous nature of our lives. We tend to trivialize the extraordinary. We discount the significance of coincidence, inspiration, realization, etc.
Maimonadies taught, whoever does not believe that every moment of his life is miraculous has no place in the World to Come/olom ha'ba.52 (Regarding the "World to Come" see blessings 14 and 15.) Literally this is explained to mean that lacking this belief a person has not, despite other good deeds and sacred service, merited the ultimate reward of the spiritual afterlife. Such a person has not understood the extraordinary involvement of G-d in creation. That is, the transcendental significance of this physical world/olem ha'zeh. Such a person, unaware of the Divine Order, stumbles senselessly through his days, blind to the importance of his experiences.
One type of miracles disrupts the order of creation, e.g., the splitting of the Red Sea. Another type of miracle is concealed within the laws of nature, whose sublime intricacies lead scientists to believe in a Creator. This second type of miracle better demonstrates G-d's greatness, because He is able to conceal His infinite Self in finite nature; "Where you find G-d's greatness, there you find His humility."
"evening, morning and noon"
The Hebrew calendar is lunar, reckoning time from new moon to new moon. This is the period of a month. The year consists of 12 or occasionally 13 lunar cycles. By contrast our solar calendar counts twelve months within 364-365 days, the approximate time of a revolution of the earth around the sun.
The Hebrew measuring of a day also differs from modern reckoning. The Hebrew day begins and ends at twilight, hence the order of periods in this phrase, "evening, morning and noon". Our modern day starts at dawn and closes with night. These differences in measuring time imply contrasting attitudes towards the process of self-transformation.
Night, coming as it does at the close of the solar day, there signifies conclusion and finality. In contrast, night in its position at the start of the lunar day symbolizes a transformative beginning.
Throughout the solar month the sun is constant. Throughout the lunar month the moon waxes and wanes. This fluctuation of the lunar cycle, the renewal of the moon each month from the blackness of its disc, has universally been associated with the process of death and rebirth.
This symbolism of death and rebirth in the phases of the moon and in the cycle of night and day ought to be as potent for us as it was for our ancestors. This transformative power ought to be the implicit substructure of our reality. As we have seen, psychospiritual self-development requires the relinquishing of dysfunctional, "dead", attitudes and the acceptance or "birth" of greater equilibrium within our lives.
Interestingly, scientists are baffled by the precision of the Hebrew calendar. They question how such accuracy could have been attained without the aid of sophisticated computers. For some two thousand years it has faithfully predicted the earth's position without the periodic readjustment so often required by the solar calendar. The lunar reckoning of time, then, more perfectly reflects both the periods of cosmic and personal transformation.
"[You are] the Beneficent One, for Your mercies never cease, the Merciful One, for Your kindnesses never end"
Beneficence is associated with the attribute of Chesed/Kindness, the fourth sefira. The attribute of Mercy is associated with the Tiferas/Beauty, the sixth sefira. Tiferas is balanced on the Tree of Life/Aitz Chaim between Chesed and Gevurah/Severity, the fifth sefira (see diagram 1). In this phrase Mercy, linked twice with Kindness and unassociated with the strictness and limitation of Gevurah, provides a state wherein "Your mercies never cease".
This phrase's emphasis on Kindness/Chesed again links this blessing to the first blessing of the Amidah which is itself associated with the Chesed of Abraham (see there).
"for we always place our hope in You"
Growth results from the realization and incorporation of previously unmanifested powers. The process of redemption involves the intervention of extraordinary influences. Psychospiritual development implies that we stop relying on our inadequate habitual perceptions, that "we always place our hope in" our transcendental identification with the Divine Order.
"And for all this blessed, exalted and uplifted be Your Name our King, constantly, forever and ever"
By virtue of Your kindness and mercy may the Shechinah/"Your Name" (see blessing 3) be "blessed, exalted and uplifted" and redeemed with the Children of Israel from exile.
Continuing our comparison with the first blessing we note that "King" is one of the four titles used for G-d in the penultimate phrase of that blessing.
"And all living things shall forever thank You and praise Your great Name eternally, for You are good"
The criterion for "living", for being considered truly alive, is recognition of the Divine Order and alignment with the Universal Torah. "And all living things shall forever thank... and praise" the Source of Life.
"G-d, Who is our everlasting salvation and help. O Benevolent G-d."
The root words of "salvation" and "help" are included also in the penultimate phrase of the first blessing of the Amidah. All four titles there, "King, Helper, Redeemer, Shield", are here repeated in this parallel blessing. This recapitulation is all the more significant when we realize that that phrase, "King, Helper, Redeemer, Shield", is of central importance in the first blessing.53
"Blessed are You Lord, Beneficent is Your Name, and to You it is fitting to offer praise."
Here, as at the conclusion of the first blessing, we bend our knees and bow; genuflecting at "blessed", bowing at "You", resuming upright posture before "Lord". The similarity between the first and this, the penultimate blessing of the Amidah is reminiscent of the kabbalistic principle that "the end is wedged in the beginning and the beginning is wedged in the end"54. That is, the ultimate intended result, the creation of this physical world, is present in all prior states; "The last in actuality, the first in thought."
This kabbalistic principle illuminates the psychospiritual reality that all spiritual worlds were created to further G-d's original intention, namely, our development, through Torah and mitzvos in this physical world. This blessing concludes by emphasizing the necessary state of our praisefulness, espoused in detail in the previous blessings.
"Bestow peace, goodness and blessing, life, graciousness, kindness and mercy upon us and upon all Your people Israel. Bless us our Father, all of us as one with the light of Your countenance. For by the light of Your countenance You gave us, Lord our G-d, a Torah of life and love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace. May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at all times and at all moments, with Your peace. Blessed are You Lord, who blesses His people Israel with peace."
"Bestow peace, goodness and blessing, life, graciousness, kindness and mercy upon us and upon all Your people Israel"
The qualities "peace, goodness and blessing, life, graciousness, kindness and mercy" are not abstract philosophical principles. They are actual substance, spiritual currency.
Also, these qualities are not dependent on external circumstances. Rather they have independent existence and are bestowed on our life's circumstances.
The ego-centered perspective convinces us that things in themselves are good or bad. The self-ish personality desires "good things" and eschews "bad things". The quality of our experience, however, depends on our orientation and point of view. Our experience of "peace, goodness and blessing, life, graciousness, kindness and mercy" is not dependent on external situations. Within the Universal Torah the meaningfulness of all situation and circumstance is made manifest.
Aligning ourselves with the greater identity of our Higher Self, our G-dly Soul reveals the goodness behind all situation and circumstance ("Also this is for good,") the purposefulness of existence. When we transcend the narrow characterizations and biased classifications of our ego then the positive qualities listed in this phrase are realized in our lives.
"Bless us our Father, all of us as one"
Feelings of separation and detachment are hallmarks of psychological illness. The belief that the world consists of separate, unrelated objects and phenomenon is characteristic of psychospiritual maladaptation. An isolated individual in a random, purposeless universe is the legacy of such a perspective.
By contrast, appreciation of the rich interrelationship of all creation results in a fullness of meaning and a receptivity to blessing. Blessing results from experiencing the essential unity of our lives and the world as a whole; "Bless us our Father [when we perceive] all... as one".
"with the light of Your countenance"
As mentioned previously (blessing 9), "p'nah/countenance/face" refers also to the inner, essential aspects of something. With this in mind this whole phrase, "Bless us our Father, all of us as one with the light of Your countenance," indicates that blessing is conveyed through our essential relationship with G-d.
"For by the light of Your countenance You gave us, Lord our G-d, a Torah of life and love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace"
The Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai was a wedding between G-d and the Children of Israel. The Shechinah was united with The Holy One Blessed Be He. The Sin of the Golden Calf, however, caused a turning away of G-d's countenance, partially interrupting that intimate embrace.
The Torah remains the source of "of life and love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace". The teachings of the Torah recorded by Moses at Sinai embody the Divine Order of creation, the Universal Torah. In aligning ourselves with the Torah, we embrace the Divinity of our being and of the world.
"May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at all times and at all moments, with Your peace"
Dreams are said to possess one-sixtieth the power of prophecy. To some degree they inform us of truth. The Zohar advises that one should always try to interpret dreams in a good light since interpretation determines the quality of their prophecy. That is, our understanding and attitude affect the outcome they predict. This advice is also very well applied to our waking reality. Positive thinking is powerful. Optimism is not only infectious, but also creative. We should look kindly on ourselves and on others; we should possess a "good eye" "at all times and at all moments".
"Blessed are You Lord, who blesses His people Israel with peace."
The Hebrew word "shalom/peace", also means "wholeness", "perfection", "completion": Peace includes in its wholeness all blessings; Peace alludes to the perfection of psychospiritual development; The prayer for peace marks the completion of the process of redemption as outlined in the Amidah, the Standing Prayer.
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Lord my Rock and my Redeemer. My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully. To those who curse me, may my soul be silent; and let my soul be like dust to all. Open my heart to Your Torah and let my soul pursue Your commandments. And all who plan evil against me quickly annul their counsel and frustrate their intention. Let them be as chaff before the wind; let the angel of the Lord thrust them away. That Your beloved ones may be released, help with Your right hand and answer me. Act for the sake of Your Name. Act for the sake of Your right hand. Act for the sake of Your holiness. Act for the sake of Your Torah. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. He who makes peace in the heavens, may he make peace for us and for all Israel, and say Amen.
"May it be Your will Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah."
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Lord my Rock and my Redeemer."
Prayer without sincere intention/kavannah is deficient, unacceptable. Most basically we have to mean what we pray. Beyond this simple genuineness there are other levels of intention. Enthusiastic feeling makes our prayer more potent. Love and awe are said to be the wings upon which prayer ascends to G-d.
More sophisticated kavannah involves meditation or directed awareness. These are methods of improving the effectiveness and increasing the consequences of prayer and other sacred activities/mitzvot. We consciously intend that our activity should have specific transformative effects. For example, we intend that lighting Sabbath or holiday candles should bring more light, joy, clarity, etc. into our lives; that taking a ritual bath/mikveh should cleanse our psychospiritual impurities; that a mitzvah we are about to perform should cause a rectification in spiritual universes, a unification of the Shechinah and the Holy One Blessed Be He (blessings 3 and 14). We increase the psychospiritual consequences of our activities through our heightened and directed awareness.
"My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully."
Negative criticism, gossip and slander are known in Hebrew as lashon hara/evil speech. This is a grave sin, destructive to the speaker, the listener and the object of criticism. That such criticism may be true makes no difference. Any words, which damage another's character, are considered lashon hara.
Unfortunately, lashon hara is very common. Criticizing and complaining about others is a national, social pastime. Ideally we should judge everyone favorably, realizing that truly they are doing the best they can. In any case, our negative criticism only reinforces their failings. Also, it has been observed, by the Ba'al Shem Tov, the messianic founder of the Hasidic movement, that we only see, or are effected by, faults in others because we have a similar fault in our self. That is, we only get passionate about things which touch us deeply. External events reflect our internal state.
We are responsible for our own reality, our worldview. Dwelling on negative aspects gives them more prominence. Hurting others hurts us, making us more callous. Choosing to interpret things in a positive light, in most cases, increases our satisfaction in living.
"To those who curse me, may my soul be silent; and let my soul be like dust to all."
Similarly, someone's criticism of us only bothers us when we recognize some truth in it. When we are beyond reproach then we remain untouched by another's negative opinions. Then our soul remains unperturbed; "to those who curse me, may my soul remain silent".
Through bitul/humility our actions remain free of selfish motives. Self-abnegation through identification with the Soul of all creation nullifies the interests of the ego-personality.
The more we develop psychospiritually, the more we realize our unworthiness. The more you know, the more you know you don't know what you know. This phenomenon is one of greater closeness to G-d, return/t'shuva and redemption, as the Amidah describes and affirms. Equanimity in the face of the insults and vicissitudes of life results from an abandonment of pride and a proper appreciation of our insignificance; "and let my soul be like dust to all."
"Open my heart to Your Torah and let my soul pursue Your commandments."
The Torah speaks of "circumcising" the heart55 as a prerequisite for serving G-d. Circumcision involves the removal of an outer layer. This is related to the concept of klipa/shells which hide and constrain holiness (blessing 12). Our interacting with the physical world in a sacred manner (mitzvot) removes these "evil" shells and reveals the holiness inherent in physicality. The inner essence of the world is thus actualized.
Just so, in psychospiritual development we must circumcise our heart, removing the hardened, life-constricting attitudes which deny our essential being. (Interestingly, through the kabbalistic process of permutation of letters, notakarion, the four letters of the Hebrew word periah, "circumcise", peih-raish-ayin-hey, can be rearranged, hey-ayin-peih-raish, to spell Ha'aphar, "the dust"; removal of the klipa is related to bitul (humility). Rearranged again, peih-reish-ayin-heih, they spell Pharaoh, the nadir of evil and klipa.56)
"And all who plan evil against me quickly annul their counsel and frustrate their intention. Let them be as chaff before the wind; let the angel of the Lord thrust them away."
Let all the factors which impede the fulfillment of the process of redemption fail. Whether perceived as external or internal obstructions "quickly annul their counsel and frustrate their intention". These obstacles to our psychospiritual redemption in truth have only the power we give to them. Opposed to truth, they have no substance. When we decide to serve G-d, to align ourselves with the Divine Order, they will "be as chaff before the wind".
Jewish tradition informs us that there is an angel, a spiritual correspondence, for each and every physical phenomenon. Earth effects heaven and heaven effects earth. We pray for spiritual assistance, "let the angel of the Lord thrust them away."
"That Your beloved ones may be released, help with Your right hand and answer me."
G-d's "right hand" is synonymous with the Right Column of the Tree of Life, Chesed /Kindness (see diagram 2). Chesed, the central sefira on the Right Column, is compared with water. Just as water descends from a higher to a lower place, so blessing descends to this world from higher worlds. Chesed, spiritual abundance, comes in "answer" to our prayers. G-d's extraordinary "help" is stimulated by our own efforts, helping those who help themselves", that we "may be released" from our psychospiritual bondage.
"Act for the sake of Your Name. Act for the sake of Your right hand. Act for the sake of Your holiness. Act for the sake of Your Torah."
G-d has invested His righteousness in this world. His "Name", "right hand", "holiness", "Torah" are all in relation to creation. The exile of the Children of Israel represents a (partial) upset of the intended Divine Order. Redemption represents a full restoration and re-empowerment of holiness, the Universal Torah.
Importantly, our efforts towards psychospiritual self-realization help fulfill the world's spiritual destiny. Reciprocally, since they are in concert with the righteousness inherent in creation, our efforts are magnified by the divine tendency towards revelation and redemption.
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Lord, my Rock and Redeemer."
When we properly appreciate the awesomeness of our ability to address G-d in prayer then "the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are acceptable". The primary kavannah/intention we must have in prayer is the sense of knowing before Whom we stand (Maimonides). We must be ever aware of the majesty of our soul, the Divine Order underlying creation and the G-dliness of the spiritual realms. Our understanding of the sacredness of existence should guide all our activities; we should "walk in a sacred manner".
Each moment, with or without our awareness, we are given an opportunity to reveal the essential being of our self and creation. Through prayer we complete aspects of creation, including ourselves. We become co-creators with G-d. Prayer and other sacred activity/mitzvot are phenomenon which allow for the potentiation of holiness. Mitzvot performed with proper kavannah facilitate psychospiritual redemption.
"He who makes peace in the heavens, may he make peace for us and for all Israel, and say Amen."
The general word for "heaven" in Hebrew is "sha'maim'. "Sha'maim", may be read as a combination of the Hebrew words "aish/fire" and "maim/water". Water, as we have seen, represents Chesed/Kindness and the Right Column of the Tree of Life. Fire represents Gevurah/Strength or Strictness and the Left Column. The "peace in the heavens" is a harmonization of these two opposites (sha'maim= aish + maim), represented by the balanced Middle Column (see diagrams 1 and 2).
In psychospiritual terms "peace for us and for all Israel" results from an integration of varied, often conflicting traits. There needs to be a dynamic equilibrium between the extremes of unbalanced tendencies. Kindness without limit is indulgence; strictness without kindness is cruelty. We need to appropriately perceive and react to our environment without bias or stereotype.
The fragmentary separateness of existence is an illusion. Creation is a rich web of interrelationships. Parts integrated with the whole enhance themselves and the whole. Separateness and alienation are synonymous with both sin and disease. Purpose is derived from effecting and appreciating the integration of life's pieces into a meaningful totality.
"May it be Your will Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and grant us our portion in Your Torah."
The Temple is the House of G-d on earth (blessing 14). It is the interface of the spiritual and the physical. It is the place of ultimate union between the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shechinah, the merging the Children of Israel within the Divine Order. In psychospiritual terms the Temple represents the actualization of our Higher Self, the divine potential of our and the world's soul.
Tradition informs us that the Third Temple, which will be established during the Messianic era, already exists complete in heaven. Rebuilding it is a process of transplanting the Heavenly Jerusalem onto earth. What is required is a drawing down of blessing from heaven to earth. This establishment of transcendental order in our lives is the object of prayer, meditation, and personal development.
The Midrash tells us that the 600,000 families present at the Giving of the Torah/Matan Torah57 correspond to 600,000 "faces" of the Torah.58 Each individual of the Children of Israel, then, has his or her particular "portion in Your Torah". In addition to the general Torah commanded to us at Sinai we each have our particular, special way of aligning with the Divine Order. The Way of the Universal Torah includes all activities which help us realize the connection between our Higher Self and the Creator of All Things.