November 28, 2015
by Rabbi Mendel Kessin
Synopsis is not necesarrily in Rabbi Kessin's own words
Spirituality and the nations.
Is the spiritual dimension given over exclusively to the Jewish nation?
Not at all. It’s just as well open to every nation, every culture, every human being. However, there is a difference.
Outside of the world of Torah there is a choice between physical and spiritual. Either – or. Either physical or spiritual. You can’t have both. Thus, there are two possible outcomes:
- Avoidance, escaping physicality as an attempt to become a spiritual being.
- Discarding spirituality and diving into the physical.
Which of the two is more commonplace?
Neither. There is a third option. The war. The fight. The conflict between physical and spiritual. Tiring and frustrating oscillation between the two poles. This is overwhelmingly common state of being for the vast majority of the humankind.
So what’s Jewish spirituality? How does it relate to physicality?
The Creator offers a unique solution through Torah: physicality as the means to spirituality. In fact, physicality as the only means to spirituality (as consistent rejection of physicality leads to a loss of life).
There is a unique phenomenon which is designed to bring us to spirituality through physicality. It’s COMMANDMENTS.
What is a commandment?
On a simple level, a commandment is a command, or an instruction given by The Creator to a human being.
What’s the fundamental operating principle of a commandment?
“No” to physical, “yes” to spiritual. “No” to my wants, “yes” to God’s wants. Denial the physical reinstates the spiritual. Denial is an essential component of a commandment.
However, let’s look at commandments closer.
A commandment ALWAYS implies interaction with the physical. In a sense, it’s not pure spirituality, it’s rather an interaction with physical in a denial manner. We are denying some aspect of physical, and this denial brings spirituality, stating the Will of God, but the denial itself is achieved through the use of the physical – not through rejecting physicality per se.
Let’s look at commandments even closer.
What am I really denying when performing a commandment?
I am denying my personal WILL in physicality, which means denying my SELF, that is my physical self. I am not denying physical world per se.
There is a subtle distinction in place: denying a steak VS denying myself eating a steak.
His Will counts, my will doesn’t count – IN physicality too.
Okay, that’s “don’t do”s, but what about “do”s? What about positive commandments? There are many positive commandments which are pretty tasty, aren’t they? Where is the denial in tasty commandments?
The denial is still there, but it’s more subtle. It’s in denying INTENTION. I am doing it, but I am not doing it for myself – even if I want it – I am doing it for HIM – because it’s God’s will – I am denying my own self-interest, EVEN if the desire is in me and I can’t eliminate it!
This work is subtle indeed. When it comes to positive, tasty commandments, the tension is shifted to working on INTENTIONS, MOTIVES. Why am I doing what I am doing? Shifting attention in motivation is the key.
There is a spectrum of levels out there. Am I doing it 90% because I want it and 10% because God wants it? Am I doing it 10% because I want it and 90% because God wants it? Is it 50/50? Let’s not forget, an external action might look the same – there may be no difference at all externally. This is an invisible self-denial.
This kind of self-denial is not available outside of Torah, outside of God’s Will, outside of knowing God’s Will to the slightest degree, in all the aspects of life.
And why would self-denial lead to spirituality? What’s the mechanism?
Self-denial and spirituality.
The spirituality is the world of “There is nothing and no one but God” – God’s Oneness to the utmost degree.
How is God’s Oneness projected on my own being?
Simple. I don’t exist. God exists, I don’t. But I do, I feel my own existence!
This is where self-denial comes in. I deny my own self, thus stating the Oneness of God. I do it through commandments. A commandment is an action in “AS IF” frame. True, I don’t perceive God’s Oneness, but I act, I perform, I think AS IF it’s true, AS IF it’s real. I am working hard on changing my perception, on shifting my awareness to God’s Oneness, emphasizing through commandments my own non-existence in a face of God’s Oneness.
The ultimate paradox.
What’s the paradox of denial through commandments?
Through my own denial, through this rejection of my own self – I exist MORE – and in fact that’s where the real existence is hidden! The more I deny my existence, the more I exist, the stronger my real existence is IN God’s Oneness! I can’t help it! This is counter-intuitive, yet it’s can be felt, experienced.
The principle behind commandments.
Using scientific terminology, we may say that the principle behind commandments is a follows.
Behavioral conformity to an assumed reality creates the assumed reality. Of course, in the context of the reality of God’s Oneness it’s more appropriate to say that behavioral conformity to an assumed reality reveals the reality, rather than creates it. But in our terms, in our frame of reference, it’s perceived as creation indeed.
The more we attempt to connect to God’s reality, the more He gives it back to us, reveals it. God gave us a trigger: we can switch it on and off. Switching it on lights up the world and we are stunned by magnificent view of God’s world.
Unfortunately, due to the failure of the first man commandments work as a delayed release trigger, and it takes some time for the actual revelation to take place, but we will surely witness it speedily, in our days.
Thus, a commandment is a statement of ASSUMED REALITY. Or, a behavioral conformity to assumed reality.
Why are there so many commandments? What’s in multiplicity?
Each commandment is unique, in a sense that it denies a certain part, or a certain aspect of my self – at the same time it conforms with a certain part or a certain aspect of spiritual reality of God’s Oneness. Thus, to really understand a commandment in depth I would have to realize exactly what I am denying in myself, and at the same time how and where it’s stating God’s Oneness.
As an example, on a general level, what’s the concept behind shabbos?
The concept is: you are not a cause. God is at cause!
But why only shabbos? Shouldn’t we assume it every day, all day long?
We certainly should, on certain level, but God made it possible (and permissible) to consistently and strongly make such a statement only once a week, to create a lasting impression on us till next shabbos.
It a fascinating job to go through 613 commandments and to find out what each one reveals in spirituality (i.e. in God’s Oneness) – exactly.
Physical universe exists only for our denial, BUT not for denial of the universe, rather denial of our selves through the physical universe. It may be harsh denial, at times, but let’s face it: for a large part this denial is pretty tasty, especially our days.
Thus whatever we do – or however we pay attention at things as we go through life – we create, maintain, and change the reality. If we learn Torah in depth, we realize that behind the ocean of details each tractate in Talmud represents a “department” in the reality, while the totality of Torah reveals the magnificent picture of the reality the way it really is…