Kabbalah and Mitzvot

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    • intomeaning 1 month ago

      I have been thinking a lot about how I should explain an idea and I couldn’t find the words to convey it in a way that is relatable and practical. I struggled with the thoughts in my head. I then realized that perhaps the best way to explain the idea was to share this struggle with the reader. Conveying an idea, for me, starts with a bunch of thoughts that have a common thread* connecting them, each with their unique tune but all sharing the same frequency. The struggle for me is how to make them harmonize.

      Then I remembered Rashi’s commentary on the book of Genesis. He explains that the first Hebrew word in Genesis (bereshit) does NOT mean “In the beginning” the way the Onkelos translates it. Rather Rashi reads the word bereshit as “In the beginning of an unfolding process.” To Rashi, the first two verses of the book of Genesis (When God began to create heaven and earth— the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God was sweeping over the water”) are not even talking about the first movie scene. The first two verses to Rashi are the introductory credits, followed by the scene being developed. Only in the third verse does the first movie scene take place, when God says “Let there be light.” To me Rashi is communicating that it’s okay not to know how to convey an idea right away, it starts off as an unfolding process that is unformed and void only because that is how a good director introduces the first movie scene. 

      Now, back to my thoughts. I apologize in advance as it could get a little crazy in my head. But thanks to Rashi, the thoughts in my head are beginning to focus and come closer together. The best way I could describe my thoughts beginning to develop is by way of analogy: When learning a certain skill set (let’s say basketball), the skill starts “outside” of me. For example, I might begin playing by not knowing anything I am doing, I am missing shots left and right, unable to dribble, I am a hot mess. So, at the outset, basketball and I don’t mix.

      This image represents basketball in relation to me. I have limited knowledge of it and cannot relate much to it. But thankfully I can learn from my mistakes; learning how not to shoot the ball too powerful or not powerful enough, getting my dribble down, running and dribbling with the ball and pacing myself. 

      I am beginning to get the hang of things, getting more familiar with the game. I am continuing to learn from my mistakes, making some decent jump shots and the occasional assist. I am getting better

       

       

      And better

      And better until..

      Basketball becomes a part of me; all my experiences connect. 

      My experience in playing basketball is really a process that is unfolding. No matter how “far away” basketball was from me, it contributed to the next stage…rippling all the way “inward”. The same can be applied when learning a concept or trying to explain an idea, it could be “outside”of me, but as I process it, it becomes more familiar to me until it integrates. 

       

      Similarly, we have the sefirot

       

      There is a single line connecting all the sefirot together. This line, according to my Rebbe (Rabbi Simcha Weinberg n’y) is a string, and can be compared to the tzitzit. Much like the basketball example, where all my experiences are linked, tzitzit* links all the sefirot together. In addition, tzitzit* links all the mitzvot together as well. We know this from the keriat shema, “ur’item oto, uzchartem et KOL mitzvot Hashem va’asitem otam”, “and you will look at them [the tzitzit] and remember ALL the mitzvot of Hashem and you will perform them.” We see this further with the word keter itself. Keter is the outermost sefira. The Hebrew word keter has a numerical value of 620, representing the 613 mitzvot and the 7 Rabbinically ordained laws. Therefore the sefirah of Keter is representative of “et kol mitzvot” “all the mitzvot.” We need to learn these mitzvot in their entirety (bli neder), taking the sefirah of keter and connecting it all the way “into” malchut. And the way to get to Keter is through “ur’item oto” “and you will look at them [the tzitzit].” 

       If tzitzit links all the sefirot, and all the mitzvot, then it stands to reason that the mastery of mitzvot leads to the mastery of sefirot. That is perhaps why my Rebbe n’y teaches the following based on the Ramchal’s Klach Pitchei Chochma:

      “Gemara is the process of breaking something down into its finest detail, the purpose of which is to remind us to find Hashem in every little detail. Because if the halacha applied to this detail, it’s not that God is trying to control everything you’re doing, every detail of your life, it’s that HaShem is giving you an opportunity to discover a different part of HaShem or a different part of your relationship with HaShem in every detail. The greater a commitment and effort of the human being, to approach one’s learning and halacha like that, then the more skilled the person will be in interpreting illuminations, so eventually the pathways of the halacha the path you followed to get to that halacha will actually become a pathway of sefiros.”

      The process of getting from the sefirah of keter, all the way “into” the sefirah of malchut and vice versa requires tzitzit, the ability to develop the vision to break down halacha in order to better understand its details, and then to connect back those details to the general picture, flowing[1] “inward”, then “outward”, then “inward” again and so on and so forth,מִכְּלָל וּפְרָט, מִפְּרָט, וּכְלָל, כְּלָל וּפְרָט וּכְלָל[2]. Sort of like a water drop:

      This process can engender a pathway of sefirot according to Rabbi Simcha Weinberg n’y. Each mitzvah, each halacha, have their own unique tune, but they share the same frequency. Tzitzit helps us to see the harmony being played by “et kol mitzvot,” “all the mitzvot,” down “into” their particular details and then back “out” to their general concepts.

      Back to my thoughts, they seem to have integrated. Things have come together for me and I hope my centered thoughts have expanded and expressed themselves outward to you. I hope you can integrate the message, make it a part of yourself and then expand it outward in a way that is מִכְּלָל וּפְרָט, מִפְּרָט וּכְלָל, כְּלָל וּפְרָט וּכְלָל.

       

      [1] The first usage of the Hebrew word holech is used in the context of flowing, וְשֵׁ֨ם הַנָּהָ֤ר הַשְּׁלִישִׁי֙ חִדֶּ֔קֶל ה֥וּא הַֽהֹלֵ֖ךְ קִדְמַ֣ת אַשּׁ֑וּר וְהַנָּהָ֥ר הָֽרְבִיעִ֖י ה֥וּא פְרָֽת׃, “The name of the third river is Tigris, the one that flows east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates” (Genesis 2:14). Perhaps it relates back to the idea of flowing from general to particular and then back to general.

      [2] The Baraita of Rabbi Yishmael discusses the thirteen ways to expound the Torah. The fourth, fifth, and sixth of the thirteen are 4)מִכְּלָל וּפְרָט, learning something particular from something general 5)מִפְּרָט וּכְלָל learning something general from something particular and 6)כְּלָל וּפְרָט וּכְלָל connecting the particular back to the general. This resonated with the idea of creating a pathway of sefirot. We start with Keter (representative of all the mitzvot) on the very “outer” circle  which represents klal (general), we eventually reach malchut the “inner” circle which is prat (particular) etc.

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