The Jewish Way

The key, then, to attaining communion with the Divine Light, according to the Zohar, is to be righteous -- whether one is Jewish or not. To be righteous is to pray to God, and to study and obey the Torah. Prayer evokes "a certain illumination" (II, 212). It is actually "incumbent upon a man to offer up prayer and supplication each day so as to unite Himself with God" (II, 294). The earnest, devoted, and properly concentrated silent prayer, when heard by the Holy One, will result in a "feast on the supernal radiances that will stream with added brightness from the supernal world..." (II, 294-295). Further, "it is through the Torah that man can make himself worthy of that light" (I, 148). Knowledge of the Torah "means union with the Holy One" (V, 45). Those who study the Torah "are beloved before God," and their souls "ascend to the bliss above" (II, 370).

Various other Jewish mystics outside the Zohar echo sentiments similar to that book of Splendour. Rabbi Yehuda L. Ashlag, commenting on the writings of Hasidic Rabbi Isaac Luria, said that God's original goal was to favour humanity with "eternal joy and goodness." As God thought out this plan, thought itself stretched out as a light, comprising all joy and contentment, indeed the whole of creation.

Mankind, as part of the creation, shared with God in almost every respect the same spirit. The only difference was man's desire to receive. With respect to God, then, Man's desire is to receive the bliss and happiness that God wants to bestow. With respect to other people, problems arise because everyone wants to receive. Reversing this nature is very difficult, but it must be accomplished in order to become Divine in nature. It can be done "through Torah study and performance of Torah precepts with the motive of delighting one's Maker." Once we transform our will to receive into a will to bestow, we achieve the Creator's goal of giving mankind "ineffable bliss and happiness."13

Similar sentiments are found elsewhere in Hasidism. Meshullam Teibush Heller of Zbarah espoused the following:

The first aspect is that of one who performs
the mizvah in order to fulfil what is written
in the Torah... each and every one of the
Kabbalists had unified and connected world
with world and light with light and radiance
with radiance and brilliance with brilliance
through their clear and pure thought...14

Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Habad system of the 18th century was much the same in this respect. In this we find that God, the Ein- Sof, the Infinite One, "completely fills the whole earth temporally and spatially... everything is equally permeated with the Ein-Sof light."15 For Zalman, Torah study ought to be one's pre-eminent occupation, for

while a person occupies himself with words of Torah...
It follows [that at that time] the soul and these
garments [of thoughts and speech] are also truly united
with Ein-Sof.... Moreover, their unity is even more
exalted and more powerful than the unity of God's
infinite light with the upper [spiritual] worlds.
For the Divine Will is actually manifest in the soul
and its garments that are engaged in Torah study,
since His Will proper is identical with the Torah itself....16

One's attitude in studying is also important. While occupying oneself with the Torah, one must "harbour a great love for God alone, to do what is gratifying to Him alone, and not for the purpose of quenching his soul's thirst for God." Moreover, this is certainly not to say that one should not pray or engage in philosophical speculation about God. On the contrary, in addition to Torah Study one can attach oneself "to Him by intellect and thought... and in prayer and other blessings." Indeed this is the foundation of human happiness:

The intellect of a created being delights and derives
pleasure only in that which it conceives, understands,
knows and grasps with its intellect and understanding,
as much as it can grasp of the Blessed Ein-Sof light,
through His wisdom and His understanding which radiate

Not surprisingly, the Jewish experience with the Divine Light and the joy associated with it is interpreted along strictly Jewish lines. Throughout any reference to the Light we find constant reference to the Torah, to prayer, and to various Jewish traditions. But equally clear is the great similarity between the actual experience of Light and bliss in both Jewish and non-Jewish cultures. In the mysticism of Judaism, as in other cultures, we find that while the Divine Light is invisible to the physical eye, the "mind's eye" can perceive it. This Light is utterly brilliant, far brighter than anything the physical eye has, or could ever have possibly, seen. This light is loving, and wants to become closer, even unite, with people on earth. Once this happens, the union is full of joy, bliss, and ecstasy. And, the encounter with this Light can be achieved either in this life, or in the life to come.




Divine Encounter
The Jewish Way


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