KABBALA: MYSTICAL WAYS IN PRAYER*

 

 

A DIFFERENT THEOLOGY

THE SEFIROTIC TREE

PRAYING ZOHARICALLY

Sacrifice and the Heavenly Union

Reciting Lekha Adonay

Reciting Sh'ma

Reciting Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh

Reciting the Shabbat and Yom Tov Amida

Reciting Barukh She-'Amar

Who Am "I"?

A Concluding Song

A DIFFERENT THEOLOGY

The meditations in this chapter are rooted in the Zohar, the key Jewish mystical text. They are prayers which use the sefirot and the liturgy at the same time. The reader will need to know something about zoharic kabbala to make sense of, and to use, these meditations. I shall give a short summary here; however, you will want to know more.[1]

The Zohar teaches that the very inner being of God is not abstract but is expressed in ten dimensions of being or, perhaps better, ten aspects of God's personhood. Each of these is called a sefira; together, they are called the ten sefirot. They are most easily understood when we think of them as the structure of our own inner being, as indeed some later commentators taught.

Each sefira has a central meaning: God's grace, God's compassion, God's wisdom, etc. Each is also associated with one of the names of God: YHVH, Elohim, Shaddai, etc. Some are designated by Hebrew letters: Yod of YHVH, Hey of YHVH, Aleph, etc. Each is said to correspond to a part of the human body. Most are represented by a color. Many are associated with human relationships: Father and Mother, King and Queen, Lover and Beloved, etc. Some terms are "coded": "Community of Israel" is a symbol for Malkhut; "Tree of Life" stands for Tiferet; "Most Hidden One" is a symbol for Keter; "Sea" stands for Bina and sometimes Malkhut; and so on. A list of all the symbolic correspondences would fill several pages of print, and the reader must practice.

The symbolism of the Zohar is complex, flowing out of images used in biblical and rabbinic literature and reinforced by the power of meditation. Furthermore, it is multilevel and simultaneous, that is, several levels of meaning apply at once, as is in good puns. Also, in the Zohar, mixing metaphors is considered a fine art. As a result, in any given passage, one must expect to find the same sefira referred to with several designations, and the entire realm of the sefirot and the dynamic flow of energy among them expressed in the simultaneous use of several metaphors. Thus, the river beds contain light; the orchard contains kings; the Queen is watered from the deep stream; and so on.

Ultimately, zoharic thinking is rooted in association, not in logical thought. It is art, not science. One needs time and practice to "decipher," and then to use, the many symbols and levels of meaning.[2]

The ten sefirot and their primary meanings and associations are as follows;

The first sefira is Keter; it is the ultimate inexpressibility of God. It is God's ineffability. Keter is that part of any being that simply cannot be known, no matter how much we know; it is that which is beyond statement and analysis. Keter cannot be represented; it is outside, above, beyond. Keter is sometimes called Ein Sof, the infinite; not in a spatial sense but in the sense that Keter cannot be contained within any boundaries.

The second sefira is Hokhma; it is God's intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. God's intelligence is the first aspect of God after ineffability. It is articulation, expression. It is the starting point for God's inner reality. Hokhma is masculine, Father; it is represented by the Hebrew letter yod, the first letter of God's Name, YHVH, and it resides in the head.

The third sefira is Bina; it is God's understanding. Intelligence and understanding are not the same; the latter involves intuition and empathy. Bina is the source of repentance, of renewal, of re-turning; without it, being cannot go forward. Bina is womanly, Mother; it is represented by the Hebrew letter hey, the second letter of God's Name, and resides in the heart.

The fourth sefira is Hesed; it is God's grace; it is the love which God has for us which we do not deserve. We are the objects of God's grace simply because we are God's creatures; God's love flows out to us without our doing anything. Hesed is represented by the color white, by the figure of Abraham, and resides in the right arm.

The fifth sefira is Gevura; it is God's judgement, God's power. Gevura is God's ability to fix limits, to set standards and to demand that we live up to those standards. These standards, if enforced, would subject us to terrible fear and punishment, because they are perfect. Fear and judgement go forth from this sefira. Gevura is represented by the color red, by the figure of Isaac, and resides in the left arm.

The sixth sefira is Tiferet; it is God's compassion. It is the point where God's grace and judgement flow together. Tiferet is mercy; it is the mixing of unconditional love and unconditional demand into a compassionate, merciful attitude. Tiferet is the inner voice of God, the inner Torah of reality. Tiferet is masculine, King, Son, and Lover. It is represented by the Hebrew letter vav, the third letter of God's Name, by the color green/yellow, and by the figure of Jacob; it resides in the solar plexis.

The seventh sefira is Netsah; it is God's timelessness, God's eternity. Timelessness is the perdurance of being. Netsah resides in the right leg.

The eighth sefira is Hod; it is God's awesome beauty. God's beauty is powerful, transcendent, sublime. Hod resides in the left leg.

The ninth sefira is Yesod; it is fundamentality, passion, productivity. Yesod is God's ability to act. Yesod is the fountain and point-of-flowing-forth of God's energy. Yesod is masculine; it is represented by the figure of Josef and resides in the male reproductive organ.

The last sefira is Malkhut; it is God's Face to the world, God's interface with the world; it is God's ruling power and providence. Malkhut is the point where God ends; after it, come creation, revelation, redemption, and judgement. Malkhut is also the point where humanity touches God; it is the gate of prayer and mysticism, of spirituality and ecstasy. Malkhut is also known as Shekhina; it is the Presence. Malkhut / Shekhina is womanly, Queen, Daughter, and Beloved. It is represented by changing colors, by the figures of David, Rachel, and Esther, and by the second Hebrew letter hey of God's Name; it resides in the Face.

These sefirot are "vessels," conduits for the divine spiritual energy that flows forth from Keter to each of the sefirot and then into creation. As a whole, they are traditionally visualized as a "tree.". Keter is at the top, Hokhma underneath, and Bina underneath that. Then, the tree splits with Hesed on the right and Gevura on the left. The tree comes together in Tiferet and then splits again into Netsah and Hod. It joins again into Yesod. Malkhut is below Yesod.[3]

As a whole, the sefirot are also traditionally visualized as a human person. In this mode, the sefirotic realm is known as "Adam Kadmon" ("Primal Man"). Keter is above the head. Hokhma is the head, Bina the heart, Hesed the right arm, Gevura the left arm, Tiferet the solar plexis, Netsah the right leg, Hod the left leg, Yesod the sexual organ, and Malkhut the face (or mouth).

The sefirot, thus, form an energy system, each sefira radiating its energy to the others and receiving from them: Grace flows to judgement, ruling power receives from productivity, etc. The whole is interactive, dynamic; it is a spiritual ecosystem, so to speak. For that reason, some diagrams of the sefirotic tree have many connecting lines.

As a spiritual ecosystem, the sefirot are not external to God. Rather, they are inside God. They are a very subtle but powerful depiction of the inner being of God; a description of the various, often conflicting, elements that comprise the consciousness of God. According to the Zohar, God Godself is expressed in these ten dimensions and in the interactive, dynamic flow of energy among them, much as the human personality is comprised of a flow and interaction of forces.

Further, according to the Zohar, human beings have the ability, through proper meditation, to participate in, and indeed to influence, this flow of spiritual energy. It flows toward us and we, through meditation, return spiritual energy to God. When our actions and meditations are proper, energy is drawn from Hesed, and grace and compassion prevail and, when our actions or meditations are sinful, energy is drawn from Gevura and judgement prevails. The purpose of prayer, then, according to the Zohar, is to touch God's spiritual energy through meditation and to draw it down into the world.

In a deeper sense, however, when we interact with the energy of God, we not only affect ourselves and the universe, we also affect God. For God, the Zohar teaches, is interrelated, interactive with us; we and God are linked to one another. The purpose of zoharic prayer, in this deeper sense, is to help right the inequities in the realm of the sefirot, to help God regain God's balance so to speak and, by doing that, to reestablish the benefical flow of spiritual energy from God to the universe and to ourselves. This process of "correcting" the flow of energy within the sefirot, that is, within God and, through that, within the cosmos, is called tikkun. Zoharic prayer, then, ultimately is a tikkun of God; it is not praise, sincere petition, or mystical experience.

To use this type of meditation with the liturgy requires holding much in one's mind: the words, their meanings, the zoharic meanings, and an awareness of the ebb and flow of spiritual energy in God and in the world. Some of the meditations presented here are drawn from the Zohar, though they have been simplified; others are zoharic in method and intent. They are very powerful meditations. Do them one at a time; slowly.

THE
SEFIROTIC
TREE

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Keter

(Ineffability)

Hokhma

(Knowability)

Bina

(Intuitive Understanding)

Hesed / Gedula

Gevura / Din
(Unconditional Love / Grace)

(Power / Judgment)

Tiferet

(Mercy / Compassion)

Netsah

Hod
(Timelessness)

(Awesome Beauty)

Yesod

(Action / Productivity)

Malkhut / Shekhina

(Majesty / Interface)

 
PRAYING ZOHARICALLY

Sacrifice and the Heavenly Union [4]

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TEXT

Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Hizkia were once going to see Rabbi Shim`on in Cappadocia. Rabbi Hizkia said: We have set a rule that a person, before praying, should first pronounce God's praises. But what of the person who is in great distress and is in haste to pour out his or her prayer and is not able to pronounce the praise of the Master fittingly? Rabbi Yose replied: That is no reason why the praise of the Master should be omitted. One should pronounce it, even without proper kavvana, and then say the Amida. Thus it is written, "A prayer of David: ...be attentive to my song, listen to my prayer" (Ps. 17:1) -- first praise and then prayer. Of one who is able to pronounce the praise of the Master and does not do so, it is written, "Yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear" (Is. 1:15).

COMMENTARY

This initial section is not zoharic in any symbolic or mystical sense. It simply restates the general rabbinic rule that one must praise God before making petitions of God, even if it means that, under pressure, one cannot recite the words of praise with proper kavvana.

TEXT

It is written: "The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the second lamb you shall offer at evening" (Nu. 28:4). Prayers have been ordained to correspond to the daily offerings. Through the impulse from below there is a stirring above and, through the impulse from above, there is a stirring higher up still, until the impulse reaches the place where the lamp is lit and it is lit. Thus, by the impulse of the smoke [of the sacrifice] from below, the lamp is kindled above and, when this is kindled, all the other lamps are kindled and all the worlds are blessed from it. Thus, the impulse of the sacrifice is the tikkun of the world and the blessing of all worlds. [5]

COMMENTARY

In this section, the talmudic dictum that prayer is a substitute for sacrifice is cited [6]. The metaphor of the rising smoke of the sacrifice is also used. Both are rather straightforward. However, the rest of the passage -- which describes the process of sacrifice / prayer -- has a distinctly zoharic meaning as follows: There are five states described here: an initial "impulse from below," "a stirring above," and "a stirring up higher still," the result of which is that "the lamp is lit" and "all the lamps are kindled and all the worlds are blessed."

The initial "impulse from below" is the smoke of the sacrifice and, more important, it is the substitute for sacrifice, that is, human prayer. The energy of human prayer, the Zohar teaches, rises to Malkhut / Shekhina, that is, to the lowest of the sefirot, the gateway to the divine.

In Malkhut / Shekhina, the energy of human prayer creates "a stirring above," that is, a flow of energy inside Malkhut / Shekhina. To put it clearly: the energy of human prayer, done with zoharic kavvana, stimulates a flow of energy within the divine; human prayer arouses God.

From Malkhut / Shekhina, there is "a stirring up higher still"; that is, there is a flow of energy from Malkhut / Shekhina to Tiferet. [7] Thus, the human prayer (impulse of energy) has generated not only an energy in Malkhut / Shekhina but also a flow of energy from Malkhut / Shekhina to Tiferet.

At the level of Tiferet, the "lamp is lit." This is probably a reference to Bina, which is above Tiferet.

After the energy has touched Bina, "all the other lamps are kindled"; that is, there is a reversal of the flow of energy from Bina down the sefirotic tree to all the other sefirot. And then, "all the worlds are blessed from it"; that is, the flow moves outward from Malkhut / Shekhina to everything that is external to God: to the cosmos and, eventually, back to humanity. This process is called tikkun, the sending of energy into God by human prayer, the re-generating of the flow of energy within God, and the re-flowing of divine energy from God to creation.

TEXT

When the smoke commences to rise, the holy forms in charge of the world derive satisfaction and are disposed on this account to stir the grades above them until the impulse of the King desires to associate with the Matron. Through this yearning of the lower world, the lower waters flow forth to meet the upper waters, for the upper waters do not flow save from the impulse of the desire from below. Thus, mutual desire is kindled and the lower waters flow to meet the upper waters, and worlds are blessed, and all lamps are kindled, and upper and lower [realms] are endowed with blessing.

COMMENTARY

This is a restatement, in slightly different terms, of the basic description of the nature of zoharic prayer. The "holy forms" and the "grades" are the sefirot. [8] They stir one another until the "King" which is Tiferet experiences passion for the "Matron" which is Malkhut / Shekhina. Thus, human prayer ("the yearning of the lower world") causes the energy of Malkhut / Shekhina ("the lower waters") to flow toward the energy of Tiferet ("the upper waters"), and vica versa. When these energies fuse ("mutual desire is kindled"), all the sefirot as well as the lower realms are infused with energy ("blessed").

This is classic zoharic doctrine that human prayer is not just praise, petition, confession, and all the other processes described earlier in this book. Prayer is, rather, a sending back of energy to God, indeed a sending back of energy into God such that God's energy levels are stabilized and even augmented. This, in turn, results in an increased flow of energy from God to us. Prayer, according to the Zohar, is thus tikkun, a rehabilitation of the energy levels in God and, then, in the universe.

TEXT

Observe that the function of the priests and levites is to unite the left with the right. Rabbi Hizkia said: That is so, but I have been told that the one rouses the left and the other rouses the right because the union of male and female is only brought about by left and right, as it says, "His left hand is under my head and his right hand caresses me" (Song of Songs 2:6). Then male and female are united and there is mutual desire, and worlds are blessed and the upper and lower [realms] rejoice. Hence we see that sacrifice is the support and the tikkun of the world, and the joy of the upper and lower [realms].

COMMENTARY

Here the author shifts to another dimension of human prayer: the blessing of the priests which is also used to bless children. Blessing is not the simple recitation of the formula from the Bible. Nor is it the more difficult channeling of energy from God to others through us, as we act as vessels. According to the Zohar, the priests have a special function in the tikkun of divine energy as follows:

The "left" is Hesed and the "right" is Gevura. The function of the priests, then, is first to arouse Hesed, that is, to feed energy back into Hesed. They do this by focusing the energy of their blessing on Hesed. Then, the priests focus the energy which is now found in Hesed and draw it over to Gevura; that is, they take the energy they returned to Hesed, plus Hesed's own aroused energy, and channel or move it to Gevura, thereby arousing Gevura to higher energy levels. Then, the priests take the combined energy of Hesed and Gevura and bring it to Tiferet where, again, the incoming energy arouses Tiferet ("male"). Finally, the combined energy from Hesed, Gevura, and Tiferet streams forth to unite with Malkhut / Shekhina ("female"). This completes the meditation / prayer process and energy flows forth to all the sefirot and to creation. The whole is wonderfully embodied in the quotation from Song of Songs. [9]

The blessing of the priests is, thus, somewhat different from other prayer because it starts with Hesed and moves down, while usual prayer starts with Malkhut / Shekhina and moves up. The ultimate result, tikkun, is the same.

TEXT

Rabbi Yose said: You are certainly right, and I had heard this before but had forgotten it. This, too, I have learned that, nowadays, prayer takes the place of sacrifice and a person should fittingly pronounce the praise of the Master and, if not, one's prayer is not prayer. The most perfect form of praising God is to unify the holy Name in the fitting manner for, through this, the upper and lower [realms] are set in motion and blessings flow to all worlds.

COMMENTARY

Rabbi Yose acknowledges the zoharic dimension of prayer, noting that the most perfect form of prayer is "to unify the holy Name in the fitting manner." The sefirot Hokhma, Bina, Tiferet, and Malkhut / Shekhina each represent one letter of the Tetragrammaton: yod, hey, vav, hey respectively. To "unify" them is to return energy to them and to fuse their energies in meditation (more on this below).

TEXT

Rabbi Hizkia said: God placed Israel in exile among the nations so that the latter might be blessed for their sake, for they bring blessings from heaven to earth every day.

COMMENTARY

The passage concludes with a reflection on the place of the Jewish people in the world. The Jews recite their prayers properly, that is, zoharically, returning energy into God and causing that energy to re-flow to all of reality. In this way, non-Jews are blessed by the presence of the Jews. The author of the Zohar sees this as an explanation for the exile of the Jewish people from its land.

Having deciphered the passage and understood its teaching, we must now ask: What does it mean? What does it mean to say that we can return energy to God? and that God can receive energy into Godself, in a way that changes the distribution of energy inside God? and then that God re-flows it to us?

The best way to begin answering this question is to try to understand it in human relationships. Sometimes we have a friend, or parent, or spouse, or child who seems "stuck," mired down in the present or past. How can we relate to that person? One method is to engage his or her outer self, the part of the other that faces the world. So, we engage the anger, or the joy, or the depression. From there, we try to go further inside to engage the inner self, the inner voices of the other. We can do this, if we are careful, sensitive, and intelligent. If we succeed in touching the inner self, we should be able to help the other to change, to realign her or his inner and outer selves into a greater whole. Then, energy will flow again from that person in a different, and better, way. This is how we help a friend, or parent, or spouse, or child. (Alternatively, we could go straight to the dimension of grace, of unmerited love, in the other and in ourselves. On the basis of that, we can also help the other realign her or his inner energies.)

So it is with God, the Zohar teaches. God is not an impersonal Force or Power located somewhere out of time and space. Rather, God is personal being. And so God, too, can get rigid, lonely, disoriented. When that happens, blessing does not flow easily to the world. The Zohar teaches that, in such a situation, we can help God to realign God's own energies. This we do through zoharic prayer. We recite the liturgy with zoharic kavvana. This allows us to engage the outer Face of God, the part of God that deals with the world, God's Malkhut / Shekhina; we engage God at the edge of God's person. This, in turn, enables God, and us, to move further into God, into God's inner self, into the part of God that does not govern but is the core of God. We enter, through Malkhut / Shekhina, into God's Tiferet, God's inner voice. If we succeed in doing this, we help God to realign God's inner and outer selves into a greater whole. We unite God with Godself. When this happens, energy flows again more freely from inner self to outer self, from Tiferet to Malkhut / Shekhina, and from outer self to the world. (Alternatively, we can go straight to God's unconditional love, to God's Hesed and, from there, to God's judgement and then God's mercy. This, too, will help God realign God's own energies and, hence, augment the flow of those energies to creation.)

This seems strange, perhaps preposterous or even offensive, to some; but it has great depth of theological insight for others. To pray the kabbala, to pray zoharically, is to enter into interaction with God. It is to risk engaging God on the level of the most basic energy of our selves / Self, and to effect tikkun in God and, hence, in the world.

Reciting Lekha Adonay

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Lekha Adonay ha-gedula, veha-gevura, veha-tiferet, veha-netsah, veha-hod ki khol ba-shamayim uva-'arets; lekha Adonay ha-mamlakha veha-mitnase' lekhol la-rosh ("To You, Adonay, belong grace, judgement, compassion, timelessness, and beauty; for everything that exists is in heaven and the earth; to You, Adonay, belongs dominion and that which rises above the head of all"). These verses are a quotation from I Chronicles 29:10-13. They became one of the central texts of the Zohar because they mention so many of the sefirot in one form or another. They occur in the liturgy at the end of the Pesukei de-Zimra' and again when the Torah is taken out of the ark. To recite these verses zoharically, use one or more of the following meditations. Do not rush these exercises, and do not rush from one to another. Spiritual meditation requires time; we need to give ourselves space to respond to God.

Visualize the sefirot as a tree. Recite each word and think of the sefira of that name. Begin at Hesed, which is also called Gedula. Say Lekha Adonay ha-gedula, think Hesed, and meditate on God's grace. Say veha-gevura, think Gevura, and meditate of God's power. Continue reciting the verses, following the path of the tree down to Hod (veha-hod). Then, recite ki khol ba-shamayim uva-'arets, think Yesod which is kol, and meditate on God's productivity. Then, say lekha Adonay ha-mamlakha, think Malkhut which is mamlakha, and meditate on God's rulership of the universe. When you reach veha-mitnase', think Keter and meditate on God's ineffability. When you say lekhol la-rosh, think of Hokhma and meditate on God's knowledge, then think of Bina and meditate on God's understanding. Return to Hesed, completing the sefirotic tree. In each case, prolong the word which is the name of the sefira until you feel the presence, or sense the energy, of that sefira. Remember that these are dimensions of being, that each sefira is part of the structure of God. Remember, too, that each sefira is different. Sense the reality of each of the qualities of the sefirot, separately: grace, power, compassion, eternity, awe, productivity, dominion, and then ineffability, intelligence, and understanding. Dwell in each; then, sense the flow of spiritual energy from one sefira to the next.

Do the meditation again. This time, return energy to the sefirot. Effect a tikkun. Then, sense the completeness of the energy as it flows through the whole sefirotic system. Hold the whole in your consciousness for a few moments.

Do the meditation again. Think of the sefirot as oil lamps or candles that you can light. Light Hesed when you say ha-gedula ; light Gevura when you say ha-gevura ; and so on through rosh and back to Hesed. See and sense the light from each, and from the whole.

Do the meditation again. Think of the sefirot in three dimensions, as a cocoon that surrounds you. Recite the verses and return energy to the sefirotic points of that cocoon. Feel the energy around you. Sustain it.

Do the meditation again. Think of the sefirot as a human body standing opposite you. Recite the verses and return energy to the body-points of this being. Remember that this is divine, spiritual energy. Feel the flow toward you. Receive it.

Do the meditation again. Think of your own body. Recite the verses and energize the body-points in which the sefirot reside. Do it again and move into the divine body as you do so. Feel the divine energy in Keter as an enveloping aura; let it energize you / the sefirot. This meditation reaches very far.

Remember that the purpose of meditation on the sefirot is not to energize you, but to effect tikkun, that is, to restore and repair the flow of spiritual energy inside God. Blessing, which is the pouring forth of spiritual energy toward us, flows from this repair and restoration; blessing, in zoharic meditation, is an epiphenomenon, a side effect.

It is customary, if you are in synagogue, to give charity after reciting these verses at the end of Pesukei de-Zimra'.

Reciting Sh'ma

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Sh'ma Yisrael, YHVH [Adonay] Eloheinu YHVH [Adonay] 'ehad ("Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one"). Barukh shem kevod malkhuto le-`olam va`ed ("Blessed is the name of the glory of God's kingdom for ever and ever"). These are the first two lines of the Sh'ma and, in the morning and evening liturgy, they are followed by three paragraphs taken from the Torah. There are many non-zoharic ways to recite the Sh'ma. Practice these non-zoharic meditations -- especially the one in which you recite the word Adonay and visualize the letters of God's Name, YHVH -- until you are at ease with them. Then, attempt the following sefirotic meditations, one by one, slowly. The Zohar itself gives several ways of reciting the Sh'ma zoharically.

Meditate this way.[10] Visualize the yod of God's Name, YHVH, and recite the "ah" of the word Adonay. Then, think of Hokhma which is symbolized by the letter yod. Hokhma is God's intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom; it is the knowable part of God. Dwell in God's profound intelligence, at the same time as you hold the yod in your inner vision and recite the sound "ah."

Visualize the first hey of God's Name and recite "doh" of the word Adonay. Then, think of Bina which is symbolized by the letter hey. Bina is God's intuitive, empathetic understanding; it is God's attentiveness to us. Abide in God's deep understanding, at the same time as you hold the hey in your inner vision and recite the sound "doh."

Visualize the vav of God's Name and recite "nah" of Adonay. Then, think of Tiferet which is symbolized by the letter vav. Tiferet is God's compassion, God's mercy. It is the center of the divine energy. Abide in God's compassion and mercy, at the same time as you hold the vav in your inner vision and recite the sound "nah."

Visualize second hey of God's Name and recite "ay" of Adonay. Then, think of Malkhut which is symbolized by the second letter hey. Malkhut is God's Face to us, God's Presence to us. It is the gateway from, and to, the divine. Abide in God's full Presence, at the same time as you hold the hey in your inner vision and recite the sound "ay."

Do this twice, once each time you recite the word Adonay.

Say 'ehad ("one") and draw Hokhma, Bina, and Tiferet -- intelligence, understanding, compassion -- into one energy, for they do indeed fold into one another: first there must be knowability, then attentiveness, and then mercy. Then, bring this united energy to Malkhut, God's Face. Merge intelligence, understanding, and compassion with presence. Let Hokhma, Bina, Tiferet, and Malkhut -- male, female, male, female; and intelligence, understanding, compassion, and presence -- be one spiritual energy. Prolong the "ah" of 'ehad while you do this.

Do the meditation again.[11] When you recite the first Adonay, think of Hokhma. When you recite Eloheinu, think of Bina. And, when you recite the second Adonay, think of Tiferet. When you say 'ehad, unify Hokhma, Bina, and Tiferet. Then, think of Malkhut and bring it into the presence of the other three sefirot. Prolong the "ah" of 'ehad while you do this.

Do the meditation again.[12] When you recite the first Adonay, think of Hesed. When you recite Eloheinu, think of Gevura. And, when you recite the second Adonay, think of Tiferet. When you say 'ehad, unify Hesed, Gevura, and Tiferet. Then, think of Malkhut and bring it into the presence of the other three sefirot. Prolong the "ah" of 'ehad while you do this.

Do the meditation again.[13] When you recite the words Sh'ma yisrael, invoke the female presence of Shekhina, which is God's guiding presence in the world. When you recite the words Adonay Eloheinu Adonay, invoke the male presence of Tiferet, which is God's inner being, God's focused self. Think also of the other five sefirot -- Hesed, Gevura, Netsah, Hod, and Yesod -- separately. When you recite the word 'ehad ("one"), bring the energies of Hesed, Gevura, Netsah, Hod, and Yesod together into Tiferet. Unify the six sefirot above Malkhut. Prolong the "ah" of 'ehad while you do this. Then, recite in a whisper Barukh shem kevod malkhuto le-`olam va`ed ("Blessed is the name of the glory of God's kingdom, malkhuto, for ever and ever"). Bring Malkhut to Tiferet. Let them be one, male and female, united. The focused inner self, infused with the grace, power, eternity, awesomeness, and fecundity, becomes one with the outer self. Heart and center become one with face. God becomes one with Godself.

Do the meditation again.[14] There are six words in the Sh'ma, one for each of the sefirot above Malkhut. When you recite sh'ma, think of Hesed; when you recite Yisrael, think of Gevura; when you say the first Adonay, think of Tiferet; when you say Eloheinu, think of Netsah; when you recite the second Adonay, think of Hod; and when you say 'ehad, think of Yesod. sThere are also six words in the phrase recited in whisper after the Sh'ma. When you say them, bring all six sefirot into Malkhut in one union of male and female. Unite the upper realm of six with the lower realm of Shekhina.

Keep your eyes covered and your head bowed during these meditations.

After these meditations, wait in the silence of the union of the sefirot. Then, continue with ve-'ahavta ("you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your might"), reciting the whole paragraph while holding the moment of unity in your consciousness. Others understand the three paragraphs of the Sh'ma to correspond to Hesed, Gevura, and Tiferet respectively.[15]

Reciting Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh

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The Zohar provides different ways to recite this verse from Isaiah (6:3) which occurs as part of the morning liturgy just before the Sh'ma, again in the repetition of the Amida, and again toward the end of the morning service. The full text is: Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, Adonay tseva'ot; melo' khol ha-aretz kevodo ("Holy, holy, holy is Adonay tseva'ot; the fulness of the universe is His glory").

Meditate this way.[16] To recite these verses zoharically, use the following meditations but be sure to leave yourself open to other meditative understandings of this verse; they will come to you, you will not have to seek them. Again, do not rush the meditations, and do not rush from one to another. Spiritual work requires time; we need to give ourselves space to be with God.

When you recite the first kadosh, think of Hesed, of God's overflowing love. Dwell there; then draw that energy out from Hesed. When you recite the second kadosh, think of Gevura, of God's ultimate power and demanding presence. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Gevura.When you recite the third kadosh, think of Tiferet. Mix the overflowing love of Hesed with the demanding presence of Gevura and draw them to the compassion and mercy of Tiferet. These three form a group, an eternal triangle. Reside there.

Do the meditation again:[17] When you recite the first kadosh, think of Hokhma, of God's intelligence and knowledge. Dwell there; then draw that energy out from Hokhma. When you recite the second kadosh, think of Tiferet, of God's inner self, God's mercy and compassion. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Tiferet.When you recite the third kadosh, think of Malkhut, of God's engaged power, Face, and Presence. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Malkhut. Mix the intelligence of Hokhma with the mercy of Tiferet and draw them to the engaged Presence of Malkhut. These three form a group, an eternal triangle. Reside there.

Do the meditation again:[18] When you recite the first kadosh, think of Hokhma, of God's intelligence and knowledge. Dwell there; then draw that energy out from Hokhma. When you recite the second kadosh, think of Tiferet, of God's inner self, God's mercy and compassion. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Tiferet.When you recite the third kadosh, think of Yesod, of God's fecundity and productivity. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Yesod. Mix the intelligence of Hokhma with the mercy of Tiferet and draw them to the passion of Yesod. These three form a group, an eternal triangle. Reside there.

Do the meditation again:[19] When you recite the first kadosh, think of Hesed, of God's overflowing love. Dwell there; then draw that energy out from Hesed. When you recite the second kadosh, think of Gevura, of God's ultimate power and demanding presence. Abide there; then draw that energy out from Gevura.When you recite the third kadosh, think of Tiferet. Mix the overflowing love of Hesed with the demanding presence of Gevura and draw them the compassion and mercy of Tiferet. These three form a group, an eternal triangle. Reside there.When you recite the word Adonay, think again of Tiferet, Adonay being one of the designations of Tiferet, especially in Tiferet's relationship to that which is below it, for this is God's compassion for the entire universe. Draw that energy out from Tiferet.When you say tseva'ot, think of Netsah and Hod, for they are "the hosts, the twins." Dwell in the timelessness and in the awe of God.When you say melo', draw the energy out of Netsah and Hod. When you say khol, connect the spiritual energy to Yesod, for kol is one of the designations of Yesod. Yesod is God's passion and productivity. Abide in the abundance of God.As you say ha-'arets, remember that the fulness and wholeness of God is the sefirotic realm, ha-'arets being one of the designations of the sefirotic realm as a whole. Draw the energy out from Yesod.When you say, kevodo, think of Malkhut, for kavod ("Glory") is one of the designations of Malkhut. Malkhut is God's active Presence in the world. Receive the energy of all the sefirot into Malkhut. Let all that energy be one and united. Reside in the fulness of God's energy and Presence.

The verse from Isaiah is always linked with a verse from Ezekiel (3:12): Barukh kevod Adonay mi-mekomo ("Blessed be the Glory of Adonay from His place"). The two together form the Kedusha. They can be recited zoharically as follows;

Meditate this way.[20] When you say Barukh, sense the spiritual Presence of God, of God's blessing. Think that Malkhut is about to receive holy energy from above.When you say kevod Adonay, think of Malkhut, for Malkhut is the "Glory" of Adonay, which is Tiferet.When you say mi-mekomo, think of Tiferet which is the "place" of Malkhut, the source of its energy. Tiferet is the center of God; it is the inner voice of God. Malkhut is the Face; it is the outer voice of God. These two are in constant interaction with one another, as indeed there is a constant dialogue between our own inner and outer selves, between our inner compassion and our need to interact with the real world. Let the energy of Tiferet flow to Malkhut; unite them.

The two verses from Isaiah and Ezekiel are joined with the verse from Psalms 146:10: Yimlokh Adonay le-`olam, Elohayikh Zion, le-dor va-dor; halleluya ("The Lord will reign forever, your God, Zion, from generation to generation; halleluya") to form the expanded version of the Kedusha. They can be recited zoharically as follows:[21] When you say Kadosh ..., think of Hesed, Gevura, Tiferet, Netsah, Hod, and Yesod. When you say Barukh..., think of Hokhma. When you say Yimlokh ..., think of Malkhut.

Do the meditation again: When you say Kadosh ..., think of Hesed, Gevura, Tiferet. When you say Barukh..., think of Netsah, Hod, and Yesod. When you say Yimlokh ..., think of Malkhut.

Reciting the Shabbat and Yom Tov Amida

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The Amida is divided into three parts. The first comprises the first three blessings; the last comprises the last three blessings. These two parts are the same in each Amida. The middle section varies according to the occasion. During the week, there are petitionary prayers; on Shabbat and Yom Tov, there are several paragraphs with one blessing appropriate to the day; and on Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, there are more paragraphs, usually but not always with only one blessing appropriate to the day. The Shabbat and Yom Tov Amidot have, therefore, seven blessings. In zoharic tradition, these correspond to the seven lower sefirot; we will deal only with these, though the guidelines developed here are applicable to other Amidot as well.

The first blessing ends with magen Avraham ("the shield of Abraham"). It is a prayer that deals with God's presence in Jewish history. Abraham is Hesed, and so the first blessing is devoted to Hesed. Bring Hesed into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing.

The second blessing ends with mehayyei ha-metim ("Who resurrects the dead"). It is a prayer dealing with God's presence in nature, especially in the resurrection. Isaac is the ancestor associated with this prayer. Isaac is Gevura. Bring Gevura into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing.

The third blessing ends with ha-'El ha-kadosh ("the holy God"). It has two forms, the short form for personal recitation and the longer one for responsive communal recitation. It is a prayer dealing with God's holiness. Jacob is the ancestor associated with this prayer. Jacob is Tiferet. Bring Tiferet into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing.[22]

The fourth blessing, the inserted one, contains special paragraphs appropriate for Shabbat and Yom Tov and ends with mekaddesh ha-Shabbat ("Who sanctifies the Shabbat") or mekaddesh Yisrael veha-zemannim ("Who sanctifies Israel and the holidays"). Shabbat is often associated, in the zoharic tradition, with Yesod, the fountain of all blessing. Hence, the middle blessing moves the meditation to Yesod. Bear in mind that this special day is a source of special blessing. The rabbis teach that it is a mitsva to have sexual relations on the Shabbat and Yom Tov; indeed, some rabbis refrained from sexual intercourse during the week and only had marital relations on Shabbat to embody the unification of bride and groom, Tiferet and Malkhut, through Yesod. When reciting the paragraphs on Shabbat or Yom Tov, bring Yesod into your consciousness.

The fifth blessing, the first of the last three, ends with ha-mahazir Shekhinato le-Zion ("Who returns His Shekhina to Zion"). It is a prayer for God to return to Zion and to the temple that stood there. God's presence is called Shekhina but this prayer alludes to the sefira of Nesah, God's timelessness, that is, to the eternity of the promise of God's presence. Bring Nesah into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing.[23]

The sixth blessing, the second of the last three, ends with ha-tov shimkha u-lekha na'e le-hodot ("Whose Name is good and to Whom it is proper to give thanks"). It is a prayer of thankfulness for God's many favors, for life and for guidance. This prayer is associated with Hod, the awesome beauty of God. Bring Hod into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing.

The seventh and last blessing, the third of the last three, ends with ha-mevarekh et `amo Yisrael ba-shalom ("Who blesses His people Israel with peace"). It is a prayer for peace -- peace in the sense of coexistence as well as peace in the sense of inner harmony. Shalom is the blessing of Malkhut, of Shekhina. Bring Malkhut into your consciousness as you recite this paragraph with its blessing. Remember that all peace comes from Shekhina.[24]

During the concluding verses to the Amida and in the few minutes of silence after them, call each sefira into your consciousness. Make them one entity; unify them in their full power and presence.[25]

Reciting Barukh She-'Amar

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This prayer introduces the Pesukei de-Zimra'. It has several versions and the zoharic key is the ten times Barukh ("blessed") is said, one for each sefira. [26]

As you say, Barukh she-'amar ve-haya ha-`olam ("Blessed be He Who spoke and the world came into being"), prepare yourself for this meditation by thinking that it is through God's speech, and yours, that the sefirotic world comes into being and is sustained.

When you say, Barukh hu ("Blessed is He"), think of Keter which is beyond all description. Bring energy to Keter; light it as an oil lamp or candle, and just be for a few moments.

When you recite, Barukh `oseh vereshit ("Blessed be He Who does creation"), think of Hokhma which is the origin point of all reality, the Father of all. Bring the energy from Keter to Hokhma; feel creativity, and rest there a while.

When you say Barukh 'omer ve-`oseh ("Blessed be He Who says and acts"), think of Bina which is the Mother of all, the upper temple, the source of repentance. Draw energy from Hokhma into Bina; feel plenitude, and remain there.

When you recite Barukh gozer u-mekayyem ("Blessed be He Who decrees and fulfills"), think of Hesed, God's unconditional love. Remember that God's grace will modify and transmute God's decree. Draw energy from Bina into Hesed; feel unconditional love, and abide there.

When you say, Barukh merahem al ha-'arets ("Blessed be He Who has mercy on the universe"), think of Gevura, God's judgement. Remember that God's judgement is modified by God's grace, by God's unconditional love. Draw energy from Hesed into Gevura; feel power, and dwell there.

When you recite, Barukh merahem al ha-beriyyot ("Blessed be He Who has mercy on the creatures"), think of Tiferet, God's compassion and mercy. Reenforce that mercy-energy as it moves from Gevura to Tiferet, especially as it applies to living creatures, and reside there a moment.

When you say, Barukh meshallem sakhar tov lirei'av ("Blessed be He Who gives a good reward to those who fear Him"), think of Netsah, God's timelessness. Draw the now-growing energy down through timeless rewarding, and abide there.

When you recite, Barukh hai la-`ad ve-kayyam la-netsah ("Blessed be He Who lives forever and exists to eternity"), think of Hod, God's transcendent beauty. Draw the spiritual energy down through awe, and dwell there.

When you recite, Barukh pode u-matsil ("Blessed be He Who redeems and saves"), think of Yesod, the active male force in nature and history. Draw the energy through to Yesod; feel productivity, and reside there a while.

When you recite, Barukh shemo ("Blessed be His Name"), think of Malkhut which is God's Name, God's Face, God's Presence to the world. Hold the accumulated energy in your mind, and just be in the Presence, face to Face.

When you continue the liturgy, draw the energy with you. Let the energy flow, through you, into the realms of creation: the outermost reaches of space, our portion of space, our planet, our lives, our community, and our selves. Feel that it is all one spiritual energy, drawn down from the Divine.

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A more complicated meditation.[27] This meditation is rooted in the effort to match the meaning of the words of this prayer with the individual sefirot to which they are assigned. You should follow the Hebrew or the translation carefully.

As you say, Barukh she-'amar ve-haya ha-`olam ("Blessed be He Who spoke and the world came into being"), prepare yourself for this meditation by thinking that it is through God's speech, and yours, that the sefirotic world comes into being and is sustained.

When you say, Barukh hu ("Blessed is He"), think of Keter. God's hu-ness is God's being-ness, God's being before articulation, God's that-ness which precedes God's what-ness.[28] Be in the presence of God's being as hu. Bring energy to Keter; light it as an oil lamp or candle, and just be for a few moments.

When you recite, Barukh `oseh vereshit ("Blessed be He Who does creation"), think of Hokhma. God's creative action begins in thought, in wisdom. Be in the presence of the thought which creates. Draw energy from Keter into Hokhma, and let God's intelligent creative power be manifest.

When you say Barukh 'omer ve-`oseh ("Blessed be He Who says and acts"), think of Bina. God's empathic understanding is integrally linked to God's ability to communicate and to perform that communication, to say and to act. Be in the presence of the intuition that speaks and acts. Draw energy from Hokhma into Bina, and let communicated empathy grow and be abundant.

When you recite Barukh gozer u-mekayyem ("Blessed be He Who decrees and fulfills"), think of Hesed. Decreeing and fulfilling is the usual activity of Gevura, of God's judgement, not of Hesed; yet the meditation for this phrase is directed to Hesed. Therefore, draw energy from Bina into Hesed, and let the unconditional love of Hesed grow so as to soften the decree of Gevura, of judgement and its fulfillment.

When you say, Barukh merahem al ha-'arets ("Blessed be He Who has mercy on the universe"), think of Gevura. Having mercy on the universe is the usual activity of Tiferet; yet the meditation for this phrase is directed to Gevura. Therefore, draw energy from Hesed into Gevura, and let the unconditional demand of Gevura strengthen the unconditional love of Hesed and prepare to reinforce the mercy of Tiferet.[29]

When you recite, Barukh merahem al ha-beriyyot ("Blessed be He Who has mercy on the creatures"), think of Tiferet. God's mercy is greater than God's unconditional love and God's unconditional demand, for Tiferet is a fusion of Hesed and Gevura. God's creatures need God's mercy. Draw energy from Hesed and Gevura into Tiferet, and let God's mercy radiate toward the highest level of God's creation: God's creatures.

When you say, Barukh meshallem sakhar tov lirei'av ("Blessed be He Who gives a good reward to those who fear Him"), think of Netsah. God's timelessness is not just God's eternity; it is linked to the moral dimension of God and creation. Draw energy from Tiferet to Netsah, and let God's timelessness generate the endless morality of God.

When you recite, Barukh hai la-`ad ve-kayyam la-netsah ("Blessed be He Who lives forever and exists to eternity"), think of Hod. God's transcendance is always experienced by us as momentary. However, God's transcendance is actually timeless. Draw energy from Netsah, and let it mix with Hod to generate God's unending awesomeness.[30]

When you recite, Barukh pode u-matsil ("Blessed be He Who redeems and saves"), think of Yesod. Sexuality is one of the most powerful motives in human and divine behavior. Divine sexual energy redeems us from impotence; divine creativity redeems us from sterility. Divine sexuality also saves us from distorted sexuality; divine productivity saves us from sin. Draw energy from Netsah and Hod to Yesod, and let the divine passion grow in its power to redeem and save.

When you recite, Barukh shemo ("Blessed be His Name"), think of Malkhut / Shekhina. All of God's energy is focused on governing the world. This dimension of God is God's interface with the world; hence, it is God's Name, God's Face, God's Presence. Draw the accumulated energy into Malkhut / Shekhina, and let it accumulate until it is ready to move forth to rule creation.

Hold these dimensions of God in your consciousnes: God's hu-ness, God's intelligent creative power, God's communicated empathy, God's unconditional love which softens the decree, God's unconditional demand which strengthens God's unconditional love, God's great mercy upon God's creatures, God's endless morality, God's unending awesomeness, God's redemptive and saving sexual energy, and God's ruling power. Stay in the presence of this fulness of God. And, when you continue the liturgy, draw this energy with you.

Who Am "I"?

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The world of the Zohar, sometimes called the "Kabbala," is not the only world of Jewish mysticism. Each age has produced its mystical way. Hasidism, which is much later than the Zohar, evolved a new form mystical experience called bittul ("annihilation into God"). In this form of mysticism, each person is composed of a "garment" and a "divine spark." The purpose of prayer, in this hasidic mystical mode, is to shed all the "clothing" of existence and to let one's spark abide for a moment in the great Nothing (Hebrew, `Ayin ) that is God. The following meditation based on this hasidic -- non-zoharic, yet mystical -- tradition points toward this.[31]

There are many stories about Levi Yitzhak and Yom Kippur -- the prayers he said and the fervor with which he prayed. But his book Kedushat Levi does not include any word of Torah for this holiday. Why the silence? Was it, perhaps, because the time had come for more action and fewer words? Was it because the season of judgement swept him up? I do not know. Perhaps his other books contain the secret.

I would like to share a meditation which I think is in the spirit of Levi Yitzhak. There is a story told about a hasidic rebbe who came into synagogue and sat down to pray. The hasidim noticed that he did not move and they went on with their prayers. By late afternoon the rebbe still had not moved from his chair. Finally, the hasidim dared to interrupt him and ask if something was wrong. "No," he said, "nothing is wrong. I opened my mouth to say 'I give thanks before You' and suddenly I began to think, 'Who is this "I" that is about to give thanks? Who am "I"? What am "I" '? And I have been meditating on that all day long."

The story is a very profound one. Who am "I"? What is the "self"? It is strange; we use the word "I" all the time, but what do we mean by it?

One way to look at the "I" is in terms of the roles one fills in life. I am a father; that takes energy and inner strength. I am a husband; that too takes time and effort. I am a teacher; it demands vigor and intensity. I am a scholar; it demands concentration and stamina. I am a member of several communities, serving in various official and unofficial capacities. I am an active Jew, giving time and energy to my people. I am a friend, searching and supporting. I am a rabbi, a faculty member, a citizen, a consumer, an author and editor, a colleague, a student, a son, and much more. Some of these roles are more important to me than others. Am "I" those important roles? Am "I" the sum of all these social roles? The contemporary literary critic Northrop Frye has commented that the older we get, the harder it becomes to shed our social masks. That's true, but are we our social masks?

Let us entertain for a minute the possibility that "I" am not my social roles, that I am not everything that I must be to be a functioning, effective human being. What, then, am "I"? Perhaps, "I" am my personal history. Perhaps, "I" am my life and everything that has gone into it. It is true: I am my fears, my loves, my aspirations, my body, my passions, my guilt, my spiritual and aesthetic sensitivities. I am the complex person that I was born, was brought up to be, and have made myself into. In modern culture, we call this the "self" or the "person." But is it true? Am "I" the sum of my feelings, concepts, and actions? Is my "self" defined by the range of emotions and thoughts of which I am capable? Freud has shown us that we all have inner masks by which we talk to our selves, even lie to our selves; and that we have masks within the inner masks, unconscious motives and feelings of which we are unaware. This is true. But am "I" my conscious feelings and thoughts? Am "I" my unconscious feelings and thoughts? What, or who, am "I"?

Let us entertain for a minute the possibility that "I" am neither the sum of my social roles nor the sum of my conscious and unconscious feelings and thoughts, that "I" am neither my social masks nor my personal masks. What, then, am "I"? To say that "I" am my "soul" does not help. For, if I mean that I am an observant Jew, then I am defining myself in a sociocultural role. If I mean that I strive personally, I am defining myself in a psychological role. Even if I say that my soul is divine and, hence, I am a part of God, what does that mean, aside from being a theologically acceptable answer? Am "I" a theological proposition? Am "I" an intellectual second thought?

Let us start again. If "I" am not the sum of my social roles or my psychological functions, and if "I" am not a theologically acceptable hypothesis, what am "I"? What is the "I" of which I speak when I talk? Who is the "I" that is capable of returning thanks to God? Or doing anything? Perhaps, "I" am truly no-thing, utter void, undefinableness. Not something ethereal, like a fine spray of water or isolated atoms in interstellar space; but no-role, no-feeling, no-thought. Not even the absence of these definitions; just no-thing. At first, this is very frightening. Nature abhors a vacuum and the mind abhors lack of definition. The "I" shies away from lack of location. That's why we have culture. But, if culture is secondary, what is primary? If formulation and articulation are secondary, what is pre- or non-, formulated?

Jewish spirituality teaches that there are three levels of being: thought, speech, and action. First, we think; then, we put what we think into words; and then we act upon what we think and speak. But what precedes thinking? What is pre-articulate, pre-conceptual? Whatever enters our consciousness, even if it is chaotic, has some form; and we give it more form by thought, speech, and deed. But what is before consciousnes? What am "I" at this level of before-thinking, before-words, before-action? ...

After the fear comes joy. But even the joy is secondary; it is a response. It is an echo, a realization that "I" am no-thing but God is; that "I" am because He is; that "I" am nothing but He; that my no-thing-ness is true but it too is a mask for His being-ness. Everything I think, speak, and do is secondary and tertiary. From the innermost point, "I-He" radiates through what my "I" thinks, speaks, and does. My psychological functions and my social roles are clothes, decoration. The "I" behind them is not mine or "me"; it is He. Perhaps, not even "He" in the sense of the God described in the words of the tradition but "He" as the because of my "I". Joy is allowing oneself to be aware of this. Joy is being open to this.

The rebbe was right; it takes all day, even many days, to meditate on such matters.[32]

A Concluding Song [33]

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The You-Song
Master of the Universe, oh Master of the Universe,
I want to sing You a You-song.
 
"Where can I find You? And where can I not find You?"
Where can anyone find You? Where can anyone not find You?
Wherever I go, You are there.
Wherever I stop, You are there.
Only You, solely You.
Again You, only You.
 
When things go really well, it is You.
And when, God forbid, things go badly, it is You.
 
"You" are You.
"He was" -- You; "He is" -- You; "He will be" -- You.
"He was King" -- You; "He is King" -- You; "He will be King" -- You.
Heaven -- You; earth -- You.
Above -- You; below -- You.
 
Wherever I go, wherever I turn -- You, You, You.
 
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FOOTNOTES

[*] This is chapter three of a forthcoming book, Drop in on God. Details on the book will be posted as soon as available.

[1] The word "kabbala" refers to the many streams of Jewish mysticism; hence "kabbalistic" indicates that which pertains to Jewish mysticism in the broad sense. The Zohar is the central text of the kabbala. Its key mystical doctrine is that of the sefirot; hence, "sefirotic" designates Jewish mystical thinking and practice as taught in the Zohar. Large parts of the Zohar do not deal with the sefirot; however, since I rarely deal with the non-mystical sections, "zoharic" serves as a synonym of "sefirotic." In popular usage, "kabbalistic" is used to refer to a wide range of phenomena, from ancient magical incantations to new age meditation techniques.

[2] For an explication of zoharic thought together with selected passages with commentary, see David R. Blumenthal, Understanding Jewish Mysticism, vol. 1 (New York, KTAV Publishing: 1978) part 2 and, more fully, I. Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar, transl. D. Goldstein, 3 vols. (London, Littman Library and Oxford University Press: 1989). On the various streams of Jewish mysticism, see Understanding Jewish Mysticism, both volumes, and G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York, Schocken Books: 1946).

[3] There are two ways to visualize right and left: as a person who stands opposite us whose right is on our left and vica versa, or as a map where the right is on our right and the left on our left. When meditating, try both; the feeling is completely different.

For feminist re-writings of the Zohar, see D. Blumenthal, "Creating Zoharic Texts," Conservative Judaism (summer 1997) 59-68; also available on my website under "Student Work."

[4] Adapted from Understanding Jewish Mysticism, 1:149-53. I have modified the commentary there, originally written by Kathryn Kogan, and also corrected errors. See also Tishby, 3:1042-44. The text is from Zohar, 1:243b-244a.

[5] The importance of the twice-daily sacrifice of a lamb, and of the subsequent substitution of liturgical prayer, lies in the fact that the daily sacrificial lambs were atonement offerings, atoning for the sins of the world and thus allowing God to renew creation each morning and evening. The Chrisitian reader will immediately recognize the agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi, the lamb of God who atones for the sins of the world, and should note that the reference is to the twice-daily sacrificial lamb, not to the paschal lamb. The fact that Jesus is said to have been sacrificed at evening also points to the analogy to the daily lamb of evening, not the paschal sacrifice.

[6] Talmud, Berakhot 26b.

[7] Alternate: The energy flows from humans to the angels to Malkhut / Shekhina; or from humans to Yesod to Tiferet. Experience with these texts leads me to favor the interpretation in the main text.

[8] Alternate: They are the angels and then the sefirot. Again, from experience, I favor the interpretation in the text.

[9] It follows that the priests concentrate on Hesed while reciting the first line of the priestly blessing; on Gevura while reciting the second line; and on Tiferet while reciting the third line. It also follows that the tune often chanted before the last word of each line serves to allow the priests, and the congregation, to meditate on the sefira of that line, that is, to return energy to that sefira and to draw it to the next. Return to the blessing of children and grandchildren and try to do it zoharically.

[10] This meditation uses only the the Name of God, twice, and the word 'ehad. It does not use the words: sh'ma yisrael and 'eloheinu. See Tishby, 3:1024; Zohar 2:133b.

[11] This meditation uses only Adonay, Eloheinu, Adonay, 'ehad. See Tishby, 3:1025; Zohar 2:133b.

[12] This meditation uses only Adonay, Eloheinu, Adonay, 'ehad. This meditation is based upon a comment by Tishby (3:1024) which is very consistent with the imagery, though I do not see it in the text upon which Tishby makes the comment.

[13] This meditation uses all the words of the Sh'ma. See Tishby, 3:1023-24; Zohar 2:133b.

[14] This meditation uses all the words. See Tishby, 3:1025; Zohar, 2:133b and elsewhere.

[15] These meditations which unite God in the upper realm of the sefirot (that is, those above Malkhut) and then unite the upper with the lower realm (Malkhut) fulfill the verse, "On that day, the Lord shall be one and His Name shall be one" (Zach. 14:9), for "Lord / YHVH" is Tiferet and "Name" is Malkhut. See Tishby, 3:1027.

[16] See Tishby, 3:1030-31; Zohar, 3:93a, Raya Meheimna; see also Zohar, 2:52a. This meditation only uses the three words, kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.

[17] See Tishby, 3:1030-31; Zohar, 3:93a, Raya Meheimna; see also Zohar, 2:52a. This meditation also only uses the three words, kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. It is based on the three forms of this root used in Scripture: kodesh which is Hokhma, kadosh which is Tiferet, and kedusha which is Shekhina.

[18] See Tishby, 3:1030-31; Zohar, 3:93a, Raya Meheimna. This meditation also only uses the three words, kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. It is preparatory for the union with Malkhut which is implied, but not specified, in this text.

[19] This meditation is not in Tisbhy but can be found in Tikkunei Zohar, Haqdama 16b and Temanei-serei 34b. This meditation utilizes all the words of the Isaiah text.

[20] This meditation is not in Tishby or in the Zohar but it follows the usual imagery.

[21] See Tishby, 3:1032; Zohar, 3:93a, Raya Meheimna. One could also combine one of the meditations for Kadosh, with one of the meditations for Barukh, and add Malkhut as the meditation for Yimlokh.

[22] These three meditations are also good for the daily Amida.

[23] The attentive reader will have noted that Yesod precedes Netsah and Hod in the Shabbat and Yom Tov Amida. That is correct, for Shabbat is sometimes Yesod, sometimes Malkhut, and sometimes other sefirot.

[24] These three meditations are also good for the daily Amida.

[25] This meditation is not in Tishby or in the Zohar, but it follows the general imagery of the Zohar. For a detailed exposition of the Amida, see Zohar, 2:261a-262b.

[26] In our versions, there are actually eleven mentions of barukh. The first is clearly introductory. The following meditation is not in the Tishby or the Zohar but it is consistent with the imagery of the Zohar.

[27] This meditation is also not in Tishby or in the Zohar but it, too, is consistent with zoharic imagery. For a different understanding of Barukh she-'amar, see Zohar, 2:215b.

[28] Medieval Arabic and Jewish philosophy knew this dimension of God as huwiyya or 'inniyya, that is, God's "thatness," known better through the corresponding latinized term, "quoddity." This dimension of God is to be contrasted to God's "whatness," "quiddity," or mahiyya as follows: "Thatness" clearly precedes "whatness" because the latter attempts to describe the former. Even quoddity, however, is not quite the same as Keter / Ein Sof in that Keter rejects any kind of description at all, though in its claim to be pre-verbal and pre-conceptual, there is a resemblance between the philosophic and the kabbalistic terms.

[29] Note the cross-over for these two phrases and their sefirot: God decrees but it is toward Hesed, God's unconditional love, that the meditation is directed. And, God has mercy but it is toward Gevura, God's judgement, that the meditation is directed.

[30] Note the cross-over again: God rewards but the meditation is directed at God's timelessness. And, God is timeless but the meditation is directed at God's awesome beauty and holiness which, for humans, is experienced only in fleeting moments.

[31] Drawn from D. Blumenthal, God at the Center, 183-85.

[32] The reader should try this meditation: First, list your definitions of your "self." Then, realize that they are only categories of functionality in the world. Return to contemplating "Who am I." Deal with the new "definitions" the same way, by categorizing and then discarding them. Eventually, you will arrive at no-thing-ness. Try to hold that moment in your consciousness. Then, return to reality and try to express what you experienced.

[33] This is known as the "Dudele," best translated as a "You-song." It was written by Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, a third generation hasidic rabbi. This is a poem / prayer, though it is not liturgical in form. The translation is drawn from S. Dresner, The World of Hasidic Master: Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, 2nd ed. (New York, Shapolksy: 1986) 107, cited in Understanding Jewish Mysticism, 2:153 and God at the Center, xv. The original is written in Hebrew and Yiddish, and I have noted the Hebrew by use of quotation marks. The Hebrew contains allusions to Psalm 139 and to various phrases in the liturgy. This poem has also been set to music. It is a fitting close to this chapter on mystical prayer.

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