Archive for the ‘Let My People Know’ Category

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “One cannot even say that it is difficult to understand Divine wisdom because it is far too sublime.”

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

It is not correct to describe God as “wise” or even to attribute wisdom to Him at any particular level.

For wisdom as we know it is not of the same category as God’s wisdom; it cannot transmit anything of the Divine essence.

One cannot even say that it is difficult to understand Divine wisdom because it is far too sublime.

Indeed, such a statement is totally meaningless and irrelevant, like any attempt to determine something by means that have no reference to it, such as grasping a thought with the hands.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures do call God wise and good, and so on.

And, after all, we cannot very well maintain that He is so far beyond us that we are unable to relate to Him and to His wisdom at all.

The truth may be said to lie in the fact that He is the source of wisdom.

God is the first cause, the basis of all creation, and from whatever we comprehend of creation we call Him wise.

Similarly, we call Him merciful and kind and so on, because He is the source of all these attributes.

These attributes describe God’s actions and not God Himself, in the same way that we describe Him as “He who gathers the winds and brings the rain” (daily prayer book) and do not thereby identify Him with wind and rain. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Secret of Faith” in The Sustaining Utterance

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The meaning of each statement in the Torah exceeds the simple meaning conveyed in the words.”

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Halachic sages were compelled by circumstances to decode and abstract the imagery concepts and the realistic examples found in older texts, to develop them and provide a new meaning suited to each generation.

In the field of halachah, this was quite essential, for it is impermissible to leave such matters obscure.

It was necessary, in fact, to establish as a basic principle that the meaning of each statement in the Torah exceeds the simple meaning conveyed in the words.

Thus it is written in the Talmud: “He who translates a passage as it seems to be, is a deceiver.”

Direct renderings of the formal content do not present the true significance, only a reduced aspect of the imagery concept.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Imagery Concept in Jewish Thought” in The Strife of the Spirit

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A mistake of this nature was made by Freud”

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

It is not difficult to show that man is a rational creature, in which reason determines much of the nature, behavior, and mind.

After accepting the accurate statement that reason is a factor in man’s being, it is very easy to come to the erroneous conclusion that reason is the whole man.

Indeed, in the first stage, the realization that this is not all of man is still remembered, and there are some details that are not included in this generalization.

But afterwards, the habit of thought and the building up of a complete system on one basis only causes one to forget the true nature of things.

After a time, such an artificial construction becomes the real man. 

This way of thinking is common because it is natural and easily understood, but it must be remembered that it is always untrue.

A mistake of this nature was made by Freud.

His method, which began with seeing the great importance of sex in our lives, brought him to the conclusion that man is in essence purely sexual, and all other parts are secondary and unimportant.

And so Freud built a system in which man, his deeds and thoughts, are merely results of the only basis of spirit: sex.

The same happened with Marxism as well.

From the acknowledgment of the importance of economic factors within society, there issued the inevitable mistake in ascribing these factors as the sole basis of all human actions—social life, culture, and thought. 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in “Human Holiness:

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “Some people have living teachers, some have dead teachers”

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Some of us at least have a grasp, to a greater or lesser extent, of some existence that is beyond the purely mental plane of existence, and occasionally find a way to a world or worlds above us.

This climb is theoretically possible almost independently, because it is the individual’s heritage, but practically speaking, for most people it is impossible without help.

Some people have living teachers, some have dead teachers, but they still have teachers.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From The Strife of the Spirit

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “To withstand the process of decay from within and destruction from without.”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

Over the centuries a great deal has been invested in Jewish education, in the preparation of spiritual guides and teachers of all sorts, and in the maintenance of the general framework of the tradition. In many places it amounted to one third or even more of the general expenditure of the local or national body.

This was one of the main factors that helped keep the tradition going in spite of very difficult external conditions.

Therefore, one can say that any group or tradition that is willing and able to invest considerable effort in maintaining its existence is that much more able to withstand the process of decay from within and destruction from without.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From On Being Free

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “Sometimes a person can become just a puppet.”

Monday, June 18th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

The main work of a teacher is as a teacher.

Quite a number of people are capable, to one degree or another, of giving somebody else a push.

But the real demand on a teacher is that the pupil doesn’t want only to be pushed.

Sometimes a person can become just a puppet.

Whatever he has is the handiwork of someone else.

The person becomes a kind of implant, or transplant.

You can transplant something in a person, but it really isn’t his.

It works, but it isn’t his and he can’t do anything with it.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From The Strife of the Spirit

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “A question that is badly phrased often conceals the questioner’s real concern”

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

Teachers need not insist that their answers be accepted without reservation.

It is better to try to clarify the questions, their underlying premises, and their interrelationships.

Such clarification tends not only to reduce the number of questions, but also to lead more readily to genuine solutions.

Quite often, the difficulty of answering a particular question (and the even greater difficulty in gaining acceptance for the answer) arises from the fact that it was not a very “smart” question to begin with.

It is far harder to answer a foolish, confused, or poorly formulated question than one that is intelligent and well put.

A question that is badly phrased often conceals the questioner’s real concern.

Then, no matter how well the question is answered, he remains frustrated.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “Allegorical truths and not actual descriptions of reality.”

Friday, June 15th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

Precisely because of the prevalence of metaphorical statement, and the widespread use of figures of speech drawn from the human image, it becomes all the more necessary to emphasize that they are allegorical truths and not actual descriptions of reality.

For there was a certain danger that the word pictures, or imagistic descriptions, of sacred symbols in the Bible-and even more so in the Kabbalah-could lead to a crude material apprehension of the divine essence and of the higher reality.

Hence the prohibition against all depiction of holiness through physical, plastic means. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “Kabbalah used to be considered a field that was not accessible to all.”

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing in any field.

And as far as Torah is concerned, since it is a live wire connecting us with God, anyone who gets involved without taking precautionary measures runs the risk of being electrocuted.

It was in this sense that Kabbalah used to be considered a field that was not accessible to all.

There was a need for special knowledge and sensitivity to be able to enter into the realm of the hidden.

When studying the Talmud, it is all too apparent when one does not quite comprehend a passage, because the Talmud speaks about people, animals, the mundane affairs of men.

A student can easily discern what he grasps and what he does not.

But when studying the Kabbalah—which speaks about sefirot, angels, Divine lights, and vessels—the ability to distinguish one’s own lack of understanding is far more difficult, so that the subtle danger of misconception is a sad inevitability accompanying such study.

All of this is not intended to divert attention from the fact that the Torah, including the manifest and the hidden, is all one.

To be sure, it is said that it has seventy faces. Indeed, some sources say it has six hundred thousand faces, because that is the number of souls who received the Torah when it was revealed, and each one has, to this day, his own understanding of it, his own orientation and point of view.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From  “Mysticism in the Jewish Tradition”, On Being Free

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “The number of words, or even the number of letters”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

In the late Middle Ages, books of Kabbalah begin to appear, originating from two different schools: Hassidei Ashkenaz (“the Pious Ones of Franco-Germany”) and Hakhmei Sefarad (“the Sages of Spain”).

Even in those days, such study was limited to a few small, closed groups, albeit it is possible to trace the influence of mystic thought on the prayer liturgy.

One indication of this influence is found in the various Piyyutim (liturgical poems) composed by these pious sages.

But its influence was felt primarily in emendations and revisions of the prayer text.

Various esoteric traditions relating to the number of words, or even the number of letters, in certain prayers and benedictions, as well as stylistic and linguistic details, were all directed by the mystic tradition and introduced into the fixed liturgical texts.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From  An Introduction to Jewish Prayer

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “The Kabbalah permeates every aspect of Judaism.”

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz:

The truth is that the Kabbalah permeates every aspect of Judaism.

The “esoteric wisdom” has been a basic ingredient of scripture, ritual, and prayer.

Even many popular expressions, in Hebrew but also in the colloquial Yiddish, have their source in the Kabbalah.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From “Mysticism in the Jewish Tradition,” On Being Free

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “Only Judaism seems to be based on the idea that…”

Monday, June 11th, 2018

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

The Scriptures, beginning with the Bible and including the many works of exegesis and commentary–such as the Talmud, the Kabbalah, and other writings–occupy such a central and special place in Judaism that the Hebrew name for this sacred literature, Torah, cannot be adequately translated into any other language.

As someone once aptly summed it up: other religions have a concept of scripture as deriving from Heaven, but only Judaism seems to be based on the idea that the Torah Scripture is itself Heaven. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, “Torah”

Rabbi Steinsaltz: “A principle concerning the nature of man.”

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

In some midrash exegesis it is said that Adam at first reached from one end of the world to the other, but that after sinning, God put His hand on him and Adam’s size was diminished to the human stature.

The Kabbalah deals with the matter as a principle concerning the nature of man.

A man should strive to penetrate beyond the fourth dimension of time into the fifth dimension of experience, where he reaches the other extreme of existence, original being.

Instead, the range of human experience, the stature of man, extends only so far as his ego reaches.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From “The Great Awe of Pachad Yiyzchok, In the Beginning

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Sex is a meaningful deed.”

Friday, June 8th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Sexual relations have an enormous influence on the soul.

Not all human activities have an intrinsic inner connection.

There are all kinds of activities that are rather insignificant; one example would be taking a walk.

But sex is not one of those activities.

Sex has an impact which is not only subjective; it is also something objective.

Sex is a meaningful deed.

In Kabbalistic literature, descriptions of any deep connection between spiritual entities use the term “copulation.”

The sexual relation in itself is an expression of a basic drive which, in Kabbalah, is called the sefirah of Yesod.

It is the power, the compelling desire, which comes from making connections.

In that sense, sex is considered the supreme format for all forms of connection.

It is one of those things that make a complete world.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From Parabola

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The initial revelation at Mount Sinai was holy in such a way that it could never be shaken off”.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Jewish mysticism never really became a separate domain of spiritual life outside the religious tradition.

This may be due to the fact that the initial revelation at Mount Sinai was holy in such a way that it could never be shaken off.

The Torah scriptures, at all levels of their composition, from the Bible to the Talmud and the latest commentaries of the sages, succeeded in retaining and elaborating this experience so profoundly that there was not much room for an emotional mysticism, either private or cultic, to develop on its own, outside of the established religious form. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From On Being Free

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A ‘copulation’ of the Sefirot.”

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Regarding the mystery of birth, let us say that the body of the child is formed from the cells of the father and mother.

The soul of the child, however, is formed by neither, but rather is created by a “copulation” of the Sefirot.

When the Sefirot mix with one another, they give birth to souls and these souls are combinations of Sefirot in an infinite variety of relations.

Every time and in every place where there is a new combination (usually the combinations are old, fairly fixed), a new soul is born.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From In the Beginning, “The Power to Receive”

 

 

 

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “An uninterrupted flow”

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz said: 

The tradition of the Chain of Receiving (Shalshelet Ha-Kabbalah), is basically the tradition of Jewish leadership.

It is a listing of a certain number of the more prominent persons who were bearers of the light of knowledge.

It does not deny that there were others who also carried it.

The point of the chain is that there was a continuity, an uninterrupted flow.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From “Parabola”

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The Kabbalah is the inner part of the Torah that explains the metaphysical significance of every single movement and thought, and ultimately of the whole essence of the world.”

Monday, June 4th, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

The evil in the world is derived from a distortion of certain forces, and they can, in turn, have a bad effect on the rest of creation.

The Torah, or Jewish Scriptures, is, on the whole, a revelation of the right way to behave so that the Divine plenty will flow into the reality of the world.

The carrying out of the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah acts in a concrete way to make the sefirot combine properly to cause this plenty to flow, while the transgression of the commandments is an act of absolute evil that adds strength to the forces of wickedness and pollution in the world.

The esoteric teaching, the Kabbalah, is the inner part of the Torah that explains the metaphysical significance of every single movement and thought, and ultimately of the whole essence of the world.

The man who attains genuine knowledge of the wisdom of the Kabbalah can, in certain respects, use the keys provided by this wisdom to reach a deeper and more complete closeness to God, and is able to change and “repair” the world in which he lives.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From The Strife of the Spirit, “The Ari”

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Kabbalah speaks directly about spiritual entities”

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

Kabbalah is not a separate area of Torah knowledge but rather the hidden, spiritual dimension of the revealed aspects of the Torah.

Whereas the revealed aspects of the Torah, such as halakhah, speak primarily about visible, physical things, Kabbalah speaks directly about spiritual entities.

It speaks of the system of “Worlds” and sefirot through which God creates, sustains, and directs the universe.

And it discusses the interaction between those spiritual entities and the performance of mitzvot in the physical world.

Hence, Kabbalah has been called the soul of the Torah.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The spiritual world we live in is very close and real”

Friday, June 1st, 2018

 

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

The word “spiritual” has unfortunately acquired mystical and supernatural connotations, and is used too frequently by all kinds of unreliable people, from bleary-eyed old ladies speaking about spirituality to quacks selling spiritual medicines and spiritual workshops that will make us wise, beautiful, successful, and thin.

Since such “spirituality” seems to range from wishy-washy to clinically crazy, it is not at all astonishing that some people keep a safe distance. 

The spiritual world we live in is very close and real.

It is not the realm of ghosts and disembodied beings, where powers and vibrations (whatever they are) roam.

The spiritual world is, first and foremost, all the things we relate to through our minds.

This includes our thoughts and emotions, love, hate, and envy, the ability to read, to enjoy music, or to solve equations, to know that we exist, and to relate to others.

All these are intangible—they cannot be touched or weighed.

However, they are commonplace, direct experiences, and they are as real as anything can be.

All these together make up our second world, the spiritual one. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 

From Simple Words