So, what did I read in Likutey Moharan, that helped me to start to get more of a correct Jewish perspective on the whole meditation thing?

I opened up randomly to Part I:78, and this is what I read:

 “Where do Jewish souls come from? – From the world of speech…

Jewish souls come from the world of speech…

Now, speech is an aspect of Malchut / Kingship, as Elijah said: ‘Malchut is the mouth.’ It is also an aspect of the Divine presence, which always dwells with [us], without a moment’s interruption….

When one unifies speech with God… then, “God’s glory will be revealed,”… the radiance of His presence, which is an aspect of the Malchut, is revealed and enhanced.”

 

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

Jews can’t just spend hours in silent meditation or mindfulness. We need to SPEAK (i.e., talk to God, confess what’s going on in our lives, what we’re struggling with, what help you need.) Just meditating on a leaf for 13 hours is NOT the path of a Jewish soul.

I already started to feel better, as I could see that there was at least one reason why the whole ‘silent meditation’ thing really isn’t the Jewish way. Jews believe in the power of prayer; we know that God spoke the world into creation, and that speech is what differentiates us from the animals.

I think Jews are the only people who teach that evil speech, gossip, mockery and slander can do even more damage than physical violence or abuse. That’s because we know the spiritual power of speech – and we now that an hour spent TALKING / PRAYING to God can achieve some amazing things.

And what’s more, Rav Arush teaches that speaking to God is the single best measure of how much you really believe in Him.

If you talk to God – it’s a sign you believe in Him. If you don’t – the opposite.

But there was more.

In the same lesson (I:78), Rebbe Nachman also teaches:

 

“One lives only by breathing. But what is the breath? One exhales and inhales ruach (air)…When a person is bonded to the holy Malchut, speaking Torah or prayer, one exhales and inhales the spirit of holiness (ruach hakodesh)…

When one studies Torah…then the ‘spirit of God’, which is ruach hakodesh, ‘hovers’ above a person and one draws the spirit of life from it.

This is because without Torah, one cannot live….

Therefore, ‘The wicked are considered dead even while alive’ (Brakhot 18b), for since the cord of holiness has been cut, from where can he draw life? Rather, he draws a spirit of foolishness [evil].”

 

(As an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how I always get directed to just the right lesson in Likutey Moharan. Definitely try this for yourself at home, if you haven’t already.)

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

There is nothing ‘neutral’ in the world. If a Jew is doing ‘breathwork’ and focusing on their breathing etc – but failing to bind themselves to Torah, and failing to attach their breathing to God, then they are effectively attaching themselves to the opposite force in the world, i.e., the forces of evil, and the yetzer hara.

No wonder I was feeling so uncomfortable!

God has to be in the whole process right from the beginning, because otherwise every breath we’re taking is just attaching us more and more to the side of darkness and ‘no-God’, God forbid.

But there was still more.

In Lesson I:79, Rebbe Nachman says the following:

 

“The rule is that each individual must see to it that he is not an obstacle to the coming of the Messiah. In other words, one must repent fully and rectify one’s actions.”

 

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

Any practice we’re engaged in, however ‘spiritual’ it may be, that doesn’t encourage us and enable us to identify the things we’re doing wrong, identify our negative emotions, bad middot and unhealthy habits, beliefs and behaviors, and to fix them, is SLOWING UP THE REDEMPTION OF THE WHOLE WORLD.

So for example, meditation/ mindfulness that’s devoid of any self-introspection and / or teshuva is at best a waste of time.

By contrast, truly Jewish meditation and mindfulness (i.e., hitbodedut or talking to God) accomplishes the following spiritual outcomes:

1) It’s SPEECH (i.e. verbalised prayer) not thought, which rectifies the root of the Jewish soul, which comes from the world of speech. (This is also connected to the idea of why Jews need to say their blessings out loud).

2) It binds us to God with every breath (ruach haKodesh), as opposed to binding us to the opposite of God with every breath, God-forbid.

3) It encourages us to work on our middot – and working on our middot is the ONLY way Moshiach is going to come.

 

As always, there’s so much more to say about this. But let’s end with this idea:

If you have an hour, or half an hour, or even five minutes to spend on some form of spiritual practise, then hitbodedut, or talking to God unquestionably gives you the best bang for your buck.

Yes, it’s nice to be a raindrop, or to listen to birds chirping, but when you’re an active partner with Hashem, working on rectifying the world and your part in it, nothing else comes close.

Rebbe Nachman was right again. And not for the first time, I’ve learned a very big lesson about searching for ‘truth’ anywhere outside Yiddishkeit. It may look like a duck, and quack like a duck and walk like a duck, but really – it’s still just a kosher pig.

So, what’s the ‘big idea’ behind 49 Days?

Well, it’s like this: God created the world via 10 ‘worlds’ or spheres of energy, that are commonly referred to in the Jewish mystical tradition, (a.k.a. Kabbalah) as Sefirot.

According to the Kabbalah, these 10 sefirot are split into three higher ones, and seven lower ones – and the seven lower ones are associated with a whole bunch of different things, including the main ‘attributes’, or character traits, that us human beings are meant to work on and perfect.

There are different ideas as to what each of these seven Sefirot are actually referring to.

In the Hebrew, they are listed as:

Chesed

Gevurah

Tiferet

Netzach

Hod

Yesod

Malkhut

(Btw, if you want more of a deeper understanding about the different Sefirot, I highly recommend the book Sefirot (what else?), by Rabbi Haber. Click HERE to take a look at it on Amazon.)

My take on what these seven attributes are telling us to work on is as follows:

  • Love & relationships
  • Self-improvement
  • Truth
  • Seeing the good / specialness
  • Gratitude
  • Sense of Purpose
  • The Spiritual Dimension

 

Now, the best time to work on perfecting these seven attributes / worlds / character traits is considered to be the 49 days between Passover, and the Jewish festival of Shavuot, that occurs exactly seven weeks’ later.

Now, this is where the 49 Days interactive journal can come in, because each day it will spell out what particular character traits need some work, and give you an exercise to do that will really tap-in to the spiritual energy of that day, to get things moving.

  • You can buy 49 Days on Amazon HERE, and on the Book Depository HERE.

Three weeks’ ago, I was doing some hitbodedut (personal prayer) when I suddenly started getting this crazy idea in my head that I had to get a book written about what’s really going on with the Erev Rav issue, RIGHT NOW!!!

Never mind that Pesach was in a month; never mind that I’ve already written 6 books and 2 courses (plus all my other blogging) in the last 6 months; never mind that I was approaching mental exhaustion, and was actually looking forward to dusting, instead of typing, for a change.

The more I tried to ignore that ‘suggestion’, the stronger it got – until I stuck up the white flag and said ‘Ok, God, if you’re sending me a vibe to write the book, I’ll do it already.’

Dear reader, I somehow managed to churn out 30,000 words in a week.

But the nagging didn’t let up. Now, I was getting the steer to ‘publish and print’, ASAP. WHAATTT? Do you have any idea how much time, effort and money is involved in getting these things ready for publication? Do you KNOW how many cheerios I probably have to track down underneath my couch right now? Do you get how tired I’m feeling.

But the same thing happened again: I couldn’t get any peace until I gave in, and got on with it.

That’s why I stuck all those ‘Erev Posts’ up like a crazy person, the last couple of weeks. I was getting a big push in my hitbodedut that it needed to be done, and it needed to be done ASAP.

I posted the last one up – and then the next day, I crashed through the floor. I felt SO awful, heavy, sick, like there was some sort of dark, heavy cloud pressing down on my head.

Usually when I feel like that, I KNOW a war is in the offing.

So I went to bed for pretty much three days solid, and only on Shabbat did the cloud start to lift somewhat. But I’m still feeling pretty shattered. It struck me that maybe, this is what the Egyptians felt, a little, in the plague of darkness, where they were so weighed-down and stuck that they couldn’t even raise a hand.

I feel like that a little at the moment – and most of my Pesach cleaning still needs to get done.

Clearly, posting all that stuff up was directly connected to me feeling so awful for three days. So then I started wondering: did I get the wrong end of the stick, somehow? Was it really my yetzer, just trying to get me to kill myself with herculean typing efforts two weeks before Pesach?

As I was musing on this (and starting to feel even more disgusting and miserable) – a friend called me. She told me that she’d read the ‘Erev Rav’ posts, and that she felt they contained some amazing energy and light.

“I felt good, and filled-up all day after reading them,” she said. “The opposite of how I usually feel after I read stuff about the Erev Rav on other sites.”

That phone call did wonders for me.

It made me feel that even if the only person those posts helped was my friend, Dayenu – it was worth it.

In the meantime, I still have no idea what’s really going on, or why. But I do believe that everything that happens in the world, and in my life, and on my blog, is for a very profound reason.

God clearly wanted that stuff up and circulating around. He clearly wanted some sort of ‘counter-point’ to all the ‘evil star / evil Erev Rav / end of the world / America sinking beneath the waves’ false prophecies that are still going, relentlessly in other parts of the blogosphere.

Do I know why? No.

But Rav Arush teaches that whatever you get in your hitbodedut, you take it at face value (clearly, as long as it’s not telling you to do something against the Torah.) So I did. And where it’s all going to lead to? I have no idea.

  • You can buy my book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, on Amazon and on the Book Depository.

No, this isn’t another ‘drugs gone mad’ post…

Believe it or not, Rav Dessler actually brings this story from the Gemara, where a young father loses his wife, and can’t afford to pay a wet-nurse to feed his child (clearly, this is before the days of Materna.) So then, God does a miracle for the man, and has him grow boobs in order to nurse his own child.

The Sages of the Gemara are split in their view of whether this is a good thing or not. One says: “How great is this man, for whom such a miracle was performed!” The other says: “How lowly is this man, for whom the order of creation was changed!”

This discussion takes place in Rav Dessler’s essay on ‘Torah and Economic Activity’ in Michtav Me Eliyahu, where he brings the five levels of faith that people are on, when it comes to earning a living.

The five levels are as follows:

Level 1) The highest level is that of the person who…now sees the natural and the miraculous both as open miracles, having realized that ‘nature’ has not independent existence at all…His worldly needs can now be given him in way that are openly miraculous. There is no longer any need to conceal the miracle from him.

Level 2) There is another person who may have reached a very high level of faith, but when he searches the depths of his hear he finds that nature and miracle are not completely equal for him. He has not yet reached the ultimate perfection of trust. Consequently, he will not find miracles attending his path.

Level 3) The third level refers to those people whose faith is strengthened by miracles, while it is weakened by natural processes. Such people should reduce their use of natural means as far as possible.

Level 4) People…who do not recognize miracles when they see them, can derive no benefit from being dealt with in a miraculous fashion…they will be dealt with by providence in ways that seem to conform to natural patterns…If he becomes poor and downtrodden, and in spite of all his endeavors care and deprivation are his lot, he may eventually face a moment of truth. He may realize that all his efforts were of no avail and, heartbroken, he may turn to Hashem in prayer.

Level 5) Some people may completely fail to recognize God’s providence and may go in for worldly endeavor in a big way – and their activities may be blessed by Heaven…Why are they not taught the error of their ways by poverty and suffering?…The answer is…they are so far gone that they are no longer worthy of attention from on high.

When my husband quit his job to ‘let God provide’ – as he’d been encouraged to do by his then rabbi – I knew we weren’t on the level to really live that reality.

But it’s only when I came across this that I realized we were aiming for Level 1 – which even Yaacov Avinu didn’t think he was on – when really, we were at tops, Level 3, same as the man who grew boobs.

The two years we were trying to rely on miracles, we got a lot of them, but they weren’t exactly enjoyable, or easy, or something that helped us make friends and influence people. In fact, they often did quite the opposite, because when all is said and done, who wants to hang out with a guy who grew miraculous boobs?!

Mommy and me doesn’t want him; his mates down the pub don’t want him; even his mum thinks he’s a little strange and off-putting and tries to keep the visits short and sweet.

Sure, it’s still a spiritual level higher than most people probably ever get within spitting distance of – but it’s a not a ‘good’ place to be, is it?

Where did he buy clothes? Did the boobs disappear again, once the kid grew up, or was he stuck 42DD forever? These are all very important questions, because as Rav Dessler and the Gemara makes clear, miracles don’t always, or even usually, come for free.

So where are we holding now that we’re definitely not in the relying on Heaven for everything category? I’d love to say it’s level 4 – I’d love to say we’re now back to working hard, while still knowing that God truly is providing everything, and there are days when I really believe this. But not always. Sometimes, I still complain. I still feel aggrieved when I hear of rich foreigners buying up all the apartments in Jerusalem, which means us poor locals can’t even get a foot in the door. I still worry sometimes about ‘what will be?’

Sometimes, I feel like an open miracle is the only way I’m ever going to own my own home again.

So maybe, it’s somewhere between 3 and 4. Who knows. The point is, just because someone is getting miracles, even a lot of them, doesn’t mean they’ve completely made it in the spirituality stakes.

It’s possible they could be at Level 1 – if they’re the generation’s equivalent of the Rashbi.

Or, they could be holding at Level 3 – unnatural boobs, no friends, but at least their kid has some milk to drink.

Or, they could even be at Level 1, where their success is miraculous because God has decided to give up on them, and not send them any material difficulties or hardships. From the outside, it’s often impossible to tell.

Personally, I’m not having enough financial success to be at Level 1, or enough horrible challenges to be at Level 2, or enough open miracles to be at Level 3, so maybe it is Level 4 after all. I guess we’ll see what happens next.