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Enlightened Body — Excerpts

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Lesson One

. . . The Jewish way does not easily lend itself to popularization for several reasons. First, it is mistrustful of that very experience which has become the selling point of most commercially successful ventures in the human potential movement. Judaism insists that one seek truth and not the experience of truth. The “high” that often accompanies spiritual practices (and becomes the stated or unstated goal of many) is, from a Jewish perspective, the point of failure. It is the point of lapsing back into self consciousness (as opposed to G-d consciousness). For this reason, the traditional Jewish world is largely unimpressed by dramatic catharsis and psychic phenomena…

Lesson Two

. . . Every act of giving is an expression of relationship. The success (or power) of the gesture is measured by the degree of union it engenders. The sages teach that in a situation where one responds to a stated demand or request, the opportunity for intimacy is greater than otherwise. In addition to the act of giving, which establishes relationship in both cases, a further barrier to closeness is removed when one pushes aside the ego which initially resisted the command…

Lesson Three

. . . The Midrash teaches that Abraham derived all the mitzvot by studying the natural world and plumbing the depths of his own soul. If “HaShem looked into the Torah and created the world,” then all the information is theoretically there, within the fabric of creation. That means that one who can read the language of living symbols, and can penetrate to the heart of all that he studies, could thereby discover all the principles of spiritual law and derive all the practices of Torah…
. . . Yet, though Abraham’s service was perfect, the highest spiritual levels Remained inaccessible to him simply because his devotions were self-initiated except for the commandment of circumcision and the binding of Yitzchak). He had no means of going beyond his self — of conquering the last frontier, the final and most subtle veil between the physical and the spiritual, between himself and his Creator. This last leap was only possible once the Torah was revealed. At Sinai G-d’s explicit will illuminated every dimension of life, specifying not only the thought, but also the speech and deed by which daily living can become simultaneously an act of Divine service…

Lesson 4

. . . The anatomy of the soul mirrors the anatomy of the body. According to our masters of Kabbalah, the body contains 248 limbs and 365 vessels which makes a total of 613 organs. Through the mitzvot, the Cosmic Mind reveals a most potent system of holistic healing. Every fiber of both the body and the soul gets touched and exercised in exactly the right way to bring about its maximal growth and expression. Through the system of mitzvot, which directs each moment of a person’s life, he is brought into alignment with the underlying spiritual pattern of the universe…

Lesson 5

. . . At the moment of performing a mitzvah, every level of the person from highest to lowest, as well as the physical accessories, become completely submitted to G-d’s will, and are permanently altered by that experience. Before the giving of Torah, such total surrender was not possible, for the self had designed its own devotion. Even though “self” here refers to the highest, most sublime and spiritual identity of a person, nevertheless, it is still “self” and as such remains an entity intrinsically apart from its Creator. For this reason the giving of the Torah is called the marriage ceremony between the Jewish people and G-d. It enabled the soul to have a physical relationship with its Creator that was formally sanctified and thereby transformed into holiness…

Lesson 6

. . . In the physical world, light enables the perception of a thing that was already present, but hidden in darkness. For example, the objects in a room are there, but you can’t see them until you turn on the light. Similarly, in the spiritual world, “light” refers to the process of revealing G-dliness and illuminating HaShem’s Presence in an event or thing. True it is that “the whole world is filled with His Glory”, that He permeates all creation, and that nothing exists except for His constant nurturing, but His Presence is hidden to the senses. When mystical writings speak of drawing down light, they refer to the act of revealing G-d’s omnipresence, of making His participation in the world conscious and perceptible…

Lesson 7

. . . The animal soul has an animal world view. It is concerned with creature comforts and physical security. It wants to spend its “energy” (i.e. the calories it has extracted from food throughout the day) on immediate gratifications and sensual pleasures. It is a bit of a miser and resists having to “shell out” for the Divine soul, who always wants to engage in activities with longer term, intangible returns (like mitzvot).
. . . Meditation calms but does not actually transmute the animal level of self. This is accomplished only by action, by forcing the animal soul to actively serve the Divine. The 613 mitzvot represent the science of right action as it applies to a human being. In this way the body becomes programmed to act in accordance with spiritual law as defined by Torah and mitzvot

Lesson 8

. . . A mitzvah is a moment in time that has maximum potential for spiritual work. A human being, performing a mitzvah, becomes a conduit between the heavens and the earth. His soul touches the highest heights by consciously willing to serve G-d through performing this deed, while his body becomes nothing but a limb and extension of Divine will…

Lesson 9

. . . Until halacha touches a particular thing, it exists as an independent, self-contained entity, apart from the cosmic irrigation system (as defined by Torah) that draws Divine beneficence into the physical world. Only once it enters the visual field of Jewish law, and its role in the cosmic scheme is defined by halachic discussion . . . only then is it patched back into the fabric of cosmic unity that was shredded by the sin of Adam…

Lesson 10

. . . As a person acquires more knowledge about Judaism and begins to experiment with its various practices, he will automatically come to a deeper appreciation of its profundity. The mitzvot and their explanations will speak for themselves. The wisdom and power of the Tradition is so internally elegant that it will win your heart in gentle and satisfying ways. Just keep learning. Just stay willing to hear what it has to say. Don’t worry about whether you agree or not with its “dogma,” or whether its practice interests you at all. The most important thing is to keep up a regular program of Torah study…

Enlightened Body -- Final Questions

1. What are the positive benefits and negative effects of the “high” that often accompanies spiritual practice?

2. What are the four levels of interpreting the Bible? Why is the date of the Torah’s first translation into a language other than Hebrew observed as a fast day?

3. Why is the service of one who is commanded greater than one who serves voluntarily?

4. What was the greatness of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs? In what way was their service greater than ours? In what way was it less?

5. Explain the quote from the Zohar, “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world.”

6. What happened at Sinai? Why is that event considered the marriage ceremony between HaShem and the Jewish people?

7. What is the difference between the spiritual effects of action versus intention? In what ways is each more potent than the other?

8. Does a mitzvah performed by rote serve any purpose? What about when motivated by self interest?

9. What are the various levels of elevating sparks through mitzvah observance?

10. What is the definition of halacha? What purpose does it serve?