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Maimonides, a great 12th century Kabbalist, philosopher, physician, and astronomer, dedicated quite a few medical articles to meals and the need for nourishment. In particular, he wrote, “The food must be chewed thoroughly to receive pleasure,” otherwise the food will be harmful, “and thank the Creator for this.”
In the spiritual world, food is the Upper Light that we need to receive in order to bestow, meaning for pleasure and not because we want to satisfy hunger, and we have no other choice.
It is said (even among those who were not Kabbalists) that in order to chew food, it is necessary to chew 72 (Ayin-Bet) times with the teeth. From the spiritual point of view, the teeth chew Ohr Hochma, dividing the desire into a multitude of fragments, so that it will be possible to mix them with Ohr Hassadim. And in the physical world this is expressed in the mixing of food with saliva when one chews.
It is necessary to eat quietly among friends or family (it is desirable not to eat alone), so that at every moment we feel thanks.
That is how it was with my teacher Rabash; the meal went on in total silence; nobody said a word. We were even very careful with our movements so as not to disturb others remaining within their inner thoughts.
In general, with our current education, we are used to talking during a meal. People gather in a coffee house or in a restaurant for conversation between them, to connect and so forth. And here everything is completely different; everything is done in silence, working within yourself but in relation to others. So Rambam writes that it is “necessary to eat in quiet among friends or family, and to feel thanks at every moment.”
I hope that eventually we will get to have meals like this.
From the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/17/14, Questions and Answers with Dr. Laitman
Writings of Baal HaSulam, Shamati #173: “He said about saying L’Chaim (to life) when drinking wine, that it is as our sages said, “Wine and life according to the sages and their disciples.” This is perplexing: why specifically according to our sages? Why not according to the uneducated?
The thing is that saying “L’Chaim” implies higher life. When we drink wine, we should remember that wine has its spiritual source, which implies “the wine of Torah,” the Light that comes as a reward, and so we say, “L’Chaim!,” a reminder that we should extend the Light of Torah, called “life.”
The corporeal life, however, is called by our sages, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’” Hence, it is specifically our sages who can say, “wine and life.” This means that only they are qualified to extend spiritual life. Uneducated people, however, have no desire for it or the tools to extend it.
Wine symbolizes Ohr Hochma (Light of Wisdom), which I want to receive in order to bestow (with Ohr Hassadim). If I can keep the Ohr Hochma with Ohr Hassadim (Light of Mercy) and not violate the accommodation between them to feel life, then this energy enters into us in a positive way.
But if I don’t have enough Ohr Hassadim, then Shevirat HaKelim (the shattering of the vessels) happens and I fall again into the egoistic desire. So I seemingly analyze whether I have enough Ohr Hassadim for receiving the Ohr Hochma so that one Light can be clothed in the other. And then Ohr Hochma is revealed, and the next level is revealed in me.
An analysis like this is called L’Chaim, to bestowal with faith above reason. Receiving for the sake of bestowal is a process of eating that is expressed in the word, “L’Chaim,” meaning that I am doing this for the sake of spiritual life.
I transmit the Light that I receive from above through me by conveying it to others, otherwise it doesn’t enter me. This is the law of the upper world. When I receive in order to bestow, by conveying it through me to others, and they in turn do the same thing by conveying it through me, is called, “L’Chaim.”
So when we drink wine, we say, “L’Chaim!” which means that we remember that it is necessary to be concerned about the right reception of the Light of life in order to attain the higher level.
From the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/17/14, Questions and Answers with Dr. Laitman
Answer: In the beginning a person has nothing. We begin to bring sacrifices during the exodus from Egypt when the Creator seems to demand the bringing of sacrifices, building the tabernacle for the “tablets of the covenant” and so on.
If a person is already found at a particular degree of attainment, it is as if they tell him: “This desire of yours is egoistic to this degree, and another desire – to another degree. It is necessary to cut it to this degree here, and from there – to another degree.” This means that they show him how, to what extent, and with what accommodation to the other desires he can use each one of his desires with an intention for the sake of bestowal.
When a person clearly feels that he is passing from one world to another, he begins to feel a kind of detachment from this world. This is already apparent to some degree in people who come to study the wisdom of Kabbalah.
After that a clear desire for the next state is revealed, the discovery of the Creator. But the person doesn’t yet understand what the Creator is, what kind of characteristic this is—bestowal and love, and what he must sacrifice to discover the Creator, which he wants very much after all.
Of course, a person needs a group in order to develop correctly, to look at the others and maintain his envy and craving within him, his aspiration to move forward. He needs to feel that he is not alone.
He makes a Tzimtzum (restriction) on himself, and strives forward on every level. And problems are constantly awakened within him, which apparently pull him backward: withdrawal, indifference, and excuses. After this he makes a leap forward; he goes through difficult experiences in the form of the plagues of Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the wilderness, and so on.
But the main thing is that only then does he receive instruction and guidance about what to do. After all, he doesn’t immediately receive instruction about how to bring sacrifices.
First of all, we understand the importance of detachment from this world in which only our physical body exists. And we, with our desires, intentions, and hopes move towards attainment of the upper world, the characteristic of bestowal and connection between everyone.
As serious investigators we want to discover how the still, vegetative, and animate levels of nature are connected, where the forces that exist between them are.
We gradually discover all of this in two stages. In the first stage we don’t want anything for ourselves, we try to be completely detached from the receptive characteristic, and in this way we acquire a characteristic called “Hassadim” (mercy).
In the second stage we fully rise to the level of the Hassadim, to the level of Bina, after we make a correction on our desires, when they are found in total separation from reception and any fulfillment. After this we begin to transform those desires into characteristics of bestowal and love. This is where the place for sacrifice is revealed. In other words, we must clarify how to sanctify each one of our desires, everything that is within us: the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking.
From KabTV”s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 11/20/13
Answer: From Egypt only desires that want to connect leave, meaning only Israel. All the rest of the parts of the desire to receive that don’t feel an attraction to connection die in Egypt, they are the army of Pharaoh.
We work on the connection between us in a group; but we discover that we are not ready to reach it, so “…and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage….” (Exodus 2:23). This means that we cry out to the Creator and ask Him to connect us.
Question: So what is our work? Must we work on prayer?
Answer: The prayer cannot be artificial, for prayer is the work of the heart. At the end of all my efforts, after I have become convinced that nothing depends on me, I break out into prayer.
It is impossible to pray by the clock, this is not called prayer. Prayer must be adjusted to the feeling in the heart. So at this moment you can be in a state of “Yom Kippur” and in a few more hours be in a state of “Passover.” This is not talking about time but about states.
So why is there great significance to the Passover holiday that is marked on the calendar? It is because the Upper Lights that come down to us from the “end of correction,” through all the steps of the ladder, reach our world and even create a small illumination in it. And we want to connect this illumination with all the Upper Lights of bestowal and love of others, which we yearn to reach, to connect them together to world of Infinity. So also in our world, in the physical branches, we celebrate this state and want to be like it even on the physical level. This is particularly relevant to the Passover holiday.
All the rest of the holidays are very high: Rosh HaShanah (embracing the right) and Sukkot (embracing the left) are great Surrounding Lights. But everything begins with Passover. Therefore it is called the “head” of all the months. The exodus from Egypt is the birth of spirituality, so this spiritual source is the closest to us, found right above our heads. All the rest of the holidays are much higher.
We want to approach this source, meaning to begin to actively connect as much as possible. The symbol of the exodus from Egypt is the first connection between us, and after that we add more and more “meat,” more desires, to that point of connection.
But the first contact is the exodus from Egypt, which is why it is called the “birth” of man—that which we have succeeded in accumulating from the shattered parts through leaping above our ego and the connection between us. This is called a true “miracle.” We receive this opportunity thanks to the influence of the Light; otherwise, it is impossible.
We must seriously prepare for this state because we spend a lot of time together at meals and in lessons with all the groups in the world and try to actively reach a connection. We hope we will succeed in implementing this; we still have time. There is no time in spirituality and we can carry this out very quickly, at least temporarily reaching this state and descending again. And there is also a second “Passover” in another week. Someone who doesn’t succeed in realizing this in the first Passover will get a second opportunity.
Question: What is connecting actively?
Answer: All of our hearts must contact each other in a single point, reaching a point of contact. It is not enough just to want it; rather, we must actively carry this out. The prayer is awakened in a person only at the necessary time that comes as a result of the action in the physical world. If I do something and absolutely suffer from failure, from this point the prayer breaks forth.
From the 3rd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/13/14, The Zohar
In the News (from University of Colorado Boulder): “Living in bigger, denser settlements allowed the inhabitants of ancient cities to be more productive, just as is true for modern urbanites, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Santa Fe Institute.
“As modern cities grow, they obey certain rules. As the population increases, for example, the settled area becomes denser instead of sprawling outward. This allows people to live closer together, use infrastructure more intensively, interact more frequently, and as a result, produce more per person.
In a paper published last year, the research team—led by Scott Ortman, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Anthropology—found that this set of rules, known as urban scaling, appears to apply to ancient cities as well as modern ones. In that study, the researchers analyzed how artifacts were scattered and how houses were distributed to show that ancient cities also became denser as the population grew.
“Now, the researchers have expanded this work to show that inhabitants of ancient settlements also became more productive as the size and density of their settlements grew, just as in modern cities.”
My Comment: Humanity in its development goes through just two stages:
So far, we have not changed our nature from 1 to 2, so that no matter what we build, our lives are focused on the satisfaction of our animal (physical) needs, and there is no big difference in the forms of life at different times.
Question: How can we teach the wisdom of connection when the idea of connecting to others seems so repulsive and undesirable in some sectors of society?
Answer: There are indeed certain parts of society who regard the connection between people in a very negative light and who deliberately spoil such relationships in order to delineate the boundaries of each: this is mine, this is yours, and don’t invade my territory.
This happens everywhere today. Everyone tries to be as far apart from others as possible, not to touch anyone and not to be touched by others. People behave in a very politically correct manner: I don’t touch you and you don’t touch me. At the same time, there are many problems in society, illnesses, tension, and stress. All this is felt in the family and in our relationships with our children.
A person wasn’t created by nature to be under constant stress. The fact that continuous stress has become a permanent condition is even worse. This problem is well known and felt among people who live in expensive areas.
It is especially a problem of the middle class. Ordinary people are more open and live differently. This is the reason that they have fewer health problems and don’t need a personal psychologist like people from the upper and middle class.
The simpler the people the easier it is for them to connect and therefore they are healthier. But people who are more “well-off” have greater and more serious health problems although they have the means to look after themselves.
Under these conditions the protective force of the body obliges a person to shut himself off from everyone by a mask of good manners and to guard his boundaries. A habit becomes a second nature and it is very difficult to get rid of it. What is more, society supports this and it becomes a norm.
This is a very problematic attitude that leads to many problems on different levels: from the lowest level, which means our health, to our relationships with children and nature, which lead to all the defects of modern society and even to genetic changes.
A person isn’t made to feel lonely and to treat others as strangers. We are naturally made to connect more strongly with our family as we grow and develop, but we don’t do so.
A baby is connected to his mother on the physical level, and as he grows this connection becomes more emotional but external. As we mature from being a baby, a child, a youth, and an adult, we draw further away from our mother.
Apparently we don’t need her care anymore and don’t ask her to take us in her arms, but we have to complement this connection on the emotional level. We don’t do that and this is the reason for practically all our problems. All the problems and illnesses are actually caused by lack of connection.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 5/20/14, Writings of Rabash
Answer: There is eternal life but not in our corporeal body. Our biological body is a machine that cannot exist more than many decades.
Science can extend the life of the body up to several decades more than we lived in the past, but it is hard to understand why people should want to live so long if it isn’t in order to develop the soul inside us. We see that people today live twice as long, and even three times longer than then they did 200 or 300 years a ago.
Eternal life is life in the altruistic desire, not in the egoistic desire. It is because the ego kills itself, while we can live forever in the desire to bestow because it doesn’t disappear and is continuously renewed. The desire to bestow connects to other people and lives in them.
When a person develops the soul inside him, which means the love for others, he exits his narrow world that is filled with pain and problems and enters a wide eternal world.
From Israeli Radio Program 103 FM, 2/1/15
Chapter 7: Mingle Bells
To Be Jewish, or Not to Be Jewish—That Is the Question
Spain, the Tragic Love Story
Josephus Flavius wrote of the warm welcome with which the expatriates from Judea were received in Syria and Antioch after their expulsion by the Romans. Jews were “very much intermingled,” he wrote, and lived “with the most undisturbed tranquility.”[i] He also wrote about how the Roman Emperor, Titus Flavius, “expelled them out of all Syria.”[ii] In Antiquities of the Jews, he quoted Greek geographer Strabo as saying, “This people has already made its way into every city, and it is not easy to find any place in the habitable world which has not received this nation and in which it has not made its power felt.”[iii]
The vacillating manner in which Jews are first warmly welcomed, then rejected, then welcomed again, then repelled once more, if not altogether destroyed, has repeated itself numerous times since the ruin of the First Temple.[iv] As just pointed out above, the exiled Jews of the First Temple who chose to spread out of Babylon, once given freedom, managed to assimilate to the point of disappearance. However, many, if not most of the Jews who were exiled after the ruin of the Second Temple are still recognized as such, at least by heritage if not by some level of practice.
There have been many attempts to convert Jews into Islam or Christianity, and they themselves often wished to, and actively attempted to convert. And yet, for the most part, those attempts either failed or were only marginally successful.
Professor and researcher of Jewish History at the University of Wisconsin, Norman Roth, details both the en-masse attempts of Jews to convert, and the tragic consequences that resulted from those attempts. In Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: cooperation and conflict, he writes, “In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, thousands of Jews converted, chiefly of their own free will and not under any duress, to Christianity. The role of these conversos [Jews who converted to Christianity] in society led to fierce hostility against them in the fifteenth century, finally resulting in actual warfare. Racial anti-Semitism emerged, for the first time in history of a large scale, and the limpieza de sangre [purity of blood] statutes were enacted [distinguishing ‘pure’ Old Christians from those with Muslim or Jewish ancestors]. Finally, the Inquisition was revived amidst false charges of the ‘insincerity’ of the conversos, and many were burned. None of this, however, had anything to do with the Jews, who for the most part continued their lives, and their normal relations with Christians, as before.”[v]
Indeed, not only were the Jews who maintained their faith not harmed, but they even nurtured a unique bond with their Spaniard hosts. According to Roth, “So unusual, one may say unique, was the nature of that relationship [between Jews and Christians] that a special term is used in Spanish for it, a term which has no precise translation in other languages, convivencia [roughly meaning, “living together in affinity”]. In truth, the real extent of convivencia in medieval Christian Spain has not yet been fully revealed.”[vi]
Roth’s study stresses that as long as Jews remained loyal to their heritage and did not try to assimilate in foreign cultures, they were welcome to stay, or were at least left in peace. And specifically in Spain, at times the warmth and intensity of the relationship truly resembled a love story, complete with all the trials and tribulations that great love stories exhibit. However, when Jews tried to mingle with other nations and become like them, those nations would reject them and force them back into Judaism, or force them to convert, but in a derogatory and coercive manner.
Jane S. Gerber, an expert on Sephardic history at the City University of New York, eloquently details the extent to which Spain’s Jews and conversos immersed themselves in Spain’s secular and cultural life (emphases are the editor’s). “Deeply rooted in the Iberian peninsula since the dawn of their dispersion,” writes Gerber, “these Jews had fervently nurtured a love for Spain and felt a deep loyalty to her language, regions, and traditions (…) In fact, Spain had been considered a second Jerusalem.
“When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s decree of expulsion was promulgated on March 31,  ordering the 300,000 Jews of Spain to leave within four months, the Sephardim reacted with shock and disbelief. Surely, they felt, the prominence of their people in all walks of life, the sheer longevity of their communities (…) and the presence of so many Jews and Christians of Jewish ancestry (conversos) in the inner circles of the court, municipalities, and even the Catholic church could provide protection and avert the decree.
“…Spanish Jews were especially proud of their long line of poets, whose … songs continued to be recited. Their philosophers had been influential even among the scholars of the West, their innovative grammarians had earned a lasting place as pioneers of the Hebrew language, and their mathematicians, scientists, and innumerable physicians had won acclaim. The resourcefulness and public service of Sephardic diplomats also filled the annals of many Muslim kingdoms. In fact, they had not just resided in Spain; they had co-existed side by side with Muslims and Christians, taking the notion of living together (la convivencia) with utmost seriousness.
“The experience of Sephardim raises the issue of acculturation and assimilation as no other Jewish community has. For many centuries, Jewish civilization borrowed freely from the surrounding Muslim culture. …When persecutions overwhelmed the Sephardim in 1391 and they were offered the choice of conversion or death, the numbers of converts outnumbered the considerable number of martyrs. The very novelty of this mass conversion, unique to Jewish experience, has induced scholars to seek causality in the high degree of acculturation attained by the Sephardim.”[vii]
And yet, it was not the acculturation that caused the Spaniards to turn against the Jews. It was rather the Jews’ abandonment of social cohesion and mutual guarantee, traits that had (for the most part) won them the unconscious esteem of their host nations. “Medieval commentators especially,” continues Gerber, “were fond of placing the blame for the breakdown of communal discipline upon Jewish acculturation, and some of the greatest modern Jewish historians, such as Itzhak Baer, have cited in addition the corrosive impact of Averroist philosophy and the cynicism of Spain’s assimilated Jewish courtier class. But in the wave of mass conversions and the sharp communal conflicts, it was not just the philosophers who succumbed in the face of persecution.”[viii] Rather, the entire community suffered.
Thus, conscious or not, the Jews were afflicted, and were eventually expelled from Spain because they had become too disunited, forgetting about the powers and benefit that unity can bring them, and which our sages have taught our forefathers for generations. The Book of Zohar wrote about the panacea of unity: “Because they are of one heart and one mind … they will not fail in doing that which they purport to do, and there is no one who can stop them.”[ix]
But The Book of Zohar, which resurfaced in Spain just a few centuries prior to the expulsion, could not save the Jews. They were simply too spiritually and culturally assimilated to unite, and carry out their intended role of being a light to the nations. And since they would not adjust their course of their own accord, Nature’s Law of Bestowal, the Creator, did it through their surroundings, the Christian Spaniards, to whom the Jews looked up.
English classicist, author, and professor at Cambridge University, Michael Grant, observed the Jews’ inability to mingle: “The Jews proved not only unassimilated, but inassimilable. …The demonstration that this was so proved one of the most significant turning points in Greek history, owing to the gigantic influence exerted throughout subsequent ages by their religion, which not only survived intact, but subsequently gave birth to Christianity.”[x]
Similarly, 18th century bishop, Thomas Newton, wrote about the Jews: “The preservation of the Jews is really one of the most signal and illustrious acts of divine Providence… and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth hath been preserved. Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their preservation… We see that the great empires, which in their turn subdued and oppressed the people of God, are all come to ruin… And if such hath been the fatal end of the enemies and oppressors of the Jews, let it serve as a warning to all those, who at any time or upon any occasion are for raising a clamor and persecution against them.”[xi]
Because, as mentioned in Chapter 4, Jews represent in our world the part of Adam’s soul that achieved unity of hearts and thus connection with the Creator, and because their spiritual role is to spread that unity and resulting connection to the rest of the nations, the nations reject the Jews’ attempts to become like them. It is not a conscious act of choice, but a compulsive drive that comes upon them from the very thought of Creation. This only rarely surfaces to the awareness of the perpetrators of affliction, but they unfailingly execute it.
One remarkable incident of the thought of Creation rising to the perpetrator’s awareness took place on a fateful and tragic night in 1492. In The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook: 315-1791, scholar of Jewish history, Rabbi Jacob Rader Marcus details the events he discovered had taken place. “The agreement permitting them [Jews] to remain in the country [Spain] on the payment of a large sum of money was almost completed when it was frustrated by the interference of a prior who was called the Prior of Santa Cruz. [Legend relates that Torquemada, Prior of the convent of Santa Cruz, thundered, with crucifix aloft, to the King and Queen: ‘Judas Iscariot sold his master for thirty pieces of silver. Your Highness would sell him anew for thirty thousand. Here he is, take him, and barter him away.’]”[xii] What happened next illustrates that whatever happens, the Jews are obliged to be what they are, and do what they must. “Then the Queen gave an answer to the representatives of the Jews, similar to the saying of King Solomon [Proverbs 21:1]: ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will.’ She said furthermore: ‘Do you believe that this comes upon you from us? The Lord hath put this thing into the heart of the king.’”[xiii]
Indeed, the Jews were expelled not because they had stopped being of economic value to the Spaniards. Jews had been recognized as an economic asset for centuries. In fact, when they were forced out of Spain, many of them fled to Turkey, who welcomed them precisely because of their contribution to the economy of their hosting country. Accordingly, the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid II, was so delighted at the Jews’ expulsion from Spain and their arrival in Turkey that it is reported that he “sarcastically thanked Ferdinand for sending him some of his best subjects, thus impoverishing his own lands while enriching his (Bayezid’s).”[xiv] Another source reports that “when King Ferdinand who expelled the Jews from Spain was mentioned in [Bayezid’s] presence, he said: ‘How can you consider King Ferdinand a wise ruler when he impoverished his own land and enriched ours?’”[xv]
Time and again, we find that it is not our astuteness that grants us the nations’ favor. Rather, it is our unity, for our unity projects on them the light, or rather the delight that they were intended to receive through us in the thought of Creation. In the words of the writer and thinker, Rabbi Hillel Tzaitlin, “If Israel is the one true redeemer of the entire world, it must be fit for that redemption. Israel must first redeem its own soul … But how will it redeem its soul? …Will the nation, which is in ruins both in matter and in spirit, become a nation made entirely of redeemers? …For that purpose, I wish to establish with this book the ‘unity of Israel’ … If founded, the unification of individuals will be for the purpose of internal ascension and an invocation for corrections for all the ills of the nation and the world.”[xvi]
Indeed, even if we claim every Nobel Prize from here till Doomsday, for all the benefit that scientific achievements bring to humanity, we will not gain credit, but aversion. We may produce the finest physicians, the most illustrious economists, the most brilliant scientists, and the most innovative entrepreneurs, but until we produce the light, the power we elicit through unity, the nations will never accept us, and we will never justify our existence on this planet.
[i] William Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus, 565.
[iii] Josephus Flavius, Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, 115.
[iv] “Diaspora,” The Jewish Encyclopedia, url: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5169-diaspora.
[v] Norman Roth, Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: cooperation and conflict (The Netherlands, E.J. Brill, 1994), 2.
[vii] Jane S. Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York, Free Press; November 2, 1992), Kindle edition.
[ix] Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), The Book of Zohar (with the Sulam [Ladder] Commentary by Baal HaSulam, Noah, vol. 3, item 385 (Jerusalem), 132.
[x] Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra: the Hellenistic World (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1982), 75.
[xi] Quoted in The Treasury of Religious and Spiritual Quotations (US, Readers Digest, January 1, 1994), 280.
[xii] Jacob Rader Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook: 315-1791, (US: Hebrew Union College Press, 1999), 60-61.
[xiv] Dr. Erwin W Lutzer with Steve Miller, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent: An Informed Response to Islam’s War with Christianity (Harvest House Publishers, Oregon, 2013), 65.
[xv] Israel Zinberg, History of Jewish Literature: The Jewish Center of Culture in the Ottoman Empire, Vol 5 (New York, Ktav Pub. House, 1974), 17 .
[xvi] Hillel Tzaitlin, The Book of a Few (Jerusalem, 1979), 5.