Wednesday, March 08, 2017

There is a Field, I’ll Meet You There

A poem from one of the greatest religious poets of all time, the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, Rumi:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn't make any sense."

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

חייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

A person is obligated on Purim to become drunk and intoxicated until one does not know the difference between cursed is Mordechai and blessed is Mordechai.

On Purim, we need to go out beyond concepts of wrongdoing and rightdoing, beyond ideas, beyond language.

For on Purim, we need to arrive at a place of passionate and exclusive love for G-d, so much so that we cannot distinguish between G-d and anything else.

With this intense focus, we bear witness that there are no other options at all.

“Even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense”

Rumi is describing a mystical union, the ultimate envelopment within G-d (unio mystica), where there is no Other, no “each other”, no method of explanation, no distinction, but rather all that exists, is a complete melting into the All.

This quietistic mystical aspect of losing oneself in the Divine, has been shunned and concealed by most organized religions. There is a deep fear of the potential danger that can occur to a person who no longer has any sense of rules, or customs or even Self but instead has become completely united with G-d.

On Purim, this is exactly what we are called upon and obligated to do, to venture beyond all possibilities of descriptions, definitions, and distinctions, עד דלא ידע, and instead be enveloped within G-d Himself.

And there,

“There is a field, I’ll meet you there”

A שדה, a field.

The connotation of a “field” in Torah, is always a place of danger, wilderness, even chaos.
Esav is described as a “man of the field” (איש שדה) as opposed to his brother Yaakov,
(ישב אהלים ) who is recognized as a person who takes security and sanctuary in the protection of tents. Esav was from the world of wildness and chaos, while Yaakov dwelled within well-defined laws, borders, and boundaries. Esav yearned for the wildness of ecstatic revelation for he did not want to be limited by tents, laws and boundaries. He desired that powerful connection with G-d that requires no particulars. This was the reason why his father Yitzchak loved him more than Yaakov. Yitzchak was the attribute of gevurah, of severity, and he believed that through his love of Esav, he would be able to temper that wild ecstatic no holds barred relationship with G-d.

Yitzchak did not understand, however, that in this mundane world people can get lost in a self-gratifying perception, so much so that this ecstatic state becomes dangerous, impermanent and fleeting. In this world, we cannot maintain the level of complete loss of boundaries.

As it says in Deuteronomy 22: “כי בשדה מצאה...הנערה ", (in the field a man finds a woman who is engaged and rapes her), in this world our souls are only engaged to G-d, we have not consummated our love. Therefore, if we are in the “field” we are at risk of being raped by the forces of impurity that usurp the desire to connect. Therefore, Yaakov was correct in his wish to live in this world in the well-defined boundaries of “tents”, the clear-set limitations of halacha.

On Purim, this is not so. On the holiday of Purim, we do consummate with G-d; we are no longer merely engaged. In our intoxicated state, we become completely enveloped in G-d and therefore we can enter into the “field”.

As it is written in Song of Songs:

לכה דודי נצא השדה
Come, my love, let us go out into the field; and spend the night among the wildflowers.
Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine has budded, whether the vine-blossom has opened; there will I give you my love. (7:1)

The Targum explains that this field is referring to the exile of Esav (Edom), the exile of the red wine. For in this exile, there are times where we must go out into the fields of wildflowers and give G-d our greatest love. For the ultimate purpose of reality is to sanctify that field.

This is the deep explanation of the Kabbalistic custom one performs before greeting the Shabbos. In previous generations, individuals would physically go into the fields, but instead, in our day, Kabbalah says to declare each week, “Come to the fields to greet the bride.” It is the purpose of creation to come to the field of ultimate consummation and union with the Divine. It is our task to sanctify the holy unbridled chaos of the field and on Shabbos, which is a taste of the world to come, we can do so on a certain level.
Much more than this, however, can be accomplished on Purim. Then we are altogether other-worldly and euphoric, for on Purim, in our drunken state we no longer recognize any distinctions between ourselves and the Divine.

For the secret of wine, the secret of the vineyard in the verse from Song of Songs, is to come and melt into this holy chaos, this holy consummation with G-d.

When we speak of wine, we do not just mean the physical wine of grapes. The secrets of Torah, Kabbalah and Chassidus are also known as wine.

The Kabbalists themselves are referred to in the Zohar as the “cutters of the field”, the ones who turn the fields into gardens, the ones who venture into the fields in order to transform them.

For if we are able to turn these fields into gardens, when Mashiach comes, G-d will say “באתי לגני אחותי כלה”, “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride. Let us drink the wine of this garden, for here you have turned the field into a garden.”

We will have transformed the world into a permanent place of consummation with HaShem

Purim is a taste right now of what that experience will be.

Purim is a time of no distinction between wrong and right, a time where the words “each other” do not make any sense, a time beyond Haman and Mordechai, where instead we go to the field and meet Him there.

Purim is a time where we can prepare for when the whole world will no longer be a field but a garden, where we will give G-d our love.

Let us prepare now for this consummation on Purim by getting drunk on the wine of Kabbalah and Chassidus, by becoming intoxicated on Eid Od Milvado, that all that exists is G-d. Let us dwell in that field, where the phrase “each other” does not make any sense, on the day of Purim, and then merit to come to the time where the whole year can be Purim, where we will unite completely with G-d. When we arrive at that time, G-d will then say to us, as Yitzchak said to Yaakov, when Yaakov was wearing the clothes of Esav, after he successfully harnessed the chaos of Esav, “See, the smell of my son like the smell of a field that G-d has blessed” (Bereishis 27:27)

May we meet in the field, where we are able to give our love to G-d, always.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Enclosed By the Infinitely Frail; Permeated By the Immanently Elusive--Part 4

                                                                                                                          For YB

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

So nu?  Why, then, would the Beloved ever possibly close the Lover? 

A garden locked is my sister, my bride; a spring enclosed, a fountain sealed.
                 --Song of Songs 4:12

The Beloved, of course, does not want to shut and close off the Lover from life, from experience, from anything really. The Beloved does not actively close the Lover. Real love is not ever forceful.

All the Beloved does… is reveal herself. She wishes to show herself to her Lover. And that shuts him "very beautifully,suddenly."

All true lovers are,
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else
Save in the constant image of the creature
That is beloved.          --Twelfth Night II, 4

Why are all true lovers such? What is it about "the constant image of the creature that is beloved" that makes the lover "unstaid and skittish in all motions else"? What closes the Lover?

O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price
Even in a minute.        --ibid, I, 1

Or as Cleopatra said to her dying Antony...

 Noblest of men, woo’t die?
Hast thou no care of me? Shall I abide
In this dull world, which in thy absence is
No better than a sty? O see, my women,
The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt...
And there is nothing left remarkable
Beneath the visiting moon.              
                                        --Antony and Cleopatra IV,15

The Lover sees no value to anything else in the world compared to the Beloved. The Beloved does not need to close off the Lover from the world; the Lover cares not for anything else when seeing, in the mind's eye or the physical, the Face of the Beloved.

This is why Antony had similarly earlier declared to Cleopatra,

Egypt, thou knew’st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’ strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after. O’er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
Command me.               --ibid, III,11

This "full supremacy" comes not from control. Love is not ever controlling. Rather from the sheer lack of value of all things else, "there is nothing left remarkable," compared to the Beloved.

Every time we say goodbye, I die a little...
                                     --Cole Porter

The Face of the Beloved is the "crown o' th' earth." It is the glory of creation. 

As Isaac says to Tracy,

You know what you are? You're God's answer to Job, y'know? You would have ended all argument between them. I mean, He would have pointed to you and said, y'know, "I do a lot of terrible things, but I can still make one of these." You know? And then Job would have said, "Eh. Yeah, well, you win."
                                                 --Woody Allen, Manhattan

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

Though snow everywhere threatens to cool off the ardor, and it too is exquisite, silky, and enticing, the Lover would never leave a cake for a crumb. 

And so does the lover of God feel about Him...

What is the proper [degree] of love? That a person should love God with a very great and exceeding love until his soul is bound up in the love of God. Thus, he will always be obsessed with this love as if he is lovesick.
[A lovesick person's] thoughts are never diverted from the love of that woman. He is always obsessed with her; when he sits down, when he gets up, when he eats and drinks. With an even greater [love], the love for God should be [implanted] in the hearts of those who love Him and are obsessed with Him at all times as we are commanded [Deuteronomy 6:5: "Love God...] with all your heart and with all soul."
This concept was implied by Solomon [Song of Songs 2:5] when he stated, as a metaphor: "I am lovesick." [Indeed,] the totality of the Song of Songs is a parable describing [this love].
                                                      --Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, 10

A garden locked is my sister, my bride; a spring enclosed, a fountain sealed.
                 --Song of Songs 4:12

Just as the garden is locked, so does the "woman of Israel" lock her opening for her Husband ...
                 --Targum, in versu

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (Maamar of Parshas Tazria/Metzora 5640) explains that the metaphor of a garden is being used because the purpose of a garden is for pleasure. It is the incomparable pleasure that the lover of God has in His Face that seals her from all else "very beautifully,suddenly." She only gets her pleasure from Godliness...

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.

                                 --Christopher Marlowe

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Enclosed By the Infinitely Frail; Permeated By the Immanently Elusive--Part 3

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

But why, why would the Beloved want the Lover to close? Is love not tender, giving and sweet?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
                                                Corinthians 13:4-7

Love facilitates the successful and total expression of the Lover's being; naught but love's muse can truly inspire the full revelation of the Lover's life and talents. One truly in love is quickened, joyously accelerated in all activities, invigorated, powerful, real. He is able to do more than his contemplation ever perceived possible; wellsprings of his deepest greatness are through love allowed to gush excellently forth. Love is the soul's expansive force which impels and pushes it to touch and shape positively all of experienced reality.

Jacob said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we shall water the sheep.”
      While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel...
                                                                         Genesis 29: 7-11

Even God only creates with love. Creation is not only an act motivated by divine love, it was actually carried out through the medium of His love. Love is the power and light that creates.

That is why Jewish mysticism reads the verse in Psalms 89:2

כִּי אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה

not just with its usual translation

I will declare that your love stands firm forever.

but also 

I will declare that the world was created with love.

As the Zohar calls love חסד יומא דאזיל עם כולא יומין , a day that accompanies all days. It was the Light that was created on the first day, and that with which all came into being all the other days. The first revelation of love, “accompanies” and radiates its light to all the other days and details of Creation, like the love in the soul arouses all the other expressions of emotive force which succeed it.

The attribute of Chesed (Love) and the spreading forth of the life-force into all the worlds and created things without end or limits so that they shall be created ex nihilo and exist...comes from the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, in His Glory and Essence...[and] causes life-force and existence ex nihilo to issue forth for an unlimited number of worlds and creatures, for “It is the nature of the beneficient to do good:”
Now, this manifestation of love is the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, alone, for no other created thing can create a being out of naught and give it life. 
                                                   --Tanya, Shaar HaYicud 4

In the darkest hours, only one who knows love is strong enough to endure all.

As we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."
In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner's existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered.
"Stop!" We had arrived at our work site. Everybody rushed into the dark hut in the hope of getting a fairly decent tool. Each prisoner got a spade or a pickaxe.
"Can't you hurry up, you pigs?" Soon we had resumed the previous day's positions in the ditch. The frozen ground cracked under the point of the pickaxes, and sparks flew. The men were silent, their brains numb.
My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing — which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. "Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death".

--Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, Experiences in a Concentration Camp  

Why, then, would the Beloved ever possibly close the Lover?

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,

                       TO BE CONTINUED