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;
                                                                     --e.e.cummings



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;
                                                                     --e.e.cummings



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


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Enclosed By the Infinitely Frail; Permeated By the Immanently Elusive--Part 2

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
                                                         --e.e.cummings

Prayer can only be rectified when it comes through the thought that in fact the soul is always praying.
Without any stop at all, she soars to and leans on her Beloved. It is at the time of outward prayer that the perpetual prayer of the soul reveals itself in the realm of action.
And prayer's refinement and pleasure, its glory and beauty is that it resembles a rose, opening its elegant petals to receive the dew, or to face the rays of the sun as they shine over her with its light. 
                               --Rabbi Avraham Yitchak Kook

The glory of God is man fully alive; the life of a man is the vision of God.                  --Irenaeus of Lyons

Prayer is zivug (coupling) with the  Shechinah (Divine presence). Just as there is motion at the beginning of coupling, so, too, one must move (sway) at the beginning of prayer. Thereafter one can stand still, without motion, attached to the  Shechinah with great deveikut (cleaving).
As a result of your swaying, you can attain great bestirment. For you think to yourself: “Why do I move myself? Presumably it is because the Shechinah surely stands before me.” This will effect in you a state of great hitlahavut (enthusiasm; rapture).
                                     --The Ba'al Shem Tov, Tzava'at Harivash 68

Friday, January 16, 2015

Enclosed By the Infinitely Frail; Permeated By the Immanently Elusive

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                                                                                                                                                                                                --e.e.cummings



How often do we yearn to feel Divinity...How frustrating for the seeker of Light to constantly be praying to a Being that seems so far, so aloof, so unreachable...It seems clear that if we could only hold the Ineffable tangibly, our lives would change; if we could only experience His embrace, never would we let it loose; we would open our whole selves and devote our hearts to Him. 

When I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go...
                                                  --Song of Songs 3:4
                                                             

But maybe we need to better learn how to search, where to search, how to touch, how to hold...


Tanya Chapter 48:

Contemplating on the greatness of the blessed En Sof (Infinite), the intelligent person will realize that as His name indicates, so is He— there is no end or limit or finitude at all to the light and vitality that diffuse from Him...Had the worlds descended from the light of the blessed En Sof without "contractions," but according to a gradual descent, from grade to grade by means of cause and effect— this world would not, in such case, have ever been created in its present form, in a finite and limited order...[And so, His light is radically contracted to the extent that] only an extremely minute portion of light and vitality illuminates and reaches the lower creatures in a revealed manner, as it were, pervading them and animating them so that they might receive existence ex nihilo, and be in a state of finitude and limitation. This constitutes an exceedingly contracted illumination, and it is considered as virtually nothing at all compared with the quality of the limitless and infinite illumination...[which] "encompasses" them from above and is called "sovev kol almin", the light that encompasses the worlds.

The meaning of this is not that it encircles and encompasses from above spatially, G-d forbid, for in spiritual matters the category of space is in no way applicable. But the meaning is that it "Encircles and encompasses from above" in comparison with the so-called "revealed" influence, for influence which is in the category of "revelation" in the worlds, is referred to as "investiture", being "clothed" within the worlds, for the influence that they receive is clothed and comprehended by them; whereas the influence which does not come within the category of "revelation," but remains in occultation and concealment and is not apprehended by the worlds, is not described as being "invested" but as "encircling and encompassing." Therefore, since the worlds belong in the order of the finite and limited, it follows that only an extremely minute and contracted reflection of the flow of the light of the blessed En Sof clothes and reveals itself in them in a revealed form, and this, only to animate them in a finite and limited state. But the principal light without contraction to such an extent, is called makif ("encircler") and sovev ("encompasser"), since its influence is not revealed within them, inasmuch as they belong in the order of the finite and the limited.


In other words, His infinite light is present-it does not just encompass us spatially- but it is not revealed to us, for it is too great to be revealed within our perception. Whereas His contracted, permeating light is revealed within us, becomes us, bringing us and all of reality into existence.

Yet we see not any Godly light at all. We do not feel His Presence in us, permeating us, animating us, just as we do not feel his infinite light that is beyond our perception. How then could the finite, contracted light be termed "revealed"?


Imagine, a ten-year-old child walking into an auditorium where Albert Einstein is lecturing on the theory of relativity. He might sit there for hours, but is utterly "encompassed" by the lecture; they "circle" the vessels of his cognition; none of the words "enter" his reality and he is unable to perceive Einstein's greatness at all.

Later on, Einstein might grace this child with a private tutoring session. He will then explain to the 10-year-old basic mathematics. The 10-year-old will grasp everything Einstein will say-indeed, he will not feel any transcendence at all. Einstein's words and explanations will be so "revealed" to him, that in this case as well, none of Einstein's greatness will be felt. 

But for an opposite reason...Einstein has now contracted himself to "manifest" as a ten-year-old.


Do you understand why we have a hard time holding on to God, why we do not feel embraced by His infinity, and permeated by His vivifying, finite light? Can we now appreciate how easy it is to do so?





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                                                                                                                                                                                                --e.e.cummings

Bear in mind about the Creator that “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3) and His Shechinah (finite, indwelling light) is constantly at your side...And think that you are looking at the Shechinah which is at your side as you are looking at physical objects...Always be joyful. Think and believe with perfect faith that the Shechinah is at your side and watches over you. You look at the Creator, blessed be He, and the Creator, blessed be He, looks at you. 
                                                       --The Ba'al Shem Tov, Tzava'at Harivash 137

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


   Contemplation of the Divine crowns all of life, without distinguishing between lofty and lowly. As it embraces rational thought and purifies it, so does it exalt and enrich the imagination; it refines the will, just as it empowers abilities.
   The need to think about God, however, is a drastic descent and necessary to man only as a therapy. Atheism is an unfavorable preparation to the greatest level, when there will no longer be a need to think about Divinity, for life itself will be the Light of God.

                                         --Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook



And, similarly...

Love means never having to say you're sorry.
  
                                          --Erich Segal, Love Story


For one never apologizes to one's self.

And a healthy person need not talk and express his feelings to himself either...



Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov used to tell his followers that he learned what it means to love from two Russian peasants. Once he came to an inn, where two thoroughly drunk Russian peasants were sitting at a table, draining the last drops from a bottle of strong Ukrainian vodka.

One of them, in a slurred drunken drawl yelled to his friend, “Igor! Do you love me?” Igor, somewhat surprised by the question answered, “Of course Ivan, of course I love you!”

“No no”, insisted Ivan, “Do you really love me, really?!”

Igor, now feeling a bit cornered, assured him, “What do you think? I don’t love you? Of course I love you. You’re my best friend Ivan!”

“Oh yes, yes?” countered Ivan. “if you really loved me … then why don’t you know what hurts me and the pain I have in my heart?”








You came to me, to open my eyes.
To me your body was a view,
A window and a mirror.
You came as night comes to the owl
To show him, in the darkness, all things.

And I learned: There's a name
For each eyelash and fingernail,
And for every hair on the exposed flesh.
And the scent of childhood,
The scent of paste and pine,
Is the night aroma of the body.

If there were torments -
They've sailed towards you.
My white sail into your darkness.
Allow me to go, oh allow me to go
And kneel on the shore of forgiveness.    

                                                   --Leah Goldberg





            

Friday, July 18, 2014

I was asleep, but my heart awake: It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; For my head is filled with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.


I have put off my garment; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
                                           --Song of Songs 5:2,3




When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.
                                               --Pink Floyd




Sunday, June 08, 2014

Looking at God in the Eyes--Part 3

[Continued from here and here]

Lift up your eyes to the sky: Who created all these?
                                                             --Isaiah 40:26



Must I really be turning my head upwards to look at Him in the eyes? The world has such beauty and is teeming with ineffable grandeur...must I really escape from it to behold His Presence?



It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.

                                                      --Henry David Thoreau



[Contemplate in the mind as follows:] "The light of the blessed En Sof (Infinite), which pervades all the worlds...including also this place where I stand...was the only existence before the world was created, [so is It now] without any change, as is written, 'For I, the Lord, have not changed,'...Everything [is] in His presence, and is truly nothing at all other than Him."


Allow the soul to enlighten her eyes with the truth of the unity of the light of the En Sof, with a perceptive vision and not merely by cognition alone...this is the core of the whole [Divine] Service.
                                                         
                        --Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, Chapter 29




The sky is not a place; it is a way of perceiving reality. Lifting one's eyes up to Him means focusing on His Light pulsating through the details right in front of you, within you, around you. It means utilizing every wonderful experience of being as a window through which you see Him smiling at you. 


This is the secret of the redemption of our world. Making Heaven a place on Earth...




How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?...
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
                                                           --Bob Dylan


The wind of our nostrils, the Messiah of the LORD...

                                                            Lamentations 4:20