Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To seek Truth is to prefer Being above all else, even in a catastrophic form, simply because it exists.
                                           --Jean-Paul Sartre

I am continually with you; 
    You hold my right hand....
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

                                            --Psalm 73

The Tzemach Tzedek writes: The love expressed in "And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You..."(Psalms 73:25) means that one should desire nothing other than God, not even "Heaven" or "Earth," the highest spiritual planes of the Garden of Eden, for these were created with a mere ray and drop of His Light...

The love is to be directed to Him alone, to His very Being and Essence.

This was actually expressed by my master and teacher, the Alter Rebbe whenever he was in a state of ecstatic clinging to God, unio mystica, he would exclaim as follows:
I want nothing at all! I don't want Your Garden of Eden, I don't want Your World to Come... I want nothing but You alone.


  1. But how does Sarte's quote compare to the following quotes?!

    The former is about "Being" (oneself) the latter is about "wanting", not being.

  2. Sartre wrote Being with a capital B. That is not a verb, but a noun.

    I will write about this more later, but the phenomenological study of Being, most thoroughly explained in Heiddeger, corresponds almost exactly with the Chassidic teachings of G-d's essence being the Ultimate, Absolute Being. Many schools teach that Truth=Being=God.

    Ever read The Power of Now?

    But to use your phraseology, the Alter Rebbe did, indeed, yearn to "be" himself- as a verb- and that is to essentially to tap into the True Being of reality. Coming to the truth of self is Being Him.

    1. Thanks for your reply.

      What about Kierkegaard and Existentialism, does that "fit" with Chassidism?

      Never read The Power of Now, I thought his books are based on Christianity, are they not?

      Looking forward to reading more on this topic... I would like to know what value does Chasiduss give to real personal honesty? How much does a person perception of himself mater? Is there value in a person "being himself" without having to "adjust himself" to what supposedly "G-d wants from him"? Why isn't, if it isn't, the ultimate value following ones passion and self wherever it may lead (as long as you don't hurt others)?

      Looking forward...

    2. Kierkegaard and Religious Existentialism do not just "fit" with Chassidism...They are profoundly parallel currents of consciousness and devoted religious fervor.

      It is way beyond the confined structure of a comment here that this important issue can be discussed. I dream of one day documenting at length my view of how they richly compliment and reflect each other.

      In the meantime, you can begin your search with the following:

      1) Rabbi A.J. Heschel's classic, "A Passion for Truth".
      2) "The Fear, the Trembling, and the Fire" by Jerome Gellman
      3) http://www.torahcafe.com/rabbi-shmuel-braun/fear-and-trembling-video_e96f85b0a.html

      I could understand the perception of The Power of Now being based on Eastern religions etc. Not sure why it would be seen to be based on Christianity. One way or the other, the ideas of that book are all clearly stated in Judaism- in chassidus, particularly the writings of Chabad and the Piasetzner. In fact, I see the book as a long explanation of chapter 33 of Tanya.

      Your last paragraph contains important questions, each one necessitating responses of great length, width, and depth. I'm a teacher by profession and not a writer, and hence have a hard time elaborating and containing my thoughts in written form. I'm sorry.

      But interestingly, the class I taught last Tuesday night I think at least partially responds to your third question. Here it is (Shiur 9) http://www.aishkodesh.org/halachic-man-shiur.html
      The ideas in it are further elaborated here http://www.torahcafe.com/rabbi-shmuel-braun/hold-holy-your-highest-hope-video_c1fb9dc7f.html

      Be well.

  3. Hello Rabbi and thank you for your detailed response.

    I heard your audio class as well as the first video link. Both very interesting.

    I looked into the books you mentioned and they seem very interesting. I don't live in the US so I'll have to purchase the books (as opposed to borrowing from the library). Which one of the two (Gellman, Heschel) do you think will address my question more wholesomely?

    Thanks for the clarification as to "The Power of Now". I ordered it. I would appreciate if you can share with me, even in one sentence, which idea of Tanya 33 do you see it expounding on.

    As to the matter at hand, after hearing the two above-mentioned classes, I remain with two questions, the first of which is rather obvious:

    1- How did Kierkegaard not only make peace between existentialism and God but believed that they are one and the same? To me they are exact opposites, existensialisim denying a objective-universal truth while the belief in God perpetuating one.

    I tried to understand how the two can go together but I haven't been able to... Am I missing something?

    2- In the video in you mention at the end the Sicha of Mishpatim 5752 and explain (in short) how human rationality has a place in religion because it is essentially God-made. So, back to the main question, why shouldn't that be enough? And if it's now enough to dictate someone's life then why not? If it has value what are its "limits"? Infringement in Chukim or Edus? So then it is of quasi-value... ie. Value "as long as...", so by definition it is determined by something else, which makes it not really have intrinsic value...

    Looking forward to your reply. Thank you very much in advance!

  4. --The particular issue you are referencing is probably more thoroughly dealt with in Heschel's book. Though Gellman's is certainly more academic.

    --Ultimate happiness, serenity, and fulfillment (nirvana;enlightenment) can be at every moment, under any circumstance achieved by tapping into Absolute Pure Being through acute awareness of His Unity which is the All.

    1--I believe I did answer that in the audio class. The need to create one's authentic self as a God worshipper by a) doing things NOT (only) because one "has to", but out of pure love and b) finding one's unique way to serve Him. Read Fear and Trembling. that is what the book is about.

    2-The answer to this I actually addressed the following week. Here it is http://images.shulcloud.com/200/uploads/Halachik-Man-10.m4a

    Sorry it took a while to respond!