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by Akiva Tatz
"I highly recommend this masterpiece to all who seek to discover the essence of Judaism and, in effect, their true selves."
"Embodied in the author's outstanding lectures, the ideas in Living Inspired have already had an enormous impact on thousands. In book form, it gives a glimpse of the limitless profundity of Torah and will deeply affect every reader."
The purpose of this book is to provide, in some small way, a guide to inspiration. Our generation is characterized by anxiety and terror; and often the root of these emotions is existential a lack of sense of purpose and direction. Most modern Jews lack a basic knowledge of Torah structure, Torah definition of the pattern of the world. With no organized frame of reference the world seems haphazard and arbitrary, and one cannot generate any semblance of inner peace, let alone serenity, if one's inner life is built on emotional and mental quicksand.
While it is true that there are many things we cannot understand, there is plenty that we can. A Torah framework provides the structure and stability for approaching life in general and particularly life's problems and traumas in a meaningful and organized way. Instead of fearing each day's unpredictability and living in a constant vacuum of apprehension, we should aim to be surging ahead in personal growth, secure in the knowledge that everything has an underlying structure and meaning and that ultimately every detail of life is eminently worthwhile and of cosmic significance. Such an approach to life generates happiness.
The first chapter of this book contains a description of one basic theme at the root of the deeper wisdom of Torah. The words are necessarily clumsy, in fact there are no words for pure abstraction; what is needed is a sensitivity on the part of the reader to penetrate beyond the words into the meaning which can never be expressed in finite words. (This idea itself is examined in more detail later.) A remarkable feature of the deeper wisdom is that when it is absorbed, one finds that in fact one knew it already. "Ha'etnes rid I'atzmo The truth is a witness to itself" where "truth" is a codeword for the inner truth; it does not have to be learned, only recognized. All deeper wisdom is none other than a description of some or other aspect of reality.
The purpose of this book is not to explore the mystical world in technical detail but rather to explore where the deeper pattern expresses itself in explicit reality and particularly in our life experiences and ordeals. Therefore the first chapter defines only the most basic roots of a pattern which we will be able to apply consistently.
The subsequent chapters each analyze a critically important area of our lives, both our individual inner lives and our interactions in relationships, using the same basic structure and principles. Correctly understanding that all of life is based on the same fundamental unity of pattern is itself enough to generate emuna, faith, in the overriding Unity of reality. With a core of deep emuna, existential anxiety and a sense of agonized, meaningless drifting from the fear of one ordeal to the next are impossible. The pathway to serenity has begun, and with the personality tools of emuna, happiness and an inspired sense of purpose, one can begin life's work of achieving spiritual greatness.
A warning: each chapter introduces a central issue or concept. Each of these is needed to fully appreciate any of the others, since each is fundamental to spiritual living. Therefore in order to successfully integrate the material presented here each chapter must be studied with all the others in mind and being brought to bear upon it constantly reading the whole book in sequence twice is the best way to do this.
According to our received tradition, the world is built on a pattern which permeates its every detail. This pattern has many ramifications, enfoldings on itself and details within details which in fact are endless; however for purposes of our discussion let us trace only one aspect of one basic facet of this pattern.
Put most fundamentally, this pattern has three elements. In the life-issues which we shall examine together in subsequent chapters we shall sometimes be focusing on the interaction between the first two, sometimes the second two and sometimes all three, but all of them will be found everywhere. One cannot always speak out every detail and you will be left with the challenge of amplifying each subject to fully express the pattern in each; this exercise itself is a Torah-learning experience and immensely rewarding.
A description of these basic elements is necessarily difficult and vague there are no words for pure essence. Mystical truths can only be talked "around", until one "falls in"! When one suddenly grasps the essence it is seen to be incandescent with clarity and remarkably simple, but it must be grasped inwardly, it can never be entirely expressed.
Put most simply, the three elements are as follows.
The first is the point of beginning, the transition from nothing to something. It is variously expressed as the moment of creation, the male experience or pole of reality, the number one, the right hand; and is embodied in the person of Avraham Avinu (Abraham). It is the pristine flash of energy which begins any process. It is by definition indivisible. The Torah expresses this by referring to the first day of Creation thus: "And it was evening and it was morning, yom echad day one." It does not state "the first day" as a parallel to the subsequent "the second day", "the third day", because in its pure being at the root of Creation it is not first, part of an unfolding process of differentiation, it is simply "one".
The second is the process itself, the condensing of creative energy into tangible form. It is the expansion of the flash of beginning into finite form. It is expressed as the female dimension, the number two, the left hand; and is embodied in Yitzchak Avinu (Isaac).
These two energies are paradoxical and antithetical. The first is related to infinity, the second finite. The first is indivisible oneness, the second all fragmentation. No two concepts could possibly be more opposite, more mutually exclusive. And that leads to the mystery of the third: it is the resolution of this cosmic tension. The third element is the harmony of opposites; but its mystery and magic are that at a deeper level it reveals that in fact there never was a conflict. Both the first and second dimensions are melted into a new reality, a reality which somehow unifies them and yet allows each to be fully expressed in its own right. Of the three, this is perhaps the most difficult to express in words; it can only be experienced. It is however alluded to as harmony, balance, the return to source, truth, true marriage, the number three, the center of the body; and is the energy of Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) in the world.
As explained previously, the purpose of this discussion is not to trace the roots and branches of these ideas but to understand their application in the world of human experience. In terms of emotions, the first element is essentially pleasurable; it contains the thrill of new creation, the revelation of something previously hidden. The second necessarily involves work and pain; it contains the pain of infinite potential shrinking to finite proportions, the sacrifice of all the creative energy which could not be crystallized into limited space and time, the pain of separation from a pure origin. The third is true, mature human joy. It is the happiness of the resolution of doubts, the depth of emotion felt upon understanding why what seemed cruelty was in fact kindness. It is the joy of well-earned reward. The natural mode of the first phase is ecstasy, of the second pain, and of the third, transcendence.
An examination of one application of this system will help to make it tangible. In describing these things the mystical sources talk about the body. Of course they are referring to a higher reality, but since the physical is an exactly accurate projection of the spiritual, we can work with the physical and understand the spiritual. If we consider male and female physically, biologically, we see illustrated all that we have alluded to thus far. The development of ahumanbeing, perhaps the ultimate process in the world, requires father and mother. The male contribution is infinitesimally small in space and time, it consists of the contribution of a genetic code and no more. It involves no work and no pain. It is simply the flash of beginning. The female dimension, however, is opposite. It involves an expansion in space and time the child is formed physically within the mother, over considerable time. Effort and pain are involved. The tiny gift of a code of genes is crystallized into tangible form within her body. And finally, a child is born both father and mother have melted into one in this child, each unique component now blended into a third, a new human being who transcends from one generation to another.
This model of man and woman and their interaction, at all levels biologically, emotionally and spiritually should be kept in mind as the central illustration of the pattern we are studying. This pattern is the root; all else is application.
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