Hakhsharat Ha'Avreikhim (A Young Adult's Spiritual Guide)--Chapter Four: How Can You Free Your Emotions? (Part Two)
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Piaseszner Rebbe)
But our thought cannot be powerful without imagery. And see Tikunei Zohar (Tikun 70), which refers to the imaginative soul right after the thinking soul.
And see Rambam’s Shmoneh Perakim (Chapter One), which says that when people describe the soul as being divided into different parts, they are only describing its separate activities, but in essence the soul is one.
And in this way, in my Chovat Hatalmidim (Essay One, Section One), I described the five parts of the soul--nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, yechidah. We do not have five holy souls within ourselves—only one soul. And according to how high it is and how much light it sheds, it has its own name. In the same way, the Tikunei Zohar’s essay, Patach Eliyahu describes the sefirot as “one long and one short and one in-between,” even though this division only refers to the level to which they are revealed and spread their influence down below.
In other words, the Tikunei Zohar doesn’t mean to say that there is a thinking soul and a visualizing soul. Rather, at first when our soul activity is weak, then only a small part of it expresses itself, and it thinks. But when we activate more of it, then it also shows us images. I noted in Chovat Hatalmidim (Essay Two, Section One, footnote) that if you have a weak thought about some enemy who has insulted you, you don’t visualize his face. But if you think about him more forcefully, you do visualize his face, and in addition you recall what he said to you and the circumstances—and all of this is called visualizing. As I said there, forceful thought and imagination are one and the same thing. The only difference is that some things you can visualize in images, such as a house, a person, etc. But other things you cannot see in your mind’s eyes, such as words, and so that you recall with a forceful thought alone. But both are called visualization.
And so only on a background of thought does the emotion of soul reveal itself. Therefore, only if you think and ruminate on the evil that someone did you will you arouse your feelings of anger, as long as yours is a forceful thought.
In other words, the extent of feeling depends on how forcefully and to what extent you think about something. If you want to expand your intellectual knowledge you must fill your mind with many different facts and concepts.
In the same way, if you want to expand your thinking ability so that you can concentrate at length and forcefully, you must fill your mind with many different visual images.
I stress that these must be a variety of different images. First of all, you will not expand your thinking and visualizing on the basis of one image alone. Also, by nature thought and mental image do not remain in your mind unless you add new images. So you can only hold the thought of the evil that someone did to you if you imagine what he was thinking, and how he prepared himself, and exactly how he raised his hand against you and exactly what he said to you, and so forth.
So if you want to manifest your holy thoughts on a holiday or on the Sabbath, strengthen your holy thoughts about the holiday and the Sabbath. And in order to do so, it isn’t enough that you simply think that the holiday or the Sabbath are holy, because you cannot hold that thought for long, nor can you make it forceful. Instead, you have to fill them with images and think about these forcefully. That which is not visual think about with powerful concentration, and those that are visual imagine visually, as though they are literally standing before you. Only in this way will you manifest the emotions of your soul.
Even when your soul is not feeling emotional, by such thoughts you can awaken it to feeling.
Noam Elimelech (Parshat Lech Lecha) states that in order to arouse your thought, imagine that you are standing in the Temple—imagine the altar and the Heichal and so forth. And that will bring you to total clarity and clinging to God, making it possible to pray with great feeling, with awe and love, as though you were standing in the Holy of Holies. And he stresses that it should be as though you are actually seeing this—not just a forceful thought, but a powerful visualization.
So thought, image and visualization affect your soul—and not only that, but they make it possible for your soul to cling to holiness outside of itself and to draw down that holiness from above, so much so that we cannot even imagine how much this does for us and how high we can rise.
This is discussed in Ohr Hachamah, written by the Chidah’s grandfather, a commentary on the Zohar (Vayeishev p. 192a), in which he cites R. Moses Cordovero: “Meditate on the wisdom that you learned from your mentor. See him in your mind’s eye and cling to him, soul to soul...As Rabbi Aba explains in the Zohar—in Mishpatim—if he had a halachic question, when he used to visualize the image of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the halachic answer would shine upon him. And that is the concept of soul clinging to soul. And you can only visualize something on the basis of something that you have physically seen. So concentrate on that form—i.e., the image of your teacher—and as a result you will arouse his soul and wisdom and you will reach levels that you had never before reached.”
So you need thought together with visualization. Only then can you cling to the holiness that you are imaging. And through that holiness, Torah and new insights will be drawn down to you from above.
In my Chovat Hatalmidim, I gave some examples of how to elicit your soul’s holy feelings on Pesach and on Friday night, and how to strengthen such thoughts and fill them with impressions stemming from holy concepts and images. And now I will in addition describe the third Shabbat meal.
Do you feel nothing when you are sitting amongst your fellow Hasidim at that time? That cannot be! Even if your spirit doesn’t tremble the entire time that you are sitting with them, can it be possible that for at least one moment or another, during a song or at least one line of a song, flames or at least sparks of fire don’t go through you, causing all your limbs to shake and all of your sinews to burn?
If your business and this-worldly affairs throughout the week have dulled you and your mind so that you do not sense your obligations either to God, or to yourself—the things you must do to keep yourself out of Sheol, the destructive pit and trap, in this world and the next—so that you do not gaze at the holy elevations, because you must engage in this-worldly business, at least on the holy Sabbath, when you rest from your business, when you are far from this-worldly concerns, and when an extra soul and a holier light fill you and surround you, how is it possible that you won’t be concerned, that you won’t sigh for the years of your life that are passing week by week in triviality, foolishness and meaningless activities, and for the fact that, whereas at every moment you are aging and with every day and every week you come that much closer to the end of your life, instead of increasing holiness and coming closer to God, you go the other way, you sink even deeper into the swamp—perhaps not with actual sinning, perhaps not with neglecting Torah study—yet nevertheless, even if your subtle sins are many, if you continuously entertain ulterior motives and tolerate distracted thoughts, they have the power to push you into the mud up to the neck, so how is it possible that you don’t experience the time of Shalosh Seudot, the time that the holy Shabbat is leaving, like an hour from Yom Kippur?
But Shalosh Seudot is not only a time to worry and sigh over your lowliness. It is also a time of elevation. The tzaddikim say that Shalosh Seudot is what our sages refer to when they say that “one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is superior to the entire world to come.” And my honored, holy father-in-law quotes my grandfather, the holy tzaddik, the Maggid of Koznitz, who once said that Shalosh Seudot corresponds to the state that our sages describe as “the tzaddikim sitting with their crowns on their heads, taking pleasure from the radiance of God’s Presence.” Even a stone in the wall would glow with light if it were in the Garden of Eden as it enjoyed the supernal pleasure. Yet even as you are experiencing an hour superior to that of the Garden of Eden, it is as though it has nothing to do with you. No doubt your laziness is again misleading you, telling you that you have no right to compare yourself to the maggid and other tzaddikim. But that is an answer supplied by your evil inclination. God rules over everything. The tzaddikim felt and took pleasure of God’s holiness on the level of the head. But you at least can feel something on the level of the heels or the very edge of the heels of holiness.
But certainly you feel Shalosh Seudot within yourself. Your heart and mind shake and tremble at the sound of the roar of the celestial wheel, the wheels of the Chariot that rides through your soul. Yet you are unable to focus and see. And the roar fades away until you barely realize that God had come with all His holy attendants.
Each one of us has to look, to think, to visualize and to imagine, on our level. And the simple view of, for instance, the third Shabbat meal, is as follows.
You have experienced the Sabbath, a day of complete holiness. You were sanctified from heaven, and you also sanctified yourself on this day. You didn’t go to work, you didn’t go through the marketplace and the streets, you didn’t act frivolously, you sat in lone meditation with God, or together with your colleagues, you learned Torah and discussed holy topics and Hasidism.
You cleansed yourself of all the dust and stains that had accumulated during the week, and you strove to reach your soul. And with every passing hour, you felt yourself rising from level to level, from one holy stage to an even holier stage, until you came to the third Sabbath meal, the peak of the Sabbath, that hour of God’s desire.
It is one of the three Sabbath meals, but you sense that this is neither the place nor situation to satiate yourself with meat and fish, but rather to seek God Who conceals Himself in the hidden palace, and to be satiated with His radiance. And you sit together with your colleagues, who also seek God’s countenance, and you sit in the darkness, a Jewish custom which is Torah itself, for the darkness aligns your physicality with the state of your soul at that point, for there are two types of darkness (Tikunei Zohar 30: “there is a darkness from the side of purity, and darkness from the other side”). It is written in regard to God that “He makes darkness His hiding place.” That is a true light. It only seems dark to our simple understanding, the understanding of this world, for this world and its people cannot understand God’s great light. The entire world is nothing before Him.
And since it is an entire twenty four hours that you have been removing yourself from this world and coming closer, step by step, to that state of being called “the moment of divine will, acceptance, and desire,” with your mind, heart and your bodily senses, your body itself must sit in the dark; neither your heart nor your eyes see any more the world and the things of the world before them.
God dwells in the darkness. And after searching and seeking throughout all of the Sabbath, you have come to the cloud where God is, you have sought and found the One Whom your soul loves.
Your soul approaches God and melts in His holiness.
The entire room is filled with the host of heaven, and you push yourself through all this holy company to the Holy of Holies, your soul yearns to enter within and to come to the place where God is. “I grasped Him and I did not weaken my hold.”
And if you knew that you would remain like this forever, your soul would be eternally joyful. But you are aware that in a few minutes, the lights will be lit, and you will again fall into the weekdays, and your soul is bitter, how can you fall from the darkness of heaven, the pure clouds, to the darkness of Egypt, the darkness of suffering, the suffering of both body and soul? You tremble in profound feeling.
Now you feel them both: the End of Days, and the end of the day, the peak of holiness and the nadir of the non-holy.
Now, at the third meal, the two strains of darkness battle within you. It is like the story of the prince who was cast away from his father and thrown into jail. At the very last moment before leaving his father, he pushes ever closer to his father, pushes himself forward, grasps and embraces him, takes pleasure and yearns; and in the midst of its pleasure and fear, the soul cries out from the depths “even when I walk in the valley of the deathly shadow, I will not fear evil, for You are with me.”
Your hands, trembling, seek, You are with me, “I grasped Him and I did not weaken my hold.”
Gaze and look, for all this is occurring in your soul, except that you have not paid it any mind and you have not known. And is it possible that such a spiritual state will not leave its impression on the entire week? If you do not think at all, or even if you do think but you don’t fill your thoughts with images, and you do not bring forth the visions of the experiences of your soul, and you do not weave them into occurrences that give you something to think about, then the spark and the thought will die out and quickly melt away, even when they are occurring they will not make a large impression, and they will certainly leave nothing in their wake. But if you act with your soul and you strengthen your thought, then even if at first you do not succeed in raising up full images as that which I have here described, nevertheless you will experience fragmentary images.
For instance, when you feel that during the Third Meal you have acquired some additional fear of God, do not let it pass away and be extinguished immediately. But keep it alive and say to yourself or even aloud, “I fear God, so much do I fear my great and holy God. God is close to us right now, and so much do I fear my holy and great Only One, the Creator of all worlds.”
And calmly think or say this, and repeat the words if you feel that they add to and broaden your fear of God. Just don’t merely think of the words that you are saying, only think of the greatness of the Creator of all the worlds, upper and lower.
And then it is possible that when you gaze in your awe at the darkness in the room, spontaneously there will come to your mind the verse said of Abraham our forefather when God revealed Himself to him, “And behold a fear and great darkness fell upon him.”
And if your soul is elevated at this moment—“and his heart was elevated in the ways of Hashem”—and you consider, How fortunate we are, how good is our portion, we are far distant now from the world and its roar, separate from everything. And we yearn only for the One Who is Holy and Whose servants are holy, and we cry out and come closer to the Infinite, Endless One, and we sing songs and praises to Him.
And you look at this room and at the darkness in which, at this moment, you are removing the entire world from yourselves, and you embrace and unite yourself with God. And then of itself a verse sparks forth, “And Moses came to the cloud where God was.” And your lips murmur the words of the song, “Save those who delay ending the Sabbath, so they are not closed off from the holiness of Sabbath flowing into the six weekdays.”
Master of the world, spread this holiness of Yours upon us throughout the week.
But be aware and very clear not to err and think that I mean to say that when the time for the Third Meal comes, you should clear your mind to seek thoughts and visualize images—not at all!
The most important thing at the time of the Third Meal is to connect yourself to God and pour your heart out to Him. Immerse yourself in this.
And in general my intention is not only to indicate visualizations to you, but to reveal to you your soul that visualizes, as I cited the holy words of the Tikunei Zohar regarding the “visualizing soul.”
Everyone has a soul that creates images from everything that he feels and is affected by, from it come the dreams of the night and the images of the day. And every individual, corresponding to the things that he does and is involved with, uncovers his visualizing soul.
...There can even be two old people who no longer work. When they see something new that makes an impression on them, each one of them will create images in accordance to what he had once been involved with. Why should that be? He is no longer engaged in that work. It is no longer his business. The answer is that when they did work and do business, their actions affected their souls, and it was affected and changed as a result of those actions, to the point that each one revealed a specific visualizing soul within himself. So that even now, spontaneously, it visualizes such images as a result of strong feeling.
And we are striving so that there won’t be revealed to us a visualizing soul of itself, showing trivialities, but that rather we will uncover from within ourselves that soul-force that images holy matters and visions, and that it will do so of its own accord, without our having to seeking such thoughts and visions.
God willing, I will speak further on about the revelation of visions of the mind and feelings of the soul—what they come from and how. But now let us set that aside.
Yaacov David Shulman