Now, hopefully you are convinced that it is possible to make contact with the infinite, omniscient Creator, even though it takes work. He made an interface for us. He wants to hear from us, and is waiting for the call. The question that remains is; how? How to contact Him? There are a lot of facets to the interface, where do we start? Jewish study provides us with some answers.

One of the things that troubled the early kabbalists and philosophers was that there seem to be a lot of facets to Him as well. He is variously described as merciful, vengeful, loving, jealous, patient, etc. The Torah is full of adjectives describing G-d, and that's a bit troubling if you believe, as Jews do, that He is One and indivisible. The sages came up with some answers. One comes from the Rambam (R' Moshe ben Maimon, or Maimonides, the towering tenth century rabbi, philosopher and doctor whose works are learned and studied to this day in both universities and yeshivot). He said that G-d knows His creation through knowledge of Himself. Because He created the universe, G-d, His knowledge and the universe are all one (Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 2:9-10). All of the adjectives describing G-d refer to different effects that He has upon the world, while He and His knowledge remain one and indivisible. Every effect corresponds to a different "tool" that He uses to influence His world. But, while they are tools, separate from Him, His knowledge is one, part of Him.

However, the Maharal of Prague (sixteenth century mystic, halachist and philosopher) took issue with Maimonides. He didn't agree that knowledge is distinct from the other powers that are attributed to G-d. Knowledge is only one of His attributes, and one cannot say that G-d is united with His knowledge and yet separate from the rest of His attributes. Rather, says the Maharal, knowledge is but one tool with which G-d deals with His creation. G-d far transcends the creation, and all of His attributes are but tools with which he creates and manipulates the creation, just as a painter uses a brush, a wood-chopper uses an axe, and a writer uses a pen. G-d knows what's going on in His world with his attribute of knowledge in much the same way that He administers mercy, instills fear, and metes out justice in the creation. All are but tools in His repertoire, which he uses or sets aside at His will.

This discussion leads into the realm of Jewish mysticism, or kabbalah. Specifically, it is Chabad Chassidut that provides the tools that allow us to understand the sephirot, or G-dly emanations. The sephirot are illuminations of G-d's infinite light, and through them, He creates, maintains and runs the universe. On the one hand, they are connected to Him, just as a ray of light is connected to its source (as the Rambam said regarding G-d's knowledge). On the other hand, they are tools, with which G-d chooses to relate or influence His world (as described by the Maharal). The aspect of the sephirot which is always connected, like a ray of light to its source, is called the orot (lights), while the aspect of the sephirot that functions as a tool (seemingly separate from Him) are called calim (vessels). Together, they comprise the sephirot, or G-dly emanations. Whenever the Torah refers to G-d with one of those adjectives, such as loving, jealous, just, etc, it corresponds to a particular sephira or combination of the sephirot. Thus, G-d remains One even while His attributes are many.

If the philosophy of kabbalah and theology is not for you, then think of it this way. The infinite light of G-d is like water; it's without form, description, taste, smell or color. However, like water poured into colored glasses takes on the color of the container, so, the infinite light of the One Above, when filtered through the sephirot, takes on form and meaning. He remains one and indivisible, but His infinite light channeled through the sephirot takes on a particular description. (This is the formulation of one kaballist, the Ramak – R' Moshe Cordovero).

So, then what are the ten sephirot, and how do they correspond to our own soul-powers, or aspects of our personality?

First, there is chochma, the attribute of insight. Chochma takes the infinite light of the One Above and channels it into usable energy, as the flash of insight that allows us to grasp something intellectually. However, if you can't put your ego aside, you can't hope to gain insight into anything beyond you. The soul-power that corresponds to chochma, then, is bitul, or self-nullification.

If the insight remains on the level of chochma, though, it is rather too refined to digest and internalize. For that, we need the second sephira, called bina, which is the sephira of intellectual analysis and understanding. Bina takes the ethereal insight of chochma and brings it into the realm of analytic understanding, whereupon we can begin to do something with the insight. The inner, soul manifestation of bina is happiness, since happiness and joy are the result of bringing the insight from the rather hidden state of chochma into the revealed state of bina.

Now, we move on to da'at, or knowledge. Da'at isn't simple knowledge, but rather deep identification and recognition of the subject. Da'at is the intermediary between the mind and the emotions. It takes the analytic concept of bina to a level to a level of feeling in the mind. It gives birth to love or fear of the subject. On a soul level, da'at is recognition. When we know a subject well, we need not contemplate it; we recognize it immediately and know how to respond to it.

The first three sephirot are called by their acronym, chabad (for chochma, bina, and da'at). They are the intellectual sephirot. When one meditates on a concept using the faculties of chabad, he sooner or later experiences an emotional reaction. The first of the seven emotional attributes arising from chabad is chesed, or kindness. When we experience a desire for G-dliness and spirituality, this is a product of the sephira of chesed. The corresponding soul-power is love, and in particular, love of G-d.

When, as a result of our meditation, we have the opposite reaction; that is, we experience fear or repulsion, it is a result of the sephira of gevura, or constriction and contraction. G-d also uses the sephira of gevura to judge us; when we deserve, He rewards, and when we do not deserve, He withholds reward or even punishes. So, the corresponding soul-power of gevura is fear of the One Above.

The sephira of tiferet is the intermediary between chesed and gevura, but it also has its own character. With chesed, G-d sees only good in the creation. With gevura, He sees both good and the opposite in the creation, and He judges. With tiferet, G-d sees good and bad, but may choose not to punish, or to respond to the bad. So, tiferet is the sephira of beauty and harmony. Just as a beautiful painting or musical composition is composed of many colors or strains, so tiferet is composed of the organic interaction between chesed and gevura. It is their interaction that determines the beauty of the whole. The soul correspondence to tiferet is mercy. If we want G-d to respond to us with mercy, we should act with mercy to our fellow Jews and others.

The lowest four sephirot are known as action-oriented or instinctual sephirot. They are involved in the situations in which we have neither knowledge nor feeling about how to act, and yet we must make a decision, either in our avodat HaShem (service of the One Above), or in everyday activities. The first of these sephirot is netzach (victory, or eternity). This is the sephira of pro-activity, in which we take steps and decisive action, even though we may not, as we said already, know or feel what our course of action should be. The corresponding soul-power is bitachon, or security. Only when one has bitachon in the One Above is he capable of taking decisive action, even though the course of action may not be clear.

Next is the sephira of hod, or re-activity. The sephira of hod has the function of fending off all distractions or detours in the path of avodat HaShem, or in everyday life. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and with temptations. If we succumbed to them, they would lead us in directions that are completely destructive, or at least not constructive. The ability to avoid these situations and temptations is imparted by the sephira of hod. We must have a certain level of integrity, known as t'mimut in Hebrew, in order to stick to the path and fend off distractions. The corresponding soul-power, then, is integrity.

Hod is followed by the sephira of yesod (foundation). Yesod is the sephira of perseverance. It is also the sephira of bonding. A bond is created between people when they know that they have common goals and aspirations. Similarly, a bond is created between us and the One Above when we establish a path of spiritual growth, refinement and perfection of ourselves in order to get closer to the One Above. Then, even when we don't see or feel the goal, or forget temporarily why we are doing what we are doing, the truth of the bond between us keeps us connected. The inner soul-power, then, that corresponds with yesod is truth.

The final of the ten sephirot is malchut, or sovereignty. Malchut has no specific character of its own, but receives its character from the G-dly light and energy of all of the preceding (higher) sephirot. As such, malchut is the "feminine" sephira, the attribute of G-dliness which receives, and uses its received energy to create. The corresponding soul-power is shiflut, or lowliness. Only when we think of ourselves as lowly, without character and attributes of our own, are we able to use the creative powers that have been granted. Otherwise, ego and self-awareness get in the way. On the other hand, malchut is also the ani, or "I," that gives us a sense of personality. The sages said that a person has to have a tiny proportion of ego, or ani, in his awareness. It has to be just enough to maintain a sense of balance and allow us to be centered. After that, with meditation and study, the person can reach the highest levels of ain, or spiritual growth. But, it has to be predicated upon the inner soul-power corresponding to malchut, which is shiflut, or lowliness.

There are two schemes or hierarchies of the ten sephirot. The first, described above, corresponds to our normal everyday awareness. This is called da'at tachton (lower awareness), in which the physical creation seems to be the true reality, while our awareness of One Above is vague. We don't see Him or have direct connection with Him, so it seems to us that what our senses detect – the physical universe – is the true reality. The arrangement of the sephirot in this awareness is linear; the highest sephira is chochma, mentioned above, and the lowest is malchut. In this scheme, the sephira of da'at is found below the intellectual sephirot and above the emotional sephirot, and its task is to unite the intellect with the emotions in service of the One Above.

However, from time to time, we experience an elevation in our awareness, a "peak experience," so to speak, in which we become aware of the real truth. That is, G-d is truth, and the physical universe is temporary. Since He created it, and He was, is, and will always be, He is more real than the creation. But, that's not part of our everyday awareness. We have to go through a paradigm shift to reach this awareness, and that shift usually only comes about through intense learning and meditation upon G-dly concepts. But, when it does happen, it puts the person in touch with a bliss and contentment that is beyond words. It is accompanied by awareness of the oneness and unity of the Creator, called in the literature of the kabala, da'at elyon, or supernal awareness. The scheme of the sephirot that corresponds to this awareness is a structure in which the sephirot are arranged in triplets; highest are the intellectual sephirot (chabad), then the emotional, and finally the action/instinctive sephirot, followed by malchut on the bottom of the hierarchy. In this arrangement, da'at is not ‘counted' as a sephira, because its new task is no longer to join the intellect with the emotions. Rather, its task is to join the infinite light of the One Above with the intellect. In this capacity, da'at is not counted as a sephira at all, since it is subsumed by the sephira of keter, or the crown of all the sephirot. Thus, da'at is not counted as one of the ten sephirot, but keter (crown) is. This is the goal of Jewish meditation; to achieve the state known as yichuda ila'ah and even higher, in order to bring the infinite light of the Creator into the physical world and elevate it.

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