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Simchat Torah: Do You Want to Dance?

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Hemshech Tzaddik-Dalet Part III

What would you do to get a glimpse, just a glimpse, of a reality that is beyond the one you usually perceive?

As we are about to celebrate the unfettered dance of Simchat Torah, the Chassidic series Tzaddik-Dalet – which has been the focus of this column in the past few weeks marking the 75th anniversary of this discourse’s delivery – helps us enter a new zone, which can lift us above the trappings of our daily routines and the din of our demoralizing anxieties.

The story until here: All of existence is a process, a transmission consisting of three stages, yesh, ayin, yesh. All matter – the “body” and being of our physical universe (the created yesh) – carries within it energy (ayin), which in turn originates from a source, the “transmitter” (the true yesh).

As we travel deeper into the worm-hole that connects our perceived reality and the deeper reality within – concealed by layers upon layers of thick curtains – we discover that in the in-between ayin state there are actually many levels and dimensions.

In the continuing process of deconstructing existence – which this classic discourse does so methodically – the Rebbe Rayatz further dissects the transitionary ayin into two: Ayin of the Yesh Ha’Amiti and the ayin of the yesh ha’nivra. Since the transmission is not of the Essence itself, but of a reflection, it goes through gradations as it moves down the pipeline. First comes a state that carries the transmission, removed from the essence while reflecting it. Then this state metamorphasizes into another, lower form of ayin, which is more customized to the final recipient, yet still beyond it.

The first ayin is called “non-existent” or “nothingness” simply because of its actual insignificance, completely paling in comparison to its source. The second ayin is so called not because of its insignificance; it actually carries much significance, indeed, it is the source of the recipient’s existence. It is called ayin because from the perspective of the recipient 1) it remains unknowable and mysterious; 2) its existence is of a different “personality,” one that our existence cannot relate to and sees as “non-existent”.

In other words, every state of being, which inherently originates from a higher state of being – i.e. every transmission from one state to another – consists of four levels: The source (Yesh Ha’Amiti), the way the source manifests and is reflected as it begins to transmit and evolve (ayin ha’amiti), the transmission getting closer to the recipient (ayin of the yesh ha’nivra), and the recipient (yesh).

To make this a bit more palatable, take the example of a teacher and student: As the teacher (the first yesh) transmits an entirely new idea, he first must gather his thoughts and condense the idea in his own mind (the first ayin). Then he must find words and examples that the student can relate to (the second ayin), which will carry and plant the idea into the student’s mind (the final yesh). This is true for every form of transmission and process.

And these four levels in a sense repeat themselves again and again as we move through the cosmic order. Each “section” of the process consisting of a state that evolves into a lower state, with two levels of “ayin” in-between connecting them.

[The following two paragraphs can be skipped if you find them too esoteric:

There are actually three different ways to explain the meaning the two levels of ayin. 1) The infinite light (sovev) divides into two dimensions: the essence of the light and its extension. 2) The infinite light (prior to the tzimtzum) is the first level of ayin and the finite light (after the tzimtzum) is the second level. 3) The finite light itself (memaleh) divides into two.

It seems obvious, though the Rebbe Rayatz does not state it specifically, that every stage of existence, from the highest to the lowest, has two stages in the in-between process that connects every two states of reality. Relative to your existing state, the level above you is a lower form of ayin, and the level above that is a higher form of ayin, which follows the yesh above it].

What this all means in practical terms:

Understanding the dynamics of existence and how our reality came to be is not just an academic exercise which satisfies our natural curiosity to know “how things work” (the proverbial clock, which we take apart to see what makes it tick), but something far more profound and consequential. The inner workings of reality teach us how to retrace the steps and reconnect to our core source, how to integrate our surface level existence with the inner forces that shape and define our very being.

All of life is a journey. Not just a journey on earth, but one that carries us from one state of being to a higher state of being, from one state of consciousness to a higher state of consciousness, like climbing a mountain, the mountain of perception, where each leg upward allows you to see and experience new horizons. When humans say that they like to improve and perfect their lives what does that mean? Is perfection physical – instead of one million, two million dollars? Instead of one car two, instead of one home two homes, and so on? True perfection and self-actualization is when we release all our potential, when we reach higher states of awareness. It is about spiritual perfection – not being trapped by our own limited perspectives and possibilities, and reaching for heights (hitherto) unimaginable. It is the story of the finite yearning for the infinite.

How high and what exactly constitutes these heights is subject to various opinions. Hemshech Tzaddik-Dalet tells us that no limits exist in how high we can reach – but only if you are ready to “pay the price.” There is no way to get beyond mediocrity and experience transcendence if we ourselves and our mindsets remain mediocre. Climbing upward requires the readiness to suspend pre-conceived notions and experiences, to set aside self-interest and other ego-driven pursuits, and allow yourself to be carried to a broader place.

To climb the mountain and elevate our lives from one state to a higher state we need to experience two states of bittul. The first realization is that our existence is very limited and that there is a far greater force, unknown to us, that energizes our very beings. Once you assimilate this new perception (which is no small feat and takes much work), you can begin to climb to the next level and realize that not only is our existence inferior to its source, but that there is a level where there is only light and energy, reflecting a higher reality, and all of existence is completely engulfed, and has no identity of its own, in that light. Not only that something greater than us exists; not only that’s is not all about you, but that that you compared to it are nothing at all.

Once you come to that profound awareness, then you can integrate your being with that higher state, and then something dramatic happens: You become absolutely significant – not because you think you are somebody, but because the essence makes you somebody.

To understand this we need to further analyze the meaning of light and bittul. This we will leave for the future columns of this ongoing series. Let us for now return to Simchat Torah, which immediately follows the festival of Sukkot.

One of the personal lessons of spending an entire week in a Sukkah instead of in our comfortable homes is to remind us of the temporal nature of existence. The material world is not our home. We must never succumb to the illusion that our man-made structures and mortal edifices are our natural environments. Corporeal life is a means, a road that leads us to a deeper, higher reality. The transitory Sukkah reminds us that we are just travelers in this impermanent material world; we are spiritual beings on a material journey, not material beings on a spiritual journey.

The vulnerable Sukkah has many layers, but as we travel inward each layer makes us stronger – and wiser, realizing new states of transcendence and joy.

Seven days in a Sukkah prepare us to enter yet another dimension of reality, called Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, when we dance the seven circles (hakofot). Each circle sucks us further into its vortex, helping us melt away the fears of our limited perspectives in a narrow universe.

To enter a higher reality we have a narrow passage called “ayin.” To enter this passage you must first shed layers of ego and self-interest, recognizing that there is a reality that precedes you and is concealed from view; a reality beyond your grasp and of another dimension. Once you travel up this state of selfless ayin, it will lead you to yet another passage. There you need to shed not just any shred of self, but you need to know that compared to the Higher Reality your reality has no significance at all.

And then…. And only then a new passageway opens up for you – wider than anything you have ever seen, transforming you into a new being, a new reality.

Yes my friends, the secret to immortality is to disappear. Disappearance can never disappear, the invisible cannot be obliterated, selflessness cannot be annihilated.

Want to catch a glimpse of another reality?

Dance on Simchat Torah. Don’t just dance. DANCE.

Ahh, to dance and dance into oblivion. An oblivion that carries us into the ayin, and then into another and yet another – as we deconstruct existence and catch a glimpse of a something beyond…

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David Mittman
12 years ago

vigorous

Michael Doochin
12 years ago

Wonderful piece! I like the esoteric part. Thanks!