Dancing with the Rav after the class in Chavat Maon
This past Sunday, the Rav gave a very special class at a picturesque place called Chavat Maon. Even with the event and study session photos posted above, it is still hard to come close to capturing the intrigue of this unique corner of our Jewish homeland. Nestled among the Judean Hills, and located south of Chevron, Chavat Maon (“Maon Farm”; a reference to Maon, one of the seven heavens), is a small agricultural village adjacent to the larger Yishuv (settlement) of Maon itself. There are about twenty families living in Chavat Maon, with vineyards and goat pens in a distinctly rural environment.
While goats were comfortably grazing outside the home of the man who hosted the Rav’s class, dozens of class participants sat and stood around a long table to listen to the Rav’s words. As the crowd got larger, many attendees found themselves listening to the class from outside, leaning on the windowsills as goats mulled about nearby.
The event was called to celebrate completing a whole round of study of the entire eleven volume series of Chasdei David Hane’emanim, one of the Rav’s most well-known series in Hebrew. Every weekday morning, for over three years, the group gathered together in a private home at their set time of 3:00-5:00am (!) to study this explanation of the Kabbalistic book, Chasdei David, which is printed at the end of the Arizal’s Etz Chaim.
Now that you know some of the “behind the scenes” account to the class, we welcome you to read the edited excerpt below! The dancing depicted above can be viewed HERE.
Reaching Up to the Crown
One of the stories about Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, whose yahrtzeit (day of passing) was this week (25 Tishrei), relates how he sacrificed his prominent position as Rabbi of Pinsk by reciting thekedushah of “Crown” (כֶּתֶר) when he led the prayers in synagogue one Shabbat morning instead of “sanctified” (נַקְדִּישְׁךָ), thus violating his contract with the townspeople. Apparently, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak’s very essence was to reach the super-conscious crown of his soul in order to coronate God.
In his commentary on the Torah, entitled “Kedushat Levi,” Rebbe Levi Yitzchak explains the dimensions of Noah’s ark and interprets them in a way to understand how we too can reach up to the crown of our souls.
Come into the Word
In Hebrew, the word “ark” (תֵּבָה) also means “word.” The Ba’al Shem Tov, the mentor of Rebbe Levi Yitzchak’s master and teacher, the Maggid of Mezeritch, learnt from this that all the instructions for building Noah’s Ark are instructions for how to ‘enter into’ our words by expressing our essence through the articulation of words. The Kedushat Levi expands on this idea.
From Mindful Meditation to Impassioned Emotion
Before we speak, we should always begin by intellectually meditating on God’s greatness and majesty to the extent that we are capable. We can achieve this state by contemplating how truly small and lowly we are. Meditating on God’s greatness—through the use of our intellectual faculties—should affect our emotions so much that we begin to feel love and fear for God.
In Kabbalah the intellectual faculties of the mind, wisdom and understanding, are referred to as “father” and “mother” whose union “gives birth” to the emotions of the heart. What this means is that the more we contemplate a particular spiritual reality, the more we come to understand it. Once we understand it and feel how good it is, we begin to love it. However, love is accompanied by a complementary sense of fear; the fear that we might lose the object of our love, our newly discovered treasure, which we attained through our meditation and understanding of it.
Drawing Down Divine Influx
Rebbe Levi Yitzchak continues to explain that the next stage after nurturing our emotions is to reach the realm of spiritual pleasure. It’s not enough to remain with love and fear alone—which we experience on a personal level—we also need to reach a communal level, whereby our emotions come to fruition by bringing spiritual abundance down into all the worlds. If a tzadik (righteous individual) reaches the peak of great love, this is spiritually beneficial for him, however, he has not yet become a channel of blessing for all the worlds, which is the purpose that every tzadik should strive to achieve—and God’s people are all tzadikim (pl. of tzadik)! For that, the tzadik needs to follow up his love by reaching to the realm of spiritual pleasure. It is from this higher level of spiritual pleasure that blessings and Divine influx descend.
This Divine ‘download’ occurs both spiritually and physically, in the form of children, health and plentiful livelihood. It is only once the tzadik has reached the realm of spiritual pleasure that he is capable of drawing infinite spiritual and material blessing into the world.
Now, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak explains that these three stages of meditation: intellectual contemplation; love and fear; and drawing influx into the world from the realm of spiritual pleasure; correspond to the three dimensions of Noah’s Ark: height, width, and length:
Height: represents the stage of intellectually meditating on God’s greatness and majesty, because the most prominent point of height when standing erect is the head.
Width: is love and fear of God’s Name.
Length: is pleasure and abundance from the Almighty as it completes its lengthy journey from the spiritual realm to affect our material world.
Now that we’ve developed the three-dimensions of our meditative ‘ark,’ we can translate these dimensions into the realm of the spoken word (“ark” and “word” share the same word in Hebrew, as mentioned above). As Noah’s Ark encompassed three dimensions, so does every word we utter:
First: we meditate on God’s majesty, until;
Second: our hearts are aroused in love and fear;
Third: we reach back up to the spiritual realm of pleasure which resides in the super-conscious crown.
It is thus very appropriate that Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev first taught us the three dimensions of speech, and that he was the tzadik who felt himself compelled to say “Crown” during that Shabbat in synagogue. By reaching this third, and highest level of speech, he wished to draw down Divine blessings. Even though this meant losing his prominent position as Rabbi of Pinsk, it was much more important for him to coronate God throughout all of existence.
From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Chavat Maon, 25 Tishrei, 5774