With all my heart I seek You
“Know the God of your forefathers and serve Him”
King David says in Psalms, “With all my heart I seek You.” In order to create true unifications within one's heart, to meditate, and thereby to reach authentic Jewish emotion, the object of one's search must be none other than God Himself—“You.” Many paths and views lead to God; each tribe has its own gate through which it enters the consciousness of the Divine. Moreover, it is known that Yisrael, Israel, can be seen as an acronym for, “there are 600,000 letters in the Torah”; a separate letter for each and every Jew and his own path in the service of God. Ultimately, as an entire unified nation, Israel merits ascending to God on one united path, “as one man, with one heart.”
When seeking God one must be wary of two negative phenomena that may accompany this process:
Actually, man's self-consciousness (known in Hassidism as the feeling that one is “a substance and object separate” from God) is usually an outcome of self-seeking.
Seeking God is a process that develops man's awareness. In the disciplines of development of awareness and “self-seeking” that are based on the non-Jewish systems, the goal is man's own self-revelation. This is a search after one's ego, associated with the verse “A fool does not seek understanding, but rather the revelation of his heart.”
Man was created to serve God. Man received the gift of awareness, as opposed to the animals that did not, in order to facilitate his knowledge of his Creator. The Torah desires a pure and direct meeting between man and God, and demands that we fulfill the last words of David to his son Solomon, “Know the God of your father, and serve Him.”
Sometimes, as a stepping-stone on the path to constant awareness of God as omnipresent, which is the goal of the service of seeking God, one must acquire knowledge of one's self. Nevertheless, even while one is occupied with self-awareness, one must remember that this is merely a preparatory and intermediary stage leading to the final goal of knowledge of God alone. Even when the service of seeking God is undertaken with the pure intention of connecting and bonding with God (including the fact that self-awareness is used as a preparation and as a “vessel” to receive the illumination of the Divine Revelation), one still remains vulnerable to falling prey to the most harmful side-effect of the process of awareness-development: self-consciousness.
Even Adam, the very first human being, indulged in self-seeking. As we shall see, we can learn from how he conducted himself and subsequently failed by eating from the Tree of Knowledge what dangers lay on the path, and how it is possible to avoid them.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Adam performed the first search for God. Man was created only in order to serve God according to “righteous laws and regulations.” Adam, who had knowledge of his Creator, intended to do just that. Yet, Adam damaged himself and the entire world when he tried to implement his wish to know God (to the level of being like Him) by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The Tree of Knowledge was the instrument of Adam's failure, meaning that the Tree is the cause of the damaged state of consciousness that Adam reached in his seeking of God. Seeking of God by the Torah's methods is intended to rectify Adam's sin, leading the Jew toward authentic and complete service of God.
When analyzing Adam's failure using the tools of Kabbalah and Hassidism we wish to uncover the inner motives of his transgression. In other words: what exactly was the force which propelled Eve's hand to take from the fruit of the Tree, and what inner desire impelled Adam to eat from it?
To answer this question we must understand the role of da'at, “knowledge” which Adam desired to integrate.
Da'at – the Key to Experience
In Kabbalah, da'at (“knowledge”) is known as “the key which includes six,” i.e. the key to the six emotive attributes of the heart (three pure emotions and three action-oriented emotions). Da'at, the connecting power between the mind and the worlds of emotion and action in the psyche, translates the “intellectual experience” into the vessels of emotion and action. Da'at also constitutes the “soul” of the worlds of emotion and action, giving them significance and meaning.
In other words, without da'at one is not aware of that which happens within oneself. Without da'at one can neither feel nor experience one's inner world, it remains “closed,” as it is said, as the verse relates: “Even a soul without da'at is not good.”
It is important to clarify that the existence of an inner world is not dependent on whether one is aware of it or not. However, the ability to experience and develop what happens in that concealed world depends on one being aware.
Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge in order to “experience” or “feel” his inner world. As the Zohar explains, when da'at is not active, this world remains undeveloped and closed. Adam possessed a passion to experience his inner world. The unconscious, inner experience of his service of God was not enough for him, he wished to experience it consciously. This can be compared to the experience-seeking that is common today, which is actually the search for the revelation of one's “self.” For, as we actually see, every strong sensation and emotion causes a sensation of “being alive.” Adam was the crowning aspect of Creation, integrating the three worlds of Creation, Formation and Action. His act of eating from the Tree of Knowledge revealed the inner, hidden essence of these three lower worlds.
Although this revelation may seem to be positive, for instance, prayer and other services of God need to be carried out with enthusiasm and a solid feeling of self, as the verse says: “and I am prayer.” Yet, this revelation has two drawbacks:
The first is a deficiency in faith. When I have a conscious sensation of my essence, this feeling signifies that I am “separate” from the Creator of the Universe; I have objective standing and I am no longer integrated and fully encompassed within the Infinite. This feeling, of being an object and being separate from God, is a particularly severe deficiency because of it separates me from the Creator and the world that He created for His honor (i.e. in order that it recognize Him). Adam's transgression caused the three worlds of Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah to separate from the Infinite Light of Atzilut that constantly recreates them ex nihilo. The purpose of seeking God and developing true awareness is to reconnect these three worlds with Atzilut by reaching the level of ayin from which all the worlds emanate.
The second deficiency is more related to a practical side effect: namely that awareness itself causes a loss of the sensation. We find an everyday example of this in prayer, especially during the Amidah prayer, said three times daily. The more I remain aware of myself during his prayer, the less able I am to simply “stand” before my Creator and truly pour out my heart in simple faith. On the one hand, as previously mentioned, it would seem that only by being aware of one's prayer can one acquire the experience of prayer. Moreover, we have seen in the words of the Zohar that when da'at (“knowledge”) which is the key to experience, is deficient, the inner world of the heart remains degenerate and undeveloped and the possibilities of experience remain limited. It would thus seem that self-awareness and sensation are important. Yet, paradoxically, the moment a person becomes aware of his own sensations during prayer, he loses that sensation. A true experience only exists when it is not meditated on. All self-awareness is thus destined to cause a loss of the authentic, natural experience.
Particularly when the hidden objective of the experience is the experience itself, but even when the motive is pure, there exists a human inclination to wish to preserve the sensation even once the inner cause has become disconnected from it. This empty sensation is called in Hassidism serach ha'odef, “the redundant remnant.” When one continuously searches for it and becomes dependent upon reliving it, one deteriorates and becomes superficial, and is even liable to lose one's feel for authentic, deep spirituality.
The secret of the Jewish way of developing awareness is to do so in a way that does not cause the abandonment of service of God, transforming the “service” to “self worship.” If we succeed in achieving such awareness, our heart is automatically opened to new possibilities of experience, while at the same time remaining connected to God and avoiding the loss of the experience itself.