Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rambam: Obligation to learn about Hashem's greatness

Here is the full quote from the Rambam that was mentioned in the last post:

1. It is a commandment to love and fear the venerable and feared Alm–ghty, for it is written, “And you shall love the L–rd your G–d,” and it is also written, “You shall fear the L–rd your G–d” (Devarim 6:13, 10:20).

2. What is the way to love and fear G–d? Whenever one meditates upon the great wonders of G–d’s works and creations, and one sees from them that G–d’s wisdom has no boundaries or limits, one will immediately love, praise, and glorify [G–d], and be aroused with an intense desire to know the Great Name, as David said, “My soul thirsts for G–d, for the living G–d” (Tehillim 42:3). When one thinks about these matters one will feel a great fear and trepidation, and one will know that one is a low and insignificant creation, with weak and minor intelligence compared to the perfect knowledge of G–d, as David said, “When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers ... what is man, that You should remember him?” (ibid. 8:4-5)

3. Based on these things I will explain major concepts of the work of the Master of the Worlds, to enable the understanding person to love G–d. Concerning this love the Sages said that from it one will come to know “the One Who spoke, and the world came to be.”

Here is the Hebrew:

הלכות יסודי התורה פרק ב

א האל הנכבד והנורא הזה--מצוה לאוהבו וליראה ממנו, שנאמר "ואהבת, את ה’ אלוהיך" (דברים ו,ה; דברים יא,א) ונאמר "את ה’ אלוהיך תירא" (דברים ו,יג; דברים י,כ). [ב] והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו, ויראתו: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול, כמו שאמר דויד "צמאה נפשי, לאלוהים--לאל חי" (תהילים מב,ג).

ב וכשמחשב בדברים האלו עצמן, מיד הוא נרתע לאחוריו, ויירא ויפחד ויידע שהוא בריה קטנה שפלה אפלה, עומד בדעת קלה מעוטה לפני תמים דעות, כמו שאמר דויד "כי אראה שמיך . . . מה אנוש, כי תזכרנו" (תהילים ח,ד-ה).

ג ולפי הדברים האלו אני מבאר כללים גדולים ממעשה ריבון העולמים, כדי שיהיו פתח למבין לאהוב את השם, כמו שאמרו חכמים בעניין אהבה, שמתוך כך אתה מכיר את מי שאמר והיה העולם.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hisbonenus leads to Ahavah and Yirah

In a letter the Rebbe encourages:

“ … an increase in love and fear of Hashem (which are the root of the 248 positive Mitzvos and of the 365 negative Mitzvos (Tanya, ch. 4)), which requires an increase in Hisbonenus in topics found in the teachings of Chassidus, according to the ruling of the Rambam, “The honorable, awesome G–d has commanded us to love and fear Him ... What is) the way to love and fear Him? When the person meditates upon His handiwork, and sees in them His wisdom ... and is aroused with an intense desire to know the great G–d ... immediately ... (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, 2:1)

In order for the love and fear to come into expression in actual deed, one must engage in Avodas HaTefillah, as explained at length (along with the various ways of doing so for each and every individual) in Kuntres HaTefillah and in Kuntres HoAvodah, and in many places.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 24, p. 495

The more we meditate upon Chassidus, the more we will come to true love and fear of Hashem. Thus, every time one meditates upon Chassidus, he fulfills the Mitzvos to love and fear Hashem—ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem.

Learning HOW to davven

In this letter the Rebbe encourages “learning about Avodas HaTefillah, which brings to Avodas HaTefillah.”

Tefillah is not a matter of reading off words. It is about engaging in a profound, personal—even intimate—bonding experience with Hashem.

We are told to “have kavono (concentration).” But it is not enough to concentrate. If a driver concentrates on the road but is ignorant of the road rules, or doesn’t know his destination, then no amount of concentration can help. In order to davven, one must thoroughly learn the parts of Torah that teach us how to davven.

Here are some such important texts from Chabad Chassidus:

  • Kuntres HaTefillah from the Rebbe Rashab;
  • Kuntres HoAvodah from the Rebbe Rashab;
  • Kuntres Etz Chayim from the Rebbe Rashab;
  • Kuntres HaHispa’alus from the Mitteler Rebbe;
  • Sha’ar HaYichud from the Mitteler Rebbe.

In terms of the Sefiros, perhaps it could be said that this study is the concept of Tiferes ShebeMalchus. Tiferes corresponds to Torah (the Gemara in Berachos 58a says “Tiferes—this is Mattan Torah”), and Malchus corresponds to Tefillah (as it is written, va’ani sefilo, which corresponds to Malchus—see here). So studying the part of Torah that explains Tefillah is Tiferes ShebeMalchus.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Haskolo without avoda 1

I understand that the derech of putting the main koch on the Haskolo, but also working intensely on Avodas HaTefillah, is regarded as legitimate. This is not the type of maskil that is intended when the maskil is denigrated by the Rebbeim in the harshest terms. Rather, the maskil that deserves ridicule is the one who focuses on Haskolo, but neglects Avodah altogether:

In the year 5652, at the wedding of Reb Moshe Horenshtein, my father (the Rebbe Rashab) said, “When we learn Chassidus and do not work on Avodah, the punishment given is the same as the one who takes the king’s head and bends it down, as is written in Tanya (ch. 24).”

Sefer HaSichos 5706, p. 12.

This is comparable to the one who grasps on to the king’s head, and lowers it down, and hides his face in a toilet filled with excrement. There is no greater disgrace than this, even if one only does so for a moment.”

Tanya Kaddisha, ch. 24.