Rav’s Sources in Hisbodedus [#2996]

Question:

In the Rav’s series on hisbodedus (meditation), “Inner Silence”, the Rav explains that the series is explaining one out of many possible paths in hisbodedus, and that this is the path which some of the Rishonim (Torah sages ranging from 10th-15th centuries) traversed. The Rav further explained that this is a series about hisbodedus which is partially based on the Rambam and his son’s (Avraham ben haRambam) approach, and partially from the approach of Rav Avraham Abulafia. Can the Rav please explain a bit more about each of these approaches?

Answer:

The way of the school of “Maimoni” [specifically the Rambam’s son Avraham ben haRambam and Dovid HaMaimoni, seventh generation from the Rambam] is to attain hisbodedus (meditation) by disconnecting from action, emotion, turning the senses inward, connecting to G-d via the intellect, and silencing the actions, emotions and intellect via being in the dark. Through all of this, a person can reach the most desired state of hisbodedus, which is called “Encounter” [pegiah, to “encounter” G-d, as it were] – first by attaining a revelation of the neshamah (Divine soul) and later by attaining a revelation of G-dliness.

The way of Rav Abulafia is to reveal the neshamah (Divine soul) by way of the breath. This is based on the verse, “And He breathed into his nostrils, a breath of life.” The verse is saying that the main revelation of the soul is via the nostrils. For this reason, when one connects himself inwardly to the power of breath, in the proper way, he becomes connected with his soul. According to this approach, one reaches the body through the soul. This [connection] does not happen through the intellectual faculties of the soul, but through the soul’s connection to the body. As the verse teaches: “And He breathed into his nostrils” – which implies the soul’s connection to the body.

An additional part contained in Rav Abulafia’s approach is for one to reveal the “active intellect”, meaning that one reveals the intellect from its potential state into an active state. The intellect divides into three parts: (1) Seichel pashut, the “divested intellect” [the part of the intellect that is removed from physicality, hence it contains a simplistic view]. (2) Seichel murkav, “the complex intellect” [the analytical part of the intellect]. (3) The “intermediate” level between the divested and complex intellect.

An example of the “intermediate” level is when one views a combination of Hebrew letters which do not translate into anything understandable, such as looking at the tagim [the crown-like symbols which protrude from some of the Hebrew letters in a sefer Torah]. This is a bridging level between the “divested [non-analytical] intellect” and the “complex intellect”, and it corresponds to the concept that wisdom comes from “nothingness” (ayin), which is based on the verse “And wisdom, from where does it come?” [implying that the true source of analytical thinking (“complex intellect”) is really drawn from the higher, non-analytical part of the intellect, the “divested intellect”]. This is how one can combine the “complex intellect” with the “divested [non-analytical] intellect”, together: by revealing “divested” [non- analytical] intellect” in the complex [analytical] intellect.

Through this [contemplating the tagim of the Hebrew letters], one reveals the intellect from its potential state to its active state. Through this, one can arrive at “simple, non-analytical reflection”. This is not referring to actual “simplicity” itself, but to simple, non-analytical reflection.

The “Inner Silence” series which explains hisbodedus is partially based on this concept of simple, non-analytical reflection, albeit the fact that the series does not elaborate on how to reflect on the various combinations of Hebrew letters and words.