Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern on Vayishlach: Meditation, Fiery Prayer, Divine in the Material World—Also Some Possible RIETS news.

I have not posted on the weekly parasha sheets of Rabbi Morgenstern for two years already. The older posts are here on Rabbbi Morgenstein and meditation and here on his view of Komarno.  I was motivated this week by something that was quoted from the Hebrew version. Rabbi Morgenstern has been producing almost 40-60 pages a week of Chasidus and sending them out each week by email.  At the end of every 800-1000 pages he hits print and offers the book for sale.

(To subscribe- write here to his assistant tc7@neto.bezeqint.net, don’t write to me to sign you up).

This week we once againsee a little new age, a little modern meditation, and some Buddhism-lite language to transform Chasidus into Haredi Neo-Hasidism. In this version, submission to higher wellsprings becomes cultivation of the self. We have a [mis]use of the 1991 book The Holographic Universe. We have one of his recurring themes of fiery prayer as the religious goal. We have weekly meditations  this week a Sabbath meditation and the start of next week’s  Hanukah mediation on the infinite light. He reiterates that zaddikim are the infinite light of God. Hokhmah here is a loss of self and to be nullified before all Jewish souls. Finally, we have an Izbitz, seeing everything as God’s will and that we should strive to be like Shimon who can see God’s will in all materialism. The Hebrew has some stories on the importance of drinking and on the process of reading kvitlach.

Each of the worlds exists in a kind of holographic state, where each level encompasses a unified sub-set of all of the worlds. [This is also true of the sefiros.] It is precisely through contemplating the downward-motion of the formation of the worlds at each level that the tzaddikim rise from level to level, from below to above, along the “ladder” that rises at Beis El, Hashem’s house of prayer.

Rebbe Nachman taught that the light of hisbodedus—fiery personal prayer before Hashem—is the highest of all forms of Divine service. In the earlier works, its light is knows as the light of yechidah, which is [the uppermost soul-element that experiences] true attachment with its Creator. In order to draw down this great light, one must meditate upon the fact that everything in the universe is a manifestation of G-dliness.

the tzaddikim made a practice of doing hisbodedus just before Shabbos in an effort to grasp the incoming light of the Shabbos, which is an aspect of Hashem’s infinite light. This is why those who do not develop the proper spiritual vessels prior to Shabbos fail to feel the light of Shabbos. Instead of experiencing the delight of Shabbos, they enter Shabbos in a state of attachment to Shabbtai [the influence of the planet Saturn]—a state characterized by anxiety and melancholy.

In order to connect with the infinite light, one must first contemplate the blackness of the [burning] wick, which symbolizes the tzimtzum. This means that he must first lead his mind through a series of successive constrictions [in order to focus on a particular point]. The light of the menorah that symbolizes the infinite light that existed before creation and the process of its spiraling down into and through the evolving vessels of creation is associated with Yosef. The verse says, “I am Yosef…”

The tzaddik [symbolized by Yosef, the paradigm of the tzaddik] contemplates on the fact that he is a part of the infinite “I” of Hashem. Although this contemplation occasionally manifests itself in what appear to be grandiose statements on the part of the tzaddik, one must understand that there is no personal vanity in what the tzaddikim say.

When a person approaches the state of selflessness, he prepares the “airspace” that will be able to receive the light that has until then merely encircled him from without.

The level of Chochmah, which is the avodah of self-nullification attained by contemplating Hashem’s greatness. Chochmah is “the force of nothing,” of losing the sense of self. Although many people can speak beautifully on the subject of bitul, few are those who actually live in such a state, who know it experientially. A person who is truly nullified before Hashem can be recognized by the extent of bitul he evidences before his fellow Jews. Every single Jew is a “piece of G-d from above,” and if a person cannot submit before another Jew it is a sure sign that he is not nullified before Hashem either.

The Rebbe of Ishbitz that Levi’s refusal was a sign that he only wanted to make unifications at a simple and straightforward level; Shimon, on the other hand, sought to uplift all of the places that exist in a state of the obscuring of Hashem’s presence and rectify them. For this reason, Shimon will be revealed at the highest level in the ultimate future—in the aspect of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, on whose teachings the entire redemption depends. The name Shimon is a conjunction of the words —iniquity is eradicated.” In truth, it is not enough for a person to attach himself to the yichudim at the higher levels; he must be able to do so even when he feels that he has fallen into materialism.

The other reason that I decided to dedicate a post this week to Rabbi Morgenstern was because rumor has it that Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere is in negotiation to be the new mashgiah ruhani of YU. It may or may not come to fruition, but if it does it will give the guys the Neo-Hasidic emotionalism of their gap year programs. YU will then embody as its haskafa Rav Itamar Schwartz’ Belvavi Mishkan Evneh, kiruv Torah, Rav Moshe Wolfson, and Rabbi Morgenstern’s approach. Gone will be the intellectualism  of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein.

13 responses to “Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Morgenstern on Vayishlach: Meditation, Fiery Prayer, Divine in the Material World—Also Some Possible RIETS news.

  1. Thanks for the post, just curious why R’ Morgenstern shlita”s view of the rashash’s system of his’klalus and his’kashrus, albeit dumbed down to fit to drush is based on a misreading of holographic universe. The ideas do seem to be quite similar.

  2. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holography
    How are they similar? Maybe I missed it.

  3. According to Rb Chaim Volozhin (nephesh ha’chaim) the concepts of ein od milvado and Hashem hu ha’Elokim mean that there is no aspect of creation which is minutely divorced from Hashem’s involvement therein. This would seem to be a foundational aspect of Jewish belief and repudiates the idea of Enosh that God is too loft to be involved directly in our lowly affairs.

    Why would we think that we need to pray with fiery devotion in order to bridge the (almost) unbridgeable gap between ourselves and the ‘higher worlds’? Surely when I pray, the presence of God is before me and directly addressable?

    • I haven’t read more than a few pieces of Nefesh haChaim, but that sounds like a very different view from that espoused by chasidim, esp. Lubavitch (see Loewenthal, Elior, Wolfson et al on Habad acosmism/immanence).

      The Lubavitch “higher unity” in which we are all part of God, we just can’t perceive it because of the tzimtzum (that shades our perception of our own Godliness), is how they interpret “ein od milvado”. While what you describe is more like the ideology with which I grew up as a schoolchild at Ramaz, that God is involved in all of creation, giving it a flow of existence. It’s like a light bulb – it doesn’t make light without a constant flow of electricity, but it has physical existence even without the power being on. So too the universe would be cold and dead without a flow of God-life-power (shefa), but it would still have independent existence once God had created it.

      Do I understand you correctly?

      • A very basic aspect of Judasim is that we have an emotional relationship with G-d; ve’ahavta es Hashem elokechah

        Going on about technical definitions of who we are and who G-d is in respect to this would seem to have as much relevance as a mother being by her child “Do you love me?” and responding “What is love?”

        Essentially the bone that I am picking with the article that has been quoted is that I am entitled as a Jew to go to shul and say “Hello G-d.” Telling me that there is some massive conceptual gap between me and G-d is driving G-d away from the Jewish people rather than drawing them closer to Him.

  4. Is the intellectualism of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Lichtenstein still there? I personally do not think it is. It might exist in a few people there, but those people have and always will have their followers (few and far between). On a grand scale, the institution would benefit more if it stopped trying to capture what it does not have anymore, and focus on what the majority are looking for. There is no shame in that. Food for thought on your last paragraph.

  5. full disclosure, i work at YU. I’m not sure about this rumor but I would disagree to your conclusion should it actually transpire. I don’t think the current mashgiach or any future one would be at the intellectual help of the Yeshiva (that’s not his role). Gedolei torah like R’ Schechter, Tendler, Bleich etc. are still providing a staunch continuation of the Rav’s legacy.

  6. Does this mean that Morgenstern is distancing himself from Abulafia?

  7. It would be ironic if YU ,hired Rabbi Weinberger .I remember him trying to convince me not to attend YU telling how not conducive the place is to spiritual growth. He fed me lots of false information. He talks kids out of college.

  8. Judeo Philaeus: I don’t think that Rav Morgenstern is distancing himself from Abulafia – he’s aligned with many gedolim of the past and encompasses a lot of shittos. I find the man — whom I first came upon through this blog, by the way — astounding and “the real deal”. His Torah is profound, multifarious, eclectic and exceedingly rich. My own and only regrets when it comes to him are rooted in the fact that he’s a youngish man (40? 45?) and that I might not live long enough to see him in full flourish…

  9. Moshe, I am a currently a student at Yeshiva University, and am in my fifth semester here. Most of the students that I’ve encountered are only aware of the existence of Rabbis Bleich and Tendler insomuch as they work here, and not any intellectual or hashkafic level. It’s certainly not the level of profile needed to imbue the institution’s spirit with the legacy of the Rav. As for Rabbi Shachter, if he is indeed carrying on the legacy of the Rav, does so with an extremely narrow perspective, or so it seems to me. There seems to no convergence of the twain between those invested in the Y and those in the U these days. This new hire doesn’t seem to bode well in that department.

  10. On an unrelated topic, where can I read about the causes of the fights between the Satmar Rav and Rav Ahrele back in the old country ?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Pingback: Shovavim! The special time we are in and the opportunity to live inspired! « midnightrabbi inspires

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