THE KNOWLEDGE OF G-D
CONTEMPLATION & MEDITATION
What Is Contemplation – Hitbonenut
Now that we have explained the entire chaining down of the worlds, from the essence of Ohr Ein Sof (The Infinite Light) until our world, we must explain the proper approach this type of study. We will, therefore, now delve into the methodology of Kabbalistic contemplation.
In essence, Hitbonenut (Contemplation) is the strong gazing of the mind into the depth of a subject. In other words, one examines the subject in his mind until he understands it in all its parts and details. In the terminology of the Talmud, this is called Iyun (In depth Analysis).
There are two basic methods of study. The first is called Iyun – In depth Analysis, and the second is called Girsah (Surface study).
Girsah – Surface study
Girsah – Surface study, is the understanding of the subject at first glance, without stopping to delve into its details with any great scrutiny or analysis. In Talmud study, this is used mainly to cover much ground and gain a broad familiarization with the subject matter. However, since it does not involve in-depth investigation, the knowledge gained is inherently shallow. This is analogous to a ship sailing on the surface of the ocean, rather than a submarine which submerges into its very depths. It is similar to one who casually glances at an object he is unfamiliar with, without scrutinizing it carefully in his mind, to understand what it is and how it is. He makes no attempt to understand its depth by examining all its inner and external components, but, rather, takes it at face value. Because of this, he may forget it completely with the passage of time. If asked, he will find it difficult to describe and even if he does describe it, it will be in the most general of terms. This is because he only saw it in a passing way, and did not examine it carefully.
It is for this reason that witnesses to a crime will often have hazy or disparate recollections of the incident, since they only saw it in a passing way. In contrast, a detective or police officer, who witnesses a crime, will take notice of the details, because after years of experience, he has developed a “trained eye”. He has accustomed himself to notice details.
The same is true of the “mind’s eye”, which “observes” concepts, so to speak. When one studies in a way of Girsah (Surface study), he understands the subject in a passing way. He will, therefore, only grasp it in the most general of terms and will quickly forget the details. Since he has not plumbed the subject to its depths, his understanding of it will be external and general and he will be incapable of explaining it in detail. He will be able to explain it only in the most general of terms.
Before explaining Iyun (In depth analysis) we must first
understand the makeup of any intellectual concept.
Length, Width & Depth
There are three “dimensions” to every intellectual concept:
1) The length of a concept is the “lowering down” of the concept to make it accessible to the mind. In other words, this is the “descent” of the concept through the use of examples and analogies so that even a very lofty and abstract concept is expressed in terms that are tangible, even to the understanding of a child. This is analogous to the length of a river. Its source is in the mountain peaks from which it flows down until it reaches sea level. This may be compared to a great mathematician teaching arithmetic to a small child.
Numbers, in and of themselves, are abstract concepts, unrelated to physicality. Nonetheless, the mathematician lowers the concept by using physical examples to bring it within the scope of the child’s comprehension. For Instance, he asks the child, “If I give you one apple and your mommy gives you another apple, how many apples do you have?” “Two apples.” “If you find two more apples, now how many apples do you have?” “Four apples.” “Now, if you eat one of those apples, how many apples do you have left?” “Three apples.” In order to explain addition and subtraction, which themselves are abstract concepts unrelated to physical objects, he had to “lower” the concept and put it into tangible terms that the child’s intellect could accept. In the same way, whenever a person studies any deep subject, he must “lower” the concept to his own intellectual understanding by finding analogies and examples for himself, which will make the concept more accessible and “graspable” to him.
2) The width of a concept is the many different ways and angles in which it may be understood. In other words, a single concept may be explained or viewed from many different perspectives and approaches, rather that just single way. This is what gives “breadth” to the concept. This is analogous to the width of a river.
3) The depth of a concept is analogous to the depth of a river. The depth of the river is its undercurrent and its “strength”. In its depth, the river does not have much of a width. Nonetheless, it is from the power of this depth, the force of the undercurrent, from which the width and length overflow. Likewise, in a concept, the depth of the concept is what brings about its length and breadth. This is because the depth of the concept is its essential point even before it spreads to the length and breadth of explanation. This is called, Omek HaMoosag (The depth of that which is being grasped).
The game of “Tic-Tac-Toe” is not deep at all. Therefore, it has little breadth, in that it may be explained in only one way. Because it is not deep, it is also short. In order to be explained it need not be invested into examples and analogies. It may be explained simply, as is. In contrast, a subject, such as physics or medicine is much deeper. Therefore it is very broad. There are many fields of physics and medicine, and many particulars to each one. It also has great length. It takes many years of earnest study to become either a physicist or a medical doctor. This is to say that one must go through the length and breadth of the explanation of physics or medicine before he can grasp their depths and truly be called a physicist or a doctor.
Besides depth, length and breadth, there is an additional dimension to every concept, its “height”. This is the fact that a concept may be used as a “building block” to understand higher and higher concepts. For example, the understanding of addition leads to subtraction which leads to multiplication and division etc. However, the height of a subject is commensurate to its depth. The deeper the concept, the higher it can go. We see that the length, width, and height of a concept are all dependent on its depth.
Now, the above illustration is not a perfect analogy, for we must understand a further point in regard to the comparison between a river, and the comprehension of a concept. This is the source of the concept. This source determines its strength and depth. The spring is the source of the river. From the spring, drops of water trickle forth to form the river. The true depth of the river is this trickle of water which flows from the spring. The pressure and constancy of the water flowing from the spring will determine the strength of the river, thus affecting its length and breadth.
Likewise, the actual depth of a concept is its original source. But what is this source? To understand this we must understand the intellectual faculties. What are they and how do they function?
Chochmah, Binah and Da’at
There are three intellectual faculties: Chochmah (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), and Da’at (Knowledge).
Up to this point we have
explained the comprehended concepts in the brain of Binah, which is the brain of comprehension and grasp. Binah, specifically, is analogous to a river.
This is because just as a river flows ceaselessly, so the brain of
comprehension flows ceaselessly. This is called the, “
The faculty of Da’at is the ability to have focus, interest, and mental attachment to a subject. This is understood from the verse, “Adam knew eve and she gave birth to a child”. From here it is clear that knowledge means bonding. This is the faculty of Da’at which is the ability to mentally connect to a subject.
The faculty of Chochmah, however, is not a brain of comprehension nor is it a brain of focus. Rather, this brain is the source of the intellect. It is from Chochmah that the concepts spring forth. Because of this it is analogous to a spring from which flashes of intuitive insight trickle forth. Chochmah (Insight) is called Ain (Nothingness), whereas Binah (Comprehension), is called Yesh (Somethingness), because just as a spring begins deep beneath the ground where it is unseen, so too the faculty of Chochmah cannot be comprehended. One cannot have direct consciousness of Chochmah itself. Chochmah only becomes revealed in intuitive flashes which spring forth into the comprehending brain of Binah.
The Depth of a Concept
From the above, we understand that the depth of a concept is its essential point as it flashes from the spring of Chochmah. In other words, it is the flash of intuitive insight into the subject, which is its depth. How is it, then, that one reaches the depth of a concept to have a flash of intuitive insight and understanding of the concept as a whole? How does one achieve this inspirational flash of understanding into the subject matter?
The way to attain the depth of a subject matter, the Omek Hamoosag (The depth of that which is being comprehended), is solely through the contemplative method called Iyun (Deep Analysis). It is only through climbing the length of the revealed knowledge, and delving to the depth of the concept, keeping his mind focused on analyzing it until he understands each particular nuance of the concept clearly and thoroughly, that an automatic flash of intuitive insight into the subject will result. This seminal flash of intuitive insight contains within itself, in a way of a Heyulie, all the length and breadth of the explanations that come out of it.
Iyun – Deep Analysis (Hitbonenut)
For example, only one who has invested himself into the deep study of medicine will have innovative insight into it. This is because he has reached into the depth of the subject, at its very source, from where the drops of insight bubble forth. In contrast, one who has not studied and analyzed medicine deeply will never have a flash of insight into the field of medicine. If he thinks he does, he is merely having delusional imaginations.
Now, the contemplation of Iyun constitutes keeping one’s mind on the concept and greatly analyzing both its external and internal aspects, with the specific intent of arriving at its inner, essential core. In the above mentioned example of observing an object, this would constitute the close scrutiny of the object in a way of thorough examination.
Besides being called Iyun, this kind of contemplation and meditation is also called Hitbonenut. The word Hitbonenut is spelled with two N’s (נ). It would have been no less grammatically correct if it had been spelled with one N (נ). The reason it is spelled with two to signify that one must analyze the known body of knowledge over and over until he knows it thoroughly. It is only through the repeated study and review of the subject, in which every particular is examined, that one will understand it clearly and achieve a true depth and understanding of it.
Da’at - Concentration
From the above it is understood, that the aspect of Da’at, (Concentration), is only a vehicle and vessel for the aspect of Binah (Analytical Comprehension).
As mentioned above, the intellectual faculty of Da’at is the ability for concentration. It is the ability to connect ones mind to a subject. (This is also the faculty of interest because the interest in the subject is what gives rise to the connection and deep concentration into it. The focus and concentration will be commensurate to the amount of interest. The faculty of interest and desire is called Keter and the faculty of focus and concentration is called Da’at. However, in truth, they are one and the same, as we have just explained. They are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Because of this, in the enumeration of the sefirot, if Keter is counted, Da’at is omitted and if Da’at is counted, Keter is omitted.
Now, in the faculty of Da’at – concentration, there also are the three dimensions of length, breadth and depth. There are people with broad concentration, and people with narrow concentration. This is to say that some people are interested in many different subjects whereas some specialize in one specific field. Those with broad Da’at will have a general knowledge in many fields but no expertise in any of them. Because their Da’at is broad it is also shallow. Those with narrow Da’at will be interested in one field and will develop a deep Da’at in it. They will become experts, but only in their field. Deep Da’at (Concentration) means that they are not easily distracted from the subject and shallow Da’at (Concentration) means they are easily distracted.
Furthermore, there are people with long concentration or short concentration. For example, a child has a short Da’at – concentration. Therefore he does not have a deep attachment of his attention to anything. This is why a child is fickle and desires a certain toy one minute, quickly tires of it and goes to the next toy. This is because he does not have a particularly strong connection to the object of his desire.
It is clear that Da’at is the aspect of the total focus of one’s mind to connect with the subject to the exclusion of all else. Because of this, the face of a person who is concentrating deeply will become contracted and his brows will become furrowed etc.
In contrast, the aspect of Binah (Comprehension or Analysis) is the opposite of Da’at. Rather than contraction and focus, it is an expansion of the mind with great breadth. For this reason Binah is called Rechovot HaNahar (The Expanse of the River). This is the close examination of all the many details and particulars of the subject.
From the above we understand that the faculty of Da’at (Concentration) is a vessel for the faculty of Binah (Analysis), and must precede it. In other words, the ability for deep analysis will be commensurate to the depth of concentration. One who does not have a deep concentration cannot penetrate to the very core of the subject. He will only be capable of surface level understanding. In contrast, one who has deep concentration will have the ability to analyze to the very depth of the subject and bring out new insights from its depth.
From the above it is clear that the order of deep contemplative meditation is as follow;
1. There must be an initial Da’at which is the focus and concentration of the mind on the subject matter to the exclusion of all else.
2. As soon as the mind is focused on the subject, analysis must begin. This is the intellectual investigation into the matter. One turns it over and over in his mind in an attempt to truly understand all the particulars of the concept and the relationships between its various components. However, what he is actually trying to understand is the very essence of the concept.
3. The automatic result of the concentration of Da’at coupled with the analysis of Binah is an insightful flash of understanding (Chochmah) into the subject. This is the depth of intellect, which is the spring of Chochmah from where flashes of insight trickle forth into the comprehension of Binah, like lightning bolts.
From the examination of these three faculties of the mind, it becomes clear that all forms of “meditation” consisting of mantras and concentration exercises etc. which purport to bring about “insight into true reality” are false by definition. As explained, the faculty of concentration can only act as a vessel for the faculty of analysis. However, it is specifically the analysis, and only the analysis, which leads to the intuitive flash of insight into the subject. (Of course concentration is a necessary prerequisite to analysis. However, concentration, by itself, is only an empty vessel. Only when this vessel is filled by analysis can there be a flash of intuitive understanding and insight into the subject.)
This may be illustrated by the well known story of
Archimedes. As mentioned in Part One, the king commissioned Archimedes to weigh
the royal throne in order to determine whether the builders had pilfered gold
in its construction. Archimedes, who was the greatest mathematician of his
time, repeatedly analyzed the problem without success. One day, he was about to
bathe. As sat in the tub he noticed the displacement of water and suddenly the
solution flashed into his mind. It all came together for him. He jumped out of
the tub and ran down the streets of
This was a flash of Chochmah – Intuitive Insight. People had been taking baths for thousands of years. Why didn't this principle occur to them? Since they did not do the analysis (Hitbonenut), they did not have the flash of understanding. This shows how it is that, specifically, Hitbonenut (Analysis) activates Chochmah.
If someone were to claim that he achieved a mastery of medicine simply by meditating on the word “medicine” for many years, only a fool would risk his life by putting himself under his care. As mentioned above, the conclusions of one who merely concentrates without analysis clearly cannot be revelations into the truth of reality. Instead, he has induced delusional hallucinations in himself. This is self evident to those who are honest and do not delude themselves.
Chochmah – Wisdom
Before we continue explaining the various levels of understanding one may attain, we must first preface with an understanding of the faculty of Chochmah.
As mentioned earlier, Chochmah is compared to a spring, from which flashes of understanding into a subject trickle forth. Actually, this is only Chochmah as it relates to Binah (Comprehensive grasp). These flashes of understanding come from the “Ein (Nothingness) of Chochmah into the Yesh (Somethingness) of Binah, that is, they take on tangibility within the “grasp” of Binah, in a way of a “somethingness”.
In Chochmah too, there is length, breadth and depth, just as there is in Binah. This is to say that even though a spring may be concealed beneath the ground, it, nonetheless, has dimensions. The depth of the spring is the aquifer, which is its subterranean source in the depths of the earth. From this depth there spread forth a length and breadth, until drops of water trickle forth into revelation as the beginning of the river.
This being the case, the terms Ein (Nothingnesss) and Yesh (Somethingness) are relative. Binah is only called “something” relative to its depth, which is the “nothingness” of Chochmah. However, Chochmah is likewise called a Yesh (Something) relative to its depth, as stated, “Chochmah is found from “nothingness”.
Be Understanding with Wisdom, and Wise in Understanding
From the above, we understand that there are different depths within the intellect, such as the depth and source of Chochmah (Insight) and the depth and source of Binah (Comprehension).
This clarifies the statement in Sefer Yetzirah, “Be understanding in wisdom, and wise in understanding.” This statement refers to Binah of Chochmah and Chochmah of Binah.
Be wise in understanding, refers to Chochmah of Binah (Insight of Comprehension). This is the innovative insight into the subject of one’s study. As explained above, this is the automatic result of the analysis into the particulars of the subject matter in which he clarifies in his mind the explanation of each particular. (The analysis is the aspect of Binah of Binah. Chochmah of Binah is the flash of intuitive understanding into the subject matter which results from it.)
Nonetheless, this Chochmah, the flash of insight, is only into the specific subject under analysis, and not into any different subject. He sees a whole new angle and innovative insight, but only into the particular subject he is studying. “Be wise in understanding”, means that it is an insight, but in that subject alone. It is a Chochmah, but only of that particular Binah. One who has attained this level can only bring out new insights and innovations into his particular field of study. Such a person is called a Chacham (a wise man).
On the other hand, “Be understanding in wisdom”, refers to Binah of Chochmah (Comprehension of Insight). This is the power of comprehension and explanation within the faculty of Chochmah itself. Now, Chochmah of Chochmah is the wisdom of all understandings, therefore, the Binah of Chochmah is the ability to explain all concepts. It is how all concepts are unified at their source. One who has attained this level is capable of understanding one subject from another. Such a person is called a Navon (A man of understanding).
(Actually, Chochmah of Binah, which is the flash of intuition into a particular subject, ultimately is also rooted in Binah of Chochmah. However, in Chochmah of Binah, Binah of Chochmah (which is the ability to explain all things), remains hidden and only the insight into the specific matter under examination becomes revealed.)
Binah & Tvunah (Comprehension & Application)
There are two general levels in Binah. These are Binah and Tvunah.
Binah is the aspect of analysis and comprehension. In contrast, Tvunah is the aspect of the extension of the light of comprehension. This is to say that because one has a good and solid grasp into the depth of the subject it spreads forth from the essential comprehension itself and brings about insights and applications in many different matters which are separate from the essential comprehension, in and of itself. Such a person is called an Ish Tvunah (A man of Tvunah understanding), as in the verse, “A man of Tvunah draws out the deep waters”. This means that he can bring out the deep waters, which represent the depth of Binah, into state of revelation, in many different ways. This is similar to a shepherd who draws water from the depth of the well, and brings it to the level of the sheep, to quench their thirst.
A man of Tvunah is able bring out a very deep and lofty concept (The Omek Hamoosag), which is beyond the level of the vast majority of people, from its state of concealment into open revelation. He brings it within their grasp, so that it appears to them as if it was never deep at all. This is similar to a shepherd who brings forth life giving water from the very depths of the well to his flock. This is to say that he has the ability to bring the very depths of even the deepest and loftiest concepts within the grasp of all people.
However, one who is not an Ish Tvunah, though he may grasp the concept himself, will not be able to bring it down to the grasp of others. Moreover, he, himself, will only understand it as it applies to this subject alone, but not other subjects. Even though his comprehension has a length, breadth and depth, nonetheless, it all remains within comprehension itself, without spreading forth to other subjects or other people who are not on his level of understanding. For example, many professors who are experts in their field may not be capable of applying it to other fields, and may have difficulty bringing the concept down, within the grasp of their students.
To further illustrate, the Talmud is replete with a great deal of dialogue and analysis with much reasoning and explanation into the subjects under discussion. However, though Talmud study involves comprehension in a way of Binah, nonetheless, actual Halachic (legal) rulings, (either to the positive or to the negative) do not necessarily come to final resolution. This is because the intellect of the Talmud is completely intellectually oriented without necessarily spreading forth into practical application. Applied concepts exist there, but only in the way of a Heyulie, in which the ramifications and applications are not yet resolved.
A clearer example of this is the fact that the original invention of the steam engine took place approximately 2000 years ago, during the time of the Greeks. However, though they understood the scientific principles of the steam engine and actually built a working prototype, it never dawned on them to apply it in practical terms, such as harnessing its power to operate machinery etc., thus delaying the advent of the industrial revolution by 1800 years. They possessed Binah, which is the analysis and comprehension, but lacked Tvunah, which is the application and revelation.
We therefore understand that in essence, the power of Tvunah is the spreading forth and revelation of the light of Binah into separate matters. This includes the practical application of a concept, or the birth of heartfelt emotions from intellectual understanding, or the ability to bring out and explain a concept on many different levels. All these constitute the spreading forth of the light of Binah into something separate.
This faculty of Tvunah is gained by deep comprehension into the subject, which is gained only through the aspect of Hitbonenut – repeated analysis and contemplation into the subject matter until one understands all the ins and outs of a subject thoroughly, to its very depth. His ability to bring the concept out in many different ways and explanations, or his ability to apply the concept, sheds light on just how well the depth of the concept has settled in his mind. Moreover, how deeply he understands the concept will dictate just how far down he will be able to bring it when he explains it to others.
(From the above it is understood that just as there is a length, breadth and depth in Chochmah, Binah and Da’at, so too is there a length, breadth and depth in Tvunah. Furthermore, as explained before, according to the depth will be the length and breadth. So too in Tvunah, according to the depth will be its length and breadth.)
(From the above it is self evident, that because of a lack of Tvunah, many who study Kabbalah, (Such as the chaining down of the worlds, as detailed in Part One) are at a loss of how it applies to their daily lives or what to do with this body of knowledge, altogether. It seems to them to be a very interesting intellectual endeavor, but with no bearing on “reality”. Eventually, they will ask themselves, “Of what use is this knowledge?” This is due to their lack of Tvunah. Any comprehension they may have achieved remains as it is, without spreading forth into their emotions or actions, and without any application to real life whatsoever. As explained above, the solution to this problem is to go back to the beginning and learn it thoroughly, carefully analyzing and contemplating all of its facets until one gains a strong grasp of them. Eventually, Tvunah will result, automatically, according to the depth of the understanding.)
From all of the above, we understand the order of several things:
1) There must first be an activation of the faculty of Da’at – attention and connection of the mind to the subject matter, to the exclusion of all else.
2) This initial mental focus is a vessel for the next level, which is in Binah and constitutes Hitbonenut, the contemplative analysis into the given and revealed explanations of the subject. Nonetheless, the depth is still concealed.
3) The Hitbonenut (Analysis and Contemplation) is a vessel for the next level which is the aspect of Tvunah. This comes about when he actually grasps the very depth of the concept itself, to its essence, as a result of his deep contemplation and analysis. Because he has grasped onto the actual Heyulie depth of the concept, his mind will immediately expand with all sorts of innovative insights, explanations and applications of the concept in regard to other matters. The extent of the insights and applications depends on how well he has grasped the concept to its very depth, and is an automatic result of the contemplation.
4) Moreover, the faculty of Tvunah arouses the emotions of love and fear of G-d and brings them to life.
Love & Fear of G-d
Many people confuse fear of G-d with fear of punishment and retribution. True fear of G-d is the fear of being separated from Him, and is the flip side of Love of G-d. If a person loves someone deeply and takes great pleasure in being with that person, therefore, when he is separated from the one he loves, his pain and suffering will be commensurate to the pleasure he feels when he is with his beloved. This can be understood from the relationship between David and Yehonatan, as the verse states, "They Kissed and Cried". Their grief over their separation was in direct proportion to their pleasure in being together. From this we see that love and fear of G-d come in equal proportion to each other. According to the degree of love of G-d will be the degree of fear of separating from Him.
Fear of punishment, on the other hand, is not actual love of G-d at all, but rather a love of self. The reason he does not sin is because he fears Divine retribution and it is therefore not related to love of G-d at all. On the contrary, if a person views his relationship to G-d with such a perspective, he may come to the conclusion that G-d is tyrannical, Heaven forbid. This, in turn, may bring him to harbor feelings of resentment towards G-d, Heaven forbid. Fear of punishment is, therefore, not at all a level of Divine service, but is rather the kind of fear of G-d associated with Idolaters.
True love and fear of G-d are called "Trayn Gadphin D'Parchin L'Eiylah – The two wings which fly upward". Just as the two wings of a bird must work in conjunction and with equal force in order to cause flight, so too, in our service of G-d, the love and fear of Him must be in equal proportion to each other, in order for our service to soar upward. The two come together as one. But, how are true love and fear of G-d to be attained?
We recite three times daily, “Hear ‘O Israel etc.,” and we then say, “And you will love HaShem your G-d etc”. As is known “hearing” refers to the contemplation and understanding of Binah, whereas “sight” refers to the insight of Chochmah. This means that only after one has done Hitbonenut (Analysis and Comprehension) will he arrive at love and fear of G-d, as a natural result of that contemplation.
From the above explanation of love and fear it is clearly understood that the two are born of Daat, which constitutes the attachment and interest in something. Now it is also stated, "If there is no Daat, there is no Binah and if there is no Binah, there is no Da’at." The explanation of this is as follows. The first part of the statement refers to “focus” and “analysis”. This is to say that before one can begin to analyze any given subject, he must first focus his mind on it, as explained earlier. It is only then that he can begin to analyze the subject. Therefore, the first part of the statement is understood to mean, “If there is no focus, there cannot be analysis.”
In the second part of the statement Binah refers to “understanding” and Da’at refers to “interest”. This is to say that one who does not have understanding into a subject also will not have interest in it. The second part of the statement therefore means, “If there is no understanding there will not be interest.” In contrast, when one understands a subject, this creates a mental bond to it. The greater of an understanding he has, the greater will the bond of interest be. The greater the bond he has to it, the greater pleasure will he have in it. The more pleasure he has in it, the greater will his interest be in it. This propels him to greater and greater understanding in a type of “snowball” effect, which gets bigger and bigger.
Conversely, the more pleasure he has in it, the greater will be his anguish in what he does not understand. We may now understand why love and fear are called the “wings”, because they propel one to greater and greater heights in G-dliness. However, if one does not have Binah (Understanding) he will be incapable of having a connection. This may be understood by the example of one who overhears a conversation. Because he understands the language and the subject they are talking about, his interest and attention is automatically drawn to listen into their conversation. However, if they would be speaking a foreign language, which he does not understand, his interest will not be drawn to their conversation altogether. In the same way, love and fear of G-d are the natural consequences of the understanding of G-dliness, and are, therefore, in direct proportion to how well one understands. Moreover, it is specifically the love and fear of G-d which propel one to serve G-d in deed.
The Effects of Hitbonenut
It is clear from all the above, that it is specifically the faculty of Binah (Analysis and comprehension), which arouses and enlivens all the other faculties.
When one analyzes a subject greatly, he will firstly come to understand it in all its inner and outer details (Binah). Hitbonenut (Analysis) is the power of the mind to take things apart. Through this, one automatically activates the higher mental power of Chochmah (Insight), which is the power of the mind to bring things together, and he will have a flash of insight and understanding into the depth of the concept. This is a flash of Chochmah (Insight). This shows how Hitbonenut (Analysis) activates Chochmah (Insight), both Chochmah in general and Chochmah of Binah in particular, as mentioned above.
Now, Hitbonenut (Analysis) is an act which one must actively choose to do. On the other hand, one cannot choose to have a flash of insight. Rather, that is the automatic result of Hitbonenut. Actually, through Hitbonenut, one can reach even higher into the depth and essence of the concept itself. In other words, he can comprehend the very essence of the subject and therefore bring out totally novel explanations and relate it to entirely different subjects.
Furthermore, this even activates the general sefirah of Keter itself. This is to say that the understanding will bring him great pleasure (Atik Yomin) and a great desire (Arich Anpin) which will motivate him to further his understanding. This in turn will cement his great attachment to the subject of his understanding (Da’at). This in turn arouses the emotions of the heart, Chesed and Gevurah, the love for it and the fear of being separated from it. These in turn bring one to Netzach, Hod, and Yesod which are the gut emotional responses which compel one to act upon it, which finally leads to action (Malchut).
We, therefore, see that Hitbonenut (Analysis and contemplation) is the governing faculty in our service of G-d. It is specifically in the faculty of Hitbonenut that we can choose to serve G-d. In other words, one can not choose to be interested in G-d (Da’at). He can not choose to have a flash of inspiration or insight into G-dliness (Chochmah). Neither can he choose to have true love and fear of G-d (Midot) nor a pleasure and desire in G-d (Atik & Arich). Finally, action alone (Malchut) without intellect and emotions, is similar to a body without a soul.
However, our only choice lies in choosing to try to understand G-dliness. Furthermore, we have an obligation to try to understand, as stated, "Da Et Elokai Avicha – Know the G-d of your father". Maimonides actually begins the code of Jewish law with this commandment, for it is the prerequisite to all other commandments.
This is clearly understood from the statement in Isaiah, “The ox knows his master, the donkey knows his masters trough, Israel does not know (Yada, i..e Da’at), my People do not contemplate (Hitbonan)”. The following verse immediately continues, “Woe, you sinful nation, a folk laden with iniquity etc.” In other words, the direct result of lack of contemplation is sin and iniquity. The lack of Hitbonenut (Contemplation) results in the diametric opposite of what may be achieved, as explained above and as will be explained at great length in Part Three of this book.
In other words, when one does not contemplate the teachings detailed in Part One, firstly, he will not understand it at all (Binah). Therefore, the power of Chochmah (Insight) will not be activated. He will not have a flash of insight and understanding into the Truth of reality, whatsoever. Furthermore, he will not arouse the faculty of Keter towards G-d. This is to say that because he is devoid of understanding, he will not have pleasure (Atik Yomin) or desire (Arich Anpin) in serving G-d. Because of this he will not have an attachment to G-d (Da’at). Because his Da’at was never aroused, the emotions in his heart (Chesed and Gevurah), which are the love of G-d and the fear of being separated from Him, will also never be aroused. Because of this his Netzach, Hod, and Yesod (The gut emotions which compel one to act upon his feelings), will also not be aroused. Because of this, there will either be no final action (Malchut), or the final action will be like a body without a soul. Whatever commandments (Mitzvot) he performs, will be done completely by rote, with no life or enthusiasm, whatsoever.
Moreover, those who attempt to work themselves into an emotional froth of forced enthusiasm and who attempt to arouse pleasure and emotional excitement in their Divine service, without the prerequisite of Hitbonenut, are making a grave error. Because they skip this necessary prerequisite, whatever emotion and interest they hype themselves into, are nothing more than delusions, for they have no true interest in G-d Himself. They are not truly interest in Truth or the true nature of reality (G-d). In essence they are nothing more than pleasure seekers, who attempting to excite themselves and give themselves a false sense of fulfillment. This is similar to an actor who has been instructed to act as if he has just won the lottery. He jumps up and down and shouts with complete self abandon, as if he is the happiest guy on earth. However, he may not be happy at all. After all, he did not really win the lottery. In actuality, he could actually be a very depressed person in his real life. Although he appears to be the happiest person on earth, it is completely false.
In the same way, it is impossible to have true emotions about G-d just by working oneself into an emotional high. True emotions toward G-d can only come from knowledge of G-d, and knowledge of G-d can only be achieved through contemplation (Hitbonenut).
We see that there are two general errors in the service of G-d. There are those who deceive themselves, and hype themselves into an excited frenzy in their service of G-d, but without any Hitbonenut. Then there are those who do not even do that. They serve G-d completely by rote, in a robotic manner, with no emotion or “life” at all. They, literally, are like bodies without souls.
How can these errors be corrected? Only through contemplation (Hitbonenut) on how G-d encompasses (Transcends) all worlds, and permeates all worlds, as detailed in Part One of this book. All one must concern himself with is the act of contemplation of G-d. Everything else follows as an automatic result of Hitbonenut, as explained. Now, surely, if the result of not doing Hitbonenut is, “Woe, a sinful people, a nation laden with iniquity”, then certainly, the result of doing Hitbonenut is righteousness, truth and The Knowledge of G-d.
The Purpose of Hitbonenut
Thus far we have discussed what Hitbonenut is and have given the material which one is to contemplate. One question remains, perhaps the most important question of all. What is the purpose of Hitbonenut?
The answer is quite simple. The ultimate purpose of Hitbonenut is to know the Creator, who is the Truth of what is, and to come close to Him. A person may live his entire life in darkness, sunken in the transient pleasures of this lowly physical world and following paths that lead to nowhere, without having questioned why he is here and how he is here. Because he does not seek Truth, his life flies by without his having fulfilled the purpose of his existence. He might not even realize or contemplate that there is a purpose.
As mentioned before, even many people who study Torah and keep its Mitzvot (Commandments), do so by rote, without enthusiasm and emotions, or delude themselves into a false sense of emotional excitement, without truly seeking G-d. This is because they have not contemplated and grasped, in a way of Hitbonenut, to truly understand the purpose of their existence.
In contrast, one who has tasted the results of his efforts in the path of Truth can testify to the fact that love and fear of G-d have been aroused within him as the automatic result of Hitbonenut. He can bear witness to the fact that what results from Hitbonenut is true love and fear, only for G-d.
Because of this, he begins to disdain the false pleasures of this lowly world, and even the upper spiritual worlds cannot satisfy him. G-d alone is his passion and cure. Truth is the only path upon which his feet trod, and there is profound purpose to his existence. He gives his life over to his Creator, and his sole desire is to fulfill the will of his Master and King. Truly, this is the purpose of Man, as stated, “In conclusion, after everything has been heard (which, as mentioned before, refers to the understanding and comprehension of Binah), fear G-d, and fulfill His commandments, for this is the whole (purpose) of Man.”
Lastly, it must be pointed out that, “The reward is commensurate to the effort”, as the Talmud states, “He who claims that he has toiled but has not found, is not to be believed, he who claims to have found without toil, is not to be believed. However, he who claims that he has toiled and has found is to be believed.”