The first mistake which many people refer to as the original sin was eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The kabbalists explain that this mistake was not an act of Free Choice on the part of Adam and Chava. It was a necessary action to bring about the elevation of the sparks of the broken vessels that occurred prior to the Creation of our physical world.
In any event the effect of this action was the spiritual fall of humanity. The meaning to us according to the Sages we each must correct – fix our portion of that mistake by effecting the Tikune of eating to the extent we are able. It will take us to manifest Mashiach to achieve this tikune yet we can not put this off to the future. The writings of this book below is a motivation to achieve that effect – Correct the sinful aspect of eating.
by Sarah Yehudit (Susan) Schneider
Ms Schneider is the author of “You Are Who You Hate” a class taught on our website. Just as the unexpected was taught in that book you will find many unexpected teachings in this book with respect to how you perceive food and its purpose. Most people have not considered why food is the source of energy is the first question to ponder as you read / hear this class / recording.
In every moment of life a person makes Tikune, the universe comes closer to its messianic message, and HaShem's purpose for creation nears completion. Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes not. Sometimes it seems that the very opposite is true, that the moment leaves damage and not repair. These back or wrong way Tikunnim cause great suffering to those who choose these paths, to those who act against HaShem's law; but despite this progress gets made. No one with wisdom would knowingly choose such a path, for the cost of suffering surpasses its gains.
The above paragraph is the opinion of Ms Schneider. I respectfully disagree. My opinion follows the following: HaShem creates the world many times a minute as we are taught in Kabbalah. Each time the creation is made PERFECT, PERFECT for the consciousness and the need to effect Tikune for ALL of the PEOPLES of the earth. Therefore the suffering can not surpass the gains. If it would do so HaShem would recreate the world in a different aspect of PERFECTION. Understand this well!
Each moment brings fixing; all Tikunnim are not the same. They vary in quality and quantity, strength and character. Some fixings touch large areas of creation but only bring them forward a micro step. These are high in quantity, low in quality. Others touch only a minute piece of reality, and raise it through seven heavens. These are high in quality, low in quantity. Chanoch adds: Some are High in both quantity and quality while some are low in both quantity and quality.
The main Tikune of a human life, at least quantitatively, happens through eating. It is strange but true that eating is a powerful spiritual action. The primary way the world gets elevated is through its food chain, by creatures eating and being. The molecules of energy units of a lower life enter into the higher creatures that has consumed them; there they break down and absorb the more advanced body structure of their predator.
Do you agree with this statement? Is there any supporting proof? Let us look at the statement again. One entity eats or consumes another. Which is the higher entity and which the lower? Of course a human eating a sandwich is the higher eating the lower. What about cancer eating the liver? Which is higher and which is lower? What about a parasitic insect living off of its host. Which is higher and which is lower? What about the mother eating her children, as the Polynesian culture includes examples of this with its sculpture and art? (I have seen such a sculpture. It is not meant to depict all mothers and not even all mothers in the Polynesian culture. Just an individual situation.) The Kabbalah teaches that the law must be true for all situations. How do we reconcile these perceived differences?
This is an evolutionary progression for the “eaten” one. The consciousness that it used in its original form was lower than that which fills it now. The more complex organism the more sophisticated the soul that manifests through it. Each level of life is a wider angle lens which brings a new increment of consciousness into focus. Divinity, alone possesses infinite consciousness. Chanoch adds: Everything else is by definition lower in consciousness since it is not “everything”.
The author is expressing the following application of a spiritual law. “There is no disappearance in spirituality.” Therefore when one entity consumes another the consuming entity breaks down the energy of the consumed entity, using what it can most efficiently utilize and sending the “waste” out for other entities to dine upon it thereby teaching that sharing is the most efficient form of service to the Creator. Yet the consumed entity has not disappeared. Its body may have been lost but its essence is now being utilized and filled by the consuming entity; which is considered higher by virtue of it still being alive. “survival of the fittest” expressed in a hierarchy.
Consciousness is most simply defined as the range of an entity's capacity to react and interact with its environment. The higher the creature the more expressions of consciousness can manifest through it or within it.
The spiritual benefits of the chain are twofold: first as part of a higher organism the one accesses a deeper facet of HaShem than was available to it before. The body of each creature is bathed by the consciousness that infuses it. The higher the organism, the higher the soul - the greater its range of options to react and interact with the world. Since according to this hierarchy, rather the only real and enduring pleasure is the bliss of expanding consciousness, the one who is eaten will in the end, rejoice in its fate. As part of a higher organism it can contact higher soul states and expanded possibilities of awareness; there is real pleasure in this even for a something that loses its physical bodily form/matter.
Second, the original organism, the one eaten, moves up in the world. It participates in a greater revelation of divinity than was possible in its previous form. And since it provides the energy and materials for this higher rate of consciousness, it gets merit for that.
Chanoch adds: This greater revelation of divinity is the ability to utilize the consciousness of the eaten item to raise its consciousness. In Kabbalah, consciousness is defined and desire; thus the greater the energy the greater the desire, the greater the consciousness.
The second benefit of the food chain, is when the human being touches a higher state of consciousness in his or her meditations on the oneness of HaShem and performance of Mitzvot even if only performed at least partially so. Only humans can actively and consciously serve HaShem. All other creatures move from a further distance away from HaShem. Since HaShem willed their existence for a definite purpose; they also serve HaShem simply by living and doing their genetically programmed thing. But to serve HaShem from love or off to willingly sacrifice for one's benefit, to strive for Tikune and personal transformation, the labor is HaShem's holy partner in the painstaking work of bringing creation to its messianic perfection - these are uniquely human service / offerings when they are actions done consciously.
When a human being eats food and uses its calories as fuel for performing mitzvot, good deeds, and studying Torah, the food itself not only participates in those acts, but is credited for enabling them. By assimilating into a human body that moves, speaks and serves HaShem, a lower life form gets elevated to the highest possible degree.
The laws expressed in the above paragraph are spiritual laws. The very important teaching is the idea of enabling receiving merit in the spiritual worlds of judgment. In our modern society “to enable” has come to mean an improper act, such as the family of the alcoholic enabling the alcoholic to be an alcoholic. Just as the food source receives merit for enabling the “eater” to do good deeds, that food source does not get the demerits when the “eater” does wrong deeds by his / her free choice. How does this relationship work in the other areas of human interaction? The law applies over many aspects starting with food. If one perceives our human interactions as enabling or not enabling one can learn to judge yourself in this world the way the spiritual Bet Din judges us. If we do this judgment with this spiritual law there will not be a need for the spiritual Bet Din to judge us. This is what our Sages teach when they say judge yourself closely so that HaShem will not judge you.
The food chain in this mutually elevating sequence of spiritual benefits goes both ways. The meal nourishes the body and carries sparks of consciousness that feed the soul. This is how Kabbalists read the verse:
Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of HaShem.
Bread alone feeds the body. All that proceeds from the mouth of HaShem carries sparks of light inside the food that enlighten the soul.
Kabbalah groups the world into lights and vessels, roughly paralleling energy and matter. Souls are lights and bodies are vessels which are the matter or form that the Lights take in this physical world. Strangely the simplest lifeforms contain the highest lights. Their spark originates in the earliest moments of creation closer to the time when HaShem was only expressing His and your simple oneness. As creation unfolded in the physical world in the idea of Kabbalistic evolution - life in the bodies became more complex. Yet, curiously the lights of these more sophisticated vessels are lower than those of simpler forms. They originated later in the sequence of creation, farther from its starting point of pure simple oneness.
The rule is stated thus: the criterion of higher in relation to sparks is its measure of access to oneness. The earliest and simplest creatures are most advanced on that scale. The criterion of higher in relation to vessels is their complexity which enables them to manifest a greater range of consciousness and diversity of behavior.
A paradox emerges: While a greater measure of consciousness manifests complex life, their soul's intrinsic capacity to / for awareness is lower than from the primitive creatures. Conversely the spark inside simpler organisms actually carries a greater transcendent possibilities of awareness through their vessels cannot express the full measure of these lights.
Perfection is when the proper light finds and is revealed in the proper vessel. The Process of Kabbalistic evolution is exactly when the proper light is in the wrong vessel. The process continues until the correct vessel is revealing the correct light. It is similar to what the Kabbalists teach is wrong with theft. The light within the item stolen does not belong to the thief but to someone else. There is nothing wrong morally with stealing only taking what light does not belong to you. Since most people do not know if the light in the item belongs to them, taking into account “bread of shame” society enacts laws against stealing. That is one of the 7 Mitzvot of the Children of Noach. Hope this clarifies the above paragraph.
The rock is so overwhelmed by its awe of HaShem that it cannot move. This is why the mineral kingdom is silent and still. Similarly a person stunned by startling information freezes due to shock, not because he lacks the feeling of motivation but because he is flooded with the emotions and is paralyzed by this becoming overawed.
In this way the raw materials of creation and the inanimate world hold the highest lights in their from the primitive vessels. Conversely, the human kingdom, the crown of physical creation, has awesomely sophisticated vessels when in actual fact, more lowly lights.
The above paragraph is very difficult to understand. How can it be that the Lights of a Man's soul are lower than the Lights of a Hydrogen Atom? What is the food chain for a Hydrogen Atom? It grows or is eaten to become a Helium Atom and eventually a Carbon Atom and more. This is eating as well! The only way to understand this concept is to utilize the metaphor of the Kabbalists. The higher the sparks of light of the broken vessels the lower into the mud of the Klipah that they fell. Therefore they have a higher “distance” to travel to elevate themselves back to the correct Sefirah. Hopefully this will help you relate to the above paragraph.
There is another way to comprehend this idea. Our physical world when fully completed will not be in a state of perfection. It will be necessary for the world to evolve through 5 additional creations of 7 thousand years each so that all of the sparks of lights will find themselves in the proper vessel for that spark of light.
When a person eats, physical nutrients feed his body and the food gets elevated thereby for its molecules to become absorbed into a higher structure that does conscious action holy service. Yet the sparks in the food actually elevate the human, for their roots are higher than his own. They had a splinter of light soul and with the new increment of consciousness. The expanding awareness of each life reduces to the one spiraling insight: there is nothing but HaShem. The food spark brings a new possibility of grasping this truth as the human soul expands with its light.
There is, however, a catch. Just as physical nutrients pass through unabsorbed through the digestive tract without the proper enzymes to digest it, so is this true for their spark. Unless a person eats with proper Kavenah - Intention, its cache of light is not available to the soul and leaves only the slightest trail of glow when it passes through the system.
Kabbalah identifies three categories of action:
1. The actions of mitzvot are intrinsically holy. Whatever intentions a person does or does not hold, the deed itself has been the fact. This means literally, a commanded act. HaShem explicitly requests the 613 actions in their physical performance serves HaShem's revealed will.
It is well known and mentioned frequently by me that HaShem does not command the performance of a Mitzvah. This is considered idol worship. HaShem has made a gift of the Mitzvot to allow us to choose to connect with his essence and energy through the performance of these Mitzvot. The consciousness an individual has at the moment of doing the Mitzvah is necessary to receive all of the benefits provided by that action. The consciousness needs to be the individual's free choice to do the Mitzvah or to refrain from doing the Mitzvah. If the individual is never presented with an option to do a Mitzvah that is referred to as “do not do” that individual does not receive all of the effect of “doing his obligation.” An example is: do not eat non kosher food. If one is never presented with an opportunity to go out of his kosher home to eat, that individual does not receive as much benefit as someone presented with a non kosher item and chooses to decline the gift of that food.
Kabbalah teaches that mitzvot "draw light down from above to below." This can be understood as follows: in the physical world, light enables the perception of something that was already present, but hidden in darkness. For example, the objects in the room are there, but you can't see them until you turn on the light. Similarly in the spiritual world, "Light" refers to the process of reviewing godliness by illuminating HaShem's presence in that moment or object. While it is true that the whole world is filled with God's glory, that He provides for creation and nothing exists apart from His constant nurturing, this presence stays hidden to the senses. When mystical writings speak of drawing down light, they refer to the act of revealing HaShem's omnipresence and His participation in the world conscious and perceptible.
chanoch adds: People usually refer to this as “a great incredible feeling of goodness.” Eventually this feeling can become refined enough to differentiate between levels of energies and the types of energies being revealed. When Adam and Eve were created they were given to the ability to sense what action or thing was “good” for them and what was “evil for them.” After the sin they and we lost this ability yet we are capable of using this sense to know what is good for us and what is not good. This takes practice and spiritual growth.
The 613 Torah mitzvot are called 613 “pillars of light.” The numerical value of the Hebrew word Ohrot אורות - lights is itself 613 to teach that Mitzvot are actions to make HaShem's presence visible. The classic explanation of Hasidic teaching, the “Tanya”, explains that in the same way that the innermost essence of a person is the place of his deeply held hopes, dreams and desires, so is this true for HaShem. His will, as expressed by his commands, derives from its innermost essence, and is essentially united and even identified with him. Therefore when a person obeys his will performing a Mitzvah, he /she is identified with HaShem's will and HaShem becomes revealed in that moment. Similarly when earthly king's commands are obeyed by the populace, his will is made visible – literally - each time the subject acts in accordance with his degrees in other words an ignorant spectator, watching the behavior of one who is faithful to the king's commands, would learn from his observation about the King's will.
The Torah teaches from the frame of human reference and language. Actually HaShem does not have a desire nor hopes nor dreams. These words apply to human beings not to HaShem. Why are they used in the paragraph above? To help people relate to a full and complete understanding of the Mitzvot. It is my opinion that this is not a proper teaching. Rabbi Ashlag teaches that HaShem's essence is sharing. It is not a desire to share like a human being can co create. Religious people use a vocabulary that is not a normal every day vocabulary. In that vocabulary the words “HaShem's will” is not describing a desire but something called “the plan of creation.” “The plan of creation” is a thought that is unlike human thought. Humans need to think a thought and then manifest that thought through various modalities – speech – handiwork – and other creative processes. HaShem has a “plan of creation” which immediately becomes physically manifested through the 4 phases of creation which is not a process but a being. Now reread the above paragraph with this new better understanding of the language of branches as taught by Rabbi Ashlag. chanoch adds: Take a moment to do that.
Therefore, when it says that mitzvot draw down light from above to below it means that the highest and innermost level of HaShem's being - his will, becomes revealed to the outer physical world every time someone expresses that will through the physical action entailed in performing a Mitzvah.
2. Forbidden activities dull the soul and hide the truth that God is one and good and all. They bring dark instead of light. The Hebrew word, Asur - אשור which means forbidden, is from the root אשר which means to tie, arrest, or imprison. The holy sparks of forbidden foods and activities are so strongly bound to the other side, that instead of we elevating them, they bring us down. A human being does not have the spiritual strength to pry sparks loose from their current encrustaceans. Instead, if indulged, they callous the soul and dull the sensitivities to truth and spiritual influence.
3. The category of neutral and permitted activities contains all the same things one may do, yet there is no intrinsic holiness in the deed. It includes academic study, the arts, business, nature walks, sports, etc. The unique feature of this category is that its spiritual value hinges entirely upon the intention one brings to the action. If one consciously seeks to serve God and good through that action, to reveal something of divine beauty, or to draw close to truth and divinity, then the deed is holy. It raises sparks, elevates the person, and reveals good. If one performs that same activity with attitudes that are selfish, lustful, or ego gratifying, then it has the same effect as doing a forbidden action. It degrades the spark dulls the soul and darkens the world.
It is in this category that “Rav” Tzadok HaKohen teaches that humanity's first sin was Adam and Eve eating without proper, and Holy consciousness. The mistake of eating from the tree of knowledge says “Rav” was not an action of eating food or anything at all. Rather it was a way of eating. Whenever a person takes self-conscious pleasure from the world he falls, in that moment, from God consciousness, and uses energy from the tree of knowledge. This subtle level of sin taints our reaction and even our mitzvot.
The first entry of evil into humanity was through this active action of not holy eating. Until that fateful moment all evil existed outside of Adam and Eve embodied as the serpent. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they brought an intermingling of good and evil into themselves, into the very substance of their being.
chanoch adds: In religious language this is referred to as the “good inclination” and the evil inclination.”
Whenever we eat without proper intent – Kavanah, we repeat this original sin. The primary fixing of human civilization is to learn to eat in holiness. Adam and Eve contain the souls of all humanity, of all the people who would ever lived. We were all present as a part of their consciousness and participated in their decision to eat. Consequently we also suffered the damaging effects of their sin.
All neuroses, personality imbalances, and existential dissatisfactions, teaches the Torah, have the root in this Sin of unholy eating. Its impurity lives inside each of us as a fact of the human condition – being human. Every person has an eating disorder, for eating is a much broader category activity than simply taking food into one's mouth and body.
Eating, as an archetype, is the experience of why and the taking inside oneself of something from outside to fill that lack. Something that was not you, became a piece of you, literally, through eating, material acquisition, sexuality, honor seeking, addiction to power, praise, drugs, or even attention are all forms of eating. They start with an experience of life, and in an effort by us that adapts to our experience one pulls something from the outside into the interior.
Please note this definition of “eating” is much more expansive than the traditional idea of putting food into our mouths. This definition of “eating” is truly feeding ourselves of anything that we lack...be it honor, or glory, or support from others. In effect, anything that we take is defined as “eating” as long as it fulfills a desire we have. Based on this definition does eating mean taking something even if it does not end up inside ourselves? This is not a rhetorical question. One needs to answer this question, for themselves, by the time one has finished reading and participating within these classes.
The act of eating itself is neutral. It has no intrinsic holiness, but neither is it shameful or destructive. Creation does move forward simply by traveling up its food chain, but the truth of the statement “God is one and good omnipresent” is not automatically revealed.
The holy expression of eating has two criteria:
i. The food must be kosher. Literally we must not mix meat and milk, nor be of an animal type forbidden by Torah; sexuality must not be adulterous, money must not be acquired by theft, etc. In a more general sense, culture also means healthy. The Torah forbids us from doing anything that damages our bodies. This includes eating amounts or types of food that are literally kosher but nevertheless unhealthy.
chanoch adds: An example of this kosher but unhealthy food which actually makes the food not kosher for you: Eating foods with large salt content if one is a diabetic.
ii. One's intentions must be pure and selfless. One must consciously undertake to serve God to bring pleasure to his or her Creator with one's newly acquired resource, be it food or possessions, etc.
Every person struggles with some form of eating disorder. Our taking from the world is never perfectly conscious and selfless. This was the first sin and it remains the root of all impurities in the personality. Our literal eating is always a microcosm of the way we take from the world. Every imbalance of psyche has some corresponding - and casual - expression in the way we ingest food. Neuroses and psychoses are only symptoms of our unholy eating which is always the first cause.
The grabbing reflex at the root of un-rectified eating is an unconscious impulse and the last frontier of expanding consciousness. A spiritual practice is only successful if it seeps into the subconscious realms and rectifies the reflexes of its practitioners. Imparting knowledge is a holy achievement but rectified instincts are the acid test - the potency that proves the rule. Only when a person, without thinking, now reacts to the world in a correct and holy way is he truly transformed by his spiritual work. The last and most subtle impurity of soul is the reflex of our unholy eating, of taking pleasure from the world in a way that causes us to forget HaShem.
What if someone does not “believe in HaShem.” Are they able to rectify their eating? All reactive behavior makes us forget HaShem. We do not have to “believe in HaShem.” We have to know the truth regarding our motivations of our reactions. That truth is that we are capable of proacting instead of reacting. When we proact we are connected to HaShem even if it is not on a conscious level. When we react we can not remember HaShem – we are disconnected on both the conscious and unconscious levels.
The impulse is so deeply fixed into our collective psyche that its expression is automatic. Any behavior that operates as raw instinct untouched by conscious decision, is still not rectified, even when its expression is wholesome and healthy. The enlightening influence of conscious awareness must spread into every layer of personality and refinement. Slowly this is happening. The last holdout is this ancient reflex of self-absorbed taking. Its dissolution will be the final tikune.
The goal is not morbid self-affliction. We are not asked to renounce enjoyment, and don sackcloth. Instead, we must learn to be in this pleasure rather than take it. This when achieved, is a soul ecstasy in a deeply blissful state. And yet, since the ego is totally transparent, there is no taking of such self - gratification. This is the secret of rectified eating.
It is helpful to understand the nature of ecstasy produced by hearing a beautiful melody. This is ecstasy that is felt and yet the one who experiences it is not himself aware of this because it does not result from the intention of self to produce ecstasy, but is produced automatically, and comes of its own accord without it being known to him. He is at one with the music and the distinction between self and it dissolves. Similarly it is as if it is not felt or known to him at that very moment, it can be said that there is a total lack of self-awareness. But for all that, it is still an experience of ecstasy.
Since the first sin was unholy eating only its opposite can fix it. All of life in all of history are training humanity for one end: to learn to eat in holiness, to not let its pleasure wrench our attention from HaShem even for an instant. The moment we get it the labor in this world will end. And what is more, death and mortality, the bitter fruits of that sin, will pass like tissue when our teshuvah is completed.
Please note that we are speaking of Holy eating not Healthy eating. There is a difference. We will be discussing this difference throughout this book. The first thing to realize about the difference is the tools of Satan and how they are used. They are tailored to the individual and his relative process. If someone will pray a Blessing the Satan might cause him to eat too many calories. If someone is eating Kosher the Satan might cause him to eat non kosher when he is out of his house. Holy eating is more than these two examples. Please remind me to discuss this in depth before the end of the class series.
The punishment of sin is really the natural and organic consequence of behavior that violated spiritual law. Just as an antigen creates its own custom designed antibody, so the sin generated its own correction through natural and thermodynamic processes. Each consequence is perfectly sculpted to amend the damage of its initiating transgression and to restore the system to health and equilibrium. Once the healing is done, the penalty ceases for its purpose is served.
The fact of death, just as the fate of life, came as corrections for the sin of unholy eating. When we succeed in undoing that wrongdoing by eating right, the prophecy of hope is "death will be swallowed up forever," and we will enter the phase of history called the world that is coming, which has as its most distinguishing feature - eternal life.
In fact, the healing does not have to be completed for the pain and discomfort serves only as a wakeup call. Once the patient is awakened and realizes what he did was a mistake. He / she will start on the path of Teshuvah. Once that first step is taken the pain and discomfort will disappear unless HaShem is not certain that the choice of the path of Teshuvah will remain that certain choice through to completion. Teshuvah will be the path that creates the effect of eternal life. Are you willing to participate? Or is your comfort zone sufficient to stop you from choosing the path of Teshuvah related to fixing the mistake of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? If you are not sure what is your specific part in this mistake or what you are supposed to do to correct it – write an email to yeshshem and I will explain the tool that will answer that question for you.
Mitzvot, as explained, are actions with intrinsic holiness. The positive value is an objective fact independent of the doer's intention. Since HaShem specifies that action is one that he desires, the physical deed itself links back to that will and reveals it in the world.
chanoch adds: Please note that we need to instill an action of the Mitzvah with the true intention – Kavanah in order for the action to effect the greatest revelation of Light.
This is not true for activities in the category of permitted behaviors. The deed itself, without intention, is not intrinsically holy. This physical fact teaches nothing about God's will. There is no automatic connection of revelation between itself and divinity. In fact, without positive intent the action breeds darkness, illusion and separation. There is nothing about it that serves God and reveals his will. Mitzvot have a safety net when all else fails, at least the deed itself fulfills the divine direction. For neutral actions this is not so. The entire burden of their impact for good or evil rests upon, the kavanah - intention expressed by the doer – whether we need a Kavanah or not.
Kabbalah teaches that unlike mitzvot which drive down light from above to below, intention elevates sparks from below to above. Since sparks are also a form of light; this work, like Mitzvot, bring something hidden into revelation and this mechanism is as follows:
Everything that exists is here in physical form because HaShem placed it in His universe for some definite purpose. Its reason for being is its spark of truth and godliness. Elevating sparks means revealing this purpose by enabling its fulfillment. One recognizes the "right action" for that moment - without explicit obligations or prohibitions to guide him - and brings conscious intent - and preferably prayer - into this decision. This is primarily a mental operation since the same action can have several intentions and effects depending upon the spiritual insight of the person affecting the elevation and upon how badly encrusted by evil and illusion the spark happens to be.
For example: When a person says a blessings with heartfelt concentration before and after eating, and thanks HaShem for this gift of life sustaining nourishment, and uses the food's energy to perform Mitzvot and serve HaShem then the spark of that food is elevated to the highest levels. This is due to it having stimulated the praises of God and it nurtured the subsequent deeds. On the other hand if that food were eaten by someone who didn't think about HaShem at all, whether during eating or throughout the day and then didn't use its nourishment for good deeds, then this spark is degraded. The nutrients still experienced minimal progress for there is a certain elevation in becoming part of the flesh of a human being as opposed to the body of a plant or animal, yet the spark sinks deeper into exile.
Some sparks require conscious and strategically intent for their release, while others elevate by mere contact with an individual, even without deliberate thoughts or action on his part. It is possible that when a soul who truly believes in HaShem passes through a particular place, it has the effect of releasing and elevating the holy sparks that are there. In another instance, the sparks are released only if the person says a blessing, praise or recites passages from scripture, although he still might not be aware that his act is affecting these rectifications. The more deeply buried the spark, the more likely that it will require the conscious intention of someone with a profoundly internalized sense of HaShem and extremely penetrating insight to release it from its exile.
The greater one's awareness of the oneness of HaShem, and the inner significance of the act they perform, the higher the sparks will elevate. Similarly, the more conscious one is of the needs and potentials of another's soul, the more his blessings and interactions will succeed in releasing that soul's potential and catalyzing its physical expression. The effect of Kavanah is more subtle than Mitzvah for its presence is not necessarily visible to the other senses.
For most people, exploring the delightful flavors of the many foods of the world is one of life's simple but great pleasures. As long as one gives thanks for the food and makes certain that it is kosher, can there be too much of this good thing?
The over-enjoyment of food, which is called "gluttony," is listed as one of the 365 negative commandments. The prohibition is based on several verses in the Torah, most notably Leviticus 19:2: "You shall be holy."
Gluttony is also mentioned in the Book of Proverbs, which states: "Do not be among wine guzzlers, among gluttonous eaters of meat for themselves, for the guzzler and the glutton will become impoverished and slumber will clothe [them] with tatters" (23:20-21).
The Book of Proverbs also notes one difference between a righteous person and a wicked one that is noticeable in their eating habits: "The righteous eat to satisfy their souls, but the stomach of the wicked still wants" (13:25).
Gluttony is actually a form of greed, of a desire to meet a physical need in the most constant and enjoyable manner. Like all desires that create pleasure for the self (like greed or pride), every person risks falling into gluttony, and so the Sages warn: "Every scholar who feasts much in every place, eventually destroys his home, widows his wife, orphans his young, forgets his learning, and becomes involved in many quarrels; his words are unheeded, and he desecrates the Name of Heaven and the name of his teacher and the name of his father and causes an evil name for himself, his children, and his children's children until the end of time" (Talmud Pesachim 49a).
How does being Holy stop due to gluttony? Eating was and is the “original” or first Sin. Can you give up food? The general answer is no we need to eat for energy but that is not true. Prior to the first sin Adam and Chava absorbed energy through their skin just by looking at the fruits. They knew what was bad for them and did not partake of these things. Gluttony they knew was bad for them and stopped their eating prior to it becoming gluttony. When we do not do this and continue eating beyond our true hunger level it is saying “i can not give up a physical item called food and then I must realize that I have become an idol worshipper in addition to being a glutton."
Kavanah is not an all or nothing state. It can be present in varying degrees of insight and concentration. The quality of a person's, Kavanah - or state of consciousness - determines how potent and spiritually productive any act will be. There is a whole hierarchy of possibilities.
An amusing but useful metaphor is the strongman booths in a carnival. The contestant takes a hammer and slams a pedal situated on the ground. The pedal was connected to a block which, from the force of the hammer blow, travels up the track until, at the very top, it strikes a gong. The strength of the blow determines how high the block will rise. Only a "Samson" will hit the jackpot. A 90 pound weakling will move the block only a few inches. Between the two there is a whole range of possibilities.
Similar is the work of elevating sparks whether through the performance of Mitzvot or through neutral deeds. The Kavanah is the hammer blow. It determines how high the spark will rise - if at all. Let us explore the various possibilities as they are discussed in Chapter 39 the Tanya.
1. This first level only applies to the category of deeds called Mitzvot where the action itself has spiritually productive value independent of its Kavanah - intentions. Therefore even if done by rote some positive work gets done. This is not true for neutral behaviors. If someone does a neutral act without conscious or even unconscious intention to serve God doesn't perform Mitzvot with its benefits, he strengthens the forces of illusion that oppose God and Torah, and the spark gets further degraded. Without positive intent the deed has negative effects. A neutral deeds done by rote, is not harmless, rather it sends its sparks further into exile.
A mitzvah performed by habit, without Kavanah, still separates the spark from its limits and encrustaceans. A minimum level of birur - clarification takes place. Yet the spark remains earthbound. It lacks the wings of love and fear to carry it above. Like a precious stone mined from the earth, and then left lying at the mouth of the shaft, the spark stays below.
Such a service remains below, the world of separateness called the “eternality of the worlds,” having no power to rise and be absorbed in his blessed unity. . . as the Zohar writes, “that without fear and love it cannot soar upwards nor can it ascend and stand before HaShem."
2. An action performed from a detached and intellectual understanding that this is what all one ought to do, that this is how to serve God for this is what is Creator desires, this intention elevates the spark a small amount. Innate to every soul is an instinctive desire to do good to serve HaShem. When a person acts from this impulse, though his Kavanah lacks depth, it is there. He does not bring passion to his practice, but he is aware of what he is doing and why. In this way he elevates the spark another step upwards.
Service that comes from natural - as opposed to conscious - fear and love that arises in the mind - but which are not integrated into the heart - has its place in the second of the four planes of existence. This is counted from below to above.
3. A mitzvah performed from a deep, heartfelt desire to serve HaShem and draw near to one's Creator is a still higher level of Kavanah, and lifts the spark to another rung. Here the person acts from conscious love and fear. His intellectual understanding of the practice is integrated into his heart, and he is conscious of both as he offers his service.
The essence and quality of divine service, with conscious love and fear in one's heart, stemming from understanding and knowledge of the greatness of the Blessed Infinite One – Ain Sof has its place in the third of the four planes of existence.
4. The greatest elevating power comes from an act performed from a super rational cleaving to the root of one soul, the place where it is hewn from the very “stuff” of God. His only desire is to give pleasure to the Creator through the fulfillment of his will. This is the service of the Tzadikim among us. In our metaphor of the carnival game this is what sounds the gong.
This is the abode of the great Tzadikim whose service supremely transcends even the quality of fear and love which are derived from the understanding and knowledge of his blessed greatness ... Indeed, their service has been truly in the nature of the chariot to the Blessed infinite one. Through the fulfillment of the Torah, their very existence has become nullified in and absorbed in his blessed life, they and everything they possessed.
5. Unfortunately one other option exists. This is when a person performs an act from self-interest. For example, he wants to impress another with his piety, or he seeks the prestige of a scholar. Then the spark, even one released by a mitzvah, gets buried again from the downward force of impure motivation.
For a neutral deed it would have been better if the action had never happened. The damage of impure motives far outweighs any upward gain. The spark ends up lower than its starting point.
The mystical texts teach that edible plants and animals long to be eaten by a holy and HaShem conscious person in order that they can elevate nearby. Similarly the opposite is true. "Every food abhors their soul - the souls of sinners." The sages interpret this verse to teach that food dreads being eaten with the action being associated with an impure thought, for it will suffer degradation from that fate.
For actual Mitzvot the cost-benefit calculation is different. Even in these most unfavorable circumstances, it is still better to do the mitzvah. For when a person completes the final fixing of his soul, the good of all his deeds becomes reabsorbed into the person and is elevated thereby. Since the essence of every mitzvah is only good, even the impurely motivated ones will become redeemed in this way.
However when a person is engaged in service truly not for its own sake, but for some personal motive, with a view to his own glorification, as, for example, in order to become a scholar, and the like, then that motive, which originates in the realm of evil - but of a level which still contains an admixture of good - clothes itself in his Torah, and the Torah is temporarily in the state of exile in the klipot, until he repents, - does Teshuvah - since “Teshuvah brings healing to the world." For with his return to HaShem, his Torah also returns with him. Therefore the rabbis of blessed memory declared, "a person should always occupy himself in Torah and precepts even if not for its own sake, for from motives of self-interest they will come to study and observe for its own sake." This they state with certainty, or ultimately each person is bound to do Teshuvah, whether in this incarnation or in another, "Because no one is permanently rejected by him – HaShem."
And what happens to the earth bound sparks in category #1 that get released when we perform a mitzvah by rote? Are they stuck in eternal limbo? Our sages teach that as soon as we come back and perform the same mitzvah with the proper kavanah, or recite the same prayer with concentration, this new service pierces the firmament and carries with it the sparks from any identical mitzvah or Mitzvot or prayers that could not rise of their own strength.
This means that there is no wasted mitzvah. Even when we space out all together and barely take advantage of the potential of the moment, spiritual work is accomplished. The act itself extracts the spark from its encrustations - Klipot. And the next day or week or year or lifetime, when we come back and perform that same mitzvah with full Kavanah, that first spark gets uplifted with the latter.
In regards to the mitzvah of learning Torah, if a person acts without any particular motivation. . . Then as soon as he once again learns this subject with pure intention, then even that which he had learned without any particular intent, joins and attaches itself with this this study and ascends on high... The same is true of prayer that is said without Kavanah.
Thus as our soul becomes progressively refined – chanoch adds: purified, and our Kavanah be more precise, the sparks of our Mitzvah practice rise higher and higher. Finally at the end of our soul's Odyssey, which must necessarily end in perfection, as it says, "and your people are all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever,” all the sparks of all the deeds will sound the gong – chanoch adds: will elevate to their proper location, in the proper vessel for their revelation, in the perfected creation.
We have learned elsewhere there is a hierarchy of all things and that includes Kavanah and also intention. One method of classification is to speak in terms of positive, negative, and neutral. Neutral is a central column attribute yet in this context it is more to the negative side than positive. Yet the positive sparks must also be restored to their proper places in the upper worlds.
This assurance of net benefit and happy ending applies to Mitzvot even with impure motive yet neutral deeds do not enjoy this protection. Even those performed by rote - without actual negative intent - can still harm both the “doer” and the spark. This is especially true when ingesting food. The Torah meets this problem with two amazing tools that protect its practitioners from the nearly constant dangers of unholy eating.
The doer gets harmed by the possible changing of the Letters by the Satan. This is how people get fat or thin and also includes no physical nourishment from their food. A spark can only be harmed by falling deeper into the Klipot – the negative coverings or shells. Thus it is potentially more difficult for that spark to be elevated at another time of eating. In fact the spark may fall so deep within the Klipot that only the actions of the Mashiach and all of humanity will be able to break the hold of the negative system on that spark. This is why the Sages teach that eating is one of the 32 sparks that will require the Mashiach to complete its Tikune.
1. Is to say Brachot – Blessings - before and after every meal or snack. The blessing serves as a verbal action, that acknowledges that HaShem is the provider of bounty and so surround the meal with a protective shield of positive intense Light. At least right before and after our eating we remember HaShem, even if we always seem to forget - at least momentarily - when engaged in the act of eating itself.
The Sages of the Talmud speak of a significant effect when food is eaten without a Blessing before eating. This is considered stealing from HaShem. It does not require a Hebrew Blessing but an acknowledgement and appreciation that HaShem provided this for you and only you. No one else is capable of elevating the spark in this food that comes to your table. Please meditate on this teaching and its significance. Do you know what the Torah tells us is the effect of stealing?
The saying of a Blessing confers a Mitzvah like status upon the act of eating. Now, even if we eat without a glimmer of HaShem consciousness, our larger frame of commitment, is protecting the process of digestion from the attack of Satan. Like a mitzvah, the eating is now sure to accomplish at least the first step of separating sparks even if it lacks the wings of Kavanah to lift the sparks up to higher planes.
Let us take a look at the effect on the spark when a Blessing is said. The Blessing activates the spark and prepares it to elevate remembering where its location in the endless world exists. It has spent a millennium fighting off the Klipah and now is ready to ascend to the point from where it fell at the breaking of the vessels. Of course this activation has many levels just as all of creation has levels. This is why it is recommended to say the Blessing in the Hebrew language and to become aware of the 7 different Blessings and which foods they activate in a proper way. When one says a Blessing that is not the best one for this type of food then the spark is still activated but not in as balanced a manner as if one said the correct Blessing for that food. Please see our teachings of the Kavanah for the Blessings on our prayer classes.
The Blessing work for several reasons:
1. They affirm the larger context of our life is one which accepts the sovereignty of HaShem. And if we obey the detailed specifications of the Mitzvah that we are blessing, then we demonstrate our willingness to accept in positions and restrictions on our "freedom" because we believe – chanoch adds: know - HaShem's will / spiritual law - requires this of us. In more popular jargon, "we walk our talk." Our belief - chanoch adds knowledge – that HaShem impacts our behavior and that we impact the processes of creation - the embracing intention implied by our Brachot reframes the action which follows is one which furthers our HaShem serving intent. In this way even unconscious acts gain merit by their association with the Blessings global commitments to good.
2. The contents of these Brachot and their Names of HaShem have a wondrous power to awaken the soul. The more a person concentrates on their meanings and seeks to be transformed by them, the more potent will be there effect. This benefit requires concentration on the words of prayer, each word with its own sound and meaning. A Bracha recited with deep intention draws light from above, sparks from below, and heals the soul of the one who spoke it - and also those who say Amen upon hearing the Bracha.
When one says a Blessing – depending on the Kavanah – one draws direct light from as high as the Sefirah of Keter – usually from a much lower Sefirah. When people hear this Blessing and say Amen they are creating Returning Light which completes the structure of the Sefirot. Depending on the Kavenah of the people saying “Amen” will be the height of the returning light and the number of sefirot it will complete. The proper Kavanah has been taught in several classes but essentially deals with the unification of the spiritual world with the physical world. This turns on the Light which creates the channels that allow the spark in that food or action to be elevated to its proper location in the spiritual worlds. It may not make it to the “Ain Sof” yet it will be further along its journey than if no Amen is said. The person who said this Blessing is not able to have this effect by saying Amen to his own Blessing – Direct Light. The saying of Amen by that person is an empty word and detracts from the number of words that he or she is given to say in this incarnation.
The second remedy for protecting against the dangers of unholy eating is the Passover Seder. It is the only time in the year where eating is a mitzvah unto itself. On Shabbat and festivals the day revolves around things which include a Seudah meal. These meal are necessary and intrinsic to its observance yet they are not a Mitzvah in their own right. These Seudah meals have a mitzvah like quality in that part of the holiday celebration includes a requirement to eat one or several of them - meals with bread. Yet they are still not actually Mitzvot in their own right.
On Pesach - Passover we actually say the formula of "blessing before a mitzvah" over three acts of eating - Matzah, maror - vegetable, and the Pesach offering - meat. These blessings are different from the ones said before and after every meal or snack and that are part of a larger category of Brachot called “blessings upon taking pleasure from the world." Therein, as explained, is to minimize the suffering that happens when a person is seized by a moment of pleasure, forgets HaShem, and lapses into self- absorption. The Bracha before taking pleasure from the world are verbalized affirmations of commitment to HaShem that served as a preemptive antidote for the mental lapse of forgetting HaShem that will inevitably follow.
The "blessings before performing Mitzvot" are of another category altogether. Their form is familiar yet not the same:
Blessed are you, HaShem our God and God of our ancestors, who sanctifies us by his mitzvot and commands us to. . . -Like Shabbat candles, hang a Mezusah, listen to the Shofar, etc.
They are spoken before a mitzvah – as different than a neutral action - and their goal is twofold:
1. Create mindfulness by focusing a person's mental and emotional energies on the holy task at hand.
2. The words themselves create channels that facilitate the drawing of the light from above to below. That already happens automatically in doing an act of a mitzvah. The blessing amplifies the spiritually productive impact of the deed, and directs the light into the soul where it can affect its transformation.
The Passover Seder is the only time that these "blessings of Mitzvot" are set over physical acts of eating. That makes them the most potent opportunities in the year for the fixing of eating disorders. - chanoch adds: remember everyone has an eating disorder. - There are other ways and designated times for working on this problem at these three moments – eating Matzah, Maror, and Meat during the Pesach Seder - the channels of Tikune are perfectly aligned and the possibility of transformation is maximal. The root impurity of every human soul, it's grabbing instinct, gets sapped by the healing light of these holy Mitzvot.
To seize the moment is to bring Kavanah into the Mitzvah. The only time that one can elevate sparks and draw down light through an act of eating is on Pesach. Only at that meal can mitzvah and Kavanah, join fully together. Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen explains the significance: just as in prayer a passage recited was soulful concentration will uplift all the other times one recited that same passage by rote, so it is now with eating. These three Mitzvot of eating at the Passover Seder, if done with the intention, pierce the firmaments and take with them all the other sparks from all the other eatings that were done throughout the year, that could not lift by their own wings.
Part of Pesach preparation must include a plan of how one will use these moments. What will be the prayer, point of concentration, or question that one will hold while eating the matzoh, Maror, and Pesach-outfit:. These should be written, practiced, and clearly articulated. They should be well practiced and/or a copy should be brought to the Seder table. One should eat these three foods in silence, with eyes closed, and concentrate on whatever one has prepared for these moments.
Ms Schneider does not explain or give any information about what these ideas are to be. It is my opinion that they should relate to your personal eating disorder and its tikune.
In addition to the primary tools, the Torah gives some additional advice about how to make eating a holy and healthy activity:
1. Sit properly at the table. Remember that you are in HaShem's presence and conduct yourself accordingly.
2. Don't over eat. Eat just as much is you need. It is more wasteful to throw excess food down your own throat then to dump it in the garbage.
3. Keep strict standards of Kashrut but do not terrorize those preparing the food because of your standards.
4. Talk about Torah during the meal. Chanoch adds: Do this at every meal or snack even if you are eating alone. Be careful to not allow bread crumbs to gather in your Holy Books.
5. Give a portion of your meal to a poor person or invite him to the table.
6. On Shabbat and Yom Tov - Holidays - sing praises to Hashem who provided the food.
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