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6 The Remedy: Prayer, Torah, Sacred Calendar In each of the three preceding chapters, we have looked closely at one of the most significant issues which together define the problem of life. According to Meshullam Feibush's theory of creation, there is a divine basis for all existence. Creation exists because of God's desire to be discovered and loved by humankind within the material world itself. We saw, however, that because pride is so deeply rooted in human nature, the ordinary state of human consciousness, itself, constitutes a virtually overwhelming barrier to fulfilling this purpose. Indeed, the goal may only be realized as the result of great spiritual effort towards breaking the power of carnal desires and attaining a mystical consciousness in which the divine presence is experientially known. In reality, human effort is inadequate to the task without divine aid. Only the greatest spiritual adepts have ever reached the goal, llnio mystica. In the following chapter, we shall examine the remedies that are offered in order to overcome the basic problem of existence, separation from God. In the broadest sense, the general remedy is the way of Torah, itself, in all that this concept implies. However, three specific areas are particularly emphasized and discussed in detail by Meshullam Feibush: prayer, Torah study, and holidays.1 In each of the following three sections, Meshullam Feibush's treatment of one of these areas will be analyzed. The Centrality or Prayer Meshullam Feibush's religious ideal involves directly experiencing the presence of God under any and all circumstances, as a result of learning Torah. He, nevertheless, views prayer as the best of all possible means for attaining the spiritual goal. Genuine deveqllt cannot be attained by someone whose prayers are performed in a perfunctory manner. A person cannot obtain [passionate love for God]2 and be attached to it except by Torah li-shemah,3 and above all [through] prayer in deveqllt and ecstasy 124 Uniter of Heaven and Earth (lI-ve-hitlahavut ha-Iev). ... But the way they are conducting themselves, underestimating the importance of prayer,4 how can they have devequt with God through the Torah?5 Prayer is especially important for several reasons. For one thing, the complete path of spiritual development which is outlined in the classical ethical works requires more time to fulfill than is available to the average person of Meshullam Feibush's day.6 On the other hand, prayer is performed thrice daily by everyone. However, Meshullam Feibush has deeper reasons for emphasizing prayer which is based in his theory of devequt. As already noted, a transformed consciousness that is focused on God at all times is the desired goal. However, the deepest mystical experience of this consciousness occurs during prayer. In [the writings of Dov Ber of Mezeritch] the matter of [mystical] awe is treated at length in a number of places. From this awe one can reach genuine love [of God] until his soul cleaves to the daughter of Jacob... .7 When he is constantly in this devequt through prayer, Torah, and good deeds, he will reach genuine detachment from corporeality, 50 that his existence will be canceled in his mind during prayer. He will not sense at all that he is in a body.S Detachment from corporeality can be practiced at all times by great spiritual adepts. However, its ultimate degree, a state in which no awareness of physical existence whatsoever is experienced, can best be realized during prayer: This is the case, because Meshullam Feibush's conception of prayer, following the teachings of Dov Ber of Mezeritch, essentially involves a contemplative ascent to worlds that are beyond the physical.9 While persistence in learning Torah and doing good deeds in a state of devequt may condition the depth of detachment that is achieved during prayer, the less contemplative nature of these activities calls for a state of consciousness in which there is a greater degree of awareness of corporeality and the intellectual and physical faculties that accompany it. However, when prayer has the strict!y contemplative goal of intimacy or even union with God, consciousness must be so exclusively focused on the divine that intellectual and physical activities are virtually excluded. The difference in degrees of detachment from corporeality is illustrated by a teaching in the name of Menahem Mendel of Premishlan.1o As the divine Saint, R. Menahem Mendel, of blessed memory, said concerning the statement in the Mishnah, "if he was riding on a donkey, he should...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781438409658
Related ISBN
9780791438176
MARC Record
OCLC
42855920
Pages
309
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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