Bridging Mind and Heart

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(for a reference guide to the sefirot, their inner psychological attributes and division into intellectual, emotive and behavioral, click here - NOT CURRENTLY ON SITE)

Introduction

Da’at is translated literally as “knowledge,” but in Chassidut stands for “consciousness,” especially in the sense of “contacting” something on the inside. In the Torah the first occurrence of the word da’at is in the verb form in the verse: “And Adam knew his wife Eve.”1

Its role is to serve as a “bridge” between the intellectual and emotive sefirot or attributes of the psyche, creating a motivation to act (habitual or behavioral).

Da’at is therefore viewed as the all-inclusive sefirah, or faculty of the psyche.

The sages say: da’at kanita ma chasarta, da’at chasarta ma kanita – “if you have gained da’at you lack nothing, if you lack da’at what have you gained?”2

Though we are familiar with archetypal figures for the emotive and habitual sefirotda’at also has such an exemplar: Moshe Rabbeinu, or Moses.

(for a reference guide to the sefirot and their corresponding archetypal figures, click here - NOT CURRENTLY ON SITE)

Moses is also considered to be the inner quality of Jacob (“Moshe milegav, Yaakov milebar3). This is reflected in the relationship of the sefirot: Jacob is associated with the sefirah of tiferet, while da’at (associated with Moses) is just above it on the middle axis, making it tiferet’s inner soul. Thus, Moses is the central faculty of the intellect, while Jacob is the central faculty of the emotions.

Hence Moses is the essence of Jewish consciousness, or awareness. Each Jewish soul has an element of Moses in it.4

How can we balance the mind with the heart?

At first sight they are opposites. In Kabbalah, the mind is likened to water (cool and damp), while the heart is likened to fire (hot and dry).

The mind overlooks the body, and should ideally be “cool and collected.”

The heart’s experience is one of excitement (hitpa’alut), without which it cannot continue to beat and pump blood.

The mind strives for objectivity – to observe reality as it is (with all 5 senses; sight corresponds to wisdom, hearing to understanding, etc.) – whereas, the heart strives to have subjective feeling for others. We can say that the mind perceives, while the heart experiences. The mind is associated with the male aspect of our being, while the heart is associated with the female aspect. Eve’s name is the root for the word “experience” in Modern Hebrew.

From this we learn that striking a balance between them is to actually join them in metaphorical matrimony within each of us.

The goal of Torah is always to unite. The first such task should be in relation to our perceptions and our experiences.

Experiences more easily lead to action than do perceptions.

Da’at as a Bridge

Kabbalah speaks of three types of “interrelating” conduits in the soul.

32 Pathways of Wisdom (chochmah)

50 Gateways of Understanding (binah)

72 Bridges of Knowledge (da’at)5

(note: sometimes the 72 bridges are related to loving-kindness, as the numerical value of the word for loving-kindness in Hebrew, chesed, is equal to 72)

The role of a bridge is to connect two things that are divided by a chasm, that is, they are opposites.

These three numbers (32, 50, and 72) are part of a mathematical series known as the “double squares.” Every number in the series is twice the value of a square:

32 = 2 . 42

50 = 2 . 52

72 = 2 . 62

The full series (whose function is: 2n2) is: 2, 18, 32, 50, 72, 98, …

That 72 is a composite of two 36’s, relates to the sages statement that in every generation there are 36 righteous souls. The Zohar adds that in addition to the 36 “revealed” righteous souls (those that we know of), there are an additional 36 who remain “concealed” (sometimes even from themselves) – altogether 72 righteous souls. The task of these righteous tzadikim is to bridge the gaps between the Jewish people.

In Kabbalah, a square number represents a consummate state of inter-inclusion, or holography, where every part of something reflects the whole.

There is another reason to correspond the 72 bridges with da’at. Phonetically, the Hebrew word for “bridge” (gesher) and the Hebrew word for “connection” (kesher) are related (the two letters g-gimel and k-kuf interchange). Da’at is defined in Chassidut as the faculty that creates connections, not just once, but continuously like a bridge.6

The continuous nature of the bridging that da’at provides between intellect and emotion, helps us to “stay real.” Without da’at’s ability to bridge the objective perceptions of the mind, the emotions lose touch with reality.

Bridging Opposites

We have seen that the role of da’at is to bridge. According to Chassidut, there are actually four different ways in which da’at bridges and unites opposites. Whenever we have four of anything, they correspond in some manner to the four letters of G-d’s essential Name, Havayah (the Tetragrammaton). Indeed, at some level, every aspect of reality can be analyzed as containing four elements that correspond to these four letters, as the sages say that G-d “signed” his name in everything in creation.

1. Nullification before a common authority

Let us give a few examples of this type of unity.

Our first example is how G-d makes peace, or unites his angels. Each angel serves as a different force of nature. Two of the most important and opposite such angels are Michael and Gabriel. Michael’s service is likened to water, whereas, Gabriel’s service is likened to fire. In order to make peace between such opposing forces G-d simply appears. Since both Michael and Gabriel are devoted servants, they bow down before the Almighty, which signifies their nullification before Him. In nullification before a common One, they themselves unite.

As a second example: when an observant man and woman marry, they need to reconcile their differences in matters of tradition and halacha (Jewish law). Each has a different background and they need to find common ground. To do so, a couple should agree on a common authority to which they will both be committed.

As a third example: in the study of the Torah, there may seem to be two verses that contradict. The sages say that if the contradiction reaches an impasse, it is necessary to find a third verse that will reconcile the two verses.

Regarding unifying the mind with the heart, this means that each needs to nullify before an authority that is higher than both.

2. Uniting by finding an inter-inclusive quality

Even though two things may seem disparate, they can be unified by analyzing them and finding some quality that is inter-inclusive. For example, in fire there is a hidden quality of water, and in water there is a hidden quality of fire. For the mind and heart this means that the mind has (intellectual) emotions and the heart has (emotional) intellect. Subsequently, the inter-included qualities connect and facilitate the union.

As another example, a man and woman unite by finding the masculine in the woman and the feminine in the man.

Unlike the unity achieved by nullification to a common source, the unity achieved by meditating on inter-inclusion is a maturing process (simply nullifying oneself does not necessarily require a great degree of maturity). Said another way, analysis by meditation is a maturing exercise.

3. Unification by a third party (memutzah hamechaber)

A third party, which is not more authoritative than the two opposites appears, but is able to make peace between the two “rivals.”

For example we might suggest to a couple who are having problems to go to a marriage counselor. The counselor is not necessarily “higher” than the man and woman, but is able to negotiate between them.

As another example: another role of the righteous souls mentioned above is to act as a “third party” to connect the Jewish people with G-d.

The “third party” acts by “holding” metaphoric hands with the two rivals. In the Tanya mentioned above, da’at(whose role it is to unify in this manner) is defined as “connecting” using two different Hebrew words: hitkashrut and hitchabrut. The latter, hitchabrut, though meaning “connection” stems from the Hebrew word for “friend” (chaver). Thus, in this case da’at acts like a “friend” that unites the two parties by extending its hands.

Da’at as such is considered to have both empathy and compassion, which allows it to connect to the heart, and inherent intelligence, which allows it to connect with the mind.

4. Unifying by Hierarchy

When two people have the same status, like in a corporation, or the same rank, like in the army, they have to decide who will lead and who will follow. The key here is that one side submits to the other for practical reasons. In essence the two remain equal, but practically one accepts the other’s authority.

Of course from situation to situation the relationship can change.

With relation to the mind and the heart, this type of unity is referred to as “the mind rules the heart” (mo’ach shalit al halev).7

This observation, that the mind has the power to control the heart, is one of the most psychological that the Zohar offers, and is the cornerstone of Chassidut, particularly Chabad. Without this innate ability of the mind, most people would not be able to act in a way that would encourage the formation of a productive society. An individual who cannot control his emotions is “upside-down.”

Nonetheless, for great tzadikim the inner essence of the heart rules the mind. Unlike average people, they are able to trust their heart’s intuitive guidance completely.

The main point here is that the relationship between the heart and the mind is one of hierarchy. At each higher level of the hierarchy, the roles switch. This hierarchy can be never-ending.

Another example of union through hierarchy brought in Chassidut8 is: how can a very wise man be brought to consider and think about a very simple man with whom he has absolutely nothing in common? The only manner in which this might happen is if the wise man would ask this simple person to do him a favor. In the language of the Torah this is called a mitzvah – a commandment. The favor, so to speak, of doing the commandment then binds and unites the great man with the simpleton. It makes the simpleton a real person to the wise man.

In the same manner, in order to create a bond with us, the Almighty commanded us to do Him “favors,” as it were, to perform His commandments and by performing them to create a bond between us and Him. Illustrating this metaphor, the Ba’al Shem Tov taught that the Hebrew word for “commandment,” mitzvah, stems from the word tzavta, which means “to be together.” God’s greatest love is exhibited in His willingness to “limit” or “contract” Himself in such a way that He would appear to need us, thereby creating a bond with us.

Unification and G-d’s Essential Name

These four manners of union correspond, as mentioned above, to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of G-d’s essential Name (yudhehvavheh) correspond to the sefirot as follows:

letter of G-d’s Name sefirah manifestation
yud wisdom nullification
hei understanding analysis
vav loving-kindness to foundation mediation
hei   kingdom

hierarchy

 

Unifying by nullification, the first manner of union, corresponds to wisdom, as the inner psychological force of wisdom is selflessness.

Though this is apparently the highest level of unity, there is something “problematic” about it because it may bring about a total loss of self-definition. This is reminiscent of the type of shattering of the self that was the result of the overbearing authority of the kings of the World of Chaos (olam hatohu). Ultimately, G-d does not want us to totally lose our identities.

Meditation, called hitbonenut in Hebrew, comes from the same root as binah, understanding. In Chassidut, meditation is considered an analytic process by which the inner make-up of the object of meditation is revealed. In this case, the analysis is meant to reveal the inter-inclusive principle that unites the two opposites.

Mediation by a third party is related closely with the meaning of the letter vav in Hebrew, a “hook.” The third party acts like a hook that holds the two opposites together. Should the hook be removed, the two opposites will separate again. We mentioned above that unifying in this manner is the role of the tzadikim, of which there are 36 in every generation. Indeed, the value of the Hebrew letter vav is 6, and 62 = 36.

Related to hierarchy as a unifying principle is the Ba’al Shem Tov’s saying that a community without a leader will eventually be led by the Satan. The rectified leader (like King David) is one who shuns leadership and would rather have someone else at the top of the hierarchy.9 Clearly, the role of hierarchy and leadership is the essence of thesefirah of kingdom.

Conclusion

Love: the Super-conscious Manner of Unification

Above these four manners of unification, there lies an essential, not always conscious love, without  which none of them could possibly work. This love, whose source lies deep within the super-conscious realm of the soul, corresponds with unity at the level of the sefirah of crown, the level of super-consciousness.

letter of G-d’s Name sefirah manifestation

tip of yud

crown super-conscious love
yud wisdom nullification
hei understanding analysis
vav loving-kindness to foundation mediation
hei   kingdom

hierarchy

 

Notes

1. Genesis 4:1.

2. Vayikra Rabbah 1:6; see Talmud Nedarim 41a.

3. Tikunei Zohar 13 [29a].

4. See Tanya chapter 42.

5. See Zohar III, 227a; Alter Rebbe’s Likutei Torah III, 36d.

6. Tanya, end of chapter 3.

7. Tanya chapter 12. Based on Zohar III, 244a.

8. Hayom Yom for the 8th day of Cheshvan.

9. See Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Awakening the Spark Within, pp. 19-22.

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