Six Ascending Levels of Holiness
Our sages speak of ten ascending levels of holiness that God created in the world. They begin with the holiness of the Land of Israel and ascend to the holiness of the innermost chamber of the Temple, the holy of holies. Of the ten, six stand out in particular (and may be considered as an integral unity of six ascending levels of holiness):
- the Land of Israel
- the walled cities of Israel
- the city of Jerusalem
- the Temple mount
- the Temple
- the Holy of Holies
In meditation, we may picture ourselves as ascending from level to level. These six levels themselves correspond to the six continuous commandments of the Torah. We ascend to the apex of consciousness of the Divine Space encompassing us, stand in a selfless state of prayer in the Holy of Holies (as the High priest onYom Kippur), and then turn to experience our consciousness expanding to encompass the entire land of Israel and the entire universe:
1. The Jewish People was commanded, upon entering the Land of Israel, to first purify it from all idolatry. This is the purification of the very ground of the land of Israel, the direction of below, corresponding to the second of the Ten Commandments.
2. The walled cities of Israel are those settlements physically protected from foreign invasion. In the soul, this corresponds to the consciousness of the commandment to shield one’s mind from foreign, negative thoughts.
3. In Kabbalah and Chassidut, the name “Jerusalem” is read “consummate fear/awe” (sheleimut hayirah). Malchizedek had previously called the city Shalem, “complete”; Abraham called it yirah, “awe.” Jerusalem is a composite of the two, with “awe” preceding “complete.” This clearly corresponds to the commandment to fear God.
4. Abraham asked God for the Temple mount and referred to the Temple-to-be as “mountain.” In Kabbalah andChassidut, “mountain” symbolizes great love, the Divine attribute personified by Abraham. This, then, alludes to the commandment to love God.
5. Jacob called the Temple-to-be “house,” and this is its name forever. Inside the Temple, the Jewish soul experiences the absolute unity of God. One reaches the level of consciousness associated with the soul of Jacob-Israel, the commandment to unify God: “Hear, O’ Israel, God is our God; God is one.”
6. In the Holy of Holies, God’s very essence is revealed. Above even His Name Havayah–which we unify with His Name Elokim in proclaiming “Hear, O’ Israel, God is our God; God is one”–is His very essence, expressed in the first word of the Ten Commandments–“I [am]” (above “God, your God,” as explained above). Here, the kernel essence of the first commandment–grasped in the simple, perfect faith of every (simple) Jew–transcends even the (relatively intellectually oriented) consciousness of the commandment “Hear [i.e., ‘understand’], O’ Israel….”