Introduction to Jewish Meditation – Part 4

The Duties of the Heart

The meditation herein presented is a truly basic one in Jewish spiritual life. As we will see, it embodies many of the fundamental teachings of Judaism, and moreover can serve as a filter through which one may process virtually all aspects of reality. As such, it is a prime example of the purpose of Jewish meditation as explained above.

This meditation centers on the six continuous mitzvot (“commandments”) of the Torah. The Torah’s 613 commandments can be categorized in various ways:

  •  positive (do’s, of which there are 248) and negative (don’ts, of which there are 365);
  • on whom they devolve (e.g., everyone or only the king, the priests, etc.);
  • when they apply (at all times or only when the Temple is standing, etc.);
  •  where they apply (everywhere or only in the land of Israel, only in the Temple, etc.).

Implicitly, on the spiritual plane, all of the commandments of the Torah apply to each and every Jew at all times and in all places, as taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov. Explicitly, however, on the physical plane, only six of the 613mitzvot apply to all Jews at all times and in all places, inasmuch as they are “duties of the heart.” These are:

1.  To believe in the existence and providence of God.

2.  Not to believe that there exist any other gods.

3.  To believe that God is an absolute, non-composite, and all-encompassing unity.

4.  To love God.

5.  To fear–be in awe of–God.

6.  To shield one’s mind from negative thoughts.

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