Sunday, April 6, 2008

One Must First Know Himself in Order to Know Hashem

In Oros Hateshuva 15:9, Rav Kook says that as long as a person does not know his true, inner self, then he will be filled with confusion and uncertainty.

According to my rebbe's explanation of this idea in Rav Kook, a person cannot connect to Hashem, achieve Deveikus with Hashem, if he does not first really know himself. This is so because when one is trying to connect himself with Hashem, but if he does not know who he himself is, then how can he know whom he is actually connecting to Hashem?!

A person may collect many thousands of mitzvos. He can do a chessed here. Learn a Torah there. Daven a little here. And do a little hisbodedus there. But in the end, all he has is a random collection of good things. What he lacks is any nekuda merkazis, any central point, which unifies and directs all of his avodah. He has no briach hatichon which brings together all of the disparate parts of his life and himself that allows him to build the mishkan in his heart.

The person doesn't work on himself "derech binyan," the way one builds a building; step by step with one step built upon the one before. Rather, he is just chapping mitzvos whenever he feels the desire to do so.

The key to connecting to Hashem, then, is first to know yourself. Only by knowning one's true self can one know Hashem. My rebbe compared it to a journey whereby one gets to know his own neshama, his own true self, by going through a series of doors, that lead to deeper and deeper levels within himself. Each door that he enters represents truer and deeper levels of knowing himself better. But when he gets to the last door, what is written on it? "The Ribbon Kol Olamim, Baruch Hu." "The Master of All Worlds, Blessed is He." Memeila, automatically, when one understands himself, then every door he opens within himself ultimately leads to Hashem, the Chelek Elokah Mima'al Mamash, the neshamah of all neshamos, the Soul that animates all souls.

Learning exactly how to acquire this self knowledge is the subject of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Sefer. But in particular, the new sefer by the same author, Da Es Atzmecha, focuses on acquiring this self knowledge that is key to achieving closeness with Hashem.

IY"H, with these resources, we should be zocheh to know ourselves and, thereby, to know Hashem.

-Dixie Yid

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A Simple Jew said...

This is a great topic, Dixie Yid. I hope you will post more about it in the future!

Gandalin said...


Thank you for keeping the Bilvavi approach, works, and teacher present before your readers.

I followed the link to the on-line text of the Da Et Atzmcha lectures.

Ordinarily we think that Athens and Yerusholayim represent opposite poles of classical civilization, symbolizing the differences between the Greek and Jewish ways of living in and thinking about the world;it was part of the work of Philo and later the Rambam to attempt to bridge the chasm between Greek thought and Jewish faith so that the language and concepts of each might be comprehensible to the other side.

And yet the Pronaos of the Oracle at Delphi bore the inscription "Gnothi seauton," or "Know Thyself." What that meant, or means, is much discussed, but perhaps not very well understood.

Perhaps its esoteric meaning is to be found within the teachings to which you link, and the Delphic oracle was pointing, in a vague, proleptic way that it could not fully understand itself, towards the Revelation of Har Sinai.

Anonymous said...

An extensive section of knowing yourself is found in R' Wolbe's Alei Shur, Volume 1.

Nice write-up of Friday's shiur. I heard it as well.

Freddie said...

I found this to be very useful; something to think on. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

It means to know yourself as a soul, not as the body. then you know the Divine of which you are really a part. Hispashtus hagashmius.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Anon 6:12,

True. Very true. An additional point though is that it is not knowing just the "fact" that the true "I" is the neshoma. Rather, it's also to know "your" neshoma and to realize which of "your" desires originate with you and which are from the Chelek HaElokus (the G-dly portion) within your. And then once you know which is which, then you can begin the avoda of teaching your "I" to desire what Hashem wants. And then "retzoneinu la'asos retzoncha."

-Dixie Yid