March 18, 2009


From Rabbi Ozer Bergman, “Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Guide to Rebbe Nachman’s Path of Meditation” (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 242-245.

Beyond Keter (“Crown”)

Reb Noson writes:

The Rebbe once saw a book that contained writings of the Arizal not found elsewhere. This work spoke of the levels of development before the Universe of Emanation contained in the World of the Garment. I was very surprised to hear this when the Rebbe mentioned it. I had thought that there was nothing higher than the World of Emanation, and was astonished to discover Kabbalistic teachings speaking of higher levels.

I expressed my surprise to the Rebbe and he laughed. Then he said, "Don't scientists think that knowledge ends with the stars?" Even in knowledge of the transcendental, there are levels upon levels, higher and still higher, without limit or boundaries, because "His greatness is unfathomable" (Psalms 145:3). This cannot be expressed in words.

Broadly stated, our purpose here in this world is to wage war against sense-desire and confusion, so that our minds can always be attached to God. At some time you will want to come to the point at which you are clearly aware that the only being that exists is God. This is a level called Ayin (Nothingness). This is the level that we are calling the NoPlace.

The level of Ayin is so called because there are no categories with which a human being can intellectually grasp it. Since it is unfathomable, it is Nothingness and NoPlace. The more you praise God, the closer you come to this ideal, this fourth vehicle of silence. The highest praise of God is silence, since, in fact, nothing can really be said about Him. God is infinitely higher than any praise we can offer. As King David said, "To You, silence is praise" (Psalms 65:2).

Can a human being get to such a level, a level that is languageless because the concept of language and even the concept of "twoness" (the existence of something other than God) does not exist? Yes.

Then the blind beggar spoke. "I remember all these events--and I remember Nothing" (Rabbi Nachman's Stories #13).

One can experience many, many levels of existence--of closeness to God and perceptions of the unity of Creation--even while living an average, normal life. To do so takes years of dedicated practice of hitbodedut, improving one's character and refining one's thinking and behavior, but it can be done.

At this level of bitul (nullification), one experiences the reality that God is all there is; there is no other. It means experiencing the realization that there is no evil. Even to those who are intellectually comfortable with the concept, and who have faith galore, it still borders on the obscene to say (or hear) that "there is no evil" --particularly when viewing the results of wanton, premeditated violence.

King David expressed this truth when he said that no matter what happens, he praises God (Psalms 56: 11). God's names may be many, but He is One and always deserving of praise.

The best time to pursue and achieve this state of bitul is at night, when the world is asleep and taking a break from its constant pursuit of sense-pleasure. "Night" in this context also means your own voluntary reduction and elimination of the pursuit of sense-pleasure as a motive or goal for your behavior. The pain and suffering of the world, which so many dread and try to wish and pray away, is also "night," as it helps you to shut your eyes so that you can focus on the unity of Creation rather than its scatterbrained distractions. The latter type of "night" gives impetus for bitul; the first is the most conducive setting in which to achieve it.

To give respite from the judgments of "night," God gave the gift of sleep to all His creatures. Sleep has two aspects. The first is "closing your eyes" against the transient goals and pleasures of material life. The second is "nullifying your thoughts," letting your mind think without being prompted by your ego or your desires. The holy Zohar teaches that when you "sleep" like this, you are standing on God's mountain.

As with many of his teachings, Rebbe Nachman educates us with a koan: If you want to see, close your eyes. If you want to stay focused on the Destiny of the Universe, the great and ultimate good that will be experienced, close your eyes to the trivial and transient in this world. Then you need never suffer, no matter what happens, because you will see and experience even the unfolding of life and history as good and part of that ultimate good.

Obviously, to achieve such a state of closeness to God, your love and yearning for Him must be so great that you are willing to die. "You will love your God with all your heart and all your Soul…”(Deuteronomy 6:5) -- even if He chooses to take it away.