Excerpt from Yaacov Lefcoe, MA, “Personality Change Through Contemplative Meditation: An Integrative Hasidic and Psychological Approach “ (B’Or Ha’Torah Journal, no. 18 (5769/2008). The contemplative-meditational approach under discussion is that of the Chabad school of Chassidism. Footnotes have been omitted in this online version.
Beyond “Object” Relations
The Tract on Ecstasy [by Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, second rebbe in the Chabad lineage] describes the four ensuing, higher stages of deocentric hitbonenut (contemplation) following the acknowledgment stage as generating ever increasing awareness and affective responsivity to G-d--with an important shift. Having achieved the capacity to acknowledge and experience G-d as separate from, and outside of, oneself, one then becomes capable of beginning to experience that one is not separate from G-d. This growing self-nullification facing G-d's omnipresence defines the unfolding of the higher stages of hitbonenut. Experiencing G-d as object lays the groundwork for a true experience of G-d ontologically subsuming and suffusing the self (whereas earlier there was a superficially similar, yet false, experience based on immaturity and ‘blurred boundaries’ between the self and G-d [see Wilber's discussion of the ‘pre/trans fallacy']).
This perspectival shift from experiencing G-d as Other to realizing G-d as inclusive of self is illustrated by comments of Rabbi Hillel Paritcher on the opening section of the Code of Jewish Law (Shulkhan Arukh 1:1). This section enjoins the Jew to think of G-d as a “great King” who “stands over him and observes his activities,” so that through this “...fear [of G-d] will come to him,” and he will therefore measure his words and deeds carefully. This opening passage frames that entire endeavor of Jewish observance, detailed in the rest of the Code. On this passage, Rabbi Hillel Paritcher comments:
They [the authors of this Judeo-legal teaching] have spoken, however, exoterically ... and they have written “...stands over him,” which implies [G-d is] like an ‘other’ [zulato] who stands over him. But the truth is that he is not separate from Him at all, and is nullified in Him absolutely, since He flows into his entire inner being, and his innermost being, and is bringing him into existence and vitalizing him every instant. We find [therefore] that the human being is not outside of Him at all, and consequently the matter of ‘fear’ is to be interpreted not according to the simple meaning that he fears something outside himself. Rather, its interpretation is ‘abnegation’ [bittul]; namely, that “fear will come to him,” meaning until he becomes completely self-abnegated to Him, not being an existent unto himself at all, in any way ... And this is the ultimate intention [of Torah Judaism], as it is written: “The end of the matter, when all is said and done: Fear [i.e., abnegate to] G-d...”
What is most interesting about these latter four levels is how they seem to represent paradoxically the deepening of a relationship, together with the progressive negation of the duality required by the entire concept of ‘relationship.’ The absorption into the Other, the fruition of a relational movement of meditational embrace and self-surrender, is not the negation of relationship, but rather its climax. Thus, the actualized self-nullification that defines the furthest reaches of this process is not the end of object-relating. Rather, it is a teleological ‘end’ and purpose of Jewish meditation as a way of relating to G-d.