February 11, 2010


The following meditation is from eighteenth century kabbalist Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna’s Sefer HaBris (Book of the Covenant), Part II, Ma’amar 11. This encyclopedic work is an expansion of Rabbi Chaim Vital’s classic Sha’arey Kedushah (Gates of Holiness), the third gate of which concludes with a similar meditation (posted elsewhere on this website). However, Rabbi Horowitz’s version provides more detail and thus is more practical, although it presupposes a good deal of kabbalistic knowledge— which he provides throughout Part II of his book. “Ru’ach HaKodesh,” literally, the “holy spirit,” is sometimes described as the lowest level of prophecy and represents a degree of enlightenment. As Rabbi Horowitz cautions, its attainment requires much spiritual preparation.

Meditation and Ru’ach HaKodesh

Translated by Dovid Sears

In section 6, the author lists the preparations one must make before embarking on this meditation. These include teshuvah, i.e., repentance for one’s sins and whole-hearted return to G-d; guarding one’s eyes from improper gazing; carefully fulfilling the laws of the Torah; reciting all daily blessings with mental focus, and not merely by force of habit; studying the Torah for the sake of G-d alone, and not for personal gain; arising at midnight to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and to pray for the immediate rebuilding of Jerusalem (tikkun chatzos); limiting indulgence in physical pleasures; and especially purging oneself of all evil character traits. In addition, he mentions the importance of immersing in the mikveh (pool or ritual bath) when necessary (such as after marital relations); regularly practicing hisbodedus (secluded meditation and prayer); mentally visualizing the Divine Name YHVH constantly, so that one will be G-d-fearing, and one’s deeds will be for the sake of heaven; and cleaving to G-d in one’s thoughts with great love—in the knowledge that G-d is the source of all goodness that one may experience in the world and in the World to Come. In a word, the practice described below is only meant for someone who “lives the life,” and is not for dabblers. (So if you’re not up to it, hold off until you’re ready.)

The meditation itself is described in section 7. We have added our own commentary to explain some of the author’s terms.

Sefer HaBris: One should confess, and then immerse [in a mikveh]. After this, he should seclude himself in a room where he will not hear even the sound of birds chirping, and all the more so human voices, so that he will not be distracted. If it is possible to do so after midnight, even better. One should light many candles; and if [he wishes to meditate] by day, the best time is before noon, while garbed in talis (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries). One should close his eyes and remove his thoughts from all mundane matters, as if he no longer existed in this world. Afterwards, he should begin to sing praises to G-d from the praises of David [i.e., Book of Psalms] with great fervor. Then he should contemplate the supernal worlds, the hidden lofty levels, from below to above, and picture the upper worlds in his imagination; he should begin to imagine that his higher soul is ascending higher and higher according to its soul-roots in the Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of the World of Asiyah/Action.

Commentary: Confession of sins and immersion in a mikvah are both necessary preconditions for performing this meditation in a state of purity. Otherwise, the entire endeavor would be like pouring vintage wine into an unclean cup.

In Sefer HaBris, Part II, Maamar 8, section 1, Rabbi Horowitz defines “Adam de-Nishamos” (literally, the “Man of Souls”) as the collectivity of each of the five components of the individual soul (called nefesh, ru’ach, neshamah, chayah, yechidah) on each of the “Four Worlds,” plus the fifth and transcendent level of Adam Kadmon/Primordial Man. Based on Ezekiel’s vision of the Merkava (“Divine Chariot”), the kabbalists speak of four “worlds,” or levels of reality: Asiyah/Action. Yetzirah/Formation, and Beriah/Creation, in ascending order; the fourth and highest world is that of Atzilus/Emanation, in which “lights and vessels are one.” Thus, Atzilus is described as the “world of unity.” Each world is made up of ten sefiros, which form an integral whole, and each is the source or root of one of the components of the soul. The term “Adam” as related to each of the three lower worlds appears in the Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 19 and Tikkun 69. (This is probably the symbolic meaning of the three giants carrying a tree that the Viceroy encounters in the desert in Rabbi Nachman’s tale, “The Lost Princess.”) “Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of the World of Asiyah/Action” represents the collective root of the lowest level of the soul, which is called “nefesh.”

The author of Sefer HaBris specifies the “heavens of Asiyah,” because Asiyah subsumes the entire physical universe, but more essentially it is the spiritual corollary of the physical universe we inhabit. This spiritual aspect of Asiyah is its “heavenly” dimension.

The term “soul roots (shorshey neshamos)” reflects the kabbalistic principle that each level of reality, or “world,” derives from the level above it in the seder ha-histalshelus, the process of causation through which all things come into existence in an orderly process of devolution from unity to multiplicity and incorporeality to corporeality.

The reader should note that although he is instructed to “picture the upper worlds in his imagination,” no such description is given. Since the upper worlds don’t resemble what we are used to seeing, it doesn’t matter how one chooses to visualize them. When the shefa eloki (divine influx) rests upon the meditator, these images will cease.

Sefer HaBris: That is, at first one should envision himself reaching the root of his soul in the Malkhus/Kingship of the Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of Asiyah/Action. He should intend to cleave to the sefirah of Malkhus of the Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of Asiyah, and intend to combine the sefirah of Malkhus of the Adam de-Nishamos with all other sefiros in the “Adam de-Sefiros” [i.e., the total structure of the sefiros on that plane], mentally combining the Divine Names YHVH and ADNY. [The unification of these Names corresponds to the unification of sefiros that the meditator wishes to accomplish.]

Commentary: The Name YHVH (Hebrew: yud-heh-vav-heh) is associated with the six sefiros of Chesed/Kindness through Yesod/Foundation and represents the masculine principle, while the Name ADNY (Hebrew: alef-dalet-nun-yud) is associated with Malkhus/Kingship and represents the feminine principle. Their unification brings harmony to each “world” in question.

The terms Adam de-Sefiros and Adam de-Nishamos both correspond primarily to the World of Asiyah/Action; while in the next passage, “Adam de-Malakhim” corresponds primarily to the World of Yetzirah/Formation; and Adam of the Quarry of Husks corresponds primarily to the World of Beriah/Creation. (There are no klippos/husks in Atzilus, the “world of unity.”) However, just as there are three general worlds of Asiyah, Yetzirah, and Beriah, so each world is subdivided into Asiyah-of-Asiyah, Yetzirah-of-Asiyah, and Beriah-of-Asiyah, etc. Accordingly, the various “Adams” correspond to each of these sub-categories in ascending order: e.g., there is also an Adam de-Nishamos on the level of Yetzirah and an Adam de-Nishamos on the level of Beriah/Creation, as well. Thus, the various “Adams” exist in each of the worlds.

It is interesting that although this meditation primarily reflects the kabbalah of the ARI, the terminology of the various “Adams” is more common in the works of the early kabbalists, who lived prior to the ARI.

Sefer HaBris: After this, he should intend to merge the entire Adam de-Sefiros into the Infinite One [which animates the sefiros from] within, again combining the Divine Names YHVH and ADNY. Then, he should intend to draw forth great illumination from the Infinite One to the sefirah of Malkhus of the Adam de-Sefiros, and from thence to the sefirah of Malkhus of the Adam de-Nishamos; from thence to the sefiros of the Adam de-Malakhim [i.e., the domain of the angels]; from thence to the “Adam of the Quarry of Husks”; and from thence to the Firmaments (Rekiyim) themselves. And he, too, should intend to receive his portion, last of all.

Commentary: “Adam of the Quarry of Husks” indicates the point of origin of the klippos (“husks” or “shells”). These are the forces that conceal Divinity and lead to the emergence of evil in creation. The klippos originate in the World of Beriah/Creation, which is where separateness and multiplicity first become manifest, however subtly. (This is also the “world” in which Sheviras HaKeilim, the “Shattering of the Vessels” at the beginning of creation, took place, as described in the Eitz Chayyim of the ARI.) The “firmaments” allude to the highest World of Atzilus/Emanation, which transcends all division, and the ineffable realms above Atzilus, which are are termed tzachtzachos (“pure lights”). The meditator has the kavannah (intention) of receiving his portion last, so that his entire spiritual undertaking remains altruistic, free of craving after personal gain.

Sefer HaBris: After all this, he should meditate in the same way upon the sefirah of Yesod/Foundation of the Adam de-Nishamos [and visualize the entire process of ascent]. Then he should meditate similarly upon the sefirah of Hod/Splendor of the Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of Asiyah/Action; and so on, until he meditates upon the sefirah of Keser/Crown. He should perform the unification of YHVH and ADNY, and pray that the sefiros combine with one another and be illuminated in unity by the Infinite Light that inheres within them, with an abundant influx (shefa rav). And from thence the shefa should be transmitted to the Adam de-Nishamos of the heavens of Asiyah/Action. And through the roots of [the meditator’s] soul there, shefa should be drawn forth to the Adam de-Malakhim beyond, and from thence to the Adam de-Klippos beyond, and from thence to the Firmaments themselves; and he should receive his portion last of all.

Commentary: Thus, he will have visualized this process of unification as it relates to each of the ten sefiros of Adam de-Nishamos of the World of Asiyah in ascending order. Keser/Crown is the highest sefirah in the array of each set of ten sefiros, transcending the rest. Thus it is identical with Malkhus/ Kingship, the lowest of the ten sefiros of the next level in the cosmic chain.

Sefer HaBris: In this manner, he should concentrate on the roots of his soul in Yetzirah/Formation and in Beriah/Creation. However, upon encountering the Quarry of the Husks in each world, he should contemplate [this realm] swiftly, so that he passes through it right away. In all of these things, he should intend that with his descent from one level to the next, everything reflects the unification of YHVH and ADNY—for this is a true and universal unification. Even though the particular unifications and efficacious prayers relative to each individual place are unknown to us, nevertheless, “the Merciful One desires the heart” (Sanhedrin 106b). After one’s decent, he should contemplate that the divine influx (shefa ha-eloki) has reached his faculty of imagination, and he should visualize the spirit of God resting upon him; and it should rest upon him for however long, until the time comes for His word [i.e., spontaneous, divinely-inspired speech].

Conclusion: The chapter concludes by saying that if this meditation has no effect, one must assume that he is unworthy and return to his spiritual preparations until he feels ready to attempt another ascent. At first, one must question any illuminations he receives, in case they come from the Sitra Achara (“Other Side”)—or they may come from the side of holiness, but are a mixture of truth and falsehood. This is surely the case if any such illuminations contradict the Torah, whether the Written Law or the Oral Law. The author also states that typically one will receive insights of a trivial nature until he becomes more adept at this form of meditation. Then he may achieve states close to prophecy, particularly if he is fortunate enough to live in Eretz Yisrael. In all this, Rabbi Horowitz seems to be speaking from personal experience.