Friday, 23 March 2012
Call about the Three Mother Letters
"Nu?" Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion asks as soon as I answer the phone. "Wot is dis crisis you are experiencing?"
"It wasn't a crisis Rabbi," I reply with all the calmness I can muster. "I just needed to get over my issues with meditating on the Sefirot And how are you?"
"Ohhh, Sefirot. Yes, yes, very interesting and very hard to grasp. Most people just talk about them, but I'd rather ask for advice from the Cha-cha-mim [wise men] of Chelm than put any faith in the hundreds of pages that I have read on the theory of Sefirot." He pauses. "Surely you have heard of the Cha-cha-mim [wise men] of Chelm?"
"No, Rabbi Tzion, I haven't."
The awkward silence that follows is vast enough to swallow us both. I can hear him tapping a pen against the phone receiver. Suddenly he strikes up a tuneless melody, his voice rising and falling as he fills in the words that he can remember.
"Sorry Rabbi," I ask somewhat perplexed and annoyed at him calling me out of the blue. "Why are you calling me?"
The humming stops, I hear him put down the pen. "See here is the ting Shimon, I want to help you but some ting you have to discover on your own. They are called Netivot [private paths] for a reason, you see? Such as for example how the letter Aleph connects Chesed and Gevurah. The letter Mem connects Netzach and Hod. And how the letter Shin connects Chochmah and Binah."
"You're talking about the three mother letters in the Hebrew alphabet?" Finally we're getting on to a more stimulating topic than wise men from Yiddish folklore.
"Sure, sure, dey are mother letters because the number of horizontals determine the points in an array. Look dis up in figure 3 on page 28 of Rabbi Kaplan's book. 3 horizontals results in an array of 10 points." He starts tapping out a rhythm again with his pen. "But the main ting is to meditate on the letters as channels of Shefa between the Sefirot. What does Aleph feel like? What does Mem taste like? What does the sound of Shin look like?"
"What is Shefa?" I ask having some understanding of the term, but not enough to use it confidently in conversation.
"Divine flow, Divine abundance. Emanations, my dear Shimon, emanations!" There's a pause and the pen goes still. "Wait a minute, wait a minute - why did you ask about that and not about what the sound of the letter Shin looks like? You've tried it already haven't you? Ya, Shimon? Tell your Rebbi what you’ve learnt already?"
"When I meditate on the channel between Chesed and Gevurah, I don't think in terms of kindness and severity. They're both so powerful that they each seek to destroy the other. Chesed obliterates everything in its path and Gevurah constrains everything until it can no longer exist. To me the letter Aleph is the sound of an in-drawn breath, the interplay of expansion of Chesed and the contraction of Gevurah. The same expansion and contraction that happens at all levels of creation, it's a vibration and the molecular dance of the Universe."
I pause and try to capture the experiences of the letter meditations.
"Mem is a musical sound. Music is a key to achieving a level of consciousness on which prophecy is possible. Mem is a single note, but when taken together with the other notes can combines to create beautiful music. Netzach gives and Hod receives in relation to how much the other can receive or give. It's a much more harmonious interaction. Here the vibration set in motion between Chesed and Gevurah is channeled to allow for an interplay in which the coupling of Yesod results in something that has some measure of permanence in Malchut. If this was attempted at the level of Tiferet the world could not be sustained. Eventually the forces from Chesed and Gevurah would tear it asunder."
"Hmmm interesting thoughts, Shimon," the rabbi responds. I can hear him hold his breath, for a rare few minutes I have his complete attention. "And nu, wat about Shin?"
"Shin is the white noise between Chochmah and Binah. As I use letter meditation to attempt to oscillate my consciousness between the undifferentiated thought of Chochmah and my compartmentalized thinking in Binah, the hissing sound of Shin cuts through everything. It cuts across all frequencies and obliterates them, much as white noise does. This is the Chochmah part of the sound, a simple kernel of an idea that has room for nothing else. At the same time the fact that I'm hearing noise and trying to make sense of it means that my Binah consciousness is breaking it up in such a way as to delineate and process it."
"And?" Rabbi Bar-Zel Arieh Tzion chuckles, a hoarse yet throaty laugh.
"Aleph vibrates like air, Mem hums like water and Shin hisses like fire. Does that answer your question Rabbi?"
"It does Shimon, but I'd rather you did not read up ahead on Chapter 2 in future until you've finished working through Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah. Oh and one more ting, no Golem building using chometz** you hear me? Especially not ones with de ginger in it!"
** flour that has had yeast added and allowed to rise for more than 18 minutes.