KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
 

The Way of Enlightenment

According to the Torah Path

 

by Ariel Bar Tzadok

Copyright 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.


The goal of enlightenment is never reached without a well-rounded education. An education is not the facts that one memories, but rather the skills of wisdom, and understanding that one acquires, which enables one to penetrate life's secrets.

The goal of religion is to draw close to God. The goal of drawing close to God is to become enlightened. The goal of becoming enlightened is to find one's true, and full self. Discovering the secrets of the universe are never separate from discovering the secrets of one's self.

Religion, without this pursuit of self discovery, falls short of properly serving God.

Serving God, obeying His commandments are a means to an end. And, what is this end? And, who does this end serve? Remember this, God does not need us. We need Him. God does not need us to obey Him, or to keep His commandments. It is we who need to obey, and observe.

Whatever God has done, He has done for us. He does not need the universe, we do.

Enlightenment is the discovery of why all this is so. Once so enlightened one sees, and understands the greater world, and the greater reality that surrounds us.

Enlightenment is two-fold. There is enlightenment of the heart, and there is enlightenment of the mind. As high and sublime that enlightenment of the heart is, it is, nevertheless, incomplete without enlightenment of the mind.

Enlightenment of the heart is learned through life's experiences. Enlightenment of the mind is learned from contemplation, analysis, and all the other functions of the developing rational intellect. The enlightened mind is an educated mind. The enlightened mind is a smart mind. The enlightened mind is a deep-thinking, penetrating mind.

Enlightenment of the heart requires little thought. Enlightenment of the mind requires heavy, deep thought. How can one expect to achieve any level of enlightenment if one does not know how to properly think? Learning how to properly think is the road to enlightenment. Learning how to properly think is the road to God. Learning how to properly think is the road to true religion. One cannot properly serve God, nor properly obey His commandments, unless one knows how to first properly think.

This is why the Sages of old have always said that the learning of Torah is considered to be equal in value, and importance, to all the other commandments combined. Learning Torah is not about memorizing facts. Learning Torah is about learning how to think. Any student of Talmud and Gemara knows this lesson well (or at least should know it well, if they have properly performed their learning exercises).

Proper Torah study leads to enlightenment, but only when the study is performed properly. So, what is proper Torah study? Proper Torah study is more than just understanding rational, and when applicable, metaphorical surface (pshat) meanings of a text. Proper study seeks to delve beneath the superficial (pshat) surface of a text to discover its concealed, allegorical, and psychological meanings. And, if there are no such depths, then to be able to show it, prove it, and verify it with ample examples, and proofs.

This method of learning applies equally to all subjects of Torah study, including Bible, Law (Halakha), Talmud, Midrash, philosophy (Hashkafa), and Kabbalah. Unless one studies to understand properly, one can easily fall victim to mythological ideas, and superstitious beliefs. This is where religion falls victim to misinterpretation. This is the history of most religions for many centuries.

Enlightenment is never reached by embracing lies, and half-truths. To discover enlightenment, be it of the heart, and especially of the mind, is a long and arduous journey, which takes one down many roads. Many of these roads are dead ends. But how will one know which road is a dead end unless one walks it oneself?

One can always listen to the advice, and instructions from a master who has walked the roads before. Yet, by listening alone, and never personally experiencing for oneself, one's lesson is superficial at best. And, like I said, enlightenment is not discovered along the superficial path. The ramifications of this are intense, and may explain why, according to those schools who embrace it, why souls are reincarnated so many times. One lifetime seems to never be enough to accomplish everything.

An education can take a lifetime to learn. Indeed, the purpose of life itself is education.

Everything that happens to us, we believe, happens for a reason. While we may never know, or understand the true depths of why this or that thing happens to us, we should, nevertheless, never cease seeking meaning in everything. Granted, we may make up things, and create all different kinds of illusions to explain the meaning of this or that thing, but this behavior itself is part and parcel of the education process.

When something happens, we may immediately explain it, (or blame it), on this or that. We may stick to such a belief for a long time. But then something else may happen which challenges our original conclusions, and forces us to reappraise it. This is how the education process works.

In our emotional stubbornness and immaturity, we may cling to something not real, for many different reasons. Yet, as time passes, we might find our stubbornness challenged. In time, we might actually realize that our stubbornness is what it is, and that it is harmful to us, and not helpful.

This realization is an act of education. In this realization, our hearts have learned from the pain that stubbornness can cause. In this realization , our minds learn that stubbornness has only a limited place and application. When its purpose, and need to be have ceased, then we need to move on. Thus, life teaches us, and we receive enlightenment of both the heart, and the mind.

We can experience this process in many different ways. We can experience it through the stages we pass through life, and we can experience it through the stages we pass through in our learning about religion, spirituality, and philosophy. Applications of this process to daily affairs are numerous, and should not need to be elaborated.

The confrontations with stubbornness and immaturity also heavily contaminate our perceptions and outlook on religion, politics, and culture.

How many times do we cling to a certain belief in religion, only to discover that there are other beliefs that contradict our own? How many times do we vigorously, and emotionally reject all such opposing beliefs because we are convinced that our (present) beliefs are right, correct, and absolutely true!

What happens then when we continue to learn, continue to explore, and continue to discover new things, new information, and new truths that expose our (present) beliefs to be not so absolutely correct as we once thought? We are then tested to see if we can embrace the newer, and deeper truths that our learning has brought us.

This is why our Sages have taught us to learn Torah continuously, and that the learning is considered equal in merit to all the other commandments combined. For it is the learning, and the learning process that leads one to enlightenment, and enlightenment teaches one the truths about God.

One studies the topics of Torah for two reasons. Reason one is to learn how to practice the rituals of Judaism. Reason two is to learn how the Laws of Torah are archetypes for reality, natural law, and the way of morals, and ethics. One learns applicable Torah laws to practice Judaism. Non-applicable Torah laws, such as those dealing with sacrifices, are still important to learn, not to apply in real terms, but to understand the concepts underlying them. It is these concepts that educate the mind, and enlighten it.

With continued proper study one transcends the superficial (pshat) level of Torah, and recognizes that the Torah, and its commandments, are archetypes of collective, universal truths. This is where the real Torah resides. This is the Torah that brings enlightenment to both one's heart, and one's mind.

Superficial Torah, even the superficial study of Kabbalah, leaves one with a little knowledge, but also leaves one in the darkness of the unenlightened. Life is the road that we walk to discover the truths of Torah, be it in the written Torah, oral Torah, natural Torah, or prophetic Torah. Enlightenment; for this we are born, for this we live, for this we suffer, for this the wise dedicate their lives.

Each one of us will eventually mature to the psychological level of yearning inner discovery. Each one of us will eventually mature to wanting to seek enlightenment over and above all other pursuits. Each one of us will eventually spiritually grow up. It might take a number of life times, but it will eventually happen, sooner or later, in this lifetime or the next, or the next.

If you search, you will find. If you do not search, you will not find. If you search, Heaven will bless your search, and lead you. If you do not search, Heaven will drag you along anyway, against your will, and without your knowledge. This is why many people suffer through life. They resist the forward movement of Heaven.

It is wise to surrender to Heaven. It is wise to seeks Heaven's wisdom. It is wise to seek meaning in all things, even if that meaning is contrived. For that which begins in darkness, can end up in light, if one indeed pursues the light. Light leads to enlightenment. A good well rounded education is how one shines the light into one's mind.

 

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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
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