24 Ияра 5782 года, четвертый день недели, гл. Бамидбар

The Four Dimensions of Freedom and Gratitude

In the Messianic Age, we will experience this highest level of Atzilus. This is expressed in the words of the prophet Isiah which compares the knowledge of G-d that will prevail to the way the sea covers everything in it.

01.01.2022 413 (0)
The Four Dimensions of Freedom and Gratitude
The Four Dimensions of Freedom and Gratitude

The Four Cups of Wine

The four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder correspond to the four expressions of liberation mentioned in this week’s parsha.

The 16th Century commentator, known as the Meharsha, correlates these four expressions to the four experiences that involve danger for which we must express gratitude to G-d when we emerge from that danger: One who is freed from prison; recovers from a serious illness; traverses the sea; and one who traverses the desert.

The Meharsha explains that the Exodus from Egypt involved all four of these experiences and reasons for gratitude:

They were saved from the affliction of brutal, back-breaking slave labor; they were freed from the Egyptian prison; they survived the crossing of the Red Sea and they ultimately survived 40 years in the desert.

Commentators point out that these four categories of miraculous salvation for which one must express gratitude is actually hinted in the words of our daily prayers: “And all those who are alive thank you eternally.” The word “alive” here is “chaim,” which is an acronym for the four abovementioned categories. The letter ches stands for chovush-imprisoned; the yud is the initial of the word yesurin-affliction; the second yud stands for yam-sea and the mem is the first letter of midbar-desert.

Thus, the four categories of people who must express gratitude to G-d correlates to the four expressions of liberation.

Gratitude and Freedom

One can infer from the above that not only does one have to express gratitude when liberated but that for us to be genuinely free we must be grateful.

When a person is ungrateful it is a sign that he or she is self-centered and self-absorbed. A narcissist exists in a bubble and cannot get out of himself. A narcissist cannot therefore have a meaningful relationship with another. And absent a relationship, a person, for all intents and purposes, is in a virtual prison.

However, just as there are four expressions and levels of liberation there are four dimensions of gratitude.

It may also be suggested that these four levels correspond to the four spiritual worlds, the Kabbalists discuss. These four worlds are four levels of G-d consciousness but can also be applied to our relationships with others and the nature of gratitude as well.

First Floor of Gratitude

The lowest of the four spiritual worlds is known as the world of Asiya-Action:

In the world and consciousness of Asiyah we exist! Our own existence is our default position. Everyone and anything else is merely an extension of and revolves around self. While we may acknowledge the other, it will either be a quid-pro-quo or a societal norm super-imposed on us. The focus is still on ourselves.

And while this is the lowest expression of gratitude, it is still better than nothing. At least, there is some acknowledgment that there is an “other;” whether the other is G-d or a person.

The narcissist who shows no gratitude is in a veritable desert; a place devoid of life. Genuine life is when there is some modicum of a relationship with others. As the Rebbe explained, the word for life in Hebrew is chaim which is plural. A person who cannot relate to others is, in fact, not truly alive. However, the self-absorbed individual who acknowledges the other, regardless of the motive, can be said to have escaped the desert.

For this reason, we shouldn’t knock this level because, at the very least, acknowledgment of the other, for any reason, will prevent one from trampling the other. And for a self-absorbed individual, any measure of acknowledgment of another is a quantum leap.

Second Floor of Gratitude

While in the world of Asiyah, the self-centered individual may be out of the lifeless desert, he may still be locked up in an emotional prison.

This leads us to the next dimension; the world of Yetzirah; the world of emotion.

In this level of consciousness we acknowledge that there is an independent other; as opposed to where the other is merely an extension of self. This marks the beginning of a genuine relationship. In Yetizrah, life is not only about us; we acknowledge and respect the “other;” who is not there just for us, but has independent existence.

With this attitude, we emerge from emotional prison because this marks the beginning of a meaningful relationship.

Although out of prison, the world of Yetzira individual still has to contend with the turbulent sea. There can be a tug-of-war between one’s self-love and the love of the other. While there is recognition of the other as an independent human being, we can still give precedence to our own interests. At this level we are not ready to fully embrace the other.

In the world of Yetzirah the individual is not self-absorbed. The person is not only out of the desert; they are also out of an emotional prison. It is the beginning of a real and meaningful relationship. Nevertheless the person on this emotional level still has to contend with the turbulent sea. There can be a tug-of-war between one’s self-love and the love of the other. While there is recognition of the other as an independent human being, one can still give precedence to one’s own interests. At this level the person is not ready to fully embrace the other.

Third Floor of Gratitude

In the next higher world of Beriah the feeling is that we subordinate ourselves to the other. We feel indebted to, admire and even adulate the other.

In the world and consciousness of Beriah emotions are products of mature understanding of the other, not just based on raw passion. This will solidify, stabilize and render the emotions tranquil. We will have emerged from the turbulent sea unscathed. Our relationship is now close to the ideal.

In the realm of Beriah, however, one can still feel that he is missing something in the relationship. There can be a feeling that he or she wants to become totally absorbed in the other; not just subordinated, but unified with the other; whereby our own ego is completely nullified.

In this state of mind, in which one longs to be absorbed in the other, the person is said to be in a state of emotional illness or lovesick. This is based on the teaching that there are 50 gates of Binah-understanding. The word choleh-ill has the numerical value of 49; one level shy of the pinnacle. When one reaches the 49th level he will become ill because of his yearning to reach the top. The passion is so intense that anything short of the 50th level is inadequate.

Nevertheless, in the world of Beriah one can still have a trace of an ego, albeit one that is subordinated to the other. And for this reason, one who is imbued with the world of Beriah consciousness will crave to reach the 50th level, where there is total unity with the other and total freedom from the ego.

Fourth Floor of Gratitude

That experience is the consciousness of the world of Atzilus, where only the other exists. It is the opposite of Asiyah where only we exist and everything else is our satellite. In Atzilus only the other (the divine Other or the other lower case) exists and everything else is the other’s satellite.

When one reaches this level they are cured from their spiritual illness.

Based on the above discussion, the four cups of wine relate to the way we elevate ourselves, step by step, to the highest spiritual level of total union with G-d. By extension, we can also become totally united with others, In that mode, our gratitude is not just acknowledging, thanking, respecting the other but a state of mind in which we see the world totally from the other’s perspective.

In the Messianic Age, we will experience this highest level of Atzilus. This is expressed in the words of the prophet Isiah which compares the knowledge of G-d that will prevail to the way the sea covers everything in it.

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