The Art of Loving

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A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf, Spiritgrow Josef Kryss Centre, Melbourne, Australia


Lesson 1

The Art of Loving Session 1 – Love and Fear – Truth and Illusion A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

The Nature of Consciousness

Consciousness lies deeper than the ‘I’. It resides in the soul which in turn mediates the flow of creation’s energies. The two primary conscious paths are mind (seichel) and emotion (middos). Western psychology is not clear as to the nature of emotion or the inter-relationship of mind and emotion. Kabbalah instructs that mastery of consciousness is primarily enacted by the Alter Rebbe’s teaching in Sefer Tanya paraphrased in the following dictum: ‘the compass of mind must provide the bearing for the flow of the raw energies of emotion.’ This is the basis of self-mastery.

The Primary Emotions

The two primary emotions Ahavah (love) and Yir’ah (fear).These also powerful motivational factors that propel the human being through life. The nature of love is to bridge the distance that separates: person to person, person to animal, person to vegetation, and person to the inanimate. Love connects and fear withdraws. The nature of fear is to distance the person from these.

Two Levels of Yir’ah (Fear)

Yir’ah Tata’ah (the lower fear) induces withdrawal and stepping backwards due to fear of consequences. Yir’ah Ila’ah (the higher fear) also causes a moving away — distancing — but due to due to awe of overwhelming greatness. A person may be afraid of speaking back to one’s employer because it may result in the loss of one’s position (lower fear). Or the person may step backwards in the sudden experience presence of a cavernous magnificent architectural space, or in the presence of true greatness (higher fear).

Positive and Negative Love and Fear

Both emotions are mediated by the ego-self (Nefesh Behamis) or by the egoless- self (Nefesh Elokis). When lower-fear is filtered through the lower order consciousness of Nefesh Behamis it becomes self-defeating e.g. fear of failure; fear of ridicule. The higher-fear examples are fear of inadequacy or inability to tolerate another’s advantages. When filtered through the Nefesh Elokis , lower-fear enhances spiritual behaviour e.g. conforming to wisdom teachings for fear of veering away from good advice, whereas the higher fear could express as total self- abnegation in the face of the Divine or immensity of creation.

Two Levels of (Ahava)

Love Ahavah Rabba (the higher love — lit. the ‘Great Love’) is be achieved only by those who have practiced Yir’ah Ila’ah (the higher fear), and even then it arises as a gift from Above. It manifests as ecstasy and like a fiery flame of emotion. It originates in the world of Atzilus where everything is in a state of Oneness, and hence the pre-requisite of complete ego abnegation (Bittul HaMetzius) – the path to the higher fear as well. Ahavat Olam (the lower love — lit. ‘Love of World’) can be exemplified through inter-Personal that is borne of contemplation on inner beauty and unique personality traits of the other. In a cosmic sense it is borne of contemplation on memalleh (permeating Divine energy) and sovev (encompassing Divine energy), and the enormity of creation described by the comparison of a pristine thought when it is still latent in the soul compared to the articulated word.

The next session will focus on Love as ‘desire’ and the phenomena of yearning, pining, craving, and even addictive love.

Lesson 2

The Art of Loving Session 2 – The Meaning of Desire A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

1. The Love Known as Desire (Ta’avah)

We previously defined a higher (ahava rabba)and a lower love (ahavat olam), but there is a form of love that incorporates elements of both, called Ta’avah. This love is a ‘genetic spiritual inheritance’ from the forefathers, Abraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov.

2. What is Ta’avah?

What is the meaning of desire?. Desire is characterized by the ‘gap’ – the distance between the experience and the ‘mind or body memory’. It is the absence of the fulfillment that awakens Ta’avah and produces the experience of yearning or pining. Other English synonyms: longing, yearning, wanting, craving

3. Positive and Negative desires

Lower forms of Ta’avah are filtered through the nefesh behamis (ego-self) (and colloquially referred to as ‘Tayves’). These result in behaviors that seek self-oriented satisfaction e.g. craving sugar, a predilection to physical titillation, an addiction to a substance, food, or even people (leading to controlling and dominating behaviors), and others. Higher forms of Ta’ava are filtered through the Nefesh Elokis (selfless disposition). These result in behaviors that seek a higher order yet selfless desire e.g. longing for a loved one who is away, or similar ‘spiritual’ yearning to enter into states of Oneness rather than satisfy body cravings. This distinction can even be applied to hunger. Hunger pangs induce a lower-order desire for food to relieve the body symptoms. But eating can also be a conscious act to fulfill the desire of elevating the sparks of soul contained within the food.

4. Desire of Life

The most profound desire is that of life. It is referred to in more contemporary language as the instinctive drive to survive. This Desire is the most engrained one in the human being. Another profound example is the Desire to love and be loved. So strong is it that people might even kill for it or compromise their principles in other ways to attain it. Such desire has a strong addictive Nefesh Behamis component leading to the negative results. But it is also expressed altruistically and its denial can lead to ‘love-sickness’ or lack of life’s fulfillment. A lofty spiritual expression of Desire is the seeking of states of Oneness with the All. This Desire too can be governed by the ego self (Nefesh Behamis) or channeled through the higher ego-less self (Nefesh Elokis) A meditative focus to arouse a positively channeled Desire of life and Oneness (Achdus) can be effected through the Modeh Ani affirmation upon awakening in the morning. A lower order example of life’s Desire is to seek sensual experiences for the body as the common expression “I want to feel alive!” The media and entertainment business is expert at exploiting this lower order Desire.

The next session this Monday night (tonight) will be on ‘Love, Familial Relationships, and Arousal Meditations’

Lesson 3

The Art of Loving Session 3 – Arousing Love – The Tool of Meditation
A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

1. Familial Love

Capacity for Self-Sacrifice (Mesiras Nefesh). While the love known as Ta’avah (desire) is predicated on satisfying a need in life itself, familial love extends even to the point of sacrificing one’s life e.g. for a parent or brother or sister or spouse etc. This love is a ‘reflective spiritual emanation’ from Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) that leverages the ‘spiritual genetic inheritances’ received through the forefathers (more on archetypes later).

2. How to Arouse Familial Love

Kabbalah explains that the use of voice and sound has a truly motivating effect even at times beyond thought and contemplation. Thought is internal and requires less ‘stretching’ of the soul, whereas speech and behaviour extend the ‘soul’ and it needs to be drawn from deeper within. Hence the power of voice to internalize a Kavvanah and to empower it more forcefully. Since this emanation of Familial Love is more deeply embedded, it requires more effort, as per voice, to elicit its power.

3. Making Familial Love a Good Habit

What is a habit? What happens in the prefrontal cortex when repetition of behaviour takes place? Therefore, repeating such thought patterns, self-talk and behaviour, engrains the love as a positive habitual response. Hence the important of repeating acts of ‘self-sacrifice’ with those whom we love, by sacrificing one’s own time to serve their needs, or ‘sacrificing’ time allocated to mundane pleasures and instead studying the Torah as a mode of expressing gratitude to HaShem. An actual life of service also reinforces Familial Love’s truth and its experience washes away any extraneous thoughts channeled by the Yetzer Hara (the emotion expression of the Nefesh Behamis) that might argue that it is merely an illusion. Furthermore, action proves our capacity. Especially so repeated acts of service.

4. The Role of Meditation and Contemplation in Arousing Love

The love of Ahava Rabba and Ahavat Olam need to be created through intense meditation on the expanse of the universe and its Cosmology and Cosmogony. Ahava Rabba may not even be reached unless there is a ‘gift of it from Above’. The love of Desire and of Familial Love also require profound meditation to arouse these from the seat of the heart, but these loves are not created anew as with the above two, but are revealed through intense contemplation, these being pre-existent through the spiritual genetic inheritance from the forefathers. But the love of Ahavat Olam (and Ahava Rabba) is much more passionate and fiery than the other love forms, because such meditation must also be more profound to actually create a love, than merely to reveal a pre-existent love in potential. There are two kinds of meditations for these purposes. One meditation focuses on the gap, the distance, the transcendence, and the other focuses on the closeness, connection, and availability. The former arouses a ‘fire-based’ love experience, and the latter a ‘water-based’ love experience. The fire-based love evokes a fiery thirst to bridge the distance, and the water-based love produces equanimity, serenity, and ‘spiritual touch’. Both forms of meditation can be applied to the creation of love (Ahavat Olam) and to the ‘inherited’ love of Desire and Familial Love, with the same experiential results. But the meditation has to be more intense to create love than merely reveal a pre-existent love.

Next session will focus on yet another dimension of love – Love, Compassion and the Spiritual Archetypes.

Lesson 4

Session 4 – Compassion – The Love Archetypes
A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

1. What are Sefirot?

Sefirot are creation’s spiritual energies that coalesce into the spiritual and material matter of the universe. These become expressed in the human being through Mind (Seichel) and Emotion (Middos) which in turn become the human personality. There are 3 flows of Mind and 7 of Emotion. There are therefore 49 combinations of emotion – the combinations of the 7 Middos. The nature of Hessed is to share. The nature of Gevurah is to restrain. The nature of Tif’eret is to balance these two but in favour of Hessed.

2. Archetypes for the Three Primary Emotions

Hessed is the Sefira through which Ahava (love) flows. Abraham is the archetype of Hessed. Gevurah is the Sefirah through which Yir’ah (fear) flows. Yitzhak is the archetype of Gevurah. Tif’eret is the Sefirah through which Rachamim (mercy, compassion) flows. Yaakov is the archetype of Tif’eret.

3. How to Arouse Compassion

Kabbalah explains that focusing on the spark of inner consciousness, the soul, and its quest to express truly through the coarseness of the body, is an excellent meditation practice for compassions. The spiritual source of the material body is Kelipat Noga, ‘the translucent shell around the fruit’, compared to the three completely Tameh (impure) Kelipot (shells) that wholly hide the innate goodness of creation. The nature of the human body changed from complete transparency to translucency through the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge Good and Bad. When choice (Bechira Chofshis) is exercised poorly, the ‘Jacobean cord’ is pulled down within the coarseness of the material world with a corresponding effect at the other end of the cord, causing the ‘exile of the Shechina’. The spark of soul becomes further enmeshed and entrapped. Contemplating this arouses compassion for the soul.

4. Jacob Kissed Rachel

The forefathers and mothers also represent higher spiritual entities and energy forces. Rachel represents the Shechina, the source of all Jewish souls Above. In Kabbalistic terms she is the level of Malchus of Atzilus. Yaakov represents the source of compassion. This is the level of Tif’eres of Atzilus. Jacob kissed Rachel Kabbalistically means that the compassion aroused for the spark of soul within – the Shechina was elicited by profound contemplation, not merely through words.

The next and final session of this series on Love will analyze the nature of Reciprocal Love — How to Evoke the Love of Another.

Lesson 5

The Art of Loving Session 5 – Reflected Love – How Long Does It Last
A five part series by Rabbi Laibl Wolf

1. When Feelings Are Reflected Back

King Solomon’s proverbs — Mishlei — include the following: “As water mirrors a face, so should a person mirror the other’s (love).” The word ‘should’ is used because Mishlei are moral teachings. But Hassidus explains beyond ‘should’ comes but ‘does’ i.e. it is an automatic reflection if Kavvanah through appropriate consciousness and awareness are present. Upon release from the infamous Petersburg prison, the Alter Rebbe instructed his Hassidim to view their opponents and informers with love indicating this would be reciprocated. We see this natural state of reciprocity in that people often adopt the facial and body behaviour of the other communicator in conversation. This is natural. The dynamic is even more powerful when the parties are of unequal status e.g.a miilionaire falls in love with a pauper, or the King’s love for a commoner, or a genius’ love for a simpler person, or the love of a model human being for someone who has a checkered past, or the love of a healthy person for someone who is ill or physically ailing or deformed etc. Likewise a completely transcendent G-d’s love for the Jewish people and all peoples.

2. A Mitzva as an Expression of Love

What is the meaning of ‘soul brother’? A bond and kinship that reciprocates mutual love. Likewise the word used in a blessing is ‘kideshanu’ — commonly translated as ‘sanctified us’ and ‘holiness’. But the true meaning is ‘who betrothed us’ i.e. Kidddushin — marriage. Through an act of Mitzva is an act of absolute connectedness and Oneness, akin to marriage — ‘soul-mates’, and love is fully reciprocated both ways. Kideshanu also means exclusivity — ‘separating off’. This denotes the exclusive differentness of each person’s love and likewise the exclusivity and differentness of G-d’s love differently for each individual at the moment of connectedness — Mitzva. In the same way that love elevates the loved one in a figurative manner, so does G-d’s love literally elevate a person in the moment of Mitzva to the highest spiritual plane. Hence we stand when someone is doing a Mitzva. Should the lover be a sensitive or less sensitive individual, the hurt felt by the loved one is still real. Likewise whether the person breaking the mitzva be a Tzaddik or an illiterate makes no difference to the pain G-d feels and hence identical consequences (Onesh).

3. Our Daily Miracles

How long can love last? If it was experienced romantically and passionately at the beginning of marriage, need the light burn out within five, twenty, or fifty years? Not if we allow ourselves to relive precious moments in our mind and heart – moments that keep evolving. (Story of the husband and wife who come to the rabbi for a divorce and he tells them to have a second wedding banquet.) If someone loaned a sum that bailed out someone in dire straits, would not that favour be forever remembered and appreciated – reflected love. Likewise the Jewish people’s reflected love because of the Exodus from Egypt. And the Exodus is in fact a daily event — unrecognized miracles in our daily lives. This reciprocity is expressed daily in the affirmation of ‘Shema’ as a means of releasing the energy of the soul to soar — because of our reverence for the soul’s ‘imprisonment’ in the body. (Hence its juxtaposition with the narrative of the Exodus in the prayers).

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