Understanding what understanding is and what it is for

Did you ever want to understand something so much and struggle and struggle with it and try to learn more and more about it hoping a light would come on and that you would have an insight that would bring you closer to your goal of understanding?


If so, do you remember the feeling of gratitude and joy that went along with it?


How much credit did you take for it? After all the pursuing and learning and struggling – do you think the understanding came from that effort?

My experience is that yes I have to make that effort, but the success is a gift that comes from Hashem.  Why, you may ask, do I not take credit for it?


Rebbetzin Heller in her shiur on Jewish Workshops describes how everything we do should be to aggrandize Hashem and not ourselves.  If we are seeking to understand that all there is in the world is Hashem and that is what we are learning, struggling and striving to understand more of, it would be paradoxical to think that the success came from anywhere other than Hashem.  Why? Because Hashem is the only Being that is actually alive, that actually has existence!  Our ability to understand itself comes from Him alone and is corrupted with bias because of Adom having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Understanding this deeply is the understanding we seek if we wish instead to bring out Hashem’s love and mercy that is hidden in the whole of it.


What is our life other than a struggle to break free of the pain of thinking that we are in control and have independent existence from Hashem?  Yes, we are designed to be independent, operating in a world responsibly and in accordance with Torah but no, we do not have a separate existence independent from Hashem Who gives us the experience of life by investing a soul in a body for the period of our lifetime.  Our understanding of our lives as having independent existence from Hashem Is  the perception to which we are trying to understand a higher view that will, in truth, bring real beauty and joy into our lives.


While we have a lifetime, we have the opportunity to grind into nothingness all the raw material Hashem has given us so that we may reveal the truth of His Oneness and correct consciousness to what it was before Adom ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


The grinding into nothingness of all the raw material Hashem has given to us means that we understand that we are only perceiving what looks like the real world – the world of time and space – because of how Hashem structures the Creation.  We accept the true task of recovering lost Divine consciousness.  And we are not alone in our efforts – that praying and learning and keeping Torah bring Hashem from the place in the world where He is hidden to a more revealed place.


We can take our consciousness from being strapped to perceptions and interpretations based on survival instincts upwards and really build ourselves into a channel that experiences the pleasure of living divinely conscious lives that reveal truth and mercy, giving Hashem a dwelling place through our mind-heart.  When we submit our natural understanding to the wisdom given in Torah regarding how to serve Hashem, we release the hidden presence of Hashem into our hearts and from there into our speech and deeds, revealing His love and mercy.


What keeps us from moving forward in this service are whatever is blocking our faith and trust in Hashem.  For this reason, just trusting even if we don’t understand can sometimes be the only thing we can do, because our emotions and instincts simply are trapping our consciousness in memories and patterns of the past.    When we have simple trust, Hashem often answers and grants calmness.


Thus, understanding itself, while an obvious positive pursuit of intelligence, must be understood!


Understanding that does not include relationship with Hashem seeks only to arrange and organize our lives around the natural self.


Understanding that does include relationship with Hashem is able to seek the wisdom of the Torah to cling to when our negativity pours out of our hearts, and we can beseech Hashem to please help us only give Him nachas.  We do not want any of the outcomes that our negativity propels us towards.  This includes goals that we may not even view as negative, but as needs.


Our animalistic soul has direct access to our heart and whispers through our heart compelling emotions regarding what we need and what we believe we are lacking.  These whisperings can be caught in the act of being the animalistic urges they are in time to change the paradigm and instead shift our inner consciousness to Hashem.  In so doing, we can rewire our brain and bring ourselves to a calmer inner world.


If you like this article, you may like Rabbi Katz’s most recent meditation – the link is in the notes below.




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