Mysticism, Meaning and Mitzva


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I. The rooster story - what does it mean to be human?

II. Jewish Mysticism

A. Two types of mystics

1. all mystics in touch with hidden dimension of reality - the ultimately real

2. type 1: the common world is unreal/illusion - withdraw - compare Plato's cave

3. type 2: the common world is real, but can only be understood in terms of the underlying mystical dimension - compare physics

4. Judaism contains type 2 mysticism

B. Elements of the Jewish mystical picture

1. continuous creation - influx of divine energy - every-thing effect of divine will -> nothing is spiritually neutral - everything capable of sanctity - R. Akiva on circumcision

III. Meaning

A. Determined by context - circles, "pain", hand signal

B. Any deep picture of underlying reality creates new context for familiar phenomena, hence new meanings - compare chemistry (rusting and burning)

C. Elements of Jewish mystical picture create new meanings - continuous creation: how to experience an apple; four ways to eat a steak; the sanctification of pleasure; eating and blessings; Shabbos and holidays

IV. Mitzva = action appropriate to picture of total reality

A. Meaning determined by total context - Pasteur to farmers, Russian revolutionaries

B. Creator gives directions for relating to the reality He created

V. To be human = to be able to choose the meaning of one's life

A. Meaning determined by context = place of a life with respect to past/present/future in terms of picture of total reality

B. Challenge to create a life with maximum real meaning - not to be a broken link!


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