Kabbalah and Telepathy
In Kabbalah and Hassidism the power of thought is considered to be the highest of the three powers of the psyche: thought, speech and action. It is therefore most important to guard the mind from impure thoughts or evil thoughts about others. In the book of Tanya we are taught that evil thoughts about someone are ultimately even more harmful than speaking slander about him or actually taking harmful physical action against him.
The phrase used by our sages in the Talmud that describes the phenomenon of telepathy is machshava moelet (“a thought that causes an effect”) . Telepathy has a negative connotation when moelet is seen to be from the root meilah (“sacrilege”). On the other hand, the positive connotation of this expression is that thought has an actual effect upon reality.
In Hassidic lore, telepathy is considered to be a gift of the righteous. By clarifying his thoughts, the tzaddik achieves the power to act from afar through his thoughts, transcending the limits of space and time to communicate with another Jewish soul, extricating him from his troubles in a time of need.
As we shall see, the word in the Bible that depicts the ability to communicate through thought is chashmal. Although in modern Hebrew chashmal is an everyday word used to describe the natural phenomenon of electricity, it appears only once in the Bible, in the depiction of the Divine Chariot that Ezekiel envisioned in his prophecy; the most profound chapter of the Bible. Ezekiel describes the “eye of chashmal,” a shade of light or color.
According to one of the rules of Hebrew grammar, every word has either a two or a three letter root. If a word has a root of four or more letters, then it must be a compound word that can be broken down into two or more roots. Our sages thus explain that the four-letter word chashmal is made of the two words, chash, “silence” and mal, “speech.” Maimonides explains that there is a type of angel that are called chashmalim and this is because “they are sometimes silent [chashim] and sometimes they speak [memalelim].” In addition we find in the Book of Proverbs that of the twenty-eight “quality of times” that change in the world there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” However, in Kabbalah we are taught that this duality of speech and thought exists only in the three lower worlds (Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah), that are under the influences of time and are unable to simultaneously tolerate two opposites. Contrarily, in the world of Atzilut there are no paradoxes. In this highest world where time does not exist, chashmal does not refer to those angels, rather it refers to the true chashmal that Ezekiel saw in his prophecy, a light that shone from Supernal Man sitting upon His throne wearing the clothing of chashmal (the numerical value of the word chashmal is equal to the numerical value of malbush, “clothing”). Since in the world of Atzilut everything is unified in wondrous harmony and all paradoxes coexist at one and the same moment, silence and speech also exist there as one. It is in the world of Atzilut that one can find the phenomenon of communication through silence.
Here in the world as we know it, time is divided into separate units to allow for the duality of the paradox to express itself at varying moments. In the lower worlds as we experience them, the character and the fashion of speech is different from silence and they cannot be experienced simultaneously.
A second type of silence is the silence that comes from the realization that there is an infinite gap between our thoughts and the thoughts of God as it says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” This idea is expressed in the midrash that teaches us that when Moses received the Torah, he waited while God “tied the crowns” to the letters of the Torah. Moses asked God about these crowns and God showed him how Rabbi Akiva was destined to explain these crowns in the future. When Moses saw the extent of Rabbi Akiva’s Torah study he asked God in amazement why Rabbi Akiva should not be the one to deliver the Torah. God’s reply was, “Be silent! This is the thought that came up before me!” Moses then asked to see the reward that Rabbi Akiva would receive for his Torah study and God showed him how the Romans would torture Rabbi Akiva to death. Moses asked in amazement, “This is the Torah and that is its reward?!” and once again, God replied, “Be silent! This is the thought that came up before me!”
It is impossible for a human being to rise up to or to sense God’s thoughts, he must therefore be silent. Every true believer in God meets great mysteries throughout his life that he cannot begin to understand, such as the holocaust. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that one should not even attempt to understand the holocaust, rather we must remain silent, as did Aaron the High Priest when his two completely righteous sons, Nadav and Avihu were taken from him (they died while offering incense in the Tabernacle), as it says, “And Aaron was speechless.” Under such circumstances there is nothing else to do but to remain silent and to accept the facts through total belief that “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” and that God is the absolute essence of goodness, even if our own perception of reality seems to contradict this.
The third explanation of silence is the Chassidic interpretation of the reply from God to Moses, “Be silent! This is the thought that came up before me!” which, in the Hebrew “Shtok! Cach ala (came up) bemachshava lefanai,” can be rendered, “Shtok! Cach ale (get up) bemachshava lefanai,” meaning that through silence one may be able to rise to a higher level of perception and thus to reach an infinitely higher level of thought, coming closer as it were to God’s own thoughts.
Another expression of our sages related to silence is “siyag lechochmah, shtika,” “A boundary for wisdom is silence.” In Kabbalah, the word siyag is interpreted as the light that encompasses wisdom. When one rises higher into the encompassing light of silence that enshrouds wisdom, one draws down a higher encompassing light into the inner soul, thus achieving levels of understanding that previously existed only in the realm of simple faith. We all believe that God is good, even when we cannot see His goodness manifested in reality as we perceive it. However, through the power of faith found in the heart of every Jew as he silently accepts reality, he is able to draw down higher levels of faith and understanding.
The silence of faith that draws down ever greater levels of wisdom into inner consciousness
“siyag lechochmah, shtika”
Silence in order to rise to higher levels of perception
“Cach ale bemachshava lefanai,” “thus you shall rise in thought before Me”
Silence in submission to God’s infinite wisdom
“Vayidom Aharon,” “And Aaron was speechless”
Refraining from speech in order to think or consider an idea
Chash, silence – chashov, “think”
Our own speech is created by letters and words that are pronounced by the mouth, however, when referring to God and to the Divine part of the soul of every Jew, there is no concept of speech as we know it. God’s “speech” is actually a command, as in “He said and it was, He commanded and they were created.” From a human perspective, Divine “speech” would be what we call “thought” at an infinite level.
In the world of Atzilut, where there is no difference between chash and mal, silence itself speaks and transmits. It is certainly possible at this level to transmit and reply where words are unable to do so. There are some things that cannot be explained by speech yet silence has the power to convey. This is the power of telepathy.
We mentioned previously that chashmal is a shade of brilliant light. This light includes 378 shades (as in the numerical equivalent of the word chashmal); all of the shades of color that the eye is capable of distinguishing. A combination or intermingling of many different shades of color in the correct blending of all the hues is called tiferet. This is the visual phenomenon of chashmal; the inner phenomenon of chashmal is thought transmission. This is either through the natural method of “they are sometimes silent and sometimes they speak,” or at a higher level at which transmission is achieved through silence, and it is the inner level of thought that “speaks.”
It is an accepted practice that the righteous make use of foreign words while speaking Hebrew only when the word in the foreign language can be interpreted in the Holy Tongue. We will therefore explain a possible interpretation of the word “telepathy” in Hebrew.
“Telepathy” is derived from the Greek terms tele (“distant”) and pathe (“occurrence” or “feeling”).
The word tele refers to any action performed from afar (as in telescope, television, telegram etc.) In the broadest sense, this describes a non-local phenomenon. In the scientific literature only a phenomenon that cannot be defined by the speed of light is called a non-local phenomenon, for example when there is a spontaneous, simultaneous reaction of one atom at one end of the universe to another atom situated innumerable light-years away from it. Electricity is thus a local phenomenon whereas true chashmal is a non-local, spontaneous phenomenon that is not affected by the speed of light, something that happens at one point and it is transmitted and immediately sensed elsewhere.
In Hebrew, the word tele can be seen to be derived from the word tal, “dew.” The Kabbalistic term related to this is tala di’bdolcha, “crystal dew.” The root-source of dew is in the crystal that is the Divine inner light that illuminates the mocha stima’a or chochmah stima’a of the upper crown of the supra-conscious level of the soul. Apparently it is the “crystal dew” that acts in the transmission of thought, and this is the place one desires to rise through the silence of “cach ale bemachshava;” to the mocha stima’a to reach the tala di’bdolcha.
In Hebrew, the word telepatia (“telepathy”) is comprised of the letters that make up the word tefila, “prayer,” with the addition of the letter tet. In Hassidism the word tefila is seen to be derived from the root tafel which means to adhere, as when the broken pieces of a receptacle are glued together. In this view, prayer is explained as a joining or communication with God. However, the root tafel in the mishna has two renderings, beginning either with the letter taf or with the letter tet. When rendered with the letter tet, the root means “bland” or “empty,” in which case prayer is perceived as an act of self-nullification. The word telepatia includes all of the letters of tefila, “prayer,” with the additional tet, as mentioned, and can thus be seen to indicate a Divine form of communication through self-nullification that is closely connected to prayer.
Eliezer Accurately Transmits his Thoughts
We will now examine an example of the effect of thought transmission, illustrated by the story of Abraham’s servant Eliezer and his mission to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac.
The central theme of the Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, revolves around the match between Isaac and Rebecca. Abraham sent his faithful servant Eliezer on this mission, through which, our sages teach us, Eliezer merited to escape the curse of his forebearer, Canaan and enter the blessing that rules over Abraham and his descendants. Upon arriving in Charan, where Abraham’s family lived, Eliezer stopped by the well and prayed to the God of his master Abraham that he should successfully complete his mission, requesting that if one of the girls would offer him water to drink and also offer to water his camels, this would prove that she was the true wife for Isaac. Immediately after completing his prayer, Rebecca appeared and offered him water to drink and also offered to water his camels. Eliezer was astounded to realize that his prayer had been answered and went with Rebecca to her home to repeat the story to her father, Bethuel, and her brother, Laban. The climax of the story is in the phrase used by Laban and Bethuel to express their own wonder at the fantastic “coincidence” of Eliezer’s prayer and Rebecca’s arrival on the scene. Their spontaneous reply is “Me’Hashem yatza hadavar,” “This matter has emanated from God.” Amazingly, this expression has the numerical value of chashmal.
Eliezer’s fervor in relating the order of events to two men who are both renowned for their evil actions, triggered this devout reply, that honored the truth that Eliezer transmitted. This is the power of chashmal to accurately transmit thoughts and feelings to those who listen.
In Psalms we find another expression that has the numerical value of chashmal: “Hu tziva ve’nivra’u,” “He commanded and they were created.” This phrase expresses the power of thought to command and to act on reality in a natural way, without interference through speech or action.
The complete numerical value of both of these phrases is the same, and the middle word of each phrase is equal to 101 in both cases. Mathematically, when the sum of two sets of three numbers is equal and the middle number of each set is also identical, the base of both sets must also be equal. In this case, the base number in both cases is 75.
= 378 = chashmal =
75 is the numerical value of the word bitachon, “trust,” which indicates that the power of thought to transmit into reality is connected to the inner sense of trust in the soul. Similarly to the root of tefila, “prayer,” which means to join together, the root of bitachon can be seen to be derived from tach, which also means, “to plaster.”
We thus see that the tzaddik has the power of to transmit thoughts through the power of prayer. However, every power that God created in the realm of holiness, He also created with a parallel phenomenon in the side of impurity. There are thus people with “super-natural” powers such as telepathy, who derive their abilities from their own self-centeredness and pride.
The tzaddik purifies his thought to make it a tool for his service of God. Just as a purified mouth is a tool for emitting holy speech and purified hands are tools for holy actions, so too in order for thought to become a tool that acts upon reality, one must rectify it and refine it. Much purity of thought is achieved through the power of silence in which a person completely nullifies himself to God in sanctity. Remaining silent in the face of God’s apparently incomprehensible actions, as did Aaron the High Priest when his sons died, purifies thought.
The Arizal points out that the numerical value of chashmal is equal to that of the word malbush, “clothing,” as we mentioned previously. Metaphorically speaking, chashmal is the “clothing” of God in the world of Atzilut. The psyche of man has three garments, these are thought, speech and action, thought being the highest and the most important of the three.
In order to truly and wholeheartedly pray to God, one must purify one’s thoughts, therefore Hassidism teaches us that before every prayer one must meditate like the early Hassidim who would meditate for a whole hour to purify and clear their thoughts before prayer. Only once one’s thoughts have been cleansed can one turn to God. Then, “as water reflects one’s face to his face,” so to God will heed his prayers, as it says of Abel, “And God heeded Abel and his offering.” In Hebrew Abel is called Hevel, which means “breath”. We can thus understand that if one’s breath has been purified through true meditation towards God, which entails a great purity of thought, our prayers will be heeded by God.
We shall now examine how the concept of telepathy is connected to the rectification of the sin of Cain, Abel’s brother, of whose offering it says, “And to the offering of Cain, God did not heed.” The rectification of the power of thought to act upon reality is connected to the roots of Biblical souls and their reincarnations in later generations.
God did not heed to Cain’s offering because of the sin of unrefined thoughts weighed him down. Many generations later, it was Elisha the Prophet who succeeded in rectifying Cain’s sin. This is indicated in the name of the prophet, which means, “God will heed.” Elisha, the outstanding pupil of the prophet Elijah, had the greatest telepathic power of all biblical characters. Elisha achieved a great rectification called tikkun Kayin, “the rectification of Cain.” As the firstborn son of Adam, Cain should have received by right a double portion of Adam’s legacy. As the firstborn of the first man, Cain was worthy of receiving all the “crowns;” the crown of royalty, the crown of priesthood, the crown of Torah and the crown of “the good name” that is greater than all of them. However, as a result of murdering his brother, Cain lost this right.
Before Elijah rose heavenward in a stormy wind, he asked Elisha with what he wished him to bless him. Elisha replied that he wished that twice the spirit of Elijah be upon him. This indicates that he wished to receive the double portion that Cain should have received because of his right as a firstborn. Elijah told him that if Elisha would see Elijah being taken from him, this would be a sign that his request had been fulfilled. Indeed, Elishah merited that his wish be granted. This can be seen by the abundance of miracles that Elishah performed, more than any other prophet or biblical character.
The climax of the miracles that Elijah performed was the resurrection of a dead child. On the other hand, Elisha resurrected the dead twice, once even after he himself had died. This difference between the two prophets is not merely a quantitative difference, but also a qualitative one. Our sages teach us that the dead child whom Elijah revived was the righteous prophet Jonah and the first of the two dead people whom Elishah revived was also a righteous prophet, Habakuk. However, the second person whom Elisha revived was actually a wicked person and a false prophet. The innovation of Elisha’s resurrecting the dead was therefore his ability to resurrect even the wicked. It is Elisha in particular, through his success in rectifying the sin of Cain, who has the power to revive, to arouse the wicked to repent, who are called “dead” even as they live. A righteous person can be in a “slumber,” as Jonah who slept in the depths of the ship, and Elijah is capable of arousing him from his slumber. However, truly resurrecting the dead, the wicked, is something unique to Elisha. From this unique power to resurrect the dead, we can surmise the great purity of Elisha’s thoughts.
After Elisha, we are taught that this soul appeared in Hizkiyahu, the king of Judah, whom God thought to make the Messiah, however Hizkiyahu missed his chance because he did not sing God’s praises after witnessing the great miracle of Sancheriv’s defeat.
Following Hizkiyahu this soul was reincarnated in the soul of Matityahu ben Yochanan, the High Priest in the time of the Hasmoneans; in Akavia ben Mahalalel; Raban Shimon ben Zakai and in Rabbi Akiva. We can thus see that this soul was eventually rectified to the extent that it merited all of the crowns that Cain forfeited by committing his sin. Hizkiyahu merited the crown of royalty; Matityahu received the crown of priesthood and of royalty; the rabbis who followed received the crown of Torah. We are further taught that this soul will once more be reincarnated in the soul of the Messiah, son of David, who is also from the root of Cain. He will then merit the “crown of good name.”
According to the Kabbalah, the way to merit the type of ruach hakodesh, “Divine inspiration,” that we call “telepathy,” is by connecting to the soul of Elisha and by becoming acquainted with the whole of the secret of the reincarnations of Cain.
In the Talmud we find a classic description of the powers of telepathy in the story of Job.
Job had three friends who came to console him for his terrible suffering. As it turned out, they did not succeed in consoling him at all, instead they rebuked him, which appealed neither to Job nor to God. A fourth young acquaintance sat and listened in respectful silence until the elder three finished what they had to say. His name was Elihu ben Berachel of the family of Ram and our sages explain that he was from the family of Abraham, so he was certainly a Jew. The numerical value of his name equals mashiach, “messiah,” and we are taught that he himself is the soul of the Messiah and that he speaks in good taste and with wisdom. According to Ramban in his commentary on the Book of Job, Elihu reveals to Job the secret of reincarnation and he thus succeeds in appeasing Job, at which point the verse immediately says, “and God heeded Job.” The word vayisha, “and he heeded,” used in this verse, also implies a connection with the rectification of Cain, to whose offering God did not heed.
Our sages teach us an amazing thing about Job’s three friends, explaining that this was perhaps the only explicit example of telepathic communication in the Bible. They teach us that the three friends felt Job’s affliction from a distance of 300 parsaot (approximately 1,200 k.m.). They are considered true friends, so much so that at the end of the passage discussing this matter, Rava declares, “This is what people [mean when they] say, ‘Either friends like those of Job, or death’.” Elsewhere in the Talmud we find the phrase, “Either a partner or death,” meaning that death is preferable to living life alone. However, here the phrase is much stronger, insinuating that death is preferable to a life without friends with whom one has a telepathic connection!
Our sages teach that the second Temple ws destroyed because of causeless hatred between the Jewish people, and that the rectification of that sin will be achieved by unbounded love for all Israel. The Arizal takes it one step further; he taught that what delays the coming of the Messiah is true comradeship, not merely unbounded love. So the redemption requires true heartfelt and soulful friendship; friends who are connected even by their thoughts.
Our sages describe the telepathic connection between Job and his friends with two different parables. One opinion is that each of the four friends had three crowns in his home and the face of one of his three friends was engraved upon each crown. If he saw that the face of any crown changed for the worse then he felt that his friend was going through some crisis.
A second opinion is that each of the four had three trees in his garden and if he saw that the leaves fell from the tree in an unnatural way, then he felt that his friend was suffering.
The words used in the Talmud for “crown” and “tree” are klila and ilana, respectively and both have the same numerical value of 91 (also the numerical value of amen;mal’ach, “angel;” and the combined numerical value of the two Names of God, Havayah and Elokim.)
According to the opinion that thought transmission is identified with a crown, it is clear that the crown symbolizes the superconscious, meaning that the thought rises to the highest of the sefirot, the keter, “crown,” at the point of the tala dibdolcha, “the crystal dew.”
According to the opinion that identifies tought transmission with a tree that either wilts or grows, this symbolizes that which occurs at the root. Even though the phenomenon is observed in the leaves and branches, it actually depends upon the power of growth in the roots that grow underground. The tree represents the abundance that the keter, the superconscious, yields. In Kabbalah the ten sefirot embodying the conscious powers of the soul, are called ilana de’chayei, “the Tree of Life,” However the roots, and even more so, the power to grow underground, are considered to be the highest keter through which one can perceive that which occurs in the conscious powers: the trunk, the leaves, the branches and the fruit.
We see, therefore, that according to both opinions the power of telepathy is in the keter, the superconscious “crown” of the soul.
Another way of dividing the different powers of the soul is found in the book of the Tanya. There it states that one must constantly meditate upon the five powers of the soul, three of which we have already enumerated: thought, speech and action. The two powers of the soul above these three are called midot, “emotions” and sechel, “intellect.” Midot are what could be called “pathos” or feelings, while sechel refers to pure, abstract intellect that is completely isolated from feelings. The Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya, explains that whereas thought, speech and action are garments, the midot and sechel are the essential powers of the soul. The sechel is the inner, abstract light, which can be harnessed and utilized by the thought when it rises to clothe the pure sechel. This is achieved by the purification and clarification of thought.
Something that is full of flaws and dirt becomes heavy and is drawn downwards. On the other hand, when one purifies something, it becomes lighter in weight and is capable of rising higher. This is also true of the garments of one’s soul, which become soiled and heavy when succumbing to the baser, more animalistic instincts, self-conceit in particular, as the verse states, “the animal spirit descends downwards on the earth.” This tendency towards animalistic behavior is what weighs a person down to earth and in particular, draws his thoughts earthwards. If a person is contaminated spiritually and he does not attain purity in his thoughts and his other garments, then he is unable to act with his thoughts as God wishes us to do.
God desires that we be similar to Him, as it is written, “And I said, you are gods,” by creating through our own thought-commandments, as it says of God, “He commanded and they were created.” This is chashmal. However, if one is heavy with sin, then one does not have the capability of rising in one’s thoughts as in the expression mentioned earlier, “thus you shall rise in thought before Me.”
If the three garmets of the soul are not purified, the essence of the emotions and the intellect cannot be truly sensed nor consciously experienced. In order for the emotions and the intellect to be sensed, one must raise the garments in order that the garments clothe the emotions and the intellect, this being the secret of the chariot that Ezekiel saw; the chashmal clothing Supernal Man. The ascent of the worlds reveals the essential emotions, first to the person himself, and later even to others. Without the garments, the higher worlds and the higher levels of the human soul cannot be perceived.
When the purified thought rises to clothe the pure intellect, it takes the essential inner light of the sechel and turns it outwards in order to act upon reality. This however is the second stage of thought-purification. In order to achieve this stage the thought must first rise to clothe the midot, the emotions, and this is achieved through heartfelt prayer.
The five powers of the soul mentioned parallel the four worlds, the lower three powers paralleling the lower three worlds and the higher two paralleling two different aspects of the world of Atzilut.
The world of Atzilut (three higher sefirot)
The world of Atzilut (seven lower sefirot)
The world of Beriyah
The world of Yetzira
The world of Asiyah
Another key concept concerning these five levels of the soul that the Alter Rebbe outlined in the Tanya is that in order to achieve self-nullification, one’s garment of action must be nullified to the garment of speech, which in turn must be nullified to the garment of thought. In turn, the thought must be nullified to the midot, which are in turn nullified to the sechel. This means that one must sense that the amount of light or vitality at each level is totally null and void in relation to the light from the higher plane. The essential soul is even higher than all of these five levels and in order to achieve true self-nullification, one must reach an understanding that all of the levels are ultimately nullified to the essential soul.
This meditation is completely opposite to an ordinary understanding of the world. From a physical point of view, to someone who views the world from a perspective of da’at tachton, “lower knowledge,” action is concrete while speech and thought are abstract and therefore not considered so important. This idea is even stated explicitly in the Talmud in the saying, “action is the main principle.” This is obviosly true; however, once one begins to meditate upon this idea, one realizes that the amount and the quality of light that are revealed in action are completely null and void in comparison to the vitality of speech. Similarly, one realizes that a positive thought contains far more light and illuminates the soul far more than speech. This statement is an amazing innovation, especially when one considers the emotions and the intellect, which are totally imperceptible to someone who has not purified his mind and has not achieved this understanding. This false perception of reality, seeing that which is “above” to be “nothing” while that which is “below” is “something,” is a superficial perception of reality. The meditation described in Tanya brings us to the realization that each level is nullified in relation to the level above it, and clarifies to us that that what is “above” is truly “something,” while the external world is “nothing.” This realization is called da’at elyon, “upper knowledge” and without it one is unable to purify one’s thoughts. Someone who perceives the world through da’at tachton is under the influence of, and weighed down by the animal soul. In many places we find that Chassidism refers to da’at tachton as “the seed of beast,” while da’at elyon is called, “seed of man.” as in the words of the prophet Jeremiah “And I have sowed the House of Israel with the seed of man and the seed of beast.” Most souls are souls of da’at tachton, we thus feel that “something-ness” is below while all that is “above” is imperceptible and seems to be “nothing.” If one has only da’at tachton and feels that speech is nullified to action and that thought is nullified to speech and so on, then one is unable to purify his “garments” and is unable to raise them higher. One is thus unable to reach the “crown” and the “crystal dew” found there, which is the power of inner communication that we call telepathy.
As mentioned previously, chashmalim are a type of angel. As taught in Kabbalah, these are the cherubim that stand at the entrance to the pardes, guarding the path to the tree of Life in the garden of Eden, holding the “sword with the revolving blade.” Whenever a righteous person wishes to enter the garden, these angels begin speaking to him very fast. If he is able to reply to their words correctly, then the tzaddik is allowed to enter. However, if he becomes confused by their speech and does not follow their words, he must remain outside.
There are many ranks of angels, each rank higher than the previous one. The angels of the lower spheres pass our prayers up to the angels in the higher spheres until the highest angels of all make crowns, as it were, for God from our prayers. The level of speech of the lower angels is at the level of our thoughts and the level of speech of each rank of angels is at the level of thought of the angels below them. When we express ourselves in true prayer in which our thoughts are at one with the words we emit, the lower angel garbs himself with our thought and takes it for its own speech. The angel’s thought is always connected to its speech, thus the angel above him is able to clothe his own speech in the thought of the angel below, thus taking our prayers from the lower angel. This process continues through all the ranks of angels until our prayers reach God Himself.
Although we have stated that telepathy is actually a Divine power of the righteous, we sometimes find that “normal” people profess to have similar spiritual powers. It should be clear that ninety-nine percent of these so-called “healers”, spiritual diviners and the like, are nothing more than charlatans. This is true whether they deceive the public consciously or whether they themselves truly believe that they possess such powers. The whole of the book of Tanya is intended to save people from self-deception. However, there is still a very small percentage of people who are truly capable of such divination even without having purified themselves in holiness. The powers these people possess do not come from garbing the higher powers of the soul with the garment of thought, rather they have holes in their garments, a type of nakedness through which the light from the upper powers of the soul is manifested. Before the primordial sin, Adam and Eve were both naked and were not embarrassed of their nakedness, however the rectification of their sin was that they must wear garments. Our sages teach us that the word levush, “clothing,” is a permutation of lo bosh, “unembarrassed,” meaning negation of the negative embarrassment that resulted from the sin.
Garments are of utmost importance, so much so that the word tikkun, “rectification,” is a synonym for levush. Through their prayers, the tzaddikim raise and purify their garments, especially the garment of thought. The pure and refined garments then rise to clothe the inner powers of the soul, which gives the tzaddik the power to perform spiritual actions that normal people are unable to carry out. However, there are people whose natural garments are not refined, rather they have “holes” in their garments. They are born with a defect, just as a person may be born lacking a certain limb, God forbid. This person may develop sharper senses in another limb to overcome his disability. There are those who are born with the ability to solve dreams, for instance, because of holes in the garments allowing the inner light to be revealed, giving them power to act. However these are the unrectified lights of chaos and do not result from the person’s having purified his garments, therefore there is always a certain extent of self-conceit in such people.
The overall aim of purifying the garments of the soul is to attain the purification of the garment of thought. All of our prayers, if they are truly heartfelt, have the power to raise the garments of the soul and the corresponding worlds to clothe the higher revelations of the soul in purity.
The raising the worlds of the soul is achieved when thought first rises to clothe the pure emotions. When the thought rises to clothe the emotions, then speech ascends to the previous location of the thought and one is able to speak through one’s thoughts telepathically.
Raising the garments in sanctity is achieved through a three-stage process. The holy Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chasidic movement taught that every spiritual process has three stages: hachna’ah, havdalah and hamtakah, meaning “submission,” “separation” and “sweetening”. In our case, these three stages correspond to chashmal. To fit this three-stage process, chashmal converts to chash-mal-mal. In that way, it draws the unity of the chashmal from the point at which it illuminates in the world of Atzilut, where silence transmits communication, to the lower worlds where it appears as “Sometimes silent, sometimes speaking.” This is achieved by the addition of the middle stage that connects chash to mal. This middle stage is also called mal, derived from the same root as the word milah, “circumcision.”
The first stage of hachna’ah (chash) takes place before the thought rises to clothe the emotions, and it consists in the purification of the thoughts in order to prepare them for the ascent. This is the stage of waiting and preparing oneself for prayer in order to cleanse the thought. One way of achieving this cleansing is by relating stories about the righteous, as we learn from the verse that refers to the prophet Elisha, “Please tell me of the great deeds that Elisha did.” Relating stories about tzaddikim brings one to gadlut mochin, “mature thought” and brings about the ability to distinguish between an act of a tzaddik and the same act performed by a sorcerer. One example of such seemlingly similar acts mentioned in Chassidic literature is the ability of the righteous Pinchas to hover in the air and the similar ability of the wicked Bil’am to do so. Only one who has purified his thought through hachna’ah is able to distinguish between the two.
Another way to achieve the silencing of all inner “noise,” the first stage of chash, is by listening to profound Chassidic music, which purifies the thought and brings one to a state of inner peace. Inner peace is the knowledge that everything that God does is for the best, a state of cheerful optimism and blind faith. A person in such a state of inner peace is aware that everything that happens is “a cause” of an effect within the Divine plan, and that each cause is a manifestation of God Himself.
After the first stage, one is able to receive thoughts transmitted by others, as in the story of Job, in which his friends merely received the feelings that Job transmitted. This stage precedes the ascent of the thought to clothe the emotions. When this state has been attained, thought has been purified to the extent that it has become a receptacle for receiving transmissions that come to him.
The following story illustrates this ability:
……Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz wrote a letter to the Maggid of Mezeritch in which he thanked the Maggid for thinking of him. This happened the year after the passing of the Ba’al Shem Tov, and after the Maggid had accepted the leadership of the Chassidic movement, and he stated the exact time that this had occurred, a time at which there was a great distance between the two. Rabbi Pinchas wrote that the thoughts of the Maggid for him stengthen his service of God.
We see in this story how one tzaddik senses when another thinks of him. This is true dibbuk chaverim, “comradeship,” that was felt amongst all of the pupils of the Ba’al Shem Tov, of whom we explicitly learned that they were able to sense when one thought of another from afar.
The second stage, havdalah, mal, “separation”, consists of bitul hayesh, “nullification of being,” or bitul ha’ani, “self-nullification.” Having reached a state of inner peace and total trust in God, the person must return everything to God, as it says, “Give Him that which is His, because you and that which you have are His,” and as sang by King David, “For everything is from You and from Your hand we have given You.” At this stage the person feels that he has nothing, he is not even an emissary. He feels that everything he does is only God acting through him, and that he himself does nothing; he is merely “an insignificant assistant.” This is the service of “separation” in the soul that has the power to enable the ascent of thought in order to clothe the emotions. At the completion of this stage one can sense and reveal the love that includes the fear of the Jew for God, which has been hidden in the soul. Speech then rises to the place of thought and one can now speak through one’s thoughts.
Once this stage of bitul hayesh has been achieved, the person is capable of communicating through thought. Another story will further illustrate this point:
In Russia, the ruling powers wished to invoke certain laws concerning Jewish education that were against Chassidism and against Judaism in general. The third Rebbe of Chabad, the Tzemach Tzedek, was called to court in order to represent Chassidism and Rabbi Yitzchak of Volozhin was called to represent the Lithuanian stream of Judaism. At some stage of the proceedings it became necessary for the Tzemach Tzedek to plant in Rabbi Yitzchak’s mind the answer that he should reply to the judges. Rabbi Yitzchak received the thought and immediately replied accordingly. The reply was successful and the laws were not applied.
Later, Rabbi Yitzchak came to the Tzemach Tzedek and thanked him gratefully for the answer he had transmitted to him.
We can learn from this story that these great tzaddikim were capable of transmitting thoughts, and receiving them.
After the ascent of thought to the place of the emotions, with the completion of the stage of havdalah, “separation,” comes the third stage, hamtakah, “sweetening,” the second mal of chashmal, through which the ascent of the thought to the pure intellect is achieved. The power of this second ascent is to act upon reality, not merely planting thoughts or speaking through the mind, but actually eliciting changes in reality by the power of thought. This is achieved when the garment of action rises to the first location of the thought, the speech is then at the level of the emotions and thought is at the level of the pure intellect, thus allowing the person to accomplish innovations in nature, performing miracles that either appear to be natural or even change the laws of nature completely.
(It should be noted that it is only the inner dimension of the garment that rises, whereas the outer dimension remains in its place.)
In order for thought to clothe the pure intellect, changing the vector force of its light from illuminating within to illuminating outside, one must achieve an even higher form of self-nullification, called bitul bimetziut, “nullification of reality.” This is an absolute sense of da’at elyon, that the higher worlds are truly “something” while ordinary reality is “nothing.” This is one step beyond the Chasidic understanding that the world was created yesh me’ayin, and involves the realization that all of reality is absolutely negligible from God’s point of view, He being the only true reality. Taking such a great light and turning it outwards is completely paradoxical, since at this state the outside has been completely nullified. However this is the wonder of it all, that the Torah and mitzvoth were given for the sake of this innovation: to project outwardly the light of da’at elyon, which of its own accord can only illuminate within itself and has no capability of illuminating outwardly, since the outside is totally null and void in relation to it and has no way of rising to God. Bringing this light into ordinary reality is called a mitzvah, which can be seen to be derived from the same root as tzavta, “joining.”
The following chassidic parable illuminates this idea, how mankind can ever hope to connect to God:
There was once a great wise man and a very simple person, between whom there could be no communication whatsoever, since the wise man was occupied with his intellectual pursuits while the simple man had no such intellectual understanding. Neither of the two felt any connection with the other until one day the wise man required the physical assistance of the simple man. Only then was a connection established between the two.
This is in accordance with the principle that “serving [Torah scholars] is greater than studying it [the Torah].” By serving a Torah scholar one is capable of reaching a place that others are not capable of reaching even if they were to study for another forty years. This is another trait that can be learnt from the prophet Elisha, who served Elijah, thus meriting greater powers than even his master did.
There is only one expression in the entire Torah in which the word tzav appears as a noun: “tzav letzav, kav lakav, ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” One explanation of the phares tzav letzav, (a tzav for a tzav, a commandment for a commandment) is that opposing each commandment of the Torah. there is an evil instruction (“commandment”) that the psyche receive from the other side. A second explanation is that for each of God’s commandments, one must set up a boundary of more commandments (restrictions) in order to guard it, as it says “make a boundary for the Torah,” and similarly, “a boundary for wisdom is silence.” A third explanation is that the commandments must be given in small, measured quantities, as one would feed a young child, drop by drop. These three explanations parallel the stages of chash-mal-mal, and the elevation of the garment of thought through the three stages delineated above.
First, by bringing under submission the negative inclination that arises to contradict the positive commandment of the Torah (chash), the garment of thought itself is purified—the first stage in its elevation.
Then, in order for thought to rise to the place of the emotions, a restriction of one’s natural emotional tendencies is required so that they do not overwhelm one’s actions. For the same reason, the sages aspired to “create a restrictive barrier” to protect the performance of the commandments. This second stage involves a process of havdalah or “separation” which is the essence of the first stage of mal.
Finally, when thought rises to pure intellect and achieves da’at elyon, it is ready to be outwardly directed through the performance of mitzvot. As such, in order not to “break” reality, the illuminative quality of da’at elyon must be inserted drop-by-drop. This also correlates with the Halachic dictum that “mitzvot should not be bundled together.” Rather, every mitzvah should be performed separately and with its own particular intent. Caring for and rectifying reality with da’at elyon through mitzvot corresponds to the second stage of mal.
(In addition, each of these three stages can be interpreted as corresponding to one of the three phrases in the verse quoted above. “Tzav letzav” corresponds to the submission of the negative inclination; “kav lakav” corresponds to demarcating with a line (the meaning of the word kav, in Hebrew) each mitzvah; and, “ze’eir sham, ze’eir sham,” which literally means “a little there, a little there,” corresponds to the requirement that mitzvot be performed individually, “drop-by-drop.”).
In order to reach the level at which the thought clothes the pure intellect, one must unite with “He commanded and they were created,” the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase being equal to that of chashmal, as stated. At this stage one receives the power to give a command and thereby create in a state of natural consciousness. This occurs through the secret of the expression, tzav letzav, as stated. This is the way to raise thought to act on reality, at which point the speech rises to clothe the emotions. This stage realizes the secret of liba lepuma galya, “the heart reveals itself to the mouth,” which is a messianic goal, as taught in Kabbalah that the reason the Messiah has not yet come is because we are in a state in which the heart is not revealed in the mouth. This is a state of complete rectification, called in Kabbalah “the secret of the rectified image.”
Stage of service
Method of service
Result of service
Hamtakah – Mal
The secret of the three explanations of the expression tzav letzav
Ability to act on reality through thoughts
Havdalah – Mal
Returning all of one’s being to God
Ability to transmit thoughts
Hachna’ah – Chash
Relating stories of tzaddikim; listening to profound Chassidic melodies
Purification of thought
Inner peace; total trust in God; ability to receive thoughts transmitted