Experiencing the Divine

In the early 1920's, R. Kalman Kalonymus Shapira wrote a small book entitled Bnai Mashshavah Tovah, Experiencing the Divine. (R. Kalman Kalonymus Shapira is also known as the Piaseszner rebbe and, after his collection of sermons written in the Warsaw ghetto, the Aish Kodesh.)

In this book, he presents a theory and a practice of attaining meditative closeness to God, using the emotions as a vehicle to deveikut, or God-consciousness.

Equally, he describes in detail the rules governing what might be called a spiritual therapy group that he advises spiritual seekers to organize in order to intensify their practice.

This little book, discovered in the wreckage of post-Holocaust Warsaw (where R. Shapira was murdered by the Nazis in 1942), has become recognized as a jewel of Jewish spiritual literature.

This website presents a translation of the entirety of this work.
A number of young men of my acquaintance wish to form a society dedicated to the spiritual goal of uniting God and the Community of Israel. With God’s help, I am writing the following text for them. And it is appropriate that it be called Experiencing the Divine (literally, The Society for Positive Mindfulness).

“One thing have I asked of Hashem, I will request it . . . to view the pleasantness of Hashem and to contemplate within His palace” (Tehillim 27:4).

Translator's note: In keeping with the usage of the original, the generic pronoun "he" has been employed and not replaced with such formulations as "he or she."  This does not, of course, detract from the relevance of this work for women.
The Goal of This Group

Our goal is not new. It is no different from the goal and hope of every Jew. Our desire and goal is to serve Hashem our God: the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzchak and the God of Yaacov. We seek a wholehearted service, a complete service that utilizes all the limbs of our body and spirit, so than not one sinew of our body nor one spark of our spirit will extend beyond the holiness of Hashem that hovers upon us and encompasses us.

And therefore, we pray: “Our Father, Compassionate Father, have mercy on us.  Awaken within our heart a spark of desire and awareness, so that we will know that it is not enough to be like a mere slave, the son of a maidservant. It is true that he too serves the King, but he works behind the millstones, far from the King. He does not hear the King’s words, nor does he ever experience any satisfaction or pleasure from the King’s radiance. Instead, he serves the King with a closed mind and a dulled heart.”

But our desire and longing is to be among those who are called “the children of Hashem your God,” so that in our service of God, whether in learning Torah, prayer or other commandments, we feel our closeness to God. We wish to be like the son rejoicing to greet his father after an absence of years and after having suffered in his great yearnings for his father. When we serve God, we should also feel our soul racing to greet its father, our soul that has yearned for Him all day and all night. Now it races and dissolves as it is poured onto the bosom of its Father in heaven.

And not only at times of prayer and other service should we feel close to God and take pleasure from the radiance of His glory, may He be blessed. Rather, our thought should always be so clear, strong and connected to His holiness that it can overwhelm our senses. Then our senses will be unable to confuse our thoughts and turn them astray and tell us that “this world you see is everything, and this physicality that you sense is everything.” And even more, our senses will be subjugated to the thought of our heart, so that themselves will perceive God’s holiness permeating all being.

Then, with our own eyes, we will see that we are in God’s garden, Eden, standing before God’s Throne of glory (may He be blessed).

It is precisely this that is the goal of our society.