without graphs

When I studied Astronomy in university I wrote software to help make the boring parts of the work more trivial. When I studied almost anything I would graph the ideas out visually making logical and useful connections. At times, when there was so much information, I experimented with grouping whole structures of information into simple icons and then graphing the relationships between the icons. Sometimes I would crack open a 3d animation software package and start laying things out in 3 dimensions when I wanted to be able to see the big picture, how everything interacted.

Imagine my disappointment the first time my Rav told me I couldn't draw representations of the interactions of sefirot, partzufim, or any of ther other Kabbalistic constructs that exist in the Kabbalistic literature. Why? There's two major reasons, as best I understand it, and I still hope to convince my Rav to help me to find some way to circumvent them but they go a little like this: 
(a) God forbade us to create an image of any of the constructs we see in the heavens, this is too close to idolatry -- even if you and I both know it's not God and won't get confused.
(b) We can't draw it out lest someone think these constructs really exist, which we know ultimately that they really don't. (As the Sefer Yetzirah says (translated by R' Aryeh Kaplan) 'Ten sefirot of nothingness.')
Yes, there are diagrams of some things, and yes some people do diagram some things. But. But according to the traddition that we have, we don't. And, on the limited occasions where we do draw some sort of graphical representation to help momentarily it is on small pieces of paper or dry erase boards that will be burned/buried or erased (in the case of dry erase boards)  in short order.

I can't claim to understand this all, or even very much, but stop and think about it. What's the difference between graphing out chemical interactions or cognitive ideas and graphing out Kabbalistic concepts? 

The goal of understanding chemicals, mathematics, medicine, biology, literature, etc is to understand them in order to use them to some end. 

Kabbalah (read: Torah and Judaism) is an end in itself. We are drawing ourselves closer to HaShem, becoming more sensitized to holiness and HaShem's designs of and for this world. It isn't that once we understand the constructs of Kabbalah we take them and do something else with them, it is precisely through pursuing these ideas (the same can be said for any level of Torah learning) we are drawing ourselves closer to HaShem.

Does one map out one's spouse's likes and dislikes, or the 'way they work?' No. We get to know them so intimately that the answer to whether they will like this, or how they will react to that is obvious. That is the point of any Torah study, to develop this intimacy with HaShem. 

Always deeper and deeper levels of intimacy.

It isn't even about knowing something in the end, it's about closeness. Developing a closer relationship. You could spend your whole life on the introductions to learning the most basic levels of Torah, and be closer to HaShem than one who davens with all of the yichudim and kavvanoth of the Arizal. It's about your desire to be close to HaShem. 

When one has the desire and burns with  it, so then as you grow in Torah and Tefillah, you pursue that which brings you closer, including study of the hidden aspects of Torah. But that is the true measure of your accomplishments, did they bring you closer.

This helps us to narrow in on exactly what the problem is: HaShem, isn't like your family, when you're at work they aren't there so you draw a picture of them, or commission someone to do so, in this day and age we have cameras so we just snap a quick picture. Since HaShem is always present, drawing pictures or creating some other representation actually creates distance. Would you gaze at a photo of your spouse if your spouse was there in the room having a conversation with you? 

When we gain any true knowledge pertaining to our interaction with God, it's only as true and as deep as it is patently obvious to us. The deeper the connection the more we 'know.' Memorizing names, letters, configurations, constructs, what does that really mean? At most its evidence that we want to be closer to HaShem, even if it testifies that we don't know how to get there. But drawing pictures means maybe we'll settle for the picture the way people hang posters in their room of people they will never be able to relate to personally.

When we grow closer to HaShem with new knowledge it means we've changed. If we sketch something on a piece of paper or in a file, all that's changed is that paper or that file.

We're here to grow, not to amass pictures, charts, or graphs. It's not about commiting it to memory, it's about commiting it to our essence, about internalizing meaning.

To me, this is such a vital lesson for people living in our day and age. And I can't begin to explain how much I benefit from this knowledge. every. single. day.


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