Mesilas Yesharim Series
57 lectures | 60-75 minutes per lecture
From the inception of the Jewish people in the land of Egypt through the period of the first Temple (Beis Hamikdash), we find that the Jews were involved in the pursuit of higher levels of consciousness and awareness. Some were even engaged in the pursuit of prophecy, a phenomenon which we really cannot grasp in our times. When Moses and Aaron appear in front of the Egyptian Pharaoh to deliver a divine message of the impending redemption of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, they do so by demonstrating super natural powers. The Egyptian culture itself at the time is heavily saturated with magical traditions and customs and the Jews themselves were embedded in this culture and fascinated by it. They would observe and experience miracles openly. The ten plagues that followed was the most spectacular exhibition of the supernatural order that was ever demonstrated to the masses. Then the splitting of the Red Sea and the Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai, the manna pouring down for forty years during their travels through the dessert. It created a tremendous desire and passion by the people to want to connect to spirituality and access higher and more intense levels of experiencing existence itself.
This wasn’t only a Jewish endeavor.The nations of the world and society at large were also involved on the dark side in the worship of idolatry (avodah zara) and the access of specific spiritual forces. But all in all, the state of mind of the people as it existed at that point in time was very different then it is today. People were much more tuned in to spirituality. They were much closer to the feel of who and what G-d is. They were living in a period where there was a great deal of direct access to the metaphysical realm and the people could sense the forces of spirituality to a much more powerful degree than we experience today.
After the destruction of the first Temple this era of direct spiritual access has ended. The tremendous gift of elevated consciousness has been taken away from the Jewish people and from mankind in general. The world became much more preoccupied with physicality and materialism. During the next two and a half thousand years the processes and the knowledge of how to achieve these elevated levels of consciousness have been totally forgotten. As a result of this tragic phenomenon, we have in many ways lost contact with what the original Jew was really all about.
Since we can no longer feel this experience today, it is in many ways hard for us to believe that these phenomena ever existed. When we read the stories in Tanach, it seems sometimes difficult for us to believe that these things actually occurred. It is almost like they occurred to a different race of men on a different planet. We look outside and we see no miracles. We see no spirituality. We live in a secular world and we assume that this is the way the world always was. Furthermore, we assume that we will always live in a world where technology, power and the pursuit of materialistic success will always rule the world. We think we will always live in a situation where the most important concern in life is the possessions we have, or how we appear to someone else by virtue of our possessions. We have over the years absorbed these ideas and they have become part and parcel of our worldview.
What we have forgotten and what we have really lost is what the world of Judaism is. What the concept of consciousness of the Divine, or Yiras Shamayim is all about. We have forgotten the notion that it is possible for a person to have a very close relationship with G-d. That it is possible to be in love with G-d while one is alive and to feel a very powerful sense of spirituality even while we exist in a very physical world.
The Mesilas Yesharim
One of the greatest kabbalists and Jewish philosophers of the past three centuries, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1747), also known by his initials Ramchal, has set out to reintroduce to the Jewish people that which they have forgotten. In his magnum opus, Mesilas Yesharim (The Path of the Just) he reminds us what we were sent down to achieve in this world and how one can actually ascend the ladder of spirituality to the level of reaching divine inspiration and prophecy. As a mentor and a guide he takes us through this difficult and complex maze with great clarity and insight. He reconnects us with who we really are. He reintroduces to us certain types of processes that most people are totally unfamiliar with, especially in our times. His familiarity with this subject was largely due to his own journey through this path and his own experience in achieving greatness. This fundamental book is considered by most scholars to rank as one of the greatest guides for the acquisition of good character, ethics and spiritual greatness. It is taught in all Yeshivos and studied throughout the Torah world.
Jewish Spirituality vs. Jewish Philosophy
Unlike Jewish philosophy (Hashkafa) which attempts to understand primarily what G-d wants from the world, and how does the world slowly proceed to meet that objective, what the central elements in creation are, the purpose of creation or man's ultimate goal - this book is much more concerned with another dimension of Judaism which is just as important: How does one achieve personal greatness? What does it mean to be a good Jew? What is the actual process of how a person elevates himself to very high levels of spirituality?
In this series, the lecturer Rabbi Shimon Kessin once again takes his audience on a journey of intellectual excitement and enjoyment. He marvelously blends modern-day concepts of psychology and science with the ancient kabbalistic wisdom of antiquity. Many human traits are deeply analyzed and examined. He illustrates the thinking process of a child vs. that of an adult from a Torah perspective. He demonstrates how these mysteries have been transmitted from generation to generation long before they were discovered by modern-day psychologists. These lectures will give you a true understanding and perspective of what a Jew is really all about.