"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Da'as: Developing G-d-consciousness

Binah versus Da’as
We are warned: “Beware, lest you forget Hashem your G–d!”[1] What does it mean to forget Hashem, and what does it mean to remember Him?

Forgetting implies that despite intellectual knowledge and acceptance of a belief, it slips one’s mind and fall away from conscious awareness. This is one’s state when he has only reached Binah, abstract intellectual comprehension. He knew, but he forgot.

In contrast, Da’as means that what the person recognizes intellectually to be true remains in the forefront of his consciousness even after he has finished figuring it out in his mind, and this then spills over into his emotions, and from there to his behavior, which consist of thought, speech, and action.

There are several verses that express this concept. It is written, “Know (veyadata) today, and take it to your heart, that G–d is the L–rd, in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other.”[2] Similarly, King Shlomo was exhorted, “Know (da) the G–d of your fathers, and serve Him with a complete heart.”[3] In both these verses, expressions of Da’as are followed by a reference to the service of the heart. Chassidus interprets this as indicating that only through attaining Da’as can one transform one’s emotions, and attain true love and awe of Hashem.

The faculty of Da’as specifically means internalizing one’s relationship with Hashem, along the lines of the verse, “The ox knows (yoda) its master.”[4] Just as the ox feels a deep-rooted bond with its master, so does the person with Da’as attain a fully internalized and integrated consciousness of his MasterHashem.

The fragility of Da’as
However, the state of Da’as is fragile. The vicissitudes of life, and in particular the preoccupation with earning a livelihood, can easily distract the person and pull him out of a Da’as state, even if he was until then a devout servant of Hashem. This is called hesech haDa’as, a distraction from Da’as.

The detriment of lack of
Da’as is particularly acute when one prospers. The businessman is so caught up in his exuberance at his riches, and in his craving to amass yet more wealth, that he no longer feels Hashems presence. Once Hashem is not on his mind, on some level he attributes his financial success to his own supposedly superior business acumen. He declares, “My strength and the might of my hand has accumulated this wealth for me.”[5]

So losing Da’as means losing the sense of awareness of Hashem’s presence and the concomitant sense of subservience to Him in one’s life. This is liable to bring the person to degenerate further and further, until he can succumb to the temptation to sin. Of this it is written: “[The people of] Yisrael did not know (yoda) ... My nation did not think.” This is followed by, Oh, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity ... ”[6] This does not mean that lack of Da’as alone makes the nation sinful and laden with iniquity. Rather, it means that lack of Da’as will naturally lead to sin.

Thus, the Torah warns us: “Be careful, lest you forget Hashem your G–d!” Don’t allow yourself to slip from a state of G–d-consciousness. Your life as a Jew depends on it.

[1] Devarim 8:11.
[2] ibid. 4:39.
[3] I Divrei HaYamaim 28:9.
[4] Yeshayah 1:3.
[5] Devarim 8:17.
[6] Yeshayah 1:3-4.

Adapted from the preface to the Mitteler Rebbes Sha’ar HaEmunah, pp. 1-2.

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