Knower, Knowledge, and Known: Maimonides' Nutritional Science, the Cultivation of Consciousness, and the Future of Medicine.
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1138-1204 CE)--known as Maimonides and by the acronym Rambam--was not only the preeminent Torah scholar of his time. He was also a philosopher, the celebrated author of the Guide for the Perplexed, as well as a leading practicing physician and medical theorist. His medical writings were groundbreaking in his time and remain pertinent today to clinicians and students of medical history and anthropology alike.
In the Mishneh Torah, his comprehensive compendium of Jewish law, Maimonides presents dietary and lifestyle guidelines for establishing perfect health. These passages are found primarily in chapter 4 of Hilkhot Deot, (1) translated variously as "Laws of Character," or "Laws of Personal Development." He begins this chapter with a general statement:
Since maintaining a healthy, sound body is among the ways of serving G-d... for one cannot understand or have knowledge of the Creator if he is ill... therefore one must avoid that which harms the body, and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger. (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Deot 4:1)
He then proceeds to offer a long list of specific recommendations to accomplish perfect health. From the start, the emphasis is on diet--not so much, initially, about what to eat, but about how to eat. Among these principles, the following are paramount:
One should never eat unless hungry, nor drink unless thirsty. One should never put off relieving oneself, even briefly. Do not eat until the stomach is full. Rather, eat until the stomach is only three-quarters full. Eating a small quantity of bad foods is less harmful than overeating healthy foods. Overeating is poison to the body.
These seemingly common-sense rules are more challenging and more meaningful than they may appear at first glance. In the cultural milieu of today a significant percentage of people find it difficult to comply with such deceptively simple guidelines. We have become so accustomed to overindulgence that we are often unaware of what constitutes genuine hunger and where to draw the line between moderation and excess. The satiety center in the brain, located in the hypothalamus region, ordinarily provides signals that it has had enough--or too much--food. Whether due to neurological impairment, metabolic dysfunction, or behavioral issues (or some combination of them), this center can fail to provide such awareness when habitual overeating renders us insensitive.
In my clinical as well as personal experience, I have seen that such dietary self-restraint is not just a key to prophylactic maintenance of good health; it can also be a major factor as to why some patients respond positively to therapeutic intervention and some do not. An overtaxed metabolism is likely to lack the resources necessary to ward off pathogenic influences and heal itself.
Chapter 4 continues with more detailed advice on topics that include:
specific food recommendations--preferred foods, and foods to avoid exercise elimination sexual moderation sleep, hygiene, and bathing seasonal, constitutional, and age-related variations
Overall, this approach to health maintenance is largely focused on diet and nutrition. This is consistent with Maimonides' explanation why, when redacting the Mishnah, Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Nasi chose to begin with the order of Zeraim ("Seeds") "because it deals with agriculture, which is the sustenance of life. Without food a person cannot live and serve G-d in any way. Therefore he opened with the laws dealing with agriculture" (Introduction to Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah).
This reflects an integrated understanding of multiple aspects of wellness, a whole-systems approach wherein numerous factors interact and affect one another. For example, Maimonides says that exercise can neutralize the negative effects of an otherwise horrendous diet. Although he suggests a generalized set of preventative recommendations, he does not dictate a one-size-fits-all system. Differences in climate, activity, constitution, and other variable facets of lifestyle are acknowledged as calling for different personal choices. This is in marked contrast to many of the prevailing modern approaches to nutrition, where, for example, centralized professional and governmental bodies attempt to establish fixed, quantitative "Minimum Daily Requirements" or "Recommended Allowances" of specific nutrients. Moreover, they institute approved "Food Pyramids" that suggest (and in some cases legislate) what constitutes a presumably balanced diet. (This remains in effect until new research invalidates the old pyramid, and another rigid guideline replaces it.) Alternative and complementary approaches to medicine are also not immune to this sort of oversimplification. Such popular nutritional regimens as vegan/vegetarian, raw foods, macrobiotics, and paleo diets can also be extreme and rigidly applied, without consideration of variable needs and differential diagnostic factors.
Nonetheless, Maimonides confidently offers dietary and lifestyle principles (with very few categorical rules) by which anyone can maintain good health and prevent illness. He takes care to distinguish these guidelines from therapeutic diets:
All these good habits are suitable for those who are healthy. But if someone is ill... or has maintained bad habits for many years, then there are other ways, depending upon one's condition, as explained in the Book of Medicines. (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Deot 4:21)
By the same token he emphasizes the importance of consistency rather than erratic behavior. Citing the Talmudic dictum, "A change of habit is the beginning of sickness" (Ketuvot 100a), he echoes one of his prominent tenets that incremental change is preferable to radical changes in diet.
Perhaps the most remarkable statement in this chapter is his assurance as to the efficacy of his advice:
[phrase omitted] Whoever conducts himself in these ways that we have taught, I guarantee him that he does not become sick all his days until he is greatly aged and dies, and should not require a doctor and his body shall be whole and remain healthy all his days, unless his body was unhealthy from its beginning, or if he was accustomed to one of the bad customs from the beginning of his birth, or if a plague of pestilence or a plague of famine should come to be. (MISHNEH TORAH, HILKHOT DEOT 4:20)
This is an extraordinary guarantee, particularly to the modern ear, which might consider such a statement arrogant, or at best unrealistic, although it is stipulated for people who are already healthy. What honest physician would dare make such a claim? In his medical writings, Maimonides displays no such certainty. He is humble almost to a fault, acutely aware of the possibility of wrong diagnosis or of doing harm through mistreatment or malpractice.
This becomes all the more remarkable when we consider that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem M. Schneerson, publicly endorsed Maimonides' guarantee and encouraged compliance--not just as good advice, but as a halakhic mandate, enshrined as it is in a work of Jewish law.
In two public talks in 1965 and 1983 (found in Likutei Sichot, vol. 23, pages 33-41), the Rebbe addressed the question of the reliability of this guarantee. He asked how it could be considered valid, in light of a well-known ruling that the remedies and medicines mentioned in the Talmud are often obsolete and therefore not applicable today, due to changes that have taken place in nature. Some of this Talmudic advice is incorporated in chapter 4 of Hilkhot Deot. So the Rebbe asks how Maimonides could make this guarantee, regardless of change of nature over time.
He resolves these questions in part by citing a foundational statement of Rabbi Menahem Azariah of Fano, a sixteenth-century Italian kabbalist and student of the renowned Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak):
[phrase omitted] Essentially, Torah addresses higher metaphysical realities; secondarily, it imparts its meaning to the corresponding lower, physical reality." (SEFER ASARAH MAAMAROT, MAAMAR HIKUR)
In other words, the Rebbe is drawing upon a core kabbalistic concept that asserts that the rulings of exoteric Torah Law in the material world are derived from principles rooted in esoteric, spiritual dimensions of Torah, which are considered unimpeachable metaphysical truths. Having established this idea, the Rebbe goes on to explain how it pertains to our question:
Therefore, the health directives contained in Chapter 4 of Rambam's Hilchot De'ot are eternally applicable in their primarily spiritual sense... and by extension, the principles apply to their intended context, in support of physical health." (LIKUTEI SICHOT, vol. 4, p. 40)
FROM RATIONALISM TO MYSTICISM
Modern scholarship often refers to Maimonides as a rationalist who eschews mysticism--particularly when his works and commentaries are compared to those of Nahmanides (1194-1270 CE). Nahmanides' mystical bent is more apparent, and he frequently expressed disagreement with Maimonides on those terms. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, however, has in numerous contexts revealed a more esoteric aspect (albeit often a hidden one) in the works of Maimonides. Our discussion below presents an opportunity to examine the relationship between Maimonides' apparent rationalism and his less obvious, more esoteric, perspective. To do so calls for a brief assessment of what might be called (somewhat anachronistically) Maimonides' philosophy of science.
The medical writings of Maimonides are rooted primarily in the writings of the Greek Galen and the Arabic Avicenna. These bodies of premodern medical knowledge are often viewed as two distinct epistemologies, two ways of acquiring and evaluating knowledge--rationalism and empiricism. Rationalism gives primacy to the development and transmission of medical theory; empiricism is rooted in the assessment of clinical experience. Of course these two are not mutually exclusive, and Maimonides' extensive medical writings rather elegantly balance both. Theory is refined in the crucible of clinical application, and empirical results are not taken at face value, but rather weighed and evaluated in the context of theoretical constructs that allow evidence, observed phenomena, to evolve into reliable principles.
Contemporary medical science strives to marry rational theory and empirical evidence with what is known as the "gold standard" of medical research--the random, controlled, double-blind clinical trial. This methodology has been critically referred to as "reductionist," in that it generally entails limiting the field of study by isolating variables and focusing on a single parameter. For example, researching the efficacy of pharmaceuticals often calls for extracting a single molecule of medication and observing its effect on the one "bad actor" hypothesized to be the cause of a given pathology. While many extraordinary advances and "miracle drugs" have been developed using these methods, the limitations and dangers of the reductionist approach are becoming increasingly apparent with time. (2)
Maimonides' "whole systems" approach, as discussed above, does not lend itself to the sort of clinical studies that require isolating and examining a single variable. Current innovations in medical research, however, demonstrate a new and very positive direction that can bring scientific rigor to the premodern insights of traditional medical science. One such example is a recent study performed at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. This research focused on postprandial glycemic responses--fluctuations in blood sugar in response to food--that are highly significant in the treatment of diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. It had been observed that different people respond differently to different foods, due to a constellation of variable factors that cannot be accurately evaluated in isolation, one at a time. The team performing this study simultaneously tracked in 800 people numerous parameters, including genetic factors, bloodwork, gut bacteria (microbiome), food combinations, lifestyle choices, and anthropometrics (such as height, weight, and body mass). They then processed the data and arrived at an algorithm that accurately predicts personal responses and enables the design of personalized diets to lower glycemic responses. Complex, whole-systems data collected from a broad, diverse population generated specific, individualized clinical advice to prevent or correct metabolic disorders (ZEEVI, KOREM, ZMORA, et al. 2015).
While studies such as this may herald new capabilities for modern, quantitative, evidence-based medical science to gain some of the qualitative elegance of traditional whole-systems medicines, this still does not constitute the sort of certainty with which Maimonides offered his guarantee. So we are back to our question--how does a rationalist/empiricist of Maimonides' caliber make such a bold promise? The answer, I submit, may lie in an examination of Maimonides' perspective on knowledge itself--his unique approach to epistemology.
Shlomo Pines, a twentieth-century scholar of Jewish and Islamic philosophy, is best known for his translation of Maimonides' philosophical magnum opus, the Guide for the Perplexed. Pines points out that while Maimonides rigorously adhered to a rational, scientific approach to medicine (such as it was in the twelfth century), as a philosopher he was not satisfied with the narrow confines of human reason and logic:
Maimonides' emphasis on the limitations of human science is perhaps his most significant contribution to general philosophical thought... he pointed out these limitations in order to make room for belief. (CITED IN SEESKIN 2005, p. 148)
Gad Freudenthal, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre Nationale de la Reserche Scientifique in Paris, takes this a few steps further. He proposes that from the Maimonidean perspective, epistemological limits were not necessarily an obstacle in the search for truth; Jewish revelation and tradition could be reconciled with Greek-Arabic rational thought of the time; lack of certainty in science often gives rise to philosophical reflection; and physics is indispensable for striving toward a metaphysical knowledge of G-d (FREUDENTHAL 2005).
Science and metaphysics, therefore, are not only compatible, they can be seamlessly integrated. In fact reason can lead to and enrich the suprarational "knowledge of G-d."
Addressing Maimonides's approach to jurisprudence, David Novak, professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, fleshes out this relationship with still more specificity. He analyzes Maimonides' approach to law and finds reference to three distinct methodologies practiced by jurists, representing three types of practical reason:
1. Ordinary jurists, who take the laws of their society as given, without deduction
2. The philosophically inclined, who base decisions on rational principles
3. Metaphysicians, who bring practical reason and theoretical reason together in a manner that preserves the teleology of Torah (NOVAK 2005)
In the field of philosophy, teleology means the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve. In the realm of theology, teleology represents the doctrine of design and purpose in the material world. What Novak is suggesting, therefore, is that from the perspective of Maimonides, the advance of reason beyond the limits of logic, toward a more metaphysical way of understanding the world, is intimately bound up with a sense of purpose.
It is this sense of purpose that serves to elevate Maimonides' common-sense, well-reasoned dietary and lifestyle advice to the level of certainty. It is in this context that he is able to offer his (seemingly implausible) guarantee of good health and longevity. How this happens will become clear after we return once again to the Mishneh Torah, to discover how Maimonides embraces a uniquely defined, Torahoriented, G-d-centered sense of purpose.
THE WHY AND THE HOW OF WELLNESS
In chapter 3 of Hilkhot Deot, before specifying the details of his dietary and lifestyle advice in chapter 4, Maimonides prefaces the discussion of health in a somewhat conditional framework:
If one follows healing methods only so that one's body will be whole and strong... this is not the good path. Rather, one should fix it in one's heart that the body will be whole and strong so that the soul will be upright in recognizing G-d. For it is impossible to understand and think in wisdom if one is hungry or unwell, or if one's limbs or organs are in pain. (MISHNEH TORAH, HILKHOT DEOT 3:3)
This emphasis on the purposeful pursuit of wisdom--knowledge of G-d--echoes the opening passage of the entire Mishneh Torah:
The foundational principle of all foundational principles, and the pillar of all wisdom, is to know that G-d exists. (MISHNEH TORAH, HILKHOT YESODEI HA'TORAH 1:1)
It could be said that the entire ensuing fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah, Maimonides' encyclopedic compendium of Jewish law, is an extension of that initial proclamation of intent. This overarching mandate, that our transcendent purpose should be the pursuit of knowledge of G-d, raises the conversation beyond the limitations of rational and empirical thought--indeed, beyond the limitations and the vicissitudes of capricious change in time and space. It therefore grants Maimonides the authority to guarantee us that if we will strive to align ourselves with this purpose and follow these Divinely inspired practical guidelines, we will live long and live well.
How, then, are we to pursue the knowledge of G-d? Granted, Torah study opens windows, so to speak, on the Divine will and wisdom. Certainly, this offers us knowledge of G-dliness. But does this constitute knowledge of G-d Himself? Is such an achievement accessible to mere mortals? Certainly this is a valid question, but does it have an answer?
In Hilkhot Yesodei Ha'Torah of the Mishneh Torah Maimonides offers us a glimpse of what might be called the Divine epistemology--the way G-d knows what He knows:
He is the Knower, He is the Knowledge, and He is the Known... and this is not within the power of any man to comprehend clearly. (MISHNEH TORAH, HILKHOT YESODEI HA'TORAH 2:10. SEE ALSO SHNEUR ZALMAN OF LIADI, TANYA, SEFER SHEL BEINONI, CHAP. 2; SHAAR HA'YIHUD V'EMUNAH, CHAP. 7)
When we human beings "know" something, we know it as something other than ourselves. But since G-d is One, i.e., G-d is everything, and everything is G-d, His omniscience is knowledge of Himself. The seamless oneness of subject, object, and the process of Knowing referred to here is something only G-d can achieve. We cannot even comprehend what it means, let alone replicate it in our own experience. Therefore the opening statement of Mishneh Torah establishes that the "foundational principle" is that we strive to "know that G-d exists" in the way we humans can know, with finite intellect: knowing that He exists, yet not presuming to know Him in His essential Unity. The Hebrew word for G-d used in this passage is Elokah, which represents G-d as He is found in nature, not His ineffable essence.
However, fourteen volumes later in the culmination of the Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Melakhim, chap. 12), Maimonides cites Isaiah's prophesy of messianic times, when:
... the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea. (ISAIAH 11:9)
Rather than Elokah, Isaiah uses here the name Havayah (the Tetragrammaton, the transcendent name of G-d). This implies a higher level of knowledge. It is still not the way G-d knows what He knows, for we remain human, and our minds remain finite. But clearly at this juncture, our knowledge will have advanced beyond its current limitations. We will have graduated from simply knowing that G-d exists within His manifestations in the finite natural world toward knowing at least some hint of His hidden, infinite essence. And...
In that era, there will be neither famine nor war, nor envy nor competition; for good will flow in abundance... The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d... the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential. (MISHNEH TORAH, HILKHOT MELAKHIM 12:5)
This, therefore, is the context in which Maimonides places the entire span of Jewish law in the Mishneh Torah, including chapter 4 of Hilkhot Deot, the focus of this paper. We are to strive to comply with Maimonides' directives for health not merely as an avenue to physical wellness, but toward the purpose of becoming more fit to pursue Divine knowledge... to strive to go beyond the limits of human knowledge, to invoke and embrace the knowledge of G-d. In so doing we merit Maimonides' guarantee of longevity and good health.
Of course, given Maimonides' conviction that Divine knowledge "is not within the power of any man to comprehend," surely it is the intention and the effort that count, not perfect achievement. Nevertheless, how can finite human intellect even begin to comprehend the Infinite?
THE FIFTIETH GATE
In hasidic philosophy, rationalism is seen as centered primarily in the intellectual faculty of binah, generally translated as "understanding," and defined as the analytical aspect of reason that contrasts, compares, verifies, and contemplates the various implications and ramifications of a given idea. (3)
The Talmud in Rosh Hashanah 21b speaks of fifty "gates" of binah --fifty developmental phases of gaining fully integrated and internalized understanding. Forty-nine of these gates are said to be within the purview of human intellect, as we climb the rungs of understanding to the full extent of our potential. (4) The fiftieth gate is accessible only through Divine assistance; it is granted to us from above, so to speak, as a consequence of our efforts from below.
Hasidic literature addresses in many places the relationship between these forty-nine rational levels and the fiftieth, transcendent level of understanding. There is an interesting nuance that renders this particularly pertinent to our discussion. The Hebrew word for a sick person --[phrase omitted](holeh)--has a gematria (numerical value) of 49. The implication is that illness is a function of the limitations of human reason, represented by the number 49. Wellness and healing are associated with a higher level of consciousness, represented by the Divinely bestowed fiftieth gate of understanding. (5)
The hasidic masters corroborate Maimonides' emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge of G-d as a path to health and wellness. The practical guidelines for diet and lifestyle enumerated in chapter 4 of Hilkhot Deot become a guarantee of longevity and well-being when practiced in the context of cultivating higher consciousness. In Habad hasidism, this cultivation of consciousness is served by the practice of a form of meditation known as hitbonenut. (6)
Hitbonenut is a rigorous, contemplative approach to applying the focused awareness of the rational mind in such a way as to transcend the limitations of the mind. By contemplating spiritual concepts and delving deeply into the ways G-dliness is manifest in the world, we open our minds to inspiration from beyond the rational mind--the fiftieth gate.7 There are three practical aspects of hitbonenut:
1. Meditation associated with study: understanding a concept thoroughly, then contemplating its depth, breadth, and extended ramifications until the concept is illuminated in the mind
2. Meditation before prayer: experiencing the vital feeling associated with the concept
3. Meditation during prayer: sensing the Divinity within a concept (Menahem M. Schneerson, Ha'Yom Yom for 20 Tamuz)
THE CULTIVATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Many clinicians and researchers in both the conventional and the complementary/alternative medical arts and sciences have shown increasing interest in an integrated mind/body approach to medicine. As awareness of the benefits of meditative and contemplative practices becomes more widespread, we can expect to see a significant impact on the advancement of health and wellness. It is not accidental that Maimonides' prescription for long life and well-being appears in a section entitled Hilkhot Deot. The word deot is etymologically related to the word daat--frequently translated as "knowledge." It has the same linguistic root as all three terms in the Maimonidean characterization of Divine epistemology: "He is the knowledge, the knower, and the known." In a somewhat broader context, merging these three facets of Divine knowledge, we might alternatively translate daat as consciousness.
Daat is discussed at great length in the hasidic literature. It is described as intellectual comprehension that has become fully integrated with its emotional effects, as well as with its precognitive roots. Further elucidation of this concept (8) reveals that there are three levels of daat:
1. The bond between the rational, analytical faculty of binah and the more abstract, creative faculty of hokhmah (defined above as the initial "flash" of cognition)
2. An interface between intellect and emotion, i.e., the medium by which cognitive understanding of an idea is internalized as congruent emotional experience
3. An interface between intellect and the transcendent source of cognition, i.e., the pathway by which an idea emerges from beyond the mind, into the conscious mind (as hokhmah)
Interestingly, these three levels of daat can be seen as corresponding to the three aspects of hitbonenut meditation outlined above: (9)
1. The initial study, contemplation, and thorough intellectual grasp of a concept corresponds to daat as the bond between binah and hokhmah.
2. Contemplative meditation before prayer in order to internalize the feelings evoked by the concept corresponds to daat as the interface between intellect and emotion.
3. The awareness of Divinity elicited by contemplative meditation during prayer (tefilah) corresponds to daat as the interface between intellect and the transcendent source of consciousness.
May we soon experience the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea"--in good health, and with length of days.
FREUDENTHAL, GAD. 2005. "Maimonides' Philosophy of Science." In Cambridge Companion to Maimonides, edited by Kenneth Seeskin. NY: Cambridge University Press, pp. 144-173.
NOVAK, DAVID. 2005. "Jurisprudence." In Cambridge Companion to Maimonides, edited by Kenneth Seeskin. NY: Cambridge University Press, pp. 233-252.
ZEEVI, DAVID, T. KOREM, N. ZMORA, et al. 2015. "Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses." Cell. 19 Nov., vol. 163, no. 5, pp. 1079-1094.
For Further Reading
COLLINS, KENNETH. 2010. "Did Maimonides Practice Evidence-Based Medicine?" B'Or Ha'Torah, vol. 20, pp. 117-125.
FERBER, RUVIN. 2005. "The Paradoxes of Quantum Physics, Maimonides, and the 'I'." B'Or Ha'Torah, vol. 15, pp. 64-72.
KOTTEK, SAMUEL, FRED ROSNER, and KENNETH COLLINS. 2013. Moses Maimonides and His Practice of Medicine. Haifa and New York: Maimonides Research Institute.
ROSNER, FRED. 2006. "Moses Maimonides the Physician." B'Or Ha'Torah, vol. 16, pp. 57-65.
SIMCHA GOTTLIEB, MS, DOCTOR OF ORIENTAL MEDICINE
Presented at the Eleventh Miami International Conference on Torah and Science at The Shul of Bal Harbour, Surfside, Florida, December 11-14, 2015
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SIMCHA GOTTLIEB, MS, is a doctor of Oriental Medicine; formerly adjunct professor at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (New York and San Diego); currently in clinical practice in an integrative setting at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. He has studied and practiced nutrition and natural medicine for more than four decades--initially as an apprentice and colleague of the renowned nutritional counselor Rabbi Meir Michel Abehsera, and subsequently as a board-certified Herbalist and Acupuncture Physician. His credentials also include many years as a pioneering writer/producer for Jewish Educational Media and chabad.org. His new book, Awesome Aging, is co-authored with his wife, Frumma Rosenberg-Gottlieb.
(1.) The Hebrew word deot refers etymologically, and therefore perhaps more literally, to the faculty of daat, knowledge. More about this as we proceed.
(2.) For example, biomedical science is currently alarmed at the looming prospect of an "antibiotic apocalypse": medications upon which we have come to rely will have ceased to be effective, due to widespread over-prescription of antibiotic drugs, and the unforeseen adaptation of pathogenic microbes.
(3.) In the hasidic/kabbalistic model of consciousness, binah is contrasted with hokhmah--the initial, original "flash" of an idea before it can be articulated. Hokhmah and binah are seen as complementary facets of intellect.
(4.) These forty-nine levels correspond to the seven emotional faculties, intertwined and included within one another (7 times 7=49).
(5.) For further discussion of this idea, see Shalom DovBer Schneerson, Ma'amar Hamishim Shaarei Binah 5653; Menahem M. Schneerson, Ma'amar V'Ishah Achas 5725; and other sources cited there.
(6.) In 1978 when the Lubavitcher Rebbe called for medical and psychological professionals to develop and promote a culturally neutral form of meditation to enhance mental health, he emphasized that this was to be a strictly therapeutic form of meditation, distinct from traditional hasidic hitbonenut, which is appropriate only for people who are well. [Editor's note: See the article by Rus Devorah Wallen in this volume.] This distinction parallels the contrast I am discussing between the therapeutic focus of Maimonides' medical writings and the preventive, life-supporting health practices espoused in Hilkhot Deot. This is a worthy subject for further exploration, but it is beyond the scope of this paper.
(7.) In a public address in 1991, the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke about hitbonenut as Avodat Ha'Mohin-the service of the mind, the cultivation of consciousness. Acknowledging a prevalent attitude among contemporary Hasidim that practical action, rather than the contemplative life, is the most important order of the day, he said that regardless of the fact that contemplative practice will not be fully accessible to us until the (imminent) advent of Mashiah, it nevertheless behooves us today to pursue the knowledge of G-d to the extent we can, with the tools we have. (Sihah of 9 Heshvan, 5752)
(8.) Rabbi Hillel of Paritsch credits the venerable hasidic mentor Rabbi Zalman Zezmer as introducing him to this construct (Hillel of Paritsch, Biurim al Shaar Ha'Yihud shel Rav Dov Ber M'Lubavitch).
(9.) Note that these three levels also correspond to Professor Novak's threefold analysis of Maimonides' perspective on jurisprudence discussed above and perhaps, on a more esoteric level, with the hasidic/kabbalistic concept of three dimensions of Divine Presence: memaleh kol almin (immanence), sovev kol almin (transcendence), and atsmut (ineffable essence).
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
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