Seeking the Illuminated Body
The journey to enlightenment and unitary consciousness is a long one. Why is the road so uninviting and fraught with obstacles where so few seem to have reached the other side, much less have attained an illuminated body? Might we be holding out because the other side does not quite live up to our idea of enlightenment?
Of my earliest conscious memories, the times I spent in and around the synagogue with the Lubavitcher Rebbe are still vividly present, semi-ingrained and all-too-easily available for recall. Following the life of this Hassidic Master and attentively listening to the teachings he imparted was the preeminent occupation of my psyche, time and energy from childhood through the first years of my adult life. At the age of fifteen I was asked to assist the lead transcriber in recollecting the Rebbe's words, specifically those delivered on Shabbos and Holidays when writing and recording devises were prohibited. Speaking in Rabbinic Yiddish, the style, format and contend of the his talks ranged from expansive analysis and development of Hassidic-Kabbalistic Cosmology to practical lessons in being a mensch and at home living; from rigorous logical analysis of Talmud and Commentary to a nuanced elucidation of a Midrashic line or a tale in Hassidic lore - all seemingly effortlessly woven and expounded on in discourses, homilies, and transmissions during Hassidic gatherings. Yet, the most salient within all the Rebbe's talks was the unrelenting infusion and invocation of the hope for, and drive toward, a cosmic redemption ready to be reveled and experienced here on earth.
During one such talk as the Rebbe lamented the suffering of exile -- reflected in the misplaced energy of the wandering Shekhina, the tumultuous history of the Jewish people, and the chaotic state of human life on planet earth -- there was an emphatic expression, that what we want is for the body to shine! With this phrase, he seemed to be articulating a major component of his messianic vision. The body, not a stand-alone theme in Hassidic parlance, was given a voice as more then a vehicle for the souls' expression. Though, it was left open as to what it means for the body to shine, and how may we come to that level of beingness.
The said expression was heard on Hosanna Rabba, the last day of the festival of Sukkoth (Booths), toward the completion of a ninety-minute talk following the communal prayer services on an autumn evening in 1983. Discoursing on the transmutation of suffering while standing and leaning on the side of his prayer lectern the Rebbe said,
The soul's cry-out for salvation from her exilic state is all the more so in a time of deep darkness, when "the darkness covers the earth" (Isaiah 60:2), and though it is true that "Havaya, the Lord, will shine onto you"(ibid.), what we want is for the body to shine; and not to shine with another's light, which illuminates it, but for the body to shine in it of itself, the way it will be ‘in the days to come' (l'osid lovo).
But why can it be so in ‘the days to come'? Because the body has this ability now as well; not in some hidden or abstract potential, but in an actually that is ready in the body now; it is merely locked under a lid. But the lid is locked!
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