Bilvavi – Re-evaluating our Judaism

“The beginning of a person’s task is to clarify for himself what the purpose of his life is.”
– opening line of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (A Sanctuary in my Heart)

It sounds a lot like the opening of Mesillas Yesharim-(the Path of the Just), but Bilvavi changes our understanding of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato’s mussar classic. In the traditional understanding of the Path of the Just, we view spiritual progress as a ladder starting with Torah, through working on our observing of mitzvos to chassidus and dveikus (closeness) to Hashem, and then to higher levels.

Bilvavi makes one significant change in this understanding by focusing on this line of the Ramchal and answering the question of our purpose posed in the opening line:
“In truth, the only true completeness is closeness (dveikus) to Hashem. As Dovid HaMelech said “And for me, closeness to Hashem is good.””

Bilvavi zooms in on this concept and says that the focus of our Yiddishkeit must be developing a constant connection, awareness and closeness to Hashem. He goes into great detail in defining what this closeness is and how to achieve it. It goes beyond kavanna in brachos, mitzvos and davening to a constant awareness of Hashem. In fact he states that our entire Olam Haba is based on the degree of constant connection and awareness we establish. The author states that many (perhaps most) people, even those sitting and learning in Yeshiva, are missing this critical point.

Bilvavi teaches this experiential (and not just intellectual) Emunah and closeness is available to anyone who works on it, from the manual laborer, to the professional, to the person learning full time in the Yeshiva.

So what should a growing BT or FFB do? To start with

1) You can read the entire first two seforim in English or Hebrew at Bilvavi.Net.
2) You can go to Dixie Yid’s posts and mp3s on the sefer and it’s author.
3) You can hear Rabbi Yossi Michalowicz shiurim on the entire sefer.

6 comments on “Bilvavi – Re-evaluating our Judaism

  1. Mark , thanks for posting this piece and for making the Bilvavi philosophies book thing available as a PDF, for easier blackberry reading.
    Bilvavi, is a heartfelt “Re-evaluting” religion, Valentines Day read, for hearts of all sizes/shapes and degrees.
    Being a feverish fan of the heart filled and sparkly decorated holiday and especially the Duane Reade decorations the holiday brings along (pink hearts and adorable drooopy huggable puppies) , I thought the date coincidence, was not just mere incidence in the writing but a pointed chance to learn about the spiritual chambers of the heart often overlooked or ignored.

    But being especially cold and bitten by the bitter and biting February wind and weather, I was in no mood for any heartwarming mussar moment reads.
    Like some mornings, I’m sure the weather cant get any colder and then it surprises me with an even more bitter showing of wintry wind rain and almost hail sleet, biting about .

    Anyway, thumbing through the complimentary editions (handed out in the morning, just for being you!) of the Daily News and The Post, February 14, ignoring the scorpio horoscopes that didn’t suggest anything promising and trying to keep the Dunkin Donut down as I read the latest horrifying happenings around the city, I started re-thinking some of my starched /staunch and stubborn stances on religious stuff.(For the record Mayor Bloomberg is one of the most brilliant individuals around, running the city, as are his ideas /suggestions and opinions …).

    There is just so much that is just not fixable/ understandable/avoidable or excusable it just “is” and that “is” might have to do with the boss upstairs. Yeah I know this is in addition to the effort that is expected of us. But sometimes deep down you just come to terms with the fact that effort/knowledge/winning and or whining is not everything or even anything. ( I learnt this fun fact arguing in real life recently with one of the sneakiest individuals I’ve ever had to deal with in my whole life, I stripped apart every one of his points and statements proving them all lame/stupid/ wrong/false or just plain old tall tales and insecurity and still lost in the long run) .
    Life is just humbling like that sometimes.

    Anyway, so after receiving the pdf version and reading through parts of Bilvavi, dutifully ignoring that which I had a hard time accepting (subjective stuff that needs to be ironed out ) I came across really profound concepts that put stuff in a whole new shade of understanding and or accepting.
    The author presents a non-loquacious somewhat redundant yet sincerely tenacious take on individual purpose in life/connection to G-d/ anger and related happenings.
    Although at times a tad redundant, the redundancy is for reiteration purposes only and barely noticeable once you start understanding stuff . And if you focus on what you’re reading its not that difficult to incorporate the lofty and deep concepts presented in user friendly English.

    I think my heart might be sending warmer religious signals through the spiritual circuitry systems running around in circuitous routes in my brain, cuz of this book.
    Spiritual neuroplasticity and a rewiring of staunch stances at its profoundest /deepest and finest.

    So Mark, just wanted to thank you for posting this piece, I would never had read Bilvavi if you hadn’t post this.

  2. Parhaps, Mark, people might not understand why the Bilvavi is such an amazing sefer. I can say, as someone who became frum at age 16 and now just over 20 years later, the text of the sefer is truly hyper-charged with easy to understand ideas that have re-focused and energized my on Avodah. The strong connection to Mesillas Yesharim and R Schwartz’s use of R Dessler’s ideas is an added bonus, for me.

    Rav Weinberger has been teaching it for several years now and with bilvavi.net and Dixie Yid’s posts and all he has done for the seforim, it is finally getting the ‘press’ it truly deserves.

    The ideas brought forth in the version that is online are really worth the time to look at. Even if you can only read it for 5 minutes a day (I personally do about 10 minutes daily), it will strengthen you. If any Chicago readers need a personal testimonial, please contact me. :)

  3. I’m a little surprised that more people have not requested a copy of the translation.

    Perhaps it’s because I didn’t present the introduction well. Please don’t let that prevent you from reading this important and powerful sefer. Send us a request at beyondbt@gmail.com.

  4. I really like Rabbi Weiberger’s material and G-d willing some day he’ll benefit more of the Jewish People by making more of his tapes free. For now we tend to shy away from endorsing the mostly-pay sites.

  5. B”H

    Please, please add Rav Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh (www.aishkodesh.org) to the list of resources for learning Bilvavi. He has posted mp3’s of three lecture series he’s given on Blivavi. Rav Weinberger is a very special Yid, and the combination of his gifts as a Rav with Bilvavi… trust me, you’ve got to at least try these classes if you’re interested in learning Bilvavi.

    To get to the area of his website where you can purchase his mp3’s for download, go to:

    http://www.aishkodesh.org/heleocart/products/akodeshproducts.aspx

    at the top right corner of the page is a list of various subjects, at the bottom of the list click on the link called, “Tikkun Ha’Adam”. That will take you to a new page with another list of topics. You’ll find three links for Bilvavi (the second, 14th and 15th item) click on those to go to the purchase page for the available individual classes in each of the series. Great, great stuff. Enjoy!

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