And For an Offering … I Will Sacrifice My Soul

Vayikra 5774-An installment in the series of adaptations
From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School
For series introduction CLICK
By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara D’Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood

Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When a man will bring near, from [among] you,( meekem) a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice           

–Vayikra 1: 2

When he brings. [The pasuk is not discussing an obligatory sacrifice, in which case it would have said, “a man shall bring ….” Rather,] the pasuk is speaking here of voluntary sacrifices [and thus says, “When a man …brings a sacrifice”]. — [Toras Kohanim 1:12]

from animals: but not all of them. [The phrase therefore] excludes the case of animals that have cohabited with a human, as an active or a passive partner. – [Toras Kohanim 1:17]

from cattle [The phrase] excludes an animal that has been worshipped [as a deity].

from the flock: [This phrase} excludes muktzah-an animal set aside [i.e., designated for sacrifice to pagan deities]. — [Toras Kohanim 1:18]

–Rashi ibid

Several sefarim from the Izhbitzer school pose a grammatical question about this pasuk ; Why the garbled sentence structure with the verb appearing before stating the subject precisely? The syntax of the sentence ought to have been “When a man from among you will bring near?

What follows is a sampling of the wide array of answers that are offered:

Referencing the famous drasha-derivation of a Halachah from close textual readings, of the gemara ( Sukkah 41B): “and you shall take lachem-to yourself–from that which belongs to you”, Rav Leibeleh Eiger  understands the odd placement of the word meekem – “from (among) you”, to mean that the real sacrifice is not from ones property / livestock, but from oneself. After all, the pasuk need not mention that the donor of the sacrifice is from “among” the Jewish People as the entirety of the Torah is addressed to an exclusively Jewish audience. Rather, the pasuk seeks to convey the concept that the “stuff” of the bringing near/sacrificing is from “you”, from the very being of the donor.

Many people tend to compartmentalize their lives.  Their attitude is that they “owe” G-d the performance of mitzvos and the avoidance of transgressions.  However, if something in their lives; be it a thought, a word or action is Halachically / morally neutral; a devar reshus- something we are neither commanded to do nor to avoid; then we are, so to speak, free agents, we are on our own.  As long as something is Halachically permissible then, the thinking goes, we ought to “go for all the gusto”, take full advantage of all permissible pleasures and thus, live life to its fullest.

This may be a pervasive attitude but it is not an authentically Jewish one.  At the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim the Ramban famously condemns it as being the mind-set of a nahval birshus hatorah- a vile lowlife with the Torah’s imprimatur and “seal of approval.” Rav Leibeleh teaches that the nearness and the sacrifice of what is termed a korban derives mainly from meekem; giving up something of yourself, leaving some pleasure on the table, some of the great deals unconsummated or some adventurous experience unlived.

This, he maintains, is what Rashi is referring to when he explains “the pasuk is speaking here of voluntary sacrifices,” that a generosity of spirit and volunteerism grip the worshippers heart so that he is prepared to strive for the paradigm of  “sanctify yourself with [i.e. by giving up some of] what is permitted to you.”

There is a well known argument between the Ramban and the Rambam as to the main underlying reason for the mitzvah of the korbanos-sacrifices in general . Per the Ramban (Vayikra 1:9) korbanos are meant to be an audio-visual aid to the teshuvah process of the sinner offering the korban.  The animal being sacrificed becomes a stand-in; a substitute for the donor.  When observing the sacrificial process the following types of thoughts and emotions are supposed to run through the heart and mind of the donor:  “There but for the grace of G-d go I. By offending my Creator and the transgressing His will I have forfeited my right to exist.  If justice was not tempered by mercy it is my own throat that ought to have been slashed, my own blood collected and sprayed, my own skin flayed from my body and my own viscera or limbs immolated on the altar.”

In light of this Ramban and extending the concept that, even after using the animal as a surrogate, the essential offering of the korban is still meekem-from you, the Izhbitzer and Rav Leibeleh Eiger argue that it follows that any Halachic limitations applying to the animal would apply to the donor as well. These limitations are the pasuks way of explicating ways and means to achieve the goal of sacrificing oneself through “sanctify yourself with [i.e. by giving up some of] what is permitted to you.”

Just as the animal is invalid for sacrifice if it was used for immoral purposes so too the donor must sacrifice meekem; of his pleasure-seeking, and purify himself from his baser animal instincts that drive his libidinous tendencies. Just as the animal is invalid for sacrifice if it has been worshipped, so too the donor must sacrifice of his ego-gratification and cleanse himself of lording it over others and being domineering over others or making himself salient above others in any way. Just as the animal is invalid for sacrifice if has been dedicated/set aside-huktzah as a sacrifice for idolatry, so too the donor must sacrifice of his social-networking with parties that have dedicated themselves to causes antithetical to the service of HaShem, the root of sadness and depression, and the donor must lose any sense of awe and self-abnegation towards anything worldly and temporal.

By not maximizing his own self-actualization and sacrificing of his lusts, of his glory-seeking, of his need for social approval and of his worship of temporal worldly matters the korban will be meekem, from the essential YOU.

~adapted from Toras Emes Vaykra D”H Adam (the first)

Mei HaShiloach II Vayikra D”H Adam

See also Bais Yaakov Vayikra Inyan 23

Soul Movements

In the sefer Da Et Atzmecha (Getting to Know Yourself) the author describes something amazing, the movement of the soul:

In physical movement, we are familiar with six directions: the four sides, and up and down. Our teachers have taught that the soul moves in only two directions: expansion and contraction. Every movement must either be a contraction or an expansion.

When a person analyzes himself, he must categorize all movements as either expansion or contraction. Certainly, the degree of expansion and contraction will not be identical in every situation. For example, when a person runs, he may run quickly or slowly. So, too, there are more extreme movements and more measured movements.

In general, the soul moves either to expand or to contract. In the language of Chazal, expansion is referred to as the aspect of chessed, and contraction is referred to as the aspect of din. There are no other kinds of movement.

When a person understands that all his movements are either contraction or expansion, he can begin to understand himself. On a simple level, a person seems happy, and feels that this is an inherent quality in the soul, or he may be sad, and feel that this is the soul’s quality. Or he may feel generous, and believe that such is his soul’s quality. But the truth is that happiness comes from expansion; sadness, from contraction; giving, from expansion; and taking, from contraction. (Section two, chapter two)

What I found amazing, when I first learned this sefer last summer, was how nicely this idea of expansion and contraction fits into Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Desser’s concept of giving and taking. Rav Dessler z”tl divided the world into two types of people: Givers and Takers. To quote from Rabbi Aryeh Carmell’s translation of Michtav Me-Eliyahu, “Man has been granted this sublime power of giving, enabling him too be merciful, to bestow happiness, to give of himself.” (Strive For Truth! Volume I, page 119)

When we choose to give to another we are expanding our soul and growing into being a bigger and better person. Conversely, by taking we become smaller people. I attempted to teach this to my older children (ages 10 and 7) by blowing up a balloon inside a box and showing them how as the balloon expanded it touched more of the box and as air was let out and it contracted the balloon became smaller. The question is, do you want your soul to expand or contract?

I have found this teaching has totally changed the way I look at my actions. Offering someone a ride somewhere is no longer just an act of chessed, it allows my soul to grow. Making the choice to do something that I want to, at the expense of others in my family (like going to a museum that only I would enjoy) I now see as an action that would be considered a contraction of my soul. When I think about things in these terms, the choice is pretty obvious which way I want my soul to move.

This way of looking at things has also trickled down to my kids. At my minyan’s kiddush this past Shabbos, my 7 yr old daughter proudly told me that she was going to pour some 7-UP for herself, but thenMrs. Cohen asked for it, so she gave the bottle to Mrs. Cohen before she took for herself. My daughter then proudly told me that her neshama expanded.

The sefer Getting to Know Yourself is available for purchase online and at most Jewish bookstores. It is also available for reading online here.

Getting to Know Your Self – Soul Centered Self-Esteem

We’ve talked in the past about the amazing sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (In My Heart I Will Build a Sanctuary) and the need to focus our lives and our mitzvah performance on constant awareness and connection to Hashem. The author, Rav Itamar Shwarz explains that if we don’t consistently and consciously focus on the fact that there is a Creator, Who created us, and is constantly exercising His providence on all that happens, we might live a life full of Torah and Mitzvos, but we will, G-d forbid, find that we didn’t achieve their intended purpose of creating a close connection to G-d in this world and the next.

In his third sefer, Da Es Atzmecha (Getting to Know Your Self) Rav Shwarz shifts the focus from Hashem to understanding ourselves. His first major point is that a person must view himself primarily as a soul wearing the garment of the body. He proves that without conscious effort to adopt this view, we will live primarily as bodies that have a soul and identify more with the body than the soul. The result will be that we will not live the amazing Torah prescribed life that a soul-centered perspective brings.

One major application of the soul-centered perspective is self-esteem. Rav Shwarz points out that self-esteem in the world of psychology and in parts of the Torah world is focused on praising the person’s deeds, their character or pointing out that their low self-esteem is based on an illusion. This method is based on the fact that a person is a body with intelligence and emotions and the focus is on what the person does with their facilities.

If a person has the proper soul-centered perspective, they will see that in essence they are a Divine soul as we say each morning “My G-d, the soul You have placed in me is pure”. Our soul is holy, positive and perfectly good and when we identify with this perfection that is our essence, we will automatically attain a positive self-esteem.

Another ramification is that when a person does an aveirah they must still see and identify themselves with their perfect soul. More than getting us to sin, the Yetzer Hara wants lower ourselves and self-esteem after we sin. In addition, the more the person identifies with their essential perfection, the less likely the will come to sin.

Rav Shwarz does an amazing job of bringing very esoteric concepts to a level that we can all understand with very practical examples. As with Bilvavi, Mesillas Yesharim and any Mussar classic, the key is not just to read it, but to keep on reviewing it (with the author’s suggested exercises) so that we can begin to internalize it. It has recently been published in English and I highly recommend you purchase it, as there are significant sections added that are not available in the translation on the web site.

Rav Schwarz will be giving a one day intensive workshop in Woodmere on Labor Day in Hebrew. He still has some speaking slots available on his US visit – see here.

Giving and Unity

Every interaction with another person holds the potential for unity. How can that be? Let’s let the author of Bilvavi explain it:

The power of giving can unite a person with all of creation. We may not, G-d forbid, unite with the evil manifestation of anything, but we can unite with the hidden good in all of creation. There is no created being in the world without some spark of goodness. If it did not have a spark of goodness, it would not be able to exist.

Hence, when one gives properly and in the proper place, it engenders unity. The Talmud (Ketubot 105b) states that the word shochad (a type of giving) is a contraction of shehu chad (becoming one), because the giver and taker become one. Superficially, a person thinks, “I gave to that person. That was good, but now, it’s over. I had the thing and then gave it a way. The act took a minute or two, and then we went on our separate ways.” But in depth, as Chazal teach, they become one.

If I gave a carton of milk to a neighbor from downstairs who needed it, or I met someone in the bus station who needed money for bus fare, and I handed him nineteen shekalim, do I become one with him? How can such trivial acts unify people? If one wants to unite, as with a spouse, it is a process of years, as we all know. How can a minor act unify people?

Here is the answer: If you take a magnet and place it next to another one, they will become attached to each other. But if something else is placed between them, they will not be able to join. The moment the intervening item is removed, they will naturally join. This is the deep condition of all of creation. If we would try to create a new unity where one never existed, it would be difficult, and in fact, impossible. But the natural state of people is to be one. All of our souls were contained in Adam HaRishon. There, we were one person. Afterwards, we became more and more divided from each other, until coming to our current state. Unity is not a new state; it is a return to the primal state.

There is a divider that separates us, namely, the body, which has a desire to take, but once one removes that will to take, he will sense a natural unity with other people. If the natural state of people is to be absolutely separate, the avodah to unite them would be very difficult and actually impossible. But since they are essentially one, but each person later fashions his own will and his own concerns and an attitude of taking, there is a separation caused between people. After we have removed this desire to take, and have acted upon the loftier desire by really giving, there is no real need to “create” unity. You must understand this, because it is subtle and deep. Giving, in depth, does not unite; it removes the cause of separateness. After the cause of separateness has been removed, we naturally unite.

From the third volume of Bilvavi, Da Es Atzmecha – Know Yourself which can be read online here.

The Most Important Sefer to Learn

by Rabbi Boruch Leff (Reprinted from Yated Ne’eman 06.20.2008)

This column has always been devoted to how we can maintain growth in our avodas Hashem, even as adults. We mentioned in our very first column that the Ribbono Shel Olam wants us to be people who are constantly growing, always raising the bar of our spirituality. Most of us went to Jewish day schools, Bais Yaakovs or chadorim, and continued our Torah education by attending yeshivos or seminaries. We all grew tremendously with each passing year, with each passing shiur. We grew in learning, in davening, and we also refined many of our middos and derech eretz from hearing the tens and hundreds of shmuesen in yeshiva and internalizing them.

At a certain point though, tragically, most of us gave up on dramatic changes in our spiritual lives. But this is not how we are supposed to live. As long as we are still breathing, we have much to accomplish. Every day of our lives, nay, every moment, we are to be growing, developing, improving. Whether we are 8 years old or 88, we must always be growing up

Allow me to suggest an improvement of a vital area of transformational growth that we can start to implement today.

B’ezras Hashem, I am nearing the end of what is probably the most important sefer I have ever learned. Now, I don’t mean to say that this sefer is more important than the Chumash, or Shas. But I do say that if you are looking to truly and sincerely grow close to Hashem, if you are looking for real, practical guidance in how to live with Hashem on a constant basis, if you are looking to live with the Ribbono Shel Olam as your Friend, your Father , and your King, you must go to your neighborhood seforim store today and buy BILVAVI MISHKAN AVNEH-Volume 1.

Why do I feel so strongly? Never before has a sefer been written that is simple, clear, and practical in its instruction as to how we should live our daily lives-and it’s only 135 pages. I do not mean chas v’shalom to denigrate any of the classic seforim of mussar and chasidus. Of course, the sefer is built on all the wonderful and amazing seforim that our gedolim have given to Klal Yisrael throughout the ages. However, anyone who starts to learn Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh will see clearly what a transformational work it is. The sefer was printed maybe five years ago by a tremendous talmid chacham, tzadik, and true oved Hashem, Rav Itamar Schwartz, from Eretz Yisrael. It has been translated into an English sefer, as well. To order online »»

We have mentioned the sefer in this column many times before but I felt compelled to mention it again now in the strongest of terms since I have grown tremendously from learning it in recent months. Hence, I share this realization with you.

What makes Bilvavi so special? We would all like to have the Shechinah live with us. What does that mean? It’s not as lofty and beyond us as it seems. Rav Shimshon Pincus explains that whenever we think about Hashem we bring Hashem’s Presence, His Shechinah, to us. Yes, there are vast ways and holier levels of experiencing the Shechinah, but just thinking about Hashem does truly bring the Shechinah down to us.

We all want Hashem to be with us closely at all times. How can we accomplish this? Imagine a relatonship with one of your friends. Why are you friends? The answer is that you make him feel comfortable to be around you and he makes you feel welcomed to be with him. You share things in common with your friend-you enjoy his company. It works exactly the same way with Hashem. If we want His Presence, we have to live our lives in such a way that He will feel comfortable to be with us. We have share things that in common with Hashem. Like a friendship, when we do things that make Him feel uncomfortable, He leaves.

Bilvavi teaches us how to live with Hashem and how to make Him feel comfortable with us. The more we talk to Him and think about Him in all that we do, the more we relate to Him as if He is truly there with us, the more we treat Him as a friend, the more He feels comfortable spending time with us.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe (as recorded by his students) quoted a Zohar, “My children, [I swear] by your lives that there is nothing closer to Hashem than a person’s heart, and He is happier with it more than all sacrifices in the world.” One’s heart is the “holy of holies” of his spiritual makeup (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 65). If we would direct our desires and thoughts toward Hashem, He would be closer to us than anything else in the world. As the Zohar says, the heart is the location of His closeness, within the heart lies a natural attraction towards the Creator.

This is what is meant by the Targum on “And if you behave with me “keri” and you do not listen to me, I will continue to smite you seven ways like your sins” (Vayikra 26, 21). Onkelos says that keri means with hardness because “they harden their hearts to refrain from coming close to Hashem.” Rav Wolbe notes that it is within the very nature of the heart to strive for closeness to Hashem. Only if one deliberately chooses to harden his heart will he succeed in silencing this inherent drive!

Most people are of the opinion that longing for Hashem is solely the lot of spiritually lofty people. However, this is not the case. The basic nature of the heart is to crave Hashem’s closeness. The most fundamental sin is to suppress this innate yearning of the heart, and it is around this failing that the entire tochacha revolves.

When can we feel this closeness to Hashem that the heart desires? Rav Wolbe suggests that we can feel it during tefilla. Our tefillos are “dry” at times because we do not have a true desire to come close to Hashem. We have in effect hardened our hearts and refrained from coming closer to Hashem. Our first step is to truly want a relationship with our Creator, and then, through our tefillos we will strengthen our natural inclination for kirvah and bring ourselves closer to Hashem.

And how can we generate this type of kirva and relationship? By learning Bilvavi Miskan Evneh

If you want to grow. . . , go out and buy (and/or read) Bilvavi today!

May this article be a zechus for a refuah shlaimah b’karov to Yehudis Sarah bas Esther.
Comments or questions may be emailed to: sbleff@yahoo.com

Boruch Leff is a weekly columnist for Yated Ne’eman and the author of three books: Forever His Students (Targum/Feldheim 2004), Shabbos In My Soul (Targum/Feldheim 2007), and More Shabbos In My Soul (Feldheim 2008). For copies click here »»»

You can read Bilvavi online here.

Becoming Close and Attached to Hashem

From Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh I – Paragraphs 39-42

39
We will try to inspire the reader to want to become close and attached to Hashem.

Each of us knows that the day will come when he will take leave of this world, as it says, “Every man dies eventually.” (Berachos 17a). Everyone wants to be spared from Gehinnom and to merit Gan Eden. What does one do in Gan Eden? The Ramchal writes in the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim, “Man is created solely to find delight in Hashem and enjoy the radiance of His Shechinah.” This is the primary enjoyment in Gan Eden. Consequently, if one does not become truly attached to Hashem, there will not be much for him to do in Gan Eden. “Gan Eden” in reality is a state of deveikus to Hashem. If a person, chas veshalom, does not want to cleave to Hashem, what will he do in Gan Eden? If a person claims that in this world, he wants to benefit from this world, but when he leaves this world, he will want to cleave to Hashem, one must realize that this is a ridiculous idea. The sefarim hakedoshim have written that the way a person thinks and feels in this world is the way he will be in the next world. Therefore, if in this world, a person’s mind and heart are not attached to Hashem, but to other matters, so too will they be in the World to Come. Even if in his mind he will want to cleave to the Creator there, he won’t be able to. Against his will he will continue to desire whatever he was attracted to in this world.

In other words, a person cannot create a dichotomy, to be unattached to Hashem in this world, but cleave to Him in the next. Either he will cleave to Hashem both in this world and the next, or not in either one, chas veshalom. (Of course a person who has not used his life properly can be rectified eventually, but here is not the place for that discussion.) Hence, one must understand that if he is not attached to the Creator in this world, he will not be so in Gan Eden and the World to Come, and he will not have what to do there. One must consider deeply the fact that he is losing eternity by not achieving deveikus to Hashem in this world. The World to Come is called “the world which is completely good.” What is the goodness there? The Ramchal has written, “‘As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.’ Anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” You see that there is no goodness other than closeness to Hashem. So if a person is not close and attached to Hashem, he has no connection to the world that is completely good. Of necessity, to merit this good in Gan Eden and in Olam Haba one must live with deveikus to Hashem, an appreciation that “closeness to Hashem is my good” even in this world.

40
In this world, a person running a business takes an inventory once a year. He closes the store for a day to take stock of what was sold and what wasn’t and assess his progress. A person must do the same with his life. This is not merely a short self-accounting for fifteen minutes, a half hour, or even an hour. He must halt the whole course of his life and ask himself: Do I want to be close and attached to the Creator, or not? If I do, am I treading on the path that brings me closer to feeling this palpable closeness I seek? Or perhaps my path of learning Torah with the mind only and performing the mitzvos with minimal inspiration, will not bring me to true closeness to Hashem. One should take as much time as he needs to reach this recognition, but he must emerge with an awareness and a clear will to live his life solely for the sake of closeness and deveikus to Hashem. Then, his task will be to identify a definite path that will bring him there. But again, first of all, it must be clear that this is the entire true purpose of life – closeness and deveikus to Hashem.

41
Once it has become absolutely clear that the sole purpose of life is true closeness to Hashem, and a person feels a real will to live that kind of life, the time is appropriate to try to understand and reflect upon the path that brings him to this kind of life. He might think that since he is immersed in Torah and mitzvos, the day will certainly come when he will suddenly feel closeness to Hashem in his heart. This, however, is an error that many have fallen into. They think that closeness to Hashem just comes automatically to anyone who learns Torah and keeps the mitzvos, but this is not at all the case.

42
Chazal have said, “Even the emptiest of them [the Jewish people] are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate” (Berachos 57a). The obvious question is: why, then, are they called “empty” if their mitzvos are as numerous as the seeds of a pomegranate? The Gaon HaRav Dovid Povarsky, zt”l, gave a wonderful answer. He said that one might have many mitzvos to his credit: Torah, chessed, and many more. However, he will still be defined as empty. Why? Because a pomegranate has many seeds, but each one is distinct from the others. It is not like an apple or pear that is one unit. Rather, each seed stands alone. Similarly, a person can learn Torah and perform many mitzvos, but he will still be considered empty, because his deeds are separate from each other, with nothing unifying them.

Torah and mitzvos must be performed as parts of one unit, not as disconnected acts, chas veshalom. They must all participate in the building of one’s inner spiritual edifice. If he has not achieved that inner element that unites all his Torah and mitzvos, a person might learn Torah his entire life and fulfill many mitzvos, but still be among “the empty ones among them”.

What is that inner element? Deveikus to Hashem! The Torah must be studied in harmony, bearing in mind the principle that “Hashem, the Torah, and Yisrael are one” (Zohar 3:73). Through the Torah, one must cleave to his Creator. The term mitzvos is based on the word tzavta, referring to a bond with Hashem, as mentioned above. Consequently, both Torah and the mitzvos have one inner goal, which is closeness and deveikus to Hashem. If one is working to reach this goal, all the Torah he studies and all the mitzvos he performs will be interconnected, for they all will bring him to a common goal. But if Torah and mitzvos are not performed in a way that brings a person to this closeness, and there is nothing to unite them, they will remain disconnected from each other. When one’s heart is empty of the Creator, and there is no realization of “I will dwell in their midst” in his heart, this unifying element is lacking. There may be Torah and mitzvos, but there is no unified heart devoted to our Father in Heaven. There is no inner element attaching him to Hashem.

Every person must take stock of his spiritual situation and ask himself: “Do my way of life, my Torah, prayer and mitzvos, bring me to palpable, true deveikus to Hashem, or perhaps, chas veshalom, my deeds are like those of “the emptiest of them,” lacking an inner element that unifies all the Torah and mitzvos I perform?

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.

A Sanctuary in my Heart (Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh)

The Sefer “Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (In My Heart I Build A Sanctuary)” is a highly acclaimed manual for the development of a personal and intimate relationship with Hashem. It was authored by Rav Itamar Shwartz, who recently toured the United States.

Dixie Yid has posted all the recorded shiurim of the tour. The shiurim are in easy to understand Hebrew.

If you prefer text to audio, an english translation of the text is published here.

Here is an excerpt:

What in truth is the purpose of man in his world? The words of the Mesillas Yesharim (Ch. 1) are known. He wrote, “In truth, the only true completeness is deveikus (attachment) to Hashem. That is what David HaMelech said (Tehillim 73:28): “And for me, closeness to Hashem is good….” In other words, if one wishes to know what makes a man complete, he should consider what David HaMelech understood to be good for himself. If it was good for him, it is good for every single one of us. He said, “And for me, closeness to Hashem is good.”

No one is interested in a broken table or a broken chair. No one wants to sleep on a broken bed. All the more so, no one deep down wants to be a broken person, but a complete person. (There is a concept of a broken heart, but that is not relevant here.) What is a complete Jew? One who doesn’t lack hands? Who doesn’t lack legs? No, that is only superficial perfection, bodily perfection. True completeness, which is in the soul and is inward, is the completeness derived from closeness to Hashem. As the Ramchal wrote (Ch. 1), “In truth, all true completeness (the completeness of every single person without exception) is deveikus to Hashem.” As he says there, “Anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” This is all a Jew really has in life — closeness to Hashem and deveikus to Hashem. The whole essence of a Jew is to be close to Hashem and to cleave to Him. Not only in the World to Come is a man’s purpose to cleave to the Creator, but even in this world, man’s job and purpose is to cleave to the Creator. If there is a moment in which one does not cleave to the Creator, for that moment, he is an incomplete human. He lacks true completeness, which is deveikus to Hashem.

A sincere person, who hears these words and truly accepts them in his soul, must take these words of the Ramchal and write them on a sheet of paper and place it in his pocket. About every fifteen minutes (so the words will be before his eyes at all times), he should remove the paper from his pocket, and contemplate it well, and remind himself again and again: Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? The answer is deveikus to Hashem. He will read the words again and again until they are alive before his eyes and he no longer needs to look at the paper. Rather, his soul will clearly recognize the purpose of life and he will constantly seek to apply the message.