Diminishing the Mind

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Diminishing the Mind

Michael Berg
May 26, 2024
Like 22 Comments 8 Share

This article was previously published in 2018.

The portion Bechukotai starts, Im bechukotai telechu, “If you walk in My path,” ve’natati gishmeikhem beitam, “then you will merit all the blessings that the Light of the Creator can give us.” And the Midrash, on this portion, discusses the secret of what walking means here. It tells us King David said, “Every morning, I would wake up and I had my plan for the day, and then something would happen, and my feet would drag me to a place of study or prayer.”

"The mind can be a very powerful thing."

So, what does that mean? It is a very important teaching: No one’s mind, on its own, has the ability to find the right path. Sometimes we think that if we only had enough brainpower or time, we could figure things out. But we have to come to understand that our mind - and even the greatest mind - on its own cannot find the right path all the time. This doesn’t mean we don’t use our mind, but it does mean we begin with a predicate that says, “I know no matter how smart I’m going to be or how much I understand, the ultimate truth, direction, and answer is something beyond the capacity of my mind, and the human mind in general. Therefore, as I live my life and go through my day, yes, I’m always using my mind, but I’m also diminishing my mind.”

The ultimate truth and answer for any question we have or any direction we need is not something that will be achieved simply by our mind’s understanding. Again, this does not negate the necessity to use the mind, but it does mean we need to have the humility and clarity that our mind will not take us to the end… it can’t; it doesn’t have the capacity. However, by both simultaneously using and diminishing the mind, and constantly reminding ourselves that the end of the path can’t be where our mind wants to take us because our mind is limited, we get the messages and directions from a higher place, from the Light of the Creator. It is through that work of consciousness, of diminishing how dependent we are on the way our mind sees things and knowing that our mind on its own will not take us where we need to go, that our mind is elevated to a higher place.

"The mind has to go through the struggle to receive the truth."

The mind can be a very powerful thing, but it can also be a barrier between our life and the Light of the Creator. So, while we have to use the mind all the time, we also have to be aware of the fact that we don’t want to be solely dependent on it. We have to consistently diminish our minds in a way that allows our thoughts to be elevated and received from a higher plane. This was what King David was saying. He knew his mind was limited, and because he constantly reminded himself of that, he always ended up getting the right thought and being in the exact place he needed to be in order to learn or connect. And it is this very difficult balance between mind and diminishment of the mind that can bring every single one of us, like King David, to the right direction and the right thought.

We have spoken before about how doubts and fears damage the channels of assistance the Creator had prepared for us when we were born, and we have asked why those doubts and fears have to be constant. Why can’t we go a week without anything external or internal causing us worry? The answer, which relates to this teaching, is that the mind has to be fought. The mind has to go through the struggle to receive the truth. The mind has to be bombarded daily so that when we fight, we elevate it to find truth and bring us to the right place.

Therefore, while we want to awaken the strength and desire not to fall to doubt and fear, because we understand doing so damages the channels of assistance the Creator has prepared for us, we also want to accept the battle of certainty. Because that battle allows the mind to be diminished in such a way that we can then find the truth and come to a place where we are open to seeing the right path. As such, the battle must be constant. And the more Light we receive on Shabbat Bechukotai, the more we can win that battle, and the more the mind starts directing our life where it needs to go. It is a great gift of elevation and consciousness we can receive on this Shabbat; one where we can actually, on a regular basis, find both where we need to be and the truth of every single day.

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