B'nai Machshavah Tovah--Experiencing the Divine (translator) (excerpt)
Experiencing the Divine: A Practical Jewish Guide
by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Piaseszner Rebbe)
A number of young men of my acquaintance wish to form a society dedicated to the spiritual goal of uniting God and the Community of Israel. With God’s help, I am writing the following text for them. And it is appropriate that it be called B'nai Machshavah Tovah--literally, "Those Who Possess Good Thought."
“One thing have I asked of Hashem, I will request it . . . to view the pleasantness of Hashem and to contemplate within His palace” (Psalms 27:4).
The Goal of This Group
Our goal is not new. It is no different from the goal and hope of every Jew. Our desire and goal is to serve Hashem our God: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. We seek a wholehearted service, a complete service that utilizes all the limbs of our body and spirit, so that neither one sinew of our body nor one spark of our spirit will extend beyond the holiness of Hashem that hovers upon us and encompasses us.
And therefore, we pray: “Our Father, Compassionate Father, have mercy on us. Awaken within our heart a spark of desire and awareness, so that we will know that it is not enough to be like a mere slave, the son of a maidservant. It is true that he too serves the King, but he works behind the millstones, far from the King. He does not hear the King’s words, nor does he ever experience any satisfaction or pleasure from the King’s radiance. Instead, he serves the King with a closed mind and a dulled heart.”
But our desire and longing is to be among those who are called “the children of Hashem your God,” so that in our service of God, whether in learning Torah, prayer or other commandments, we feel our closeness to God. We wish to be like the son rejoicing to greet his father after an absence of years and after having suffered in his great yearnings for his father. When we serve God, we should also feel our soul racing to greet its father, our soul that has yearned for Him all day and all night. Now it races and dissolves as it is poured onto the bosom of its Father in heaven.
And not only at times of prayer and other service should we feel close to God and take pleasure from the radiance of His glory, may He be blessed. Rather, our thought should always be so clear, strong and connected to His holiness that it can overwhelm our senses. Then our senses will be unable to confuse our thoughts and turn them astray and tell us that “this world you see is everything, and this physicality that you sense is everything.” And even more, our senses will be subjugated to the thought of our heart, so that they themselves will perceive God’s holiness permeating all being.
Then, with our own eyes, we will see that we are in God’s garden, Eden, standing before God’s Throne of glory (may He be blessed).
It is precisely this that is the goal of our society.
The Composition of the Group
One: Beyond The Honors of This World
The purpose of our society is not to attain power and involve ourselves in political and communal matters, whether directly and with a particular agenda, or indirectly. Our goal is to ascend: to take a step that rises beyond the entire world, its commotion and its turmoil. Therefore, our group will not apportion honors to a president, vice president, and so forth, because the foundation of our group is humility and exaltation: the humility of the essence of body and lower spirit, and the exaltation of their holiness.
And in a place where holiness is revealed, there is no place for honors and titles....