[1]

                    “And He walks in His Garden in the cool of the day.” [2]

      Rebbe Nachman of Breslav teaches: accepting all that happens as G-d’s Will for the good is like seeing the “World-to-Come.” [3]

      The “World-to-Come” — the “Olam Ha-Ba” — is a Talmudic phrase that’s used in 2 ways:
1 — the future Messianic age or the time after it:
     “In the world-to-come all sacrifices will cease except the Todah” [4]:
      There won’t be a need for many different sacrifices (or prayers) to reunite ourselves with G-d because our harmonious relationship will be perpetual. [5] However, there’ll forever be reasons for expressing gratitude.
2 — the afterlife:
     “Rav said: In the world to come…the righteous will sit with their halos [עטרה] on their heads, feasting on the glorious brightness [זיו] of the Shechinah (Divine Presence)….” [6]
     “Feasting” because the Divine Light “will be like food and drink for them.” [7                           
     It’s intended meaning in each use is derived from the context, when possible.

     At times, the Talmud uses the phrase “Gan Eden” — the Garden of Eden — along with “Olam Ha-Ba” — the World to Come — as a synonym for the afterlife. But it’s also used as a metaphor for a meditative or contemplative experience; walking with G-d’s Presence, as Adam and Eve did in Gan Eden:

     “Four entered the Garden: ben Azzai, ben Zoma, Aher, and Rabbi Akiva.” [8]

    “[They] did not go up literally, but it appeared to them as if they went up…” [9]

     “Rashi (the most important Jewish commentator; universally accepted) explains that ‘they ascended to heaven by utilizing the [Divine] Name,’ i.e., they achieved a spiritual elevation (Tosafot, ad loc) through intense meditation on G-d’s Name.” [10]

      All these uses refer to a future time or state when the “knowledge” — the “awareness” — of G-d permeates our experience at every moment.

     Rebbe Nachman has the 2nd meaning of “World to Come” in mind: When we truly accept all that happens to us as G-d’s Will for the good, we experience the peace and bliss of G-d’s presence just as if we’re “in Heaven” or “entering the Garden.”

      Why? Because when we accept a circumstance or event as a product of, and permeated by, G-d’s Will and Goodness, we’re accepting it within our own mind and heart, thereby nullifying a mistaken sense of separateness from G-d.

     This is far more than a “good mood.” It’s a true cognitive/emotional change, based on a change in consciousness.

     People often say “accept G-d’s Will” but mean “resignation”: “I can’t do anything about it, so why complain?” — while continuing to be sad, anxious, or angry about an event. They’re really saying, “I don’t accept this, but I won’t say that I don’t” or even: “I accept it as G-d’s Will, but I don’t believe that it’s Good.” There’s no real emotional or cognitive change, let alone a change in consciousness. This outer expression of “acceptance,” while maintaining inner resistance and separation, isn’t what Rebbe Nachman or other great teachers mean, at all.

     When we really “accept,” we go beyond our own sense of “good and bad” (left over in us from Adam & Eve); G-d’s view becomes our own. At that moment, we go beyond our finite thinking and join with our higher “Self” – the Divine Presence that’s perpetually in us.

     Rebbe Nachman prescribed private, personal prayer — “Hitbodedut” — to facilitate this. I could try to describe the steps in the process this way: 

     Event –> consider our reaction to the event –> G-d producing the event –> G-d’s goodness in the event –> G-d in me –> G-d (we’re not even thinking about the event anymore; simply experiencing G-d’s Presence in ourselves) –> Acceptance.

    This is “descriptive” of what might happen in Hitbodedut. It’s not necessarily a series of steps that can or should be followed rigidly.

    At first, it seems “laborious.” Most learning is. Even learning to do art. “Acceptance” is part of the “art of living.”

     As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi often said, “Take it as it comes.”

     Examining our own reactions takes time; considering G-d as the Source of an event takes time; considering G-d as actually in the event takes time; etc. But this “detailed” work is only the initial stage. Like learning to type or play a musical instrument, with enough repetition, it blossoms into something effortless. A yogic analogy compares this to a smooth flow of oil from one pot into another. As the physiology of learning is understood today, we build more neural connections with each repetition. Eventually, the flow of “information” is effortless and unbroken.

     But the step from thinking about “G-d in the event” to “G-d” is ultimately spontaneous; it happens on its own, if we “let” it. It’s “letting go.”  It’s “transcending” finite thought altogether.

     Meditation, or meditative prayer, is the fundamental tool that allows us to re-experience our own Divine source.

     “…G-d cannot be perceived through the mind [intellect] alone. If you would know G-d, do not seek merely to prove His existence, but turn to Him with your heart; affirm your union with Him, affirm His responsiveness to prayer, pray to Him; if you actually turn to G-d … speak to Him in your heart, you will be astonished to find how close He is to you, you will feel His nearness, you will have found G-d.” [11]

     When we do, we “enter the Garden” and taste the World-to-Come.


 [1] design c. 2011 by Rabbi Eli Mallon
 [2] Ritchie, Jean; Cool of the Day; lyric and design based on B’reishith/Gen. 3:8
 [3]  Likutei Moharan; beginning of ch. 4
 [4]  Vayikra Rabbah 9:7; the “Todah” is the “thank” or “gratitude” offering
 [5] Isa. 11:9 — …for the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d [דעה את היי]
 [6]  Berachot 17a
 [7]  footnote; Soncino edition, based on a proof-text from Ezekiel
 [8] Chagigah 14b
 [9] Tosafot (Medieval commentators on the Talmud); i.e. it was a meditative or cognitive, rather than a sensory, experience.
[10] from a translation of Rabbi Mosheh Cordevero’s 16th century Pardes Rimonim by Rabbi Mosheh Miller.
[11]  Lichtenstein, Tehillah; Applied Judaism; “Can We Prove That G-d Exists?”; p. 96
(originally part of “How Shall We Find G-d?;” JS Interpreter, June, 1940; p. 4)