“’Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto Le’Olam Va’Ed’ is the lower unity [Yichudah dil’tata];
the Upper [or Higher] Unity [Yichudah ela’ah] is ‘Shema Yisrael…’.”

There is an upper unification and a lower unification. This is ‘Shema Yisrael’ and ‘Barukh shem kavod malchuto le’olam va’ed’.” [2]

“Let us understand…the statement in the Zohar that ‘Sh’ma Yisrael’ is… Yichudah Ela’ah [Higher level Unity] and ‘Baruch Shem Kavod…’ is Yichudah Tata’ah [Lower level Unity]. [3]…For the attributes of HKBH unite with Him in a complete unity…Since this is so, you will consequently know that ‘in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else [*ein od — i.e. besides G-d]. This means that even the material earth [i.e. universe or even universes], which appears…to be actually existing is naught and complete nothingness in relation to HKBH…” [4]

To Steve S. on 7/31/12:

Attached are some quotes [above] for an article I’m preparing.
In Judaism, “Unity” usually refers to G-d’s “Unity” rather than our experience of “Union” with what G-d is.
The Zohar — a Kabbalistic text in the form of a commentary on Torah — discusses it early on in it’s section on B’reishith/Genesis.
It also gives the deeper meaning of the opening 2 sentences of the “Sh’ma.”
I’d known of the quote from Sha’ar ha-Yichud (2nd section of Tanya, the fundamental text of Habad Hasidim) for some years, but only recently came across a similar quote from Likutei Moharan (the fundamental text of Breslav Hasidim).
The “Tanya” quote creatively reinterprets the verse “…there is no other…,” which is Biblical, but appears in the standard prayers, to “…there is nothing other [than G-d]…”
But we know that the meaning of the “Sh’ma” as explained in the Zohar cannot be fully understood by the intellect alone. It must be a direct, personal experience. For the Habad Hasidim, that was done by “hitbonenut.” For the Breslavers, it’s done by “hitbodedut.”
But the fact that the same teaching (based on the Zohar) appears in two different Hasidic teachers, who were unconnected with each other personally, suggests that this was an essential teaching of the Besht himself — the founder of the Hasidic movement. It almost certainly appears in other Hasidic writings as well.

from Steve S. on 8/1/12:

The Tanya’s interpretation is certainly true Any other way of looking at the Sh’ma leaves a lot out. Have you seen evidence for interpreting “Sh’ma” not as “hear” or “listen” but as “transcend?” Would be interesting to know what the Besht taught as the means for direct experience: if, for example, there are any accounts of how he became such a high being — whether he was born that way or whether he was taught, figured it out, whatever. If I get a chance, I’ll look at the rest of the quotes on Friday but meanwhile, a focus on the Sh’ma seems to be a really good focus. And I think you will be serving the world best if, in your article, you — as you often do — indicate the success of Maharishi Vedic Science, including TM and the TM-Sidhi Program, in developing the qualities and experiences that as Jews we traditionally hold precious, especially teshuvah, return to Oneness.

to Steve S. on 8/1

(“The Tanya’s Interpretation”:) Strictly speaking, it’s the Zohar’s, which is quoted by the Hasidic authors.
As for how the Besht became what he was — the tradition is that he was taught by a Biblical prophet named Achiyah (sometimes spelled Achijah). This is as if to say taught by a “spiritual being.” It’s notable that the Besht never quotes anyone as his “teacher” — otherwise done so typically.

from Steve S. on 8/2:

Nice. And Sh’ma as “transcend”?

to Steve S. on 8/2:

I’ve never heard that interpretation — but in the world of Torah, there’s always room for “chidushim” — “new” interpretations and comments — as long as they don’t conflict with traditional principles: e.g. interpreting “Elokim” in B’reishith 1:1 as “gods” because it’s plural in Hebrew, although the related verb, “created,” is singular.
Strictly speaking, though, as Maharishi says that we can also transcend through “love” (Bhagavad Gita; p. 293 last time I looked), we might say that we can transcend through loving G-d, because G-d is the one and only power in all creation (lower level unity) and even moreso, because there actually is no “creation” — there’s only G-d (higher level unity), even after the appearance of a creation that seems to be existing separately from G-d.
That’s also the Kabbalistic understanding of the Sh’ma in the Zohar, and the Hasidic understanding based on it. The Zohar, the core of which is a commentary on Torah, relates Kabbalah to daily Jewish practice — e.g. saying the Sh’ma — in the process of which it gives it wider, deeper meaning than that there’s only one “god” rather than many “gods.”
Also — what are called “gods” in other traditions are called “angels” in Jewish tradition, even pre-dating the language of Kabbalah (which doesn’t emerge until after the 10th century). The Talmud mentions numerous angels, each of which has a unique name and a specific job or role. There are also extra-canonical books, like “Enoch,” which mention angels as guides on a spiritual journey. Their names could easily be understood as “mantras,” which guide one through various levels of creation. Interestingly, though, while Maharishi speaks of going to “deeper” or more fundamental levels (i.e. going “down”), Jewish tradition uses the idiom of ascending, or going “up.” But, of course, they both describe the same process.

from Steve S. on 8/3:

I think the idea of “transcend” is contained in the admonition to hear that God is One. The direct experience of Oneness is obtained through the process of transcending, whether this comes from the power of the Sh’ma — God’s Grace — or through some technique. In other words, I don’t think God wanted or wants us simply to have an intellectual understanding that God is One: He wants us to directly experience this. Isn’t this what the Besht was so concerned with and what Kabbalah has been concerned with, going back to Oral Torah, Sefer Yetzirah….?

to Steve S. on 8/3:

(“He wants us to directly experience this”:) I thoroughly agree (of course). The study of Kabbalah was (meant to be) a path to this experience through using the intellect.
I believe that this was also Maimonides’ (not a Kabbalist) intention in “The Guide to the Perplexed” — that a proper intellectual understanding should lead to experience. He says of himself that he reached “the lower levels of prophecy” this way. This strongly suggests that he meant he was having some kind of experience as a result of his own learning.
Rav Kook’s writings are the best — but not the only — example of the results of this process. For example, he wrote:
“The primary role of teshuvah…is for the person to return to himself, to the root of his own soul. Then he will return at once to G-d, the Soul of all souls.” His writing is filled with references to experience, although he was also a halachic authority.
Maharishi doesn’t deny that there’s an “intellectual path to G-d-realization,” but says that it’s impractical for the householder, because there are too many distractions, interruptions, etc. in daily life for ideas to effect us deeply and consistently enough to lead to direct experience (as it does for Vedantins). Rabbis like Rav Kook were more like renunciates than like householders, in that their lives included contemplation — which they called Torah-study, including Kabbalah, especially during their early years.
The Gaon of Vilna (18th c.) was the main rabbinic authority for Ashkenazic Judaism — to the point where Vilna, where he lived, was nicknamed “The Jerusalem of the East.” He was the central opponent of Hasidut — yet, he was a Kabbalist, too. He once wrote that study of halachah was “food for the body,” while study of Kabbalah was “food for the soul.”
Hasidic teaching, at its best, likewise has (or had) “techniques” or practices for the purpose of experience that are/were supported by a more “intellectual” understanding of what’s happening (in books like “Tanya” and “Likutei Moharan,” for example).
I think that Breslav Hasidut still does — or comes closest to it. This is especially reflected in the writings of Rabbi Shalom Arush, a contemporary Breslav teacher in Israel, whose books are translated (e.g. “The Garden of Faith”).
In the “Jewish Science” group that I used to attend, there was a period of silent prayer during which the room felt like a room does when there’s a group meditation or a puja, etc. — i.e. something was really happening. “Jewish Science” began in 1920; it was an outgrowth of the same movement that produced Christian Science, Divine Science, Unity, etc. But it parallels Hasidic teaching perfectly (I recently gave a copy of the Jewish Science textbook to a young woman who had grown up Hasidic. She concurred — it’s very “Hasidic”). Jewish Science had two main teachers: Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein, founder, and his wife, Tehillah Lichtenstein. She wrote:
“…G-d cannot be perceived through the mind 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.”
Mrs. Lichtenstein passed on in 1972 — about 7 years before I first attended. The small group that still met when I came to it had all been students — almost disciples — of hers; some had even been students of the Rabbi, who passed on in 1939.
So, yes, the “Sh’ma” could be an “experience.” But so can simply putting on a talit or tefilin, or lighting candles — if by doing so, the physical objects are understood to represent the Divine/Absolute.
“Hear, O Israel” — Stop doing whatever you’re doing. Stop thinking about the stock market or your business or your problems. Stop thinking about tomorrow or yesterday. Stop planning and scheming. Stop. Listen, with your mind quieted, relaxed:
“Ha-Shem, our G-d, Ha-Shem is One.” — Only G-d exists. Nothing else.
“Baruch shem kavod malchuto l’olam va’ed” — There is only One Power over everything that seems to be, over everything that seems to happen.
Hear. Listen. See.

from Steve on 8/4:

Hear. Listen. See. Be.
Be One with the One.

[1] Zohar 1:18b;  Zohar.com: http://zohar.com/zohar.php?vol=2&sec=28

[2] Likutei Moharan; lesson 11 (paraphrasing Zohar I:18b)

[3] Sha’ar Ha-Yichud; introduction

[*] usually translated ‘no other [god]’

[4] Sha’ar Ha-Yichud; ch. 6 (further explained in ch. 7)