The Dimension Beyond
A New Perspective on Reality
By Rabbi Yisrael Lorberbaum
Feldheim, 2011, 363 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 14, 2011
Mysticism is in the air, in the sense of being pervasive, accepted by many people even though they haven't studied or understood it, but also in the Aristophanes sense of floating somewhere in the clouds, beyond reality. It started to be accepted by many Jews in the late 1200s when the mystical book Zohar was published and was said to be holy. It became a solace for many Jews after they were expelled from Spain in 1492. It gained more respectability when the rabbi known as Ari, who was very pious, and his colleagues instituted many mystical practices in the Israeli city Safed around 1550.
The words "dimension beyond" in Rabbi Lorberbaum's new book is mysticism, which the author states elevates those who practice it to a higher spiritual realm, the realm that God wants people to enter. People who like mysticism will probably enjoy this book and be inspired by it. Rabbi Lorberbaum offers his opinion on subjects such as why God created the world, the meaning of time, why time was created, what is light, do individuals have free choice when God knows what they will do, how does God watch over humanity, what is the world-to-come, the benefits of the Sabbath, the value of suffering, and many other subjects. He quotes other mystically-minded rabbis frequently and at length. He mentions sages who are not mystics infrequently using just quotes that do not negate his views, such as a statement from Maimonides that outlines the problem of free will.
Some readers will be inspired but others may be troubled by many of his ideas. He believes that God functions in this world through a "pipeline" series of ten emanations, called s'fifos or s'firot. People living today lived before because souls transmigrate into new bodies after death. People are comprised of a body and a soul and must train their souls to overcome all body urges. The world will exist for six thousand years, of which 5,771 have passed since creation. The world-to-come "is not a different location, but rather a different perspective."
More specifically, time, he writes, "is the consequence of a changing reality, and when there is no (physical) changes in our environment, time ceases to exist and loses its meaning." Since time is associated with "things physical," and since people should train themselves to avoid the physical, they should avoid time. Righteous individuals can achieve a closeness to God and "the natural limitations of time and space disappear when spirituality so requires," when they divest themselves from all matters physical. "The spiritual domain is not subordinate to time and all spiritual things develop more quickly. Consequently, the sanctity of the Land of Israel causes its fruit to ripen more quickly" than they ripen in other lands. Similarly, since the Sabbath is spiritual, time ceases to exist during the Sabbath.
Light, he writes, is "subordinate to the laws of nature and physics, nevertheless, it has many characteristics and functions transcending our environment and relating to the spiritual sphere and to eternity." One of the functions of light is to conceal God who "enveloped Himself within the spiritual light as within a garment … for concealing His presence and hiding the Divine flow (the ten emanations) that the created world is so dependent upon." The "spiritual light was hidden (from people) for fear that it would be misused. And in (mystical sources) it mentions that the light was concealed in the Torah."
These are some of the many mystical views that Rabbi Lorberbaum presents in this book.