One of the most basic and foundational of all Jewish meditations that is appropriate for any time is taught by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh in his book, Living in Divine Space. Yet there is a special relevance to this meditation during the month of Elul, as we will now discuss. Maimonides in the beginning of his classic work Mishneh Torah explains that there are six constant mitzvot incumbent on all Jews, at all times, and in all places: Belief in existence of God, not believing in other gods, belief in the oneness and unity of God, love of God, fear/awe of God and not straying after negative thoughts.
These six mitzvot can be envisioned as forming a cube surrounding the meditator who is the middle space thus the title of the book: Living in Divine Space. The six mitzvot create the “space” or constant state of consciousness within a Jew should orient his or her self. Elul is the sixth month of the year and due to the emphasis placed on the special need of this month to be involved in introspection this meditation is especially appropriate.
In the introduction to the Sefer Hachinuch, a commentary based on the enumeration of the 613 mitzvot according to Maimonides hints to a further connection between these six mitzvot and the six cities of refuge in ancient Israel, where those who killed inadvertently were given the opportunity to find haven in six cities of refuge, protecting them from “avengers of blood,” relatives who may want to avenge the deaths of their loved ones.
Rabbi Ginsburgh teaches that a city of refuge in a spiritual and psychological sense still exists today in the form of Jewish meditation and specifically on meditating on these six constant mitzvot. Through contemplating the deeper meanings of the mitzvot and their manifold associations with the directions, the sefirot and various archetypal souls who represent these mitzvot and sefirot, one orients him or herself in the middle of the cube, creating a spiritual force field and a true center focus, with which one can then go out into the world.
This is especially true in the month of Elul when we contemplate missed opportunities, half-hearted actions and attitudes, in addition to all we have done wrong or missed the mark. These feelings can easily turn into “avengers of blood” who seek to “kill” us with guilt, low esteem and depression. Thus everyone needs a “city of refuge” a safe haven where the essential soul work of Elul (and any other time as well) can be accomplished is peace and tranquility.
Along with the six continual mitzvot, the one meditating represents the middle, seventh point, which has its associations, as well as a mitzvah which “aspires” to be constant, as taught in the Talmud: “Would that a person pray all the day continually” (Pesachim 44b). King David alluded to this when exclaiming: “And I am prayer” (Psalms 109:4).
The six/seven mitzvot and their related associations are:
The above chart is the skeleton of the meditation, which is at once mystically potent, yet very practical in its application to daily life. Once the associations are learned there is no limit of depths that can be reached through this and other forms of Jewish meditation.
This meditation, based on the six directions of space, is one of the secrets of shaking the four species on the holiday of Succot to the six directions. When contemplated during the shaking of the lulav it enrichens the experience immeasurably. Thus we see how this meditation forms a context and surrounding energy for the entire cycle of Elul and the holidays of Tishrei.