The nature of the cosmos is rhythmic, characterized by the concept of rotzu vashuv (ebb and flow). It evolves from a state of nothingness into "somethingness" and reverts back into nothingness. The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, noted that G‑d took the spiritual and formed the physical, and our task is to take the physical and elevate it back into the spiritual.

Consider a seed. It is planted in the ground. The seed has limited taste and no scent. It is of simple rounded shape, possesses no visual interest, and is quite plain in all respects. Yet this seed evolves into a beautiful palm tree or majestic cedar. Or it spawns fruit trees with fruit of exquisite taste and color, sometimes of exotic appearance.

Where was that explosion of beauty, color and taste before the seed became the fruit? Obviously within the seed's seemingly simple and plain exterior lays enormous potential — far beyond the molecular explanation. The seed houses the spiritual shape of things to come.

Yet the seed cannot yield its treasure trove of potential until it is planted in the ground. The earth possesses the power to catalyze the seed into feverish activity, forcing it to shed its outer husk, seemingly self-destruct, and then metamorphose into the emerging plant and tree.

Kabbalah describes the seed as "masculine," and the ground as "feminine." The metaphor is drawn from human "seed" and "earth"-- itself a metaphor. The masculine seed possesses the potential of the ultimate human form. But without the feminine nurture of the womb, the power of the seed lies dormant — in potential state. It is the female womb that has the power to elicit the immense complexity of the human being, out of the seeming simplicity of a microscopic drop.

In more profound Kabbalistic terms, and drawing from the ultimate template of creation, the six hundred and twenty Mitzvot (613 mitzvot from the "written" Torah and the other seven from the rabbinical prophetic enactments) are the masculine "pillars of light" — emanations — from the level of Keter (Crown). These emanations are grounded in the lowest "pillar" of Malchut (Royalty), which acts as the "earth" to the flow of 620 "seeds." Through our physical enactment of the mitzvot we provide the power to the earth to elicit the growth spurt from this seed.

This is described in Chassidism as the "truth within Jacob." Jacob is the seed as it is planted in the living earth, and Israel is the flower that blossoms.

MEDITATION: Look at the nature around you. Begin to strip it of its dimension of time and space. Do this first by taking the object of your observation back in time, to its youth, to its childhood, to its birth, to its conception. In the case of a plant take it back to its seed state. In the case of a building, take it back to the drawing boards. Then take it back even further. Allow the plant to be reduced to its potential state within its parent tree, and the architectural drawing back into concept state. Realize that this process is true for everything. Through this focus you will come to live every day in wonderment and profound appreciation for your conscious state of awareness and respect for the nature of creation.

MASTERY: Elevate a simple act into a plane of spiritual value. For example — the act of giving charity. Why do we share with each other? What is the intrinsic consciousness in the act of sharing? For many it is dutiful. For others there is a sense of satisfaction. Yet for others it is a release of inner hurt at seeing others suffering etc. All these are valid states. But there is one that towers above these and catapults the Mitzvah into a much higher realm. That is the deep consciousness of "other-centeredness." In this state the self disappears, even to the point of self-satisfaction. The focus is exclusively on the other and a gratitude to the Creator that this opportunity presents itself to you.