Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part One This small book is the first in a series that detail the practical steps in attaining the state of “feeling attached to Hashem” at all times. The Hebrew title Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh (“In my heart, I will build a Sanctuary”) sums up the three elements of the method: The goal is to create in oneself a “sanctuary” within which the Divine Presence will rest. The method is “building” step by step in a concrete way that is both simple and profound. The tool is “my heart.” The author guides the reader on how to arouse his inner feelings using the medium of directed thought and speech. Thus, while these books certainly expand our minds, more importantly, they give us specific methods for working with the heart – the primary gauge of our inner growth.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Two This second volume of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh details practical steps in attaining the state of deveikus, being attached to Hashem at all times. The themes discussed in Part One are developed in greater depth, by devoting a full chapter to each distinct aspect of spiritual growth. In this book, based on a series of 28 classes, the Rav offers very detailed instruction for step-by-step spiritual growth, going from the various levels of emunah (faith) to yirah (fear) in its various degrees and then to the stages of ahavah (love), culminating in selfless love of Hashem. It is filled with invaluable practical advice on achieving these levels, and is the perfect companion to Part 1.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Three This book was originally printed as a book of guidance for Torah students.  The first essay teaches how to access the soul by escaping the grip of the material drives, while simultaneously strengthening the spiritual side through deep thought.  This essay is followed by sections about proper Torah study, tefillah (prayer), chessed (kindness), mussar study, emunah (faith), and eighteen more essays related to various topics in the Torah.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Four In this volume, the Rav focuses in depth on some of the central themes in avodas Hashem (serving the Creator).  He stresses the vital importance of hisbodedus — setting aside time regularly for contemplation and personalized prayer.  He also discusses how to attain the frame of mind where the outside world will not destroy your ability to think clearly during this precious time.  Another theme developed in depth is the ratzon, the inner will to grow, and the way to magnify this faculty.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Five This volume is in fact a self-contained manual for spiritual growth, showing how to use the power of speech to progress through the levels of closeness to Hashem.  The method was presented long ago in the work Yesod Veshoresh Ha’Avodah, but in this volume, it is developed further.  Of special interest are the classic sources quoted to show the basis for the Rav’s approach to avodas Hashem, as well as a discussion about errors people commonly make concerning avodas Hashem.  The volume also contains 29 essays on the classic Mesillas Yesharim, all of them expounding upon just the two introductory chapters!

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Six People involved in self-improvement often end up focusing too much on themselves, and in this way, actually become far from Hashem.  In this volume, the Rav teaches about nullifying the ego before Hashem in order to become truly close to Him and serve Him selflessly.  The second section of the book is about developing the faculty of chochmah (wisdom) in order to serve Hashem through that mode.  The third section contains six essays about the holidays

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Seven This volume is entirely devoted to the idea of emunah.  Intended for advanced scholars, it shows how emunah relates to various concepts in kabbalah, chasidus, and all areas of avodas Hashem.  Of special interest is a guided nighttime meditation for accessing the soul’s inner state of Adam HaRishon before the sin.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Eight This work, intended for advanced Torah scholars, delivers insights based on the kabbalistic attribute of Kesser, the level of ayin (nothingness) that transcends all wisdom.  In the times of moshiach, we will all be able to access this lofty state, but even now, its light has begun to shine, and through it, we can begin to sense the unity in all of creation.  The essays in this work focus on this theme from many different angles.

Building a Sanctuary in the Heart | Part Nine Our primary task in life is to internalize and observe the practical and intellectual boundaries set by the Torah, known in kabbalah as the general “vessel.”  Once a person has attained a deep commitment to halachah and has toiled greatly in Torah, he may begin to experience the “light,” which is the level of emunah based on temimus, a degree of faith that reaches beyond all boundaries, enabling a person to cleave to Hashem, the Infinite, and see beyond all contradictions in life.  The essays in this work are meant for advanced scholars on this level, who are able to live with the “light” without sacrificing their commitment to the truths of the “vessel.”

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