Fifth Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer

Here are the sayings from Chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot, the Sayings of Our Fathers, that resonate with me:

The first one concerns what wisdom looks like, in its proper form. It advises never to interrupt someone who is speaking, whether you agree with what they are saying or not. Even if you have an opinion, and agree or disagree, let them finish, let them say what they will.

A wise person understands that even though you may be able to predict what they’re going to say, you want to give them a full expression. That will also give you a little bit of time to contemplate. Especially when you’re listening to someone who’s wisdom is greater than your own, don’t pipe up every few seconds. If you have a question, then ask it. But first, hear what they have to say, and give them respect.

Also, don’t reply instantly. Take a minute and think about what they are saying. I think we can identify many issues in our personal lives, historical lives and Biblical stories which came about because people replied too hastily and don’t think about the consequences of their words.

When a wise person doesn’t know something they say, “I don’t know,” or, “I have not heard.” They need to get used to saying those things when necessary, because it is another way of the wise.

A person should have the humility to admit the truth. If you messed up and said something wrong, something bad have the decency to admit it. Be connected to truth, not ego. That’s the first thing I want to share.

The second thing I want to share is just a few words, but it conveys a very powerful message about giving, and there are givers, takers and people in the middle.

The giver is a person who says, “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours.” That means, I’m interested in giving, so if I have something, I want to share it with you. But if you have something, you don’t need to share it with me. I don’t need your gifts. I want you to keep it.

The taker, on the other opposite side, is probably someone who is very selfish. That person says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine.” It’s sort of like the Mafia… “I got my own thing, and what you’ve got, I’m going to take that, too.” So, obviously that is not the good way.

The person in the middle says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours.” That can be ok, or it can be corrupt, because rather than trying to be a giver and focusing on others, the person is essentially saying, “You do your thing, I’ll do my thing and it will be ok as long as you don’t hurt each other.” This is not really the best philosophy in the world. We have a better one, which is to give, and to help other people have what they are missing.

My next saying is this – A person who is hard to anger and easy to pacify is called a Hasid, or Chasid. This person is calm because he does things beyond the letter of the law, beyond what’s expected of him. Although they are justified in feeling anger when they or their loved ones have been hurt unjustly, nevertheless, because they love G-d and want to live beyond the letter of the law, the world and the people of the world, they are always going to look for an empowering factor in their interaction with another person instead of getting angry.

Even when a Chasid gets angry, for whatever reason, they are easy to pacify, because their natural place is to be a Chasid, a person who is a giver.

The next saying is this – Love that is dependent on some external factor has a catch, which is that when that external factor goes away, the love goes away. The love that is not dependent on anything will last forever. It will make it through thick and thin. This is a huge lesson, because it’s very hard to love people altruistically. People normally love because there are benefits involved. It may be good for them, or they might just love to love, the feeling of it, the attention of it. But to really love in that way does not depend on the way that person acts towards you. That love will conquer all, and it will last forever.

A similar, but somewhat different statement our Sages make is this – an argument that is not for G-d’s sake will not stand the test of time. The two sides will both dissipate.

But an argument in which both sides are doing it for G-d, and even if one side is ruled to be pertinent in a certain time and place, and the other side is not, both sides are called by our Sages, “the words of the living G-d,” and they will have pertinence always, in all ways. That’s an important truth about an altruistic, non-dependent way of seeing both sides of the picture.

Here’s the next one – A person who is a meritor of the multitudes, in other words, what they do with their life is in order to lift up many, many people, and it’s not just a personal, selfish intention, that person is going to be protected from sin and from failure in their lifetime.  It’s sort of measure-for-measure, because they are helping a lot of people so they should be helped as well.

G-d is saying to that person, so to speak, “You’re doing it for my kid? Then I will do it for you, and I will keep you from stumbling also.” Let’s say that person does fall into sin, and they would have to go into purgatory or some other horrible post-life situation, but one of their students or a person they’ve helped in this world has made it to the Garden of Eden… how does that look?  The teacher is downstairs and the student is upstairs. That situation might provide a ticket for the teacher to get out, meaning he would be protected.

Here’s the next one – One of our Sages, a righteous convert named Ben Bagbag, said, “Turn it around and turn it around because everything is in it,” referring to Torah. This means that when you go deep, deep inside of Torah you find that G-d looked at Torah and created the world. Which means everything in the world is contained in Torah, but you have to know how to fish it out and how to identify all of reality, including its source inside of Torah.

To do that, you have to turn it around and turn it around. Probably the reason a convert picked up on that truth more than someone who was not a convert is because they’ve been there. They have been on the other side and they’ve seen what reality is all about. When they came into Torah they started to feel, “wow, this is a book which is basically a guide to all of reality.” That’s the kind of person who can make a statement like this one, and keep it as a mantra for his life.

Another convert said something very profound, too. He said, “According to the sorrow or the suffering will be the reward.” In this world, in the next world or wherever. There is a justice system implanted in life, so if a person is hurt, they will be compensated in one way or another. If they suffered trying to make good things happen they will be rewarded. That’s a deep insight also, as to the Divine running the world.

Fourth Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer

 

These thoughts are from the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos, Sayings of the Fathers:

The first one is a question. Our Sages ask, “Who is the wise person, the rich person, the honored person and the hero person?”

The wise person is one who is willing to learn from anybody.

The rich person is not the one who has a lot of money, but one who is satisfied with whatever they have.

The honored person is not the one who chases after honor, but one who runs away from honor, and seeks after other people to honor them.

The hero person is the one who doesn’t dominate or control others, but is able to control himself, his yetzer hara.

One of the clear messages here is this – most things in life that you chase after will run away from you. But if you spend your time and energy helping others, those things will chase after you, and they will find you. The things which people are running toward throughout their lives – wisdom, wealth, honor and glory – we are being taught to grant them to others or run away from them entirely.

The next idea is this – a good deed, a mitzvah, perpetuates another good deed.  And a sin, an aveirah, or a bad deed, perpetuates another sin. I think the lesson here is that momentum is a reality in our lives. Whatever we plug into the airspace of our lives is going to perpetuate more of the same thing, specifically when it comes to going with or going against G-d’s will.

The next teaching is this – don’t despise anyone, because every person has their time. This is a good lesson because we have to understand that G-d sees into the heart of a person, but we don’t see into that place. And G-d also has a time frame for who gets what, whenever they are supposed to get it. So, even if you see somebody you can’t stand, know that G-d has a plan for that person, and they are going to have their hour, or their minute of glory. Like the old David Bowie song said, “We all can be heros… Everybody has their day to be a hero.” That’s part of it

The next saying is this – when we learn Torah, we should learn in order to teach. Or, even better, we should learn Torah to DO. When we learn Torah, we will be able to do and to teach, and much more also.

Here is a lesson in the power of purpose, of intention. Your learning, or anything else in life, for that matter, is not about gaining something you didn’t have before, but it’s about giving it over to others, or making an impression in the world. It cycles into something beyond yourself, and in doing so it has more power. Same thing with making money, making friends, anything. If you let yourself focus not only on the thing itself, but on the effects it can accomplish, you’ll get the thing itself and its effects as well.

The Sages say, “Be a tail among lions, rather than being a head among foxes.” The idea here is that it’s better to hang out with people who are better than you are, and to learn from them, and not be the center and the focus of attention, rather than hang out with people who are lower than you are. It’s not that you are in danger with those people, but you’re not going to be growing. You’re not going to be stretching yourself beyond your limit, your comfort zone, unless your whole purpose is to help out in places nobody else can serve. That’s the difference.

The next saying is this –  our lifetime should be a lifetime of preparation for the world to come. When we understand life as, “this is not the end of the line, but only preparation for a world of truth, eternity and divinity,” then we approach this life in a much different way. We’ll be detached from this life, from this world, and we’ll be able to focus more on what’s most important.

The next one is this – our Sages say it’s better to spend one hour in this world improving ourselves, doing teshuva and good deeds, than to spend the entire creation in the next world.  On the other hand, it’s better to spend one hour of spiritual bliss in the next world, than the entire direction of this world.

This idea is clear… this world is designed to be the place of self-improvement, of growth. We have a soul, which is completely the opposite of our body, and it has to live with all the obstructions of the body. When we do good things here in this world, the value of it in eternal currency is much more than when we don’t have a body in the future world.

Whereas, the truth and the bliss of the future world is beyond us here and we can’t compare life in this world with it at all, with its different currency.

The next saying is, as I would call it in big, red letters – TACT. It says, don’t try to pacify someone when they are angry, and don’t try to comfort someone when their judgment lies in front of them. When a person is in their moment of humiliation, don’t look at them. Simply look away. All these things are teaching us tact, to really put ourselves in the other person’s place and to leave them alone, to just be silent and wait. There will be a time, later, when we can pacify and comfort them, and raise them up. But not right in the moment. Silence is a very wise thing to give in this kind of situation.

The next thing is this – that wisdom which we learn in our youth is compared to brand, new ink on brand, new paper. Whereas the wisdom learned later in life is like very faded ink on very faded paper. This idea is teaching us that a person has a clean slate when they are new, when they are young. And what they learn goes straight in and stays there for a lifetime.

The Sages say, “Exile yourselves to a place of Torah.” This idea means this – even if you have to exile yourself, even if you’re in a place that’s not so comfortable but there’s a lot better Torah over there, then go there. Once again, if you’re trying to influence people and you’re the only one who can do it, meaning you’re the only one for the job, then that’s a different story.

But, if possible, try to be in a place where there is a lot of Torah being learned, because it will have its influence on you.

And finally, the last one for today is this – “When you respect Torah, people respect you. That’s pretty self-explanatory.

Third Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer

The first one is – Without government, people would swallow each other alive. Therefore, pray for them.  The idea here is that we have to realize that, even though we may not agree with the government, unless it’s a horrible, deathly, dangerous dictatorship, we should pray that it has stability, so that people don’t swallow each other alive, only living according to the law of the jungle.

The next idea has to do with when we are sitting around the table – There we should talk words of Torah. Talking words of Torah invites in G-d’s presence, and not talking words of Torah invites in the opposite while we are eating.

Unless we are eating forbidden things, eating is sort of a neutral activity, and while we’re eating we have the ability to either raise up or draw down. So, we see the opportunity to take something as mundane and commonplace as eating, which is something everyone does, and infuse it with Torah learning, which draws G-d into the experience.

The next one is a big one – A person who takes upon themselves the burden of Torah will be absolved from the burden of taxes, and also the burden of going to work. These things are true only to the extent that a person takes on the burden of Torah.

Let’s say a person takes on a 7% burden of Torah, on a sliding scale, then his other burdens are lessened by that amount. We are talking about a spiritual principal here, something that’s going to happen by itself. We’re not talking about Jewish legislation, because that is provided for also when all the conditions of society and the legal system are in place. But we’re not really talking about that.

We’re talking about what’s going to happen when a person takes upon himself the same kind of a burden (this is a heavy idea..) he takes upon himself to earn a living. If you would put that much energy, and discipline, dedication and stability into Torah, then you wouldn’t need to put it into the other things.

That’s a very thoughtful one.

The next saying is about a person’s deeds, meaning what they do. If their deeds exceed their wisdom, their deeds will endure. When their wisdom exceeds their deeds, meaning they are just theoretical, those deeds will just fade away. They won’t have endurance.

The next saying is sort of a mind-blowing idea, and I anticipate huge questions on this one –If a person is pleasing to their fellow human, that’s a sign they are pleasing to G-d. And, the opposite is true as well.  We can see some lowdown human beings who might win celebrity or popularity contests, but they appear to be sort of horrible human beings…. How can G-d love them?

That’s the kind of question you should ask. And the kind of answers you should search for may come from deeper questions, such as, “Is this person really pleasing for the right reasons, or not?”

The next one is – A person should receive everybody with happiness. Just be a good person, emanating goodness. That’s how we should deal with people, although it’s not always easy or even possible. But it’s a maxim for life.

The next one is – The way to ensure wisdom is to be quiet. Silence aids wisdom. In other words, not only do you receive wisdom when you’re silent, but the best way you receive wisdom is to be able to hear what others are actually saying. That’s how you get wisdom from other people. And after you’ve heard what they say, you should be silent and let your mind process it as well.

The next one is – A human is beloved because they are created in the image of G-d. We have to understand that there’s an aspect of G-d that’s unfathomable and therefore, unknowable. The aspect of G-d with which G-d has let Himself be known is one which is in sync with human beings in the world. It is a universal image, that of the human being. Because of that image, a human being is holy and beloved.

This explains some Jewish laws, such those regarding the treatment of the dead, which are really for the benefit of the living. Seeing a dead body too long after death desecrates the image of G-d. The human has to be a body with the soul inside it, and that’s the source of the beloved-ness of the image.

The next one is – When there is no Torah, there is no income. And the opposite is also true.  In other words, if a person has no income, Torah is going to be hard to come by as well. A person needs words of Torah to make it happen. If there’s no Torah, when they should be learning Torah, when they should be engaged in that activity, then their lives won’t be blessed with the income to deal with it.

The last one for today talks about the value of time. It basically says, the description of living in this world is like this analogy – The store is open, and we can borrow on credit, but we must pay back what we borrow. When everything is taken into account at the end of our lives, we will see exactly what we owe. The judgment is, in fact, a judgment of truth… the truth of what we owe.

This analogy teaches us that we cannot think we’re entitled to everything we get. This life is not about entitlement.  Some people feel entitled to everything; they want it and they expect to get it.

Our Sages teach us this is not true. This world belongs to G-d, and if you choose to do what you should do, some of the world can belong to you, too. Start by recognizing G-d, and by being a good person, but if not, just remember G-d holds us accountable for whatever we receive, and for our very lives, in general.

It’s all about appreciating every minute of our lives, and every possession we own as precious to us.

Second Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer

Now I’d like to address the second chapter of Pirkei Avot, The Sayings of Our Fathers. These are some of my favorite sayings, the ones that resonate with me.

The first one is – three things keep a person away from sin: an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and knowing that all your acts are recorded in a book. This was a way one of our Sages said that we need to have visualizations, in order to keep us in line, in order to keep us from doing stuff we don’t want to be doing.

It’s very common to quote this saying at people’s funerals, because it represents fear of G-d, a fear of heaven. It’s like being a video. If we understand that our words and actions are recorded, 24/7, just as though we’re on a video recording, and from my interaction with people who have had near-death experiences and see a “video” of their lives as the time of their passing, we can’t foolishly think we’re getting away with anything. It’s all there, and it’s all clear. We have to be aware of that.

The second thing is that we need to be cautious of the ruling authorities. They only befriend you for their present interests. At first they appear as friends, but in a time of distress for them, they are not likely to stand by as a friend. I think it’s interesting our Sages picked up on this one ‘way, ‘way back when. We tend to think this is a modern, political dilemma we’re experiencing currently, meaning leaders failing to represent the people who voted them in, and deferring instead to their own interests.

Our best response to this behavior is to keep a healthy distance from the ruling authorities, and to take heed if you are in the position of authority. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, as they say, and when you think the other person is on your side, but it’s a question of political power, you’d better look out. So, this wisdom goes ‘way, ‘way back.

The next one is this – make G-d’s will your will, so that G-d will make your will His will. That’s a tricky one.

In other words, if you do what you can, if you study G-d’s will and try to adapt it to yourself, you are likely to wind up doing what G-d wants you to do. That’s the natural effect, the payoff, so to speak. It goes on to say that you should nullify your own will in the face of G-d’s will, which means, as a result, that G-d will nullify the unfavorable will of others toward you. In other words, your will may be done.

In a nut shell, we are talking about connecting up your will with G-d’s will. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says that when a person fuses his will with G-d’s will, his potential for transforming the world into a heavenly kingdom is unlimited. You become G-d’s right-hand man or woman, and your power to get things done becomes unlimited. That is one way to live a miraculous and above-nature life.

The next one is this – Don’t think that you’re ever through learning. No matter how old you are or how much you know, it’s possible to do something really stupid to mess up your life. For example, Yochanan the High Priest, who lived back in the days of the Holy Temple. He was the High Priest, the holiest man in the land, the one who granted forgiveness in the Holy of Holies once a year, going where no other man was allowed to enter.

But in the 80th year, he lost it. He got involved with certain types of fallen groups, and he took on their philosophy and lost what he had. We all have to understand that every day is a battle with our evil inclination, and that no matter how old and weak we become we can lose it. We have to be on our guard at all times.

The next saying is this – a shy person will never learn and a stringent person will never be able to teach. That idea is pretty self-explanatory, but we should understand that you have to be a sort of nudnik to property learn. It’s hard.

You’re sitting in any situation and you find that the one who comes out ahead is the one who is asking questions. Judaism, perhaps more than any other religion, encourages us to constantly ask questions, to see other sides and get clarity. We are a nation of holy skeptics. We will question and keeping questioning anything that is not clear. If you question, you will learn. If you won’t question, you won’t learn.

And the teacher must have infinite patience. That’s what makes a teacher a teacher. They have to understand it’s not about furthering themselves, but to give over that knowledge to others, and to repeat it over and over, possibly hundreds of times.

Another saying is this one – in a place where there are no people, try to be a person. In a place where there’s no mensch, where there’s no proper, respectful, human being, you be a human being. I’ve run into this in my life many times, and it’s a directive regarding Jewish leadership and what it’s all about.

Our leaders don’t run for office, they run away from office. But they will step up when necessary, when there’s nobody else willing to do the job. That’s what leadership is all about. We don’t want it, but we will do it if we have to do it.

The next saying is this – a person who goes above and beyond, who does an inordinate amount of one thing will have the result of something else, both negative and positive. For example, a person who is a glutton and eats too much meat will have worms in their body when they pass away. A person who collects an inordinate amount of possessions will have a great deal of worry in their life. A person who has an inordinate amount of gathering Torah will have a great deal of life in their life. A person who is inordinately charitable will have an extraordinary amount of peace in their life.

Here’s the next one – Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zachai was in a discussion with a number of his students about what trait is the one that encompasses all other traits. They agreed that the #1 trait is a good heart, because a good heart contains all the other good traits, such as being a good friend, being a good neighbor, and being a person who sees what’s going to come from their actions. A good heart contains all the other good traits. A good heart is the essence of what a human being is.

The next one is this – the nature of a true scholar, a true Sage, is one who has an abundance of the element of fire. True scholarship, true Torah is passion. Therefore, you have to understand that when you’re playing with fire you can get either warmed or burned, helped or harmed. Keeping a healthy distance means you’ll get warm, but it you get too close you’ll get burned.

And the next one is don’t make your prayer redundant or habitual. Make your prayer full of true, heartfelt connection to G-d. Our Sages say it’s better to pray a little, tiny bit with heart than to pray a whole lot without it.

And the next one is don’t be evil in your own eyes. This is such an important one today. People put themselves down in place where they shouldn’t, and they lift themselves up in places where they shouldn’t. Here we’re talking specifically about, in your own eyes, understanding that there’s part of yourself that is a holy soul. Don’t put yourself down. You have something to say which nobody else can say.

And the last one for today is about the preciousness of time. Our Sages say, “The day is short, the task is great, the workers are lazy and the reward is great.” We’ve got to know that every second counts. So, don’t be a waster of time. Time is the most important thing, because this life is full of jewels to be corrected at all times, and in all ways.

First Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of the Omer

What I want to do right now, since we are in the period between Passover and Shavuot, is to follow the tradition of studying one of the six chapters of Pirkei Avot, The Sayings of The Fathers, each week of this period. It’s one of the richest, most universally-accepted treasure troves of wisdom we have. Everybody, no matter what their background, can appreciate The Sayings of The Fathers.

It’s a collection of the sayings of the Sages during a certain period of Jewish history. Each Sage would contribute one, two or three sentences, reflecting their thoughts or their mantra, their perspective on life. They are beautiful sayings, so what I’d like to do now is to share the highlights of each of the chapters traditionally studied each week.

So, let’s begin…

The Sages say, “Acquire for yourselves a friend.” This phrase begs interpretation. In Hebrew, the word used for “acquire” here is usually used to express monetary acquiring, or purchasing. So, it could be translated, “Purchase for yourselves a friend.” That’s one take on the word, which can be explained this way – the value of a good friend is beyond value. A good friend is worth, if you had to do it, payment for their time. Basically, what you can share with a friend, you can share with no other, which makes it priceless.

One of the most outstanding examples in my life is an incredible friendship I had for 14 years, and we had a mastermind partnership together. We would share each other’s dilemmas, and take turns counseling each other. Doing so, we came up with a huge database of tools, which we have both been using, up until today.  That’s what came from such a friendship because we went straight to the heart of what a friendship is all about.

Another way to read these words, “Acquire for yourself a friend,” can be derived from the spelling of the Hebrew word for “acquire.” It’s spelled the same as the word for “pen.” So, another way of reading this phrase is, “Make your pen your friend.”  Which, of course, means to write stuff down so you won’t forget it.

When you’re walking through life, and invariably amassing life’s wisdom as you go, the lessons and the treasures, you don’t want to lose track of them. There are so many gems, there’s so much good stuff, and you want to acquire as much as possible and keep it. Like a kid in a candy store, you want to grab as much as you can, in your mouth and in your pockets to take with you.

So, “Make your pen your friend” means you want to keep what you learn and what comes to you in writing. And, the more you write, the more you’ll see you need to write. That’s my experience. Becoming an obsessive writer is a wonderful thing.

The next saying I want to comment on is this – “We should judge everybody favorably.” It speaks for itself, but there are deeper meanings, too. In Torah, we have a mitzvah to judge others as being “in the right,” regardless of our opinion. We want to look at people favorably.

We look at people favorably when we receive them favorably with a big smile, and judging them favorably. When they see us accepting them and treating them favorably, then they will be favorable toward us. See them with a good eye and they will be good, which is also good advice for raising children.

The next saying is, “I found nothing better for the body than silence.” Note that this doesn’t say, “better for the soul,” it says “better for the body.” From our Sages in other sources we learn that the way to acquire wisdom is to be a silent person. If a person is talking all the time, they are never going to learn. The greatest Sages learned the art of listening, and they knew that silence was a very pristine, holy place. The more silent you are, the more receptive you’ll be.

That kind of silence is good for the soul; it’s good for wisdom for the soul.

But we have a very loud, annoying, bodily voice inside us.  And it’s talking without us even realizing what it’s saying. And it’s telling us to do a bunch of stuff that’s not good for us, not good for our body. But if we choose to be quiet, and to listen to what the body is saying, on both the good side and the bad side, we could probably avoid most doctors and medical care. Our body poised and ready to teach us what tastes good, what is good for us, and whether we are healthy or not. If we need to know how to get well we need to listen to the body.

We also need to listen to the spiritual body, which helps us distinguish between messages that are good for the body but not for the soul. Silence will help us distinguish between the two and take the right path between them.

Another saying… Actually, there are a number of sayings that teach us about not chasing. The general idea is when you don’t chase things, or honor, or money, or fame or glory, those things will chase you instead.  If you want to be a person who is honorable, run away from honor. Then honor will chase you. If you want to be a person who is rich, run away from wealth, and the wealth will chase you. If you want to be a person who is popular, run away from popularity, and popularity will chase you.

Our personal experiences bear this out, especially for teenagers who are in the game of people-chasing a lot. But then there are a lot of older people chasing money, too. This is a golden rule, one of the gems of our Sages – When you run away, things and people will chase after you.

Another saying is, “Make yourself a Rav.” In Hebrew, “rav” can be loosely translated as “mentor.” So, this saying means, “Get yourself a mentor.” The root word “rav” in Hebrew means “a lot,” which adds to our understanding. We need to get mentors who have a lot of life experience, not only in a particular area, but it a wide variety of life experiences.

It can also mean, “Make yourself a mentor.” You can be a mentor for yourself, and that includes making every friend you have in the world a mentor for you. You can begin to relate to people as wellsprings of spiritual and intellectual knowledge. When you make everyone a mentor, they will be very happy to guide you.

A famous saying from Pirkei Avot is, “If I’m not for myself, then who will be for me? If I’m only for myself, then who am I?” Let’s take a look at this saying, although the plain meaning is simply profound – If I don’t take care of myself, then I’ll have to depend on other people. But if I connect to myself, then I will profoundly be able to connect to other people. And if I’m only for myself, then, who am I? I am simply a selfish kind of person.

There’s a balance we need to strike in this life, and that’s what our Sages are telling us about. Yes, you need to connect to who you are, but then you need to channel it to others.

And there’s a continuation of the same saying which says, “If not now, then when?” Again, the simple meaning of this saying is profound. It means we should avoid the normal, human tendency to be upset about the past and to worry about the future, which means we are not living here and now. Our Sages are telling us to understand that if we’re only putting attention on the past and the future, we’ll never be in the “now.” We’ll miss it. In actuality, life is all about the “now.” This is a plug for being both mindful and present as well.

Our Sages say, “You should love Shalom, and you should chase after it. This has nothing to do with politics here, it’s about Shalom, which is peace in the G-dly sense, or the ability to make peace with paradox. It’s about making peace with things that normally cannot be made peace with. We should seek to make peace with things we cannot normally bridge ourselves to, which includes making peace at home, between husband and wife, as well as between ourselves and other people.

It’s not enough to just be a person who loves peace. We have to be proactive and chase after it, in order to find peace where it is normally not found.

The Seventh Day of Passover

What I’d like to do is speak about the end of the Passover holiday, which is basically concerned with the crossing of the Red Sea.

On the seventh day of Passover, in history and energetically in our lives right now, we crossed and crossed the Red Sea. That crossing was affected by a whole different level of Divine Providence, which the Kabbalah refers to as ATIK.

ATIK is the highest of the sephirot, a type of Divine Providence that super-cedes, in a miraculous way, everything that happens to us as human beings. It’s what G-d put into practice in all the miraculous events that happened – Passover, Red Sea, manna, Mount Sinai, the ten plagues – the whole kit and caboodle was ATIK, meaning “shifting oneself, or move yourself over,” in Hebrew.

It means putting yourself into a different state of receptivity, and to believe in miracles as a person who is in sync with miraculous, Divine Providence. That’s what was demanded, and it’s what’s demanded of us in crossing the Red Sea, which represents certain death. Historically, the Egyptians were chasing us. They were more powerful. It was a nation of warriors chasing a nation of slaves, and of course there was the sea. We were not a nation of Olympic swimmers at all, and there were also wild animals to contend with, as well as accusers in heaven.

When the people started screaming, G-d asked us, “Why are you screaming?” And the people replied, “We were screaming as slaves, to get out of Egypt, and so we’re screaming now, too.”

But G-d said, “No, this is different, this is about action. It’s about trust in G-d, which is even higher than screaming or prayer, and which is demonstrated by action.” We had to put our money where our mouth is, and just jump into the sea.

Essentially, G-d said, “I’ve never told you to jump in the sea, and I know it doesn’t make sense, but I’m telling you to trust the process, trust Me to do it.” He told us everything would be ok, and it was ok.

So, we leaped into the sea, in an impossible situation. That leaping into the sea is parallel to many situations in our lives and in our history. It’s a leap when Esther, in the Purim story, said, “If I’m lost, I’m lost. If I die, I die. But I’m going in to talk to the King, and to tell him not to commit a holocaust on my people.”  Esther was willing to give herself up and leap into her sea, and it worked, and she won.

That’s how it happened for Esther, and for Moses, and for others who were willing to make a nothing of themselves by trusting in the process and trusting that G-d would get them through.

It’s the same for us, for our process, too, as we leap into an impossible situation. When we do that, and to the extent we do it, that’s how we bring on miracles. We bring on miracles by shifting ourselves in a reflective, mirror-like fashion, which shifts the way G-d looks down upon us as well.

We parallel these historical, Biblical happenings in our lives whenever we have no choice but to totally give it up to G-d. When that happens, G-d sees we are completely self-nullified in that situation, and then the “crossing of the Red Sea” type miracles will happen to us. But first we must leap. We must close our eyes and go with G-d in a whole, different way, not the normal, day-to-day, reward and punishment kind of way. This super-cedes all of that.

That’s what the seventh day of Passover is all about.

What is Pesach all about?

Here are some little snippets of some things we know Passover is really all about.

The obvious, underlying theme is getting out of Egypt. And we all need to ask ourselves, “what do I need to do in order to get out of my own Egypt?” We say it every day because we need to do it every day. But Passover is the annual celebration and rectification of all that, so here are some of the different directions we can take in trying to connect.

First, we have to connect to the historical story of getting out of Egypt, to understand our own, personal story, and to emulate the way G-d handled the situation. We’re trying to emulate G-d’s way of getting the Israelites out of Eqypt. We study the Creator’s plan to see what elements we see in our own challenge:

We understand how important freedom is, and that we are a people who represent the importance, the centrality to life, that human beings are free. From the Egypt story, we learn that we are free to serve G-d, and anything short of that, being subservient to another human being, is substandard living. That’s one thing we’re learning from Passover – to be free to be a servant to G-d.

It’s almost like an oxymoron… We are free to serve, but we’re serving G-d. So. that’s an ultimate  kind of freedom.

One of the tickets to getting out of Egypt, maybe the most important one, is emunah, it’s belief. It’s embracing the fact that G-d’s running the show, and it’s all for the best, and everything’s going to work out. The more we embrace that, the more miracles come to us.

The beginning of the process is primal screaming, not even words, but wordless grunts and groans and screams that are coming from the deepest, gutsy place where words are coming from. That’s how our slave ancestors started their process.

The goal of the process, in the end, is geulah, it’s redemption. It’s to get out of exile and everything that exile represents on an actual, an international and a personal level. Getting out of exile is the ultimate act of being free. Exile is being out of sync with myself and disconnected with my reality, and freedom is being connected with my essence, with who I am.  I’m in sync with myself, with all the different parts of myself, with my heart and mind, with trusting the process, and with bonding where I am now with where I am allowing myself to grow. It’s being in a state of Da’at consciousness.

It’s “speaking myself out,” with poetry, with prayer, with prose, with Torah, with conversation, and with anything and everything in the higher realm of what speaking is meant to do to get myself out of exile. All these things are getting out of exile, which is the status quo throughout history for our people, and we’re constantly working to get out, to get beyond it.

The Pesach model we’re using to get out of Egypt is a model which displays a huge leap of consciousness that received on that first night and day of the first Passover. And then it left us, it was “easy come, easy go,” and we have to work through a whole, 49-day Omer period to get it back incrementally. Since we’re working on it, and it’s not just a freebie gift, we acquire it. The ultimate goal of the whole thing is to go to mount Sinai. It’s to get the Torah. It’s to have direct interface with G-d, as an entire people. That’s what this whole thing is preparing for.

Part of getting out of Egypt for us is knowing how to be born. We were born as a people then, and we’re born as individuals when we work to get ourselves out of Egypt now. Being born is a very important process, because everything else comes after the birth, after the beginning.

We were born out of Egypt in an “above time” fashion, and we have to birth ourselves in all new beginnings, in an “above time” and “above space” way.

Part of getting out of Egypt is knowing that G-d is running the show. All ten plagues in Egypt were displaying full-on promise that G-d is running every detail and aspect of reality. He sort of came out from, “behind the curtain,” to show us that, as a one-time event in history, to let us know that he’s really running the show on all levels of reality, higher, middle and lower.

Coming out of Egypt is being a servant of G-d, but it’s also being a witness, one who testifies that G-d is found in this aspect of life, where G-d is normally not found. Part of coming out of Egypt is expanded consciousness, which is where we will live in Messianic times, when we will live mindfully and consciousness-fully, that’s the place we’re going to. That’s what gets us out of Egypt, that’s what gets us out of a slave mentality.

Passover, in Hebrew, is Pesach, which means. “mouth speaks,” and we’re supposed to do that. The ultimate, human expression of G-dliness is through the mouth. And the more we attach ourselves to G-d by speaking out the Haggadah on the night of Pesach, and any Holy speaking, the more we speak our way into consciousness and out of Egypt, out of the narrow straights of our lives.

We’re mean to understand, from this whole Egyptian saga, that everything is a miracle. Those were “open miracles,” but we understand from the 10 Plagues and the Red Sea, and all that magnificent stuff, that the hidden stuff is also miraculous. Breathing is a miracle, and things coming together and going my way… we need to pay attention to them. It’s all miraculous. There are no rules, no hard-and-fast, status quo rules of nature, when you start looking at the world through the glasses of miracles.

All of these things point to getting out of Egypt and all of things things are going to fortify us, hopefully, for the rest of our year.

Parsha Vayikra – Nissan and Effortless Receiving

Here are my comments on events in the Parsha and on events in the calendar, as this is a big time of transition right now.

This week’s Parsha is Vayikra, and together with that we are moving into a new year of Creation, a new creation, basically. There’s a Spring creation and there’s also a Fall creation, which is Rosh Hashana and all those Holy Days.

The Spring creation is happening already, in two different ways. There’s a Creation time which began on the 25th of Adar, and there’s another new creation which begins on the 1st day of Nissan, next Tuesday. It’s a big day of transition, when we move out of the old and move into the new. So, I see the common denominator in all these creations as the act of receiving. We need to be receptive.

We are moving into a receiving period. Beginning now, for the next 72 days, until Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah, we are influenced by Chessed. 72 is the numerical value of Chessed. It represents the time zone we’re in right now and it also represents G-d giving us what we need, with us having to do anything about it.

I wrote a poem about receiving without effort – effortless receptivity. The only thing keeping us from living in that world, besides righteousness, because sometimes we fall off in that way, but the main thing is our inability to believe we deserve and can receive from G-d.

G-d is constantly telling us, so to speak, “I’m here to give you anything you want. You’re a child in a candy store, and it’s just a question of how much you want to receive.” So here are some of things to consider during these 72 days, especially as Nissan starts on Tuesday.

Nissan is the beginning of the new year that’s measured by months.  The 12 months of the year begin with Nissan.  In this Parsha we talk about Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of the new month. It’s really “the beginning of the beginnings,” or the power to know what we can do with beginnings in our lives. There’s opportunity in any kind of beginning, which gives us the ability to step into a whole new paradigm, a whole new reality.

So, this new beginning is a transition time, moving from the Winter to the Spring, from an old year to a new year, from a paradigm of hiddenness to one that is revealed. The order of the name of the month refers to the different orders of the four letters of the name of Hashem. The four letters are arranged as we see them in Torah only in the month of Nissan, this new month, which indicates that Divine Providence is there for us to receive.

In Nissan, we don’t have to fight to get past blocks in order to receive the energy. We are stepping up into that flow now.  Nissan is like the father of the 12 months. The word for Spring in Hebrew is Aviv, which is also an acronym for “father” (Av) followed by Yud Bet (the 12 months of the year).  The first 12 days of Nissan represent the months. Each day represents one month of the year.

For those who have the magnified, prophetic eyes to see and the ability to receive, it’s possible to know what’s going to happen in each of the upcoming 12 months of the year. Just like a father figure is somebody who conceives the rest of the family, the way he goes is the way the rest of the family will go, the month of Nissan has that power as well.

It’s also that time when we receive what we receive from above without having to receive it. That is, to some extent, what the holiday of Passover is all about. Pesach is not only commemorating but also reenacting, reliving G-d giving us an incredible amount of wellbeing. It’s mostly a question of, “Can we believe it so that we can receive it?”

If we can believe it and receive it, we get out of Egypt, even though we have to go through the counting of the Omer afterwards. “Easy come, easy go, “you might say of it, and we do have to put in the effort to get it back.  But overall, it’s all about receiving.

It’s about receiving G-d’s bounty at all times, and it’s what Parsha Vayikra is all about. Understanding the sacrifices, the korbanot, requires a lot of explanation to understand. Most of the world would not think of sacrificing animals as spirituality, but in fact it is.

Korbanot is a play on the word “kiruv,” which is “getting close to G-d.” This idea needs a lot of explanation, hopefully next time I post.

But, the time zone we’re in right now is electric with potential for transforming our lives, and going through a transition time from dark to light, from Winter to Spring, from cold to warm. It is a beautiful, abundant, receptive time zone.

Parsha Tetsaveh – Purim and Extraordinary Consciousness

I’ll share a few ideas about Purim and then a few ideas about Parsha Tetsaveh, and I see a common denominator between them, which is finding extraordinary consciousness inside ourselves.  It may sound familiar, even repetitious of the previous weeks’ posts, but I can’t help seeing it in parsha after parsha.

Purim is a very Holy, above-nature day, when we shift the way we see reality. You might say, we see that the root of nature is super-nature, or the super-natural. That’s what Purim is about, in general. It’s a day when we are able to overcome the deepest, most antagonistic, Amalek forces in our lives. Those are the forces shouting at us that we are not worthy, and everything is happenstance, causing doubts about ourselves and our connections to G-d. We are able to overcome all of that.

It’s a day when we walk into the mystery, the Ayin, the Nothingness, and we come out in a sort of alchemy. We transform into a whole new type of human being. Purim is a day we come to understand opposites, the diametric opposites of despairing, dark reality and the most beautiful, breath-taking salvation we can experience. We begin to understand it not only in the Purim story, but in our lives.

It’s a day when we can reach out our hands and we will be given whatever we desire, in terms of prayer and charity, for example. We have to hold back on this day and realize that G-d is running the whole show anyway.

Those are a few ideas Purim represents for us. We see that a week before Purim is the day that Moshe Rabeinu was born, and it’s also the day he passed away. Moshe represents so much for us; he represents the pinnacle of being human, of human prophesy, leadership and humility. He represents the whole Torah, so it’s a good time right now to study his words, the best we can.

Now let’s jump into Parsha Tetsaveh, which is also all about extraordinary consciousness. One thing we notice is the Eternal Light, which burned all the time in the Temple. (Remember, everything in the Temple is us. G-d said, “Make me a Tabernacle, and I will dwell inside of you.” He didn’t say, “inside of it,” but he said, “inside of you.” That means the Israelites themselves.)

Everything Torah teaches about the Tabernacle is really about what we have inside of us, so we have an eternal light within us, and we need to find that light because it never goes out.  No matter what situations we face and how hopeless they may seem, there is the place of light inside, and the eternal light never goes out.

There’s a place inside us that’s called Urim v’ Tumim. The light on the breastplate of the High Priest, which was made of the letters representing the tribes, and which was used to answer the most important questions regarding the Israelite nation, lit up supernaturally to answer to provide answers. And we, too, can get answers to any questions we ask if we have the faith and trust inside us.

Parsha Tetsaveh also talks about the concept of holy clothes, meaning the clothing worn by the priests and the High Priest. We can think about this clothing as hiding and revealing something, both at the same time. In a deeper, mystical sense, clothes (levush in Hebrew) is the term which describes the way holy souls are housed inside of us. Our souls help draw down what we need to know and they help guide us on our way. That’s another extraordinary consciousness inside of us.

There is much more available. We have access to eternity, to clarity and to the highest possible light.

Take all this and have a wonderful Purim!

What is Purim?

WHAT IS PURIM?

Purim is a very holy day.

Purim is lemalah, lemalah mi derech hatevah

Above, above nature

Purim comes after all the hope is lost.

Purim finds its way in

right at that point where all the hope is lost.

Purim is atik yomim.

Purim is a shift in making ourselves,

into a whole new way of seeing.

Purim is the parting of the red sea.

Purim is making things happen

that otherwise couldn’t be.

Purim is Esther saying kaasher avaditi avaditi,

if I am lost, I am lost,

I give up my reality,

I give up this world

and the next world.

Purim is macheyni …. Moshe Rabeynu saying,

wipe me out,

wipe me out if you are not going to

forgive these people,

blot me out of Your book.

Purim is chezkiyahu Hamelech.[King Ezekiel]

Saying that though there is

absolutely no hope in this situation

Even if there is a sharp sword

at the throat of a person

ready to put them away,

We don’t stop hoping

for a better day.

 

That’s where Purim comes into the picture.

 

Purim is a time that is so high, so deep,

that all of the other hagim [Holidays]

and all the other sepharim [Holy Books]

will not be around–but Purim will be around.

Purim is like yom, Kipurim

or rather–Yom Kippurim is like Purim

[Yom {ki= like} Purim]

These 2 very different holy of holy days converge;

Just like we were forgiven

and received the Torah on Yom Kipur

so too on Purim.

On the night following Yom Kipur

we have a big seudah [meal] following a fast day

before the day,of Purim we have a fast

before the big seudah on Purim day.

When a person says

that I received the Torah

out of love as we did and do on Purim,

all that they did wrong in the past

becomes merit, becomes light,

becomes joy, becomes a place for them to be

And they completely change reality.

 

Purim is reading megilat Esther,

revealing the hidden dimension,

Purim is opening up

those hidden dimensions

that wouldn’t otherwise

have a way to reveal themselves, to show themselves.

 

In the midst of a hidden reality,

the light peaks up and we catch it.

If you are open

if you’re completely mevutal-

in a selfless place of receiving

That light opens up for you

a whole new reality.

A place above above nature,

a place of atik yomim,

place of kaasher avadati, avadati.

A place of if I’m lost, I’m lost.

A place where a person

never gives up, no matter what the situation,

whatever will be,

he\ she knows there is

a little porthole beyond that place,

a porthole of a miraculous reality,

A porthole of a transformative reality,

a porthole of a passionate reality,

a porthole of a Divine reality,

a Purim reality.

 

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