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.

 

Parsha Terumah – Our Inner Strength

This is about Parsha Terumah. I found a common denominator (as I’m always searching for one that reflects personal growth opportunities) in Parsha Terumah, and it’s called The Lion In Me. In other words, My Inner Strengths. I found ways to reveal hidden, inner strengths inside of me and inside of everyone.

First of all, Parsha Terumah is my father’s yartzeit. And my father’s name was Yaakov Aryeh, which is Jacob the Lion, and I found my father in me, which is the lion in me. That’s sort of an esthetic, poetic part of the Parsha for me, but also a very real part of it, too.

Also, this is the beginning of the month of Adar, which brings Purim, and Purim is all about inner strength. We are usually not aware of our inner strength and Adar is a month of G-d hiding himself from us, so we find ourselves discovering and reviewing our inner strengths. That’s a big part of the mysterious month of Adar, which looks like the opposite but shows us that out of nowhere the good guy wins the battle in the end.  This is also part of the Lion In Me.

As of this week, we have finished the last of the Shovavim period, which is a period of rectification of the spilled seed of Adam, a theme found in all the parshas of that period.  We are rectifying and thereby reconnecting with our souls, and discovering inner strengths in that way.  We are going to start the harvest of the six-week period we’re finishing up right now, and next week as well.

In Parsha Terumah, G-d talks about the Holy Temple in a very interesting way. He says, “I am going to dwell in them,” not “in it.” That means us, his people. The Holy Temple is inside of us, and those strengths need to be discovered inside ourselves. Once we have this perspective, it opens up a whole new way of seeing life.

So, everything that’s brought in this parsha reveals the inner, Holy Temple parts of us. For example, Betzalel, the one who physically created the Temple, had the ability to see the entire universe. He could see the creative ones and zeros of the universe-creation system, just as someone might see the creation of a computer system. He could see the roots of it all in a micro-cosmic way. We have access to this perspective, too, if we choose to plug into it.

In the Temple we have the Cherubim, standing on the Holy Ark, which is the Torah part of ourselves. The Cherubim represent the prophesy, and the place between them, as they face each other, is the place where all prophesy and all wisdom came from. It’s a very inter-included, transcendent place of inner strength inside of ourselves. It’s the focal point for the interface, from which all aspects of our world interface with the higher world.

That’s an incredible strength to rediscover inside of ourselves.

And we have the menorah, the candelabra made of pure gold, holding the burning candle stick which serves as a seat for the soul. The wick holds up the soul. It helps us find our soul and lights it up for us so we can feel it.

And we have the middle bar which holds together the whole construction of the sanctuary, the Temple, which extends from one end to the other. This parallels our will, our ratzon, which extends from the highest aspect of ourselves all the way down to the lowest. When we discover and reveal that ratzon, then nothing stands in our way.

We have an all-encompassing healing going on, which happens in the court surrounding the Tabernacle and in the Tabernacle itself, in the hangings and all they represented. The courtyard represents the body, which encompasses and surrounds the inner organs, as well as the all-encompassing, surrounding entities. So, we have the ability to rediscover and reveal the body/soul connection, and the body’s physicality inside ourselves.

There are also many more levels of inner strength that we can access and explore within ourselves.

 

 

Parsha Mishpatim – Transcending Mind Noise

This week is Parsha Mishpatim, and I discovered a common thread running through everything I gathered for it. It is a common thread regarding transcending mind noise, or in a positive expression, it’s mindfulness. It’s about transcending mind noise, and I’ll show how events in this Parsha fit into that category.

First of all, Parsha Mishpatim talks very directly about staying away from shekker, which means deceit or lies. Our Sages come up with all kinds of recipes and definitions of what that means in our lives, part of which are transcending the mind noise created by the actions and lies of others people toward us.

Another aspect this Parsha talks about is to not take bribes. Bribes create a mind noise which makes a person fail to see objectively any more, even a righteous person. We have to stay away from that mind noise, the Parsha tells us.

We have to stay away from the noise of doubt. When the people said, “We will do and we will hear,” they kicked doubt out of their mindset. That’s the most profound mind noise-ridding we have in the Parsha, because that got them back to the level of the Garden of Eden when they said, essentially, “Sight unseen, G-d, we’re jumping in and doing whatever you say!”

At that, the Israelites were blessed with zero mind noise, unlike all of us living in these not-yet-Garden of Eden times who are struggling constantly, in every situation. Staying away from doubt is probably the biggest mind noise trap of all.

But, there’s more… There’s the mind noise we spoke about in the previous Parasha which is a preemptive strike. It has to do with one person coming into another person’s house in order to steal from them. They are coming into that house with the assumption they may be killed, so they will probably be locked and loaded, and ready to shoot first.

We have to be able to pre-empt that thing when they come in, and to shoot first in that situation. And that’s a way of dealing with the evil inclination as well. When we deal with the Evil Inclination as our own inner struggle by pre-empting the battle, we win. When we don’t, we don’t. That’s a huge transcendence of the mind noise happening to us as well.

In Parsha Mishpatim it talks about the righteous convert. So, another type of mind noise transcendence is compassion. It is to look at a person, as the Torah tells us to do, and to have compassion on that person, who may be a stranger, or a convert. Many people fall into the trap of cruelty as opposed to compassion.

We have the mind noise of people in our lives whom we hate. The Torah tells us, “You’ve got the mind noise of hate in your mind?  Help the hated one. If you see a person who is bent down with some kind of burden, drop what you’re doing and go help him. That will help you get rid of you get rid of your mind noise as you help him. It gets rid of the horrible mind noise called hating.

Another mind noise is taking pleasure in G-d. There are passages that say G-d is going to help us get rid of our sickness, and so forth, because we will get to a place where we are taking pleasure in what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in our lives. That’s a mind noise inside ourselves. And we need to take pleasure in G-d and the role he’s playing in our lives instead. That’s a pleasure that is sort of the opposite of worldly pleasures.

Moses going up the mountain for 40 days is one of the scriptures here. It represents freedom from mind noise in the form of detachment. He was detached enough to not eat or drink or probably even sleep for 40 days up on the mountain. He was a human being, but he had such a high level of detachment that all the mind noise of, “I need this, I need that…” was removed from who he was.

Perhaps I’ll find other examples of mind noise cancellation, maybe in this Parsha and maybe in my life. But it opens up a very big topic, the idea of the mindfulness of getting rid of mind noise.

Parsha Yitro – Transcendence of Torah

The theme of Parsha Yitro, as I see it, is transcendence of Torah, and the power of receiving Torah. It happened in and around the receiving of Torah, which is in Parsha Yitro.

Yitro is the name of Moses’ converted father-in-law, who had tasted every aspect, every flavor of every religion in the world before he came to realize and accept upon himself Judaism as the one, true religion. In doing so, he made a great sanctification of G-d’s name in his life.

He was also a man of vision and insight into people. So he was the one, maybe the only one qualified to successfully give advice to his son-in-law, Moses, the greatest scholar and prophet of all time. He was able to tell Moses that he needed to allocate the various responsibilities of helping and guiding the people to many others, along with himself. This shows, retroactively, that he was able to go down to the essence of every person, and to see who they were and what their essence was, because Moses’s soul was an over-soul. He was able to see the essence of everybody inside of himself, and thereby he’d know exactly what to tell them.

Another transcendent aspect that comes through in this Parsha is that Moses was able to see other people’s essence and greatness, not only by identifying it inside his own self, but also, as the Zohar goes to great lengths to explain, to see how each person’s body reveals deep secrets about that person. That includes lines on the face, the distance of eyes, ears, nose and mouth from each other, the color of the eyes, the entire arrangement of the face. These are things we may feel intuitively, but the Zohar goes into great detail about knowing the essence of a person, based on his or her physical make-up. It reveals what the spiritual personality is all about. It’s another transcendence, inside-information resource about humans.

The whole of Parsha Yitro is leading toward coming to the mountain, which is probably the most transcendent experience mankind has ever had. Even before they got to the mountain, their openness to accept whatever G-d offers them, sight unseen, puts them at the level of Adam before the sin. It earns them the level of transcending sickness, aging and death because they were living on the level of accepting unseen whatever it was that G-d would bring out for them. They lifted themselves up to angelic reality, where they would not age, become sick or die.

Another transcendent point was that all the Ten Commandments were given in one word. In one word, they got the entire Torah, which is a very hard thing to understand. Their experience, as they received the Torah, were also very, very extraordinary. They were actually able to see the audio and to hear the visual. They rose themselves up to a place beyond space and time and normal understanding.

Another extraordinary point is that Torah was downloaded into each person who accepted it at that time. The Zohar talks about how the Torah and the Israelites and G-d are all one. When you get to the level where you connect to one of them, you connect to the other two as well. Torah, G-d and the Neshama, the soul… that’s the level the Israelites achieved at Mt. Sinai as well.

One extraordinary thing is how we hear a story. Parsha Yitro begins with the words that Yitro (Jethro) heard. You could have a thousand people, and 999 of them hear something one way, but that one, rare person hears it in the proper way, and that completely changes the reality of how we understand. So, we learn from that how to hear. Yitro heard from the cosmic happenings, what was happening to the Israelites, and understood, “I have to come. If that’s what’s happening to them, then they are my people.”

Within the Ten Commandments the Israelites received there are 620 letters, which equals the numerical value of the Sephira Keter, which shows they are G-d’s will. All of the letters of the Ten Commandments are hints to the entire Torah as well. Another hint is that 620 is 613 mitzvoth plus another seven mitzvoth from the rabbis. So, it’s Keter, and it’s all the mitzvoth and the entire Torah just waiting to be expounded upon.

Parsha Yitro also talks about the idea of Torah itself being the culmination of the Israelites’ entire experience in Egypt, coming out of Egypt, and in preparing themselves to get to Mt. Sinai. The Torah they received is the ultimate, transcendent aspect of life. It showed them G-d’s will in any particular situation, but Torah, in itself, is a type of a cure-all. Connecting to Torah lifts a person above any negative effects in nature and any other way.

My teachers have told me, and they got this from our Sages… if anything is bothering you, just turn up the volume of Torah. Turn up the intensity, and turn up the quantity of Torah you’re learning. You’ll find healing in that.

So, it’s an interface with G-d, the fact we learn it now and that they received in the past it as well.

 

Parsha Bo – Becoming Free

This week is Parsha Bo, which is famous for being the Parsha of the Redemption, the Exodus from Egypt.

My exploration of the details of Parsha Bo go out on a limb a little bit, to at least explore the possibility that everything about the Redemption Parsha is about ways for us to get ourselves free. It’s about becoming free people and getting ourselves out of slavery.

The coming out of Egypt story, like all the Torah, is not only an historical account in some museum, collecting dust, but it’s the Torah of Life. It’s telling us how to come out of our own, personal, private exiles and private Egypts. So, the exploration into this week’s Parsha can elicit a lot of information about how to get ourselves free. It’s very important.

Here are some facts, some ideas on getting ourselves free that come from Parsha Bo:

  • This whole concept of coming out of Egypt is not a once-a-year holiday concept that we attend to, like other holidays; it’s not a once-a-year vaccination of sorts. This something we have to do on a daily basis. We are meant to remember coming out of Egypt twice a day when we say the Shema Israel, morning and evening. That’s a commandment of the Torah, a part of the human spirit bringing itself up, up and out of the Egyptian choke-hold situation that we have in our lives. It’s a universal thing going on.
  • The idea of the transformation, what happened with the Egyptian slaves, is that they went from a small, constricted consciousness to expanded consciousness. A big part of getting out of Eqypt was getting out of their small-mindedness, and that’s definitely a recipe for expanded consciousness as well.
  • Another thing is that they went from wordless speaking to speaking with great articulation. And it was the same with Moses, who mirrored the Israelites that way. As he told G-d, he had blemishes in his speech. But, Moses became the greatest articulator of all time because he received and articulated Torah. So, part of getting out of Egypt is being able to “speak ourselves out,” and in doing so, speak ourselves into consciousness.
  • Another way we can get ourselves out of Egypt is to emulate the way the Israelites were born as a nation. They were born in an extraordinary way. They were born having to leave immediately, without having time. Time was not a factor. The indulgence of time wouldn’t have allowed them to come out of Egypt. But, since they got out of there so fast that the dough didn’t have time to rise (which is why we eat matzah on Passover) shows us that if we want to begin a new redemption process in your life, we need to start out in an extraordinary way. In other words – transcend time.
  • Another Redemption process is Emunah, it’s simply believing in G-d. They were coming from a nation enslaved, and the ones who made it out did so because they believed. They simply chose to believe in G-d. And that choosing to believe, or “downloading of G-dness” into their Divine Providential reality is what got them out of Egypt. When we make G-d our partner, our guide, and the one helping us get out, we get out.
  • Another thing that got them out was miracles. They got out of Egypt with open miracles. We get out of our situations not only with open miracles, but with hidden miracles as well. The story of the open miracles gives rise to the realization that everything is a miracle. If G-d is running the show, then even nature is miraculous. The mindset that everything is in the hands of G-d, even the natural, hidden stuff, is going to get us out of Egypt as well.
  • The fact that they got out as fast as they did – with electricity, zerizut in Hebrew, means not to be indulgent at all, just to move very fast when the time is right. That is certainly a way of getting out of Egypt as well.
  • The Israelites got out of Egypt, and we get out of Egypt by initiating the process with a wordless sigh or scream, any kind of non-verbal, primal cry to G-d. G-d hears it and starts the process of freeing us. We have to know this, and we have to be emotional and primal about it. When we are truly primal and helpless, crying, “I need you, G-d! I need you to pull me out!” and truly believe G-d is listening and will do it, then you leap out of there because you know G-d’s going to do it right away. You get out of your Egypt that way.
  • When the Israelites got out, it was so miraculous that they went and reclaimed their property, that which had been claimed long ago by their Egyptian masters. Those masters willingly gave back their property, and the Israelites found favor, chein in Hebrew, with them, too. They found chein in the eyes of the Egyptians. They were enamored by them. Here’s a people, and you’re destroying their whole world, but they are stilled enamored by you.  Part of the exile process is learning that you don’t have to be afraid of people. If you’re doing G-d’s will and you’re getting yourself free in the right way, not only will people not oppose you, but people will find favor with what you’re doing.
  • Another thing that comes out in the Parsha is the subject of Rosh Chodesh. The month they got out of Egypt was the Rosh of all Rosh Chodeshes, the head or beginning of all new months. This represents our ability to renew ourselves. A big part of getting out of our own Egypt is being ready and willing to say, “what was, was, and now I’m going to renew my life.” That’s another representation of getting out of Egypt as well.
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