Chagim and Moadim

Weekly MMM – Sukkot

Following along in our holiday series, let’s talk about Sukkot now. It’s basically the second half of the High Holiday period.

The first half of the High Holiday period was sort of a self-discovery process called teshuva, a reawakening of who we are and want we want to do with our lives. We see G-d as our partner in this personal process.

After Yom Kippur, in the second half of the holidays we are ready to bond our newly-discovered selves with G-d in a loving, bonding way. It’s like a courtship or a marriage, and that sets the tone for the holiday of Sukkot. It’s not the same as the strict, fear-filled, first 10 days of the High Holidays. These are the love-filled days of the High Holidays.

The love-filled days culminate as we sit under sukkah, or a temporary booth for 7 – 8 days of use each year. We sit or stand inside it with the understanding that we don’t need the comforts of this world to be sheltered and protected and warm. We can enjoy protection in the flimsiest of abodes when we are trusting in G-d to care for us.

This is an analogy that applies not only to the sukkah, our temporary home during Sukkot, but also to our lives throughout the year.  It is sort of an inoculation for trusting in G-d, and believing that even though it may not seem that the odds are with us, our trust in G-d is greater than out natural surroundings. You might say we’re loading up on our trust for the year ahead; we’re building our trust factor.

So, first we have the bonding factor, and then we also have the factor of holy space. Like Shabbat is holiness in time, Sukkot is holiness in a specific, small space. Just as we completely immerse ourselves into a mikvah, we immerse ourselves into a sukkah, and just by being in there we’re immersed in a holy space.

In that holy, G-dly space, we have access to higher beings. We have access to the seven ushpizim, the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. We invite all seven shepherds into our sukkah every night, but the main attraction is the one associated with that night. Abraham is the first night, Issac is the second night, Jacob is the third night, Moses is the fourth night, Joseph is the fifth night and David is the seventh night.

We welcome them and literally try to feel their presence with us. We try to discuss their Torah, and their influence on us. It’s a paradigm we connect-up with on that night of Sukkot and for the rest of the year. It’s very timely as well, because right after Sukkot we go into the new cycle of Torah, which is all about the Patriarchs. We are introducing our new connection to the Patriarchs in the upcoming Torah cycle during the holiday of Sukkot.

We “shake off” the worldly aspect of our lives and enter another-worldly, higher-worldly place inside the sukkah. We thereby gain love of G-d, trust in G-d, and also happiness. We go out every night of Sukkot, just as they did back in the days of the Holy Temple, and we participate in a ceremony that emulates or approximates the ceremony of The Drawing of The Waters which took place just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. They brought in the water as an offering, and they danced and sang all night long. We, too, dance and sing all night long.

Sleep is over-rated during Sukkot. If you’re really keeping the holiday the way it should be kept, you don’t sleep at all outside of the sukkah, and of course there’s a party going on every night, so you really can’t sleep anyway because you can hear all the other parties in sukkahs in the neighborhood all night long. Sukkot is not conducive to sleep, which is a form of rectification of the whole sleep thing, too.

We go out into a sukkah, not only to party and to be happy with G-d, but also to gain, as it was said in the old days, a semi-prophetic state of Ruach HaKodesh. The happiness allows us to get to higher levels.

We also take the choice species of nature, the four species – the lulav (the palm vine,) the Etrog, the myrtle and the aravah. We take them and wave them, as though we’re waving the evil spirits out of our lives. That’s one way to look at it.

We are also attaching ourselves to the best of the supernatural by waving in all directions, which represents all the Sephirotic directions. We do that on Sukkot. And we do a lot of circle dancing, around and around the altar in the synagogue, and on Simchat Torah we dance around with the Torah. Circle dancing in Judaism is a type of dance which brings down that which is beyond to that which is within us. Circle dancing brings down the surrounding light by going around and around, bringing that which is beyond to that which is within.

It’s another expression of how we grow spiritually, bringing the part of the soul which is beyond us into the part of the soul within us. So, spiritual growth is happening in our circle dancing.

Happiness may be one of the hardest of the mitzvot of Sukkot because there are so many things that can aggravate us and cause us to get crazy, sad or mad. But we do have a mitzvah to be happy during the entire holiday, more so than any other holiday, even though it may be a challenge. Usually the amount, depth and quality of our happiness depends on the first half of the High Holy Days, the amount, depth and quality of our teshuva, of going within and purging whatever keeps us from connecting with our essential self and our connection with G-d.

The deeper we dive into the first half of the holiday, the deeper will be the happiness in the second part of the holiday of Sukkot.

MMM – Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. We may wonder if we need to do teshuva to properly atone for our sins, or so we only need the day itself. Our Sages tell us we need both teshuva and the Day of Atonement, the other opinion says we only need the day itself because it affects our atonement spiritually.

Our Kabbalistic Sages tell us that Yom Kippur represents Binah, which is connected to a higher world, the World To Come.  So, we go into the higher world where there is no physical eating or drinking on Yom Kippur. Instead, our voices and our prayers serve as food.

In the higher world, the World of Truth we call Binah, we are so lined-up with the truth of who we are that our sins of the previous year are seen differently, by G-d and by us. We know we don’t want to sin, but we were stuck in the lower worlds, within the grasp of the Evil Inclination. But that behavior is not who we are.

One of the secrets of Yom Kippur is its power to atone. In addition, our Sages tell us that Yom Kippur is a time to go into Bittul, or self-nullification, a place where we want nothing but G-d. We think, “All I want is G-d, there is nothing for me but G-d.” When we do that, we also atone. G-d looks upon us and thinks, “All you want is Me? All I want is you, too.”  It’s an exchange of love in that way.

Yom Kippur is also a day when our prayers are designed to help us ascend into new worlds, one world higher than the one before, until we reach the pinnacle, the crescendo at the end of the day, the Neilah service. It’s the closing of our judgment between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the period when we usually pray the hardest.

Back in the days of the Temple, Yom Kippur was essentially a “one-man show,” because the High Priest took over all the duties for the whole nation, although everybody was present and doing teshuva. The High Priest, however, offered the sacrifices and performed all the intense activities of the service, for the sake of all the people.

Everybody would fast, of course, but the High Priest placed the sins of all the people on the Azazel-bound scapegoat, and sent it off as a bribe or as “hush money,” so to speak, to placate the other side, and to keep it closed. It’s a big subject for another time…

Yom Kippur is the end of a 10-day period of teshuva, during which we are closest to G-d. It’s a great time to do teshuva, because our prayer books teach us to do teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka in order to banish the evil decrees. Negative decrees can be eliminated, but positive decrees are never rescinded. A chain of events may be put into motion, and it may be changed by getting out of our habitual actions in life and making changes.

We might change a particular habit, change our name, change our giving, change our judgments, change (or choose) our character traits, change our abundance and our G-d-connectedness. These things can be affected by our deep prayer, from our essence, and these things can change negative decrees. It’s much easier to change a decree before it occurs than after it happens.

It’s at the end of the Neilah service, the conclusion of Yom Kippur, when the decree is finalized for us. There are other chances, later in the holidays following Yom Kippur and even through Chanukah, but the main decree comes on Yom Kippur. That’s what we’re all working toward.

Our teshuva has to be testified by G-d, who knows the truth of our hearts. When we say we will be good, G-d knows the true testimony, the heart, the future. G-d knows what’s for real, or not. So, we need to be as real as possible in the process as well.

The day of Yom Kippur, the evening and the following day of fasting, consists of different confessions expressing sorrow for what we have done… “this is what I did, and I won’t do it again.” This, of course, is the verbal part of confession. The other component is the emotional part, genuinely feeling sorry and remorseful, and determining not to do it again.

It’s a good idea to begin the day with a sheet of paper listing what we’ve done, the things for which we want to repent. This is the time of year we diligently practice the three Ts – teshuva, tzedakah and tefilla, which is repentance, charity and prayer. Those are the three things that can banish a bad decree against us.

That’s a short description of the service of Yom Kippur. Hopefully, we come out of this day as a new person, refreshed and renewed, compared to the person we were before Yom Kippur. Each of us is hoping for a whole, new, purified version of ourselves.

Weekly MMM – Rosh Hashana

Shofar Blowing on Rosh Hashana

Here are some of things I want to explore on Rosh Hashana:

Rosh Hashana is a judgment day unlike any other judgment day, because we dress in white instead of black, we eat apples and honey for sweetness, and we are experiencing a mixture of fear and love at the same time. We trust that it will all work out and that the King, the Judge, forgives us in the end. We are closer to the Judge during this time, more than any other time of the year.

So, it’s not simply a message of judgment, but also a much deeper message. You could say that G-d is making an inventory of everybody and everything in his world, and where they are, how they are fitting in to the plan. G-d wants to recreate the world, so he needs to assess who has a part in the plan now.

If who you are and who you have been makes you a good fit for the “new company,” which is the world as it’s being created. If not, there will be problems.

So, first, we need to come into Rosh Hashana and realize who we are and how we fit into G-d’s new world. We want to be partners with G-d in his new world.

Second, we need to understand that Rosh Hashana is a day of conception of the whole year. It could be described as “spiritual genetic engineering,” because we are literally being conceived anew, like a child being conceived by a man and a woman.

The lasting influence on a child, from the night it was conceived, endures throughout its lifetime. The time of conception has more influence than anything else in a child’s life, including the education, care and all other influences.

That’s what is happening for us on Rosh Hashana. We are conceiving our year on that day. So, our mood, our intentions, our plan, our vision, our clarity, our mission and our connection to G-d on that day is critical. It is the most important time because everything else will follow the beginning. The way we begin things is usually the way it plays out. When we begin a day in a good mood, thanking G-d and going with it, our whole day is affected.

And our whole year goes like that, too, when we begin our year in that fashion. It’s very important to begin the year in a very positive and very meaningful way.

It’s important to remember that we are not the ones doing the judging. G-d is doing the judging on Rosh Hashana. Don’t think that you have to get the prayers right or you have to feel a certain way at a certain time, despite interruptions in the services, when the shofar is blowing or any other time… Who knows what’s really happening for you? G-d’s eyes are not our eyes.

It might be that you had to get up in the middle of the night to change diapers or soothe a crying child, and those are the things that set the course for a great year for you this year. We don’t know any of that. We just need to go with the belief that G-d is judging us, and we are not judging ourselves or others.

Of course, there are ways we can sweeten-up the judgment. We can start by not judging others harshly, so that, measure-for-measure G-d will not judge us harshly.

And we can work on judging ourselves. If we take care of it, G-d won’t have to take care of it for us. We can judge ourselves by seeing who we are, what we are doing and where we want to go.

As our Sages tell us, we will be written in one of three books on Rosh Hashana. We can write ourselves into the book of the righteous, the book of the living or the book of the good. Or, we can write ourselves into the “middle way.” We are the ones doing the writing, because G-d has said, “You choose where you want to go.”

We need to come into Rosh Hashana with clarity on our choice as well. The ten days of Teshuva between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the days we are closest to G-d, more than any other time of year. That’s a significant difference between Rosh Hashana and every other time of year, because normally we are not supposed to be close to a judge. A judge is supposed to be objective and not as close to us as possible.

But, G-d is different, so we, too, are different when we choose to take advantage of the time to be close, to talk to G-d and to listen. It’s also a good time to make radical changes in our lives, with the least amount of effort.  Think of it, once again, as conception – you can create a whole new you more easily in these days, pre, post and during Rosh Hashana. It’s easier during this time than any other time of year, and you can take it to a whole, new level. It’s a great time to accomplish this.

Also, this is the time to partner-up with G-d. It’s the time to figure out what you’re doing in your life, and then to say, “G-d, here I am. You and I are partners. What can I do with my talents to help further your rectification and healing of the world?”

Do that, and you’ll be infinitely inspired and empowered to do whatever you are called to do. Essentially, G-d says, “You do for me, I’ll do for you.” That’s what partnership is all about.

Rosh Hashana is also the day that Adam was created, the first day of Adam, so to speak. That makes it the perfect day to consider how we can get back to the Garden of Eden. Just as Adam was put to sleep and Eve was created from part of him, and Adam found her as a separate being, the same thing happens with us and G-d. We (humans) represent the female and G-d represents the male, and we come together like Adam and Eve.

We can see ourselves independently, and able to enter into a relationship, a partnership with G-d. The whole month of Tishrei is a courting process between us and the King.

It’s the time of Life, the book of Life is open and we have to appreciate what Life is all about, how precious it is, and how we need to dig down to find and see how every aspect of our lives is valuable.

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.

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.

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.

 

Kabbalistic Root Soul Aspects of Esther and Mordecai

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Esther is referred to by a name that’s hinted at in Torah. Our Sages ask, “Where is her name hinted at in Torah?” and it’s a verse where G-d is saying, “I will hide my face on that day.”

This verse tells us that Esther is coming from a place of hiddenness, which is also hinted in her name of Esther, which comes from the word “lahastir,” meaning “to hide.” So, she’s coming from this place of hiddenness.

But on the holiday of Purim when she’s the heroine of the day, we read the scroll, the megilla of Esther. The word “megilla” means “reveal” in Hebrew. The whole point of Esther is to reveal G-d’s hiddenness. That’s who Esther really is, a channel for revealing G-d’s hiddenness.

The culmination of the most important event in Esther’s life is when she was asked by Mordecai, the hero of the Purim story, to go and plead the king of the Persians to remove the holocaust decree on the Jews. She replied, “If I do that, not only will I lose my place in this world, but I am likely to lose my place in the World To Come, because I’m offering my sexuality to him as well, if I approach him.”

In other words, her willingness to jeopardize her place in both worlds, her courage to live out, “if I lose, I lose,” referred to her portion in this world and the next world. Her willingness, her self-sacrifice in the situation is what drew down the incredible miracles we saw, and we still draw down every year, to this day on Purim.

Esther was protected upon entering the palace of the King. She was covered in a special, spiritual garb, which meant she didn’t have direct relations, in a normal sense. This covering resulted in sort of a green skin color, and some describe it as a shaid, or a type of non-human entity. This was her garb, allowing her to not only succeed in saving the Jewish people, but also to have relations in a safe way, since it was only a garment of her, not really her.

That garment of Esther, together with the King, gave birth to the next king of Persia, from that night of conception. His name was Sirus, and he’s the one who helped to rebuild the second Temple in Jerusalem.

So, there was great significance to Esther’s act on behalf of her people. Some spiritual sources say she went to the King wearing the spiritual garment of Eve, the wife of Adam. She’s also mentioned as being a personification of the Shechina, by going into the King and saving the Jewish people at that time.

That’s a little bit about Esther, now here’s a little bit about Mordecai…

The redemptive power that saved the Jewish people on Purim is called the Emanation of Mordacai. It’s a spiritual emanation, based on the human being named Mordecai, one of the righteous scholars of the entire generation. That’s the emanation we draw down into our lives on Purim each year, setting the stage for the extraordinary energies we draw down into our lives.

Mordecai was said to have been one of the incarnations of Yaakov, our forefather Jacob, and Mordecai refused to bow down to Hamen, certainly a manifestation of Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jewish people.

But, Mordecai is also said to be a reincarnation of Esau, another member of the same family. Esau was the nemesis of Jacob, and in their previous meeting Jacob bowed down to Esau, in an attempt to diplomatically prevent a confrontation. And both of them came back into this life so that Jacob could rectify that situation when Mordecai refused to bow down to Hamen, formerly Esau.

Rather than Mordecai calling Hamen his master, as in their previous relationship in a previous lifetime, Mordecai was Hamen’s master. In other words, Hamen was his slave in the Purim story.

8 Lights of Chanukah

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*We find ourselves in the darkest [and coldest] time of year
*The Chanukah story stands at the historical precipice of the longest of exiles
*The picture of tiny Chanukah lights shining in this vast darkness represents the essential picture of our people and our legacy
*We are the most despised of peoples- ultimately destined to be the most beloved—a light to the nations
*We are presently analogous to the moon-ultimately destined to shine  like the sun
*We are the prisoners of a seeming endless exile-ultimately destined to be redeemed in an eternal redemption
*We are the people who have mastered the art of integrating spiritual light into materialistic darkness
The purpose of the following 8 meditations [parralleling the eight lights/days of Chanukah] is to tap into 8 essential Chanukah lessons or points of empowerment, and to draw this light into the cold and darkness of the upcoming months of our lives:

8 LIGHTS HEALING MEDITATIONS

 

  1. AIN BRAIRA  NO CHOICE LIGHT   KNOW that the Maccabees, a single family, upon being presented with the options offered to them at the time by the Greeks –namely, to give up the essential elements of Judaism in exchange for their lives subjected to a Greek outlook on life—realized that they had NO CHOICE but to wage war against the entire Greek Empire—and eventually they won

LIGHT UP that area of your life that is darkened by an intolerable situation—a situation that leaves you NO CHOICE but to put a stop to the way things are presently happening……you can come to such a decision by driving in to yourself, the impact, that this intolerable situation has upon you, until you just can’t take it any longer…..when you’ve come to a firm resolution, then just let yourself receive from Hashem an alternative way that will light up the upcoming months of your life

 

  1. HEKAIR HAUBAR   RECOGNIZING THE FOETUS  LIGHT   KNOW that the part of the year stretching from Rosh Hashanah until Pesach parallels a pregnancy, beginning with conception and ending with birth….Chanukah corresponds to the phase where the pregnancy is recognized….in other words, our year’s agenda or plan or fate is now visible, and we become aware of where we are and where we could or should be going

LIGHT UP the unknown direction of where your life is at presently and where it is headed, by contemplating at this auspicious time, what you have accomplished or become so far this year….be grateful….allow yourself to receive Hashem’s loving and nurturing guidance and providence to become even better, and light up the rest of this pregnancy process that you are going through—all the way through birth and beyond

 

  1. OHR HAGANUZ    THE HIDDEN LIGHT   KNOW that we light on the 8 nights Chanukah 36 lights altogether…these lights correspond to the first 36 hours of Creation, that Adam with the aid of the OHR HAGANUZ was able to see from one end of time and space to the other…..these lights also correspond to the 36 Hidden Tzadikim that draw upon the Ohr Ganuz in their holy task of holding up spiritually the entire Universe

LIGHT UP your own potential portion of the Ohr Haganuz….. begin to do this by expanding the way that you perceive time and space—expanding your perceptions to go beyond just the narrow perception that most people grasp….also do this by delving so deep into what you encounter in life that you begin to tap into the essence of the essence…..project how you will be able to connect to this Ohr Ganuz bit by bit, day by day in the next few months, with the help of the One Above

 

  • OHR BACHOSHECH    LIGHT IN THE DARK   KNOW what our Sages teach us about the contribution of the Greek civilation—that relative to true light, it is nothing but darkness…..and know that the legacy of our people is the holy task of bringing light into the darkness, and as such, we are constantly occupied with seeing light in the midst of all kinds of darkness

LIGHT UP the darkness of your life —whether it be the darkness of being unclear about who you are or where you are going, or the darkness of the pain involved in suffering and despair—light it up with Hashem’s Divine Light—a light that is filled with love and compassion and healing and guidance—a light that when it encounters any type of darkness–lights it up….bring this light into your life and see how it increase in magnitude from day to day and month to month

 

  1. HOD    ENABLING GLORY LIGHT  KNOW that Chanukah represents our annual inoculation of the Sefirotic trait HOD—the trait of  enabling and empowerment….Chanukah Hod is all about enabling the Jewish glory—the glory that was so apparent in the victories of the Maccabees  and in the victories of the righteous over the wicked and light over darkness

LIGHT UP your life by enabling and empowering the Jewish heritage that is your inheritance…..enable and empower your Torah and your Kedusha—2 of the most powerful and glorious blessings that we as a people possess…… look deep into your life and find what you can do to bring out the greatness of your Jewish practices and beliefs and observances and wisdom….enable others to shine in this glory that is available to them as well…..see how this glory will become more and more apparent with the passage of time

 

  1. HAROE ET HANOLAD   SEEING THE UNSEEN LIGHT   KNOW that one of the most striking differences between the Greek world outlook and our own is the fact that they would say, ‘What you see is what you get’ , and we say, “What you don’t see is what you get”……we look for , not only what meets the physical eye, but also what meets the spiritual eye—that which exists now as well as that which is to exist in the future

LIGHT UP  the unseen aspects of your life—those that are only accessible when you look through your spiritual eyes…..see what the Soul sees….see all of the invisible  influences at play in any and every situation…see that which will be born out of the present circumstances….see a person , not only for who they are now, but who they ultimately will be…see yourself able to see  in more more hidden dimensions as time goes by

 

  1. TOV L’HODOT  IT’S GOOD TO GIVE THANKS LIGHT   KNOW that part of the essence of Chanukah’s sefirotic trait –HOD, is [as is rooted in the word itself-Hod] perhaps the most fundamental aspect of human relations—saying thank you

LIGHT UP all of those who you encounter in life, by expressing thanks ….say thank you to the people in your life as much as possible……say thank you to Hashem for giving all of the manifold blessings that surround you at all times…say thank you to those who normally would not hear a thank you from you…..say thank you more and more until you begin to see how much you truly have to be thankful for

 

  1. MOED   APPOINTED TIMES  LIGHT   KNOW that Jewish time is synonymous with soul perfection…just as Chanukah is an opportunity for us to perfect certain areas of our lives—so it is with every MOED…..not only is it the case with every Moed, but the same is true for every day and every part of the day-every component of time offers unique opportunities for personal growth, healing and rectification

LIGHT UP the dimension of Time in your life….see every new time slot as an opportunity for a unique opportunity to grow and perfect yourself….see every Shabbat as an opportunity to taste and internalize future bliss….be aware and sensitive to each and every time frame, with it’s unique energies—and draw those energies into your lives as much as you can….see yourself becoming more and more time sensitive as time goes on

 

Have a happy and light filled Chanukah, and may we all draw the light into the coming months.
Yitzchak

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