Meditations

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Restore the Jewish Glory – Part 4

I’m calling this post The Healing of The Chosen Nation, and beginning with two quotes:

כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹד: בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.

But the word is very close to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you may do it.  Dvarim 30:14

I will take you from among the nations and gather you out of all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle on you clean water… I will give you a new heart, and I will place in you a new spirit; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and will give you a heart of flesh… I will put my spirit within you… and you will be my people, and I will be your G-d.  Ezekiel 36:24-29

What comes up here is that G-d is going to heal us, because in order to be the chosen people we need healing.  Part of the healing we need is the healing of believing in ourselves.

We have a very strong destiny and task at hand. It may even be too strong… It’s cosmic and world-changing task we have to live up to, and we have no choice about it. We have to live up to it, one way or another.

We are on a threshold of history right now, so we need to look inside ourselves to see if we’re up to the task. Part of preparing for it, for being up to our assigned task, is to be healed by G-d and to be ready for it.

There are three types of healing I want to talk about, and the first one is Being Beloved, which means feeling how much Hashem loves us.  We have to feel that we are something special. We have to feel that we deserve to be something special. We have to feel like we know what our specialness is all about.

And even if we don’t know, we believe that it will be revealed to us, and that it’s real. We have spent so much of our history trying to be more American than Americans, and more British than the Brits, rather than being more Jewish. We don’t seem to understand how we can be completely Jewish.

We’re like a neglected child that never got the basic foundations needed to build up healthy self-esteem. So, that’s the first thing, feeling the love of who we are, inside and outside.

THE HEALING MEDITATION
Experience yourself as being a proud member of the most special family\nation that has ever existed… experience yourself as being very beloved in the eyes of Hashem now, in your own eyes and ultimately in the eyes of the world… Feel  Hashem’s deep, deep love for you—so deep that we are referred-to as His daughter, his sister, his mother, so deep that He reveals Himself to you in all situations –even when we are stuck in the deepest lows… feel the presence of the guardian Angels that Hashem sends to watch over us—every step that we take. Be aware that the whole world was created solely for your sake… know that we are compared to a dove, that though they may fly away—they always come back to their mate—so too, that describes us with Hashem and Hashem with us… we are refereed-to as his Holy ones, his Chosen ones, his Priestly ones, his lights to the world, his righteous ones … in light of all of this love, realize that the when we are targets of hate, it comes from jealousy, and the love and high esteem with which we are regarded from Above will serve as the springboards of our recuperation and our incumbent reclaiming of the unique global standing which is our birthright.

The second type of healing is this – Healing Our Character.

There are several points to make on this:

We have a hard time believing in ourselves. We are not aware of our strengths, and we are brain-washed into believing vicious lies about being lustful money-grabbers.

We are divisive, and have a very difficult time uniting under one leader or one banner.

We are great actors and imitators of other peoples, in the many exiles into which we have been cast. We think we don’t have our own character in depth, so we reach out to grab the cultures and belief systems of other peoples, other cultures and faiths that have, ironically, received their traditions from our own.

THE HEALING MEDITATION

Experience yourself as being a proud member of the most special family\nation that has ever existed.

Know that we are the nation that has done more than all others to give the world values and a conscience (derived from our Holy Torah). Know that you are part of a nation that bears both sides of a paradox and comes through shining. Know that you are part of a people of deep and rich character, and despite this character and greatness, the more that we have, the more that we make ourselves small, usually attributing it all to Hashem

Experience your unique trait of being a holy skeptic, knowing that there is always something bigger and better than what is being offered. Know that you have an inherent brilliance both intellectually and emotionally. Know that we are compared to olive oil and therefore don’t mix with other nations, but rather rise to the top. Know that though we are compared with the sands of the sea, and when we fall, we fall all the way, but at the same time we are compared to the stars in the sky, and we rise, we rise all the way to the top.

Experience being similar to the palm tree—a tree that is useful in all of its aspects—so too are we. Experience being like the lily of the field which blooms despite being burnt by the sun. Know that when all is said and done, the nations of the world will seek to imitate and emulate us and not vice versa.

And finally, the third type of healing is Being Intimately Connected To G-d.

Here’s the challenge we have with this healing – we are a broken people, broken by thousands of years of being tossed around, in exiles and sufferings, and we have a hard time seeing the full picture, the inter-connectedness of it all. A broken people has a hard time believing that G-d is the leader, the healer, the guide and THE ANSWER.

A broken nation, thinking it has nothing of its own, nothing valuable, clutches at straws. We embrace cults and worship idols, fake ideologies and power positions and obsessions and schemes. We tend to go after everything, except that which exists in our own backyard.

THE HEALING MEDITATION

Experience yourself as being a proud member of the most special family\nation that has ever existed. Know that you are a monotheist—you gave this idea to the world, you have inborn faith—you are a believer, the child of believers… you are a Y-E-H-U-D-I, a person whose essence is G-dliness.

You are a part of a people who bridge Heaven to Earth in every detailed aspect of life. You are a person who is constantly seeking to unify everything and to see everything brought to perfection, rooted in our people’s drive towards an ideal, globally-unified messianic vision. You are an inheritor of Tefilla and Torah –a constant dialogue to and from Hashem.

You are a witness to the world of Hashem’s existence, your deepest will is at one with Hashem’s will. You are a soul that is a part of Hashem, and therefore beyond space and time and all other limitations. You are G-d’s mouthpiece to the world when you are connected to Hashem, you are indestructible and impervious to all harm. You are an inheritor of eternity and infinity, and the great liberation that these grant to you.  You are one with Hashem and one with the Torah, so step up and shake off the dust of the apparent exile that you are dwelling in, and that dwells inside of you. Lift up your hands to the Heavens and reclaim your glorious heritage!

Restore the Jewish Glory – Part 2

Last week I gave an introduction to this series – Restoring the Glory of the Jewish People. It’s touching on the idea of us being the chosen people, but also to the reality of stepping up into our legacy.

Today let’s start with this – The Jewish people are the ones who testify that G-d is in the world. One prophecy says, “You are my witnesses.”  I’d like to point out that besides being witnesses verbally, and talking about G-d, it’s our extraordinary connection to G-d and our living in an above-nature way that serve as our testimony.

Our extraordinary, above-nature living in the world, as a people, involves a number of things:

  • It involves our will being connected to G-d’s will.
  • Our ideal perception is that there’s nothing else in the world except G-d.
  • Our ideal testimony is that where G-d is normally not found, we are witnesses revealing Him to be found.
  • We are a people connected so deeply with G-d that, as the Zohar teaches, G-d and Israel and Torah are one, which means we can connect with our souls to G-d and to Torah in any combination, and find each other in that interconnection.
  • We are a people whose souls are described in the book of Job as being “a part of G-d above,” which is a hard concept to understand, meaning partializing G-d, but that’s what the words say and we have a very deep understanding of our souls based on that idea.
  • We are a people who are promised that G-d will be with us in the exile, and G-d will return with us from the exile. Most of our history involves exile, almost all of it. And we are always connected up with G-d in an extraordinary way, wherever we are.
  • We are a people who are very beloved. Our Sages teach us, if a person knew how much G-d loves us, we would be roaring like a lion all day long.
  • We are a people who are beloved, and there are parts of Holy script referring to us as His daughter, His sister and His mother, describing the love of G-d that is shared with us.
  • We are taught that Heaven and Earth were created for us, that’s how much love sustains our faith and who we are.
  • We are taught that God mirrors the Jewish people doing mizvot in many different ways, and one of the ways is that He wears tefillin, just as we do. Our tefillin speaks of our love for G-d, the verse in the Shema, and His tefillin speaks of His love for us, “Who is like my people Israel?” Even on the level of ritual, G-d is expressing His deep love for us.
  • We are connected to G-d in an extraordinary way with regard to our character.
  • We are considered to be above the stars, and more numerous than the stars and the sand.
  • We are considered to be a nation which dwells alone.
  • We are considered to be a nation which, when we ascend, we ascend to the highest heights, and when we fall, we fall lower than anyone else.
  • We are compared to various fruits, such as the date palm. Every part of the date palm is has a particular use.
  • We are compared to the apple, which has a bud that comes out before the fruit appears. And as a people we said, “We will DO before we said we will listen,” which is parallel to the apple.
  • We’re compared to olive oil because it does not mix well with water, and we do not mix well with the nations. The best of the olive oil only comes out when you crush it, and we do our best as a people when we are crushed. That’s when we really shine.
  • One of our character traits is holy skepticism. When others may jump up and buy into whatever is being sold to them, the Jewish people don’t necessarily buy into everything.
  • We are a people with a tendency to unite the disunited things, the divided things in this life.
  • We are a people who, when pushed to say what we really want, will declare we want G-d and His will. Sometimes we have to be pushed to say it and to genuinely desiring it.

Based on these things, here are a couple of meditations based on the above-nature of the Jewish people:

Experience being Beloved by the Master of the Universe… Feel the love and how nothing can stand in the way of this love… Feel the warm glow that encompasses you , knowing that whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever you say—-you are beloved with an unconditional love—with an eternal love—a love that will never be taken away—and even when you fall and do that which seems to be bad and wrong, when all is said and done—it’ll be retrospectively clear that you really intended it to be done for the sake of your Beloved –Hashem…

Experience your unique character as a member of the Jewish people… Awaken your inborn humbleness and your natural uniqueness… experience your faithfulness… appreciate that you know deep down inside that you know of a higher and better way… take great and profound pleasure in the fact that these traits and many more are an inheritance that were experienced by your parents and theirs all the way back to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs…

Experience how you are at one with Hashem, and how He is the source of all that is good in your life … experience how he is the deepest will in your own will… experience that the deepest motivation inside of you is to reunite with Hashem in His infinite womb… experience how you are truly a child of Hashem … experience how no matter where you go and what you do, that Hashem is right there if you call…. experience that you are empowered to the extent that you connect with Hashem… experience how you are at one with Hashem on the deepest level… experience an inner drive to reveal Hashem’s presence in the world –especially where it’s not felt…

Sixth Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer

In the sixth and last chapter of Pirkei Avot, the Saying of Our Fathers, here’s the first saying that spoke to me:

It says that a person who learns Torah lishma, will have amazing, amazing things happen to them, and will also have amazing influences on the world.

So, what does it mean that a person learns Torah lishma? Here is one way to explain it – A person learns Torah, while keeping in mind the purpose G-d had for giving people the Torah. And that purpose is to make the world a better place, and to be an extension of G-dliness, of bringing G-dliness into the world.

When that’s how the Torah is learned, then amazing things happen to the person who is learning.

First of all, he or she becomes the purpose for which Creation was created, and also a beloved friend of G-d. The person is considered to be upright and humble, righteous and royal, a leader and a person who deserves to have secrets revealed to them. The person becomes an overflowing wellspring, raised up above other people, all creatures.

They have this incredible power because they got their purposes right. They understand that Torah was given to make the highest, divine impact in the world. When you learn with that kind of spirit, it’s going to change you and it’s going to change the world, and everybody you come into contact with.

The second one is this – our Sages say that every day a divine voice goes out from Sinai, and it says, “Oy!” to the people who disregard Torah. So, we can wonder, “if this voice comes out every day, why can’t we hear it? And what does it mean to hear it?”

The Holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, whose yartzeit is the day after Shavuos, said we DO hear it, every one of us. We’d have to be prophets to hear it, but for us, it’s part of our natural thoughts. G-d is planting it in our natural, organic thinking process, and it’s basically G-d telling us to get it together as the Torah internalizes itself into our thoughts, and tells us what needs to be done to fix up ourselves and the world. So, that’s what’s happening here.

The third one is this – the path of Torah is what most people would call deprivation. For example, you sit on the ground, you eat salt and water and you’re detached from the things of this world. When we do that, we free ourselves up. It’s not that Judaism teaches asceticism, per se.

We’re not talking about going up a mountain and sitting in a yoga position, separating ourselves from the world. To a certain extent we do separate, and it’s good… but here we’re talking about bringing Torah into your life in the most perfect way. When you live with equanimity, when you live with detachment, when you’re not crazy about eating and sleeping and pleasure, and all the rest of the worldly stuff, then your mind and your spirit are free to receive Torah in this way.

There are 48 ways listed here, ways to acquire Torah. Some of my favorites from this list are:

  • Be a listener. When somebody is teaching you or talking to you, don’t think about what you have to say back, or what you think about the situation. Simply listen completely to what they have to say.
  • Articulate clearly what you want to say. It’s an art to be able to say exactly what you want to say.
  • Assist scholars in their study. Our Sages say that the greatest lessons they learn were so not so much the receiving of Torah information from a person, but rather, observing how that person lives and learning from watching them as they live their day-to-day life. It can be a great educational experience.
  • Debate with others. In yeshivas there is great deliberation and students talk things out. Yeshivas are breeding grounds for questions and answers. People are always saying, “This doesn’t make sense…” and it’s encouraged. The more questions, the better. We learn from one of the greatest Sages of modern times, the Holy Arizal, Rabbi Issac Luria, who would walk into an everyday study hall with one purpose – to eliminate any doubts at all about everything he had learned that day. He became a warrior of doubts. That’s who he was, that’s what he did, that’s what yeshiva is. You’ve got questions? Ask them and ask them until things become completely clear.
  • Learn in order to teach. If you learn just to learn, that’s one level. But if you learn in order to teach, you’ll learn it twice as well.

The next saying is this – if a person is offered a choice between a comfortable, wealthy life where there is no other Torah being actively learned in that place, or a life that involves struggle and poverty, but one which offers a huge amount, a renaissance of Torah, then the choice should be clear. The Sages suggest exiling yourself to a place where there are other people for whom Torah is primary, and there’s talk and deliberation for your growth.

If you don’t, and you go to far-out places that are just “out there,” and they are just comfortable, you may forget all your Torah because you’re not living it, and it may be difficult to be in that comfortable atmosphere for long.

The next one is this – what we can take with us in the World-to-Come, the post life, is not riches or honor or things of this world, but the currency we take with us is our good deeds and our Torah. When a person knows that, they approach Torah differently.

And finally, here’s the way the Sayings of The Fathers concludes by quoting a Sage who said that Hashem wanted to purify and refine the Jewish people, and therefore he gave them a whole lot of mitzvoth. 613 is just the number to start with, there are actually far more than that. Hashem gave them a lot of Torah and a lot of mitzvoth, because the more we have, the more purified we become.

The Jewish people in their raw state, without Torah, are some of the most brazen people in the world. The Talmud lists the most brazen of animals, the most brazen of plants, the most brazen of people, who are the Jewish people who don’t have Torah.

G-d loves us, and he gave us this huge amount of Torah and mitzvoth just to purify and refine us, and it’s why we have so many observances going on, and so many things to do. It’s to mitigate the rough edges on the corners of who we are as a people.

 

 

Parsha Miketz – Joseph, The Culmination

patriarchs

This is a few contemplations, some highlights of Joseph’s initial years in Egypt, after being sold into slavery by his brothers. It represents some of what we learn about who Joseph is and the standards to which he was held in Parsha Miketz.

First of all, Joseph was called the Master of Dreams, and being a dreamer has everything to do with how truthful you are. We have a tradition that says the truer a person is, the way he sees things is not delusional, but is rather penetrating into reality.  The more real truthful and real a person is, the more their dreams are on the level of prophecy.  They reveal hidden reality, the unseen, which tells us who we are and what we are and what life is, not only in the future but right now as well.

Joseph was on that highest of highest levels, and therefore any encounter he has with a dream, whether interpreting the dreams of others or sharing his own dreams with his brothers and not getting a favorable response, is coming from a person of truth. Joseh’s Sephira of Yesod… one of the translations of that is truth.

He was a truthful person, and therefore he was able to be the channeler of dreams, which earned him the right to be the second in command of Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world at the time, and to feed the world as well. Joseph was able to penetrate the falseness of reality into the truth of reality. That’s where those dreams came from, and he was able to have them and to interpret them as well.

Although, we have to say that his dreams happened because he said, “It’s not me… I’m not the one interpreting the dreams, it’s G-d.”  So, because of his submissiveness and ability to work with dreams, Joseph was elevated to the highest level. He allowed the enacting, empowering and enabling to come about, not by his own power, but by G-d’s. That’s what placed Joseph on the highest level of dream interpretation and earned him the position of second-in-command in Eqypt and the one who saved the world from famine.

This is also because of who Joseph was and the Sephira he represented (Yesod). Joseph was the foundation of wellbeing and abundance in the world. He was the “feeder” of the entire world, including not only his own brothers but all the tribes of Israel. He fed them and he was also the unifier, regardless of the fallout between him and his brothers. Ultimately, he was able to bring them into a kind of unity because of who he is and the essence of what Yesod is.

Beyond that, he, like all of his brothers and all of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was G-d’s right-hand army to fix up the world… Tikkun Olam, bringing the world to its rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

Joseph was especially important because he was the culmination. Yaakov understood that when Joseph was born in Laban’s house it would be time to face the world, to face Esav, because, as the Midrash says, “Jacob was the fire and Joseph was the flame,” and Esav is the straw that gets burned by the two of them together. Joseph is the culmination, and therefore he is able to go into the world and bring that holiness into the world, the whole purpose of creation into the world.

We also learn from Joseph’s life that he was held to the highest standards, like all our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. He was not meant to chase after his own wellbeing at all. So, when the ten years of his prison sentence came to an end and it was time for him to leave, Joseph should not have had to ask for favors from Pharoh’s ministers who were also in prison with him, the chef and the minister of drink. He asked them to put in a good word for him with Pharoh, and G-d did not look favorably on Joseph asking those guys for their help. Joseph should have trusted, as he did with the dreams, that everything is dependent upon G-d, and nobody else.

This is what we need to learn for ourselves as well: if we don’t need to make that extra effort, beyond what we really need, then don’t do it. Let G-d take care of what’s going on, and all the rest of it.

Ultimately, Joseph was the one who led the whole world at the time. People looked at him in awe, even though he hid his beauty, for the most part. Even his own brothers didn’t recognize him physically. He had a beard, and then he didn’t have a beard… They didn’t recognize him because he was the paradigm tsaddik, the paradigm righteous person. The way Joseph did it was to hide his righteousness from everybody, including his brothers. He talked to them about it, but he hid it from them as well.

When Joseph finally did reveal himself, his brothers were stunned. Not only did they see how all the pieces fit together, but they saw how a Yesod person was able to show how all the moving parts fit together. They were also able to see that all the things Joseph hid about himself became revealed, and then they were unable to speak. They were stunned.

So, these are just a few of the many areas of Joseph’s life that we should study and emulate as much as possible.

Parsha Vayeshev – Under The Surface of the Patriarchs

patriarchs

I’m going to speak about Parasha Vayeshev. I’d like to bring a few points about it, and the common denominator of all of them is that the Patriarchs always have a lot going on under the surface.

While the rest of us might simply pay attention to what’s happening on the surface level, they force us to pay attention to what’s going on under the surface of human behavior.

Here are my points:

My first point is this – Jacob’s brothers reported to their father Yaakov that Jacob had been killed, and Yaakov heard the news. But for the twenty-two years he didn’t see his son, Yaakov did not believe it. Because the heart of a parent knows the truth about another family member. There’s a natural removal of their presence from the heart, in a painful way, not in any king of a threatening way. We never completely get over our connections, but in this situation Yaakov knew that Jacob must be alive, despite the reports he heard.

Under the surface, the heart knows what is really going on with someone in their own family. We have a mechanism called the labush, which is the metaphysical connection between family members, or a rebbe and his students, or very, very close friends. Labush informs us, and though it may be reported one way on a surface level, under the surface we know better.

My second point is this – the potential husbands of Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, were named Er and Onan.  Due to their reluctance or reticence to impregnate their potential wife, they opted to spill their seminal fluid on the ground. They would rather have beauty than a true soul relationship, and they were wrong. They died, and the Torah tells us about the ramifications of their actions.

The lesson we learn is that beauty is more than skin-deep, which is another under-the-surface manifestation.

My third point is this – Joseph was sold to the House of Potiphera in Egypt. Potifera’s wife, one of the elite of Egyptian society, had sexual designs on Joseph, who was running the household. She tried to get him into bed and almost succeeded. What appeared in the mind of Joseph, just in the nick of time, was an image of his father. As a result, Joseph ran from the room and never had relations with her.

Though we may feel impassioned in certain circumstances, underneath the surface there is the voice of sanity, of morality… the voice of our fathers, telling us to keep away from danger.

My fourth point is this – Joseph’s personality personifies the Sefira of Yesod, which represents a very different attitude toward people than his brothers had when they sold him into slavery. Joseph’s brothers did not have the same “people-ing” attitude, the ability to go out and mix it up with the world.

But Joseph did have the ability and the skills, which ultimately led him to become second in control of the most powerful nation on earth. He fed the whole world successfully, while his brothers kept to themselves, away from society, building their holiness in a more modest way.

What’s under the surface in this situation is that both Joseph and his brothers had their unique purposes in Creation.  We can’t judge based on the surface level alone. So, we have to understand that what may seem right or wrong has more going on under the surface of the story.

My fifth point is this –Judah and Tamar, who had relations and gave birth to the lineage of King David, ultimately established the line that will lead to Messiah. The incident, which seems contrary to morality, is similar to Er and Onan spilling seed on the ground at home. We learned that these instances help us understand that when Messiah comes he’ll be equipped to understand us all, and to say, “nobody’s got anything on me.” That is exactly why he is able to fix up the world.

Though we may see many issues on the surface, of questionable morality and lineage, under the surface the Moshiach will eventually come forth.

My sixth point is this- We learn a lot from Joseph’s dreams, and one of the most important things is that the truth of a dream reveals the truth of a person. The more truthful a person is, the more believable are their dreams. We see this with great scholars whose full-length, scholarly works on Torah came from their dreams. They were truthful and their dreams were as truthful.

Although a dream is, by definition under the surface, because it is not a waking reality, it can be a powerful manifestation of truth from a truthful person.

Finally, Yaakov spent his first hundred and thirty years with incredible suffering. And though he felt as if he had paid his dues, probably more than any other Biblical character, with the exception of Job, he never got release from anxiety until the last seventeen years of his life. His first hundred and thirty years were miserable, and it showed on his face. But we can’t judge him based on that because he obviously had things to fix up. The lesson here is this – though it may seem as though we deserve a break in this world, that’s not what this world is all about. Under the surface this world is all about fixing up unfinished business, and we don’t have a say in how easy or difficult that’s going to be.

So, we have to simply keep on keepin’ on.

Parsha Toldot – Extraordinary Transcendence

patriarchs

This week’s Parsha is Toldot, and the common denominator I found is that there’s extraordinary transcendence going on, which is always going on with regard to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. We learn how to be extraordinary from them. That’s the deepest lesson we’re supposed to bring to ourselves.

So, what I’m going to do is bring a sort of laundry list of their extraordinariness, and how they were able to transcend nature in some ways we see in the portion of Toldot.

  1. We learn about Yitzchak, and how he was like the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs in that he and his wife Rivka could not have a child. So, they prayed. He went to one side of a room and she went to the other side, and they prayed. Since there are different types of prayer it’s good to know the one used by Yitzchak was dayetar. This type of prayer involves complete submission to G-d’s will, humble submission. And this prayer was basically what brought about Yitzchak and Rivka’s ability to finally have a child.
  2. We know that Yitzchak, Issac, loved Esau, also known as Edom, one of his twin sons. The other son was Jacob. He loved Esau and we are taught that his love was a means of educating him and transforming him, since he was a very rough character, a kid who went off the path, a sort of juvenile delinquent and future criminal for all generations. Yitzchak’s insight helped him love Esau to repentance, which was partially successful if you look at history.
  3. In contrast to Abraham who dug wells to bring abundance into the world, both physical and spiritual wealth, and who represents the Sefira of Chessed, Yitzchak represents the Sefira of Gevurah. Consequently, Yitzchak dug wells requiring much work and application and investment to make sure they had genuine sustenance. In the end, these qualities made him more successful in his work. Yitzchak was literally a hard worker, and it was his hard work that make him wealthy. He did the same type of actions his father did, but Yitzchak did them so they would remain forever.
  4. There was an inverse relationship between Jacob and Esau.  Our Sages tell us that when the sons approached their blind father Issac, he said to them, “The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau.”  That prophetic statement about how to deal with “Jacob people,” whose key to success in this world is their voice, the voice that speaks prayer and Torah and holiness. Whereas, the success of “Esau people,” in this world is their hands. They physically build up the world and set a foundation. That’s how they excel. When everybody’s doing their job in this world, they don’t get in each other’s way.
  5. As with all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the actions of the fathers were a sign for their posterity. Everything they did, they did not only for their own family but for all generations to come. If you’re working on that level of profound power, everything you do is head and heels above what other people do.
  6. Jacob went to find his future wives and to build a family in the homeland of the most deceptive man ever, Lavan, which name means, “white” in Hebrew. You could think of it as he white-washed the truth.  Jacob learned, though he was a simple man with holy naiveite, that he had enough holiness to deal with the deepest of deceptions and still maintain his purity.

(All these things are not just Bible stories that happened “once upon a time,” stories we tell our children at bedtime, but these are stories we need to actualize in our own lives.)

  1. The boys were nearly indistinguishable until they reached the age of thirteen, the age of Bar Mitzvah, the age when a young man or a young woman begins to do things because G-d wants them to do so.  That’s called a mitzvah, which means it’s not just you doing something, but it’s you doing something because G-d is telling you to do it, which gives it extraordinary, transcendent power.
  2. The Parsha begins by saying Issac was the son of Abraham, and Abraham gave birth to Issac. This repetitive, redundant statement is interpreted by the Sages to mean they needed each other to complete each other, being from opposite Sefirot. Abraham was Chessed and Issac was Gevura, and the two of them completed each other in order to create their child, which was Jacob, the completion, the harmony of the two Sefirot.
  3. The Patriarchs knew all of the Torah before it was given. The book of Genesis is called Sefer Yashar, which means the Book of Being Straight, as in “being straight up.” Which means they were so honest and real with their souls, their hearts and their lives that they knew exactly the G-dly thing to do in every situation. That’s an extraordinary legacy to bring down into our lives as well.

A big part of the theme of Parsha Toldot is blessings that last not only for a day or a week or even a lifetime, but even before history began. That, too, is extraordinary. I once had a Rebbe at a Kabbalistic yeshiva whom I know, to this day, thirty-three years after he passed away, gave blessings that have lasted throughout the lives of his students.  Blessings given by the Patriarchs were so valuable because they knew the blessings would last the duration of their entire nation.

  1. When Abraham gave the eulogy for his wife Sarah he spoke about her as being, “forever young,”  because she never lost her youth, even in her old age. She just got younger as time went on, which defies nature, as does everything going on in these peoples’ lives.
  2. The phrase, “they came with their days,” has been said in three Parshas in a row, which means they didn’t lose even a day of taking care of every challenge that came their way, and that’s why they were blessed with “everything-ness” and “all-ness.”

The Experience of The Ladder of Souls – Part 10

Ladder

What I want to share is about the soul and mindfulness. It’s my theme for the week for MMM, but it’s also what the soul is all about. Our souls come into our bodies to improve, expand and soul-ize our bodies, but also to restore them to be souls, to be more spiritual, to get back to the level of Adam’s body prior to the fall in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s body was more like our souls today.

The soul is inside our body, and it’s functioning maximally when we are the most mindful, and it has a natural drive to get back to that, meaning to “escape,” like a flame leaping up on a candle wick.  Our soul is trying to get back that place, to be restored, and mindfulness is what helps it get back to that place.

So, here’s a list of tools we can use to increase the mindfulness of life and enable our soul to live in its proper environment.

Instead of the normal consciousness of _______, let’s go to a mindful consciousness of the following:

  1. Instead of the normal consciousness of moving our bodies through the day, with all the different mundane movements involved, let’s make all these movements – sitting down, standing up, walking, etc. – soulful and mindful opportunities. Let’s be soulful and mindful by resonating on the deepest level with what that message means for us.
  2. Instead of the normal consciousness of a sort of “ho-hum” life, let’s Paradise our lives, being soulful and mindful of maximal personal expression and also maximal divine expression.
  3. Instead of the normal consciousness with regard to which aspects of our awareness we engage the world with, let’s be soulful and mindful by engaging the world with our Allness.
  4. Instead of the normal consciousness of accumulating and accessing wisdom, let’s open up our Da’as, our knowing, and thereby know things in a soulful, mindful way.
  5. Instead of processing the thoughts in our minds, in a semi-unconscious way, let’s do it in a mindful/soulful way by watching our thoughts or actually taking notes of them. Do it in an objective, watch-the-movie way.
  6. Instead of the normal consciousness of jumping around from one thing to another in our lives, let’s have a soulful, mindful engagement of any present thing we’re doing, to the exclusion of anything else. Have complete, hyper-focus on whatever it is we’re doing at the moment.
  7. Instead of the normal consciousness of taking in the world through the 5 senses as usual, let’s engage the soul and the mind in a much, much more enhanced way of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.
  8. Instead of the normal consciousness of engaging the world in a happenstance, coincidental way, let’s see how G-d is talking to us and leading us exactly where we need to go, at all times, in a soulful, mindful way.
  9. Instead of the normal consciousness of engaging wisdom on a surface level, let’s engage wisdom according to the depth of what we can understand and receive about what that wisdom means for us. Consider its associations, meaning what we know about it and what we can reveal and discover about it.
  10. Instead of the normal consciousness of understanding life through our own eyes, let’s understand and process life through the eyes of G-d, in a soulful and mindful way of seeing the past, present and future implications, movement and unfolding of every situation.
  11. Instead of the normal consciousness of connecting to topics we are exploring in a by-the-way manner, let’s completely immerse ourselves for an entire day, week or month in nothing but that particular topic, in a completely soulful and mindful way.
  12. Instead of the normal consciousness of understanding the world is just populated by us and by other people, let’s open up our minds and souls and become aware of the root souls, the angels, the sparks and other souls that are with us, all around us.
  13. Instead of the normal consciousness of connecting to the world in terms of what we want by just wanting it, let’s completely embrace the wanting from our lower soul to our higher soul, and want it so much that it actually manifests in our lives.

The Experience of The Ladder of Souls – Part 9

Ladder

Continuing in the Soul Series, this post is on the topic of Holy Sparks. It’s about seeing how our soul develops itself and speaks to us, and how we speak to our soul as well, through the idea of the Holy Sparks.

Anytime there’s a fall-out in the cosmos, such as the original fall-out of the broken vessels, or the fall-out of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or the fall-out of any exile of the Jews throughout history, there are Holy Sparks hidden inside reality. And it’s our soul’s job to be drawn toward those sparks in order to liberate, elevate and clarify them, and to raise them up wherever they need to go. So we need to raise the sparks in that way.

So, I’d like to share a list of ways our soul can restore us to ourselves, and to the lost parts of our soul.

First we have to be able to resonate with what’s going on in our lives. Then we have to be able to bring back into ourselves that which is calling to us in life, through the language of resonation, an energy wavelength we need to plug into and feel personally, “This is me. I need to work with this now.”

And we need to do this in all different times of our lives, because every day we have new sparks, more lost parts of our soul that are calling to us, to bring them back home. This is the essence of what our day is all about, really. Every weekday we have more sparks, and we bring them all, from all the weekdays into Shabbat, creating the power of Shabbat and its connection with each weekday as well.

We have sparks in every prayer, and every time we pray we raise up these hidden, lost parts of ourselves. Every meal we eat provides lost sparks of our souls, and if we eat in a holy and properly-intentioned way we raise up those sparks in the food itself.

We raise up sparks in our reincarnations. We ARE those sparks of our previous incarnations, and we raise up sparks by being here and now in our current life. Just by being present, here and now, we are automatically going to connect with sparks in our lives.

We raise up sparks by being in a state of receptivity, and receiving whatever G-d sends to us. Realizing it’s from G-d is what will raise up those sparks. We raise us sparks by understanding that nothing is coincidental, and everything is divine guidance, including the people the people in our lives who are there to supply us with something we lack, but something they have.

We raise up sparks in our relationships, including male/female and other relationships. The depth of our connection with others is the depth of the sparks we can raise up.

We raise up sparks by coming into the land of Israel. We are the sparks returning home, just as we will be caught up one day to return to our divine home. We are the exiles, wherever we are, and we’re there in order to raise up the trapped sparks, wherever they may be. The sparks of Torah, of potential converts, of divine information and energy – these are all put into our lives to be raised up as well.

We’re here as a legacy, to raise up the sparks that fell from Adam & Eve’s fall in Paradise. We’re here to raise up sparks, and when they’re all raised up it will be the Messianic Age. When we are beckoning to another person to fill us up with their life force, which we don’t have, that’s an interaction of sparks, too. Even in suffering, even in the holocaust, even in the lowest of places, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira taught us that in that suffering and in those worst situations there are Holy Sparks to be raised up inside the pain itself.

When we have clarity of an unclarified situation and we are learning, we raise up lost sparks in those situations. We raise up sparks by seeing that all the highlights of our lives are basically sacred text; they are the texts of G-d’s book that he’s writing, with each of us as the central character of our own story. We need to interpret that text and understand it, because that’s how we come to home the holy, pristine, divinely providential place where we’re meant to be.

The Experience of The Ladder of Souls – Part 8

Ladder

Today is the yartzeit of the Arizal, and we are talking about the soul, so I can’t help but focus on those two things together. This will be about what I’ve learned about the soul from the teachings of the Arizal, which offer a completely unique perception of light in the world. It’s about G-d’s place and our place in the world, and how to get past the broken places. And it’s about how to deal with anything and everything in life.

So, I’m making a unification of the 9 days before Tisha B’Av, and the Arizal and this whole soul series. I’m seeing it all coming together here so we can continue learning how to open up our souls in mystical consciousness ways.

The Arizal spent years and years going over one piece of Torah, just a few lines. And he’d come up with more Torah on that one little piece, a few lines, than anyone could handle. He’d produce an exponential amount of Torah, in quantity and quality of teachings.

One of the things the Arizal taught us is this – the deeper we go in receptivity (Kabbalah is receptivity) and the more we remain open to the finest nuances of our study, the more we need to be able to be able to plug in with our soul and tap into the ultimate wellsprings of wisdom.

He taught us about partzufim, about the idea of persona and seeing spirituality and the sefirot as worlds that are all interconnected, all outside of us as well as inside of us. We need to be aware of and connect up with those worlds, as much as possible, to advance our souls.

The Arizal taught us about tzimzum, the constriction of creation, and how that from the most constricted places come the most potential, expansive, divine, infinite places where we need to reveal G-d in all these constricted places, as the Arizal taught us.

The Arizal taught us about worlds, one higher consciousness, world outlook, and ways of creation and ways of relating to reality. We need to emulate his teachings. We need to look at these teachings and see how it applies to us, so we can step into these worlds in practical ways in our lives.

The Arizal taught us that the whole world, after the breakdown of reality, is filled with sparks that are found in the mundane places of life, and they are calling out to us. To advance our souls as much as possible we need to be able to hear those calls, to feel that drive inside to reveal G-d’s light in places he’s normally not found.

The Arizal taught us all about bringing expanded consciousness into our lives so that we can grasp that which is beyond us, that outer light beyond us, in order to fill ourselves and to grow our soul. That is how our souls grow.

The Arizal taught us the idea of an externality and an internality of life. That internality is what we need to search for because it seems that everything has an external look and feel, but under the surface and over the starts there’s the most beautiful light we could ever see, and we need to keep our soul focused on that, to expand it.

The Arizal taught us about the idea of unification, about connecting things that don’t seem to be connected in order to produce and reproduce new aspects of being and of life that wouldn’t be birthed without our connection. Ultimately, we need to see the multiplicity of life as oneness. That’s what unification is all about.

The Arizal taught us about Adam Ha Rishon, about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as a place we are driven, in everything that we do as humanity and as individuals. We need to get there with the ultimate being and G-d connection.

The Arizal taught us that the world is made up of holiness and anti-holiness. This is our struggle inside, and we need to step up as much as possible with our souls, in order to fight this eternal holy war we are fighting.

The Arizal taught us that worlds ascend. There is an ascent, an elevation of reality at all times, and we see it especially on Shabbos. That’s when we go to a place where there is nothing lacking, and everything is perfect As-Is. We need to learn to take that ride, not only on Shabbos but on other holidays and also personal times in our lives. We need to ascend that ladder as often as possible to purify our souls.

The Arizal taught us that we have had previous incarnations. We were here before and we’re here to finish our unfinished business now, and then to carry on our perfected business, engaged in the world on a much wider scale of personal and cosmic tikkun.

The Arizal taught us the world is made from the universal principle of male and female, masculine and feminine, the Zeir Anpin and the Nukva. As much as we possibly can, we need to unite them until they complement each other within each of us, and interpersonally as well.

The Experience of The Ladder of Souls – Part 7

Ladder

Let’s focus on the part of the soul to which we’re connected right now, knowing that it’s not enough; it’s not big enough or whole enough, or SOUL enough. Therefore, we’ll look at strategies to make the soul more expansive, expressive and soul-full.

The first one is – Live now as you would anticipate living as a soul in the post-life reality. Understand that every one of your expressions, your speech, feelings, actions and knowing has endless ramifications, reverberations and depth to them. So, start expressing yourself now as you will then, in the post-life reality, in the future.

Become a “G-d’s right-hand person.” Figure out how your will is actually an extension of G-d’s will, and get on board. Be an endless extension of G-d’s will, using you to bring the whole world to its tikkun.

See people with the eyes of G-d. See people, not only who they are right now, or who they were in the past, but who they will be in the future, so you can help guide them towards that future.

Be more whole. Don’t be fragmented, don’t be partial. Whatever you’re doing, think about what will come from it and what is it when seen from a greater context. What is the potential of what you can do now, and what has happened when you’ve done so in the past? Get the whole picture in mind as regards whatever you’re doing. You’ll be expressing more of your soul in that way as well.

See yourself in a state of birthing or “becoming.” There is something you are giving birth to in the way you speak or think or perceive. There’s a whole, new side of you that’s coming to the surface. So, think like that… you’re constantly birthing yourself as a partner of G-d, a co-creator with G-d in all you do.

Understand that you’re not here alone. You may be alone, relatively speaking, with regard to other people, but G-d is your right-hand partner in whatever you do, and you might as well make the best use of that reality. You might think, “what I do for you and you do for me… together we’ll change reality.”

Understand where your limitations are, where your helplessness is. Be helpless. Allow yourself to understand what you cannot do, what you cannot make happen, and give those tasks over to G-d. You empower yourself endlessly by doing that.

Be microcosmic. Interact with your world on many dimensions, linearly, laterally, circularly, in time (past, present and future), with the people around you (soul family people and others who are going through what you’re going through). Inter-include yourself with as much as possible of the world you live in.

Choose to do the wonderful dance of, “things are Perfect-As-Is,” and at the same time they’re not perfect at all, they need to improve. You can always strive for more, for better, but at the same time completely accept things the way they are. Do that little, paradoxical dance that allows your soul to express itself completely.

Allow yourself to feel, and to express the feelings deeply. Your yearnings, your experiences, your feelings that you share with other people. Allow those deeper feelings to come to the surface; allow your heart and your soul to express those to you.

Another one is to infinitize what you’re doing. That’s the key to liberation, to freedom. Whatever you’re doing, take it to the ultimate level, to infinity, in your perception, your speech, your potential, your planning and your interpersonal relationships. Don’t put any barriers on yourself at all.

Know there’s a light at the end of every tunnel and a silver lining to every cloud. There’s a new dawn after the darkest hours of your life. There’s a midnight, which is the transition time from the most susceptible and vulnerable place you’re going through. Hold on with that point and you’ll see it give rise to salvation on the other side where you’re headed.

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