Meditations

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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.

Weekly MMM – Essence-ing

I call next week’s MMM “Essence-ing,” in English, and in a sort of casual way in Hebrew, “Pnim D’Pnim.” The idea is “the inner of the inner,” which is a concept I learned with my long-time mastermind partner many years ago.

Back when I was contemplating making the leap of faith required to leave my comfortable, secure home in Israel and travel to the United States to teach my stuff, I certainly needed courage and I also needed faith. But the most important thing I needed was actually Pnim D’Panim.

When I said, “I’ve never done this, I’ve never given classes in various cities. I’ve never prepared classes, advertised them and networked with people internationally, to get people to show up for my classes.” I’d never done any of it and I had no idea what I would be getting into.

How would I be able to stand up in front of a crowd and keep my mouth moving when I could barely catch my breath at the thought of speaking publicly? I had so many worries, and I honestly couldn’t sleep for a month before my first trip. So, my mastermind partner told me, “Yitzchak, what you have to do is go inside yourself and “essence,” for lack of a better word. You have to find the essence of who you are, and let it percolate or bubble up to the surface until it’s overflowing from you.

“To the extent you do that, you ‘essencize’ your life, and you find out who you are and what you have that’s unique, and come to an understanding of what you can give to other people that they cannot get from anybody else. And the deeper you go, the more passionately you go into this mind-state of consciousness, the less you’ll have to make any kind of efforts at all during your American tour. D

“Doors will be opened for you by G-d, the way the Red Sea was opened up for the Jewish people when they needed it. Everyone is going to be on your side, to get involved, to introduce you, to work for you, and to help you create connections with lots of people. You’ll have everything it takes to make it happen.

“G-d will give you the courage, the confidence and the words, but it all depends on how much you go into the essence of who you are.”

So, that’s how I was introduced to this concept of Pnim D’Panim. Now, let’s jump back into the present, when we’re very close to beginning a new year.  Every year at this time I try to review all the highlights of my life, which for me, personally, prepares me and and “essences” me. It lights up my inner light, more than anything. I can clearly see that I’m much more of a human being than I thought, as I recall various parts of my past year while they are percolating through my mind.

The more I’ve seen lost parts of myself coming to the surface and into my awareness, the more I sense the world is meant to connect with me. The people in different parts of time, space and soul are reaching out, seemingly out of nowhere, to ask, “Hey, are you the Kabbalist Rabbi who helps people understand a million weird things, meaning whatever comes up in their minds?”

Questions like that one come up because the deeper a person goes inside, the more they will experience people and opportunities embrace them and chase them down, sort of like teenagers chasing after the Beatles in the early 1960s. It has that power because we are microcosmic beings, and the deeper we go inside ourselves, the more we wake up the world around us, especially the things that correlate to the deepest parts of ourselves.

And that is Pnim D’Panim. What can you do to get it? First, you have to see who you are and what your calling is in life, and hopefully be able to synthesize your core essence into a concept or a word. For example, “a transcender, a giver, a fixer, “ or whatever your word may be. When you have it, you can walk with your word, and make decisions from it, and speak from that place, that “identity word” of who you are. That is “essencizing.”

And you have what you need to blow past all the pettiness of life and get down to the core of it. People are going to feel that from you, and it will allow you to break through walls. When we speak from our hearts and souls it opens other people’s hearts and souls, too.  When we speak from our essence, then me can “essencize” other people as well.

You have to find out who you are by studying your life, seeing the highlights of your life and what you are yearning for, what you really desire. What do you excel in and what are you struggling for? What MUST you have in your life? These are the questions that lead you to your essence point, and the answers will be provided as long as you’re receptive enough to hear them. Your answers are available 24/7 if you’re asking the right questions.

Go straight to the source and ask G-d your questions. Once you do that, you’ll give birth to your “essence personality,” and it will light up your way in your soul family, your people, in ways you never thought possible. And all this will happen without your personal, concerted effort. It’s unfamiliar to people who are living in the natural world instead of their own essence.

I’m referring to a concept that’s extra-ordinary and super-natural, which is – the deeper you go inside, the more the outside stuff is taken care of for you. So, that’s the challenge, and my MMM for this week. I’m curious where it will take me, where I’m going to take it, and who else is going to jump on board.

 

 

 

Weekly MMM – Parsha Re’eh

This will be the MMM for Parsha Re’eh this week, and the topic is Integrating the Lower Self, or the Lower Soul. This is a topic that really interests me, because most people are completely ignorant of it and suffer as a result of their ignorance of it. They simply don’t know how to integrate their Lower Soul into their lives.

The Lower Self, Lower Soul or Animal Soul… which is not the same as the Evil Inclination, not at all… but it is part of us which often takes over to sabotage us at the wrong moment. It can impair us in a negative way, or it can empower us in a positive way.

The source of the Lower Soul in Kabbalistic works is called The Left Side of the Heart or The Animal Soul. It’s associated with the original mix-up with the Tree of Good and Evil. It’s associated with Esav, the twin brother of Yaakov, and the Esau/Esav energy of unharnessed chaos, in a way.

When properly processed however, this part of ourselves becomes a great point of life force and empowerment. We have to integrate it, and it’s dangerous stuff because we can easily take it too far.

In a conversation with a friend of mine who is a Hollywood script writer, we discovered that he does not refrain from talking about the dark parts of himself because it gives him the creative edge needed in his business. The more he does it, the more his works become brilliant.

To bring this idea back to the Jewish sources, it’s like this – King David, at the end of his life, could not physically maintain warmth. So, after searching the Land of Israel, the most beautiful girl was found, and she was hired to lie beside him to keep him warm.

The meaning of “not being warm” in King David’s expression was, “libieb chalal bekirei” which translates as, “my heart is void inside of me,” and means that he had no desire for lower-soul stuff any more. It means he was complete and had no need for it, so that caused the situation he experienced at the end of his life, his inability to literally and figuratively warm himself up.

The body heat and the spiritual heat that warms people up is that Lower Self, that Animal Self, that stuff that’s coming from the Left Side of the Heart. King David didn’t have it, toward the end of his life, and he needed help to get warm, literally.

Moses, at the age of 120, right before he died, was completely lucid. And he said, “I can no longer go in and come out anymore,” which means he didn’t experience ups and downs any more. That Lower Soul is responsible for knocking us down so we have to climb up and reach a higher place. Moses didn’t have that responsibility any longer. He was not no longer a warrior and he didn’t belong in this life anymore because he had completed the job.

So, that lower part of ourselves, that Animal Self, is actually the part that keeps the life force alive. So, what we need to do to get to that part, to connect with it, and there are several different ways to do that.  One of the ways to connect with that part is to clean it, clear it, and purge it.

We need to give it a voice. People who do Transcendental Meditation say a non-sensical mantra so that the mind will “sweat out” all of these lower soul thoughts, so that they are not just repressed there. They get processed, and that’s what keeps them calm during the day.

Debbie Ford, one of the original new age writers, wrote about the dark side of ourselves in a book called The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. The wrote about what she called a “shadow world.” We have many parts inside of ourselves, character traits which are not flattering and we’d never want written on our tombstone. We’d never want to become famous for them or have them written on our CD.

We may be lazy or jealous or just looking for a good time. Those are just some examples, and what we have to do is find our own character traits and bring them to the surface, so that we can make a deal with them, we can say, “ok, I’ll let you be a part of my conscious world if you don’t mess me around too much, and if you don’t steer me wrong.”

When we do that, we are able to integrate. Then we generate and ignite those parts of ourselves that, if we didn’t allow them to come to the surface in a healthy, sane way, they would derail us. They would sabotage us, at all the wrong times and in all the wrong ways. So, that’s another way to get to them.

Yet another way to get to them is to know how to mix them, to mix the strong parts with the weak parts, the holy parts with the not-so-holy parts.  We can learn to unify them in a way which is healthy.

One way to do that is to look into our mind, which is what the Baal Shem Tov used to do. When we’re involved in a holy space, such as prayer or learning or something like them, we need to look at the thoughts coming to us. There are a lot of lower-self thoughts coming to us, saying, “raise me up!”

Some people are encouraged to go around, because it’s too dangerous to deal with the thoughts. But another approach is to say, “take those things and elevate them, to put them in the service of G-d.”

Instead of wanting to strong-arm people, be a warrior for G-d. It’s that kind of a work that we do.

Even in time management, we can process these things. We can take the Higher Self, which is what we should do, and the Lower Self is what we would do if we could, and we blend those together. We take the woulds and the coulds and, and scoring them on a scale of 1 – 10, and then looking at the combination of them and making it our priority.

Whatever scores a 10 on the woulds and coulds in my life is the first thing I’m going to do. It’s the most important thing, and the ones scoring 9 and less, are less important to me.

We can look at these lower parts of ourselves and rather than completely focusing on them, we can look at the positive side and try to bring that out to be the dominant side. We can mesh them together to achieve harmony in our lives.

We can look at the Esav side of ourselves, this animal energy we have, and if we can possibly put it into proper vessels, then we have harnessed the animal energy for holy purposes.

There’s a lot more to talk about on this topic, but that’s it for now.

Weekly MMM – Parsha Eikev

The MMM theme for the week of Parsha Eikev is connection. Here’s a list of the things I want to share in my connection-themed MMM:

  • The whole concept of connection or connecting, in Kabbalistic literature, is the juxtaposition of two Sephirotic aspects, one of which is always the source of all activation, movement and vitality. Everything is either a connection or a disconnection. Connections in Kabbalah are called “chasadim,” and disconnections are referred to as “gevurot.”

These are the universal activators of life, opposite of each other. Chasadim connect, and they are associated with water, and gevurot disconnect, and they are associated with fire. Many more parallel aspects exist, but I won’t deal with them right now.

  • Another source of connection is the unification of the broken vessels of the world. Right now, we are in a 45-day period of time, from Tisha B’Av until the 25th of Elul, the day commemorating the creation of the world. Forty-five is the Kabbalistic code name for Tikkun, or rectification.

 

Connecting, then, is rectifying. And disconnecting is breaking, which is the opposite of rectifying.

 

  • A Messianic consciousness source for connecting can be seen by understanding that a human being is a microcosm, created in the image of G-d. A microcosm is a brilliant mechanism of connection, and interconnection. Man as a microcosm, or a small world, is connected with the past, the present and the future. We are connected with all people in the world, all consciousnesses of the world, and with all aspects of life, if we know how to press the right buttons to connect.

 

  • A Garden of Eden source for connecting comes from the Fall from the Garden. While the Fall created disconnection and duality, such as light and dark, life and death, anything and it’s opposite. The connecting aspect, the way we get back into the Garden, is by getting into the oneness. This is what will happen when we get into the Messianic period.

 

  • A Cycle of Life source for connecting comes from time, which does not exist in a vacuum, but in brilliant interconnections. For example, the weekdays are connected with the Sabbath, which is connected with the next weekdays. Rosh Hashana, the New Year, is connected to the whole year, in fact there’s an intimate connection. Our lives are connected to the post life; it’s all going to be reflected in that way. Our present life is connected to our past life and our future life as well.

 

These are Cycle of Life connections. The more we connect them, the more we can tap into the healing potential of making connections, which is what it’s all about.

 

  • A Bashert source for connecting is available in our relationships. Bashert means “meant for each other,” and it comes from historical connections we’ve had with each other, root soul connections. When we discover those connections and actualize them, then we can live in a win-win relationship, or a bliss-bliss relationship where we are completely receptive to each other.

You could say we complete each other, we are each other’s soulmate or soul sibling, and we turn the “me” into a “we.” That’s the greater possibility for connecting in relationships.

  • A Me/Myself source for connecting is often called, “finding your calling.” We find our calling in life with what we most resonate with when we’re “in the zone.” Or, we find the most difficult thing in our lives and endeavor to take care of it. We can project how we will take care of it by finding our inner voice and by going down a path towards actualizing ourselves. That’s what we call, “connecting to myself.”

 

  • A Faith in G-d source for connecting is when we have faith and trust in G-d, and when we see G-d’s hand at work 24/7, in everything we do in life. It’s available by connecting our will to G-d’s will, with our entire heart and soul and might.

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

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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.”
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