Posts tagged Jewish
Now what I’d like to speak about has to do with the High Holidays, which are almost upon us.
I’d like to discuss a few tools of Divine Service, so here are a few introductory points:
I think it’s important to know about these tools called Teshuva, Tefila and Tsedaka, Penitence, Prayer and Charity, the “big three” that are so prominent in the High Holiday prayer books. Those are the three things we are told to do in order to avert the harsh decree.
My intention is to know and to teach the pshat level, the simple, straightforward understanding, on the one hand. Much of it comes from my own background and also Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Handbook of Jewish Thought. And I bring to it the deeper, inner understanding of Kabbalah and Chassidut, to round out the tools.
I’ll start with Teshuva, or a righteous return to G-d and to ourselves. Here are a few points explaining what the mitzvah of Teshuva is all about, beginning with a person having an assumption, an understanding that there is a divine source of morality and truth with the ability to pardon wrongs done within that morality and truth.
As opposed to other approximate levels of morality and truth, including the popular conceptions of Western society and other religious beliefs, as a believing Jewish person I have an absolute truth to rely on, G-d’s word to rely on, which of course has been interpreted many ways.
But the fact that divine morality exits allows me to measure myself against that and try to return to that, pardoned from wrongs by the G-d that brought us all into existence. All of this would be lacking if there was no absolute truth, only approximate truth that changes with the times and necessities of society.
The power of Teshuva is in the fact that it was created before Creation itself, implying that it’s more important than Creation in some ways, and also it has the ability to return us to the purpose of Creation. Teshuva has the ability to override the divine trait of strict justice because G-d is looking for our good and the good of the world. G-d, therefore, is very long-suffering and patient, waiting for us to re-enter the realm of morality and truth as he sets it out.
Essentially G-d turns a patient eye to our misbehaviors as we move towards Teshuva.
Teshuva has the ability to act retroactively. You might ask the question, “How can we undo the damage done by sin?” Some things cannot be undone.
For example, if a person is born of an illicit relationship, that child will be living testimony for that the rest of their life. But, the idea of Teshuva “undoes” the original intent. When we change ourselves we have a different intent, a different intention, and it relates back to our original intention, undoing it back then.
Since I’m a new me, you can’t judge the new me for a wrong intention I had back then as the old me. Only G-d can see that I’m a new person of course, since humans need to judge based on what they can see with their eyes only, with some consideration given to their capacity to change.
We also have to understand that the power of Teshuva is that a person can sin and be wicked their entire life and reverse their entire history in one minute. There’s a famous story of Rabbe Lazer ben, whose life was exactly that way. He did Teshuva at the very last minute of his life and became known as a Rebbe, because he did Teshuva in that way.
So that’s the power of Teshuva. It will always be accepted, and you can always reverse a situation whenever it may happen.
The practice of Teshuva involves four elements, basically.
1) It involves regret, which is shame. There is a place for feeling shame. There is a power, a healing power involved when it’s done in the right way.
2) The confession of what a person did has a certain power as well, the confession to G-d and the confession to people we have wronged.
3) And there is the resolve to not do the thing again. This is something we address on Yom Kippur, when we get to a place where G-d testifies, so to speak, that we won’t do it again. That is the place we want to reach.
4) And finally, there’s changing our ways. We put ourselves in a different environment so we won’t be influenced in the same way and tempted to be caused to do whatever we did once again. We might change our lifestyle and work on things that will hopefully influence others as well, bring others to G-d. That’s a big part of Teshuva.
Teshuva involves different kinds of intentions and different levels of intentions, on a scale of higher to lower. Probably the highest level of intention is Teshuva from love, meaning a person doesn’t change his ways because he’s afraid of punishment, of hell (which is another level of Teshuva), but because he feels bad that he didn’t take advantage of his relationship with G-d. This type of Teshuva elicits results which are much higher, raising up the sins a person commits to become merits instead.
There’s Teshuva that comes from the intention of having responsibility for oneself, owing up, recognizing the seriousness of going off the path, and recognizing that Teshuva is really my own chance to make a difference.
There are decreasing levels in the timing of Teshuva, meaning we might realize immediately what we did wrong and do Teshuva immediately. But some people spend their whole lives doing Teshuva; every day they think about what they did wrong and they go through those four steps, so they are constantly in Teshuva. That’s probably the highest level, in terms of timing.
When Teshuva is done with the same trial and tribulation that caused a person to go off the path in the first place it’s another high level of Teshuva. Also, it’s better to do Teshuva when young than when old.
Another level I’ve already mentioned is Teshuva done from fear of future suffering, and another is Teshuva done from the unbearable reality of present suffering, especially when one is old. Perhaps the lowest level is doing Teshuva right before passing away, due to the fear of what’s coming afterwards.
But all these levels of Teshuva are effective, 100% effective and acceptable.
There are many obstacles to doing Teshuva. One is when a person makes a choice to sin with this thought in mind, “I’ll sin now and do Teshuva afterwards.” Another is when a person separates themselves from helping out other people in the community, or disrespects people who are meant to be respected. There are also people who make fun of the commandments, and those who seek to get honor at the expense of others, gossip about them or suspect them. These are things that can keep a person from doing Teshuva, and they hold a person back.
Teshuva is something that needs to be done with an understanding that we should never give up, no matter how far they have fallen, no matter how deep the despair may be. We have to understand that we are in the place of a Baal Teshuva, a Master of Return, and even in the place a Perfect Righteous One cannot stand in such a place.
We’re meant to not remind a person who has done Teshuva that he or she was once a sinner. And Teshuva is something the entire Redemption will be dependent upon. That’s why all the prophets address themselves to having the nation come back to Teshuva.
So, that’s all pretty much the straightforward level of what Teshuva is all about.
In terms of a deeper level, Teshuva is a return to oneself. It’s a return to the essence of who you are. And it begins when a person realizes his life is somehow meaningless, or futile or just some form of personal exile. No matter how outwardly successful a person may seem to be, it’s all sort of a self-betrayal.
When you understand that you are living a contradiction and you see the absurdity of your world (a lot of great comedians make fun of us doing exactly that, and that’s why people love their jokes so much) you begin to realize that self-contradiction is wide-spread.
So when the Master of Return, the Baal Teshuva recognizes that and does something about it, they begin to reconnect to who they are and who they want to be. And their return is the return of a true master, a master of response, a Baal Teshuva, that’s the name given to them. And that type of person achieves unity of character, including their mind and their emotions and their actions unified with their eternal self, their G-dly self on the inside. That’s how they regain their self-integrity in the most beautiful and in the highest possible way.
In this way they open themselves up to what is probably the highest level of happiness that a human being can feel. And it’s why the happiest times of the year happen after Teshuva time, after the 10 days of Teshuva and then Yom Kippur, followed by Succot, the happiest time. It’s because you can regain your self-integrity, and regain yourself in the process.
We need tools to be able to get to that place, to figure out who you are, where you’ve been, what’s important to you, what you look like in the eyes of truth, the eyes of your future life and the eyes of your soul family, even your own eyes looking down and really seeing yourself. This is how we gain the perspective of authenticity, and focus on a higher level and what that level can be as you look at the essence of your life and turn it into something much, much higher, more YOU, more essential and more G-dly than ever before.
This talk is called Out Of The Box, and I want to share it now, a couple weeks before Rosh Hashana, because this time of year it’s important to realize that there are no limitations on how we live our lives, what we make of them.
More so than any other time of year, NOW is the time to step up, and to see that we’re much more than what we think we are. So, it’s really important to step up and to jump out of the box to become something we’ve never been before.
Kabbalistically, the idea of “out of the box” is very central to the creation of the world, and the way the world runs. G-d was the only one around at the beginning of time, and he had to create a void, and then from the outside, from out of the box, came G-d’s ever-present reality to fill the void.
All of Creation fills the void from an out-of-the-box way into an in-the-box way. And in Kabbalah there’s a concept called Ohr Makif, which is the surrounding light, or energy, and it is seen as the way we grow spiritually. We take that which is beyond us, which is surrounding us and which includes the level of soul to which we have access, and we draw that down inside us. And that’s the way we grow, by bringing what’s out of the box into the box.
The Jewish people are a great example of out-of-the-boxing. We are people who are constantly drawn to something beyond ourselves, such as a Messianic time, a post-life reality, the essence of our souls, which part is beyond us entirely. And we are drawn to G-d, to strengthen our connection to G-d, which is another out of the box kind of thing.
So, we’re always living our lives in this bridging, back and forth, from outside the box then into the box… that kind of reality. In my own explorations of teachings and spiritual principles I’ve found that we first have to clear out the clutter inside ourselves in order to begin to express ourselves. And the more we do that, meaning clear out and fully express, the more that which is out of the box becomes accessible to us, and we’re able to bring it down into us.
Personally, I have always felt a draw to whatever is out of the box, so I’ve had to transcend reality in order to grasp what was “out there” and bring it to myself and others as we move towards a Messianic consciousness, which is out of the box. We’re all drawn to that, it’s the ultimate draw. The world is being drawn to G-d in a variety of ways. It’s a draw from that which is out of the box into the box, which is the central idea we’re dealing with here.
I have a lot of practical ways for that to happen, but first I’d like to share some of the writings of Rabbi Avraham Issac Kook. In my humble opinion he is one of the greatest articulators of the experience of enlightenment, certainly one of the greatest in the modern day.
Looking at it from this perspective then, a look at out-of-the-box thinking from another, higher perspective. I chose a few specific quotes to illustrate what out-of-the-box consciousness is all about.
Musings From The Beyond
**Drawn from the ‘Lights of Holiness’
—R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook z’tl**
1. CONSTANT RENEWAL
The perception to see the world
Not as finished but as in the process
of continued becoming, ascending,
developing—changes a person from being,
‘Under the sun’ to being ‘Above the sun’
From a place where nothing is new,
to a place where nothing is old
(quoting King Soloman’s famous line from Ecclesiates)
2. SONG OF THE SOUL
Surely the soul sings always…
[if you wait for the time when
Creative spirit will inspire you—
You lack the illumination].
You must raise yourself to the heights of
Confronting your soul…Be ready to listen to
its holy discourse
At all times in every hour
It release streams of its precious gifts
3. SOULS OF CHAOS
The souls inspired by the realm of Chaos are greater than the souls whose affinity is with the established order…They seek too much from existence—from what is beyond their own faculties to assimilate—a very great light……….they can’t bear what’s limited……they descend from a very high realm….they soared on high like a flame and were thrust down……their striving knows no bounds….they aspire constantly to the beyond and to the impossible… they fall [inevitably] in sorrow , despair, —leading to their becoming wicked, destructive……..they especially reveal themselves at the end of days….they rebel against everything…..they seek nourishment in alien pastures and ideals…..they are passionate souls……….. truly heroic spirits know that this force is one of the phenomena needed for the ultimate perfection of the world….in the end , their power will be taken from them and turned over to the righteous ones…..dark clouds will pave the way for great light…”
Now, here are some practical ways to bring some things that are out of the box into the box, into your life: a) The Graduation Speech – Projecting a future “you” and working towards it; b) Partnering with G-d – Take upon yourself to share with G-d whatever profits come your way, in whatever way you think G-d would like it to happen, and have G-d help you in the process as well; c) Seeing With The Eyes of G-d – See people and situations for what they are, were and will be; d) Beyond Limits Yearning Vision Dialogue – If you had no limitations what would you want? This is beginning to live with a post-life reality where every word, thought and piece of wisdom reverberates forever.
And I have a number of tools to help us get answers from above, or beyond, and to live from an incomplete perspective to a whole, complete prospective, and to see how everything is preparing for the birth of something else in your life. These tools help you fuse with G-d, so that G-d can speak through you, think through you, be through you in all of your senses, etc. They help you study the Creator’s ways and emulate how the Creator creates so you can do the same. And they help you ask questions and receive answers that you think the Creator would give you. And they help you have the trust that just as G-d has come through for you in the past he will come through for you again now.
And finally, the ultimate tool – Let Go And Let G-d.
These are practical ways of living out of the box, and of course there are many more regarding how you act, how you see, how you open yourself up and expand yourself. I won’t go into them all right now, but there are many more.