Sunday, July 15, 2018

Av

The Jewish month of "Av" is about relationships. This is a special month of the year. It's about hearing, deep hearing. It's the "Shema" affirmation prayer,  where we inwardly hear our own minds contemplate Your Oneness and by extension Your Infinity. We feel our connection with You, our Oneness in You and then pull away ever so slightly from that state to feel "love" with You; Your love, our love, the same love. We feel our relationship with You, with all others, with ourselves. It's the same relationship.

Can Your Infinity fit in our hearts, as some would claim? Does it matter? It only matters that I share love with You. In the experience of love one forgets levels. One forgets to bring along the measuring rod. One forgets what a measuring rod is or even what a measure is. I know not where Your kiss begins or mine ends. It's one continuous kiss.

This is what it's like to share love! Relationships may have and should have "Adar" moments,  giddy moments. But like the month of "Av", it's mostly serious business. It's commitment and work, but, also the very best of what it means to be human in every sense.

So, far from being frightened of "Av", I pray to embrace its gifts to build relationships, strong ones! Just like the high priest Aaron had. When we wholly accept the gifts, there are only blessings!

---------------O--------------

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jewish Transcendence


Jewish transcendence is,
  Like a fisherman at sea,
   Far, far from shore.

But only to bring back,
  The tastiest of fish,
    For his starving village. 

~~~~~O~~~~~

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Soul & Mind



Since mind connects soul to body, it's not surprising that Maimonides considered Aristotle one step away from prophecy and Moses to be an even greater philosopher than Aristotle.

In the Maimonidean view, scholarly pursuits lead one to greater revelations from above, i.e. spiritual growth while occupying a body. And they lead one to a higher level of paradise; as one becomes more aligned with God, in the sense of His revelation as the universal mind.

However, it doesn't seem like Judaism, as a whole, has endorsed the Maimonidean view in this particular instance. It's true that Judaism has a strong scholarly component. However, for the most part, it does not view one’s spiritual growth or paradise as being entirely linked to intellectual mastery. There is room for other alternatives.

Consider the following story:

The Baal Shem Tov was shown in a dream the man who was destined to be his neighbor in paradise. Curiously, he set out to find the man and learn about him. When he finally met him, he discovered that he was facing a very tough, hefty butcher; the very opposite of the refined personality he imagined sharing his paradise.

In response to his utter surprise, the Baal Shem Tov asked the butcher a series of questions; hoping to tease out evidence that he was in fact a “hidden saint”. However, after exhausting all his questions, no such evidence was forthcoming. By saintly standards, the butcher proved to be rather ordinary.

The puzzled Baal Shem Tov struggled for fresh questions, until he was reduced to asking the obvious. In that society heft was associated with health. So, reminding someone about his or her weight was actually considered a compliment.

“Why are you so hefty?” the Baal Shem Tov inquired.

A proud smile broadly broke across the man’s face as he explained, “My father was a thin man, very thin. He was dragged from his home by the locals of another faith. They demanded that he worship an idol or face the stake. He chose to be burned alive at the stake to sanctify God’s Holy Name. However, he was so thin that when he burnt, he produced only a tiny, wispy flame. I fattened myself up, so that when they come for me, I will make a huge, roaring fire for God.”

Now, the Baal Shem Tov was satisfied. He had a legitimate basis to appreciate why this man was designated to be his neighbor in paradise.

This story demonstrates that mainstream Jewish thought does not necessarily link one’s spiritual growth or paradise as depending entirely on scholarly attainments. Clearly, the butcher was not a scholar in any serious sense of the word. He was considered an ordinary man who was tremendously devout in an extraordinary way.

There are several possibilities I could think of to explain why, broadly speaking, Judaism did not endorse the Maimonidean view as the only alternative to access spiritual growth and paradise.

    A) Who’s to say that every iota of scholarly information is true? Harboring a smattering of false notions among the true ones, may actually obstruct, rather than enlighten. To whatever extent the mind has been removed from harboring truth, it has been misaligned with the soul - whose whole essence is about truth. Under such circumstances there could be compromises in the mind’s ability to serve as a vessel to receive the illumination of the soul.
  
    B) One’s intellectual faculties can be swayed away from truth by one’s passions and urges. Regardless of claims to objectivity, personal bias can creep in. Therefore, a scholar whose passions and urges reign supreme may actually bear more falsehood than he or she is aware of. If weighed out in the net, such a mind may actually bear less “net truth” than the mind of a non-scholar.

    C) The logical faculties are just one part of the mind. There’s so much more to developing the mind than just scholarly pursuits. They include one’s morality, convictions, beliefs, sense of justice, free choice, practical planning, a sense of people, caring for others, spirituality, intuition, etc. As psychologists admit, there are many kinds of intelligence. Being scholarly is just one of them. So, one could have a mind which is very highly developed; just not necessarily in a scholarly way. This mind can actually serve as a very clear vessel for the illumination of the soul.

The latter notion, that the mind is a lot more than just the capacity for scholarship, is the reason I mainly identify with among the three listed above. The first two make sense to me as possibilities for consideration. I still have not worked out how sure I am about them. However, I feel comfortable enough with them to put them out there to be mused over. The third one, I find really compelling. I believe that the butcher had a certain kind of genius (though not scholarship). Otherwise, he wouldn't have been who he was.

Although, scholarship plays a large part in Judaism, Judaism is not just a religion of scholars or for scholars. Consequently, it makes sense that its system of spiritual growth and access to paradise would not be entirely dependent on scholarly attainments. There are other ways too!

--------------O---------------


Monday, June 25, 2018

.


Lost in His Love


Your love for God is a mere glimmer of His great love for you!

In your love for Him, you taste a bit of His vast love for you.

To feel His love, simply awaken your own!

It’s the same love, limited to as much as you can take.


~O~
!




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Effortless!


 ----------------------------------

It's less difficult for You,
To create heaven n’ earth,
Than for a healthy man,
To take the slightest breath.

----------------------------------

What does this mini-poem tell me? What feeling does it fill me with?

It tells me something of Your awesomeness. I marvel just the mere droplet I know of the earth around me. This this little sliver I view, is so filled with dizzying nuances and complexity. For instance, the millions of leaves I have rushed passed, on the tree lined roads, while driving during the past 20 minutes; each of them uniquely crafted by You, no two exactly alike.

I realize that even such a tiny slice of life, I am aware of, takes so much to produce; a coordination of so many factors, energies and materials. Yet for You, this entire production was absolutely effortless. Not only have You effortlessly created this tiny slice of life, but, crafting the entire creation of the heavens and earth was just as effortless for You!

Effort is a result of limits. Since Your Infinity is devoid of limits, the whole notion of effort simply doesn't apply to You.

This realization fills my heart with awe and reverence for You. It makes me feel tiny, yeah minuscule, before You! And yet at the same time, it fills me with feelings of trust that I can entirely rely on You; that I live in a world where everything is connected to a Being Whose Kindest of kind.

---------------O--------------


Friday, June 15, 2018

Trade Winds



Do you wonder why I am,
  At peace with those who banished me?

The ways of our God,
  Are only kind n’ good!

The banishers were just His wind,
  To blow my ship to a better place.

Does any sailor dare,
  Complain about such a wind?

----------O---------


Of Paint n’ Canvas



I came to you,
  As an apprentice;
Seeking n’ yearning,
  For a master painter.

I imagined one day,
  Painting on my own.
I imagined bright colors,
  Widely streaking across,
My expansive landscapes,
 Livening my portraits,
Filling my still lifes,
  With hints of moving life.

But you showed me,
  Heaps of canvases.
They were dull n’ drab browns.
  Yet, you held them with pride.
“Upon these paintings rest!”
  You heartfully exclaimed.
Your smile broadened wide,
  As you lectured me,
About their qualities,
  About their textures,
About their uses,
  About their sizes.

At first my ears inclined,
  Cause it was about art.
You rightly proclaimed,
  “This is vital to art!”
N’ of course I agreed,
  How else could it be?

Then I started moving on,
  You seemed puzzled.
Your gaze betrayed,
  Deep frustrations.

But why...?
  Hadn't you caught on?
I seek a painter,
  Not a canvas maker!
Hidden knits of fabric,
  Doesn't inspire me,
As do the streaks n’ streams,
  Of brightly colored paints.

------O------