Sunday, February 11, 2018

Self Actualization

The self actualization of the seed is also the self actualization of the soil.

When a seed bursts out with its latent potential, it awakens the latent potential for higher life in the soil too; as a patch of soil yearns to live as a plant.

Similarly, when a person attains self actualization, s/he bring out a greater potential for life in others too; as a deeper expression of soul awakens the same others.

Knowingly or unknowingly, this has to be one of the greatest forms of kindness!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Starter Soul

It is interesting how in the act of fertilization is really multi-leveled; built upon a series of male and female intimacies, one after another. Tracing them backwards, there’s the intimate union of the parental DNA, preceded by that of the parental chromosome strands, as they twist, twine and embrace. Preceded by this there’s the union of the sperm and egg, which is of course preceded by the intimacy of the parents themselves.

Now can this intimacy be traced even further back, within some male and female elements of the parents’ themselves? Remember, male and female is not just a body type. It’s a magnetic polarity which is found within each and every aspect of the emanated and created reality, tracing back to the earliest moments when a contraction happened within the Infinite Light. It’s truthfully, a relative relationship. What’s male in one setting can be female in another and vice versa. So within our own bodies and souls, we have relative male and female components.

The Kabbalistic work called “Tal Orot” (Part I, Chapter 4:1) states that an embryo gets a “starter soul”. The author, Rabbi Ya’akov Meir Shpielman, further explains that the father and mother each contribute a small part of their own soul to start the fetus. These components combine to form the total “starter soul” of the fetus. Once the fetus grows sufficiently, it receives its own individual soul and then the “starter soul” serve as a “garment” around the child’s true soul from that point onward throughout life.

Now what contained the two halves this “starter soul” in the parents before they merged to become the “starter soul” of the fetus? Based on chapter 2 of “Likutei Amarim Tanya” and elsewhere in “Tal Orot”, it seems to me that the patrilineal component of the “starter soul” is found in the sperm. Based on the same pattern of thinking, it makes sense that the matrilineal component of the “starter soul” is found in the ovum; as polarities tend mirror each other. So, what happens on one side of the equation can be reasonably accepted as happening on the other side of the equation as well.

In the case of the sperm, its component of “starter soul” is said to form in the father’s mind, the seat of the soul, and then travel down the vertebrae of the spine into the testes. It makes sense to me, that at this point something in the testes gets fertilized with animating life force from the father’s component of the “starter soul”. I do not know whether these are actual sperm cells or early stage cells which will later become sperm cells. However, this seems to indicate a male and female intimacy of sorts occurring between the mind and the testes.

I would presume, based on the mirror image principle that the same pattern occurs in ovaries of the mother. Her mind fertilizes her ova with her own component of “starter soul”. This too is an act of male and female intimacy within her body. Except that it’s not constantly occurring within her because she’s born with every egg she will eventually release throughout life; whereas, with a male, the sperm is being constantly replenished. As a result, this act of intimacy needs to be constantly reenacted.

I was told that scholars believe that Judaism got it’s notions of embryology from the ancient Greek philosopher Galen, who thought of sperm being created in the brain and then traveling down the spinal column to be discharged into a female womb which only acts as a kind of soil to augment the growth of the male seed. In this model the real producer of the sperm is the male brain, which infuses the sperm with all of its true hereditary components. In contrast, the woman makes no essential hereditary contribution to the child. I am just repeating what I was told and take no responsibility for its full truth.

However, just because Kabbalists may have used Galanic terminology to express themselves, does not mean that Kabbalists necessarily fully bought Galen’s perspective. I think they were much too sensitive to matters of male and female polarity to believe that a woman does not contribute a mirror image of what the man contributes to a fetus, just as the author of Tal Orot had expressed. Besides, the sperm traveling down the spine can be interpreted to refer to an electric flow and/or chemical secretion released by the father’s brain, embodying a component of “starter soul”. This flow and/or secretion then fertilizes something in the testes with life force; acting as a kind of “sperm of sperm”.

The Kabbalists’ usage of the wisdoms of their day as possible models and modes of communication does not necessarily mean that they strictly interpreted reality in accordance with them.  In fact, I would imagine that they were prone to employ flexibility when dealing with extra-Torah sources.


Holy Edifice

A man who obsesses,
  About filling the holes,

May be given a life,
  Littered with holes to fill,

And may never end up,
  Erecting his own mountain;

A bulging edifice,
  To his holy dreams within.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Exchange

The soul is compared to a wellspring. As it is written about the soul, “A garden wellspring, a well of living waters...” (Song of Songs 4:15).  The soul is just like well waters, which are at first salty. Yet by passing through the narrowly confined veins of the earth, they become “living waters”. So too the soul, by descending into the narrow confines of the body and the animal soul, draws waters into the upper paradise.

~ Lubavitcher Rebbe, Discourse “I Came to My Garden” 5718

To recap, it seems from what I read that a soul residing in paradise descends to the earthly world to undergo a purification, let go of her salt, and to become sweetened; as this salt has interfered with a fuller revelation of her inner sweetness. Furthermore, via this process she draws down more spiritual light and pleasure into the whole of paradise itself; thereby, enhancing the delight of all souls residing there.

An interesting idea dawned on me as I read these words. Though I will share it, I am admitting that it’s speculative and I hope that people who are my spiritual seniors will eventually confirm this idea one way or another. However, if I never publicize it, how will they ever see it?

 As I read this excerpt, I wondered how is there any bitterness at all up there, whether in a soul or in the general environs of paradise? Then I remembered reading in Rabbi Yehudah Fatayah’s commentary to Etz Chaim that when the shards and sparks fell, from what would later be referred to as the world of emanations, some baby was thrown out with the bath waters. In other words, some material which belonged in the world of emanations fell into the lower worlds, including our own world at the very bottom of all worlds. So, when we elevate shards and sparks, we are only elevating that which should not have joined the fall and is therefore, rightfully a portion of the world of emanations. (I don’t remember where Rabbi Fatayah made this comment. But, I do remember seeing it.)

This makes sense and helps explain why there will still be a physical world during (at least, the initial stages of) the messianic era (see Maimonides), despite the view that all the sparks will be elevated by then. This is because the only things drained from the physical world was what did not belong there and was not essential to its stability. Quite to the contrary, its presence disrupted the stability.

Now if the breakage and fall of the shards and sparks was so messy, then is it not possible that just like some of the material which belongs to the world of emanations fell below that some of the material which belongs below remained above or at least in a realm above its destination (meaning, that it did not fall far down enough)?  If you pour out a glass of oil, does not some residue remain? Besides, in the balance of existence usually what happens on one side of an equation has a parallel happening on the other side of the equation as well.

Perhaps, these “stragglers” which remained above, despite belonging below, account for the saltiness, the bitter elements, contained in the environs above in general and in their residing souls in particular. Our world then functions as a marketplace, where exchanges happen. We bring down the spiritual material connected to our souls which rightfully belong below. That’s the purification of our souls discussed in Mussar, the sweetening of our souls discussed in Chassidut and the repair of our various soul levels discussed in Lurianic Kabbalah. Then in exchange, we elevate material connected to our souls which really belong above - whether to the world of emanations or even to some lesser level which is still considered above relative to the physical world.


Monday, January 15, 2018

What’s Next?

Since my earliest years I was always interested in the messianic era and it’s spiritually inclusive possibilities for all humanity. So, the question of what’s the spiritual role of the whole humanity has never been far from my mind. Over the years, I have looked into Judaism for various clarifying clues. For starters Judaism teaches that, as a basic, God gave the non-Jewish nations seven commandments to live by. They are:

  • Believe in One God,
  • Don’t murder,
  • Don’t steal,
  • Be upright in matters of intimacy,
  • Don’t eat flesh amputated from (non-aquatic) living creatures,
  • Only speak only positively about God,
  • Support a fair system of justice for all.

Besides these seven, there’s a command for all males, who can, to procreate. There’s also another commandment on all males of proven Abrahamic descent to be circumcised. This includes those who can directly trace their biological lineage to Ishmael. There’s yet another commandment which is not officially part of the list. Its part of what God commanded the Jewish People.  Since, in general, the nations practice it as well, it is deemed as if they made it binding upon them. This is the commandment to honor one’s parents.  

When one looks at this list of Noahide commandments, on the surface, it does not seem to contain sufficient content to satisfy the needs of a person seriously aspiring for a religious life. This has been my reaction after thorough reading the book, “Path of the Righteous Gentile”. I dismissed this reaction thinking to myself, “Maybe I am just being subjective.” However, I have since heard this remark from others as well. The what’s next question for those among the nations who have put themselves out to be connected to the Jewish People, as Noahides, has haunted me until rather recently. It wasn’t just a question which I simply lingered in the back of my mind. It was a question which haunted me. It haunted me on many levels, not the least of which was that it is highly unkind not to be concerned with the spiritual welfare of my fellow human beings.

I am aware that the Noahide Code is really a lot deeper than it seems at first glance. There is a wealth of details included in each of its seven commandments. The commandments themselves are just broad general categories. However, even with this understanding I have heard that seriously religious Noahides sometimes seek something more.

In truth, there are possible devotional directions which can address the what’s next question. Since the Noahide way of life is intended to cover a very broad population, it make sense to me that God intentionally kept it very basic and broad, as “one size does not necessarily fit all”. This way it’s flexible enough to be applied in a variety of cultural settings.

Among the what’s next steps I could think of are:

  • Adding levels of refinement in the understanding and practice of the Noahide commandments themselves. For example, stretching one’s understanding of what it means that God is One can become a very consuming mystical and/or philosophical exercise, which can have lifestyle altering implications in one’s perspective and practice.
  • Accepting Torah commandments which until now are normally only practiced by Jews. Most of them can be practiced without entering into controversial territory. Though it’s not as valuable as if practiced by a Jew, because it’s voluntary rather than commanded, still it does enhance one’s relationship with his or her Creator. For example, kindness and philanthropy is part of what the Torah commands Jews. So, devotional efforts in this direction could include increasing one’s involvement with kindness and philanthropy.
  • More organized community activity in prayer and Torah study (of scripture, applicable practices and underlying concepts). Recently, the Torah sage Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh has expressed that Noahides should be exposed to all of Torah. This is a brand new approach, one which personally makes sense to me. For those who want to explore it, here's the original context:
  • Spreading Noahide teachings among the rest of humanity.

I have heard that on one level or another, suggestions for further spiritual growth are already being put into practice. I also would not be surprised if there are many other growth enhancing measures taking place which I am not aware of at all. After all, as of the time of this writing, I am an “outsider” to these communities. So, more likely than not, I really don’t know.

I would like to propose an additional what’s next option which I honestly do not know whether or not it has been considered. I am only proposing it in case it hasn’t been considered or has not been thought through in the style that I am presenting it.

The Talmud on the last page of Tractate Sanhedrin teaches that every prophecy portending positive events God commits Himself to carry through on. However, a prophecy portending negative events God reserves the right to renege on. If this is true with the prophecies of Moses, how much more so is it true of Talmudic accounts about less than positive events which may happen in the future? So, the following scenario presented by the Talmud at the beginning of Tractate Avodah Zarah does not necessarily have come true. Through a change in their ways, the nations of the world can likely alter it. I speculate that maybe, it was actually put there as a lesson to offer spiritual direction to humanity.

The Talmud relates that in the future, God will hold a Torah scroll to His chest (figurative language of course) and ask the nations, “Who involved themselves with this?” Each nation will claim that it’s every amazing accomplishment was only motivated by the dream of helping the Jews study Torah. They will elaborate that they built marketplaces, bathhouses, bridges, amassed wealth, conquered nations ... all to fabricate havens of Torah study. Of course God will throw these arguments back in their faces, retorting that they selfishly toiled for their own interests and that they failed to sufficiently credit God for what they accomplished.

Notice that the nations do not respond that there were Biblically based commandments or values that they had genuinely practiced, legislated and/or promoted over the course of human history. From the nations’ choicest answers, one can reasonably infer the nature of God’s question to them. God’s question is obviously how much help and support have they provided the Jews over the course of history to study Torah and practice its precepts.

According to Judaism, God offered the Torah to all nations before offering it to the Jews. The other nations rejected it, claiming that they found its precepts too difficult to follow. God never faulted them for their rejection. He never held them bound to what they never asked for. However, since He did come around to them expressing that He has a precious treasure to offer humanity and He’s just looking for a taker, He probably expected the nations to at least be helpful and supportive of this great project. If it mattered to the Creator of the universe, it should have mattered (on some level) to them too. How could they be so brazen to their Creator? Their rejection may have gotten them mostly off the hook, but not entirely.

However, it is not too late! Due to the ravages of persecution during the long Diaspora, the Jewish people, as a whole, are far from a peak level of Torah observance. It is not their fault! These are not Biblical times, when they recently witnessed unmistakably open miracles of God’s favor. This is a period following, ages upon ages of heart rending persecution with devastating effects on the Jewish national and religious psyche. Many Jews have suffered and are suffering on one level or another from sincere discouragement. They may not express it this way and to hide their pain even mask it with intellectual excuses. But, discouragement is what it really is. This discouragement has a snowball effect into other areas as well; weakening their observance of Judaism. One example of such is that less Jewish children are being educated in the ways of the Torah. This is very sad considering that the whole welfare of humanity and ultimately the arrival of the Messiah depend on the Jewish People observing the Torah.

Though unfortunate, I think this situation presents a very unique spiritual opportunity for Children of Noah seeking new avenues for their own spiritual growth and development. They could participate in reversing the course of this discouragement by being involved with projects helping the Jewish People back to their proper state of spiritual health. There are many, many avenues of participation. It is not my object to preach and promote, but simply to teach and inspire those who are interested. So, here are some possible examples, but not specific endorsements…

  • Working at a vocation which helps rebuild the Torah instructure of the Jewish People, as was done by Vendel Jones, of blessed memory, in his career as a Biblical archaeologist.
  • Volunteering in Jewish communities in ways which help rebuild the Torah infrastructure of the Jewish People. This is a great option for people who can only perform such work on a part time basis.
  • Donating to organizations which help rebuild the Torah infrastructure, such as
    • Jewish elementary and high schools,
    • Organizations that do outreach to strengthen Torah observance among Jews themselves. As stated, many Jews (largely, because of the discouragement felt by earlier generations) were never even provided with the education necessary to properly practice Judaism,
    • Synagogues and community centers,
    • Orphanages, old age homes and organizations intended to help the needy.

This is not intended as a comprehensive list of suggestions. Far from it! They are just intended as a few general pointers to hopefully get the ball rolling!

Judaism teaches that someone who helps another perform a Torah commandment, get’s spiritual credit for assisting. On some level, it’s as if he or she did the commandment as well. The example of this most commonly cited in Judaism is that if one person studies Torah all day, as a career, and another person financially supports him to do so, the one who financially supported him gets to share in the spiritual light of his partner’s Torah study. It’s as if he studied Torah too, since the Torah study would not have been possible without him. Based on this, it makes sense to me that if a Noahide supports Torah study and Judaism, he or she has a spiritual share in it as well.  

Epilogue - Going Mystical:

The main point has already been made above. The following is only for those who want to see the topic more deeply, as presented by Judaism’s branch of mysticism, known as Kabbalah. If what I write here confuses you, please disregard it entirely; as it’s only addressing people who are already of a certain perspective.

Kabbalah teaches that part of the reason for why the world is (perfectly) imperfect is because the spiritual realms are in a state of disrepair. Since the higher spiritual realms act as “pipelines” to bring down spiritual lights and blessings into the world, if they are not “whole” the flow of goodness into this world is compromised. The reason why they are not yet “whole” is because much of their raw material is still strewn around the earthly realm. It’s like a damaged building who’s concrete, bricks, wiring, piping… has been partly strewn about on the street level.

The scattered material of the higher spiritual realms is referred to as, “sparks of holiness”.  When a Jew does a Torah commandment, he or she elevates some spark(s) of holiness back to the higher spiritual realms, where they get assimilated for the purposes of repair and rebuilding those realms; thus, improving the channels which bring lights and blessings into our world. From this perspective, this is why the welfare of humanity depends on the Jews living according to the Torah. It’s the way humanity receives blessing.

The Kabbalist and father of the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Solomon Eliyahu teaches that the way non-Jews participate in elevating the sparks of holiness is by assisting Jews to perform the Torah’s commandments (see “Kerem Shlomo”, Volume 1, pages 242 and 243). This assistance occurs even if it’s not done consciously.

Just imagine how much greater the spiritual force such assistance could be if it is offered consciously with clear intent to serve God?  


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Messianic Music

Since the messianic era is supposed to be a peak human experience (relative to its past), I wonder whether the music of that era will be especially engaging, especially spiritually wholesome? What will be the feeling, mood, and resonance of that music? Will it instantly trance people off into prophetic states? Will it transform people, bringing them into greater spiritual alignment with their higher selves and with each other?

I even dare to wonder whether through biological innovations we will be able to hear new kinds of sounds, ones which are currently outside of our hearing range; thereby, improving what we can musically hear and be moved by. I would not be surprised if during that period, listening to a song from yesteryear will feel uncomfortably bereft of finer sounds (and possibly even filled with never anticipated dissonance). It may be akin to listening to a primitive language with an underdeveloped vocabulary.

Maybe, that’s why Judaism teaches that the tenth Biblical song is waiting for the Messiah to compose, as language and music are not yet ready for such a song. Both need to be heard and understood in a much richer way before such a song can emerge. Perhaps, we’re deaf to certain sounds which need to be present and our vocabulary is not yet sufficiently varied to describe much of what needs to be described.

This quite possibly relates to why the Hebrew month of “Av”, which is about “hearing”, figures prominently in both the themes of exile and redemption.  

It’s not a great leap to imagine that biological innovations may extend the ranges of our other senses as well; ensuring that the messianic era remains a totally natural phenomenon (per Maimonides)  and yet, a seemingly miraculous one as well. Perhaps, our physical senses will be able to pick up what was once regarded as spiritual vibes. For example, if our range of taste and smell were to expand, perhaps we will be able to taste the difference between produce grown in standard soil and produce grown in holy soil.

Such changes carry so much possibility...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Chime of the Soul

The other day, I had a beautiful memory of a special moment in my early 20’s; circa 1990. Having recently relocated from New York City to South Florida, I just discovered wind chimes and found them totally enchanting. I felt like listening to them is listening to the music of the wind.

During that time I attended a university which had a wide open lawn. Perched in the center of the lawn was a wooden gazebo. Hanging from it’s concave center was a very finely crafted wind chime. I used to sit in the gazebo and meditate to the pretty tonal sounds, hoping for a message from the pleasant breezes.

Having been taught in my spiritual studies that the whole universe is like God’s “garments”, I had hoped to learn how to see and hear His messages from the movements of His “garments”. This included the movements of the sun, moon, stars, birds, animals, fish, streams, ocean waves, natural sounds, cloud formations, thunder, rain  ...

Some may have thought this an effort in the direction of augury; forbidden by Judaism. However, I was not seeking to predict the future, just to have an active line of communication with my Creator. I was so awe struck by just His “garments” and marveled such at His mystery that fell in love with Him. And what’s a relationship without a continual flow of active communication?

Looking back, did I ever feel that I absorbed a message from the breezes? Did the melodious wind chime in the gazebo ever speak to me? No, it hadn’t. It would be too simplistic to say that I felt like I was addressed in a language which I simply did not understand, as if stopped by a foreigner groping for directions. Actually, I felt more like a fish asked to describe the water or as a person asked to describe his or her own face without having ever looked into a mirror. Whether or not this was true, this was how I truly felt.

After trying to hear the wind chime’s message, I continued on to meditate regularly in nature. I lived in South Florida throughout the decade of the 1990’s. I regularly meditated along the nature trails of Greynolds Park (on the lush banks of the Oleta River) and sometimes even in the Florida Everglades. Being mosquito infested, the nature trails in South Florida are usually not great places to sit in one spot for too long. So, I’d stroll the trails talking to God along the way. I referred to these sessions as “walkie talkies”.  Though not by conscious choice, in most cases the “talking” was mental rather than oral.

During these outings into nature, I cannot claim to have discerned the messages of the Creator’s “garments”. Still, the natural setting did serve as a ripe environment for me to hear the messages of my own soul. Plus, the Creator’s “garments” did serve as a great resource and inspiration for contemplation and self-realization. 

Over and over again, I remember realizing how privileged I was to be privy to the artwork of the greatest Artist in all existence. I strolled passed streams, and wooded areas in utter awe over the Divine Artist Who created all of this! I marveled at how the artistic scene I see here and now will never ever be seen again. Unlike a static painting in a museum, it shifts and is constantly re-painted each mili-fraction of a second. The cloud formations populating the expanse of the sky and framing the tree tops, are constantly reshaping. The sun’s position is in orbit. The birds are on the move. The turtles are swimming. The crabs side step their way between the river and their holes. The coconuts bob along in search for solid soil. The breezes constantly shift their intensity and direction. Even some feral monkeys play among the branches. And watch out, there’s a huge spider web! Yes, it too is part of the art, just don’t get entangled. LOL

Perhaps, I was never intended to hear God’s language through nature. I was just intended to be immersed in a fertile setting to hear my own soul. I guess where He talks, so does the soul.