Friday, April 30, 2010

"How does the Creator know everything?"


The Creator has no “outside”.
All Creation resides within Him,
United within His Beingness.
Just by knowing Himself,
He also knows everything else.

(Adapted from Tanya I 48)

This past Sunday my students had asked me, "How does the Creator know everything?"
I explained, "He knows everything just by knowing Himself."
The class shot me a puzzled look.
"Look" I continued, "The whole universe is inside of Him. There's no such a thing as being outside the Creator."
"Really?", Came back the incredulous response of several students.
"But ... the universe is so amazingly large. How does it all fit into the Creator", They protested.
"Ah", I lifted my eyes, "You think the universe is so amazingly large? According to Kabbalah this whole vast expanse that we see all around us it's merely a teeny tiny universe within a even vastly larger spiritual universe."
I waited to them to absorb what I just said. Once their faces and body language apeared settled, I continued, "And that vastly larger spiritual universe is merely a teeny tiny universe within an even larger spiritual universe. And that within an even larger one ... the process continues until universe is layered within universe like the layers of an onion with our physical universe right in the deep center. All these universes are inside of the Creator. He's around all of them."
However, we ran out of time. So I did not yet have the opportunity to finish explaining to the class how the universes are truly one within Him. My concern is that from everything I explained, a student can mistakenly walk away with the notion that the Creator is positioned around a "bubble". Within this "cosmic bubble" there's a layering of universes. However, this is not truly the picture I was trying to convey.
The picture I was trying to convey is closer to a dreamer having a dream. The dream, dreamscape and dream characters are not merely "inside the dreamer" - they are literally one with the dreamer. The very fabric of the dream is the dreamer himself. On the level of the dreamer's psychological fabric there's no distinction between dreamer and dream. They are seamlessly one and the same. So dreamer knows everything going on in his dream simply by knowing himself - for they are the same.
Similarly, in a metaphorical sense the Creator is dreaming creation into being. This is why He knows everything  that is going on simply by knowing Himself.

Hopefully, with the Creator's help I'll soon have the opportunity to convey this notion to my class.

Friday, April 23, 2010


“Too little effort is arrogant,
 Because it’s asking for a free miracle,

 Too much effort lacks faith,
 If you believe, you don’t need to overdo.

 So what’s the right measure?
 Act with a heart full of kindness."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Almost Nothing About You

To my Creator,

As a spark from Your Infinite Light,

I feel like …

A child You nurture,

A student You teach,

A love You caress,

A servant on demand,

A fetus in Your womb,

A garment You wear,

A guest You welcome,

A friend You comfort.

These roles are but tiny parables.

They seamlessly merge into one.

Yet enlarged, they say much of me,

 And almost nothing about You.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thwack !

It’s a Jewish spiritual teaching that all events in our lives are caused by the Creator. He alone decides and understands what’s best for our soul’s journey. Often people think that their fates are in the hands of parents, teachers, siblings, spouses, genetics, financial markets, health specialists, governments, etc. The list of these kinds of attributed causes can be exhaustive. Truthfully, there is only one cause behind every event, the Creator. All the other causes that people often attribute to the events in their lives are really just tools used by the Creator to reshape human destiny. He has many tools in his vast toolbox.

However, people often confuse the Creator with His tools. This reminds me of a story that happened to me in the early 1990’s. At the time I was living in South Florida and enjoyed exploring the local Native American culture.

It was a bright and sunny Florida mid-winter season, the kind that beckons people from colder climates to drop by and warm their bones. A friend of mine visited me from New York. Wanting to showcase for him the lovely unique natural beauty of South Florida, I took him along on several different outings over the course of a few days. One of these outings was to the Seminole reservation in Hollywood, Florida.

We arrived at the Seminole reservation on time for an alligator wrestling show. The show was held in a large enclosed area. An assortment of alligators and crocodiles were sunning themselves behind a fence.

Out came the wrestler. He began the show by comparing and contrasting the nature of the alligators to crocodiles. He explained that the American alligator has a relatively docile nature in contrast to the aggressive Nile crocodile. He then picked up a long pole and lifted it high in the air. It whistled as it came down and struck an American alligator on his leathery muscular back with a loud "thwack". The alligator barely moved. His repose continued undisturbed, as he lounged in the sun.

Next, the wrestler again lifted his long pole high in the air. This time the pole "thwacked" the back of a Nile crocodile. The crocodile hissed and growled at the pole. His snout reared with anger. His jaws opened wide revealing deadly teeth. Aggressively, he kept snapping at the pole, again and again and again and …. 

Having just passed Passover, this story possibly sheds light on the second plague that the Creator had sent the Ancient Egyptians just before the Exodus. The popular, and certainly the main, tradition is that the Hebrew word for the second plague tzeh-far-de’ah means “frogs”. However, there is a minor tradition that the word tzeh-far-de’ah means “Nile crocodiles”. Indeed a famous renaissance traveler to Egypt, Rabbi Obadiah of Bartenura, reported in his travel diary that he saw the Biblical tzeh-far-de’ah and then proceeded to describe Nile crocodiles.

If this plague was indeed a communal infestation of Nile crocodiles then it’s easy to see how this plague fit the Ancient Egyptian psyche; a psyche that just grabs at the nearest tangible cause of joy or suffering without seeking a more underlying cause.

The Ancient Egyptian worshipped a system of cosmic forces. They perceived these force as so spiritual that they mistakenly thought that they reached the upper end point of reality. In their imaginations there could be nothing beyond. What they missed was that the Creator is beyond their whole cosmic pantheon of forces. These spiritual forces are merely the Creator’s tools. As mere tools, they are not really responsible for the pattern and flow of human life. It’s best to appeal to the One who wields the tools – the Creator. 

Watching this scene I mused to myself, “He thinks the pole is attacking him and so he’s battling the pole. He absolutely has no clue who’s wielding that pole; who is his real attacker. He just grabs at the nearest tangible symbol of his suffering and deals with it reactively. Isn’t this so similar to what happens with humans? Humans think that their suffering or pleasures come from immediately tangible sources, not realizing that these sources are mere tools being wielded by the Creator and it’s best to appeal to the real Source.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

As the Holy One fills the universe ...

  • As the Holy One fills the universe, so the soul fills the body.

  • As the Holy One sees and is unseen, so the soul sees and is unseen.

  • As the Holy One nourishes the universe, so the soul nourishes the body.

  • As the Holy One is pure, so the soul is pure.

  • As the Holy One dwells in rooms within rooms, so the soul dwells in rooms within rooms
Let the bearer of these five qualities praise the One Who bears these five qualities.

~ Translated from the Talmud, Berachot 10A

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Divine Embrace

Jewish mysticism teaches that everything we experience is just the tip of the iceberg. Our senses are designed to merely pickup a narrow sliver of reality, with the overwhelming remainder lying beyond our senses’ reach. What we perceive are just lowly extensions of what’s beyond.

This can be compared to listening to a friend talk. The words are just extensions of thoughts which are on their own totally imperceptible to the listener. What’s beyond the range of human perception is usually referred to as the spiritual realm. However, as the saying goes, “As below so above”, meaning that whatever we experience as a physical reality is only a tiny sliver of a much grander spiritual reality - existing as a seamless organic whole.

However, not everything that can extend into the physical realm necessarily does. Sometimes, the “extending” takes human help. In His decision to supply us with “free choice”, the Creator has made humans co-creators. We are given the choice whether to extend certain gifts to humanity or not.

Usually, these gifts are roles that require human intelligence to appreciate and would not be on their own be easily supplied by nature. Examples of these roles are (but not limited to) the Creator’s desire to extend charity, justice, healing, parenting, friendship, governing, supplying resources, etc.

For example, while playing the role of healer, the Creator supplies certain people with the inner calling and / or the opportunity to join the healing professions in some capacity or another. By their work these people become the Creator’s extensions to channel His healing into the world.

Another example is the Creator’s role as parent. Human beings can choose to become parents and extend this divine role into the physical realm for their offspring. Similarly, people can choose to be extensions for the Creator’s kindness by being giving and charitable. There are many roles in life like these which can be done with the desire to become the Creator’s extension.

Choosing to be the Creator’s extension for a particular role does not necessarily mean that the role would not have happened either on its own or via a different path. However, taking up the opportunity to play the role is very spiritually fulfilling and brings the person closer to the Creator because the person is imitating the Creator’s ways.

This could be compared to the way a mother feels when watching her daughter prance around in her outfit and shoes. Even if the behavior is childish, the fact that the child wishes to become like the parent carries meaning. The parent is thinking, “How lovable, my child wants to be me!”

Similarly with the Creator, our divine Parent, when we trying to imitate His ways awakens His affection for us. Each time we act out those special roles on His behalf, He reaches down to give us the capacity to carry it out and we reach up with our intentions and prayers to receive the capacity. In the moment of mutual reaching, we make contact – a special connection is made!

It’s like we embrace. The embrace holds as we use it to help others with its light.