Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Drop in the Ocean


Sage met wedding jester; greetings, smiles.

They embraced in special friendly warmth.

"Oh, jester you always share so much joy.

Today, touch me with deep spiritual insight."

Begged sage. "A rare offer." smiled jester,

"Do you know more than most people?

What each person knows, is but a speck.

The 'unknown' is a vastly vibrant ocean.

The 'known' is barely a moist drop - lost!

Shall a tiny drop boast over his vast ocean?

Can you boast over your slightly larger drop,

When you share with all the massive ocean?"

Sage's eyes lit up, face radiated satisfaction,

"Thanks, you returned my long lost teaching."

      ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Soul


A soul basked in paradise, suffused with light.
No needs, no wants, floating, ease and delight.

In the midst of misty sweetness, she reflected,
"I've been given everything, except for "giving".
My Giver's giving fills me with desires to give.
Please Giver, allow me to be like You - giving."

The Giver answered His beloved's prayer.
She was escorted out of her realm of light,
Descended levels, until reaching the night.

The realm of night flickered, dimly lit.
Souls, both suffered and pleasured in it.

Living this seesaw wore down the soul.
She wept and scrunched into a fetal ball. 

In the midst of pain, arose a thought,
"Weep? Your prayers were answered.
You dwell in a gift. Celebrate living!
Pain's a womb that nurtures giving.

Can a realm of giving look any different?"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Kabbalah Mind Puzzle

Note: This post might be partially unintelligible without a basic understanding of some of the Ari z'l's teachings

Dearest Brother,

I have a puzzle on my mind. I want to share it with you to see how you resolve it (maybe, share it with Rabbi ... for his pleasure as well).

Here goes:

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes in several different places and I also heard it in Rabbi Ashlag's name that the way the notion of "space" work in the spiritual realms is by the principal of similarity and dissimilarity. Two entities are similar, they're close. If they're dissimilar, they're far. Humans tend to use this notion in human relations, probably because relationships are somewhat spiritual. A person can live next door and be "far" from his neighbor. By contrast, another person can live at the other end of the world and be "close".

With this groundwork laid down, let's examine the "empty space" prior to the introduction of the "line of light". It was spherical because there was no up, down, right, left. On any given perimeter, every point along that perimeter was equidistant from the Infinite Light. For example, when the "empty space" expanded out ten times, it left grooves (like the rings of a tree) at each spot that was a previous outer border. Each point along a given groove should receive an equal portion of light from the Infinite Light. It does not matter whether the points are on a 60 degree angle from each other or a 120 degree angle from each other. The determining factor is the distance from the Infinite Light.

Well, if each point on a given groove, before the is introduction of the "line of light", was really receiving an equal portion of light from the Infinite Light, then each point is identical. What defines anything is the amount of light it receives. Beings receiving the exact same amount of light (in quantity and quality) are so similar that there's no distance between them - they're really just one entity. If they're one entity then there's should not be a spherical structure of equidistant points, but rather there should only be one point. So how can there be a sphere with many points, finding themselves equidistant from the Infinite Light and yet, often quite distant from each other?

I'm curious to learn how you (and Rabbi ...) deal with this puzzle. The answer that flowed into my mind contains a beautiful real life lesson of human growth and development - but, I don't want to bias your answer(s) with my own.

Have Fun !


The answer that flowed into my mind:
It seems likely to me that when the "line of light"  enters the "empty space", it does not enter from an arbitrary spot. There is probably a designated spot that's most conducive for it's entry. Otherwise, why would the entry point be at that particular spot and no other? 

When examining the words of the Ari z'l in "Etz Chaim" we find that the only entity in the entire system defining the main directions, (front / back, right / left, and up / down) is the "line of light" itself. Since this is the only guide post provided, it makes sense that even prior to it's entry the "line of light" is somehow already defining the directions. This means that on some underlying level there's already a sense of direction - although it's not overt.

The substance of "empty space" closer to where the "line of light" is due to eventually enter, must have unique qualities which allow it to accommodate the "line of light" and is perfectly placed to await the "line of light's" entry.  Areas designed to have a closeness with the "line of light", but not to experience the full impact of entry, will be a bit further away. Yet, other areas not designed to be very distant from the experience of direct impacted at all, will be at the opposite end of the "empty space". This positioning of the areas of the "empty space" is based on a very "subtle differentiation". On the surface all areas probably look alike. However, their unique potentials to interact with an event that's about to happen is different, but does not yet manifest a difference in their appearance, except in one area - their position. Yet, these differences are "subtle" enough not to undermine the evenly spherical appearance of the structure. Still, this "differentiation" is sufficient to allow spots on the exact same sphere within the "empty space" to lie at distant reaches from each other.

The lesson I take from this is that like a spot in the "empty space" a human often finds himself or herself seemingly voluntarily bringing his or her life into a certain situation. If asked, "Why?" The person probably wouldn't be able to give the real answer because it's a case of, "He doesn't know, but his higher self knows." Even if the person can offer some logical answer, it's only at best a desperate groping on life's surface to make some sense of the his or her behavior. Truthfully, what's motivating the behavior is a soul getting ready for a unique encounter with spiritual light. For the soul to be a receptive vessel for this light, the soul needs to be in the right life situation; in the right spot in the "empty space". A little further away and the light might be too weak. A little closer in and the light might be too strong.

So when we see children gravitating towards certain academic interests &/or skills, it's likely that these preferences are motivated by a soul trying to find her place in the sphere of life where she makes her best contact with the light, even if the light has not yet descended. It's important to allow that process to be and not tell a child, "I don't see the benefit, so please move over to where I'm standing. Hang out under my streetlamp."

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Rose Called to the Breeze

The rose called to the breeze,
"Please, spread my fragrance."
The breeze carried her fragrance.
Her scent wafted into an open window.
Her sweetness aroused a couple to love.
A child grew within to encompass "little soul".
He grew without, reaching for "big soul".
With more soul, more secret wisdom.
More secret wisdom, more teachings.
Students stream in, students stream out.
People taste  their souls, a sweeter world.
All because the breeze loved the rose.

  ** *** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** *** **

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Noah's Gem and Window

In this week's Torah portion G-d tells Noah how to make a tzohar for the ark. The classical Biblical commentator Rashi relates that two definitions of tzohar  have come down the line of Jewish oral tradition. Both definitions refer to a source of illumination. One tradition defines tzohar  as a large luminous gem and another tradition defines it as a skylight. 

Lurking within uncertainty of tzohar's  definition, the great chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov drew a wonderful spiritual lesson.  In his magnum opus Lekutey Moharan he noted that the Hebrew word for Ark is taivah, which is also the Hebrew word for "word"; Namely, a "word" of prayer. Rabbi Nachman related that there are two ways to fill our "words" of prayer with light. One way is to be like a "skylight"  receiving our light from an outside source of inspiration - like from someone else's holy teachings. Another way to fill our words of prayer with light is to be like a "luminous gem", to be able to internally generate our own spiritual creativity needed for prayer. This way we can either illuminate our words of prayer from an outside source, like a "skylight", or from an inner source like a "luminous gem".

There's a story told by Rabbi Nachman that once upon a time a King had asked his two trusted friends to paint the walls of his throne room. Each was given a wall facing the other and a year to get the job done. One friend got busy right away. He drew a curtain over his half and worked diligently on his part of the project. The other friend couldn't muster up the inspiration and procrastinated.

As the year was drawing to a close, the diligent friend's work was almost complete and the procrastinator realized that he had to come up with a plan, very quickly. Like his friend, he also drew a curtain over his facing wall and with just a week to go, seemed to be feverishly at work.

The appointed day arrived. The King appeared with his entourage to dedicate his new throne room. The two friends greeted the King at the door and escorted him to their work. The diligent friend opened the curtain and a splendid nature scene dazzled the eyes. Now it was the turn for the other friend to show his work. He too removed the curtain revealing a freshly mirrored wall, brightly reflecting the scene the first friend had worked on from across the room.

The King was pleased with both friends and rewarded them handsomely.

Why was the King equally impressed with the mirrored wall, which did not seem to be as creative as the painted wall?

Perhaps, an answer can be found in the difference between whether the Ark was illuminated by a gem or a window. The gem represents an active inner dynamic generating new light, while a window is merely a passive channel allowing in light that already exists on the outside. While it's easy to see the value of being a gem, there is a unique value to being a window. The light of a gem, like the King on a chessboard, cannot reach everywhere too easily. This luminous source needs a means of conveying it's light into new territory. If all it encounters are other "gems" then it will never be able to extend it's light into distant areas. Therefore, the King was celebrating both sides of a single dynamic - the friend who can generate new creativity and the friend who can successfully convey that creativity into a new area. Both are needed.

Rabbi Hillel Paritcher commented in his commentary to Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch's "Kuntres Hitpa'alut" that it should not make a difference to a person how he received a new Torah teaching, whether it was generated in his own mind or conveyed to him by someone else. In either situation, whether he's a "gem" or a "window" for the idea, the same G-d arranged that the idea should reach him. 

Truthfully, life is not black and white. Most people in certain situations play the role of "gem" and in others the role of "window/mirror". Sometimes, it's a dynamic back and forth. It's a balance. The main thing is to celebrate both as G-d given.

An Afterthought :
Truthfully as I was in the process of writing this piece, more ideas flowed into my mind. However, there just was not enough time to put it in. However the gist of it, is that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe drew a parallel between Noah's Ark and the Holy Temple. Basically, he said that the Ark was the Temple of it's day. This is why the Ark had a space warp making room for all the animals species. This is also why reproductive behavior was forbidden (just as it would be in the Holy Temple). So it's possible that the issue of whether Noah illuminated his Ark with a precious gem or a skylight might be the difference of whether the Ark contained the sanctity of the First Temple or the Second Temple. The first had the Tablets, a luminous gem. The second did not have the Tablets on site and needed to act as a skylight - drawing holiness from beyond.