Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“From Quantity to Quality” ~ Reflections on “Vayechi”


To the Reader: The Following is a written prayer in a contemplative style. While it may retain some of the poetic and associative qualities of a prayer, it also has some logical structure.

12 Teves 5773, Tuesday, 9:39AM, Home

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this lovely opportunity to commune with You today. Being off from work today means that I can spend a larger quantity of my time devotionally. Along with greater quantity, can also follow greater quality - as the two are related. This might explain why sometimes the Lubavitcher Rebbe stressed quantity without fear of compromising quality. He probably felt that sometimes there’s a need to spread out thinly in order to reach the missing elements whose absence inhibit a higher level of quality from taking hold.

There’s a reference to this in this week’s Torah portion “Vayechi Ya’akov” - “And Jacob Lived”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that Jacob had his best years in Ancient Egypt. This was despite the region’s state of impurity relative to the Land of Israel, the Holy Land. Yes, it’s true that his new home was in the midst of impurity. However, that’s where the “holy sparks” associated with his soul were lodged and awaiting him. His soul was incomplete without encountering his unique sparks. He had to spread himself over a long distance, traveling through years of time and miles of space, to finally achieve his personal quality and in what for him was an alien environment.

The Zohar (with Rav Ashlag’s commentary) at the beginning of this Torah section explains the idea in more detail. It explains that the title and opening words of this Torah section “Vayechi Ya’akov”, “And Jacob Lived”, meant that he achieved a great level of prophecy, a level almost like Moses’ level, in Egypt as a result of encountering his sparks. Apparently, pre-Egypt he only had access to the upper level of his prophetic abilities, which resulted in very high levels. However, sometimes what’s very high needs what’s very low to bring it into fruition in a practical sense, to gain a sense of what it “looks like” in an earthly sense.

The sparks he encountered in Egypt made this possible. They built up the lower vessel of his prophetic abilities. These sparks were cast offs from the “sapphire below the throne of glory”. These “sparks of sapphire” from the lower portion of the divine throne became the wisdom of Egypt. Jacob’s encounter with Egyptian wisdom allowed his prophecy to grow in quality, to achieve a higher level of resolution in earthly matters - like a lens coming into greater focus. This higher quality in earthly matters obviously also had an effect on the quality of his  perception of heavenly matters ~ as the two are intricately intertwined in a single weave.

What I found personally amazing was how Jacob “living” is really a reference to his prophecy. In some sense a prophet is more “alive”, as s/he’s in contact with higher levels of life. Indeed, attaining higher and higher levels of true prophecy was a main life occupation for many during the Biblical era. These people must have felt more alive the way an angel feels more alive than a human or a human feels more alive than an animal. It just never occurred to me beforehand that in this context Jacob’s “living” is a reference to his prophecy.

Another thing I find amazing is that our two greatest prophets to date, Moses and Jacob bookend the Egyptian experience. Both used the holy sparks found in the Egyptian exile to achieve higher levels of prophecy. Both were associated with Pharaoh's household where the most intense sparks were probably lodged.

I also found amazing that “sapphire” in the heavenly realms is so spiritual that when translated into the earthly form it becomes “wisdom”. In fact, whole systems of human wisdom were from little crumbs, i.e. sparks, of this sapphire.

However, the main practical lesson I learn is that sometimes one needs to leave aside concerns about quality and strive for quantity. Eventually, with that quantity a higher quality will be achieved.

Thank You for this lesson session …

Love and Kisses …


You Play My Heart ~ a prayer


Note to reader: The following is a spontaneous prayer in written form. Its emotionally associative rather than logically structured and is meant to be processed more like a poem than an essay.

5 Teves 5773, 8:18AM, Tuesday, a Starbucks in Philly

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this opportunity to commune with You. You are my Beloved Parent. Whether or not I understand, all You do for me, to me and arrange for me, is only the highest possible kindness and goodness. You are the love of my life, the very yearnings of my heart.

At the very depths, I only yearn for intimate attachment to You. Everything else I seem to yearn for is the “waiting room reading material” while awaiting the call into Your private chambers, for a private moment alone with You. There, You fill my tiny earthling heart, like a cup, with the sweet liquids of Your Love. Then she burst forth like an instrument into songs of joy and praise. Except that contrary to appearances, she’s not my instrument. She’s Your’s. You play her and she sings, sings and sings …

She sings of Your beautiful day. She sings of Your beautiful worlds. She sings of Your beautiful people. She sings of the intellectual beauty and sweetness of Your Torah. She sings of the marvels of Your creation. All this, because she’s really singing of You!

As poor as any expression of You is, singing of Your expressions are the closest my tiny earthling heart can come to singing of You!

As You play her, am I selflessly given over to You? Am I trying to give to You in my own poor human way? Not entirely. I love the experience of contact with You. I love how You make me feel. Being open to be Your instrument, I feel Your Love coursing through me, like a stream of sensations that make me tingle from head to toe. I can’t say that I’ve escaped or transcended my desires to receive.

However, what I can say is that at least I have desires to receive that are directed to You. At least, You are at the core center. This is a step in the right direction. Summer doesn’t necessarily happen because the distance between the earth and the sun has been closed. Summer happens because the earth is tilted in a way that she’s facing her light source. So too, even if my desires to receive create distance between us, at the very least I’m facing You. I want Your Light and Love.

In the process of encounter and contact, hopefully something of Your selflessness, Your desire to give, will rub off on me; filling me with a selfless desire to please You, to pleasure You. Hopefully, like an implanted seed, this desire to give will grow, grow and grow ~ constantly, reaching new depths in yearning and passion...

Thank You for this session...

Love and Kisses …

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nothing is Coincidental

A joyful month of Tevet and Happy Chanukah:

It is interesting to me that Chanukah is unique among the Jewish Holidays for occupying time slots in two different months. The first month is Kislev, which astrologically is Sagittarius and the second month is Tevet, which has the sign Capricorn. If one looks to western astrology, one notices that the trait ascribed to Sagittarius seem to generally resemble a Greek: philosophical and athletic. Whereas, Capricorn seems to generally resemble a Roman: a quest for conquest, power, earthly stability and status.

Jewish history spans five major world dominating empires: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome (i.e. Roman inspired civilization). We are now at the tail end of the Roman period awaiting the arrival of the messianic era. To me it is interesting that a Holiday whose celebration spans from the end of the Greek period into the entire Roman period should span from the end of Kislev, Sagittarius, through the beginning of Tevet, Capricorn. Nothing is coincidental.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Edenic Lights of Chanukah

25 Kislev 5773 (1st Light of Chanukah), 7:20 AM, Home

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this opportunity to commune with You. Usually, it isn’t my preference to do my daily written meditation on a computer. Yet, this morning I felt a strong tug to. I’ve learned over time and experience to give these inner tugs a chance. They might be a message from the deeper me that often knows what the surface me doesn’t.

Yet, the surface me also seems extremely important. On Chanukah, there’s a tremendous emphasis on publicizing the miracle; something that takes place on the surface level of human awareness. Seemingly, the deeper message of Chanukah is about religious freedom - the freedom to worship without societal imposed obstructions. In some sense this is not an inherently more valuable message than Purim’s message of a whole nation being spared from genocide or Passover’s message of a whole nation being freed from slavery or Shavuot’s receiving the Torah.

So why does publicity play out as central to Chanukah’s observance and not necessary so during the other Holidays?  Perhaps, because there’s something in the message of Chanukah that relates to all Humanity. The 36 lights of Chanukah represent the 36 hours that the father and mother of all Humanity enjoyed the Garden of Eden. The calculation of the 36 hours is that they were created early Friday morning of the sixth day. They ate from the fruit on that day. Then the You did not have the heart to kick them out of the Garden before they experienced their first Sabbath on the seventh day of creation. In compassion, You simply didn’t want to ruin that experience for them. So 12 hours of Friday plus 24 hours of Sabbath equals their 36 hours of bliss.

What was it that they enjoyed in the Garden? A very special hidden spiritual light reserved for the messianic era - meaning, special states of intimacy with You. In these states of intimacy, spiritual gifts like universal love, deep inner peace, soul knowing, prophecy and holiness are simply an automatic. It’s like a woman who marries a fabulously wealthy man, in true love. Yet, so many more resources are simply added to her disposal as automatic gifts of her new union.

These lights weren’t totally lost when our earliest ancestors exited the Garden. They were hidden in two places, in the Torah and in time. They were deeply buried in the mysteries of Torah, so those who are truly ready, even in the pre-messianic era, can already taste these lights and they were hidden in time, hidden in waiting for a future period when Adam and Eve’s descendants will be ready. The lights hidden deeply in Torah, are the private reserve of a select few. However, the lights’ revelation in a future period is designed for the pleasure of all Humanity, as the Biblical prophets emphasize that during this period the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of You, as the waters cover the sea bed.

A temporary revelation of these hidden lights allowed the Hasmoneans to defeat the Syrian-Greeks. Another (though very minor) revelation of these lights ended World War II, as a great Torah giant of the last generation told me that the atomic theory was a revelation of the very edges of these lights. Then he added, “That’s why the Creator really wants them hidden, until Humanity is ready.”

To me it seems like the publicity of the festival of lights is sending a message to all of Humanity. The message is that tolerance and religious freedom is the pathway that will eventually bring everyone around to these lights. Nobody has to be forced out of their style of worship to eventually come around to the ultimate Truth. As history progresses there will be a voluntary intellectual/spiritual migration to certain deeper truths.

In a day and age when we see religious forces in conflict, Chanukah comes along to reinforce that peace and brotherhood really does the job. Yes, back then in a different era, religious war was necessary. However, today we show the Chanukah lights to all Humanity is a spirit of festivity and celebration to proclaim that these lights await us all. We just need to demonstrate that we’re responsible enough to be peaceful. Then we can behave responsibly with these Edenic revelations. That’s truly a far bigger consideration in allowing the revelation of these lights than what religion(s) most of Humanity currently subscribes to.

Please Sweet Beloved Divine Parent help this message sink into the minds and hearts of Humanity.

Thank You for this moment in prayer and for the insights You opened along the way.

Love and Kisses ...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Sequel Centuries Later


In my early 20’s, I found it much easier to understand Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s mystical book on the Creator’s Oneness, “The Gate of Unity and Faith”, than I had initially expected. Although it was my first thorough exposure to this book, I was already introduced to many of it’s fundamentals a couple of years earlier, in Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda’s “Duties of the Heart”. In my late teens, I took a class in Medieval Jewish Philosophy which centered on a section in the book called “The Gate of Unity”. When studying this section, I never suspected that I was really being prepared for my future study of another work in Jewish spiritual thought.  

Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda’s  “The Gate of Unity” was written about 1080 C.E. There, he explains the Creator’s Oneness in the philosophical terms popular in his culture and era, Jewish Andalusia. He explains the Creator’s Oneness as the most perfect of onenesses, as a Oneness containing no parts. Every oneness that humans can depict is somehow divisible and therefore, flawed; not a true oneness in the most absolute sense. However, the Creator’s Oneness is indivisible, totally seamless. This absolute version of Oneness is technically called a “non-composite unity”.

As an extension of the notion of Oneness, Rabbi Bachya has also describes the Creator as being truly Infinite, as being without parts automatically also means no beginning, middle or end - the very defining feature of Infinity itself. He uses this notion of the Creator’s Infinity to argue against polytheism by claiming that if the Creator is truly infinite then reality has no room for any other infinite deity. Where would a second infinite deity fit, when true Infinity is so all encompassing?

Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda’s argument is just one tiny step away from further extending his stream of logic to claim that there is no room for anything else altogether - whether infinite or finite. If there’s no room for a second infinity, why should there be any room any second entity - even a finite one? The obvious implication of this is that there should be no room for our universe. However, at the time I took the class in Medieval Jewish Philosophy this subtlety escaped my notice.

I was first exposed to such a notion a couple of years later, when I was taught Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s work “The Gate of Unity and Faith”, written in the late 18th century. There, Rabbi Shneur Zalman grapples with the issue of how can our universe exist within the Creator’s Absolute Oneness, without compromising His Oneness. For a finite spot within Absolute Oneness/Infinity is really a hole. If such a hole is real then the Oneness/Infinity is compromised and is no longer Absolute - as all seamlessness is lost.

To resolve this problem, he explains that even though there’s only Absolute Oneness/Infinity, there are a vast variety of perspectives, which arise from the varying degrees of the illusion of fragmentation introduced during the process of creation. For instance, an angel and a human see the exact same reality, but very differently. What an angel’s eyes pickup about the universe is vastly different from what a human being’s eyes pickup. Therefore, an angel and human will perceive themselves to be occupants of very different realms, when truthfully, they share the same reality. Yet, the gaping gap of their relative perceptions set them up to believe that they abide in “different realms”.

When a group of beings share a highly consistent set of perceptions, they are said to be occupants of the same realm. The higher or more spiritual realms are really just the perceptions of beings with less illusion of separation, while lower or more physical realms are the perceptions of beings who experience of this illusion much more intensely. Each realm is really just a construct set up by perceptions. The only Being Who perceives the entirety of reality as it really is, without any editing, is the Creator Himself. From His perspective there’s only Absolute Oneness/Infinity, i.e. Himself. All reality is seamlessly Him, as sunrays are seamlessly “sun” before radiating out into the universe.

So  is our earthly realm real? Yes, but not as we perceive it. Our perception is so highly edited that the huge gaps in our perception leave us with a very disjointed view. As a highly oversimplified example, imagine looking at a long ray of light. Suddenly the mid-section of the ray becomes ultraviolet light. It appears now like there are two smaller rays, when really its one long ray with an imperceptible mid-section.  

Years after having been taught “The Gate of Unity and Faith”, the question of, “Why didn’t Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda take that one tiny step, mentioned earlier, to extend his argument, which explained why there’s no room for two infinite beings, to also explain why there is no room for anything else altogether - whether infinite or finite? Why was this work left unfinished until Rabbi Shneur Zalman came along some six centuries later?”

This question is strengthened when considering that the result of this key turn in his argument could have brought to light the teaching that “there’s nothing other than the Creator” centuries earlier and spared whole populations from an unnecessarily compromised notion of the Creator’s Absolute Oneness/Infinity - which according to Judaism is a vital belief the entire humanity.

I held this question in my heart for a long time. Having found out that Sufis also share this belief that only the Creator exists, I asked a student of Sufism whether all other Muslims also this view. The response I received was that most Muslims don’t accept such a notion of Oneness. They consider it a violation of assigning “partners” to the Creator - presumably, on a misconception that in this scenario the creation would function as a kind of “second deity”. I was further told that Orthodox Muslims have often caused problems for Sufis over this notion, as it differed with their standard theology.

Then it occurred on me that in the theocratic climate of the Ishmaelite world, Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda probably felt that it was necessary to remain silent on this notion - as it possibly placed Jews at risk. His text was written in Arabic, in order to spiritually guide his fellow Jews living throughout the wider reaches of Islamic culture. Having been written in the vernacular, his book could have easily been picked up by Muslims on the “lookout” and had it contained such a notion, the Jews could have been falsely accused of believing that the Creator has “partners”.

While this silence likely spared Jews from the “partnership accusation”, it also had a downside. A contemporary commentator of “The Gate of Unity and Faith”, Rabbi Shimon Gopin, writes that prior to the publication of this work, Jews were usually unaware that the world is continuous with the Creator. By and large, they were fuzzy on their understanding of the relationship between the Creator and His creation.

However it took a Torah genius, living outside the domain of Islamic society, like Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who also possessed the necessary sensitivities and literary skills to feel safe picking up where Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda had left off. True to the function of a sequel, Rabbi Shneur Zalman never seems to explicitly repeat what Rabbi Bachya has already established. Yet, his work implicitly relies on the notions of Oneness and Infinity laid down by Rabbi Bachya to flow.  

Therefore, it seems likely to me that Rabbi Shneur Zalman intended “The Gate of Unity and Faith” to be a continuation of the “The Gate of Unity” section of Rabbi Bachya’s “Duties of the Heart”. This might even explain why the names of the two works are so similar.  



I have since writing this article reconsidered whether it is clear that Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda was truly a Monist. What moved me to reconsider is the fact that he might have believed in a very literal notion of the world being created "something from nothing".

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi did not have a very literal notion of "something from nothing". To him, the world is somehow continuous with her Creator. "Something from nothing" simply means that reality of the world is seamlessly dissolved in her spiritual Source. If you look at the Source, you won't find the world there anymore than you will find an individual sun ray in the belly of the sun. This is not a literal "something from nothing". It just means that something individuated out of a prior state of being seamlessly dissolved. The connection between the Creator and the world raises the question of how is there space for a world inside of a Creator whose seamlessly One.

However, someone who believes in a literal notion of "something from nothing" believes that the world "poofed" into existence at the Creator's will. In this scenario, she is not continuous with her Creator. She's simply another kind of existence altogether. Since the Creator of space is beyond space, questions of being inside Him, outside Him or His somehow making room, don't even apply. Only a continuity of sorts can make such questions logically apply, in the sense of the world being somehow included in Him.

Since the presentation of creation as "something from nothing" in "Duties of the Heart" very easily reads as literally intended it is possible that the author was not bothered at all by the question of how the world exists inside of her Creator and therefore, had no need to harbor Monist beliefs.

However, this does not detract at all from Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda's clarification on the notions of absolute Oneness and Infinity which are found at the foundations of Monistic mystical thought. It is these clarifications that formed a basis for helping me understand Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi and in that sense it was a "Sequel Centuries Later".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Lurianic Joke!

Have you heard that the Jolly Pleasure Seeker was born without a left side? 

Well...don't worry about Him ... 'cause He's all-right. :)

Hint: "les simola b'hai atika" ~ Zohar :)

The Cloak's Fabric


To withhold spiritual light takes an even stronger light. 

Only light is powerful enough to hold back light.

Hence, the mystery of how the darkest places are really the highest spiritual lights.


Self Conquest

In my class last week, a student asked me why is the Creator's capacity to withhold called "gevurah" - which conventionally means "strength". Its also the root underlying Hebrew words that mean warrior or hero; people not particularly known for holding back anything.

I responded that the Creator's true desire is to be doing kindness and giving. To withhold kindness and giving is not really what He wants to do and takes Self conquest on His part.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Map n’ Territory

To the spiritually minded:

The map is not the territory,

but neither is the territory the experience.

Wet to Water

A thought:

Encountering higher states of self is to encounter higher states of happiness. On that level the sensation of happiness is to life, as wet is to water.

I think one can encounter these states of higher self/happiness through meditation and/or through doing kindness.

Meditation was Isaac's primary path.

Kindness was Abraham's primary path. :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Opening to Happiness :)


Happiness is seamlessly one with the sensation of life itself. Difficulty accessing happiness, is difficulty feeling fully alive.

Happiness is not something the conscious mind invents. It’s a sensation in the soul that the conscious mind merely reveals. In her depths, the soul is always happy. The conscious mind merely opens a window shade for the her happiness to pour in.

The conscious mind does this simple trick for other sensations as well, like sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, thinking, feeling, doing ... Like happiness, they too are flows of light radiating from the soul. The conscious mind opens the window shade for them as well, allowing these precious gifts effortless passage. Once in, they take up residence in various organs; sight in the eyes, hearing in the ears, smell in the nose, thinking in the brain, feeling in the heart, doing in the muscles ...

So what home does the flow of happiness occupy? Occasionally, he lurks in the celebration of a pleasant surprise, but, more commonly he hangs his hat at a home address called,“giving”. The more one “gives”, the happier one becomes.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Perfecting the Vessel


One morning last week, my studies in Lurianic Kabbalah centered around the development of “partzufim” - i.e. spiritual forces which have at first been broken, then reconstituted, to grow and developed into a fuller expression of their inner potentials. Rabbi Chaim Vital emphasizes that this dramatic flowering of spiritual growth and development does not occur to the lights, only to the vessels. Why? The lights are already perfected. They just need perfected vessels, vehicles to express their vast potential.

This is highly reminiscent of Chassidic teachings which explain the soul’s descent into the earthly realm. Mainly, the soul does not descend for her own growth and development, but, rather for the sake of building a body. In her pure “soul state”, fixing herself is not possible because she’s not the broken component. The body is. The body’s capacity to lend her a new basis of expression on a lower realm seduces her. She wants to partake in this very special opportunity to grow as she can’t on her own. Only by working through a body does she ultimately acquires her “rabbinic garb”, her passport into an even higher paradise.

The idea behind this “garb” is that the goodness the person has done, spoken or even thought of during his/her earthly journey, fashions a new garment around the soul. With this garment, the soul upon her ascension to paradise is allowed access to higher spiritual lights she has never before tasted - all while being shielded from the searing overexposure that an encounter with such powerful lights can inflict. It’s kind of like wearing sunglasses on the high noon of a very bright day.

By finding as much expression as possible in the body, the soul …

a) more fully inhabits her output of goodness, building a higher quality “rabbinic garb”.
b) will more fully inhabit the body during the resurrection - when body and soul reunite.
c) can become a greater influence on other people (as her wisdom and sensitivities become more manifest).
d) find satisfaction in imitating the Creator ways - especially in the area of giving to the needy.

The growth and development of a vessel to serve as a vehicle to express more and more deep potential latent within a light reminds me of the differences between a zygote, a baby and an adult. A newly fertilized egg is called a zygote. The full presence of a human soul hovers around it. Yet, her powers can’t be brought into expression. There are no ears to manifest her sense of hearing. There are no eyes to manifest her sense of sight. There are no nerve endings to manifest her sense of touch or of taste. There’s no nose to manifest her sense of smell. This is what the case of “a light with an inadequate vessel” actually looks like. “Tikkun” is the process of building the vessel, so the light’s latent potentials can properly manifest.

In this example, the body is the vessel and the soul is the light. During the “tikkun” process the body develops, allowing the full latent potential of the soul to come into earthly expression. This is a process that occurs in many stages. In each stage more and more of the soul is born into expression and brought from a state of hovering around the body into earthly manifestation. In the language of Kabbalah, “surrounding light” enters the vessel to become “inner light”.

Obviously, by the time a zygote develops into a child, the soul’s basic powers for bodily function, along with her five senses have become manifest. Still, the process of the soul manifesting more and more of her potential continues on - as there’s a very long way yet to go. As the child grows towards adulthood, more and more of the soul’s intellectual capacity manifests. For the most part, the growth and development of the body on the levels of sensory function and intellectual capacity have little to do with a person’s free choice and have more to do with involuntary biological enhancements than with true spiritual aspirations.

Besides biological enhancement, there’s a whole area of manifesting the soul’s potential which is in the person’s own hands. A basic level of this, has to do with living according to the Torah. When one lives according to the Torah, the physical body gets re-molded in closer alignment with the soul, even if not totally transformed. The person suddenly has sensitivities and understandings that s/he never before had. This is the deeper meaning of the declaration by the Jews at Mount Sinai  “We will do and then understand”. By “doing” we reshape ourselves to “understand”, i.e. by building the vessel we can take in the light. With greater states of manifestation, more of the soul is able to participate in every thought, speech and deed.

Then there’s an inner level to take these effort to even higher levels and manifest even more of the soul. This has to do with following one of the voluntary pathways of spiritual growth that Judaism offers, such as Mussar, Kabbalah, Chassidus, etc., each according to his/her soul root in the higher realms. These pathways bring even more of the soul to bear on the body and transform the body even further to become a vessel for the soul; allowing even more of the soul to participate in good deeds to acquire “rabbinic garbs” for those soul levels as well.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spiritual Identity

In searching for my spiritual pathway I use to needle away at myself with the question, "Who am I? What's my true spiritual identity?" Like drawings on sand, an answer that seemed boldly defined one moment would shift with the wind in the next.

Then one day, I realized that maybe this question is too direct. So I took a circuitous route and asked myself, "With which pathway will I help the most people?" 

The answer immediately surfaced.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Days of Sarah's Life

The following is an initial attempt to translate a teaching of the Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch (2nd Chabad Rebbe) on the Torah portion of "The Days of Sarah's Life": 

And these are the days of Sarah's life: one hundred year and twenty year and seven years - years of Sarah’s life. The details are explained in the Zohar why the singular term “year” is used to describe one hundred years and twenty years, while the plural terms “years” is used to describe seven years. Also, the redundancy of the phrase years of Sarah’s life needs to be explained.

Its known that single digits are used describe kingdom, tens are used to describe small face and supernal father and mother, hundreds are used to describe the crown. If so, one hundred years signifies a reference to the ten sefirot of crown, for each sefira includes ten sefirot, equaling one hundred. This is part of why one hundred blessings are recited daily.

If you’ll ask, “What is this hundred years…?”

It’s because these hundreds signify crown, the tens signify the character traits of small face who receive from the supernal father and mother, which are twenty years and the single digits signify kingdom. Hence, the scripture states “seven years …” [Since, Sarah’s years refer to the whole system of ten sefirot, it symbolizes that she attained completion.]

Now understanding all this first requires an initial explanation of what G*d told Abraham, “Listen to everything that Sarah tells you.” This is incredibly surprising! Since when does G*d command the giver to obey the receiver, as in Abraham listening to Sarah? Does it not state, “He shall rule you”?

That which Rashi comments in trying to answer this question that Abraham was commanded to listen to Sarah was because Sarah was a greater prophet than Abraham is itself a question. Since when is the prophetic level of the receiver greater than the prophecy of giver? It’s known that the spiritual root Abraham and Sarah in the higher realms are the divine names of Mah and Ban (or Ben) in the spiritual world of Atzilut, i.e. the repairing and the damaged forces of the first and highest realm to experience the imperfection of rupture. How can the level of Ban, the damaged forces receiving repair, be higher than the level of Mah, the forces which are bestowing the repair?

Briefly, an answer is known from our sages of blessed memory, (Baba Bathra 16:2) that G*d granted the three patriarchs a real foretaste of the future perfected world. This accords with what’s written, “And G*d blessed Abraham with all”, “and from all”. From here it is known and intimated that both the patriarchs and matriarchs had a foretaste of the future perfected world, which comes after purifying the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Then the divine name Ban will have completed her elevation and transformed into the name Sag, which is even higher than the name Mah, which did the elevating [by repairing Ban]. It is known that this future elevated state is referred to in scripture as, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband” and “A woman will court a man”.

Therefore, based on the above information the question is already answered. Even though concerning our times it says,”And your passion will be towards your man”, which is the feminine name Ban which receives from the masculine name Mah, this is only because now the male is the main focus. That’s why the scripture says, “And he’ll rule over you.”, as Mah is bestows on Ban. However, in the perfected future it will be that “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband”. Then the name Ban will be higher than the name Mah.

Therefore, G*d said to Abraham, who was already in a state of the perfected future, i.e. the world which will arrive after the name Ban is purified rendering Sarah higher than her Abrahamic Mah bestower, “Listen with special attention to all that Sarah tells you … especially, with regards to what Sarah told you to send away this handmaiden and her son.” (Allow this explanation to suffice for those who understand.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Adam Grows …

This morning in our Jewish mysticism (Chassidus) class, Rabbi David Krasejanski taught us that the popular notion that Adam was a lifeless clod of earth before living soul was blown into him is just not true. What really happened was that Adam was first created a living creature on the (garden’s) animal level. Then the Creator blew a living soul into him, making him human.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making Less Do More:


Engineering is the art of make less do more. ~ a self realization

If one thinks about it, every inventive idea devised by an engineer boils down to make less do more. This is true whether the engineer is electrical, mechanical, packing, civil, etc.

Along with this insight, came to mind a reminder that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a ship engineer by secular profession. This was quite unusual considering that historically it was more common for Rabbinical figures to be secularly engaged in the healing arts. Certainly, this choice of profession was no coincidence, especially, for a person who was constantly cognizant of the integration between the physical and the spiritual, the secular and the holy. He definitely took his ship engineering skills with him into his Rabbinical career, in order to engineer the spiritual journeys of so many.

The question is what’s the contribution of engineering skills to spiritual life and development? The whole thrust of make less do more means that in every act the ratio of spiritual to physical increases. For example, yesterday’s computers were bulky lumbering behemoths compared to today’s computers. They had more physical content and were less adept at handling the more spiritual electromagnetic flows of energy, which are at the heart of a computer’s ability to process. In the relative sense of the term “spiritual”, it can be said that today’s computers are more “spiritual” and less “physical” than yesterday’s computers were. This is making less do more  - in the sense of less and less physical “vessels” being able to handle more and more spiritual “lights”.

This is a movement towards Oneness, as greater quality is teased out of what’s physical to accommodate a greater revelation of what’s spiritual. When it comes to the physical serving as a vessel to channel the spiritual, very often more quantity interferes, but, higher quality provides an unhindered sensitively, so finely tuned that it picks up on surprising nuances in the original revelation. This is referred to in Jewish mysticism as “a little bit that holds a lot”.

This notion figures prominently in the Biblical story of the Noah. Relatively speaking the ark was a small ship. Today, there are ships which are a lot larger. Yet, a representative couple of every species of aerial and terrestrial wildlife occupied the second story of this structure and survived a whole year. This space should have been much too small for them to be sardined together, let alone to live.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that the ark was filled by a divine light, which turned the ark into the Holy Temple of its time.  It is known that when the Holy Temple was located in Jerusalem there was a suspension of the normative laws of space to allow hoards of worshippers the necessary room to prostrate themselves on the Day of Atonement. The same suspension of normative space happened in the ark, giving each creature comfortable room. Truly less did more and a little held a lot in an act of divine engineering.

Living in a generation that needed to tease higher quality out of a lower quantity (of Jews), the Lubavitcher Rebbe also needed to be an engineer and do more with less. Hence, he never stopped engineering his ships through the flood waters of our times.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Contemplation on Spiritual Potency:

Imagine, the combined spiritual potency of all human souls that ever were, is and will be.

Imagine, the greater spiritual potency of Adam’s soul from whom all these souls radiated.

Imagine, the even greater spiritual potency of the Divine breath which ensouled Adam.

Imagine, the Infinite spiritual potency of the Breather Who effortlessly imparts such breath.

~ From the second Chabad Rebbe, “Torat Chaim” Chayei Sarah

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Doll Factory ~ a story

The following story was told to my nine year old daughter by her Hebrew School teacher. I am retelling it because its filled with wonderful metaphors that help explain what living by the Torah accomplishes.

There was a man who was hired by a doll factory to do a peculiar job. Every morning at 9:00 AM, he had to walk up a flight of stairs. Then at 5:00 PM in the afternoon, he had to walk down the same flight, concluding his workday.

During the early days of his employment, he fully expected that in exchange for the handsome paycheck he was receiving, he’d be assigned a series of projects. He waited day after day bored, but, no projects were forthcoming. So to occupy his time, he brought along a book. Pretty soon he re-examined his situation and reasoned, “Nobody is giving me projects anyways. Why not leave an hour early?”

Soon one hour early led to two hours early and then three hours early... It wasn’t long before his daily presence in the factory had chiseled down to a few hours. The boss took notice and called him in for a meeting.

After listening to why the employee was present fewer and fewer hours daily, the boss spoke, “I see you don’t understand the true nature of your job. How could you? It’s a secret. However, in order to help you along, I’ll let you in on the secret. There were some mischief makers who were trying to sabotage our operations by playing around with the buttons that activate the factory. I was compelled to hide these buttons from them in order to continue operations. So where did I hide them? Right under the steps!

“Everyday, when you sprint up the steps, you start up the factory and when you climb down, you shut down the operations. By cooperating with my disguised mechanism, you are doing us an invaluable service. However, when you started leaving early, not only did we produce less dolls, but, some dolls were left incomplete right in the middle of their assembly. So please be more careful going forward.”



The boss is the Creator. We are the workers. The mischief makers are the one’s from whom the keys to spiritual potency needs to be withheld - lest they take advantage. The dolls are upright structures in the “image of man”.

Many times we don’t understand the true nature what we’re doing in this world. However, by following the Torah, we are assured that we’re activating the heavenly factory to produce kindnesses and blessings both for us and for the rest of humanity.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Self Conversion

The second Chabad Rebbe asked, “Why does the Talmud teach that Jews wander diaspora to pick up converts, when historically there were very few converts?”

He responded, “Truthfully, there can be plenty of converts. Each of Jew can be his/her very own convert. With the Light of the Torah, we can convert our inner animals into holy beings.”

~ From “Torat Chaim” on Parshat Chayei Sarah