Friday, March 30, 2012

Biblical Sacrifices

Almost every post on this blog is my own literary output. This post is a notable exception. It is not my own writing. Rather, it is letter is precious to me for personal reasons. The letter was written last week by the Kabbalist Rabbi Menachem Shalom Kranz, who is known in the Brooklyn Kabbalah circles as a teacher of Rashash & Sha'ar HaKavanot. He wrote this letter on the Leshem's (Rabbi Shlomo Elyashiv's) annual memorial date - which is the 27th of the Hebrew Month of Adar

I posted it because it summarizes the Leshem's explanation of the Temple sacrifices - a topic which is poorly understood in our times. The parentheses translating the Hebrew and Yiddish or smoothing the flow are my own. They are designed to aid the reader's understanding. 

Dear Everyone,

From the ספר שערי לשם שבו ואחלמה (the book "Gates to the Leshem Sh'vo V'Achalama") who's יארצייט (annual memorial date) happens to be tonight, he passed away in 1926:

He explains here very eloquently how קרבנות (sacrifices) work. He bases it on a number of places from the זהר (the mystical book called, "Zohar"). I'll try to explain it in short what he says. They break off the hold that the other side has. They tie all the worlds together so that they are מעלה מ"ן ("elevating feminine waters") in other words, they cause an אתרותא דלתתא ("An arousal from below") , an arousing from down here, which causes an outpour of שפע (abundant blessings) from above.

He also explains that there is parts of the קרבן (sacrifices) that go to the give sustenance to the other worlds that are below the world of אצילות (emanations), and even to the "other side". He goes at length to explain why the שעיר חטאת של ראש חודש (the sacrificial goat offered during Temple rituals celebrating the new moon) is there to fix up for the fact that when הקב"ה (The Holy One) made the moon He reduce its size and that's were we get the capability to sin, that's were it comes from.

But he (the Leshem) does stress that when we bring a קרבן (sacrifice) we only have in mind to bring it up for Hashem (i.e. the Creator), He and only He does the doling out for all that gets sustained from it. The only part that really goes to Hashem (the Creator) Himself is the persons desires to bring the קרבן (sacrifice) .

There's a lot more in here.

May his זכות (merit) stand by us, and also may Hashem grant a רפואה שלימה (complete healing) to his grandson יוסף שלום בן חיה מושא (Yosef Shalom son of Chaya Musha) !

Menachem Sholom Kranz

Friday, March 23, 2012

Borrowing from the Perfected Future

he basic premises that this essay is formulated upon, can be found in the following essays:

One of the interesting indications that our earthly realm is still in a "reshimu" or afterglow stage is that the direct presence of linear and spherical spiritual creative forces, i.e. sefirot,  cannot be detected here. They haven't yet entered the physical realm. When one looks out towards the wider universe, one does not see alternating bands of light and darkness, indicating the spherical forces, nor does one see a ray of light, i.e. the linear force, threading through the universe - also, serving as a reference point to define what's up, down, right, left, front and back in the universe.

When Rabbi Isaac Luria and his close disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital used these metaphors for the spiritual forces used in creation, it seems like they were borrowing from what the perfected future of the physical universe will eventually look like. In the meanwhile, there are spiritual realms already in their own equivalent of the perfected state where the spherical and linear spiritual forces of creation are fully manifest. To describe these realms, Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Chaim Vital followed the general Kabbalistic practice of describing something spiritual by using it's own physical counterpart as an illustrative device - as a metaphor. In this particular case, it seems like they used a physical counterpart that's yet to be. Still, it's the correct counterpart to use, simply because it is the real one.

Interestingly, Rabbi Chaim Vital mentions early on in his magnus opus "The Tree of Life" that the planetary orbits are the spherical sefirot, creative forces. Based on context and circumstances it seems to me that what he really means is that the planetary orbits are the afterglow of spherical creative forces. After all, the planetary orbits are two dimensional and don't arch all around us as outlying three dimensional spheres. Even more so, to the best that I can tell the two dimensional orbits are not true structures. They're merely the locations of planets at different points in time: past, present and future. This helps build the case that the orbits Rabbi Chaim Vital refers to are the afterglow versions of the spherical sefirot. 

However, what about the notion that the orbits mentioned by the ancients are really invisible spiritual spheres whose general locations are merely indicated by the planetary orbits; meaning, that they're really fully three dimensional (or more)?

To me this proves the point. This is what a "reshimu" or "afterglow" actually is. It's something that has a very well developed spiritual form, but, whose physical counterpart is extremely underdeveloped in comparison - a mere trace of a much grander spiritual structure, awaiting lots of development. Eventually, the afterglow we refer to as the physical universe will transform into a true realm with a fully functioning set of linear and spherical sefirot, creative forces.

The immense time gap between when the  linear and spherical spiritual creative forces entering into the higher spiritual realms and their corresponding entry into our earthly realm is largely a function of time moving much faster in higher realms. We're in a much slower version of time ~ in a sense, we're living in a less technologically advanced version of time. So it takes longer for the same process which already happened in the spiritual realms to reach our earthly realm. The great news is that we'll catch up! We'll yet savor paradise on earth.


Friday, March 16, 2012

The Afterglow on the Grow !

The basic premises that this essay is formulated upon, can be found in the following two essays:

1) "Future Couple" at
2) "Afterglow Form/less?" at

Our earthly realm is in an "afterglow" stage. Every realm in creation follows Kabbalah's basic three stage pattern of growth called in Hebrew, "ibur", "yenika" and "mochin" - which means in English, a fetal stage, nurturing and maturity. Being in an "afterglow" stage is a realm's "fetal" stage. A developing fetus in a womb or an egg receives very little from the outside surrounding environment of which s/he has no real awareness of. So too our realm is largely closed off to the larger spiritual context that surrounds her. Yet, there's minute traffic with the surrounding outside through our realm's semi-permeable membrane.

As a realm grows, she enters a "yenika" or nuturing phase. In this phase some of the outside enters in a more prominent and pronounced way ~ through the "ray" of light. The first entry of the ray is feminine, bringing along spherical spiritual forces, i.e. "sefirot", from the surrounding outside.    In this stage the "ray" of light enters and spreads out into a realm in the form of a sphere. This is like a child being entered by his/her mother through nursing. The tendency of liquid is to follow the contours of the medium it finds itself in. The mother's milk is liquid. So too, the initial entry of surrounding spiritual forces is spherical because it's following the spherical contours of the freshly entered realm. For a child this stage is a critical time of emotional and personality development.

When a realm grows even further, she enters a "mochin" or intelligence/maturity stage. The "ray' of light brings into the realm even more outside light by introducing the linear spiritual forces, i.e. "sefirot", from the surrounding outside. This light is more solid, not bending to the contours of the newly entered realm. It comes through as a straight penetrating cable of light - like a spinal cord. In personal growth this would be marked by the stage when a person joins his/her father's world ~ outside the immediacy and nurturing softness of the childhood home. 

Our earthly realm was not created in the in the sense that all other realms were created. If Adam and Eve hadn't eaten from the fruit, our realm would have probably been skipped altogether. Our realm is merely the product eaten from the forbidden fruit while being in possession of the free choice to resist the temptation. Since the earthly realm, as it appears to us, wasn't considered ideal, its likely that not as much was invested into creating the new realm to catch Adam and Eve in case they ate. What makes sense is that much more divine focused was placed into creating a new perfected realm in the hope that they will pass the test. The realm we currently find ourselves in was merely the contingency plan, the life raft. 

As a result, our earthly realm had to be newly contrived and had to start from the beginning fetal stages of any realm, as an "afterglow".  Once the "afterglow" sufficiently grows, she'll be entered by the "ray " of light.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Afterglow: Form/less?

The following is a supplemental essay to the second part of "Future Couple", which can be found at: . This essay largely explores the question of whether the cosmic afterglow can exhibit forms even before the entry of the ray of light or must it remain formless until reshaped by the ray.


Kabbalah never discusses the Creator Himself; even when relating the narrative of the earliest stages of creation. Accordingly, the infinite light is to be regarded as a spiritual expression of His Infinity, but not as the Creator's actual Being.  However, since there's no "outside of the Creator" all His various expressions are never separate from Him. They all remain within Him, seamlessly continuous with Him, like dreams in seamless continuity with the minds of their dreamers.

In Lurianic Kabbalah the creation narrative begins with an undifferentiated infinite light (or life/consciousness). The light’s presence was so totally infinite and powerful that nothing else had room to exist. In order to make room for creation, the Creator pulled back a bit of His infinite light, leaving an empty sphere in the very center. This sphere was destined to become the home of all the realms, spiritual and physical.

The withdrawal of the infinite light was not literal. It only appears literal from the perspective of the creations whose emergence will occur later on in the story. Their limited perception makes a very whole, singular, reality appear fragmented. This can be compared to a dream character examining his surrounding dreamscape. From his perspective, it appears like the dreamer’s mind has withdrawn. He might be unaware that he himself, the dreamscape and everything in between is very much the mind of the dreamer. It’s just his own limited view which casts the illusion allowing him to entertain the false notion that he’s somehow existing independently of the dreamer.   

Even within the illusion of withdrawal, nothing is even totally devoid of spiritual light. When the infinite light withdrew, he left behind a lingering residue of his light, an “afterglow”. This “afterglow” became the very fabric of the sphere. However, at this early stage she was as of yet raw and unformed - just like the infinite light that birthed her. 

The infinite light’s withdrawal repeated itself yet another nine times, for a total of ten times. With each new withdrawal the size of the afterglow enlarged by adding on a new spherical layer; resulting in a layered structure of sphere within sphere within sphere... within sphere. It looked like a multi layered onion centered in a sea of infinite light.

In effect, the withdrawal differentiated the infinite light into cosmic male and female. The withdrawn infinite light cosmically male and the afterglow is cosmically female. Together, they're the ultimate cosmic couple.

After all ten expansions, the afterglow reached full size, achieved maturity. Her maturity signals the her cosmic male, the surrounding infinite light, to unify with her. Their union is expressed by him extending a ray of light into her. His ray is a thinly measured glimmer of the surrounding light which withdrew. Only a minuscule measure is allowed in, lest the ray overwhelms the afterglow and she reverts back to her state of being identical with the infinite light. The point of entry for this stream of light can in theory be anywhere along the outer membrane of her sphere.  However, wherever the entry will happen will now be defined as the top of the afterglow. Once there’s a top, there is also a bottom and sides. The ray will penetrate her from the top and extend itself to the center, reaching her actual core – the most femininely sensitive part of her identity. 
Although the ray reached the cosmic core, presently it doesn't yet fully extend down into our realm. However, in all likelihood our realm feels the influence of this ray from the higher realms. This might be an indication that our realm has not finished acquiring all her ten layers. So how could the ray of light reach the cosmic center and not yet be present in our realm, where we are situated in the afterglow’s veritable “center of center”?   Possibly, this is because higher realms have a faster notion of time. So what already happened up there, takes a lot longer to happen down here. 

Each realm contains its own version of time. Higher realms, being more spiritual, in general possess less limitation. As expected, their versions of time contain greater elasticity and speed. In contrast, lower realms possess slower, more rigid versions of time. Thus, events occurring in higher realms mostly trickle down to lower realms only later on. What occurs above in a flash requires more protracted units of time below. It's almost like a higher version of time is more technologically advanced than its lower counterparts. This partly explains how prophets see into the future. In the higher realm the prophet ascends to, the event has already occurred. Having been there at the time, the prophet already saw the event play out. Only, it’s manifestation below in our physical realm is delayed by the difficulties of being threaded through a slower, more protracted time corridor.

Since in our physical realm the afterglow is still awaiting her full maturity, she’s still growing, which could explain why physicists view our universe as expanding. It can also explain why they think that every unit of space is on the move. According to this understanding, it would make sense that a unit of space just occupied a moment ago has already moved on swept up in the universe’s expansion.  The universe is probably growing in order to bring the afterglow to full maturity. Physical space/time (as physicists call it) is the portion of the afterglow which is tangible to us. Truthfully, according to Kabbalah “life” is also a part of the space/time continuum (see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary to “Sefer Yetzirah”). So this continuum which is the basic framework of our universe should really be called, “space/time/life”. One day science will stumble on this connection, unifying physics, chemistry, biology and spirituality.

When the earthly aspect of our universe completes her growth, the ray of light will enter her, as it had entered into the higher realms. This will be a time of true spiritual growth for our universe and her inhabitants - an earthly paradise. 

When the afterglow was initially introduced after the withdrawal, she was raw and unformed. Yet, when we look all around us we inhabit a physical realm which exhibits form, intelligence and design. At first glance our realm seems to share a greater resemblance with higher realms illuminated by the ray than to a realm still lingering in an afterglow stage. This is largely because the earthly realm is in a different situation than the afterglow during the infinite light's withdrawal. There seem to be two basic factors contributing to the earthly realm's afterglow ability to exhibit form, intelligence and design:

A) The border around any version of the afterglow is really a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane allows in very minute doses of surrounding spiritual lights. In the case of the early cosmos the light directly surrounding the afterglow was formless, as it was seamlessly infinite. Therefore, the minute doses of light entering the original afterglow was flavored with the formlessness of the original infinite light. However, the surrounding spiritual lights which feed into the earthly realm have largely been shaped by contact with the ray in one form or another (linear and/or spherical). These spiritual lights carry along in their stream the rich variety of flavors from their native notions of form, intelligence and design. As a result, they imprint the afterglow in our earthly realm with their notions - like a traveler imprinting the inhabitants of a foreign country with notions from his native homeland.

B) Before the Adam and Eve's descent from the Garden of Eden, there was no physical realm. The essay "The Old/New Universe" elaborates further on this aspect of Adam and Eve story. Here's the link: . Some of what later became the earthly realm was originally part of the Garden of Eden. It seems like the ray illuminated the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:9 informs us that the Tree of Life, i.e. the ray, was in the center of the Garden. Even the snake's realm must have been influenced by at least the Tree of Knowledge - which was likely an immature extension of the Tree of Life. After Adam and Eve ate from the fruit, both their realm and the snakes realm shattered. When these two realms shattered, they blended together and got reconstituted into a single realm. Since this new realm was essentially newly contrived, it started off as the beginning stage of any realm would - as an afterglow.  Yet, the fabric of the new realm retained some memory of having once been formed by the ray. Therefore, there was an inherent tendency in the fabric towards developing forms, with intelligence and design. 

Though both factors simultaneously contribute to the amazing universe we find ourselves in, we have much to look forward to in the future when our universe will finally attain maturity and receive the ray, illuminating her interior. Then we will finally experience paradise on earth - not as a destination, but, as a stage flowing along an a ever continuing spiritual journey. 


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Life's Two Sided Puzzle

There is a parable about a two sided puzzle. One side features a complicated detailed design. It is tediously challenging to piece together. However, if flipped over, the other side features the simple face of a child. This side was really a cinch to master. It is obviously better to work from the simple side and automatically the complicated side will come together on its own.

There are many books, videos and consultants working hard at solving life's issues for the masses. Very often these well-meaning attempts are toying with the complicated side of life's puzzle. Even when they are successful, there may have been an easier way.

What I learned from Jewish mysticism is that the easy side of life's puzzle is to make oneself into a vessel for the Creator's light. One can simply keep asking oneself as often as needed, "How do I turn myself into a vessel for the Creator's light?"

If it was meant to, the rest is bound to easily fall into place.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Face to Face


"And there arose no other prophet among the Jewish people like Moses, who knew the Creator face to face." (Deuteronomy 34:10)

One of the defining features of Moses' prophecy was that he knew the Creator "face to face". The idea of "face to face" means no barrier in connection. It's a stripping on every level of anything that stands in the way of connection, any blockages. Just like with a human couple, the clothing drop off at the moment of union. Hopefully, as the relationship deepens emotionally any barriers towards expressing innermost feelings also fall away. So too in our relation with our Creator, our inner barriers can dissolve in time to expose more and more of our interior to the light the Creator wishes to shine into us. These barriers are usually ego, our strongly defined notions of self.

When the blockages melt, there's a temporary loss of self-awareness. The entire creation feels like a dream just visited by its Dreamer. Since the Dreamer is One with His dreamscape and dream beings, we can sense that a single Identity runs through all reality. The notion that the dream isn't continuous with the Dreamer, that creation isn't continuous with her Creator, will finally feel to us like what it is - a fictional illusion! 

In the domain of the dreamscape, saints and villains alike are a single continuous identity with the Dreamer and each other. The difference is that the saints know this and the villains don't. Therefore, villains desperately cling to their illusion of self. They resist anything which doesn't enhance the sensational thrill of their illusion, sometimes at very high costs, often to themselves, but, more obviously to others as well.  

By contrast, saintly people don't make others pay a price to retain and enhance their identities. They're aware that they're dreamed into being, that they're simply continuous with the Dreamer.  Therefore, they expect to change with the flow of the dream. However, they are aware that their core identities are seamlessly bound with the Dreamer, a core identity that never changes as it runs, as a constant, through both dream and Dreamer. The core identity is really the Dreamer existing beyond any bounds of location, allowing Him to be at once both outside and inside the dream.

In the awareness of continuous identity, the saintly are said to be "face to face' with the Creator ~ "identity to Identity"  ~ One Identity. This core truth keeps the saintly from fearing change. Yet they possess a single overriding fear, they fear misalignment with the Creator leading to the sour fruits of unenlightened behavior. 

It's possible to taste the barriers dissolve on Purim. It is the essence of the practice of getting drunk on Purim; letting go of inhibitions, melting barriers and coming "face to face" with the Creator. It's all about losing ourselves in Him, to find ourselves in Him. 

What usually gets in the way of experiencing "face to face" with the Creator, or fellow humans, is shame. The human ego has a lot of trouble with bearing shame because at the core of shame is a sense of personal inadequacy. The person suffering from shame has difficulty owning up to a weakness that s/he needs help either overcoming or accepting. 

This is why Adam had to cover his nudity after eating the forbidden fruit. Prior to eating the fruit, there was no shame associated with nudity because it was clear that everything naked about him was designed to serve the Creator. Once he ate, his nudity became privatized. Nudity became a reminder of his weaknesses - how he humbly shares cravings with the nether creatures of the animal kingdom. He now felt less angelic than he originally thought himself to be. Since Eve acted first, she had to cover up even more. She experienced even greater shame. Human nudity no longer smoothly glided into a "face to face' relationship with the Creator, as a sense of personal inadequacy often taunted humans, "Reconsider your nature!"

In one of his last mystical discourses, entitled "I Arrived in my Garden", the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Biblical prophets would strip naked in a state of prophecy, as King Saul did. He explained that the prophets reverted back to an Edenic state, where everything about a human being was "face to face" with the Creator. In this state, nothing of the person was his/her own, it was all the Creator's. All was openly in the domain of the rightful Owner. In such a state of consciousness human weakness actually finds a nurturing nest inside the Creator's love. Inside the Creator, there's no inadequacy. All the dreamed nest equally in the Dreamer. All are comfortably at home in their Source - as all are equally continuous with Him.

It seems like the first step of being "face to face" is honesty. No hiding. By creating a safe space, all can be honestly exposed, allowing  relationships of all types and levels can flourish and deepen. Sometimes a l'chaim or two can passport a seeker across the barriers of shame, easing the path to self-honesty, leading to a fresh inflow of inner freedom and busts of boundless celebration. Happy Purim !


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Yechida's Vessel

Jewish mysticism teaches that the soul is comprised of five general levels. Their names are from lowest to highest:

1) Nefesh - a biological soul,
2) Ruach - an emotional or personality soul,
3) Neshama - a rational soul,
4) Chaya - an intuitive soul,
5) Yechida - will or core identity

Together these five levels string together to form a spiritual umbilical cord stretching from the soul's uppermost origin of identity down into her earthly body. Finally settling around the body, the soul extends her illuminations into the various organs of the body, providing them with animation and function. The main centers of illumination are the mind, heart and liver. The neshama extends illumination into the left hemisphere of the brain. The ruach extends illumination into the heart/lung area and the "nefesh" into the liver. These main centers directly control very important bodily systems. The neshama mostly animates the nervous system. The "ruach" mostly animates the circulatory and respiratory system and the "nefesh" is mostly concerned with the digestive system.

When it comes to the chaya, the body does not really provide a complete vessel in the body to receive it's illumination. However, the right hemisphere of the brain serves as a partial vessel. The vessel is incomplete because it can only partially accommodate the chaya's illumination. The outpouring and intensity is much greater than the right brain is capable of grasping. It's like trying to capture a gallon of water in a shot glass. Only small portion of the totality will be contained. This is why the signals from the right hemisphere are marked by spotty flashes of insight and creativity, unlike the steady rigorous thought pattern of the left brain. In fact, in order for those spotty flashes to transform into fully useful ideas, they need to be transferred over to the left hemisphere, into the domain of the neshama's illumination, for unpacking.

So what serves as the vessel for the illumination of yechida? Generally, yechida is described has having no biological organ or organ system serving as it's vessel of illumination. Early on in his work Tal Orot, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shpielman explains that the yechida's illumination uses the chaya and neshama soul levels to serve as it's vessel, thereby, affecting the body indirectly by way of these soul levels. However, this can't be the only pathway for yechida to reach the body - though it's probably the usual norm. The Chabad Chassidic classic Kuntres Hitpa'alut discusses downloading the yechida into conscious awareness - referring to this state of consciousness as, "a revelation of the yechida". Furthermore, the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, explains that while yechida does not have a specific organ in the body to claim as it's own, it is associated with the whole body (see the book "On the Essence of Chassidus")

Since yechida's illumination can't be expressed by a fragment of the human being, like through a single bodily organ, it seems likely that the whole person working as an integrated single unit can serve as the vessel for yechida.  This soul level is so powerful that it requires the cooperation and coordination of a whole integrated person in order to receive the download of its illumination. So the whole person ends up becoming yechida's vessel.

This understanding helps explain why Judaism places tremendous emphasis on the physical side of human life. While there are world religions which heavily emphasize transcendence, i.e. a retreat away from the physical realm, Judaism usually includes the physical side of life in religious devotional service, allowing a whole person, body and soul, to participate in reaching out towards the Creator. Only when the whole person participates in the devotion, can the highest soul level, the yechida also join along. In certain cases, this can extend to including even a person's life interests - as the holy Baal Shem Tov was fond of quoting, "In all your ways know Him ..." (Proverbs 3:6)

Besides needing a whole person to serve as a vessel for the yechida, there is also another dynamic occurring when the participation includes the lowest levels of the person, the yechida actually feels more at home. This is because there's a unique relationship between the highest and lowest levels. In any well planned project the final outcome is usually contained in the most initial thought. Therefore, the first step and last step of the project most closely match, in perfect reflection, more closely than any of the other stages. All the middle stages, no matter how incredible, only serve as a bridge linking the first thought to the final outcome and therefore, aren't included in the special relationship shared by the very first and last stages. For example, if one wants to build a house, if well planned out, the very first notion of how the house should look will be reflected in the final product. The same idea applies to the soul/body relationship, the stages a human being which the Creator created first, i.e. the yechida, are best reflected in the body, which was created last. 

The five soul levels merely reflect the placement of soul in relation to body. So the level, illuminating the liver, is called nefesh and the level illuminating the heart/lung area is called ruach, merely because of their placement in relationship to the body. However, placement settings are flexible and can change when a person spiritually grows. What was previously considered ruach can join the nefesh, becoming part of nefesh. When this happens, what was previously considered neshama will become the new ruach. This pattern will chain all the way up and as a result what was previously yechida will now become chaya and the person will attain a brand new yechida. 

Such a pattern of continual download of yet higher soul levels can occur because soul levels are endlessly continuous upward into higher spiritual realms. With each stage of growth a person can change the position of the different soul levels in relation to the body, thereby, changing their names and functions. So what was yechida to fragmented vessels in an earlier state of a human being's spiritual development might become merely the nefesh to a more wholesome integrated human being in a more advanced stage of spiritual growth.