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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Both Upstream & Downstream, Mine is Yours ~ a prayer of connection

25 Tishrei 5773, at a Starbucks in Philadelphia

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this amazing opportunity to commune with You that You so kindly provide me with today and every day. For my own sanity and health I need to bring my heart into close proximity to Your light on a very regular basis. Otherwise, I am out of touch with so much of myself; as most of me drifts into slumber away from my Life Source.

It might be claimed that if I need Your fire to be illuminated then I’m not inherently luminous and all the bright corners of my emotional caverns are really lit by You. On some level, I feel great! And that’s all that matters. The ownership of the lights in my heart is irrelevant. On a deeper level, You own everything anyways. Even what I delude myself into believing I own, is totally Yours. The ultimate expression of this is that the length of our lives is not in our hands. The stability of our possessions and our circumstances is not in our hands. Yes, You made us co-creators, but, only as a temporary situation. And even within this temporary situation our roles are limited and You call the shots. So since in the ultimate sense I can’t lay real claim to anything that conventions of speech call, “Mine!”, I might as well find true happiness in simply the spiritual connections You allow me ~ without attaching ownership values to them.

Yes, it’s true that after the spiritual work of our era is done, You’ll tell each human being, “You’ve earned so many and so many units of intimacy with My Light.”

However, this is like a king who decreed land to a beloved. Since it became the beloved’s by a decree, the land never really left the king’s ownership. The king merely allowed space for the beloved to express her will on the land.

So even if my inner light is really Your Light, I’m happy. It might be claimed that my insights and feelings aren’t my own, but, You override what’s my own. They come from what’s moved within [me] by Your fire. Still, all true creativity is channeled. It all starts from the fountain where You and I meet. There, at the meeting place, there’s no distinction between You and I. That distinction first begins further downstream. At first it’s blurry, then hazy, then sharper and then sharp. However, it’s never real. For I never really ventured downstream. I only dreamed the journey, while the whole time cradled in Your nurturing bosom; never separate, never distinct. You dreamed through me [while infinitely awake].

Thank You [for this session in communion] …

Love and Kisses ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pregnant with Blessing and Light ~ a contemplative prayer

24 Tishrei 5773, 8:20 AM, Wed., at a Starbucks in Philadelphia

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this opportunity to commune with You this morning. Thank You for the holiday season from Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah. Those tuned into the message of Jewish mysticism know that this is just one long holiday undergoing different phases. In the most general sense one can easily see that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur comprise the upper three sefirot of the season that elicits blessings for the next twelve months. Succot with its seven days, comprises the next seven sefirot. Between Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot a complete structure of ten sefirot are formed ~ making the blessings of the year ripe to be harvested. Then on the holiday of Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah we pray for rain and dance the blessings down to the ground, to the earthly level. This is just on the very superficial level. So to say that there’s so much more going on mystically is truly a vast understatement.

There’s a passage I came across in “Tree of Life” which enhances this perspective even further. From this perspective the whole year is seen as a single unit to give birth to new blessings in a broad sense#. The book “Tree of Life” explains that the basic elements of a successful birth of anything (people, blessings, consciousness, souls, living beings, rocks, etc.) are lights, sparks and vessels. In a very generalized sense the lights are soul, the vessels are the body and the sparks are what connect the soul and body to each other. Every detail in the entire creation has some version of body, soul and connective sparks; regardless of what level the entity is on (spiritual and/or physical).

Each of the three has its own length of processing during pregnancy. The lights are processed in seven months, the sparks in nine months and the vessels in twelve months. Since humans are usually born after nine months, the first three months of nursing and nurturing complete the twelve months needed for bodily development in the pregnancy sense.

The year’s efforts to give birth seem to have a similar flow. From Passover season through Simchat Torah is seven months. These are (in the hemisphere of Jerusalem) the warmest months and [thus, suited to] develop the lights. From Passover through Chanukah is a blend of weather, which climaxes with the tiny flames of the Chanukah Menorah. This corresponds to the sparks. After this the weather gets coldest. The full twelve months climax with the Purim season, when our bodies were saved. This corresponds to the vessels.

So this season [we just celebrated] was to fill out the lights. May it be light!

Thank you [for the insights] …

Love and Kisses ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Waters of Joy!

I was thinking this week about our festival Succoth and its focus on celebrating water. We take this celebration to a climax on the final day of Succoth by celebrating with a "water plant", the willow, which tends to grow near streams. To me it seems like the uniqueness of water and willows are a flexibility that comes with having so much potential, only loosely formed.

This is a lot like the blessings that come down from heaven - until they reach the earthly realm, they don't yet have concrete form. They can manifest in many different ways, with surprising flexibility. This season we are praying that these heavenly waters take on sweet forms. Concurrently, we are also praying that our inner waters, our personal reservoirs of unformed potential, also take on sweet forms. This way the waters from above will be greeted by waters from below - reuniting some of what the Creator split apart on the second day of creation when He separated waters.

A true reunion!

Friday, October 5, 2012

“Drawing Water” ~ an inner prayer journey into an ancient festival

18 Tishrei 5773, Thurs., at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, PA

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for the kindness of a few moments to commune with You. Thank You for allowing humans to commune with You. It’s a tremendous gift. Without this gift I’d feel so isolated and lonely. This gift keeps reinforcing that no matter what, Someone really cares about me ~ Someone really loves me. You care for even the lowliest, even the simplest. Perhaps, it’s best to rephrase that and say that You care especially for the lowliest and simplest. I know that it says in the Bar Yochai song, “Let us make man...’ was said for your sake”. The Talmud also relates that it was worth creating the entire world just for [the saintly] Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa.

Yet despite this, we find that Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] was sent back to the cave for disturbing the life pattern of the lowly and simple people. Rabbi Chaninah himself only reached his levels of saintliness for embodying the qualities of the lowly and simple people. [Our Master] Moses’ soul was exalted beyond all the people. Yet, he was only granted prophecy for their sake. The holy [Rabbi Israel] Ba’al Shem Tov spent a lot of time with the lowly and simple. He lauded their ways to his more sophisticated disciples.

We are now in the midst of the “Celebration of Water Drawing”. In the Torah portion of “Nitzavim”, which is always read on the Sabbath morning prior to Rosh Hashanah, Moses tells the Jews, “You are standing today before the Eternal Being, your Lord...”. The Talmud comments that “today” means the day of great judgment, i.e. Rosh Hashanah. Then Moses continues with a list of societal roles, “Your heads, your tribes, your elders … till your water drawers.”

The “water drawers” are mentioned as the very last role because they were the lowliest, the least appreciated. Yet what was celebrated on the festival of Succoth [in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple]? “Water Drawing”. It’s so joyous that we still celebrate it, even if it’s only a simulation of the original.

Gathered in this celebration were certainly many “water drawers” ~ the underappreciated common folk  forgotten in history, who came to celebrate the pilgrimage festival in the Temple. The great sages wouldn’t communicate to these people with sophisticated teachings, but, rather with gestures and antics. They brought them the Torah in the entertainment suited as a teaching tool for the common folk; [just] like the Ben Ish Chai whose every gesture during his Purim dramatization for his community was laced with the depth of Kabbalah. Yet, even a small child was transfixed.

Thank You [for this prayer journal session] …

Love and Kisses …