Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Mystical Purim Twist: The Male/Female Dynamics

Much of the Purim story is about the feminine coming into the spotlight. Vashti saw it as an opportunity for feminine power, i.e. independence. Esther saw it as an opportunity for feminine kindness, i.e. connection.

As with everything else, the Purim story has its own male/female dynamics. Historically, the Purim story occurred during the time between the two Temples - Solomon’s Temple and Ezra’s Temple. During this time, the style of divine kindness felt in human life shifted from masculine to feminine. As is very characteristic of this shift of divine kindness, miracles took on a different form. Previous miracles of the Bible were mostly very openly recognizable as miracles. However, from this period onward, miracles more often don the garb of natural occurrences. The only feature of these events that seem miraculous is their uncanny timing. Otherwise, the whole event can be explained naturally. For example, no longer are the innocent saved by a mighty sea opening before them to expose a dry path, but, by a successful royal plot that flowed along with the ordinary course of events, possibly without even being statistically significant.

The reason why these two states of divine kindness are viewed as male and female in relation to each other is because what’s male mainly echoes the Creator’s Infinity and hence, tends towards expansion, while what’s female mainly echoes the Creator’s Oneness and tends towards contraction. In short, male tends towards expansion and female tends towards contraction. These are two different approaches to kindness that ultimately complement each other. A male approach towards kindness tends to reach out. A man tends to view those he’s doing kindness to with a sense of distance - someone to reach towards. A female approach towards kindness tends to gather in. A woman tends to gather those she’s being kind to into her nurturing space with a sense of closeness. She truly bridges the gap (and therefore, might be more selective with her kindness - as it calls for entering into her personal psychological space). Of course, gender styles are not black and white. They’re tendencies. In real life there are plenty of exceptions and grey areas.

The Creator’s decision whether to use a male or female approach towards dispensing divine kindness affects the way miracles turn out. A male approach towards kindness works with a sense of distance and maintains the gap between giver and receiver. Therefore, miracles of the male sort are bestowed on divine terms, with less concern for the human recipients’ psychological comfort as they watch the familiar boundaries of nature dissipate. Whereas, a female styled miracle will try to meet the human recipients in their own familiar space, closing the gap; allowing for greater ease with the human psychological processing by operating within the familiar bounds of nature.

Since there really is only one reality, what happens spiritually reflects physically. This is why the shift from male to female divine kindness was felt by the power players in ancient Persia. In line with the wave of a more feminine style of divine kindness, women were suddenly cosmically favored and empowered. The wave had an outer body and an inner soul. The outer body was power. The inner soul was kindness. Though power and kindness might seem like opposite tendencies, with the right perspective and correct balance, they’re highly complementary and work like hand in glove. One can use power to dispense more kindness and to remove any obstacles to the kindness.

Women grew aware of their power. Since many Persian women lacked sufficient personality development, they didn’t yet have the tools to correctly process this new spiritual wave which entered their lives. In their subconscious minds, they interpreted the new wave more in terms of feminine power than in terms of feminine kindness. They were able to process the wave’s outer veneer, but, not the inner core. They took the wrapping and discarded the gift. Consequently, this new wave of divine involvement was seen by them as an indication of their secret superiority over men, leaving them with the sense that they were now independently capable power players.

This is what Vashti saw. She saw the superficial call to power and discarded the deeper call to kindness. As a result, she saw herself as a capable rival to her royal husband and denigrated him in her heart and even verbally, as Jewish oral tradition teaches. Her husband’s command that she emerge “with nothing, but, her crown” to entertain the men didn’t occur in a vacuum. It came from his own personal insecurity over her power streak. He wanted to demonstrate, actually more to himself than to others, that he dominated her. Since at this time what was feminine was cosmically favored, he failed miserably and became a laughing stock. His efforts were so transparent that they made him look worse rather than better.

The men in the Persian court, by and large, were certainly not any further along than their women in their psycho-spiritual development. They too lacked the tools to properly process the shift that was occurring right in front of them. This set off a wave of paranoia among the men. Consequently, they began to view women suspiciously, as potential usurpers of power. Like the king, they too thought the solution was to dominate women and shackle them back into traditional roles. So, the Purim story clearly begins with a pitched undercurrent of tension between the genders.

Esther emerges in the midst of this tense drama. Her name is appropriately the symbol of femininity itself. In Hebrew, her name means “I will hide”; a reference to the Creator hiding His kindness by operating within the familiar grab of nature. In the cultures around her, her name meant, “Astarte or Ishtar”; the deity of femininity. Being a wholesomely developed person, she understood that the inner intent of the new divine involvement was a call to a new style of kindness, not merely a new corridor to power. She used the combined power of her position and personalized feminine touch to subtly glide events along in a way that would save her people from destruction in the present and to ensure that in the future the next occupant of the Persian royal throne, being her own son (Darius), would be favorably inclined towards the Jews.

The new feminine wave of the time was a two sided package. If a woman only took to the outer veneer of power then she undermined her role as a comfortable partner in a relationship her man. If on the other hand, she also embraced the inner content of kindness she was able to cultivate a nurturing touch that drew her man closer. Vashti’s craving for power ultimately estranged her from her husband. Esther’s kindness brought her husband closer to her (this scenario can work with either the literal reading or the Talmudic reading of her husband’s identity - for simplicity, I’m purposely avoiding this particular issue).  

A woman “on the grow” is constantly exposing new levels from within her inner center of kindness. As she develops, she can truly engage her man on more mature levels. She becomes more in touch with a greater capacity to nurture his own heart in her's - allowing his heart to find a sweet home in her’s. This allows couples to connect on more and more levels, more and more deeply; ultimately, furthering their entire relationship into ever growing levels of intimacy.

This is why the Creator at this time made a female styled miracle. He didn’t want to overwhelm a broken People, but, wanted to nurture them into true intimacy in their relationship with Him. He realized that part of the problem was that in the past, He didn’t come off as truly approachable, but as dominating. Now He changed the whole dynamic of the relationship towards greater approachability.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Ultimately there are no divisions, 
Only gaps in perception.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Sachet of Myrrh

4 Adar 5773, in a Starbucks in Philadelphia

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for the kindness of being able to have a session with You in the morning. Thank You for the kindness You constantly provide. My soul calls to You for fresh insights into what I study. What sticks out in mind is the verse, “You are like a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts.” (Song of Songs 1:13) This is a very beautiful expression of love of a woman to a man. She’s saying to him, “You are the perfume of my heart.” or “You are the perfume of my emotions.” Taking this message even more deeply, “I cherish you very deeply. I internalize you.”

This is not ultimately a statement of emotional functionality or emotional enhancement. It’s a statement of longing, pining and cherishing. Its love at her most ideal, her finest; Filled with heat and passion. It’s beautiful, hope filled.

What lover is saying to lover, “I hold you between my breasts, the sensitive soft area where I nurture from. You are like a child to me whom I nurture from what’s most delicate and soft about me. I bring you back to earlier stages of life, the stages prior to firmly formed identity. So our identities can start again, in a way that includes each other. This way we can “identity blend”. We can become legs extending from the same core body.

Souls in love, hear what splendid opportunity awaits you. Let it resound in your hearts. Follow your trail … return to your Eden. It’s lying between your breasts; breasts that protrude encompass and internalize. All the new technologies cannot bring you a pleasure as deep and as sweet as this pleasure of old. The ancient Solomon knew of its delights, as the future messiah will.

We all long for You, each in his/her own unique style. A person who has turned away from You is just a disappointed lover. Please woo us back to You. Entice us with Your delights. Seduce us with a true relationship. Deeper than we can ever say, “We want You!”

Please show us that sachet of myrrh that lies between Your breasts. Entice us to show You ours.

Thank You for opening me to these words.

Love and Kisses ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Music & Celebration - a passage into higher self

Last week, I was asked by a woman on the train, going to work, a series of questions about King Saul’s life. Having learned the story a few times, I showed her some new threads between ideas she has never been exposed to beforehand. Upon arriving in my station, she told me that she had more questions. I jotted down for her my FaceBook contact information, so she can have an opportunity to ask them in the future.

The following day, she messaged me with a request to explain the episode of King Saul’s being bothered by a bad spirit and the youthful David playing music for him. I explained to her that as a consequence of not finishing his job to destroy Amalek, a harmful spirit was sent to drive him to insanity. David’s music was designed to have a therapeutic effect, to temporarily relieve his insanity.

Then based on what I’ve learned from a Kabbalist, I explained the psycho/spiritual dynamics of Saul’s insanity and how music was able to provide a temporary restoration of sanity:

What those spirits tend to do is to disrupt the contact between the conscious and subconscious levels of the mind. The music formed a temporary mental bridge between these two mind levels, so sanity was temporarily restored.

Psychologically speaking, insanity can result from improper communication between the conscious and subconscious levels of the mind. There’s a quantitative level to this, where the flow of communication is either too much or too little. The conscious mind is either overwhelmed or starved. Then there’s the qualitative level, where communication is not properly translating. The subconscious level of the mind is pre-verbal, while the conscious level is verbal. When trying to cross the boundary from pre-verbal to verbal, not every message necessarily comes through clearly and communication can suffer from distortion.  

Obviously, to one extent or another most people don’t have an optimal flow of communication between their subconscious and conscious levels. This can cause some normative psychological difficulty, like a person not being fully in touch with why s/he’s doing something. Maybe the person could have possibly made a better choice if s/he was more fully aware of the motive. However, only when this problem becomes very extreme, it crosses over into insanity.

The way Kabbalah explains this communication problem between the two levels of mind begins with the notion that evil has no life of its own. It has to draw life, like a parasite, from goodness. This makes sense when one considers that evil is destruction. A force of destruction can continue for a time only if it somehow latches onto to a force of creation. Otherwise, it self destructs. We each have both forces within us. Judaism refers to these forces as a good inclination and an evil inclination. This explains why humans can be so kind and be so ...

The Kabbalist explained to me where evil lodges its nest is in the gap between the higher and lower levels of spirituality; which in our case is gap between the subconscious and conscious levels of mind. Then like a pirate, he intercepts transport flowing in both directions and runs off with the booty. Counter-intuitively, evil will sometimes encourage an overwhelming flow of subconscious information to confuse the person. King Saul’s case seemed to be mostly the latter. He was suddenly beset by acute, but out of context insights, like that David will later be King.

The music David played for him bridged him back into an earlier state of mind, to a mental place where the spirits could not reach. Here, he found his pristine pre-afflicted self intact and was able to 
temporarily operate from that place. This reminds me of bringing a crashed computer back to an earlier pre-crash version of itself. However, such a fix for Saul, as I’ve seen with computers too, was only temporary because the conditions that caused the problem to begin with weren’t actually repaired.

Our Sages teach that the consequences for our actions tend to have a “measure for measure” quality. Like a child resembles a parent, the consequences tend to somehow resemble the deeds that birthed them. If Saul’s insanity resulted from not destroying Amalek, then the insanity is likely to somehow be linked with Amalek. It is known among Kabbalists that many of the ancient nations of the Bible no longer exist through their direct descendants, but, rather as spiritual forces which sometimes nest themselves in modern nations. This means that each Biblical nation continues on as a kind of soul force which at times will find an earthly host. Since Saul’s failure to destroy Amalek caused his insanity, it makes sense that the source of his insanity was the spiritual force of Amalek itself.  He was being haunted by his own inner counterpart of the force he failed to destroy.

As a result of this failure, his descendants and reincarnations, Mordechai and Esther had to confront Haman - a descendant and possibly a reincarnation of Agag, the Amalekite king.  Its their miraculous victory over Haman which brings us our upcoming Holiday, Purim!

Jewish Holidays aren’t meant simply to commemorate. They are meant as tools to access holy forces, which are uniquely available at different times of the year. The commemorated events themselves are designed to serve as models to clarify the nature of a given Holiday season; so people can attune themselves to the spiritual flow of the times. The spiritual flow of Purim is an opportunity to destroy our personal inner Amaleks.

In a small way, we are all in King Saul’s predicament. The flows between our subconscious and our conscious selves aren’t as optimal as they could be. Each year on Purim, and the surrounding season, we’re encouraged to find more music, more happiness, more celebration to restore the flow - to bridge ourselves back to our earlier selves; the self that was full of hope and music before our encounters with the world robbed us of our warmth and joy and left us in the cold. As with any process of personal growth, there are levels and levels. While we may have accomplished one level with last year’s Purim, there are brand new levels to accomplish with this year’s Purim. Happy Purim!   

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shapes & Sizes


I remember reading years ago from the writings of the deep mystic, Rabbi Tzodok HaCohen of Lublin, that the reason why the Creator made such a huge universe is because there are deep mysteries of Torah which can only be gleaned from such an immense universe. Future discoveries into the expanse of the universe will simultaneously enlighten science and Torah; as fields of knowledge become woven into a more integrated whole in the messianic future.

The other week an interesting cosmic insight dawned upon me. I think it might be one that at least points in the direction Rabbi Tzodok intended.  First a lead-in story:

One morning the other week, while ordering coffee at a Starbucks cafe’, I shared an inspiring thought with the woman behind the counter. My intention was to lend additional meaning to my good morning greeting. I figured that hundreds of people will probably wish her good morning that day. I didn’t want my wishes to be reduced to yet another of many exercises in polite exchange.

So I enhanced my greeting by sharing with her the idea that it takes a whole universe, with all of its immense size and shape, just to bring the marvel of life to a single human being for just one second. Truthfully, I made this statement to her as I’ve made it to others before, as a matter of faith or intuition with no actual logic to back it up. I trusted it because it was one of those concepts that sent the truth chills up my spine. However, this time something different happened. For the very first time, my mind suddenly lit up to the logic behind what I was saying.

Here’s what flashed in my mind: Einstein taught that space and time are a continuum - i.e. two experiences of the same entity. The fact that humans don’t automatically perceive this has more to do with the limits on the human perceptive faculties than with the pure reality of time and space.

The implications of space time being a continuum carries many startling implications - like the theories of relativity, a new theory on gravity, time dilation and the unchanging speed of light in a vacuum.

I realized at that moment that if time and space is a continuum then what happens to time has to somehow be reflected in space and vice versa, what happens in space has to somehow impact time. Shaking one end of the universe’s tablecloth will cause the other end shake as well. It follows that we only experience time as we do because the universe is currently sized and contoured as it is. Give the universe different sizes or shapes and the experience of time is altered as well. An alteration in space is an alteration in time.

Once my mind was going with this fresh idea, I took a seat at a cafe’ table, pulled my prayer/meditation diary out of my bag and started writing in deep and sweet contemplation. In the midst of my writing, I recalled that the scholar of Kabbalah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan taught in his commentary to “Sefer Yetzirah”, that Kabbalah was aware of this continuum pre-Einstein. However, Kabbalah labels this continuum not merely “Space Time” as physics does, but, as “Space Time Life” (in Hebrew “Olam”, “Shanah” and “Nefesh”). Life is seen as yet another dimension of the universe that goes along with space and time.

Taking the dimension of life into account, it follows that just as the size and shape of the universe seem likely to have a profound effect on the experience of time, they probably also has a profound effect on the experience of life as well. Vice versa, the experience of life probably also has a profound effect on both collective and individual experiences of time and space. Now I understood the logic of why it takes a whole universe to give a single human being one second of life.

It can be actually appreciated on two levels, physics and Kabbalah. For those who feel more at home in physics, simply the whole way we experience time, the marvel of a single second, is dependant on how space is sized and shaped.

For those who are at home in Kabbalah, this tightly interwoven relationship between time, space and life is a basic reason why it takes a whole universe, with it’s immense size, shape and history, to bring the marvel of life to a single human being for just one second.

As my pen continued to flow across the page, additional insights continued to flow into my mind. It suddenly occurred to me that this interwoven fabric of time, space and life might also clarify a variety mystical phenomenon reported through the centuries, like how certain mystics were able to experience “shrinking of the road” - meaning that their travels occurred much faster than normal. These mystics existed in a higher state of life. Their consciousness vibrated at a much higher level. The very vibrancy of life force shrunk space and time for them personally because life is in an inverse relationship with time and space. Life is spiritual. Time and space are physical. It’s the nature of the spiritual to overwhelm the limitations which maintain the physical state of reality.

Another spiritual phenomenon which I realized can be explained with this fresh understanding is the prevalence of open miracles and the availability of heightened states of prophecy in ancient times. According to both the big bang theory and certain explanations of the “tzimtzum” the universe is expanding outward like a balloon. This means that space is constantly enlarging. It would stand to reason that space is larger today than it was in ancient times, which means that the life factor was automatically more vibrant, on a higher level, than today.

Whether the change in the universe’s size between now and ancient times is tiny or vast might be irrelevant. It could be that even a tiny enlargement can make a difference if the universe’s membrane crossed a critical spatial threshold. The implication is that as space enlarges humanity tends to lose levels of spiritually sensitivity and orientation because the life dimension stretches out thinner and gets diluted in enlarging space. As a result, miracles and prophecy become less common.

Don’t lose hope. In a few previous essays, I explained that as the universe reaches full size, new spiritual light will flow into space from beyond space. When this new living light flows in, the life force that was previously stretched thinly by expanding space will be reinforced and life’s full taste will be restored.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Daily Discovery


The work "Duties of the Heart" recommends a daily contemplation on the world to discover a new mark of the Creator's wisdom. 

What was your discovery today?