Friday, July 26, 2013

What’s Darkness? Light!

One of the most comforting ideas I seem to constantly encounter in Chabad Torah teachings is that there really is no such a thing as darkness. Darkness is merely suppressed light.

In fact, the stronger the light, the more it is capable of suppressing itself. Just like only a diamond is strong enough to cut a diamond, so too only light is strong enough to hide light.

When I read these teachings, I feel connected to everything. The only possible excuse for disconnection is darkness. But if all is light, the excuse vanishes and my heart feels continuous with all.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Expect ...

Don't expect to bypass the physical and soar to the spiritual.

The one you don't love dressed, won't turn more beloved naked.

The undressed isn't a new being.

In His Domain

"Courage and Happiness are in His domain" ~ Psalms

Sadness comes from divisions and/or blockages. Do you know why God is so happy? Because He's Seamlessly One and Infinite. Being Seamless, no divisions or blockages are possible. Connect to Him and a spark of His happiness will rub off on you too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Career Choices

An interesting piece of life wisdom had recently dawned on me.

Since our careers very often end up as inescapable roles, taking center stage in our lives, people often take making their career choices very seriously. And rightfully so. When it came time for me to make my career choice, I didn't have the benefit of this simple piece of advice that I am about to share with you (though I really wish I did). 

You know there are many benefits in life that we enjoy as "finished products". We may enjoy health, comforts, justice, friendship, love, happiness, culinary delights, interesting books, neat ideas, spirituality, entertainment, etc. Just because we enjoy certain "finished products" does not automatically mean that we also enjoy the "process" that creates them. We may find a “finished product” delightful, but lending a hand to its creation dull. 

It seems to me that a happy career is one where a person finds joy in both the "processing" and the "finishing".

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Know that He's invisible, 
Because He's indivisible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beyond "Either/Or”

Part I

Years ago, Rabbi Moshe Schatz taught me that it is preferable not to get stuck in the mire of “either/or” thinking. It really can compromise the search for truth by blocking off viable possibilities.

Very often ideas alive in the minds of spiritual seekers are spiritual “downloads”. The reason why this makes sense to me is because the Talmud teaches, “Those who come to purify are assisted.” It would seem to me that a very basic form of such assistance would be to give a seeker thoughts in the right direction.  

However, because the Creator wants people to grow by interacting with others, He tends to give a seeker a tantalizing piece(s) of the puzzle, but, not the full picture. This way other seekers will yearn for what s/he can share and s/he’ll yearn for what others can share.

A serious pitfall happens when a seeker’s ego takes over and s/he imagines that the piece of the puzzle that s/he has been given represents a fuller picture than anyone else can offer. A cult can be the result of a person stuck in such a head space. Followers may flock because the leader’s piece of the puzzle is tantalizingly large, luminous, unique and comprehensible. However, the piece has been isolated to the point that it rarely communicates with the rest of the picture; making the situation unsatisfying over the long run.

The lesson to take away is let’s not make ourselves into “little cults”. Let’s share our ideas freely with fellow seekers. Let’s gift them the opportunity to share their ideas with us. Sharing ideas leads to sharing hearts, which brings along warmth, connection, love and friendships.

Part II

The following is an excerpt from a personal prayer inspired by the above mini-essay:

Thank You for helping me respond to people whose views I don’t easily relate to with love and friendship. Maybe in some way they are onto something that was revealed to them first. Maybe, I need a bit of time and patience to integrate what they already know with what I already know. Maybe, with Your help, I need to build a mental bridge so I can cross over to their perspective and they can cross over to mine. The bridge itself is an act of growth. It’s a line that connects two dots. The line itself can be more mentally significant than the dots.

For example, in geometry a dot is zero dimensional, while a line is one dimensional. It’s also possible to arrange a series of lines into a three dimensional shape. So the dot is merely a point a reference, not a destination.

The same pattern can be applied to ideas. An idea can be one point. Another idea can be another point. The thought between them, bridging them, is a line. Then there can be yet a third idea, which can serve as an additional point. Thought bridges between this third idea and the other two earlier ideas, can make a triangular two dimensional plane. These three thought points now contain a lot of thought area, not only along the original three lines, but, also covering the whole surface of the plane.

Now if a more abstract or more practical idea is added to these three ideas and new connecting lines are drawn, suddenly there’s an outline of a three dimensional thought, i.e. the thought equivalent of something three dimensional. The thought area has now vastly expanded to contain so much more than before, when the thought structure was merely a line or a plane. Not only has the surface increased, but, a new dimension of depth was added.

So as I converse with people whose views are different, please help me see it as an encounter that will help everyone’s growth. If an idea has become a slave to a person’s vested interest, it might be difficult to move the person beyond the idea, as moving the person beyond the idea might need to be addressed on the psychological level. However, it is always possible to grow our perspectives beyond what they were and conversation with thinking people is a great way to do it. It’s one main highway to get there.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Silent Spaces Without, Silent Spaces Within

Towards the end of the Book of Numbers, the Torah describes the cities of the Levites. Each city is surrounded by a 1,000 cubits wide clearing, free from vegetation and buildings. Around this clearing is a second outer band, also 1,000 cubits wide, where farming is permitted, but, not buildings. What this communicates to me is that fundamentally space is not simply a “container”. We humans easily mistake space for a container since space does that as well, in the sense of containing everything in the universe.

If fundamentally space was created to function as a container then what the Levites did by leaving 1,000 cubits of empty area is a waste of space’s potential. Waste of potential is something which the Torah seeks to avoid. So what could have been the function of space in this context?

The well known Medieval Biblical commentator Rashi relates that the purpose of the open area was for aesthetic beauty. Unfilled space has a certain effect on the mind and heart. It calms. The Levites were the Biblical equivalent of a monastic clan. The space around their cities set a mood of expanded consciousness. Their space wasn’t encroached upon by the pressures of real estate development and farm work. Their minds and hearts were more free for a contemplative spiritual life.

The same seemed to apply to the early pietists. The Talmud relates that they’d wait an hour before prayer, pray for an hour and wait an hour after prayer. They encased their prayers with an “empty hour” before and after. What the Levites did in space, they did in time. I think that both versions of a clearing, whether in time or space, lead to a clearing in the soul.

Time, space and soul are the same entity, just in three different expressions. Physics already knows that time and space is a single continuum. “The Book of Formation” teaches that soul is also part of this same continuum.  This is why what may look like a waste in one of these three, might really be in the service of another of these three. For example, if the universe didn’t have it’s current size and contours, it’s likely that we wouldn’t experience time the way we do. 

Similarly here, a clearing around the Levite cities and the early pietists encasing their prayers in a clearing of time must have formed a clearing in the human soul. A clearing in the human soul is very valuable. It’s a space for divine light to freely enter. It’s an inner meeting room for the human and the Divine. 

Since, we all have an “inner Levite”, we all need to cultivate an inner clearing to meet with our Best Friend. For me, it’s these pages.    

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Here on Earth

What I am about to say is subjective. It might not resonate with everyone.

One can use mystical teachings to escape reality or to engage reality. I've spent years studying Jewish mysticism. Despite all my years of studying, today I finally came to an understanding of what makes the Lubavitcher path different.

I grew up in "Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn" in the 1970's & 80's. My Torah education had a real emphasis on finding God in the hereafter. Finally, a stream of Torah teaching came along and said to me, "Find God here! Find Him in this world. There's no need to wait until the next world (as spiritually dazzling as it might be). He's as much on earth as He's in heaven."

To me, that's Lubavitch!