Sunday, August 25, 2013

Touched !

A true spiritual master knows how to reach the most intensely sensitive spot in the heart of a follower, bringing him/her along to states of spiritual pleasure and ecstasy.

When the master touches this spot, ever so gently, the follower's whole view of life transforms.

Even suffering feels like a nurturing gift of deeply resonant sweetness. Everything is light filled.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Change of Heart

The other day, I was advised that I need to pray for someone, who gave me difficulties, to have a change of heart. Upon reflection, I realized that this was too difficult step for me to take with the sincerity that a prayer truly requires.

In the midst of one of the holiest prayers this morning in synagogue, it dawned on me that I can solve this quandary by praying that I should have the right change of heart and with that have the right effect on other people - including on this person.

Somehow, after praying for my own change of heart, I found it much easier to sincerely pray for the other person's change of heart.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Farmer’s Wisdom

Recently, a man of Italian American heritage told me that his grandfather was a dairy farmer in Sicily. One day while he was milking his cows, a truck winding on the road alongside his farm parked. Out walked a very thirsty trucker.

The trucker entered the barn and offered to pay for a cup of milk. The good natured farmer squirted an utter directly into a cup. Smilingly, he handed the cup to the trucker. When the trucker was ready to pay, the farmer waved with his hand to indicate that it was a free gift.

About two weeks later, the same trucker returned with a gripe. He stormed angrily into the barn and stridently accused, "You poisoned the milk! I got an upset stomach and vomited right after drinking it."

The farmer calmly pointed all around and explained, "My cows only eat the grass you see all around you. How can the milk possibly be poisoned? Wait a moment ... I think I understand what your problem is. Where do you live good sir?"

"In the city", the trucker responded.

"What milk do you drink there?", inquired the farmer.

"What's commercially sold.", the trucker replied.

"That's it!", smiled the farmer. "The city's commercially sold milk is designed to be high in quantity, but, low in quality. It's barely milk. Your body is not accustomed to the good stuff. That's why your system reacted as it did."


This story got me thinking. Maybe, what I am about to say does not apply to everyone, but, it probably applies to some. It certainly applies to me.

We are in the month of Elul. It's the month of coming closer to our Creator and to our fellow humans. Is it at all possible that we're not accustomed to certain high quality states of emotional closeness; neither with our Creator nor with our fellow humans? Is it at all possible that we let go of potential opportunities to build key relationships because we're not "accustomed to the good stuff"? Maybe, we tell ourselves that we’re uncomfortable getting so vulnerable or so “mushy”. Let’s build up our tolerance for getting closer.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Higher Pleasures

If you find the universe seems unresponsive to your desires to receive, reach for higher pleasures ~ your desires to give.

~ O ~

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Letter to my Daughter

Dearest Daughter,

It was so nice to see you so happy yesterday. I really love and cherish the time we spent together. That tetherball game was really something. Would you believe that I was waiting for those few minutes for hours, literally from the moment we left your camp to meet your brother at his camp. I probably would have played you right there and then, if it was not for that call from his camp director that he didn't have any visitors yet and he was lonely.

It was amazing how beautiful the weather was this visiting day. I was wondering to myself watching the trees, you know God knows every leaf on every tree in the whole wide world. That must make zillions upon zillions of leaves. He knows every molecule and atom in the entire universe. This is a number which probably is so huge that it does not even have a name.

If I tried to learn even 50 leaves, I would get bored very fast. I would find the repetition of information lifeless and grating. So how does God not get bored by endless information, so much of which seems so highly repetitive? Then I thought to myself, you know I can't really answer for God. After all, He's God.

However, just for myself, let's say all these repetitive details were not just isolated details, but, tied together as critical parts of a meaningful story. Wouldn't I look at them differently? Everything to the tiniest detail,  really is part of a story - it's the story of bringing the world into the messianic era and then to the resurrection and then even beyond. If we really knew more of the story and the fascinating role of every detail, then a lot of details we normally gloss over would become much more interesting for us to learn about.



Dad & Mom

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Three Forms of Prayer, Three Levels of Heart

Judaism teaches that at the core of each prayer is a heart in emotional exchange with the Creator. Over time, three general forms of prayer developed. Each form is an expression of a different aspect of the heart. The three forms are: recitals of Psalms, liturgical prayers and informal conversations with the Creator. The recitals of Psalms seem to be an expression of mind resonating within the heart. Liturgical prayers seem to be an exposure of the inner heart within the heart - a purified core of heart. And informal conversations seem to be expressions largely projecting from the heart’s outer surface - the body of the heart.

The heart, as a whole, is lodged between the mind and body. In psychological terms, the emotional self occupies the space between the intellectual and kinesthetic selves. Therefore, on one of her sides, the heart tends towards the intellectual side of the border. While on her other side, she tends towards the kinesthetic side of the border. At each side, what’s just over the border can already be felt.

The key for understanding which form of prayer matches with which aspect of the heart is the potency of Torah found in the prayer. Torah study is intellectual devotion. So the more potent the prayer’s Torah content, the closer the prayer is to the heart’s intellectual pole. On the other hand, the less potent the Torah content, the closer the prayer is to the heart’s bodily pole. Naturally, what’s purely heart occupies the center of this spectrum.

The Psalms are the expression of the heart’s intellectual side; as the Psalms were composed with Biblical prophecy and therefore, are part of the scripture itself. They are intended not only for prayer, but, also for devotional study. In Psalms, the heart is carried by the absolute truths of Scripture, even while caught in the stormy waves of emotional reverie.

The liturgy is an expression of the heart’s pure emotional side, as it written as prayers for the masses. It is designed for everyone to emotionally connect to each other as a community and pour out a collective heart in prayer. The Torah content in the liturgy is a step removed from the Bible. All the words are either Biblical excerpts or paraphrases. Mostly, the person in prayer is not reading the Scripture directly, but, largely an echo of Scripture. Unlike Scripture, the central prayer, the Amidah, was not prophetically composed. Rather, it was composed via the holy spirit - a lower level of divine communion than prophecy.

This is not surprising since “spirit” is the aspect of the soul which operates through the heart. It’s the soul’s emotional level. So holy spirit is the human spirit emoting in a highly elevated state of holiness. This state would be ideal for composing a prayer designed to express the best of the human heart.

Informal conversations seem to express the body within the heart. These free flowing conversational prayers seem to mainly flow from divine guidance. Divine guidance is a lesser level than attaining a state of holy spirit. It simply means that whether or not the person is aware of it, his/her thoughts, speech and actions are being divinely guided.

It makes sense that free flowing conversational prayer would be more directly associated with the body within the heart than the other two kinds of prayer because (a) these conversations tend to come from the a more surface level of heart, i.e. the body of the heart and (b) they tend to very often revolve around the practicalities of the life situation on the ground. These features end up making this form of prayer the most user friendly of all the three forms to practice, as the subject matter tends to be about what the person in prayer relates to best.

Obviously, what’s described here is a relative scale. What for our level seems to be considered “prophetically driven” for the Psalmist’s own level might have been merely coming from his heart’s surface level. Indeed, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov relates that the Psalms of King David were culled from his free flowing conversational prayers. Similarly, for the group of ancient Rabbis who composed the centerpiece of Jewish liturgy, the Amidah. Such prayers might have been regarded by them as mere conversational prayers, though to our own level the Amidah appears as a fruit ripened on the tree of their holy spirit - much beyond anything the surface of our hearts can attain to.