Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Aleph Dar" / Oneness Dwells

Yesterday, I was at a Carlebach styled Torah class. The teacher reminded that the word for this Hebrew month "Adar" divides into two words "Aleph" and "Dar". "Aleph" is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It can mean "One" or "Leader". Therefore, it often refers to the Creator, as both terms easily suit Him. "Dar" is the Hebrew word for "dwell". Last Hebrew month, "Shevat" carried the theme of creating a vessel in our hearts. This Hebrew month,"Adar", carries the theme of filling the vessel with the Creator's holy light. During this month we use the vessel to create a dwelling place for His holy light. So "Adar" means "Aleph Dar" or the "Oneness dwells".  

The teacher went further to explain that the Talmud teaches there are four hearts that the Creator does not dwell in: a haughty egoist, a liar, a slanderer and a mocker. The implication is that if a person is clear from these undesirable traits, by default his/her heart is a vessel for the Creator's light.

When I reviewed this teaching today in contemplation, I realized that these four traits form a sequential chain: separation, distortion of truth, justification and rebellion.

A haughty egoist is not usually someone who has made a logical choice. Rather, s/he's usually emotionally disturbed by his/her vulnerability to the Creator and need to rely on others. Therefore, the egoist seeks separation and independence. S/he wants to stand out as flawless in some way in the eyes of others or at least feel like s/he's "ahead" of others.

Since this was an emotional choice and there's no real status given to choices made by emotion alone, the egoist seeks a justification - a “spin”, a distortion of truth, to make it look good. Here the truth is stretched, tailored, re-proportioned and often outright denied in order to provide justification for the position.

In the justification process, the “new outlook” casts ordinary people, very often doing ordinary things, in the wrong. All of a sudden, people who are merely humanly imperfect are “guilty” of ordinary and innocent acts which are now recast as socially “inappropriate” or even worse “crimes”. They are slandered in the court of social acceptance and find that for doing nothing other than struggling through life, the doors of human acceptance which should have been open for them are mysteriously closed.

However, there are circumstances where these measures don’t provide an egoist with sufficient justification. The truth of his/her dependency still nags deep within, refusing to be stifled, torturing with lashes of guilt . The egoist needs an even larger campaign of justification to deal with the voice that won’t stop crying. By reaching further out, s/he hopes at reaching deeper in. So the egoist takes up a campaign of rebellion. The rebellion begins by mocking the sources of dependency. By this, the rebel hopes to prove to self and all that the bonds of dependency are truly severed. But they’re not. The whole thing is a castle built on air. It’s a sham. No human is a self contained system.

This was what was at the core in the confrontation between Haman and Mordechai in the “Book of Esther”. Haman wore a mask of smug invincibility over his insecure weak and very dependent identity. Mordechai knew that he was vulnerable and knew whom he depended on. Never losing sight of this truth actually strengthened him. Meeting such a presence, threw Haman into uncontrolled fits of rage!

The story of the “Book of Esther” is the story of finding our true identities behind the masks we sometimes unconsciously put on. It’s in these true identities that the Creator seeks to dwell.

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