Sunday, May 25, 2014

Restoring the Displaced

By giving away what does not belong to me, I can receive what does belong to me.

There are two kinds of giving away, kindness and sacrifice. Kindness is the giving away we do gladly. It’s voluntary, as it pertains to what we innately sense belongs to others and should be shared. In contrast, sacrifice is coerced, often amidst suffering. It’s forced, as the giver is (often justifiably) under the illusion of ownership.

Whether with sacrifice or kindness, the goal is the same. The Creator made the cosmos in such a way that most of creation, whether physical or spiritual, is temporarily displaced. Most of everything is in a temporary state of exile. By giving something away, we either move it along towards its rightful place or at least closer to that goal line.

Simultaneously with giving, we set off a couple of dynamics which help us receive either what does belong to us or at least something more closely resembling it:

1. The giving creates a vacuum, which can now be filled with something new - something that belongs.

2.  The giving sets the cosmos in motion. The giver spins the cosmic wheel of fortune. When in motion, items seek their optimal destinations. They seek home. Sometimes they get there, sometimes they get closer.

The Torah teaches us that a portion of what we receive is really someone else’s portion. Hence, tithes, as some of what we’re given really belongs to the Temple, the Priests, the Levites, the needy, the soil of Israel, etc. We’ve just been made the messengers to participate in moving these items either home or closer to home.

This does not mean, Oy’ we worked for what really is not ours. Indeed, we worked for our own portion. However, in such a case, the compensation needs to be moved along towards us by first giving away what belongs elsewhere. Only then do we receive our true compensation.

Similarly, with sacrifices, we’re given a portion that belongs to the four archangels of the divine chariot. They are also known as the four holy animals. These portions might be sitting right in our flock or stable. Alternatively, they might need to be purchased. When brought on the altar, what belongs to the angels transcends in sacrificial flames. Again, this sets the cosmos in motion and what truly belongs to us can be sent in the right direction. In fact, during the sacrifice, the angels too let go of what’s not theirs in order to make room to receive what’s rightfully theirs - contributing towards a dynamic of cosmic motion. That’s part of how both humanity and the angels get blessed.

A basic lesson emerges from this teaching. Today, much of the Biblical system of tithing and sacrificing remains pending. However, the ideas behinds this system are still alive and well in other forms; like feeding, clothing and sheltering the needy or giving personal time to sympathize with the broken hearted, etc.

Therefore, if a person feels displaced from his/her life portion, give, give, give ... both with sacrifice and kindness. There’s a significant chance that what truly belongs will come along, as vacuums for blessing are created and the cosmos gets constantly set into motion...again and again. Hoarding what belongs to others (even unknowingly), blocks the opening of one’s vessel to receive what rightfully belongs. By giving away the cap, one opens the vessel.


The Hidden Potential Behind Spatial Directions

This essayed lesson assumes some basic knowledge of the Lurianic version of how creation began, including notions like the Infinite Light, the Contraction, the Cosmic Void, the Afterglow and the Line of Light (Circular and Linear Sefirot). It also assumes some basic knowledge, mainly taught by Rabbi Ashlag, of how dissimilar repels and similar attracts. Please also, note that much of what I convey here is not explicitly stated in the source material and is my own attempt to reconcile cosmic narrative issues I notice in the texts.

In Kabbalah, the spatial directions denote different divine attributes. Right or south is kindness, left or north is severity and so on. We’re taught that their dissimilarity sets them apart in different directions. Furthermore, these attributes don’t merely fill the directions, they make the directions.  Yes, when the circular sefirot, cosmic void and afterglow are the only emanated existence, there’s no such a thing as direction. The entire infrastructure of the developing creation is directionless and spherical (so to speak).

In such a state, direction is only a potential. It’s the linear sefirot, in the form of man, which later on introduces the direction factor. In the meanwhile, the void and afterglow expand out on the basis of potential direction - for that’s all the dissimilarity they posses to serve as a basis for repelling into opposite directions. A side of the universe that could potentially contain kindness is latently dissimilar to a side of the universe that could potentially contain severity and so on. Their expansion apart from each other is driven by a hidden dissimilarity, which will only be revealed when the Line of Light descends, which hasn’t happened yet on the earthly realm. (From my perspective, the earthly realm or physical universe is merely the aspect of the cosmic void detectable to humans. The same cosmic void detected by souls and angels, appears like a spiritual spiritual realm. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.)  

We’re still waiting for our direct infusion of the Line of Light. Yet, our realm displays some vague effects from the fact that the Line of Light is already present in higher realms. Among these vague effects are: the Torah, human endowed with free choice, hierarchies (even in the animal kingdoms), the linear logic underlying much of nature (like mathematics), etc. However, on this realm, much of these linear displays are temporary and easily overrun by the dominating circularity.

This is why when an observer peers into space, a slice of space ten light years east is probably made of the same material as a similar slice of space ten light years west. If both were culled and examined in a laboratory, they’d probably demonstrate the exact same fabric and formation. If they were mixed like cards in a deck, they probably couldn’t be told apart.

Though the fabric east and west would look identical, there’s something in their hidden potential which is different. If the researcher had waited to cull these same fabrics after the Line of Light comfortably settled into the earthly realm, they would be noticeably differentiated.


From Shabbat - May 24, 14'

Two memorable Torah ideas I learned today:

From the Ramchal - Fixing the broken not only applies to the earthly, but also to the heavenly. Among what's constantly being fixed and enhanced by our good deeds are the spiritual programs and agendas which hugely effect earthly life. As they improve, so do our lives.

From the Lubavitcher Rebbe - Though the Israelite journey in the Sinai desert is past history, the spiritual forces behind that event are still alive and well. When a Jew works to build Judaism in a place which seems to be Jewishly deserted, s/he gains the Creator's favor. In response, He calls forth those spiritual forces which accompanied the Jews in the desert and sends them to help the Jew turn the spiritual desert into a sanctuary.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Hang around a dancing soul, 
Enjoy being splashed with light.

The Outcry of the Times

It really bothers me that money and the legislative/justice system mix too freely in this country. I hope people come to realize that a system so undermined cannot continue indefinitely. The self interested cannot muster the necessary level of caring for others to become true public servants. Their very psychological wiring works against the outcry of the times.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Communication Gaps

Someone asked me over this past Shabbat for the meaning of the “sefira” of the day “dominance within beauty”. My reflections set the stage for my answer Sunday when someone else asked me about that day's “sefira” “submission within beauty”. The question directed me into a reflection on my own internal answer.

For me, the answer is that sometimes “balance” (the core of beauty and truth) requires a measure of submission. Giving room for where others are coming from is an important part of the this picture of balance. A true artist leaves room for personal interpretation on the part of the audience; thereby, setting the stage for the communication to be internalized. Every piece of art, in any medium, which stood the test of time had to have left room for the audience to internalize it. This made the audience feel like they owned a little bit of the artwork - for they secretly (or maybe even openly) added something to it. By adding their own internal processing and interpretation they’ve become “little partners” in the work. This is what it means to “appreciate” a work of art.

Similarly, when the Creator gave the Torah, He allowed some partnership in the area of the Oral Law and teachings. He didn’t crowd out the intellectual space with His transmission. Rather, He balanced the transmission with some empty space for “audience interaction”; thereby, allowing us to become partners of sorts with His Torah, to allow us to drink the waters of Torah much more deeply and come out as finer characters. The more we work to understand the Torah, the more we have to grapple with the gaps in the transmission. If we choose to engage it, this “grappling” forces an internalization, leading to positive personal change, a cleaner, healthier and kinder character.

The lesson is that every communication needs to leave breathing room to allow for the recipient’s own internalization. If a communication is a perfectly closed system, there’s nothing to engage. There’s no inner dialogue with it. What was created was a great reference dictionary full of clinically cold facts. Usually, people don’t immerse themselves in such frosty tomes, at least not without a profit motive.  To be internalized, a communication of truth and/or beauty needs some gaps to serve as handles for people to bring the presentation into their hearts.

This is possibly what it means that the Torah is either the “elixir of life” or the “elixir of ...”. It’s all a question of how one handles the gaps. More precisely, it’s more a question of how one fills in the gaps. The quality of the filler makes all the difference. It’s the cement that holds the  message together.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Knock, Knock

Tonight I surprised myself with the advice I gave a friend looking for a job and a match. He confided that due to personal problems he didn't think that he stood much of a chance at attaining either. He simply was asking me whether I thought it was worth the effort at all.

I told him knock hard on the doors you know of, even if you think nobody's home. You never know, you might get the attention of a neighbor and find an unexpected opportunity.

Floor & Ceiling

The 18th Century Jewish mystic and theologian, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote a book, named "The Knowing Heart", which is setup as a dialogue between the soul and the intellect. In this book, the soul asks the intellect to enlighten her on certain important questions of faith. For years, I wondered why the intellect is setup in this work as enlightening the soul and not the other way around - namely, the soul enlightening the intellect.

Last night, I began to restudy the work with a new study partner and he answered  me very nicely:

Since there is some version of the Torah exists in all realms, spiritual and earthly, souls and angels also study Torah. When studying Torah in the earthly realm, we often encounter teachings which refer to matters outside of our experience. In some cases, we can still explain them logically. In other cases, the matters referred to are so spiritual that they're above the ceiling of our mental capacities, requiring us to accept these teachings on faith.

In the spiritual realms, when a soul studies Torah there are plenty of teachings that are outside of the soul's experience as well. Some of these teachings can be absorbed by the soul when she mentally reaches out to them. This not only applies to teachings referring to matters in higher realms, but also to teachings referring matters in lower realms - as they too are outside her experience. If the teachings are too far beyond her experience, they can defy the reach of either her mental floor or ceiling, requiring her to take them on faith. Unlike us, the soul not only applies her faith to what's higher, but also to what's lower. So strangely, it can turn out that the soul takes on faith earthly matters that we know of logically or by direct experience, requiring her to enlist the help of an earthbound mind to understand. Of course, this best occurs when the earthbound mind is properly tuned in spiritually - fostering the connection and dialogue.

Interestingly, a prominent Rabbi in my community offered a simpler but probably just as valid possibility to explain why  the intellect enlightens the soul in the “Knowing Heart”. He explained that the intellect here, is the intellect which is alive within the Torah. The Torah herself communicating ideas to teach the soul.

Chodesh Tov U'Mivorach!  

Everyday Every Holiday

Shavuah Tov FB Friends.

Reflecting on this Shabbat, I think the lesson which I found most inspiring is that every day we have the energies of all the Biblical Holidays with us: starting with the freedom of Passover and ending with the laughter of Purim.

So I asked myself, "What does my personal Passover look like for me today?" I was surprised how easily an answer that made sense to me emerged. I actually was directed to a psychological issue that I never before considered "removable". It was one that has compromised my ability to express aspects of my identity for years and years. I now saw that my bondage to this inner force was an illusion built on a misconception. I could easily break free.

You might want to try this internal exercise for yourself. It might yield some interesting results.