Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Real Becoming Ideal

Reflecting on last week's Torah portion, Korach had some good points. In fact, they were so spiritual and so futuristic that they were difficult to argue with. The famed Hassic Rebbe, the Seer of Lublin, was a descendant of his and referred to his complicated ancestor as the "the Holy Grandfather Korach".  How do we understand this man who was at once so elevated and so dangerous?

In the work "Tal Oros", Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shpielman explains that it's possible for a person to be tempted by a much higher version of himself and crash. I think that might have been what happened to Korach. Instead, of reaching to organically grow into the next spiritual level just above his head, he jumped levels and crashed!

The takeaway lesson is that jumping to our highest ideal self is not always so ideal. Sometimes, we will grow much better in the long run if we work honestly with the "lower" spiritual level we are really holding at.  With slow and careful work in the right direction our lower selves will become more sensitized to our long term spiritual goals and be more cooperative with the process.

Self honesty is best!

This past Shabbos blessed the upcoming Jewish month of Tammuz. Each Jewish month radiates with a different permutation of God's holy name spelled "Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey".  The permutation for Tammuz is "Hey-Vav-Hey-Yud", the name in reverse. This holy name is alluded to in a verse in the "Book of Esther" retelling the evil Haman's rage filled utterance, "All this is not enough for me ...!"

The last letters in the Hebrew words of his utterance are "Hey-Vav-Hey-Yud". Clearly, Haman was highly dissatisfied with his portion in life.

In an address relating how to use the spiritual energies of Tammuz in devotional service, the late Lubavticher Rebbe explained the parameters on the phrase in "Avoth", "Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his portion in life."

He explained that the recommendation to be happy with one's portion in life, only applies to material possessions. It does not apply at all to spiritual attainments. One needs to strive higher and higher to access and attain ever greater reaches of his/her spiritual potential.  So even the evil Haman's rage filled utterance, "All this is not enough for me ...!" has a place in life, though not in the way Haman intended it, but, in a very different direction - to be dissatisfied with our past spiritual attainments. Through such dissatisfaction, we become ready for more and open up to new spiritual growth.

So we are entering a month which offers us so much, but, as Proverbs cautions, "You found honey, eat moderately, lest you become full and vomit." (25:16)

It's a month of tremendous spiritual growth potential, but, at the same time, unlike Korach, seek stability along with the growth. Stability might seem like a "growth slower" to some. However, in the long run it will yield the best fruits.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tween Personal and Cosmic:

Medieval Jewish Philosophy explains that God's Seamless Oneness is the same as His Absolute Infinity. Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pequda proves this with a near mathematical logic.

This morning I realized something interesting. The Bible seems to prefer to call God, "One" ("Echad"), while Kabbalah seems to prefer to call God, "Infinite" (i.e. "Ein Sof"). Since both terms are ultimately the same, I wonder why one Torah topic prefers one description, while the other Torah topic prefers a different one.

It seems to me that one possible answer could be that the Bible is concerned with developing personal relationships between humans and God. Whereas, Kabbalah is concerned with explaining the cosmic relationship between the universe and God.

The Bible was designed for the sophisticate and simpleton alike. It’s interested in telling even the simple person that there’s One Creator Who truly care and is boundlessly open to an emotional, touchy, feely and very personal relationship. For the purposes of promoting this kind of relationship, saying that God is "One" is a great starting point. Something which is “one” is concentrated, gathered in. It’s in a state which the human’s associate with closeness and intimacy - the very foundations of a personal relationship. So thinking of the Creator as a Being Who gathers in and is intimate helps a person feel that He’s truly accessible.

On the other hand, Kabbalah already addresses a more sophisticated audience, one that’s interested in understanding the relationship between the Creator and the universe. In order to get into a discussion like that, a cosmic discussion, the premise must be that the Creator is “Infinite”. Only then, can such a discussion ensue, allowing a mystic or philosopher to get lost in ideas over how finite and Infinite meet. Since the character of Infinity is endlessness, it conveys “distance” - which is a nice foundation for discussing the relative largess of interacting cosmic realms.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shifting Higher

Today, in a Barnes & Nobles cafe' a couple of friends were showing my children X-Man and Wolverine graphic novels. They explained to me that there are some nifty metaphysical ideas behind these comics, especially time travel and dimensional shifts. It all sounded nicely advanced. Yet, I was disturbed that despite access to such levels of metaphysics, the world depicted in these comics was still stuck in the paradigm of the struggle between good and evil. 

I commented, "What if we had access to such spiritual knowledge and technology before we transcend the paradigm of good verses evil, can you imagine how dangerous our existence will become?"

There was a nod of acknowledgement.

Later, I reflected back on this discussion and realized that there's nothing to worry about at all. It's not possible to even gain access to such spiritual knowledge and technology before transcending the paradigm of good verses evil. Their struggle depends on a certain level of free choice, which naturally dissipates in the face of deeper spiritual revelations.  So by the time we get there, if there will be any struggle at all, it won't be between good and evil at all. Rather, it will probably be between good and better (which might actually be a greater challenge).

I learned from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary on "Sefer Yetzirah" that every realm has it's own unique framework of time, space and soul. So by entering a more spiritual version of time and space, one has also entered a more spiritual level of soul - which essentially is a higher state of revelation. At this new level, the balance between what's spiritually revealed and concealed changes; shifting the whole framework of free choice higher. If free choice is brought up to a high enough level and the concealment sufficiently dissolves, the Creator's Will fills every crevice within the human soul and free choice is past history.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Return to Oneness

Going through a divorce is not easy and this morning some pretty dark thoughts crossed my mind that were difficult to shake. To regain control and balance, I kept on repeating mentally a mantra from the "Book of Creation", "If your heart runs return to Oneness."

When my mind was attuned, I reminded myself what Rabbi Moshe Cordovaro teaches in "Tomer Devorah" that the Holy One's mind is only occupied with Torah and kindness. If I want my mind to be aligned with my Creator's mind, I too should either be thinking Torah or kindness. This dark stuff is a spiritual misalignment. With that I began to contemplate a personal message in the weekly Torah portion.

What I got out of the Torah portion is that there are certain people who are like Levites. The holiness of the Torah naturally resonates with them. They don't need to work themselves over to taste the sweetness in the message of the Torah. It comes naturally, not as an acquired taste. Accordingly, they just naturally settle close to the revelation of Oneness, housed in the Tabernacle.

Then there are Israelites. They need more work. They don't always taste the sweetness of Torah as easily as a Levite. They may more naturally taste the pleasures of the world, like the wayward wife and her lover. After seeing this, they may need to step aside in spiritual reflection, like the nazarite. Only then, when their outlook on earthly pleasures matures, can they settle in their homes around the the revelation of Oneness, housed in the Tabernacle. Only then the princes of the Israelite tribes bring gift offering.

In the reverie of this reflection I remembered classmates in Yeshiva elementary school who naturally took to the Torah lessons, leaving me the day dreamer, struggling with boredom, wondering, "What do they find so interesting?"

I guess they were Levites and I am an Israelite. My path in serving my Creator is longer and more circuitous. However, at the end of the Torah portion the Creator only spoke to Moses in prophecy from between the two cherubims after the entire nation attained spiritual alignment; thereby, validating everyone's path. He waited for all His children to come home.