Thursday, July 31, 2014

Be Pleasure

Around a table sat Sensualist, Artist, Intellect, Sage and Mystic.

Said Sensualist, "Do you know the taste of women, wine and fine dine? What a pity. Look at what you are all missing."

Artist responded, "Do you know the sweet taste of creativity in the artistic moment? Your’s is the pleasures of the flesh and mine is of the heart. It's far more refined. So it has to taste better than women, wine and dine."

Intellect turned to Artist, "My work is even more refined. Yours is the heat of the heart, mine is pure abstract detachment. My brainstorming is a creative explosion which lights up the way for discovery. When I find a diamond of pure truth, I encounter a taste far sweeter than you can ever imagine."

Sage turned to Intellect "You merely pursue facts in specific areas, but integrating whole systems and sensing the underlying unity and oneness, is a higher taste of sweetness, one I wish you could attain. Try, the effort is worth the pleasure."

Mystic turned to Sage, "Why is everyone talking about attaining pleasure? Why? Just give pleasure, then you'll be pleasure."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One World Under Two Divine Programs

One World Under Two Divine Programs

In his work "The Understanding Heart", Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto teaches that the world functions under two major Divine programs - the program of "reward and punishment" and the program of "Divine Unity".

Briefly stated, the program of "reward and punishment" is for the purpose of bringing about Divine justice as a means to eventually provide humans with properly "earned" spiritual pleasures. The program of "Divine Unity" is a series of events throughout history which leads to the revelation of the Creator's unity of control over everything, i.e. that there's nothing outside of His control.

Rabbi Luzzatto explains that the program of "Divine Unity" can bring disaster or good fortune to the undeserving and this is what the Creator meant when He told Moses, "I will be gracious upon whom I will be gracious to and merciful upon whom I will be merciful to." What happens in this program really does not depend on one's deeds, but, rather on one's place in the historic chain of events which bring about the eventual revelation of His unity of control.

However, Rabbi Luzzatto qualifies this teaching a bit by explaining that even when tragedy is inflicted under the program of "Divine Unity", it still needs to be introduced by some misdeed - however slight. His example is the Talmudic story of Rabbi Judah the Prince who told a hiding calf to go to her slaughter for this is her Divine destiny. For this moment of insensitivity he became seriously ill, until he asked household members to leave alone a weasel bantering around his house for "His compassion is upon all His works." (Psalm 145)

Rabbi Luzzatto points out that strictly speaking his crime did not fit his punishment. The seriousness of his illness far exceeded what he deserved for guiding a calf to her Divinely ordained destiny, albeit an uncomfortable one. Truthfully, his suffering occurred under the program of "Divine Unity". However, it needed to piggyback on a misdeed, even a slight one. In this case, it was his trace of callousness for the calf’s yearning to live.

When it comes to the holocaust, there have been Torah scholars who point to a various sins in their struggles to justify why it happened. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that no matter what sins were alleged to have committed, the sufferings were much too severe and wholly out of proportion with the alleged sins. Also, what tends to be so trivialized by such claims are the very special and holy people of that period, filled with kindness and good deeds, who suffered the unspeakable and unimaginable!

To me, it seems like the holocaust may have been part of the program of "Divine Unity" rather than part of the program of "Reward and Punishment". At worst, the alleged sins may have introduced the tragedy, but, was not its real cause.

While this does not provide any answer for the holocaust whatsoever, at least it provides a model to show that the answer probably does not lay in the direction of "Divine Justice". Hence, it’s mostly unproductive to look there for such answers. The answer is probably in an entirely different direction, one which is still highly classified ~ the program of "Divine Unity".

Speakers to Thinkers

Kabbalah recognizes four basic levels of life: mineral, plant, animated and human. Each of these four, has a special Hebrew name which conveys something of it's essence. In the case of the human level, the special name is "mih-dah-ber", which literally translates into English as "speaker". Until today, I wondered why humans are referred to as "speakers" and not as "thinkers".

Then today, I heard a science radio program which presented studies on speech. It turns out that without speech, there's no real thinking as we know it. Now, this does not necessarily have to be verbal speech. The studies showed that there was a marked improvement in thinking among deaf people as they develop in their understanding and usage of sign language. So any style of speech supports the whole thinking process and builds it up.

Now I understand why we're referred to as "speakers". It's obvious that we could never become "thinkers" if we weren't first "speakers".

Souls/Bodies - Exposed/Covered

The 6th Lubavitcher taught that in a state of prophecy our ancient prophets would undress, naked, as a kind of return to the state of holiness that prevailed in the Garden of Eden.

This week I reflected over this and realized that the main reason why we need to cover physically is because we're covered spiritually - even from our own selves. If our souls were more fully exposed then our whole relationship to what's bodily would undergo a major paradigm shift.

Shabbat Shalom FB Friends :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Inside This FB Space

Inside this space FB asked me, "What's on my mind?"

Truthfully, at the moment I am more into, "What's in my heart?"

There are many tears and yet so much longing and hope. As many of us, perhaps all of us, I have been molded and shaped by tragedy. In my case, I lost a string of siblings, seen myself through two failed marriages (each a unique hell on earth), in adulthood suffered through failed career dreams, in childhood received the raw end of Jewish education and never quite recuperated. Tears, tears, tears and more tears.

Yet, the suffering has been my teacher and guide. How else would I know what I truly want to accomplish in my life and what's truly important to give to others? How else would I rise above the fog of personal narcissism and selfish desires. It would be truly a shame if I wasted my life chasing down whims shape shifted by a superficial self and never tasting the delectable treasures of my deeper identity.

So I am thankful to the Creator for the years of copious tears shed in the depth of pain for they washed away the dirt to reveal the most precious treasures of self. Thank You! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sparks of Fish & Meat

Most of the writings on my blog are of a universalist spiritual nature from a Jewish perspective. However, this essay is different. It specifically addresses those who directly engage in the spiritual work of “raising sparks”.

There’s a strongly entrenched Jewish practice from ancient times not to eat fish and meat together on the basis on health risk. In Talmudic times, this food combination was reputed to cause either leprosy or some related disease. This practice was enacted as a Rabbinic decree during the times of the Sanhedrin and carried forward in the ensuing generations as Torah Law.

Apparently, mention of this practice is entirely absent from the Maimonides’ great code of Jewish Law. A couple of later authorities, Rabbi Abraham Gombiner and Rabbi Moses Sofer, viewed this as an indication that the Maimonides, being a physician of note, held that human nature has changed and the danger caused by this particular food combination no longer existed.    

During a class on this topic, Rabbi Mordechai Terebelo explained that it’s self evident based on the circumstances that the Maimonides held that the Rabbinic decree was entirely contingent upon the health risk this food combination had posed. In other words, without the health risk, the Rabbinic decree disappears. While other authorities accepted that the Maimonides was qualified to declare (in this case by his silence) that human nature has changed, they didn’t feel that the Rabbinic decree was actually contingent on the health risk. Accordingly, they maintained a position that though the health risk has been lifted, the Rabbinic decree remains; hence, the current practice to still adhere to this practice.

Yet, if the practical reason for a Rabbinic decree has disappeared, it’s still possible that there’s a Kabbalistic reason for maintaining it, as in the case of the “two day holidays” (instead of one day) observed in the diaspora because outside the Holy Land a download of holiness takes twice as long. So what could be a Kabbalistic reason for maintaining the practice of not eating fish and meat together today?

A good starting point would be the teaching of Rabbi Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad, in his work “Ben Ish Chai”, where he explains the custom of eating fish prior to meat at the Sabbath meals. He explains that saints reincarnate as fish and sinners as beasts. Therefore, the sparks of holiness lodged in fish are readily accessible and relatively easy to elevate, while those inside of meat are wrapped in a tighter grip and much harder to elevate. By first eating fish, a person gains spiritual strength from the sparks easily released by the fish and this helps with the tougher job of extracting the holy sparks from the meat. Though less auspicious for the elevation process, it’s possible that a similar styled process can occur even during the workweek and therefore, technically speaking, both fish and meat are permitted to eat even when it’s not the Sabbath or a holiday. However, Rabbi Joseph Hayyim does not address this latter scenario.

Still, Jewish Law allows for the opposite order as well, first eating meat and then fish. It would make sense based on Rabbi Joseph Hayyim’s teaching that eating fish first is better for the elevation process - as it sets up the whole environment for the interaction between the two forces. However, even if fish is eaten afterwards, it’s probably still better for the elevation of the meat sparks than if fish was not eaten at all.

However, eating fish and meat together would compromise the whole elevation process. There’s a Chabad Hasidic teaching that when two gather together to discuss holy matters, it’s two good inclinations ganging up on one evil inclination. What this means is that by nature what’s good tends to be selfless and kind, allowing for cooperation and smooth work. In contrast, evil’s selfish streak does not allow it to hold together for too long in a state of cooperation. Therefore, during the holy discussion, the two good inclinations will work together and are counted as “two”, while the two evil inclinations will be “each man for himself” with each counted as “one”, i.e. individually isolated.

The way evil has a chance of holding together is if there’s good mixed inside it, serving as a kind of “glue”. If evil were isolated by becoming entirely devoid of good, it’s chaotically unstable and eventually, self implodes - as is currently happening in certain geographic locations (where people of moderation and goodwill are disempowered).
So to elevate meat, it’s best not to give it “glue” of goodness to hold together. It’s better to leave it isolated, in its naturally destabilized state, and then overwhelm it with a concentration of potent goodness coming from the fish sparks.
Therefore, the separation between fish and meat, serves to isolate each side with its own. When goodness, i.e. the fish, is brought together with its own kind, it strengthens and becomes more potent. When evil is brought together with its own kind, it weakens. Its selfish nature leads to chaos and power struggles; making it easy prey for a potent force of goodness.

May the unified highly potent force of goodness, the Messiah, arrive very soon, very soon in our days. Amen!