Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Was the Maimonides a Kabbalist?

I've been asked a few times about whether I think the Maimonides was a Kabbalist.

My understanding is that while I don't think he was a member of the secret societies which taught Kabbalah in those days, still he was at least in the category referred to in Ethics of the Fathers as, "And they reveal to him the mysteries of the Torah."

This means by virtue of his intense devotion to Torah, he was likely granted an independent revelation of many of the mysteries which select few among the spiritually elite were being taught in secrecy via the mystical tradition.

This also explains why when he expounded on the mysteries it did not come out in the language of Kabbalah, like Sefirot or Ein Sof, but rather in his own familiar intellectual parlance; namely, the language of philosophy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ten Lights Bound In One Vessel

I’ve been thinking as I reviewed a passage in the “Gate of the Bound”, isn’t it strange that ten lights enter one vessel when what’s higher up is supposed to be more unified than what’s lower down, especially since part of what defined “lower down” is greater differentiation? I’d expect one light to inhabit two vessels, like two soul mates who share a single soul.

How does the “bound state” work? I wonder whether it’s possible that the vessel is actually further differentiated than the light. It’s just that since the vessel has not attained maximum differentiation relative to it’s own level it’s called “one”. On the other hand, the lights attained their differentiation potential more fully. That’s why for their own level they’re called “ten”. So these designations of “ten” and “one” probably only apply relative to their own levels. However, relative to each other, it seems possible to me that the vessel is more multiple than the lights are.

I think a good example of this would be a newly fertilized egg, i.e. a zygote. The designated soul is already fully formed, but, the whole body is merely a single cell. Yes, the two have interaction at this point, even if it’s only the soul’s very lowest edge which reaches into the bare beginnings of a body. However which is more numerous at this point, the soul or the body?

Well, that depends on how it’s viewed. The soul is mature with much potential realized. Relative to it’s own level it can be referred to as “numerous”, as in numerous abilities. The body is at this moment in the very opposite situation. It’s a huge leap away from full realization. All potential is seamlessly stored, awaiting the numerous tools needed for expression. It’s a singularity at this point, singular.

Now compared to each other the soul is beyond our framework of time and space. There’s no “location” to separate anything about her in. When slicing pizza, the slices separate into different spatial locations. That does not exist for the soul. Because of the lack of knowable time and space, relative to earth bound perception the soul is seamlessly one. On the other hand, the newly fertilized egg can definitely divide into microscopic sub-entities in a humanly knowable sense. So relatively speaking it’s numerous.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kinds of Love

Thank You God for my family's love.
Thank You for all my loving friends.
Thank You gifting me to love myself.
Each kind of love is a very different.
I need all the different kinds of loves,
Like I need a vast array of nutrients.
Only, "loves" are emotional nutrients.
As starch cannot substitute protein,
One love cannot substitute another.
I feel thankful for each unique love.

There is one kind of love I still await.
I feel the void, nutritional deficiency.
As a hungry man dreams of foods,
She mists her way into my dreams.
I dream she's next to me, a pillow away.
I open my eyes to her sheer absence.
I close them again to re-envision her,
Alas, my alarm clock beeps too loud.

When will I share shelter with her?
When will our dates be unending?


Bottle Cap

Tonight, after yoga class, someone dropped a bottle cap. I reached down and picked it up for her. She waved her hand and remarked, "You didn't have to."

"Don't worry, it's easy for me", I reassured. "Before I began yoga the floor seemed so far away. Now it feels rather close."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shed It!

Last night at the end of yoga class we had a guided meditation where we were told to breathe in love and breathe out hate or negativity. I imagined the letters of the Hebrew word for love, lit up and bright, being inhaled and the letters of the Hebrew word for hate being exhaled (looking smoky and sooty - like car exhaust).

During this meditation I had a flash of realization that I will still have a wonderful identity if I let go of certain painful childhood memories; particularly, from the way I was severely mishandled in grade school. All these years, the narrative of this mishandling was part of my identity. Now I realize that I am free to give myself the gift of detaching my identity from this narrative.

I can now shed it, to welcome a freshly liberated level of my identity awaiting within.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Voices in Dance

My inner voice changed from spiritual to romantic.
What’s happening to me, have I too changed?

I used to be so full of spiritual insight and depth.
Now I yearn to share shelter with a female.

Wherever I turn she appears in form or apparition.
Gentle breezes are ripe with the sound her voice.

I no longer feel like I can dispense spiritual advice.
I can only share the new music residing in my heart.

The songstress’ voice overlays the voice of intuition.
The “still small voice” whispers in the background.

She’s become an actress lurking behind my scenes,
While the siren sings of love, crooning on front stage.

My, oh my, do I call this progressing or regressing?
In the grander scheme it’s really so hard to tell.

The bigger picture always seems to have more room.
Out in the expanse of Infinity more’s right than wrong.

Regardless of my view, I don’t seem to have choices.
I am carried by forces from beyond conscious reach.

I look forward to when both voices will dance together,
When the spiritual and the romantic will sound one voice.

White Petaled Rose

Let’s sip coffee in my heart’s inner sanctum,
While I tell you all about my white petaled rose.

Her nubile petals are so soft to touch,
That they evoke envy in the finest silks.

They are layered and enfolded, enticingly pure.
They are nectared, scented and seeded with her song.

Her spirit gently wafts in a lulling soft voice.
My heart is aroused to blend with her’s.

My heart wonders, “How seamless the blend?”
Spectrum’s vast, for she’s so new and yet so ancient.

I knew her a quarter of a century ago,
When she was enthorned - out of reach.

Today, she’s enthroned on a bush within reach,
Only ‘cause we’re timelessly souled  in each other.

I wonder at the light lurking from behind her petals.
There’s a suggestion of inviting warmth - home at last.

I’ve already entered two flowers, met lairs of bees.
But the light of her’s assures me an exclusive nest.

At the threshold we amused each other with story telling.
How I long to enter and satisfy my thirst for story meaning.

I tell myself, “I’d rather be satisfied than amused.”
But her layers endlessly unravel, petals beyond petals.

Yesterday’s satisfaction is today’s mere amusement.
She’ll always be my white rose, her core just beyond.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

“living” or “LIVING”?

What’s really called “living”? Is it “living” or LIVING”? I’ve recently noticed an interesting connection between the two new years most celebrated around me: the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and the secular one, January 1st.

Although there are other legitimate views, it has become fairly popular among Orthodox Jews to accept that Adam’s birthday was on Rosh Hashana. (Parenthetically, the other view is that Adam’s birthday would be on the 1st of Nissan - i.e. the 1st new moon of spring.)

The claim that Adam’s birthday is on Rosh Hashana can find support in the Talmudic story about the days gradually getting shorter and colder right after Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden. Not knowing yet about the seasons, he thought that this was the fulfillment of what he was warned that on the day he ate the forbidden fruit, he would pass away. As the autumn/winter season progressed, Adams reasoned that pretty soon the planet won’t be able to sustain life. In response, on the shortest day of the year late December, he and Eve fasted and prayed.

About eight days later, January 1st, the days grew noticeably longer. Realizing that light was returning, he celebrated “LIFE” and set it as a future date of celebration for himself and his descendants after him, including us. So from Rosh Hashana to January 1st, he felt like he was “living”, i.e. he was a biological entity. However, on January 1st, he first felt like he was “LIVING”! What a difference! Until January 1st, he was psychologically tortured with deep seated concern over the demise of all biological life.

Being so psychologically tortured can barely be called living. It’s simply dismally dragging along. However, on January 1st, he was blessed by the Creator with a revelation of happiness and celebration. He was taught that his own life and the life of all the creatures around him will continue on. Now he was really alive, as it states by Jacob upon learning that his precious son Joseph was alive and well, “And the spirit of Jacob came alive!” Now Adam was truly alive for the very first time.

So in a sense, January 1st is the real beginning of Adam’s life; his true birthday! Rosh Hashana was his biological birthday, but, January 1st was his psychological birthday. Our perception of life, more than anything else, is what makes us feel alive. Let’s celebrate!



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year !

Today is the fast of the 10th of Teves. I am not feeling very strong. However, it is certainly easier to fast on a day when I am off from work, for I can contemplate the meaning of why I fast.

Whatever, my range of free choice is, within those limits, there’s still always room to lift my head a drop further away from the direction of selfishness or self absorption and open the door for Your Light to become revealed to humanity that much more. I don’t have to take an all or nothing approach. I can encourage myself with the teaching from our sages that while I am not expected to complete the work, I don’t need to feel discouraged about doing my part. My little bit, is valuable.

So today I stay away from a staple of human self absorption for a safe while, food. The problem with self absorption is that it’s the very opposite from what our Creator are about. Self absorption is about limitation, it limits the scope to a narrow focus, oneself. Our Creator about Infinity, an expansive scope, an all inclusive scope. One needs to look beyond the borders of one’s own skin to enter into a relationship with Him ~ for He has no borders.

This teaching not only applies to the scope of one’s kindness, but to the scope of one’s intellectual probings too. Why accept what imagined limits? As His thoughts are not limited, so too our thoughts should push beyond previously assumed limits, bit by bit. This way we begin to imitate Him and create closeness through a similarity with Him - however, small and insignificant such a step may seem from His Infinite perspective. Yet, what’s barely a fraction of an inch for Him might be light years for us.

Yet, we cannot totally burst out of limits either. Limits form the vessels which contain. They’re part of the fabric of anything which isn’t Him. Hence, neither the spiritual realms nor the physical realm could exist without limits. Neither souls nor angels could exist without limits. Every identity is a unique packet of consciousness, of sentience, contained within defined limits.

The building of vessels is part of what a Torah lifestyle accomplishes. Kabbalah teaches that counterintuitively the mark of holiness is the presence of vessels which contain spiritual lights. The mark of impurity is the free flow of uninsulated spiritual lights, which ends up wreaking havoc. So where’s the balance between too many limits which block true potential and too few limits which intoxicate beyond potential; the difference between not going far enough or going too far?

The answer is likely to be a life of selflessness built on the back of self preservation. In other words, take care of oneself first and be very giving from that basis, without losing that basis. For how can one give if one does not have what to give from?

We can learn a lesson from the afterglow left in the wake of the retraction of the Infinite Light. The afterglow allows in a single tenuous ray of Infinite Light from one opening on top. Rabbi Chaim Vital is very clear that if this tenuous ray reached the bottom of the afterglow too, there would be two openings to the Infinite Light and this would be too much. The Infinite Light would gush in and take over, causing the afterglow to disappear into the Light; much the way dim light disappears in intense light.  

Yet, Rabbi Shalom Dov Schneerson quotes a view of “some Kabbalist” who state that in the future the ray of light will reach the bottom of the afterglow, opening it up to the Infinite Light on both ends. Obviously, this will be a time of far more intense spiritual revelation than we experience today.  So what happened to Rabbi Chaim Vital’s concern that such a scenario would cause the afterglow to disappear into the Infinite Light?

Perhaps an answer is that the afterglow itself is a vessel which develops in capacity over a period of stages. In an earlier less developed state, the afterglow only has the capacity to give the Infinite Light the pleasure of entering from one opening. As the afterglow develops she becomes a more capable vessel, able to handle more Light. In her new capacity, she can now give the Infinite Light the pleasure of entering her from two openings. So too as we develop, we build our capacity to be more giving without compromising our gifts to give. Hence, we fast today with a balance; not to the point where it compromises our health, a very necessary basis for human selflessness. 

This seems like a nice attitude to begin the secular year with. Happy New Year!