Wednesday, June 14, 2017

על כל בחינה ובחינה

בתורת הקבלה והחסידות, על כל בחינה ובחינה צריך בחינה.  

In Jewish mystical writings, each and every usage of the word “bechinah” requires an examination to determine its meaning.

The word “bechinah” is a fuzzy term which seems to me to alternatively mean “an aspect of...”, “in the sense of...”, “a facet of...”, “a taste of...”, “a spark of...”, “a similarity to...”, “in the role of...”, etc.

It seems to be one of those elusive words whose closest possible translation in English shifts along, with the gentle breezes of context.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Your body’s a lantern.
 Its flame is your soul;
Flickering up n’ down,
 Swaying side to side,
In a dance full of life,
 To an unheard tune.

As she pulsates in dance,
 She casts light all about,
Into an earthy darkness,
 Via various vibing vibes,
Radiating through,
 Her mind, mouth n’ deeds.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mommy’s Charoset

There is this delicious mixture of chopped apples, chopped walnuts and wine served at the Passover Seder. It is called, “Charoset”. Besides the ingredients just mentioned, there are varying traditions. For example,  some also add ingredients like sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon. Some even use pears instead of apples, a close cousin.

During the Passover Seder one is required to eat bitter herbs to recall the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery. The purpose of the “charoset” is to sweeten the experience of bitterness. It's a prayer cast in ritual and intent asking for all bitterness to be sweetened.  (See “Shaar Hakvanot”, Pesach, towards the end of chapter 6 - with “Tiv HaKavanot” commentary.)

My Mommy's  “charoset” tradition is to combine chopped McIntosh apples, sweet red wine, chopped walnuts and a slight drop of ginger. The ginger has to be very slight. Even a bit too much can ruin the mixture. If unsure, better to risk mixing in too little than too much.

These four ingredients seem to me to combine to make a functioning reflection of the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name spelled י-ה-ו-ה.

The letter י is the main light flowing through the other letters. In this context, the intent is to create a flow of sweetness to sweeten bitterness. The main agent of sweetness is the apple. So the letter י is the chopped apples.

The first letter ה modifies the light to make it more palatable for the lower level recipients.  In this case, the lower level recipient is bitterness. So along comes the sweet red wine to add the happy zing of sweetened alcohol and the smoothness of liquid. So the first letter ה is the sweet red wine.

The letter ו gives the light character and personality. This helps the recipients relate to the light. The chopped walnuts create culinary character and density for the bitterness to latch onto - making the ו the chopped walnuts.

The final letter ה is packages the light with a touch of commonality between itself and the recipients.  Since in this case the recipient is bitterness, it's the drop of ginger which offers this touch of commonality. Its own bitterness makes it feel familiar to the bitter herbs. So the final ה is the touch of ginger.

Also, there's a progressive decrease in quantity of the ingredients used which also follows the  י-ה-ו-ה sequence.  There's a lot of apples used, followed by a bit less wine, followed by a bit less walnuts and then by a lot less ginger. This is because the lower levels are spiritually smaller than the higher levels. Therefore,  there is quantity diminishment on the descent.

So, the basic steps of any sweetening is to discover the sweetening (healing) agent - the main light source. Then to make it more palatable, personable and familiar. Finally, it's ready to be served!  


Monday, May 29, 2017

Dance n’ Celebrate!

How fast the day!
 I wish it could stay.

There’s so much to do,
 Mostly, communing with You.

With the setting light,
 Dawns a freshly new night.

I could look n’ smile,
 For today I walked a mile,

Or my innards can brew,
 Wishing I walked for two.

So why brood n’ ruminate,
 If I can dance n’ celebrate!



Spiritual Uniqueness

While we, Jewish People, are in exile, so is the rest of humanity. Our displacement is their own. For to usurp our portion is a denial of their own portion. To lay claim to our spiritual uniqueness is a denial of their own spiritual uniqueness; hence, the replacement theologies of other faiths. They don’t realize that their replacement theologies are really displacement theologies. May the Messiah arrive speedily in our days and hopefully remedy this situation with his Torah teachings.

By explaining to the rest of humanity about their own spiritual uniqueness, he will be helping the Jewish People too. Everything is best understood by comparison within context. I think that it is very difficult for the Jewish People to appreciate and understand their own spiritual uniqueness, while the other Peoples are in the dark about their own. For example, telling someone that he’s humanity’s heart only truly makes sense if there’s clarity about who are humanity’s lungs, arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc. A heart in isolation feels out of context and does not understand why he looks as he does and functions in certain ways. Some things extremely vital about his features may appear insignificant to him because he does not know what they are for.   

Before offering the Jewish People the Torah, God came around to the various Peoples of humanity and offered it to them. Had they accepted, the Torah would have probably be given to all those Peoples who accepted it, together. Since God’s ways are straight and honest, making the rounds to offer the Torah to the various nations could not have been simply a ruse. There had to be at least some potential for other nations to accept it. Plus, He definitely had to have something spiritually special in mind to offer them, had they accepted. It probably would have been something from the Torah of the Messiah that related to them their own spiritual uniqueness ~ as this was pre-golden calf and hence, under the program of the first set of Tablets (the Tablets/Torah of the Messiah). At that time, the potential for more than one nation to achieve a Divine message about their spiritual uniqueness and how to use it to connect to God was clearly an open possibility.

While I find it disturbing how the national cultures of the world “raid” the Jewish People’s spiritual uniqueness because they haven’t yet discovered their own, I find it even more disturbing how it weakens the ability of the Jewish People to settle into their own spiritual uniqueness.

As mentioned, mostly, we know things via contextual comparison. We know “hot” by knowing “cold”. If there was no existence of “cold” our knowledge of “hot” would be defective. Similarly, the Jewish People can only arrive at a full appreciation of their own spiritual uniqueness if there were other known versions of spiritual uniqueness to compare to. Again, it’s like a heart living in ignorance about the rest of the body. If the contextual comparison is defective, something very vital is missing to the knowledge base.

One of the vexing questions of the modern era is the chosenness of the Jewish People. In eras when superficial differences were imposed by law and culture, people (whether Jewish or not) may have deluded themselves into thinking that the unique distinction between the Jewish People and everyone else was readily apparent. The modern era erased many of these superficialities and cast much doubt on such pithy perspectives. One of my favorite examples was an interview with a troupe of actors dressed in perfect Hassidic garb. When one of them was asked about his costumed identity, he innocently shrugged, “What do I know, I am not even a good Catholic?”  

What truly needs to “pop out of the woodwork” is for the Jewish People to become fully aware of their true spiritual uniqueness. It’s one, which does not depend on superficialities alone, like culture or history. However, it seems to me that such an awareness can only fully emerged into higher relief when the spiritual uniqueness of at least several other Peoples are known as well.   


Sunday, May 21, 2017


The light of the future,
 Shines back into the present;

For today requires a shape,
Ready to morph into tomorrow.

Conventionally many claim,
 The present shapes the future.

But could it be vice versa,
 The future shapes the present?

I think each shapes the other,
 In tenderly sweet union above time.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Unfolding Destiny

Much of my soul has yet to move in,
 My body n’ surroundings only dimly lit.

I welcome a brighter light,
 Please send me my saintly guide.

I used to fear his company,
 Fear that he’d totally take over,

I’d end up becoming him,
 N’ cease being uniquely me.

Today, I know the truth,
 Light really attracts light.

His soulwaves will magnetize,
 My own higher levels to manifest.

Though spiritual, I am neither a ...
~ Philosopher, Scholar nor Kabbalist.

I have the soul of a “Chassid”;
 A being in personal relationship with You!

My writings are “touchy feely”,
 Mostly, personal rather than abstract.

I tend towards heartfelt poetry,
 A feeling core from whence to unfold essays;

As colorful petals tightly packed,
 Open into gracefully tender flowers.

My writings are prayers,
 They’re tender acts of worship n’ love.

They flow through me,
 Birthing fresh parts of my identity.

I share them to reach others,
 Meaning, the “me” in others.

A scattered “me” can’t serve You,
 As well as a “me” united n’ coalesced.

Hopefully, the “me” in others,
 Will recognize my words n’ awake.

Their new dawn will be mine,
 As my saintly guide makes me shine.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

“Tick Tock!”, Shifts the Cosmic Clock

Face Morph

Moses ascends celestial heights,
 Amidst masses of angelic lights.

They ask, “Why are you so near?”.
 “To receive Tablets awaiting here.”

“Go away!”, the angels burn.
 “Are such gems for flesh to yearn?”

“These treasures aren't for you,
 “ Beings devoid of what's really true!”

Suddenly, God morphs Moses’ face.
  N’ Abraham's face takes its place.

“Be ashamed!”, His voice notes.
 “Is this how you treat your host?”

“He provided you food n’ drink.”
 “Can't you cast him a kindly wink?”

“The clock has cosmically changed,
 “Something new has been arranged.”

“As Abraham graciously hosted you,
 “So, his descendants will do too.”

“No longer will I feed you light,
 “But by Jewish struggle in night;

“As they raise up many a spark,
 “From what's earthly n’ dark!”

“From these sparks you’ll eat,
 “Delicacies of sacrificial heat.”


Rabbi Moshe Ungar taught that there’s a passage in Talmud which relates that when Moses ascended on high to receive the Holy Tablets, the angels fiercely protested. In response, God changed Moses’ face to the face of Abraham and then proclaimed, “Aren’t all of you so ashamed, this is the man who invited you in and fed you; how can you reject him?”

As Rabbi Ungar continued unraveling this passage, he quoted someone who taught that by changing Moses’ face to Abraham’s, God was conveying to the angels that the cosmic order was on the verge of change. Till now, God fed the angels directly. However, from this point in history and forward, they were going to be fed by the Jewish People using the physical world and it’s objects in Divine service. As they were fed by Abraham, so they will be fed by his descendants.

Until around the period of the Exodus and Mount Sinai, the real elevation of the fallen holy sparks hadn’t yet begun. Hence, there was no holy energies from below rising up.  Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi taught that after the Torah was given the angels are fed from the sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle and Holy Temple. Indeed, this is very consistent with how Rabbi Ungar explained the Talmudic passage. In a loose sense, every act of divine service is considered a “sacrifice”, as holy sparks are elevated above, repairing the holy worlds and providing food for the angels.

Additionally, it lends a lot deeper meaning to the story of Abraham hosting the angels (thinking that they were human - at least according to the most conventional understanding).  There’s a Midrashic adage, “What occurs to the ancestors foreshadows what will occur to their descendants”. To me, what this means is that what our ancestors did planted the spiritual seeds and patterns for our lives. Just as our parents’ seed shape us biologically, so too what our ancestors did spiritually shape our destiny.  They made alterations in the spiritual realms, which became the our railroad tracks in our journey through time.  

So, when the first person born Jewish was about to descend into the earthly realm to occupy flesh and blood, God  fed the angels via his father Abraham. This set the tone and stage that such is the destiny of the Jewish People - to feed angels. When Abraham fed the angels food though physically it was a charade, perhaps just perhaps, spiritually it wasn’t. Maybe, they integrated the holy sparks lurking in Abraham’s food into the very fabric of their beings?

True that it was probably too premature on the cosmic clock to elevate sparks. However, in this case no “elevation” was necessary. The angels were right there! Perhaps, just perhaps, for the very first time, they savored the unique spiritual taste of what came from below. Now in front of Moses, one could picture God was telling the angels, “Don’t you remember that uniquely tantalizing taste?”

Lest one wonders, “How can the concerns of all angels be addressed by the experience of just three of them?”, according to tradition these weren’t just any three ordinary angels. They were archangels. An archangel is the collective soul of a whole huge population of angels. So by extension, by feeding these three, Abraham may have really fed many, many...


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Face Morph

Moses ascends celestial heights,
 Amidst masses of angelic lights.

They ask, “Why are you so near?”.
 “To receive Tablets awaiting here.”

“Go away!”, the angels burn.
 “Are such gems for flesh to yearn?”

“These treasures aren't for you,
 “ Beings devoid of what's really true!”

Suddenly, God morphs Moses’ face.
  N’ Abraham's face takes its place.

“Be ashamed!”, His voice notes.
 “Is this how you treat your host?”

“He provided you food n’ drink.”
 “Can't you cast him a kindly wink?”

“The clock has cosmically changed,
 “Something new has been arranged.”

“As Abraham graciously hosted you,
 “So, his descendants will do too.”

“No longer will I feed you light,
 “But by Jewish struggle in night;

“As they raise up many a spark,
 “From what's earthly n’ dark!”

“From these sparks you’ll eat,
 “Delicacies of sacrificial heat.”



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Streams in Confluence

I love the confluence of the streams,
The place where the differences meet;

The place where thought leaders,
Of the past meet those of the present.

The place where spiritual ideas,
Melt together to shape deeper insight,

The place where varied topics,
Dwell in comfort on a single scroll.

All these speak to my sense,
Of an inherent underlying unity,

The kind of which yearns,
To be vastly more manifest.

But I am left holding the bag,
Wondering, “Why such a long delay?”


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reflections on י-ה-ה-ו

Judaism's monthly cycle begins in the Spring with the month of Nissan. The second month of the cycle is called Iyar. The Divine Name for Iyar is י-ה-ה-ו. It’s almost like the name for Nissan which is י-ה-ו-ה. The only difference is the inversion of the last two letters. The ו-ה becomes ה-ו.  

 י-ה-ו-ה is an acronym for the verse, “May the heavens celebrate and the earth rejoice!” (Psalms 96:11).   י-ה-ה-ו is an acronym for the verse, “May the praiser be praised, enlighten and know” (Jeremiah 9:23).  י-ה-ו-ה’s acronym addresses the universal ~ the heavens and earth. י-ה-ה-ו’s acronym addresses the personal ~ a praiser whose praised, and someone becomes enlightened and knowledgeable ~ maybe the praiser or maybe the one who considers the lesson behind may the praiser be praised. Regardless, here the subject is a person, not the universe (heavens and earth).

Each month has as its Divine Name a unique permutation (or letter scramble) of י-ה-ו-ה. All the Divine energy found in all the permutations of י-ה-ו-ה get their initial burst of energy from  י-ה-ו-ה, during the month of Nissan. Then the next eleven months are revelations of various aspects of this Name. It's like the month of Nissan is the wetting of a towel and the next eleven months are about wringing out the towel in eleven different contortions. So in Nissan it will simply drip freely, without effort. Then in the following months, various contortions will wring out the more deeply embedded liquid from various regions of the towel.

In the month of Iyar, it seems like the universal blessings of Nissan, י-ה-ו-ה, become personal. They reach down from their universal perch into the domain of the personal. In fact, the two months are so closely tied that there is even a second Passover in Iyar - when in Temple times, those who needed to, could bring a fully legitimate Passover offering. Unlike Nissan, since Iyar is more personal, it comes along with an element of education and work ~ a big theme in the Omer count.


In י-ה-ו-ה the maturing male letter is the ו, while the maturing female letter is the second ה. Depending on how they are viewed, they are either brother and sister to each other or husband and wife to each other ~ in the mystery of the appellation given to the woman in The Song of Songs, “My sister, my bride”.

The other two letters, י-ה, are the parent letters which birth and nurture the ו-ה ~ the sibling couple. The י is the father letter and the first ה is the mother letter.

In Nissan’s Name, י-ה-ו-ה, the masculine receives more nurturing than the feminine, as the ו is closer to the parent letters י-ה. In Iyar’s Name, י-ה-ה-ו, the feminine receives more nurturing than the masculine, as the second ה is closer to the parent letters י-ה.

The ו has more to do with the universal. Among other indications why, it represents expansion into the cardinal six directions of the universe. So it makes sense that Nissan has more to do with the universal.

In contrast, the letter ה, being feminine, has more to do with the personal ~ as in personal growth. So it makes sense that Iyar is more personally oriented.


The Divine Name for Iyar is י-ה-ה-ו. I have noticed that the two feminine ה letters are surrounded by the two masculine letters י and ו. It bears the appearance of the masculine cradling the feminine. It’s a precious feminine centerpoint surrounded by an expansive masculine context. It’s like the feminine afterglow-filled void lodged in the midst of the Infinite Light. In a sense, this is actually the proper placement of masculine and feminine. As a pearl lodged within flesh of an oyster, the feminine is supposed to be a precious centerpoint within a masculine context ~ as in Psalm 45, “All the honor of the princess is within.”

I wonder what’s unique about Iyar which allows for this particular placement of letters י-ה-ה-ו. This month is intentionally sandwiched between two major Jewish Holidays ~ Passover and Shavuot. It’s actually intended as a bridge between them. In a general sense, the י can be seen as the energy of Passover. It’s raw and seminal! Plus, the Lurianic meditations teach that the maturing male ו grows to the level of father י on the first night/day of Passover. However, as the light of growth is raw and seminal, it lacks stability and doesn’t stay. As receiving vessels are absent, it can’t process.

The processing happens over the next 49 days, during the Omer count. One of the main themes of femininity is processing ~ the womb which develops a fetus. Then the light returns on the 50th day to stay, on Shavuot, even stronger and more solidly than it initially appeared. So the  two feminine ה letters symbolize wombs which process. Perhaps, each ה letter is for a different part of the Omer count.

Since the whole month of Iyar is dedicated to this womb/processing period, it’s symbolized by the two ה’s in the middle, bridging the active masculine revelations of both Holidays. It’s zodiac sign is the ox, pulling the plow to work over mother earth for seeding, gestation and growth. It’s a womb month, a month when so much happens to prepare for birth.