Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflecting on pain and weakness

Immediately after posting my commentary on last week's parshah (July 15), I underwent a quadruple by-pass operation at Rambam hospital in Haifa. Everything happened very, very fast and this I should consider a blessing, though I had plenty of "slow" time to reflect on the whole experience. The main reflection came out of the overwhelming weakness as a result of the operation. It is in this weakness that I truly grasped some of the principles of Judaism that we think we understand but actually not as we must.

In weakness we realize that strength is what keeps us alive, and not in helplessness or lack. Weakness became for me the catalyst to realize that the vessel that I am was almost empty, and therefore I started thinking about who created the vessel, how it is filled, and with what it is filled. Reflecting on this made me experience, not only in my own flesh but also in all levels of conscio
usness, that I was an illusion created by an illusion of myself. No matter how much I have intended or tried to approach who created me, I do it amid the illusion that separates me from Him.

It was more about weakness than about pain. As excruciating as it might be, pain shakes us up; but it is the absence of strength what makes us realize that life and all Creation are sustained by our Creator and none else. In this I am including all dimensions and levels of consciousness: nothing is the result of our creation, but His. The reflection was not necessarily leading to anything in partirticular but to the realization that only G-d is. This realization encompasses all possible ethical approaches to life and Creation, including the awareness of humbleness that leads us to accept His will, the One that is. This whole reflection was amazingly matched by an e-mail that I received after the operation from my Rabbi in Chicago, where I lived before I made aliyah, which I feel compelled to share with you:

Dear Ariel,

It is written in Job: "My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways." Ultimately the religious individual accepts the reality that we are the created and He is the Creator. We are finite and He is infinite. We live in our time, He knows time from the beginning to the end. We must accept that as Moses did, we are the revering, the servant of G-d. I have faced death in my own life. I underwent an operation the doctors thought I would not survive. My children were told to inform my greater family that I would not survive. I vividly recall being wheeled to the operating room. I was serene. I placed myself in G-d's hands and simply relaxed. G-d, THE GOOD, would determine my destiny.

Judaism requires we live as if there were no G-d. We must direct our lives and not simply pray for Divine intervention. Yet, there are times during which we have done our level best. There is nothing else we can do. In those times we fall back into the loving hands of G-d, knowing He will do with us as He sees fit according to His timeless plan for Creation.
Ariel, relax. G-d in His wisdom will determine your future. "The L-rd is my shepherd I shall not want." It is true, I know it in my heart and soul. Let the Shepherd care for you in His way.

Refuah Shlema.

Rabbi Phil Lefkowitz

As the Rabbi said it, we are our Creator's invention and not our own. And our lives, either in weakness or in strength, are in His loving hands.

Parshat Eikev: The Blessings of Love

Moses emphasizes the dynamics of how we relate to our Creator, and in this context eikev not only means because but due to.

"And it will be, because (eikev) you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the Covenant and the loving kindness that He swore to your forefathers." (Deuteronomy 7:12)

The text continues with His blessings when we cleave constantly to Him (7:13-15) especially His power to overcome the evils we suffer when we choose the attachment to negative passions and ego's fantasies (idolatry). We know this attachment may be stronger than our will, and think: "these nations are more than I, how can I drive them out?" (7:17).

Moses urges us to trust God's love as our deliverer, the redeemer that guides us in our quest to submit all levels of consciousness (ego included) into His ways.

"(…) remember what the Lord your God did onto Pharaoh, and onto all Egypt." (7:18)

As we mentioned in previous commentaries, Pharaoh represents ego's pretentious rule over all dimensions of consciousness, and Egypt the resulting narrowness and limitations.

We must understand that love's ways and attributes are not conditional to their blessings but inherent to them. We love, therefore we are blessed. As we said before, love is its cause and effect because it encompasses all. We just need to achieve this awareness by being and doing God's ways (8:6, 10:12, 11:22) which Rashi refers to as being and doing His image and likeness.

"He is merciful; then you too should be merciful. He does acts of loving kindness; then you too should do acts of loving kindness". (Rashi's commentary on the Torah)

This is the dynamics of our relationship with the Creator: we learn to know Him through His ways and attributes derived from His love, hence we relate to Him also through our love by being and manifesting His ways and attributes. Thus we are aware that we are love because we were created by God's love, due to His love, and for the sake of love which is its own cause and effect.

Once we realize this identity we will be able to express it, and be love in what we are and do. This awareness has the inherent power to reveal Love when and where concealed because we are able to tell between love as truth, and material illusions as falsehood.

We lose this sublime awareness when we let ego's agenda take over our lives.

"My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth." (8:17)

And its devastating consequences (8:19-20).

We know that we can be very stubborn in the process of redirecting ego and all levels of consciousness into love's guidance.

"(…) because you are a stiff-necked people." (9:6, 13)

We don't claim to be perfect but we know that perfection exists when we see it in God's creation. Thus we realize that only love is perfect, and our happiness, joy and plenitude come out of its ways and attributes.

Loving our Creator is the essential commandment to fully understand our relationship with Him.

"Because if you shall diligently keep all this commandment which I command you, to do it, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave unto Him." (11:22)

This is our heritage, our identity and the source of all blessings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Parshat Va'etchanan: The Oneness of Israel and God's Love

Moses fulfilled his transcendental mission as the zealous vigilant-guide who led the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. God's love heard the people beseeching for freedom and also heard His loyal servant begging for entering the future land of Israel.

"And I beseeched (va'etchanan) God at that time." (Deuteronomy 3:23)

Moses' attachment to serving God compelled him to implore for more, but his mission was already accomplished. 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Median, and 40 years in the desert for a total of 120 years of learning and transformation in one single memorable lifetime.

Moses had the exclusive privilege to meet God "face to face", and to surrender to Him completely. Moses' greatest desire was to see God's presence fully revealed in all creation, and he knew that this is possible only when we conquer the nations in Canaan (the lower aspects of consciousness and negative emotions), and settle in the promised land (the plenitude and endless abundance of love's ways and attributes).

The Creator allowed Moses to see it from the distance and, as our Sages say, to hear is to understand and to see is to know. Moses saw and Moses knew… what else did he need after seeing it all? Being part of it after "You, O God, have begun to show Your servant Your greatness." (3:24)

This implies that our true connection with God's love begins as a practical approach to life with the mission to reveal His concealment in the world. The promised land also represents the realized awareness of His love, therefore it is the starting point of living it fully in the material world.

This realization has the power to transform darkness into light, thus revealing love's concealment by materialistic illusions. The greatness of God's love is His revelation in all creation, and we see this greatness when we submit all levels of consciousness to His ways and attributes, His Glory. Thus is the true life.

"And you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive, every one of you, today." (4:4)

Our sages say that today refers to the constant present tense in which we experience the constant sustenance of God's love.

Considering the fact that God's love is always with us because He created us and sustains us, it is up to us being aware of that transcendental truth. Even when we live in the illusions of the material world we have access to Him through the Torah.

"From there you will seek God your God, and you will find Him if you search after Him with all your heart and all your soul." (4:29)

Let's never forget that He is the only Truth.

"There is none else beside Him" (4:35, 39; 5:22)

Maimonides reaffirms this.

"This is the foundation of all foundations, and the pillar of all wisdom: to know that there is the First Being who brings all existences into being; that all existences of Heaven and Earth, and between them, derive their existence only from the Truth of His Being." (Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah 1:1)

Moses continues reiterating the covenant between the Creator and His people, and warning about the consequences of following ego's fantasies and illusions (idolatry) instead of cleaving permanently to Him. Hence he reminds Israel of the Ten Commandments (5:6-17), following His ways, and manifesting His attributes.

"You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live; and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the Land which you shall possess." (5:29)

This is the context that precedes the most important statement of Judaism which defines the oneness of God with His creation through the awareness of His people, Israel. It is Israel who gives complete sense to this statement because it is Israel who is commanded to be aware of it.

"Hear [understand], Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." (6:4)

Although this statement is made by Moses our teacher, it is actually the Creator who proclaims it. This is the culmination of the oneness of Israel with Him, and Israel as the trustee of this divine foundation and principle.

The verse is followed by a clear explanation of this principle because it is a dynamic statement that implies an active awareness. This explanation is the way in which we realize such awareness (6:5-25) and Love is its essential foundation.

As long as we are in, for and with the love of God we will be one with Him. The verses remark the importance to be constantly aware of God's ways and attributes in virtually everything we do day and night. This bond of love which exemplifies oneness does not allow any kind of separation because this love only cohabits with God's ways and attributes, and nothing else.

As we mentioned in previous commentaries, when we choose to separate from love, as the material manifestation of God's love, the consequences are symbolically illustrated in the Hebrew Bible as "wrath" and "vengeance" derived from "jealousy". Indeed jealousy, our zeal to cleave to God, keeps us united to His love.

"(...) for a jealous God, even the Lord your God, is in the midst of you; lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from of the face of the Earth." (6:15)

Indeed we are destroyed when we choose to live in materialistic illusions and not in His truth.

"(…) that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and He will destroy you quickly." (7:4)

"Because you are a holy people unto the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His own treasure, out of all peoples that are upon the face of the Earth." (7:6)

Certainly not everyone is touched and inspired by God's love to follow His ways and manifest His attributes. Therefore if our ancestors were chosen along with their descendants, we as one united Israel must honor this heritage by choosing back to Him.

"The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, but because you were the fewest of all peoples." (7:7)

Let's honor the legacy of our forefathers. Let's honor love for the sake of God's love.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Parshat Devarim: Reflecting on God's Love

"These are the things which Moses spoke to all Israel." (Deuteronomy 1:1)

Though it is considered a repetition of the teachings and events mentioned in the previous four books of the Torah, Devarim emphasizes in how we conceive the Creator and how Israel must relate to Him. This is why it begins with Moses rebuking all Israel because the chosen people not only question God's love, but also rebel against Him.

We said in previous commentaries that Moses and Aaron respectively represent our highest awareness of God and our permanent connection with Him. Moses is the conductor that leads us (Israel) to God's ways and attributes, and teaches us to follow them and manifest them. Aaron makes us realize our unity and oneness with the Creator.

Moses communicates with our intellect, reasoning and understanding in order to make us know God's ways and attributes. Aaron makes us experience that knowledge.

"Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the created beings, and bringing them near to the Torah." (Pirkei Avot 1:12)

Moses leads us to the knowledge of the truth because he is the primordial teacher who speaks "mouth to mouth" with the Creator. We continuously remark that God's love is the essence that sustains His creation, because everything emanates from Him and it is connected to Him. Being unaware of this truth, or rejecting it, is not only living in denial but living in the darkness of ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions.

The next reflection deals with doubting the power of God's love to conquer the lower passions and negative emotions in spite of His countless proofs and miracles.

"Yet in this thing you do not believe the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 1:32)

"Because the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand, He has known you walking through this great wilderness, these forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing." (2:7)

Moses rebukes all aspects of our consciousness and their expressions in order to make them aware of their mission in this world, which is to recognize the preeminence of love in our lives. Also the ways we relate with each other and with all creation. This rebuke is not intended as a reprimand but as an invitation to reflect on ego's illusions in our quest to achieve a permanent connection with love's ways and attributes.

Our leading awareness of love needs every single aspect of our consciousness to achieve this goal.

"(…) saying: 'How can I myself alone bear your troubles, and your burden, and your strife?" (1:12)

Then the leader appoints the best traits and qualities to direct, to "judge" the lower aspects of consciousness "because the judgment is God's" (1:17).

The portion ends reiterating that which is very clear to Moses our teacher.

"You shall not fear them because the Lord your God, He it is that fights for you." (3:22)

When we doubt love -- as the material manifestation of God's love -- and instead we believe in ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions, the latter take over our consciousness. As we have said many times, with our choices we either separate or connect with love's ways because God's love never separates from us.

Love fights the darkness of ego's agenda, and love always prevails. Devarim is Moses' repeated invitation for us to be fully aware that God's love is our Creator, our life, our source, and our sustenance. And also to experience the sublime awareness of love in who we are, and what we do.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Parshat Matot-Massei: Love Defeats Strife

We mentioned in previous commentaries that the tribes of Israel represent traits or qualities that comprise Israel's identity. These qualities are the positive aspects of all levels of consciousness that are destined to fulfill Israel's mission of creating a place for the Creator to dwell in the world.

"And Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes, to the children of Israel saying (…)" (Numbers 30:2)

Our intellect, mind, thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions, and instincts (including their own expressions) all depend on the direction in which they are guided. They are the vessels waiting to be filled either with love's ways and attributes or ego's fantasies and illusions

This is why Moses (the highest level of awareness of God and His
love) speaks to the highest qualities of our consciousness, represented by the heads of the tribes. These heads know the boundaries between what is permissible and not permissible, and mark them according to our strengths and weaknesses when we face the illusions of the material world.

This is the context of the commandments related to the vows and oaths which are expressed by our speech.

"When a man vows a vow onto the Lord, or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all comes out of his mouth." (30:3)

These vows and oaths are clearly dedicated to the service of the Creator, which means to act according to His ways and attributes. When we are safe within the boundaries of our vows we can be redeemed from them.

The text continues with the guiding and redeeming aspects of higher consciousness, represented by the paternal figure and the future husband in reference to the "marriage" of Israel and the Creator. Once we are permanently connected to God's love we are redeemed from the constraints of materialistic illusions from which we refrain in our quest to be constantly aware of our oneness with Him.

Allegorically, the father is the higher consciousness, the daughter is Israel, and her husband is the Creator. In the context of the narrative, father and husband represent God. We learn from this passage that we have to bear the truth in what we conceive, think, feel, say and do, and be always bound to the truth of love's ways and attributes.

Our sages explain that this first passage makes perfect sense to precede the war against Midian, because only after we fully commit to positively direct all levels of consciousness we will be able to defeat the strife (midian) that ego wants to make prevail in our consciousness.

In this war all the tribes participate, including the Levites, all led by Pinchas (31:2-12). It was a successful war in which a united Israel defeated the enemy with no Israelite casualties. However, Moses reprimanded the victorious soldiers for not eliminating completely the threats against the higher consciousness achieved under the constraints of their vows, and they later complied by Moses' orders (31:14-17).

The threats represented by "harmless" Midianite women and male children are some of the veiled reasons that ego has in order to control our consciousness. The next passage tells us about the booty of the war and the purification process of utensils made of metal, wood or clay (31:22-54).

Our sages explain that we can use the utensils and assets of our enemies (negative trends in all levels of consciousness) after we defeat them, but we have to purify them beforehand. We learn from this that negative qualities can be transformed into positive traits after we submit them to the fire of God's love. Fire, as we have mentioned, is the catalyst that transforms an incomplete or inadequate state into complete and adequate.

Although fire has the power to destroy, when it is related to God's love it has transforming and transmuting qualities. Love is the catalyst with which we have the power not to destroy but to transform and elevate the negative aspects of consciousness and the material world in order to let love's ways and attributes rule in it.

The last chapter of Matot (31:1-42) tells us about the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad to possess the valley east of the Jordan river. The requested area is outside of the promised land with cities that belonged to idolatrous peoples.

Our sages say that Reuben and Gad vowed to destroy the idols, change the names of the cities, and fight in the front lines when their brothers in the other side of the river had to go to war. In other words, they were willing to maintain the unity of Israel in spite of settling outside their land.

Mystic sages teach that when we are fully committed to our awareness of God's ways we are capable to conquer and settle in other "lands", meaning that we have the power to transform darkness into light.

This parshah is usually read along with Massei (journeys), the last portion of the book of Numbers. These journeys (33:1-49) are the stages that the children of Israel went through before entering the promised land. We all go through changes in the individual pursuit to bring the light to every dimension of consciousness, and to clear the darkness that conceals the God's presence and His love, behind ego's materialistic illusions.

"(…) you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places. And you shall drive out the inhabitants of the Land, and dwell therein; because to you have I given the Land to possess it." (33:52-53) 

Massei continues describing the borders of the land and the areas where the tribes will dwell, including 48 cities for the Levites among every tribe, six of them called "cities of refuge".

"(…) cities of refuge for you, that the man that killed any person through error may flee there. (…) For the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the settler among them (…)" (35:11, 15)

Our sages teach that we are good in essence because our souls are connected to God, who is good. They add that one sins when a spirit of folly enters in him, and everyone can rectify his transgressions.

commandment to have cities of refuge is another manifestation that God's loving kindness for us to exercise compassion for those who sincerely commit to redirect their lives in His ways. This compassion can't be extended to those who deliberately murder others, and the Torah commands us to impose the death penalty for them.

As we mentioned in other commentaries, death is the consequence of the choice to separate from the oneness of the Creator. This separation is the result of letting ego's fantasies and illusions defile our consciousness.

"And you shall not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; because I the Lord dwell in the midst of the children of Israel." (35:34)

Massei ends with a joyous episode.

"(…) the daughters of Zelophehad were married to their father's brothers' sons. They were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father." (36:12-13)

Let's comment on the 
haftarah that complements these two portions (Jeremiah 1:1-19, 2:1-3). The Creator speaks to us with the sweetest words.

"When I had not yet formed you in the belly, I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb, I sanctified you; a prophet to the nations I have made you."

The statement is directed to Israel, his oneness with the Creator, and its mission to be the light for the nations.

"To all that I send you, you shall go; and to all that I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of them because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord." 

These are the words of the greatest
love of all that knows us before we are aware of being alive. God's love blesses us before we reveal His presence in the world. We are His love manifest as we can see Him also manifest in all His creation. We go where He tells us to go and our actions speak what He commands us. He is with us when we exit the realm of materialistic illusions, thus there is nothing to fear.

"(…) but they shall not prevail against you because I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you."

God's love created us. Love we are, love we manifest. Love is our essence. Love is our destiny.

From the Book's Foreword

Let's reexamine our ancestral memory, intellect, feelings, emotions and passions. Let's wake them up to our true Essence. Let us engage in the delightful awareness of Love as the Essence of G-d. The way this book is written is to reaffirm and reiterate its purpose, so it presents its message and content in a recurrent way. This is exactly its purpose, to restate the same Truth originally proclaimed by our Holy Scriptures, Prophets and Sages. Our purpose is to firmly enthrone G-d's Love in all dimensions of our consciousness, and by doing it we will fulfill His Promise that He may dwell with us on Earth forever. Let's discover together the hidden message of our ancient Scriptures and Sages. In that journey, let's realize Love as our Divine Essence, what we call in this book the revealed Light of Redemption in the Messianic era.