Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lech lecha: The Blessings of our True Identity

"Go for [to] yourself from [out of] your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you [make you see it]. And I will make you into a great Nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [so that you shall] be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the Earth shall be blessed in you." (Genesis 12:1-3).

These verses are about one single Commandment containing several blessings that bear more blessings. All in regard to the knowledge of something in particular: the awareness of being and doing who we truly are. This awareness is the result of a process by which we have to see (or being shown) in order to know. Our Sages say that hearing relates to understanding, and seeing to knowing. We can understand what we are told, but we know it when we see it. Hence, the key of the process is for us to be shown or to make us see about who we really are.

We can be mistaken if we are not previously taught how to see in order to properly know what we have before our eyes. We need references to acquire knowledge in the proper context. In this sense, our references are contained in the Torah in contrast to the references in the non-Jewish world. In the narrative of these verses, the land that the Creator will make Abraham see is the Promised Land that the Torah reveals to us. This land is the place and time combined where the Creator's blessings are completely manifest as a purpose, as a destiny, and as an end. 

The Commandment to Abraham sounds conditional as if he complies with it, he will be rewarded with such blessings. Not quite. This Commandment is about the individual challenge to know who we truly are amid a myriad of illusions and mirages we have created as references to understand and to know what we suppose to be in the material world. These illusions exist as the result of ego's desires and fantasies that we turn into references as idols that dictate who we suppose to be and what we suppose to do.

This fantasy island is the place that Abraham had to abandon in order to go to his true self, as the land that is our true individual and collective identity. The Commandment was given to him as the chosen seed of the Jewish people whose destiny is to possess that land and dwell in it: "To your seed I will give this Land, (…) for all the Land that you see I will give to you and to your seed to eternity." (12:7, 12:15).

This Commandment is also given to every Jew as well, so that we may choose to be the blessing, as Abraham did. Our Sages say that while the nations prefer to be blessed by the Creator, Israel prefers to be His blessing.

We have to abandon the idolatry of ego's illusions through understanding and knowing what the Torah tells us, in order to partake of the blessing of being the great Nation destined to be the Light for the peoples. In these verses Abraham's name shall become enlarged as he becomes the blessing that is receiving, and consequently a blessing for those who bless him.

Cursing carries back its own curse, and blessing carries its own goodness. By being in that blessing, everyone who chooses to receive it is therefore blessed with what it represents. If we want to partake in these blessings, we have to go to who we truly are, instead of what ego's illusions tell us to be and do. We get the awareness and knowledge when we listen to the Source that created us, which is God's Love. It is also the Land that He shows us when we choose to hear and follow His ways, and manifest His attributes.

As we mentioned, this awareness requires a process in which we must confront the material illusions that blur all levels and dimensions of consciousness, as a result of misconceptions created by those illusions. As a state of consciousness, this Promised Land needs to be cleared from the nations that represent such misconceptions. They are regarded as the Canaanite nations (see in this blog our commentary "Conquering the 'nations' with Love" of June 26, 2010) that Israel has to subjugate in order to dwell in this Land.

We, as our forefathers did, must confront and defeat kingdoms that deny the moral freedom that only God's Love, as our Essence, can redeem and preserve. The Commandment to Abraham carries the blessings when we fulfill it. Through Love, as the material manifestation of God's Love in human consciousness, we clear thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts from their negative misconceptions. Love is its own cause and effect, and also the catalyst to dissipate ego's illusions, and direct our consciousness to partake in the blessings of God's Love.

Abraham listened to God's voice and Commandment and he chose back to His ways and attributes, which are His blessings: "I chose you and I did not despise you. Do not fear for I am with you; be not discouraged for I am your God: I encouraged you, I also helped you, I also supported you with My righteous hand." (Isaiah 41:9-10), because God's blessing is His Love.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Noach: Life as Diversity

The ten generations between Noach and Abraham give testimony of the diversity inherent to humanity. We are referring here to a wide spectrum we call traits, qualities, talents, skills, etc. along with also diverse aspects, levels and dimensions of human consciousness. This array with all its potential is a reflection -- within the limitations of material reality -- of the infinite and endless diversity of God's Creation.

We only need to look around to realize that we do not live in a dull world, and that we are here to relate with a multidimensional diversity. We can understand it as "I am diverse, hence I am" because we live simultaneously with thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions, and instincts. 

Noach had three sons that our Sages teach that represent the foundations or roots of intellect (Shem), emotion (Japheth), and sensuality (Ham), with which we approach a large range of possibilities to be experienced as cornerstones of the building we call life. The Torah's approach to life is unequivocally ethical, and the most adequate conductor to this approach is our intellect as the discerning power of consciousness.

Our Sages equate intellect to soul. Thus the more we discern about our circumstances in the material world, the more we live in consonance with our soul. In this sense, as they say, soul is to the body as the Creator is to the world. This means, among other things, that the soul is what connects us to Him.

Living and approaching life from the place of the soul is the only way to transcend the mirages and illusions of the material world. In a practical context, the soul encompasses the Divine attributes that the Torah instructs us to emulate. In sum, the more diverse and complex material reality appears to us, the more we need strong foundations to approach it in the most positive, constructive and uplifting ways and means.

Most of Noach's descendants rejected the diversity God bestowed in the world. This rejection was also manifest by their previous generation who perished in the Flood as a consequence of corrupting life, and making it meaningless before God. It seems hard to believe that after such a short transition, the "new" humankind wanted to commit the same mistake by building the tower of Babel.

As a Divine creation, we humans have the potential to reach out to our Creator by following His ways and manifesting His attributes. Ego's materialistic desires and illusions make us believe and feel that we are self-providing and self-sustaining entities, and they are the bricks of the tower that makes us believe and feel that we are our own god. Our Sages say that arrogance is the worst of kind of idolatry, because it does not allow one to see beyond himself. Egotism becomes the easiest way to deny anything different, and consequently diverse, from our own perception.

The worst transgression of the generations previous to Abraham was not defying God's rule over His Creation and proclaiming man's dominion over his own life and fate, but their denial of the diversity and multidimensional potentials of human life as the most precious Divine gift to us. A special gift to be appreciated, valued, cherished, rejoiced, and to be delighted with. In this sense, the worst sin is to deprive human consciousness of its potential to encompass and approach life and the material world with all their revealed and concealed diversity.

After the Flood, the Creator still endowed us with free will to choose not only from what we know as good and evil as it was so in the Garden of Eden, but from a myriad of possibilities within every aspect, level and dimension of consciousness. Thus, in the awareness of God's Love as our Essence and true identity, we are fully able to discern and choose Love's ways and attributes amid the wide diversity of possibilities the material world offers us.

The generation of the tower of Babel came together united to circumscribe human life to a single ideological, cultural and social pattern; in "one language" able to turn man into a god for himself, and the rest of Creation was meant to be an accessory for man's "greatness" (see our commentary dated on October 2, 2010 in this blog).

The Creator's response was not more destruction, as with the Flood, but to give us the knowledge and awareness that every individual is as diverse as there are ways of conceiving, thinking, feeling, sensing and responding to the also diverse world where we live. Hence, the challenge for humankind is to also respond with an embracing, unifying and harmonizing approach to diversity as a Divine gift for us.

Among the many messages from this Biblical portion, we can learn that indeed humankind has the potential to be united around an ideology, paradigm or belief as we see it with politics, religion, and even fashion trends. Either for good, as we experience it when natural disasters happen and we rush to help our fellow men in need; or for bad with suffering of those who are victims of religious fanaticism or under totalitarian regimes that desecrate the sanctity of human life.

Time and again, the choice is ours. Either we build towers for ego's desires and illusions of grandeur, or we build towers in our consciousness to be closer to the Creator. Towers not built with bricks of clay but with Love to reach up to God's Love. This Love is our Essence and identity, with which we choose the goodness in the multifaceted diversity that He gave us.

We must hear our Creator and reach out to Him with the expansion of our awareness of His Love (represented by Jerusalem and its Temple) in the diversity of its aspects and dimensions:

"Broaden the place of your tents, and stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, stint not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For southward and northward you shall spread out mightily, your offspring will inherit nations, and they will settle desolate cities." (Isaiah 54:2-3)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bereshit: In the Beginning

We have a beginning, as it is written, "In the beginning of God's creation of the Heavens and the Earth." (Genesis 1:1) and we have to face our individual beginning in terms of the choices we have made in every aspect of our conscience, ever since we acquired knowledge and awareness of who we are. We can identify our choices based on our social environment, educational upbringing, and the moral and ethical influences that shaped our approach to life and our surroundings.

Our discernment tells us that there is darkness: "and darkness was on the face of the abyss" (1:2) when we don't have clarity in our perception and we are confused: "the Earth was unformed and void" (1:2). However, in spite of that we are experiencing being alive because "the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters" (1:2). In this awareness we are able to realize that we are an extension of the Creator, His emanation and part of His Creation. This is our beginning, the principle that we have to bear in consciousness all the time. 

The elements and circumstances of this beginning seem negative in our human understanding: formlessness, void, darkness and abyss. These are terms that suggest confusion, hopelessness, negativity, and downfall; and we see them and experience them all in the material reality that have managed to create ever since we live in this world.

These are also the elements that preceded us in our beginning when we were in the maternal womb, until we were born and "given to light": "And God said: 'Let there be Light.' And there was Light." (1:3). Then we realize that our beginning in darkness was the preamble to live in the Light, by the Light and for the Light, because "God saw the Light, that it is good" (1:4).

The consequence of this assessment is that "God divided the Light from the darkness." (1:4). Also this is the starting day in which we were conceived as united with our Creator in the "one day": "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." (1:4). This is our beginning, our principle, the foundation of God's Creation, and also of our own existence; that we come from our oneness with Him. Hence, all our choices depend on either living in darkness or living in the Light.

In "God as Love" we say that Love and goodness, and their attributes, are all synonyms of Light because they are as good as the Light. The Torah, the book of Jewish ethical instruction, starts with this primordial foundation: the beginning in which goodness is the moral imperative in God's Creation, including our lives and the reality we build in the world that He created for us.

This means that even if we are born under the apparent negative circumstances of darkness, Light is always present for us to choose as Love we pursue for our fulfillment and delight, as the goodness that we want to be and manifest. The beginning of God's Creation is also our beginning, our embrace of Light as the Divine reference for us to choose; and be able to separate from the darkness of that which is unnecessary in our lives and the world.

This beginning with its ethical approach continues in the remaining days of God's Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, where He established an order that we must sustain in the same way that He sustains all that comes from Him. This duty is what honors us to be His image and likeness. These are not related to physical appearance but to ethical principles revealed by the way He acts towards His Creation. The more we live according to His ways, the more we are "like" Him. God's Love is present and tangible in all His Creation, as well as the Light that He calls good. In this approach everything is perfect, because in the goodness of Light there is no formlessness, void, darkness, or abyss.

Let's face our beginning by discerning what is the value of chaos and disorder in formlessness, in the emptiness and futility of illusions; the darkness we experience in negative thinking, feelings and behavior; and the hopelessness when we fall in the abyss of the absence of Light, the absence of the goodness that Love is:

"I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people's Covenant, for a Light to nations. To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison." (Isaiah 42:6-7).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Parshat V'zot HaBeracha: The Blessing of God's Love

Our sages remark that this is the only verse in the Torah where Moses is identified as the man of God, with its implications particularly related to his blessing to Israel as a nation.

"(…) Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death" (Deuteronomy 33:1)

They also note that he gave not only one blessing but many, and question why the first words of this portion (V'zot habrachah, "And this is the blessing") refer to one. One of the answers is that Moses wants to encompass one blessing for one Nation, as if both are part of the same united Israel.

Being the man of God, Moses is the messenger of the Creator to deliver His blessings to Israel. Thus Moses' blessing and God's blessing are the same in these final chapters of the Torah. After all, for the last forty years of his life Moses certainly was the messenger and deliverer of God's legacy to Israel, the Torah, including His blessings.

In this sense, these blessings encourage us to emulate God's ways and attributes through His Torah and commandments, as Moses did for us with his actions; teaching us to be also men of God, the people of God.

Moses' blessings to the tribes are not meant to be individual blessings but one single blessing for the whole nation. We have to emphasize this because there are no divisions in Israel's identity but unity in our multifaceted diversity.

We are merchants and Torah scholars as well as warriors and priests; leaders and shepherds as well as masons and silversmiths; judges and undertakers, artists and scientists; rich and poor as well as dreamers and storytellers.

We are all facets of the same identity directed to honor God's love, by being and manifesting love's ways and attributes in this world. This is how we defeat the negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions represented by the "nations" that we conquer in order to dwell in the promised land, the land of Israel.

The foremost manifestation of God's love in the world is His Torah (teaching, instruction), the ways and means to make His love tangible in the material reality.

"(…) from His right hand He presented His fiery Torah to them [Israel]" (33:2)

This verse is translated in a clarified fashion from the original Hebrew version interpreted as "from His right hand, fire [turned into] teaching for them", where "fire" and "teaching" are tied up in one.

The reference to fire is important because this is the most essential element that represents divine action, fire as the symbol and means of the transforming dynamics of God's love.

Fire appears in many passages not only in the Torah but in the entire Hebrew bible in transcendental moments like the first encounter of Moses with the Divine Presence, the column of fire that protected and guided the Israelites during their journeys into the desert, and the fire that consumed the offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem.

We said in other commentaries in this blog that fire is more than a material element or a catalyst to transform matter from one state to the other. It also bears and sustains life, and protects life with the proper intensity.

These qualities are analogical to divine love as godly fire, as the dynamic and transforming force that not only moves the whole universe but also sustains all things, including changing their existence toward levels and dimensions beyond our grasp.

That power is the Law, the Torah, the teaching that harmonizes our lives in consonance with the will of the Creator, which is God's love revealed in the material world as love's ways and attributes.

We must understand fire as the symbol of love in its transforming and elevating qualities towards our closeness with the Creator, as well as the purifying element that refines our thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts for the divine service, through the ways and attributes of love.

This is the divine legacy and inheritance of Israel from the right hand of God, from God's love to us. This is the greatest blessing that precedes the blessings that God gives Israel through Moses in the final verses of the Torah.

Our sages say that God's will is fulfilled by all animal creatures through their instinct, and plants through their function. Only humans fulfill His will out of free will, and Israel as a nation made the choice to do so as the chosen people who received the Torah.

This is our greatest blessing as being able to live in order to proclaim God's love as the only truth amid the fantasies and illusions of the material world.

"Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people whose redemption is through the Lord, the shield who helps you, your majestic sword! Your enemies will lie to you, but you will tread upon their heights." (33:29)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Parshat Haazinu: The Sheltering Love of God

The ardent plea of Moses in this portion contains the words of our highest knowledge of the Creator, summoning Heaven and Earth as the two dimensions that comprise human consciousness.

"Listen, O Heaven, and I will speak! And let the Earth hear the words of my mouth!" (Deuteronomy 32:1)

The essential message of this portion summarizes one of the primordial principles of our Torah and hence in Judaism, the oneness of the Creator from whom everything emanates, and the way it happens.

"The deeds of the Rock [the Almighty] are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright." (32:4)

These are the qualities of God's love, and love as we experience Him in His ways and attributes.

In this sense we understand that anything different from His ways are our own choices, either be ego's illusions or lower passions derived from uncontrolled desires.

"Destruction is not His; it is His children's defect you crooked and twisted generation." (32:5)

Moses, representing our highest awareness of God, questions our choices when we separate from His attributes.

"Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is He not your Father, your Master? He has made you and established you. (…) You forgot the Rock [the Almighty] who bore you; you forgot the God who delivered you." (32:6, 18)

We are reminded again that God's love does not dwell with anything different than His ways and attributes.

"[So] the Lord guided them alone, and there was no alien deity with Him." (32:12)

This is reaffirmed time and again.

"See now that it is I! I am the One, and there is no god like Me! I cause death and grant life. I strike, but I heal, and no one can rescue from My hand!" (32:39)

The vast majority in this world live in and for material illusions derived either from ideologies, beliefs, culture, fashion, or most commonly from consumer society's trends. We literally live and die for them, sometimes regardless if they don't make sense, or if they are right or wrong.

We can call it our contemporary idolatry. The question that Moses asks us is if these idols really nurture our life and save us from their negative predicament.

"Then He will say, 'Where is their deity, the rock in which they trusted, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their libations? Let them arise and help you! Let them be your shelter!" (32:37-38)

Hence we must ask ourselves if there is anything of true value in ego's illusions, and what is left after they consume the vitality of our minds and bodies.

The portion continues with the consequences of living in the realm of illusions, the separation from our own essence that emanates from God's love, as the reiterated warning against separating from His ways.

Our sages wisely choose one of the most beautiful reflections of king David, inviting us to heal our ordeals in the mirages of the material world by trusting and embracing God's love, in the accompanying haftarah for this portion.

"God is my rock, under whom I take cover; my shield, and the horn of my redemption, my support, and my refuge; [He is] my savior who saves me from violence." (2 Samuel 22:3)

"When I am in distress, I call upon the Lord, yes I call upon my God: and out of His abode He hears my voice, and my cry enters His ears." (22:7)

"He sent from on high [and] He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my mighty enemy; from them that hated me; for they were too powerful for me. They [my enemies] confronted me on the day of my calamity; but the Lord was a support to me. And He brought me forth into a wide place; He delivered me because He took delight in me." (22:17-20)

The psalmist praises the Creator and His ways always in the right context, because he is aware that the only way to dwell with Him is by thinking, feeling and acting according to His ways.

"The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from [the commandments of] my God." (22:21-22)

Again we are reminded that His love does not dwell with anything different than His ways and attributes.

"With a kind one, You show Yourself kind. With an righteous mighty man, You show Yourself righteous. With a pure one, You show Yourself pure; but with a perverse one, You deal crookedly. And the humble people You do deliver; but Your eyes are upon the haughty [in order] to humble them." (22:26-28)

Humbleness is the yoke that directs ego into love's paths of righteousness, and out of the illusions of grandeur and fantasies of the material world.

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.