Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vayeitzei: The House of God's Love

One of the essential passages of the Torah related to Israel is, “And he dreamed, and behold! A ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to Heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.” (Genesis 28:12) and “This is none other than the House of God [Bet-El], and this is the gate of Heaven.” (28:17). It is about a place in time and space that comprises our connection with the Creator, and exists permanently in the highest levels of consciousness. It is where we realize the bond that holds the unity of Heaven and Earth, the spiritual and material dimensions of God's Creation. In this awareness Jacob as Israel realizes his Oneness with the Creator.

We have to know this House where God's Love gives lodge to Israel in the journey to fulfill his destiny as the People of the Covenant. The Torah tells us that Jacob dreamed, which means that Israel's awareness of God's Presence is beyond conscious material perception. However, there is a ladder set on our material consciousness (our “stepping ground”), that its top reaches up to the highest levels we are able to conceive. In this ladder angels (messengers) of God ascend and descend upon it, and let's inquire about who these messengers are.

The Torah indicates that angels' function is to fulfill God's will in the diverse dimensions of His Creation, and some of our Sages define them as the Commandments that we perform as part of His Will. Others define them as the souls that descend from His heavenly dwellings to the material world, and ascend back to Him. We can say that angels are, in some extent, the ways we communicate with the Creator. They descend as the messages of His will to us, and they return as our messages to Him.

We are taught that angels perform their missions without questioning them because they don't have free will. How come we dare to question God's will out of the free will He gave us? We have mentioned many times that our free will is the living proof of God's unconditional Love to us. Hence the least we must do is to reciprocate that privilege by complying with what He wants from us. Still, it is our choice. Jacob was fully aware of this, and his choice is unambiguous because he knows that His personal integrity depends on his service to God, after having the greatest honor to dwell in His House.

Angels are mentioned at the beginning and at the end of Vayeitzei, and this recurrence means a lot to us because they appear as heralds announcing points of convergence between Heaven and Earth. In this sense, the Temple of Jerusalem is the fundamental link that unites both levels, also as our highest awareness of God's Love. This is, as Jacob says, “The House of God and the gate of Heaven”. Though it sounds that there is a separation from here and there, the realization of Bet-El becomes our awareness of the unity between both.

Angels are the messengers and the messages we have to convey in our communication with the Creator, and these are our common Essence with Him. In this context, angels are the manifestation of His Love to us, and when we live in Love's ways and attributes our positive actions are the messengers and messages we elevate to Him to reciprocate the Love that He bestows on us.

There are two defined “camps” we know as the spiritual and the material. Both are meant to meet, embrace and kiss each other when we honor God's attributes as our true Essence and identity, also as our ways and means to connect and relate to God's Love. Walking in His Commandments is the way we go in the material world, and in our way we meet His Love: “And Jacob went on his way, and angels of God met him. And Jacob said when he saw them, 'This is the camp of God,' and he named the place Mahanaim.” (32:2-3)

We know that there are two camps, mahanaim, and Jacob turned them into one because he is aware that ultimately there is only one, the camp of God. We have to achieve this final realization, but first we must place our heads on the rocks that encompass every aspect of consciousness. God's Love turn them into one stone where the ladder of our Love stands to reach out to Him, and where our Love and His Love ascend and descend to unify Heaven and Earth. As we have said many times, Love is the messenger and the message, its own cause and effect. God's Love is manifest as the cause and effect of His Creation.

We just need to realize this as Jacob did, as his greatest legacy for Israel, his descendants: "In Bet-El he [Jacob, Israel] finds Him, and there He shall speak with us. And the Lord is the God of the hosts; the Lord is His Name. And you shall return to your God: [by] keeping loving kindness and justice, and trusting in your God always." (Hosea 12:5-7)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Toldot: Unifying Consciousness

Consciousness involves different aspects, levels and dimensions that, if we are no able to integrate as a harmonized and functioning unity, we may have difficulties to face the material world. Most people can't achieve such harmonized unity because it is not easy to conciliate mind with emotions, discernment with passion, or feelings with instincts. It becomes even more difficult when ego's desires and illusions occupy most aspects of consciousness. Sometimes life is reduced to a field of an endless battle among the elements that comprise human consciousness.

And the children struggled within her” (Genesis 25:22) Rashi comments on this verse saying that they were fighting over the inheritance of both Heaven and Earth. We understand this in the context of their adult life when ultimately Jacob wins the blessings that make him the inheritor of both. It seems that the fight with his brother is for all or nothing, as indeed was. The struggle of Esau and Jacob begins even before they were born, which makes us reflect on the deeper meanings the twin brothers encompass. It is evident that they oppose each other because they have different views about the material world (Earth) and the World to Come (Heaven).

We can infer from this fight about “all or nothing” that “all” implies a unity, something in its totality. Hence, Heaven and Earth are the two parts of the wholeness that the brothers were fighting for. This is an essential premise to assimilate that there is no separation in God's Creation or in our consciousness; even if we know that different aspects, levels and dimensions are part of them. This helps us understand why, without a developed consciousness, the twins were struggling in their mother's womb for inheriting the blessings of the entire Creation. Our awareness of unity is easier to grasp from a spiritual awareness than from a material perspective.

And the Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards, and one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom, and the elder will serve the younger'.” (25:23) Separation and opposition set the tone for two different conceptions and approaches to God's Creation. They are not meant to compromise with each other, except for the Divine decree that one has to serve the other.

Here is the key that makes us assimilate what we indicated before. In order for one to inherit both worlds, the other consequently must serve him. In other words, we prevail in a conflict if the opposite part agrees to our views and cooperate with us. We achieve a functioning, harmonizing unity when all the parts involved are integrated in a common cause, in which all win and there are no losers.

This means that if we face a situation that is either “black” or “white”, we don't look for the “gray” to reconcile the opposites but we engage in a discerning process to bring the goodness of “positive” into the badness of “negative”. Once we all experience “positive”, we all abandon “negative” by our individual and collective experience of what is right and wrong, true and false, etc. We have said that good and evil are references to exercise our free will, and by our experience of both we make our choices.

In this sense we discern what we call a functioning, working, harmonizing unity when we deal with the wholeness of our consciousness. We realize that every aspect of it must work in a common direction in order to experience life in the material world as a reflection of life in the World to Come. This is how we win in our struggle to inherit the blessings of both worlds.

It is indeed a struggle, a moment to moment endeavor to make prevail the positive over the negative, good over evil, useful over useless. This is the legacy Jacob embraced even before he was born, fighting all his life to make Truth prevail, and it is also the legacy for his descendants called by his prevailing name, Israel.

We have to rectify our divided awareness of the material world by unifying our divided consciousness, and this task may take many lifetimes. We are aware of this when we review our Jewish history since Abraham and Sara. So many falls in our endeavors during slavery, long exiles, endless persecutions, and tireless struggles. Jacob as Israel is destined to fulfill the Creator's Will to make the material world a dwelling place for Him, so that He may live among (in) us. Thus we unite this world and the World to Come as the indivisible Oneness of His Creation.

In this process we must know who Esau is and who Jacob is. The Torah defines for us who is who, and the bearer of God's blessings. Love and goodness win the struggle because hatred and evil are destined to surrender to Love and goodness, as the prevailing qualities that unify Heavens and Earth, as parts of the Creation emanated from God's Love.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chayei Sarah: The Jewish Identity

One of the most profound statements by Abraham recorded in the Torah is “I am a foreigner and a resident with you.” (Genesis 23:4). We have to understand it, not only as a gesture of Abraham's humbleness towards his neighbors, but as a characterization of the Jew based on his relationship with the Creator, in regards to the material world.

Our identity as Jews is broadly defined in the Torah as the Chosen People, and Abraham's neighbors recognized him as the seed of the great Nation whose mission is to be God's People.

“Hear us, my lord: You are a prince of God in our midst.” (23:6)

We must consider our identity, not only as a definition by the most important Testimony ever written, but as a meaning for us as Jews. Both “foreigner” and “resident” seem to complement each other in the context of living or dwelling in a particular place, but we must see them in relation to our identity defined according to our bond with God.

This bond consequently makes us foreigners in any place where God's Presence has not been totally revealed. We are foreigners in the sense that we are entitled, and commanded by Him, to create a place for Him to dwell in the material world.

In order to accomplish our mission and fulfill His Commandment, first we must become residents in the world. As the first Jew, Abraham was recognized by his neighboring nations as the man who was with God in their midst. This recognition is essential for us to assimilate the Jewish identity.

We know that we are God's people not only because the Torah says so, but because since our origins the nations also acknowledged it. They knew that we are foreigners and residents in their midst because, after all, we are the emissaries of God among them.

It sounds like we can be settlers in the land as long as we remain God's people in the eyes of the nations. This predicament makes us reflect thoroughly in the essence of the Jewish identity.

We indeed (as it is also for the rest of the non-Jewish mortals) are temporary residents in this world, but what makes us different is our mission to be the Light for the nations, a sacred Nation because our God is sacred, and a Nation of priests who sanctify His Name with their actions.

Our place is with God and this also means that, wherever we are, our lives are entitled to fulfill His will. We do this by making the world a better place for all, according to the ways the Torah instructs us to follow. For this mission God gives us the Promised Land.

We may be foreigners and residents in the midst of other nations, but we also have a land assigned to us. In this Land we are able to develop the full potential of our identity to fulfill our mission.

We have indicated in previous commentaries that the Promised Land, besides being a specific geographic location known as the land of Israel, also represents the individual and collective awareness of our connection with the One who gave us this Land. Possessing the and is the direct consequence of manifesting our identity as Jews.

The Torah states this fact, and also warns us countless times about the consequences of losing or despising our connection with God by the choices we make with the free will he gave us.

Our condition of foreigners and residents amid the nations also means that we do not become part of them and their ways, because our ways are defined by our relationship with God. We also have mentioned that the Canaanite nations represent negative traits and qualities that we have to conquer, defeat and subjugate in order to settle in the Promised Land.

The Torah and God's Commandments are the ways and means to overcome the potentially negative trends in human consciousness. When we accomplish this task, we are able to dwell in the awareness of God's Love, hence living in the Promised Land here in the material world.

Ultimately, our final destiny is with the Creator and we see our passage through this world as the time to fulfill the Covenant with Him. Though we know that our spiritual destiny is to dwell with Him, we also know that our lives on Earth are bound to our mission to reveal His Presence, and proclaim His Glory.

We do this by removing the illusions and fantasies of ego's materialistic desires, along with the negative traits that have kept humankind in darkness.

We are indeed strangers and aliens in the lands of negative thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts. But all these aspects of consciousness can also recognize the positive traits and the blessings that walk hand in hand with God's Love. If we Jews, the Abrahams of today, manifest our identity as emissaries of God's Love in order to awaken others to the awareness of Love's ways and attributes in the midst of material illusions, we will have accomplished our destiny as God's People.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vayeira: Living in the Unity of God's Love

We have said that God's Love encompasses everything, including its inherent goodness and also those who emulate His ways and attributes. In this unity there is no concealment from Him: "And the Lord said, 'Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am doing? And Abraham shall become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the world be blessed in him'." (Genesis 18:17-18). The unity of the Covenant between the Creator and Abraham is a unity that comprises the Creator, the Torah, the Shabbat, and Israel.

"For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him." (18:19). Our Sages explain that this principle is juxtaposed to "And the Lord said, 'Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin has become very grave'." (18:20) in order to make a clear contrast between what Abraham is and represents, and what the people of those two cities were and represented. Again, we are before the duality of good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, from which we have to choose.

The Torah recreates times and places where peoples and individuals had to make a choice. Free will is the fundamental premise to safeguard moral freedom. It is the starting point of whatever is about to come to us. We have heard that "what starts well ends well", and "what starts bad ends bad". It is not necessarily so, because we still can divert from good to bad and from bad to good. However, making positive choices is the beginning in the right direction.

The whole Hebrew Scriptures narrate all kinds of events related entirely to choice, and the whole point of such recurrent situations is to teach us to make the right decisions. In order to do that, our Sages engaged in lengthy discussions to build the ethical foundations of Judaism as the true Light for the nations, for the material world. From these ethical principles we learn that negative and destructive choices lead to death in the plain sense of the word. We are dead when we do not live in the positive decisions that we must make.

In their corruption, the generation of the Flood was already dead; and the waters cleaned the world from what was already dead in the eyes of the Creator. The generation of the tower of Babel was nearly dead by attempting to kill the diversity of the human spirit, as one of God's most precious gifts to us. Reassuring such diversity safeguarded the vibrancy of human life.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah killed all traits of goodness in their humanness, and were also dead before the Creator. Their destruction was just the means to end the lives of the "living dead". We have said in "God as Love" that we do goodness not only because it is the right and ethical thing to do, but we do it out of Love. We do it because we are aware that Love is our true Essence and identity; therefore, our real reason and motivation is to be good and do goodness.

Our Sages teach that, while the social pattern of the nations is modeled as a pyramid, Israel's principles are modeled as a circle. Among the nations, society is based on the levels of who have more and who have less, in relation to their cultural or ideological values. Those levels are determined by possessions, and the capacity to acquire more is proportional to having a higher or lower position in the pyramid. In Judaism, we Jews are all equal in the eyes of God, as parts of the same circle in whose center He sits. In that structure we all belong together in oneness.

In today's world there is unrest and social turmoil as a result of the nations' pyramid model. Fundamentalist beliefs promote the destruction of such model and replacing it by another pyramid that denies the basic human rights. On the other hand, those who defend the old pyramid model don't know how to keep it above the ground.

The solution is to implement the circle model of Judaism. This is not an easy task because, in order to do it the nations must change their values based on their false conception of superior and inferior human beings. As it is said in these times, they need a lot of "soul searching", and quite a great deal of it. Hence, all this is about coming back to what the soul is as our true Essence and identity.

The Torah teaches us clearly that Creation is the result of God's Love, from what we all are made. Love is what we are and must manifest based on our free will, which is also a gift of God's Love. In this awareness we have to approach our Creator and also His Creation. This is the united circle model of Judaism that teaches us to love each other, simply because that is the will of the Creator as He commands us in His Torah (Leviticus 19:18). Humankind needs to be aware of this Truth, so that at last we can create a place for Him in this world to dwell among us.

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.