Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ecclesiastes: The illusion of vanity and the reality of love (III)

I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have obtained for myself great wisdom above all who were before me in Jerusalem. And my heart saw so much, and I applied my heart to know wisdom, [and to know] madness and folly, and I knew this too is a vexation of the spirit. (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17)

King Solomon reminds us again that in the wisdom acquired in his life by the grace of God, he warns us about the futility of ego’s fantasies and illusions. If we live by, with and for unproductive, useless and distracting beliefs and feelings of lack, we undermine and despise goodness as our essence and true identity.

Goodness is the spirit that elevates us to the knowledge of God, for goodness is our bond with Him. Solomon truly immersed himself in the wisdom God gave him to become the wisest of all men, in order to share his findings and conclusions with us. Thus we learn from his messages in this book, as well as in the Song of Songs and the book of Proverbs.

For, in abundance of wisdom [there is] abundance of grief [lit. anger], and he who adds knowledge adds pain.” (1:18)

Here we see that the more we become wise, the more we realize the nature of evil, wickedness and a negative approach to life based on ego’s fantasies and illusions. Once we fully know the multiple ways and expressions of evil, our anger to reject them is as strong as the awareness that makes us value goodness as what truly matters in life. The more we understand the damage evil causes, the more we are urged to fight it and wipe it out from our consciousness and from the face of earth as God commands us to.

“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you in joy and see what is good’; and behold, this is also vanity. (2:1)

Solomon tests his emotions and feelings in order to know their value in regards to goodness. As far as he does not find goodness in them, these are also vanity. One lesson that we can learn from this verse is Solomon’s willingness to test the nature of what may be considered either joyful or pleasurable for his emotions in direct proportion to the goodness they may have or lead him to. By their nature, mirages, fantasies and illusions don’t contain anything either real or good about them, for the fact that they are not based on something truthful as goodness is.

“About laughing I said [it is] folly; and about joy, what does it do? I probed my heart to stimulate in wine my life (lit. flesh) and [still] my heart conducts itself in wisdom, and to assimilate folly up until to see the account [lit. numbers] of their lives [people’s].”
(2:2-3)

Numbering is counting, and we are supposed to count what matters in life. As we have said, any kind of joy or happiness based on ego’s fantasies and illusions is folly and does not add anything significant to life. Our sages relate wine to rejoicing, and Solomon approached life as the happiness wine can produce without losing wisdom, for the latter encompasses joy as the fulfillment knowledge provides. In this particular joy we are also able to distinguish between a truly happy life and the temporary nature of the follies that don’t add anything to what really matters.

“Great things I did. I built for myself houses, planted for myself vineyards. Gardens and orchards, every fruit tree. Pools of waters. And I bought slaves, and maid servants, and housekeepers, also many flocks and herds I had more than all [of my predecessors] in Jerusalem. I amassed also silver and gold for myself, and [had] the treasure of kings, and the provinces. Musical instruments and the pleasures of men, also chests of chests. Thus I grew and surpassed all that was before me in Jerusalem, still my wisdom stayed with me.” (2:4-9)

The purpose of wisdom it to build something good with it, and these verses invite us to put our goodness out in the real world for the sake of goodness. We do this not just for others but also for ourselves. “Houses” and “vineyards” have multiple material and spiritual meanings. A house integrates life, consciousness and its dimensions.

“Happy are those who dwell in Your house, they praise You forever.” (Psalms 84:4)

We can’t fathom God’s “house” or “praising” eternally, but we know for sure that happiness is part of doing it “there”, and it is forever because God is eternal. Here we realize that any idea we may have about happiness is pale to living in a “place” of God.

“Vineyards, gardens, orchards and fruit trees” (see our commentary on the Song of Songs in this blog) represent the fruits of our good deeds, for these are seeds we plant in the field of life. As we focus in being and doing goodness we harvest its benefits for us and for those involved.

“Pools of water” evoke the blessings of goodness with which we consecrate life, and “slaves”, “maid servants”, “housekeepers” and “sons” symbolize helping and supporting traits and qualities as well as the works we do that last for generations. “Flocks” and “herds” as followers and students that learn from wisdom.

“Silver and gold” represent material and spiritual resources we need to build on goodness as our primordial purpose in life, while the “treasure of kings” is the ruling principle that elevates our consciousness by leading us in God’s ways and attributes. The “provinces” are the material and spiritual domains in which we expand our consciousness through the goodness we pursue and manifest in all aspects and dimensions of life.

“Musical instruments” serve both to cheer and rejoice our thoughts and emotions, and to praise and celebrate the multidimensional qualities of goodness God bestows in us with His blessings every moment. In this subject king David is the best lyricist, composer and musician of all.

Praise the Lord! Praise you God in His holy place. Praise Him in the expanse of His strength. Praise Him in His mighty acts. Praise Him in the abundance of His greatness. Praise Him with blowing of trumpet. Praise Him with psaltery and harp. Praise Him with tambourines and dance. Praise Him with stringed instruments and organ. Praise Him with cymbals of sounding. Praise Him with cymbals of shouting. All that breathes do praise God! (Psalms 150)

King Solomon tells us that once we fully realize that our vanities don’t take us anywhere meaningful and fruitful as goodness, in this awareness the wisdom of goodness makes us transcend materialistic fantasies and illusions, for this kind of wisdom stays always with us.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ecclesiastes: The illusion of vanity and the reality of love (II)

What is that which has been? It is that which is, and what is that which has been done? It is that which is done, and there is not an entirely new thing under the sun. There is a thing of which one says, ‘See this, it is new’! Already it has been in the ages that were before us! There is no memory of the former neither shall there be any memory of the latter that are to come, among those that shall come after. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)

These verses warn us about our unchanged behavior and repetitive approach to life, as if human consciousness is doomed to remain the same no matter how much progress we may have claimed throughout the ages. Solomon’s words could refer to a general trait or trend that makes us discern, understand, assimilate and feel in the same way regardless the circumstances or times where we have lived in history.

Solomon’s reiterative remarks in this book point out to the inherent repetitive patterns in the negative traits and trends of ego’s fantasies and illusions. This reveals the obsessive and addictive tendency to the temporary nature of fantasies and illusions entrenched in a self-centered approach to life. All that our hearts and eyes desire remains unchanged since Adam and Eve transgressed God’s commandment not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that was “desirable to the eyes”.

This unchanged pattern can be replaced through a “paradigm shift” based on embracing principles and values that focus more in pursuing individual and collective goodness for the sake of goodness, than fulfilling ego’s desires under the rules of a consumer society.

I, Kohelet, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I have given my heart to seek and probe in wisdom concerning all that has been done under the heavens. It is a bad matter God has given to the sons of man to respond about. (1:11-13)

These verses reaffirm the context we comment on, for it is a negative pattern approaching God’s creation in general and the material world in particular, based on the vanity and futility of ego’s fantasies and illusions. Wisdom is useless as long as applied to the latter.

We said in our commentary on The Song of Songs in this blog that “there is not true wisdom without love, and there is not true love without wisdom”. These verses also confirm this, and the heaviest burden we carry is to waste the potential of human intellect and wisdom by living a meaningless or useless life.

We learn here that we put on ourselves the consequences of the choices we make, not God. He commanded us to choose the blessings of life and reject the curses that lead to death. In this context, ego’s fantasies and illusions along with their negative traits and trends are the burdens for which God makes us accountable. Hence we must understand Solomon’s message not as an unchangeable and meaningless human condition unworthy to be lived, but as a fact for us to realize that the opposites of the temporary nature of the vanities and futility of an egotistic approach to life are the transcending qualities of love’s ways and attributes.

“I have seen all the deeds under the sun, and behold all is vanity and a vexation of the spirit [soul]. A crooked thing cannot be straight [lit. fixed], and what is absent [lit. lacking] cannot be counted.” (1:14-15)

Here we understand that what is broken can’t return to its original state, simply because its fragmented state. This also refers to ego’s materialistic desires derived from beliefs and feelings of lack, for lack is the opposite of wholeness.

In love’s ways and attributes there is never lack, for love encompasses and integrates everything that is valuable, and therefore named and counted by God as part of the goodness He wants to make prevail in His creation.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ecclesiastes: The illusion of vanity and the reality of love (I)

The words of Kohelet, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. (Ecclesiastes 1:1)

The book of Ecclesiastes (the one who congregates, integrates, unifies) is introduced as the thoughts and speech of the son of David who is Solomon the king of Israel that rules in Jerusalem. Let’s recall that the land of Israel was later called the kingdom of Judea with its capital Jerusalem, after its separation in two kingdoms. It is relevant to remark that the name Solomon means “he to whom peace belongs” and Jerusalem means “I will see peace or peace shall be seen”. The first interpretation refers to God “who shall appear or shall be seen in wholeness, and the second to the peace as wholeness that is experienced before God.

King Solomon calls himself “the one who congregates” (Kohelet) in this book to represent the entire community (kehilah) of Israel as a unified soul, intellect, emotion, feeling, speech and action, and also to direct his own reflections to them as fundamental lessons to understand the dynamics of human consciousness in the material world. He shares his wisdom with us to open our eyes, ears, hearts and souls to what is truly transcendent in life and to hold on it as the essence and purpose of our existence.

Vanity of vanities! Said Kohelet. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! What profit does man have from all his labor that he toils under the sun? (1:2-3)

We must understand vanity as the futile quality of what is temporary and unable to be attained or taken with us after we leave this world. This invites us to reflect on what ultimately remains after we die. King Solomon wants to ponder about what do we do every day that makes us believe that it is something we actually can gain or acquire.

So [God please] teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:12)

A materialistic approach to life would answer that all we work for is toward our immediate and future benefit, regardless if it may be riches or possessions, for these provide for us not only our daily sustenance but the pleasures and delights we believe we must have. Questions arise in regards to what is more important besides fulfilling our immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.

We often quote the oriental saying that “rich is not the one who has more but the one who needs less”, for what makes us fulfilled enough not to want more of what we need is what matters.

Generation goes and generation comes but the earth stands forever. And the sun shines and the sun goes down, and there it shines. It goes to the south and circles to the north, on its rounds the wind returns. 
(Ecclesiastes 1:4-6)

We look around and see that our lives don’t last like the sun, the earth and the winds, in spite that they also remain doing what they do without profiting. Our Jewish oral tradition considers some of God’s creations as entities that fulfill His will without questions or hesitations, while humans are the only ones He endowed with free will to choose either to do the same or not.

These verses invite us to consider the earth, the sun, the wind and the elements that comprise and sustain life also as fellow creatures with a purpose in God’s creation, and learn from them even if they appear as mechanical and repetitive as we may be particularly when trapped in the vicious circles of obsessions, attachments and addictions.

“The sea is not filled, there they [the rivers] return [to the sea in their] going. All things get [one] tired, man can’t speak nor the ear filled with hearing. (1:7-8)

Nothing in human consciousness is completely filled or satisfied as long as everything is temporary, for temporariness by itself is limited and fights to be eternal or at least permanent as the sun and the earth appear to us. Here we understand the “sea” also as the realm of imagination that is never filled or contained.

In our pursuing of permanency we indeed get tired, for all is temporary in human consciousness. Words are not enough no matter how much we speak or hear. Thus we evoke the episode of the child that wants to pour the ocean into the little hole he dug in the beach, for such is human consciousness in its desire to assimilate the vast complexities of God’s creation.

Our limitations show us the constrains of living in the frame of time and space, thus we realize that king Solomon wants us to focus on what really matters that transcends life, for it is eternal and not bound to our limited perception, conception, fathoming or feeling.

There are many plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s counsel will prevail.
(Proverbs 19:21)

In this scenario God’s words in the Torah comprise the counsel that prevails, for it transcends time and space. We can summarize it as the goodness He wants us to live permanently. Goodness is what prevails while evil is always temporary and destined to disappear as God promised, although the choice between them is always ours. Either we follow ego’s fantasies and illusions as the “many plans in man’s heart”, or love’s ways and attributes inherent in goodness.

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.