Saturday, June 26, 2010

Conquering the "nations" with Love

These are the seven nations and the way to conquer them:

Anger: calmness, enjoyment, pleasantness, agreeability, peace
Greed: generosity, kindness, benevolence
Envy: humility, contentedness, self-confidence
Impatience: self-control, ease, endurance, tolerance, acceptance
Imprudence: sense, carefulness, caution, thoughtfulness
Indolence: diligence, dedication, laboriousness
Lust: modesty, temperance, austerity, moderation, frugality

Lust and greed are similar in their aims, which are eventually fulfilled (temporarily). Envy as well as lust and greed are caused by a feeling of lack, although envy is never fulfilled. To envy and to covet are similar in their root. Sages say that Eve's illusory belief that there was something lacking in the Garden of Eden led her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Anger and impatience are caused or motivated by feelings of being unsatisfied with what one is or what one has. Therefore there is no acceptance, no ease, no happiness or peace with what one is or what one has. Imprudence and indolence are rooted in carelessness. If one does not care, there is no interest or concern for anything or anyone.

Negative emotions are usually perceived as evil traits; and indeed they are emotions, not traits. Negative emotions are not overcome by positive emotions but by positive traits or qualities, because emotions by themselves are neutral. This means that emotions in their neutral state must be directed by positive traits. In general, egocentricity is the motivator of all negative traits and emotions. In "God as Love" we say that emotions are neutral by nature, and we described them as "empty vessels" waiting to be filled and directed by our higher levels of consciousness. Therefore either we fill them and direct them with our awareness of Divine Love, or with ego's fantasies and desires. If one covets, he is putting his trust and self-confidence into envy, greed and lust; and if he doesn't get that which he envies and lusts, he will be overcome by impatience and anger that make him imprudent, and ultimately indolent. It is in this context that we understand the saying "sin is the punishment itself".

We also mentioned in the book that, in addition to the emotions, the remaining aspects or levels of consciousness are also empty vessels that include intellect, mind, feelings, passions, the five senses, and instincts. Our intellect must fill (instruct) our mind with common sense, practical ideas and righteous principles inspired by Love's ways and attributes. Our mind fills (directs) the emotions with positive thoughts. Emotions will fill our senses inviting them to embrace the passion and excitement in the body, making speech and action the tangible manifestation of Love.

Sages teach that the positive traits that redeem the negative emotions are loving kindness, awe, compassion, confidence, honesty, loyalty, and humbleness. Other Sages consider that those traits are actually the natural state of emotions, and they end up being misdirected by ego's fantasies and illusions. This means loving the wrong ideas, people or situations; revering and respecting bigots and prejudiced people; being compassionate with criminal behavior and the wicked; trusting false beliefs and devoting loyalty to negative people; and being humble and meek when the situation demands courage and determination.

Most people believe that traits have a dual quality, and one directs them either way depending on his character. Instead of loving good and positive actions, he loves destructive habits or additions; he rather be arrogant than humble; instead of trusting his solid principles he rather believes in glamorous or shallow behavior; and he lies in order to make others believe in his ego's fantasies. We all are aware that there are certain factors that determine people's beliefs and behaviors, mainly cultural patterns, ideologies, social and economic status, educational level, and family values. In Judaism those are subjected to ethical principles, meaning that our line of thought, emotional responses, passions and instincts are submitted to these principles. And they are based on G-d's Love for all His Creation, and His Commandments for us to be and do His ways and attributes.

We also mentioned in "God as Love" that emotions are the axis that maintains the balance of all levels of consciousness. As long as we keep our emotions filled with the Truth, we will be true to ourselves, to others, and our surroundings; and the Truth is Love. No matter what, we must fill our emotions and all levels of consciousness with Love in order to be Love and manifest Love, which is the mission that He commands us to do.

Parshat Pinchas: The Peace of God's Love

The previous portion, Balak, ends with the beginning of a story that continues in this week’s portion, Pinchas. It tells us about the circumstances in which “Pinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron (...)” (Numbers 25:11) slew Zimri, the prince of the tribe of Shimon and Cozbi, daughter of one of the princes of Midian.

A lesson to learn from this parshah is about loyalty and fidelity to our Creator. It is evident that the Israelite with this higher awareness of such qualities inherent to God's Love, which requests us to become One with Him, is Pinchas. The present tense is used here to honor our common belief that Pinchas is Elijah the Prophet who is still alive.

As Pinchas and as Elijah, this unique Israelite characterized himself for his profound attachment to our Creator, a bond that transcends material illusions in all levels of consciousness.

We have mentioned that the proverbial “jealousy” and “zeal” of God are emotional expressions to indicate the exclusive and non-compromising loyalty and fidelity He has for us, and also demands them from us in order to be 
always connected to Him.

24 thousand Israelites died as a consequence of cohabiting with idolatrous women and bowing to their idols. Lust, wrath, pride, envy and negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions are described as idols by our Sages. As long as we are engaged with them, we separate from God's ways and attributes.

In this context we can understand zeal and jealousy as necessary traits to enforce the eternal vigilance of the loyalty and fidelity that God's Love demands from us as the Essence of our true identity.

If we are an emanation of God's Love, which is also our sustaining Essence, the source with which we enjoy and experience the goodness of life, should we choose ego’s fantasies and illusions as the false idols that lead us to materialism? We should know better because we learn from experience.

Common sense, trial and error, useful vs. useless and dualism challenge our free will every moment to teach us right from wrong. The dilemma about making the right choice seems to depend more on stubbornness than on common sense.

Mindfulness makes us aware of the choices we make, and this awareness is about knowing that Love is the natural guide that maintains the harmonic balance of all levels of consciousness. This balance is the reward for keeping Love in charge of our consciousness, and this is what God’s Covenant of Peace is about.

Rashi and other Sages explain that this Covenant of Peace is inherent to the office of High Priest, which represents the highest level of consciousness and the awareness of our permanent connection the Creator. As long as we keep Love's ways and attributes in all aspects of life, peace will always be present. 

The portion continues with a new counting of the children of Israel, and the distribution of the Promised Land according to their tribes. In this part of the story the feminine presence in the Land is recognized as an essential element in Israel’s mission to be the Light of the nations, and to created a place for God to dwell in this world.

Zelophehad’s daughters stood up to claim their inheritance (27:1-11), and they teach us not only to acknowledge women's equal rights but also the value of their contributions to the Israelite identity. Historically, Jewish women have excelled in their commitment, loyalty and devotion to the Creator far better than their male counterparts.

The Torah and the Hebrew Scriptures abound on this fact which invites us to reflect on how much we have neglected the feminine principle of Creation. This is an essential aspect of our consciousness in the quest to fulfill the mission that we are commanded by Divine will.

The text later tells us the transfer of leadership from Moses to Yehoshua.

You shall bestow some of your majesty upon him so that all the congregation of the children of Israel will take heed. (…) He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what the Lord had spoken to Moses.” (27:20, 23)

And immediately refers to sacrificial offerings. The context in which these sacrifices are mentioned is quite clear: We have to maintain the strength of our connection with God constantly

This is why the daily offerings and the additional sacrifices for special occasions such as the Shabbath, the New Moon (Rosh Hodesh) and high holidays are emphasized. We have mentioned in previous commentaries on the book of Leviticus that sacrifices represent our awareness of being and doing what is sacred to our Creator.

"(...) offerings made by fire, of a sweet savor onto Me." (28:2, 6, 8, 13, 24, 27; 29:2, 6, 13, 36)

We also said that fire represents Love as the catalyst that transforms darkness into Light, thus proclaiming God's Presence in the material aspect of Creation. His Presence, His manifested Glory, as "the sweet savor" for Him. The phrase is repeated ten times to remark that the offerings must be made constantly

We remind ourselves about this with our daily prayers, by wearing 
tzitzit, putting tefilin, and covering the top of our heads. They are good reminders and this mindfulness keeps our eternal vigilance always aware of our connection with God's ways and attributes in what we are and do. When we are aware of this connection, His Covenant of Peace is with us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Parshat Balak: The Power of God's Blessings

In this portion the Moabites, one of the Canaanite nations, and the Midianites appeal to the wizard Balaam to curse the children of Israel. Both peoples are related to superstition and divination which always distort the Truth of life: "And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam (…)" (Numbers 22:7).

Balaam represents ego’s destructive inclination and wicked approach to life in order to subjugate it to negative traits and desires. And what are the main rewards of ego? "Because I will promote you onto very great honor, and whatsoever you say to me I will do (…)." (22:17). Honor and commanding control are ego’s main pursuits and rewards. 

Balaam enjoys the same access to God that the Hebrew prophets have, and obvious questions arise. If God is good by Essence and does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes, how is it possible that He doesn’t deny access to a wicked character such as Balaam? Before we answer the question, we have to remark some of the fundamentals of Judaism. 

God is One and does not have any form, body, image or shape, and His Essence is beyond human comprehension which means that we can’t grasp the ways He directs His Creation. The little we know about Him is by inference of what He is not; and though that still is insufficient, Judaism conceives Him as good and Doer of goodness, and His Creation is the resounding proof of this absolute principle. Judaism also believes that He rewards the good-doers and punishes the evil-doers, which is a reaffirmation that He is good.

This means that He is on the side of those who do goodness, and not on the side of evil doers. In this context we understand what we said many times: God does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes. We define His ways as His Commandments, and His attributes as those mentioned in the Torah (Exodus 34:6-7), all-positive and all-encompassing.

We also have mentioned that He created evil in order for us to have free will. Hence evil is only a reference to discern good from something not good. Evil and its negative derivatives are two-folded expressions or reflections. One aspect of evil is what conceals
Love and keeps it concealed, and the other as the result of separating our consciousness from the unity of Love: the result of choosing ego’s fantasies and illusions instead of Love's ways and attributes.

This is the inner and outer struggle that defines the connection between Israel and God: by choosing Him, His ways and attributes, the Israelites are able to conquer the “nations” that represent the negative tendencies in consciousness.

With this necessary preamble we can put in perspective Balaam and what this parshah says about him. Another fundamental aspect of Judaism is that God has absolute control of His Creation and directs it according to His will, and this includes the evil He created in order for us to enjoy free will, with such evil doers as Balaam
included. We have to highlight from this episode that evil is always subdue to Love. This means that evil can’t curse, endanger or harm Love’s ways and attributes.

The passage tells us that the times Balaam tried to curse Israel, only blessings came out of his mouth because Love as the material manifestation of God's Love subdues evil. Love always blesses not only those who choose its ways but also those who have the potential to be and manifest its attributes. 

We all are blessed as long as we remain in the tents of Love: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!” (Numbers 24:6). If Love is for us with the power of His blessings, what could be against? “How shall I curse whom the Lord has not cursed? And how shall I execrate whom the Lord has not execrated?” (23:8). With Love in our side all illusions and fantasies of the material world are destined to disappear. We said already that God's Love endowed us with free will, and He gives us not only the choice between the blessings and the curses but the Commandment to choose life which by itself represents His blessings.

The episode with Balaam teaches us once more that Love empowers us to transform all evils, superstitions and curses into goodness and blessings as long as we live in Love’s ways. The choice is always ours. After all, we are the ones endowed with free will by God's Love. Let’s celebrate living in Love’s blessings:

"For from the top of the rocks I see him (Jacob/Israel), and from the hills I behold him: lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who has counted the dust of Jacob, or numbered the stock of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (23:9-10).

Israel represents the realized consciousness of God's Love we are destined to achieve in life. This is part of our mission to reveal the Divine Presence in all Creation we have concealed in the darkness of the illusions of the material world. The complete awareness of God's Love is perceived and achieved from the high levels of consciousness ("from the top of the rocks"). In that sublime place we are alone, all-One with Love, and the negative aspects of consciousness (the nations) are not with us (we are not counted among them).

In this realization of Love we want to live and to die because it is the material manifestation of God’s Love: “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent: when He has said, will He not do it? Or when He has spoken, will He not make it good? Behold, I am bidden to bless; and when He has blessed, I cannot call it back.” (23:19-20).

The blessings continue reaffirming that when we live in God’s ways and attributes we can transform darkness into Light, and revealing Love whenever and wherever concealed:

"None has beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has one seen perverseness in Israel; the Lord his God is with him, and the shouting for the King is among them. God who brought them forth out of Egypt is for them like the lofty horns of the wild-ox. For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel; now is it said of Jacob and of Israel: 'What has God wrought!' Behold a people that rose up as a lioness, and as a lion does he lift himself up; he shall not lie down until he eats of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain." (23:21-24).

It is essential to reiterate again that Love does not cohabit with ego’s fantasies and illusions to control and manipulate (enchantment and divination) all aspects of life

Among the blessings that followed (23:5-9, 24:17-24) there is a significant
sentence: “Blessed be every one that blesses you, and cursed be every one that curses you.” This may sound like an excluding, separating and retaliating statement. Although it may, it is not about that. Love is all pervading and all encompassing, meaning that Love is inclusive and not excluding. Ego’s illusions exclude us from the unity of Love, therefore when we curse our consciousness with them we are indeed cursed.

The parshah ends with the sad fall of thousands of Israelites into the seductive arms of lust during their conquest of Moab. Our permanent awareness of God's ways and attributes liberates us from the illusions and fantasies of the material world. Falling into ego's rule make us lose our connection with the Creator, and ego's illusions become our own punishment: the plague that killed 24 thousand Israelites at that time.

As many wisely say, “sin is its own punishment”. In conclusion, the message is reaffirmed again: When Israel realizes his Oneness with God, His Love can be revealed and manifest with His Glory.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parshat Chukat: Faith in God's Love

The Creator speaks to Moses and Aaron, saying "this is the decree (chukat) of the Torah which the Lord commanded (…)" (Numbers 19:1). The sentence emphasizes Divine authority with the words “decree” and “commanded”, meaning that nobody has the right to challenge or question such decree, according to Rashi. This is also applied to all God’s Commandments in the Torah. How can we question or challenge the will of our Creator? How can we dare to question the air that keeps us alive? Still, it seems that our free will (given to us also by God's Love) has the choice to challenge His works. Or is it rather our ego’s choice?

This particular decree refers to sacrifice a red cow that its ashes are empowered by God in a “burnt purification offering” (19:17) in order to clean those who have been in contact with a corpse. We understand this as being in contact with death, that which separates us from true life. Why a red cow and not one of the other animals mentioned as possible offerings in the Tabernacle or Temple? This is one of the Divine mysteries that none of our Sages have been able to decipher, including the cleverest man who ever lived: King Solomon. In the literal meaning we understand that it is a special animal, “a perfectly red unblemished cow upon which no yoke was laid” (17:2).Like other qualified animals, it may represent a human trait that, when transformed through fire (God's Love) has the power to redeem us from death.

In this context, that particular transformed human trait has that power. Mystic Sages relate the ashes of the red cow to the final Redemption when death will be vanished from the world. The point here is not to determine a particular human trait that we have to direct in order to achieve our final Redemption. The point is that we must direct all our traits, all levels and aspects of consciousness to God's will, which is being and doing His ways and attributes. This is what truly redeems us from the darkness of materialistic illusions.

The preeminence of God's will, as a decreed principle, is reaffirmed again in the episode when Moses doubted His transforming and redeeming power: “Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink." (20:8).

In this verse we learn that the staff represents the direction that our higher awareness (Moses and Aaron) demands from all aspects and dimensions of consciousness (the twelve Tribes of Israel represented by the rock). God wants us to speak to the rock so that it may give forth its water, what keeps us alive in the desert where we are free from the illusions of the world. This water is Love concealed in the darkness of the lower aspects of our consciousness.

When Love speaks, the concealed Light is revealed and our awareness is able to realize our Oneness with the Creator. All we have to do is to be Love, to manifest Love and to speak Love, for God's Love is the fire that transforms the negative aspects of consciousness into expressions of Love. Only Love has the power to reveal Love concealed in the obscure dimensions of Creation. And this water, this revealed Love, nurtures not only our spiritual awareness but also the material aspects of our lives (“for them and their livestock to drink”).

Our higher consciousness (Moses and Aaron) is not free from making mistakes. Our sense of righteousness can make us harsh and tough when we discipline our mind, thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts. We seem to have great difficulty in harmonizing all aspects of consciousness
in our battles to defeat ego’s fantasies and illusions. However, we know God's Love liberates us from ego’s domains, from the bondage in Egypt. Therefore knowing this Truth implies trusting this Truth. Moses’ transgression by striking and not speaking to the rock, as God commanded Him, questioned His transforming and redeeming power even in the hardest and darkest dimensions of our consciousness.

Moses, our beloved teacher and the greatest of all Jewish prophets, questioned God's Love by challenging his people’s abilities to embrace His will as their Essence and true identity. Moses had every reason to doubt his people’s commitment to be God’s chosen to create for Him a place to dwell in the world, a commitment to fulfill the mission to reveal Love as Light from the darkness of the material world. This doubt was based on the several times the children of Israel, in spite of amazing miracles, questioned their Redeemer's guidance. The lesson to learn here for Moses and Aaron, as the symbols of our higher Divine awareness, for Israel, and for the rest of the world is that the power of God's Love is boundless, all-encompassing, and eternal.

Love as the material manifestation of God's Love is everywhere, manifest and concealed, and our mission in this world is to reveal His Presence where and when He is concealed. Only those who are permanently aware of God’s attributes are the ones who allow Him to fight our battles in order to conquer the nations (the lower aspects of consciousness) and settle forever in the Promised Land.

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.