Sunday, March 27, 2011

Parshat Tazria: Living in God's Covenant

This week's portion teaches us about purity before our Creator. "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives (tazria), and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean seven days; as in the separation (nidah) days of her period shall she be unclean." (Leviticus 12:2) and it starts from the moment that we are born. Our Sages say that a new born is delivered by his/her mother in a state of impurity because she suffers during the process.

With this we understand that life must start with a much better beginning. Life is not perfect as long as we have to choose between right and wrong, true and false, positive and negative, amid the ambiguities of illusion and Truth. We can rephrase this thought saying that life is perfect as long as we choose the Truth represented by Love's ways and attributes over ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions. In this context purity is related to what the Creator wants from us in order to be united with Him.

The Torah frequently mentions that we must be holy because God is holy, and we infer from this that we are holy because we are part of His Creation. Then we must reach out to Him, to His ways and attributes, for us to know the Essence of our true identity which is His Love, the purity of what makes us holy before Him. The first verse of this portion is followed by "And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." (12:3) referring to the new born with the purpose to seal in the flesh the Pact between Israel and the Creator. For the Jewish people this is the true beginning of life in the material world. The Pact is the beginning of life by removing what is not needed to be carried in our consciousness: the "foreskin" as the attachment to the potentially negative aspects of our basic human nature.

Circumcision becomes our unconditional and even unconscious response to the alliance that God's Love gives us to fulfill the partnership that He offers us in His Creation. We call it even unconscious because we accept the Pact when we still are not completely aware of our existence in this world. Hence it is a Pact beyond comprehension, beyond the material manifestation of God's Creation represented by the eight day of life.

This Pact is the fulfillment of the eternal unity of Israel and the Creator, a unity that can't be grasped and at the same time is a reminder in our flesh of our commitment to fulfill His ways with the holiness that He wants us to be aware of who we truly are. We have to understand holiness as a practical perception of God's Love in our lives where His ways and attributes must direct every aspect and dimension of consciousness.

It is in this day-to-day reality that we have to be loyal, to be pure with His ways and thus we are warned again not to fall into negative traits that force our separation from Him: "When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it become in the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest (…)" (13:2). Our Sages (Talmud, Arachin 15b and 16a) refer to what has been translated as "leprosy" as a sign of negative behavior such as arrogance, murder, perjury, slander, sexual immorality, stinginess, and robbery, analogous to the seven nations that Israel had to conquer in order to settle in the Promised Land.

These, as well as any other negative expression of human consciousness, separate us from Love's ways and attributes: "All the days wherein the plague is in him he shall be unclean; he is unclean; [therefore] he shall dwell alone; without [outside] the camp shall his dwelling be." (13:46) and in order to return to God's ways we must transform all expressions of negativity through His fire, His transmuting Love, into goodness: "And he shall burn the garment, or the warp, or the woof, whether it be of wool or of linen, or anything of skin, wherein the plague is; for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire." (13:52).

As we mentioned above, nothing is perfect in the material world except the Essence with which it was created, God's Love. Through Love we are able to transform and transmute the imperfections that we perceive as negativity in what we call pain, suffering, depression, sadness, indifference, and so on. As long as we let Love lead every aspect of our life, only Love will be because Love is its cause and its effect.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Parshat Shemini: Being Truthful in our Closeness to God's Love

"And it was on the eighth (shemini) day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel." (Leviticus 9:1)

That was the day that the Divine Presence chose to appear to the people after the heads of the tribes brought their offerings to the sanctuary.

"And they (the priests) took what Moses had commanded to the front of the tent of meeting, and the entire community approached and stood before the Lord. And Moses said: 'This is the thing which God commanded you to do; and the glory of God shall appear to you'." (9:5-6)

The commandment is to bring the offerings (to elevate all aspects and dimensions of consciousness to be closer to the Creator) to be united to God's love, His glory.

"(…) and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar; and the entire people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces." (9:23-24)

"And Aaron's sons, Nadab and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it; and they brought before the Lord an alien fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord." (10:1-2)

Some of our sages say that Nadab and Avihu decided to make their individual offerings in their own way, meaning in an egocentric attitude which was not appropriate. From this episode we learn that every trait and quality we offer to the service of the Creator must be guided according to His ways, and not by our own individual version of how it "should" be.

In the same way that God's love is unconditional in regards to the sustenance of His creation, we also must be willing to elevate our entire life to His love without strings attached or ego's agenda. Our love for God must be unconditional as it was manifest by our patriarchs.

There is nothing "personal" or particular in the way we elevate our lives to God, except for us to include all levels (lower and higher) of consciousness in our true desire to be close to His love.

"Then Moses said to Aaron, 'this is what the Lord spoke, "I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified"." (10:3)

In this context "all the people" also represent all aspects, traits, qualities, and dimensions or our life aimed to manifest (glorify) God's love.

This warning also excludes altering our consciousness with something that is not our sober and clear perception when we want to be together with our Creator.

"Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] An eternal statute for your generations." (10:9)

By being sober in our perception and awareness we are able "to distinguish between holy and profane, and between unclean and clean." (10:10)

Then it is quite clear that any artificial means to alter our consciousness in order to be close to the Creator is as unacceptable as ego's fantasies and illusions as the motivations to do so. We have to live with the truth for our own sake and the sake of others, and even more truthful regarding our desire to embrace God's love.

We are summoned to live according to His ways and attributes, and that includes what we think, feel, sense and do, and also what we eat. This previous message is consequently juxtaposed to the following verse.

"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: These are the creatures that you may eat among all the animals on Earth (…)" (11:2)

Our sages teach that the act of eating also must be approached with a moral purpose, thus warning us about animals that reflect traits that we must avoid such as predators and creeping species.

"You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping creature that creeps, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, that you should become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, and you shall not defile yourselves through any creeping creature that crawls on the ground." (11:43-44)

The parshah ends reminding us again to have a sharp discernment when we approach the material world.

"(...) to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten." (11:47)

In an analogical way it is the same approach when we have to choose between ego's illusions and fantasies, and love's ways and attributes. Either a materialistic and egocentric way of life or living a life in the truth of God's love.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parshat Tzav: The Permanent Fire of God's Love

In Tzav the offerings in the Sanctuary are detailed as well as the service of the priests (kohanim): "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying 'Command (Tzav) Aaron and his sons, saying, "This is the law of the burnt offering: That is the burnt offering which burns on the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall burn with it"." (Leviticus 6:1-2) and it is also emphasized that the fire in the altar must be lit all the time: "And the fire on the altar shall burn on it; it shall not go out. A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out." (6:5-6).

We mentioned that the offerings of "sacrifices" that we bring to our Creator in the Sanctuary represent every trait and quality of the different dimensions of consciousness. These include not just our thoughts, feelings, emotions, passions and instincts, but also our desires and the intentions behind them.

Every aspect of our individual identity must be consecrated to the Creator simply because we are His Creation and He sustains us constantly in the material reality that He created for us. Let's insist and reiterate that we are here because of His Love, and His Love is our own Essence. Hence, the offerings are the ways we relate and communicate with His Love, and ultimately to become united to Him. The permanent awareness of our connection to Him (represented by Aaron, the High Priest) is our means to achieve this unification.

In a practical sense our offerings make us maintain this awareness all the time. Our Love (the "burning fire") and God's Love (the "Heavenly fire") must be lit together in order to realize that we are His image and likeness. We realize this awareness when we know that God's Love is always with us, as we praise in our daily prayers' modim (we thank): "(…) We shall thank You and relate Your praise (evening, morning, and afternoon) for our lives, which are committed to Your power and for our souls that are entrusted to You" because our existence and all existence emanate from Him and are sustained by Him; "for Your miracles that are with us every day, and for Your wonders and favors in every season" and we have to be aware of this (the burning fire) permanently. "The Beneficent One, because Your compassion is never exhausted; and the Compassionate One, because Your loving kindnesses never ended, always have we put our hope in You.", the always good and kind Love of God that we praise when we guide every dimension of our consciousness with His Love. And let's be aware that this praise is not just with our words but with our actions.

This thanksgiving prayer is reaffirmed by our Sages: "the God of all flesh, our Molder, the Molder of the universe", because we are His Creation. Therefore, "Blessings and thanks are due Your great and holy Name because You have given us life and sustained us. So may You continue to give us life and sustain us and gather our exiles to the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary, to observe Your decrees, to do Your will and serve You wholeheartedly."

Let's understand that the exiles are not only our fellow Jews who live far from the Promised Land but also the traits and qualities of our consciousness that we have to integrate in the unity that the Tabernacle symbolizes as our permanent connection to God's Love. His Love empowers us to follow His ways and attributes (His "decrees") which are the means to serve Him with all our heart.

The permanent awareness of our connection with God (represented by the High Priest) is what blesses us, as it is written: "Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: 'The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord shine His face to you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face to you and grant you peace. So shall they put My Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.' (Numbers 6:24-27).

These are the blessings of His Love because it is about His Love for us. As we said earlier, this portion relates to our offerings and particularly about the means to elevate our life in order to be unified with the Creator. Our intellect gives us the knowledge of Him through a clear notion of the Truth that sustains the Creation. The intellect and the knowledge that provide for our understanding are represented by Moses, our teacher.

"And Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that was on the altar, and he sprinkled it on Aaron and on his garments, and on his sons, and on his sons' garments, and he sanctified Aaron, his garments, his sons and his sons' garments with him." (Leviticus 8:30). The oil symbolizes our awareness of God's Love, and the blood represents the passion with which we live His Love in the material world. Both must be impregnated in our garments that represent every dimension of our consciousness. The portion ends highlighting this fact: "And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord commanded through Moses." (8:36).

The haftarah for this portion reminds us this awareness: "And this thing I commanded them, saying: 'Hearken to My voice, so that I am your God and you are My people; and walk you in all the ways that I command you, so that it may be well with you'." (Jeremiah 7:23) which is the main message of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the knowledge of the Creator and in our connection with His Love we are truly fulfilled in the material world: "Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, neither let the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches; but let him that boast exult in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices living kindness, justice, and righteousness on the Earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord." (9:22-23) and these things come from God's Love.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Parshat Vayikra: Our Offerings to God's Love

"And He called (vayikra) to Moses and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…" (Leviticus 1:1). Our Sages teach that calling someone before speaking to him/her implies not just familiarity but closeness. The book of Leviticus (Vayikra) begins teaching us that our closeness and unity with our Creator take place in a special space we have to build with all aspects and dimensions of consciousness: the Tent of Meeting, the Sanctuary, the Temple of Jerusalem. These aspects and dimensions are rooted in the physical body because they all are bound to the material world, the place that God created for us to be and manifest our Essence and true identity which is God's Love.

In this world we exercise our identity by being and expressing Love's ways and attributes, and we do that by directing every dimension of consciousness under the guidance of Love. This direction takes place by "elevating" them to the highest place of our awareness of God's Love, represented by the Sanctuary. In this awareness our will is compelled to bring up our entire consciousness to the Oneness of God: "He shall bring it willingly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, before the Lord." (1:3).

As we mentioned frequently, Aaron the High Priest represents this awareness as the catalyst, the transforming fire that unites us with the Creator: "And the descendants of Aaron the priest shall place fire on the altar, and arrange wood on the fire." (1:7), and this is previously stated: "It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord." (Exodus 28:38).

Our Sages explain that in the altar of the Sanctuary there are two fires, a material fire and a heavenly fire; and the latter "burns" the offering. From this we learn that the traits, qualities, aspects and dimensions of our consciousness (the offerings) are transmuted through God's Love. We come from God's Love, therefore through Love as the material manifestation of His Love we transform ourselves in order to walk in His ways.

This can happen only when we are fully aware of Him and consequently willing to approach the entrance of His Sanctuary: "(…) Then, the priest shall cause to (go up in) smoke all (the entire animal) on the altar, as a burnt offering, a fire offering, (with) a pleasing fragrance to the Lord." (1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, 16; 4:31), and let's be aware that the fragrance that pleases the Creator is our Love as the expression of His Love.

"And you shall salt every one of your meal offering sacrifices with salt, and you shall not omit the salt of your God's Covenant from (being placed) upon your meal offerings. You shall offer salt on all your sacrifices." (2:13). Our Sages explain that salt represents permanence and in this context it is the everlasting Covenant between the Creator and Israel. Hence, the awareness of the Creator in our lives also must be permanent. Regarding the offerings (the aspects of consciousness that we elevate in order to be transmuted by God's Love) our Sages tell us that a peace offering is particularly different that the other offerings because it represents not another aspect of thought, mind, emotion, feeling, passion or instinct, but the desire to be closer to the Creator. Therefore it is an offering of wholeness in which our entire consciousness, in harmonious unity, yearns to live with more of God's Love.

Our peace achieved through His ways and attributes is the ultimate offering we can bring up to God: "And from the peace offering, he shall bring a fire offering to the Lord: the fat covering the innards and all the fat that is on the innards" (3:3, 14). This is the offering of wholeness not motivated by atonement but as a profound desire to be closer to the Creator and having Him more present in our lives. It is an offering filled with joy (the "fat covering"), the joy of our Love that is also His joy: "All (sacrificial) fat belongs to the Lord." (3:16, 4:19).

"If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt to the people, then he shall bring for his sin which he has committed, an unblemished young bull as a sin offering to the Lord." (4:3). The highest awareness of God's Love is also bound to the physical body, and such as it is not exempt from erring. Therefore, it must be rededicated continuously to the Creator. As our Sages say, when the High Priest sins his sin is carried by the people (all dimensions of consciousness). Likewise, when the people sin the High Priest carries their sin.

This is part of the dynamics of the unity of all levels of consciousness because everything is connected in the multidimensional human life. Joy is one of the essential qualities of Love, and by rededicating our happiness to the service of the Creator we indeed are atoned (transformed): "And he (the priest) shall cause all its fat to (go up in) smoke on the altar, just like the fat of the peace offering. Thus the priest shall make atonement for his sin, and he will be forgiven." (4:26, 31, 35).

The portion continues with the atonement of transgressions committed against our fellow man, particularly in situations in which our testimony is crucial: "If a person sins, whereby he accepts an oath and he is a witness by seeing or knowing, yet he does not testify, he shall bear his transgression." (5:1). "Or if a person touches anything unclean, whether it is the carcass of an unclean wild animal, or the carcass of an unclean domestic animal, or the carcass of an unclean creeping animal" (5:2), reminding us that our thoughts must be constantly in contact with Love's ways and attributes and not with the lowest traits represented by the carcasses of wild, unclean animals.

Our highest awareness of God's Love is what atones for each of our negative thoughts, speech, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts: "Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, from his sin which he had committed, and he shall be forgiven." (5:10). The more we live in Love's ways, the easier we transmute ("atone") the potentially negative aspects of a materialistic approach to life.

The last verses of the portion (5:20-26) deal with other transgressions against our fellow man. Our Sages remark that before we look for the Creator's forgiveness, first we must get our fellow's. Only then we can come with atonement offerings to return to God's ways and attributes.

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.