Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beshalach: Love as the Meaning of Life

One of the fundamental principles the Torah teaches, and the book of Exodus in particular, is the fact that all emanates from the Creator and is sustained by Him.

Understanding this in a deeper level means that we are His creation, and not all the way around. This also implies that in order to truly know who we are, first we have to know God.

“In all your ways, know Him. And He makes your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

The Hebrew Bible and our sages define the way to do it by what is called Judaism. This is the most important contribution to humankind since its beginnings.

Human life without a positive direction for the sake of positive effects does not make much sense. Without a true meaning there is not point, though most of us in this world live regardless true meaning or not. Life seems to be a random phenomena, and being born in a particular place and culture determine most of one's destiny, making look “luck” as the deciding factor. Such existentialist approach ends when we find and experience a true meaning in life, and this meaning is love.

We begin to understand and to know life and its meaning when we recognize love, not ego, as the true driving force in life. This is the starting point to know the Creator, because everything -- including love -- comes from Him. Through the awareness of love we begin to know God's love.

Exile under the darkness in Egypt was a negative experience from which our forefathers cried out for a true meaning in life. A valuable purpose to exist in the material world. In this context, the real point of exile and darkness is to lead us to our love as an emanation of God's love.

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to cause it to lead them on the way and at night in a pillar of fire to give them light, [they thus could] travel day and night.” (Exodus 13:21)

This verse teaches us that we exist for the sake of God's love. Teaching and directing ego in love's ways and attributes is not an easy task. We have learned in the Torah that the interaction between Moses (our highest knowledge of the Creator) and Pharaoh (ego) was not precisely a “piece of cake”.

Ego demands a minimum amount of control over most aspects of consciousness, and the lack of it generates conflict. We have confrontation between what is the positive right thing to think, desire, feel and experience, and ego's fantasies and illusions that not necessarily aim for positive and enhancing purposes.

Ego voices its fears when is not in control, and only in its silence our love and God's love can lead.

“The Lord will fight for you, but you shall remain silent.” (14:14)

Our awareness of God's love must lead every aspect of consciousness (the children of Israel).

“The Lord said to Moses, 'Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel'.” (14:15)

God's love also leads us when our own awareness of love also leads us. Once we fully experience the knowledge of God through His love, we realize that it has been ever since His creation.

“The Lord will reign to all eternity.” (15:18)

God is, has been, and He always will be. We assimilate this principle when we follow His ways and emulate His attributes.

“And He said, 'If you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His Commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you'.” (15:26)

Hence when the awareness of love leads our consciousness, there's no room for darkness or negativity.

Again let's be mindful that ego must be a complementary driving force along with love, and not opponents to each other. Two of the most negative effects of ego's feeling or belief of lack are doubt and uncertainty. In particular if we don't believe or feel that love is the true essence and identity that sustains us since birth until death.

“He named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the children of Israel and because of their testing the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord in our midst or not'?” (17:7)

Likewise, when love is not in our midst, what --if not love-- takes over? From these verses our sages relate Amalek to doubt and uncertainty, which we must vanish from our connection and relationship with God. We must do it also in our individual and collective experience with love in the material worlf.

“The Lord said to Moses, 'Inscribe this [as] a memorial in the book, and recite it into Joshua's ears, that I will surely obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the Heavens'.” (17:14)

As we mentioned above, we are God's creatures and we depend solely on His love. In this context we indeed live as a miracle from God.

“Then Moses built an altar, and he named it 'the Lord is my miracle'. And he said, 'For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, [that there shall be] a war for the Lord against Amalek from generation to generation.” (17:15-16)

We are always in the hands of the Creator. In the same way that His love sustains us, love also fights our wars against ego's fantasies and illusions. We must pursue and achieve our highest knowledge of God in order to vanish doubts and uncertainties ego makes us feel with its feeling or belief of lack.

Let's be aware that when we are fully aware of love in all levels and dimensions of consciousness, we never lack anything.

The more we live in love's ways and attributes, the more we are close to God's love. Our inner enemies are the negative traits and qualities that deny love as our true essence, identity and purpose in life. They disappear when we are completely aware of God's love as the cause and effect of His creation.

The Desert as a Field of Life

The experience of our ancestors in the Sinai desert after the Exodus from Egypt set a principle for us, individually as Jews and collectively as a Nation. We understand their journeys in the desert as a transition process between slavery in Egypt and freedom in the Promised Land, darkness and Light, exile and Redemption, ignorance and knowledge. It seems to be a process in which there are many elements involved with total freedom as the common purpose. Life itself encompasses a similar process as the vehicle that supposes to be the means and the end for freedom. We have said many times that freedom is inherent to life in the sense that freedom is the means to experience it in a meaningful way. For this we have to define "freedom" and "meaningful". Even though both terms seem to complement each other, they may mean something different depending on who defines them and this also depends on the circumstances and the borders within we live.

We also have said often that Love is what gives sense and purpose in life, while the opposite of Love's ways and attributes deny any sense nor purpose in life. With these premises in mind we are going to approach "desert" and "journey" as well as "transition" and "purpose", among other terms relevant in the message that we aim to convey here. The desert is a place related to barrenness, lifelessness and something unable to sustain life. We can't live in a desert as a dwelling place unless we bring with us what we are going to need there in order to survive. The material world offers more suitable places, and the last place we want or need to go is a desert, except if we can find in it an oasis or an enlarged version like the one called Las Vegas. 

It's amazing what ego's materialistic desires can achieve to the point of building an entertaining city in the middle of the desert dedicated to fantasies and illusions. It sounds like defying the whole point that the Torah wants to teach us about Israel's journeys in the desert, which was to be closer to the Creator and not closer to ego's desires. The desert is the absence of anything that invites our consciousness to desire or to possess, simply because there is nothing there. We leave behind the accessories for a life in comfort in order to find something that gives meaning to any possible material asset to experience life in the best conceivable way. The desert, the land of nothing, the non-having and non-desiring place becomes the setting as a precondition to start knowing the One who created all and owns all. 

As we reflect on this, we start realizing that we humans do not really own anything, neither in the material world nor in the spiritual world. This is easy to confirm this when we realize that we don't take with us what we have when we die. In other words, we must realize that the only "possession" is our consciousness as long as we live with it in freedom. This is one of the lessons about knowing the Creator when we "meet" Him in the wilderness of Sinai. We can stand before Him when our consciousness is free from the bondage of material illusions we call "possessions" and other fantasies created by ego's desires.

Our mystic Sages say that we have to empty our consciousness in order to make space for God's blessings, which are His ways and attributes for us to experience and manifest in what we think, feel, speak and do. This conclusion is based on the Talmudic quote, "The Creator doesn't dwell with one who is full of himself", just because he leave no space for Him. Hence, the main obstruction to approach Him is the way we conceive ourselves individually, and what we do with our life according to such conception. Here we start to make the classical existential questions related to who or what we are, why are we here, etc. In the answers we suppose to find the whole point.

Most people believe that we are the result of our circumstances, and we act according to them without objections because "that's all there is". If we are not happy with that, we try as much as we can to change things and turn our circumstances according to what or who we think we are or "should" be. The other day an Israeli newspaper mentioned a new book of about a religious character whose life and deeds are based on legends that have been modified or transformed according to the interests of a particular religion. This book pretends to give a different perspective or vision about this particular character based on other legends and the author's own interpretation of them. He is basically trying to change a myth with his own version of the same myth, a lie from another lie. Most of us do the same regarding beliefs, customs, habits and views about things and people, and we are (not all of us) changing throughout our lives according to the times and circumstances.

We must assimilate the "desert" as a state of consciousness in which we make a space to meet the Creator. In order to enter this space we must reflect on our needs in every aspect of life, and come to the awareness that all our needs are fulfilled by God. If we don't realize this, we are back into the bondage of an approach to life that commands us to live according to ego's "rules of the game" or "fair play" in the fields of the material world. This is when we rather return to the consciousness of "Egypt" than pursuing a consciousness of real freedom in the fields of God. We have to embark in a journey in a desert with many stops and turns until we empty all levels of consciousness in order to let God fill them with the Essence of who we truly are. 

In this process God's Love is fully revealed to us in direct proportion to the space we allow for Him in our consciousness. The more we experience Love and manifest Love, the more we are able to transform darkness into Light. Our Sages say that a good deed is rewarded with the opportunity to do another good deed, and it makes sense because once we see the Light and hold it in our hands we are able to illuminate dark places. They also refer to the light of fire as something that we give or share without losing it, as it also happens with Love's ways and attributes. We give Love without losing it. We understand Love as something endless and infinite as God's Love, because it is our Essence and identity as well as the source and sustenance of life.

We realize this when we entrust ourselves to leave behind the mirages, fantasies and illusions of what we are not, and the "desert" is the empty space in our consciousness where this endeavor takes place. Here is where we stand before our Creator, who tells us that we are His and belong to Him, not to ego's illusions. Not to Egypt, not to Vegas, not to consumer society, not to "light" culture, not to vanity and glamour, not to futility, not to a meaningless life. In the desert we meet our Creator and in the desert we build a Sanctuary for Him, a place in the highest level of consciousness in which both our highest awareness of Him and our highest awareness of our connection to Him are the main leading and driving forces to approach life and the material world as emanations of God's Love.

In order to understand and assimilate the knowledge of life and the world, first we have to know their Creator and His Love; and we do this through Love as our common bond with Him. Let's leave behind our bondage to the material illusions fabricated by ego and engage in our individual inner journey to the place where only the Truth of who we are dwells, and let's dwell always in this Truth. This is Israel's legacy, inheritance and destiny as the state of consciousness in which God's Love fills every space of who we are as His children and as His chosen people, because we chose back to embrace Him as our Father and our King. This is our true Essence and identity, either in the desert or in any other place, to turn the desert into a field of life as He conceives it for us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bo: From Darkness to Light

The last three plagues prior to the Exodus from Egypt came with a deeper awareness of the Creator as the One and only cause and effect of His Creation.

Each plague corresponds to a particular level of consciousness that we must awaken in order to have a complete awareness of Him in our life and in the material world. We are His creatures, and anything we may think or believe we are or have comes from Him and belongs to Him: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the Name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) and this is the first step to start the process of getting to know Him.

The plague of the locusts represents the Creator's ownership of our nourishment both material and spiritual, and the verse of its arrival is juxtaposed to His Commandment for Israel to serve Him:

“Let My people go, and they will serve Me. For if you refuse to let [them] go, behold, tomorrow I am going to bring locusts into your borders.” (Exodus 10:3-4)

The awareness of His absolute ownership and control is a premise to relate to Him according to His will, which is to serve Him. The main obstacle to assimilate and adopt this premise is ego and its desires, represented by Pharaoh and Egypt. The following plague, darkness, is the material and spiritual experience of the complete absence of God's Presence in our consciousness, which is also a direct consequence of ego's blindness to give in to God's Love from where His Creation comes:

“They [the Egyptians] did not see each other, and no one rose [moved] from his place for three days; but for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.” (10:23)

This awareness (the Light in the dwellings of the Israelites) of God's Presence in His Creation makes the difference between darkness and Light. In this context ego is one dimension of consciousness that we also must direct to our full awareness of the Creator's will:

“And Moses said [to Pharaoh], 'You too shall give sacrifices and burnt offerings into our hands, and we will make them for the Lord our God'.” (10:25)

In our positive actions and deeds (“our hands”) we serve and honor God's Love, and ego is successfully directed not by good intentions but by good deeds. When we act in Love's ways and attributes, our positive actions don't leave any room for materialistic fantasies and illusions. These seduce ego to take control of our life and lead us back to darkness, where we can't see beyond ourselves.

Darkness is the result of ego's agenda to make the world spin around its desires. In this sense, darkness is the worst of all the plagues because it prevents us to see beyond of who we think we are. In darkness we are really lost, and in this predicament we have no choice but to seek the Light in order to be truly redeemed. This was the Creator's preordained experience for us to move our consciousness towards the Truth. Our Sages teach that the darkness of exile is the beginning to search for the Light of Redemption.

The tenth and final plague is the death of the firstborn of those who denied the Creator's ownership of His Creation. The firstborn represents our primary intention in life along with its values, principles and goals, like the first fruits of the land that we must bring as offerings in the Temple. The Egyptians' firstborns were inexorably dedicated to submit their lives to materialism without creating anything beyond the futility of ego's illusions.

The firstborn is the first expansion of our human essence, as a reaffirmation of God's Love as the cause and effect of everything, including life. In this sense, we have to consecrate such expansion to Love's ways and attributes as the material manifestations of God's Love:

“Sanctify to Me every firstborn, every one that opens the womb among the children of Israel, among man and among animals; it is Mine.” (13:2)

After all, everything belongs to Him. When we consecrate our extensions to ego's rule we are indeed “dead” before God's Love. The experience of our closeness to God's Love is the beginning of our freedom, and it is our first Commandment as Jews to commemorate the first of the months as a memorial of our liberation from darkness. The New Moon as the beginning of the months (see our commentary on Hanukah in December 2011 in this blog) because we realize our true Essence and identity when we reveal Light out of darkness:

“And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for the Lord; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute.” (12:14)

This is the experience and legacy of our exile and bondage in darkness: to live the blessing of revealing Light as our true identity when we cry out loud to God's Love to lead every aspect and dimension of consciousness in His ways and attributes. Mystic Sages explain that the seven-day period to celebrate Pesach and Succot represents a continuing process through which we correct and elevate the seven primordial emotions known as loving kindness as compassion, power as self-control, truthfulness as enlightenment, perseverance as triumph, honor as glory, righteousness as the foundation of justice, and prevalence as sovereignty. When we are committed to practice these qualities on a daily basis as a moment to moment expression or our true identity, we are serving the Creator in order to fully reveal His Presence in the material world.

This knowledge we must have every moment, not only as a Commandment: “And it shall be for a sign upon your hand (in what we do) and for ornaments between your eyes (in what we think, see and learn), for with a mighty hand did the Lord take us out of Egypt.” (13:16)

The permanent awareness of God's Love as our Creator and sole owner of all that exists. This includes the Light He gives us to return to Him when we realize that we don't belong to darkness in the realm of illusion, but to His Love as the realm of Truth. As individuals we must have the courage to “come to Pharaoh (ego)” and confront it with the full awareness that Love is the real ruler of life from its beginning to its end, as God's Love is the ruler of His Creation.

The Final Redemption in Judaism I

Our Prophets and Sages refer to the Final Redemption both in concrete and allegorical definitions, and there is nothing obscure or unclear about their meanings. Maimonides says that the Messianic era, as the time for the Final Redemption, starts when we individually and collectively truly love each other, just because. He points out that while the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless and uncalled for hatred, the Third and permanent Temple of Jerusalem will be build because of selfless and unrestricted Love for each other. Again, we reaffirm the axiom that Love is the key to Redemption simply because Love does not coexist with anything different from its ways and attributes. It does not seem easy to love each other, otherwise we would have gained our Redemption long time ago; and we have to reflect thoroughly on why we don't love each other in the same way that the Creator loves His Creation.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks about the Final Redemption through impressive allegories such as the lion eating grass along with the lamb, in what our Sages call the total vanishing of the "evil inclination". In other words, our human free will is going to be able to naturally choose goodness all the time. The challenge we seem to face is how we get to that level of higher consciousness. How can we be capable to disregard or ignore evil in order to choose goodness all the time? How can we turn the wild untamed lion that represents ego out of control into a docile and obedient driving force always willing to pursue goodness for the sake of goodness? The answer to both questions is that we achieve it in a gradual process of refining all aspects and dimensions of consciousness. We have lions and wolves as well as sheep and lambs, as allegories to negative and positive traits that we must harmonize towards Love's ways and attributes. We do that precisely through Love's ways and attributes.

We mentioned before that our Sages say that those who want to be redeemed must prepare for their Redemption, in the same way that we do what we must in order to get what we need or want. There is no other way to do it. We prepare for what we desire with all our soul, heart and might, and the Torah commands us to do that referring to the Creator. This is not about a blind love or desire to be close to Him and His Love, but a genuine desire to know His ways and attributes as the means to love Him. Our Love for Him does not come from thoughts, emotions or feelings but from our discernment and knowledge of Him. Isaiah indicates that the only interest in the "end of times" as the Final Redemption will be the knowledge of God, which will cover the Earth as the water fills the bed of the oceans. 

This is not an abstract knowledge of the Creator but a concrete awareness of His ways and attributes for us to emulate, and we achieve it when we act according to Love's ways and attributes. This is how we understand "loving each other" as the foundation of the highest awareness of our connection and relationship with God, represented by the Temple of Jerusalem. This is the context of our daily prayers when we ask the Creator to rebuild Jerusalem, because besides being the undivided capital of Israel it also represents a united consciousness in its highest knowledge of God.

We have said that the destructions of the First and the Second Temples were the result of doing the opposite to Love's attributes, and we will build the Third Temple by honoring Love's attributes as the ways of God's Love. We mentioned that in a gradual process we individually begin to ignore anything negative and focus on the positive, as a natural way to perceive and approach life and the material world. Most of what we call or see as evil or negative is the result of our own evil or negative approach. All the things we don't like in this world are the effect of either what we or others have done with the wrong attitude. Wars, hunger, slavery, exploitation and their synonyms are the result of egocentricity, and their opposites are the effect of mutual understanding and cooperation out of the common knowledge that these are synonyms of selfless Love.

The good news about the Final Redemption is that once we individually redirect all aspects of consciousness in Love's ways, God's Love does the rest as He promised in the Torah in through our Prophets. Once we choose to return to Him, He will release us from the mirages and fantasies of ego's materialistic desires. Some Sages say that the Final Redemption will come with a sudden and absolute change in human consciousness, in which we are not going to be able to tell the difference between before and after that change occurs. It will be as if evil and negativity have never existed, and we must prepare now in order to allow the imminent change to occur sooner than later. We don't need to wait for the Final Redemption as a Divine decree, but as a mutual agreement between our Love and God's Love; and it's up to us to start fulfilling the agreement because it is us who yearn for Redemption.

Let's start not only to "visualize" Love, peace and harmony among each other but to make it real through positive actions. In the same way that some say "let there be peace and let it start with me", we must say the same about Love and its ways and attributes not only as the right and proper things to do, but because Love is our true Essence and identity. Love is our greatest legacy and inheritance because Love is the portion that makes us happy and fulfilled. Our Sages say that "rich is the person who is happy with his/her lot". We have said many times that "lot" may mean who we are, what we have or the circumstances in which we live, but we believe that our true lot is the awareness of how close or far we are from God. In this sense our lot is Love as whom we are, what we have and the circumstances in which we are when Love is the guide and conductor of all aspects of our consciousness. This is the greatest fulfillment and happiness we can ever have. Final Redemption is at hand when Love is totally enthroned in our life.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Jewish Spiritual Approach to Ego

We all know that ego is one of the fundamental driving forces of human life, along with intellect, mind, emotions, passions and instincts. Ego actually belongs to a different category because it acts independently from the others, and use them to fulfill its agenda. In this sense, ego uses the other aspects of consciousness to satisfy its "desires", what we here usually call material "fantasies" and "illusions". Our Sages define what we call ego in two interchangeable and complementary terms, which are what they call the "animal soul" or nefesh and the "evil inclination" or yetzer ha'rah. In other words, they say that the animal soul is the source of the all potentially negative activity of human consciousness. They compare the animal soul to a wild ox that either can destroy a field or build it, and indicate that its "seat" is the heart. Based on this allegory, some explain that the animal soul has the potential to "good inclination" when one succeeds in directing it for a positive purpose.

This means that, besides being a powerful driving force, ego can help us build or destroy the field that we call life. In Judaism, the personages who chose to conduct their lives based on their personal, "selfish" agenda such as Cain, Ham, Nimrod, Esau, Laban, and Pharaoh among many others are by definition enemies of anyone or anything that questions their "ways", including their own Creator. This antagonistic attitude towards anything good and positive rejects and fights the purpose of God's Love in His Creation, and by extension the goodness of Love's ways and attributes. This negative attitude turns life into something meaningless and vain, resembling more to death. We have said that our human discernment understands that life is the purpose of God's Creation as an emanation of His Love, which must always prevail in spite of the opposition from those who want to make suffering, hatred, hunger, pain, disease and death the rulers in the material world. Love always prevails because as the human manifestation of God's Love is the real source of life and the real driving force in human consciousness. We all know, including those who are against it, that none can live without Love.

In this context we have said (see commentaries on Bereshit and Noach in this blog) that the Flood, Babel's tower, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Egypt during the Exodus, where episodes in our history in which God's Love made prevail real freedom for the sake of Love's ways and attributes over the darkness of ego's idolatry. We must perceive what occurred in those times and places not as destruction but as transitions to make us value, cherish and protect the freedom than only Love can give us. We as individuals and as humankind have gone through more pain than fulfillment in the process of learning what is really important in our lives.

It seems certainly unbelievable that we still live like those in the times of the Flood, when people didn't believe in anything but their ego's illusions and lived to steal from others and kidnap others in order to have their possessions. Almost 70 years ago more than 55 million people died during a war against the threat of totalitarianism as it happened in the times of Babel's tower, when Nimrod was emulated by Hitler and the so called fundamentalist radical Islamic "militants". We still suffer racism, discrimination, xenophobia, cruelty and torture as in Sodom and Gomorrah, not to mention the current sexual depravity and immorality of religious fanatics "marrying" ten year-old girls. And we still see slave trade and forced servitude in many countries, most of them under Islamic rule, and several other forms of slavery among the most conspicuous of all, consumer's society.

The first four portions of the book of Exodus have two main characters which are Moses and Pharaoh. Each represent completely oppose qualities. Pharaoh is the epitome of an egocentric approach to life and the material world, and Moses the highest awareness of God's Love in His Creation. Moses, the most humble of human being who has ever lived and Pharaoh as the most arrogant of all Biblical characters. One whose delusional desires pretend to subjugate and exploit all levels and dimensions of consciousness, and the one whose only mission is to direct them under the guidance of God's Love. One full of himself while the other is full of the awareness of Love's attributes. In this opposite traits we can have an idea of who is who.

Our oral tradition tells us that Moses lived 40 years in Egypt in the palace of the ruler of the most depraved nation of its time, 40 years among idolaters in Median, and 40 years as the man who was the closest to the Creator. These three periods mean that Moses went through several transitions in order to become the chosen redeemer of the children of Israel in Egypt. This teaches us that we all sooner or later go through one stage to the other in the process to achieve complete awareness of the Creator. At one point we get fed up with the futility of living a meaningless life under ego's fantasies and illusions. Then, we start reflecting and meditating on the things that are really relevant in life, as the shepherds do when they tend the sheep. Finally, when we are living free and far from materialistic illusions, we are ready to meet the Divine Presence concealed by such illusions.

Sages say that those who want to be redeemed must prepare for Redemption. In other words, as it always is, the choice is ours. Either Moses or Pharaoh, the Promised Land or Egypt.

Vaeira: Love as Freedom from Ego's Dominion

Our Sages explain the hardships of the children of Israel under heavy bondage in Egypt as a learning and purifying process prior to standing before the Divine Presence. We have said many times that evil and negativity are just references for our free will to make the positive choices that bring us goodness, prosperity and true fulfillment and happiness. The only way to make positive choices is to have an absolute knowledge of what are their opposites. By absolute we mean a thorough and complete awareness of what we must avoid in order to pursue our destiny as individuals and as humankind. 

This approach is the opposite of a partial or relative knowledge of evil and negativity, which justifies them as a “natural” part of our consciousness. The bondage in Egypt was the overwhelming and unbearable immersion in the materialistic approach to life under which ego (Pharaoh) is the god that dominates all levels of consciousness. When our attachment to ego's fantasies and illusions becomes unbearable, for they are devoid of true meaning and fulfillment, we can finally recognize, value and cherish Love's ways and attributes.

The harsh suffering of living under a meaningless and futile life is the darkness from where we seek the Light. God's will is our total happiness and fulfillment as it was originally meant in the Garden of Eden, and we are destined to return there by making positive choices, though this is entirely up to us.

Thus we understand the learning process mentioned above when the Creator answers Moses' complaint about Israel's hardships in Egypt: “(…) and He said to him, 'I am the Lord'.” (Exodus 6:2) because He determines the way we stand before Him. We have to reiterate that He gave us free will to either choose His ways or not. We as His People are destined to choose as He commands us and, in full awareness of our Covenant with Him, we choose His ways and attributes. These our Patriarchs saw in their relationship with Him: “I appeared to [lit. was seen over] Abraham, to [over] Isaac, and to [over] Jacob (…)” (6:3).

In the process of learning from the bondage to ego's materialistic illusions we ultimately realize that Love's ways and attributes are our true freedom, out of God's Love: “And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (6:7).

As we mentioned in our commentaries on the book of Exodus (see 2010-2011 in this blog) Moses represents our highest knowledge of the Creator and Aaron the highest awareness of our connection to Him. These two qualities are the premises to relate to Him: “That is Aaron and Moses, to whom the Lord said, 'Take the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt with their legions'.” (6:26).

Both Moses and Aaron represent the qualities that empower us to break up materialistic fantasies and illusions through the full awareness of Love's attributes as the true references to approach life and the material world: “They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let the children of Israel out of Egypt; they are Moses and Aaron.” (6:27). Love is entitled and destined to direct and guide all the driving forces of life, ego included.

God's Love gives us life to empower it with Love as our Essence and identity, and our highest knowledge of the Creator endows us to enthrone Love as the ruler over all levels of consciousness: “The Lord said to Moses, 'See! I have made you a lord [lit. a god] over Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your speaker'.” (7:1).

If we know nowadays the hardships it takes to make ego subservient to our will, imagine how difficult was then under the bondage in the one considered the most depraved society of ancient times. In this sense we understand the need to “hit” Pharaoh, the Egyptians and their land not with one or two but ten plagues. Mystic Sages explain that each plague represents a step to “sensitize” human consciousness by recognizing the Creator's will as the sole owner and conductor of His Creation.

Blood is related to warm and affectionate feelings as the bearer and nurturer of life, opposite to water as inorganic and cold as a materialistic, egotistic approach to life. The river Nile was and still is the source of life for Egypt, and Egyptians took it for granted as if the river did not depend on the Creator' will. By turning its waters into blood, they had to dig wells to drink from.

Frogs also have cold blood, and coming from the water to jump into ovens was another lesson to learn that, no matter how cold we may be, we must look for warming ourselves in the heat that represents our heart as Love. The lice as bloodsuckers also represent ego's ruthless use of the source of life to satisfy its materialistic desires at the expense and suffering of others.

Wild animals represent harmful thoughts, vicious emotions, destructive passions and uncontrolled instincts which characterize the negative aspects of consciousness raised by ego's negative agenda. Pestilence is the result of the destruction of ego's misleading fantasies and illusions, and so skin eruptions as the effect of ego's heated desires when out of control. Hail mixed with fire descended from the sky to teach us that opposite qualities such as water and fire can coexist together under the Creator's will, as well as fire that burns and doesn't consume, which represents God's Love for us.

The plagues as lessons and steps to submit ego to the higher consciousness of Love are reminders that God's Love is our Creator. By being and manifesting Love as the ruler and conductor of our consciousness we leave behind our exile and bondage under a purposeless life, and be ready to approach the meaningful and transcending destiny the Creator has for us. Our individual and collective Exodus begins when we make the choice to embrace Love as our true Essence and identity, and God's Love as our Creator that sustains us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Shemot: Our True Identity as Redemption

Slavery and freedom are two main subjects in the book of Exodus, both bound to our relationship with the Creator. Although our Sages refer to the usual translation as slavery, they point out that the Hebrew term suggests servitude or service depending on the context in which is mentioned. Hence we can serve God either as His servants or His slaves, and most of our Sages prefer the idea of service when there is a common agreement between the one who serves and the one who is served.

In service one seems to have a relative degree of independence, and his/her work is the result of his/her choice based on a mutually convenient accord. In contrast, slavery implies forced service or labor against the will of who provides his work. We know the difference and we must raise the distinction in order to approach this decisive period of our Jewish history.

Slavery or servitude is mentioned as a curse when Noah declared that Ham will serve his brothers Shem and Japheth. Also as a prophecy revealed to Rebecca regarding her sons, stating that the older will serve the younger. Regarding Ham, our Sages say that his attachment to negative emotions, lower passions and uncontrolled instincts made him enslaved to these. This predicament also made him subservient to those more capable to master the lower aspects of consciousness.

Our oral tradition tells that Ham, the raven and the dog were the only ones who transgressed God's order to abstain from sexual intercourse inside Noah's ark during the Flood. Esau shared similar traits that destined him to serve the higher consciousness represented by Jacob. These precedents of slavery or servitude are clear references to examine our ancestors' bondage as servitude in Egypt.

We learn from these Biblical accounts that identity defines in lesser or greater proportion how we exercise free will in terms of what and who we serve, or for what and for whom we dedicate our life. In this sense we understand that the saga of the Exodus starts with the names (shemot) of the children of Israel as their identities. These names are mentioned to teach us that our awareness of who we are and from where we come determines for Whom and for what we live in this world, either be in exile or in our Promised Land.

The first portion of Shemot reveals two aspects of slavery: the more we are assimilated into a reality contrary to our true Essence and identity, the more we enslave our consciousness to values, patterns and lifestyles that deny our real purpose in this world. Ironically, as we have said many times, in the darkness of exile's alien reality --equalized to ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions-- is where we force ourselves to search for freedom.

Our Sages say that Egypt is the prototype of all Jewish exiles, and that is why we pray three times a day to be redeemed from there. Even though it happened many centuries ago, we still cry out to God's Love to deliver us from servitude under the illusions of the material world, derived from the egocentric consciousness represented by Pharaoh. Not many among seven billion people can boast about making a living according to what we like or desire in terms of work or means for survival.

The ideal “best work is the best play” is a remote childhood memory when mowing the grass, painting the fence, and shinning dad's shoes were the most enjoyable works to play because we loved to do them. Love is what reminds us of our true identity, and the reason why life and God's Creation exist. We find no meaning in anything we do or may have if Love is not their cause and effect.

Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh asking him for permission to let the Israelites go to the desert for a festival honoring their God. He denied the petition arguing that he didn't know God, because Pharaoh -- as the epitome of ego -- believed that he was his own god. Our Sages analyze the Hebrew word for festival, saying that its semantic root means to encircle or to gather around in a circle, in which the Creator is in the center.

This invites us to discern again on the circle and the pyramid as opposite models, about how we relate to each other as individuals, and in society as a whole. The circle rejects categories, levels, casts, upper or lower, because we are all equal in the eyes of God. There we are commanded to follow His ways and emulate His attributes as the common denominator of our Jewish identity. This is one of the primordial principles of Judaism, and the Torah presents the children of Israel as the family whose circle is the Light for the nations, and these to emulate the Jewish model. The circle is the result of Love's ways and attributes as the material reflections of God's Love, and we understand His Love by following His Commandments.

We have names that identify who we are as the children of Israel wherever we may be As long as we maintain this awareness we know by Whom do we live and for Whom do we live and serve. This is an essential part of Joseph's legacy to us, because he not only affirmed that he was a Hebrew but acted as one while he was a servant and a ruler. By reaffirming his true identity he was able to rule in his surroundings either as a slave or as a viceroy. The awareness of our true identity secures our autonomy, and this inner freedom leads us to Redemption. All we are and do with Love as our Essence and identity are the true service that we are destined to realize. 

God's Love redeemed our forefathers from their slavery under the lowest levels of life, to make them serve Him up on the highest levels of consciousness where real freedom dwells. From there we serve only with our Love, for the sake of Love as freedom. In this awareness there's no submission to negative thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts, because Love is our freedom and redemption as material manifestations of God's Love:

“They will make war against you but will be unable to defeat you, because I am with you, says the Lord to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:19) and “Days are coming when Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill the face of the Earth like fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6)

The Feminine Principle

The Feminine Principle of Creation is the revealed Presence of the Creator in the material world, while the Masculine Principle represents His concealed Presence. The mission of men and women as representatives of humanity is to fully reveal the Divine Presence in Creation, referred in the Hebrew Scriptures as the mission to create in this world a place where the Creator may dwell among us, in every dimension of consciousness. Let's start with Judaism's fundamental principle of the Oneness of the Creator that we perceive partially in our human reasoning. This partial comprehension makes us perceive material reality in terms of dualism, divisions or separations, and one  reason for this is to exercise the free will that the Creator gave us. In this sense we also perceive the unknown to us as somehow "separate" from the wholeness encompassed by Divinity. In the process of understanding Oneness we are compelled to assimilate both revealed and unrevealed as part of the same.

Jewish mysticism explains Creation as the result of Divine emanations also partially revealed to human perception and understanding. Due to their Divine origin, these emanations are factually incomprehensible to us. Mystic Sages illustrate them as "spheres" (sfirot) self-contained concentrically and at the same time projections of the previous ones, since all are part of a single unit. We may also conceive them visually as planes in vertical sequence, and their base or lowest projection (malchut) corresponds to the material Creation that we know as physical realm or material reality. In our perception all that our senses and intellect can grasp is nothing but the perfection of Creation, which as we said we can conceive only partially, and this aspect of Creation is what we will try to define as Feminine Principle. All that the senses perceive is part of a Divine Plan in which life and the knowledge of the Creator are the main purpose. All the elements that comprise the material Creation exist in order to generate life and sustain life. Mineral, vegetable, animal and human exist and interact to give expression to the living, and that function is the material manifestation of the Principle we seek to define as Feminine. We call it feminine because, as we have realized through human history, it is the generating force of life.

In this context we can understand the Feminine Principle as the very Essence that creates, generates and sustains the material Creation as a result of God's Love. Our perception and discernment help us determine what generates life and what doesn't. We can say that all existing life is the Feminine Principle as the material expression of Divine Love, and the Woman is both the allegorical and specific manifestation of this Principle. Allegorical because she represents the potential of life and conception of life, in the same way that God's Love is for His Creation. Specific because she gestates life and gives birth to life. The Woman then is endowed to gestate the miracle of life, understanding life as the material effect of Love.

This verse refers to the Feminine Principle embodied in the Woman: "And the man called his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living" (Genesis 3:20) and the fact that she is all life is confirmed in the Hebrew Bible, which mentions for the first time the Feminine Principle in the verse: "(...) and God created man in His image, in the image of the Lord he was created; male [masculine] and female [feminine] He created them" (1:27) as essential elements for the revelation of the Divine Presence in Creation. "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him [an] helper, [his] opposite to him.'" (2:18), "(...) but found no helper for Adam [his] opposite to him" (2:20) opposite in a complementary sense, since both were created initially as one (1:27) which is why Adam said, "This time [she] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. For this shall be called woman, because from the man was taken" and the narrative goes on saying, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they become one flesh" (2:23-24) because one is part of the other. This is also an integral and cooperative unity because that's how they fulfill together their mission in the world. Here is remarked the word "helper" as essential to the Masculine Principle in our common destination to reveal the concealed Divine Presence in Creation. The overriding message of the Hebrew Bible is the cooperation and mutual aid among human beings, as the ethical and compelling Commandment to love one another.

Women in Jewish history make us understand the mission entrusted to the Jewish people by the Creator, and in particular to their men. Their mission as "helpers" is, as already mentioned, the vital expression of Love as what generates and sustains life. Hence women are the personification of the Feminine Principle: "The man [Adam] called the name of his woman [wife] Eve, because she was the mother of all living" (3:20) because life emanates from her, in the same way that all existence emanates from the Creator. Thus we understand that she is "a crown to her husband" and "a pearl of great price for his life" (Proverbs 12:4, 31:10). Our Sages say about her that "the wife [woman] is the house" and in a deeper meaning through her Man builds his consciousness to fulfill together their destiny to reveal the concealed Divine Presence.

The majority of women in Jewish history have faithfully personified the help and support required to reveal the Divine Presence in the material world. This support covers many and varied aspects that make up the attributes of Love as the material manifestation of Divine Love. We know that filial love is unconditional, and the way it directs us in shaping human character and personality for the sake of ethical values inherent to Love. Sarah and Rebecca are both archetypes of the same paradigm. Sarah was to Abraham and Isaac what Rebecca was for Isaac and Jacob. These archetypes become more complex with Leah and Rachel, along with Zilpah and Bilhah, because from them other traits and qualities derive to determine the identity of Israel as the Jewish people. Our oral tradition emphasizes on the physical beauty of the Jewish Matriarchs to teach us that such quality is a reflection of their spiritual beauty. Hence, they were coveted by kings and enemies of our Patriarchs as well. In this sense we must understand beauty as a spiritual quality rather than a physical trait, and not falling for exterior beauty devoid of spiritual substance. This defines the Jewish conception of beauty in contrast to the Hellenic definition.

Tamar and Ruth, converts to Judaism like all our Matriarchs, represent the same archetype mentioned before, both with the specific destiny of the total and final revelation of the Divine Presence. This is the proclamation of the sovereignty of the Creator and Ruler of His Creation. This proclamation is the mission and destiny of Israel as the Jewish people who mainly descended from Judah, seen as the quality of royalty required to enthrone the Kingdom of the Creator in the material world. We must conceive the Creator as Father and as King and it is essential to refer to Him and relate to Him with a Torah protocol that contains 613 clauses, 248 that we have to fulfill and 365 from which we must abstain.

As Jews we have to relate to our women in full consciousness of our identity as a fundamental premise to fulfill our destiny as men and as a people. The same goes for Jewish women. We strengthen our Jewish identity with the attributes of the Creator that the Torah instructs us to follow and emulate, which also emanate from our own Love as the material manifestation of God's Love. Thus we understand the preeminence of Love derived from the Feminine Principle as a reference to express the Masculine Principle.

Men and women share in different proportions both Principles and women further reveal Love in the material world by their capacity to bear and create life. Many Aboriginal cultures equate the earth to Woman, and this equality is axiomatic. Therefore, in their traditions and rituals the Woman is the central figure as the tangible expression of life, as well as Love as the Essence that begets life. So it is understandable that the feminine in the arts has a prominent position. Emotional and sensual attraction and dependency to the feminine fill most of the language of popular music. This also confirms the strong presence of the Feminine Principle which we must address as a means and not as an end in the process to fully reveal the Divine Presence through the Masculine Principle. In this regard it is crucial that the Man receives the Woman's support as a bearer and giver of Love as life in order to integrate it into the male consciousness. Once man enthrones in his consciousness Love as the guide of all its traits, qualities, levels and dimensions, the Divine Presence will be fully revealed as the manifestation of our Final Redemption.

We must love as women do, and as men to lead our Love as the foundation of our relationship with the Creator, and likewise with our fellow human beings. Love, as our true Essence and identity, belongs to Man and Woman alike because both were created equal as the image and likeness of the Creator, and as a result of His Love. As complement and supplement for each other, Man and Woman are united by Love as their common Essence. In their union, Love revealed in the Woman encourages the Man to awaken and express his Love, and in that mutual correspondence Love as life is reproduced in its full capacity, power and strength. Thus we see Love as the constructive force upon which we build life to generate life as the material manifestation of Divine Love. It is imperative that men and women recognized each other in their common Essence.

Throughout our history, the Woman has maintained her identity as the epitome of Love, remaining faithful and loyal to it. Thus we understand her faithfulness and loyalty to the Creator amid all the vicissitudes that the Jewish people lived during their exile in Egypt, in their passage through the desert before and after the giving of the Torah, in their settlement in the Promised Land, in their wars and resistance to invaders, in exile in Persia and Babylon, and in the Diaspora. We must pay attention to our history since the Covenant with the Creator until now, studied and evaluated as men and women heirs of the Covenant. Thus we begin to truly know who we were and we are as men and women, as a people, and as a Nation. Clearly, in our tradition, women have maintained their Jewish female identity in greater proportion than Jewish men's identity. This makes us consider that the Feminine Principle has been prevalent and crucial to maintaining and sustaining life in the material world. It is about time to start making prevail in our male identity the Feminine Principle that for many centuries we have turned away and relegated as alien to men and peculiar to women, because it is the same Love that give us life, protects us, sustains us and seeks the best and most convenient for our survival under the darkness of the illusions created by the ego as the false conductor of our consciousness.

In this assessment we conclude that in greater proportion we as men have elevated ego with its fantasies and illusions as the individual god we each make of it. Fantasies and illusions inflated through ideologies, beliefs, ideas and fashion trends filled with negativity to generate wars, conflicts and suffering become the carriers of desolation and death. They are the opposites of what Love and its attributes can generate as life and plenitude. Men and women united must recognize and rediscover each other as complements to the same Principle which is the will of the Creator. Our Final Redemption comes when we rebuild what we destroyed with immorality, murder and idolatry, and baseless hatred to one another, by doing the opposite to these. This reconstruction happens by being and manifesting Love in order to replace immorality with integrity. We make murder disappear by protecting and nurturing life, and instead of believing and worshiping ego's fantasies and illusions we follow Love's ways and attributes. As a result of this we replace ego's uncalled for hatred by loving each other, emulating God's Love for us.

We have to forge this destination stored for us by the Creator, since the Redemption of His Love is a miracle that we must start in consonance with Him.  Without His Love there is no Love.  Hence women as well as men must reflect on their own identity, and in this awareness Man may embrace his own. Then both together may start rebuilding human consciousness after its destruction for such a long time. As we do it, we begin to experience the other part of the Divine Plan mentioned above, which is to know the Creator as we have never done it before. Once we dissipate the negative aspects of consciousness by enthroning Love in all its levels and dimensions, our only interest and desire will be the knowledge of God. We have to make Love our individual and collective consciousness with which together we can reveal the concealed Divine Presence in the material world, and proclaim that "the whole Earth is full of His Glory", "the Glory of God will be revealed and all flesh together will see it." (Isaiah 6:3, 40:5), "For the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of God, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14), and His Glory is His Love.

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.