Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tzav: Elevating our Life to God's Love

Tzav continues detailing the offerings to be brought to the Creator in order to be close to Him. We have mentioned (see our commentaries on Parshat Tzav: “Keeping the Fire up” on March 23, 2010 and “The Permanent Fire of Divine Love” on March 13, 2011 in this blog) that in this process three parties are involved: the one who brings the offering, the priest and God, and the purpose is to unify all three.

We realize this union by integrating in our consciousness the Creator through His ways and attributes, which are His love for His creation. After all, He is beyond our comprehension and our only way to “know” Him is through His creation, and His ways to direct it and sustain it. We realize this knowledge through the awareness of our connection with God, and the high priest represents this awareness.

Our offerings are all the traits and qualities in our consciousness (which encompass all aspects of life given to us by the Creator) to lift them up to serve Him through His ways and attributes, and we do that through love as our common bond with Him.

Let's reflect on the wise words of Maimonides (the Rambam) regarding the offerings.

“The location of the altar is very exactly defined, and is never to be changed. It is a commonly held tradition that the place where [king] David and [king] Solomon built the altar on the threshing floor of Arona, is the very place where Abraham built an altar and bound Isaac upon it; this is where Noah built [an altar] when he came out from the ark; this is where Cain and Abel brought their offerings; this is where Adam, the First Man, offered a korban when he was created, and from [the earth of] this place he was created. Thus the sages have said: 'Man was formed from the place of his atonement'.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Holy Temple, chapter II)

Our life and all that it encompasses are the offerings, the place is our consciousness through which we are aware of our Creator, and we have said that atonement is the transforming process from unawareness and separation from Him to the certainty that we are united with Him. This transformation takes place through divine fire, which is the love of God.

Analogically, the process is similar to the effect of fire as a catalyst to transmute one state of matter into another for a specific purpose. In this sense, a high fever has the potential to transmute a physical condition for better or worse, but seen in another way we can say that a cloud has a silver lining.

The priest lights up the fire as our ardent love to join the Creator, who also provides His fire for us. The process of elevating our life to Him indeed implies atonement as the means to purify all aspects of consciousness in order to turn them into the empty vessels that the Creator fills with His ways and attributes.

Then we have two catalysts: the priest as the permanent awareness of our connection to God's love, and our love as the essence that yearns to be close to Him. This is how the offerings are sublimated to the Creator. 

Adam, the first man, had it more clear than us because he was alone with the Creator and realized easier his connection with Him. Cain and Abel realized it through their individual experiences in the material word. Abel did it through a higher awareness of the Divine Presence in His creation; while Cain did it through what his ego, senses and instincts led him to experience.

Cain and Abel represent the divided and opposed, dual, fractured consciousness as a result of Adam's transgression. Abel's offerings were preferred because he elevated all the potential goodness in the material world for the service of the Creator's ways and attributes as our purpose in life. Cain's offerings were disregarded because he rather followed ego's material fantasies and illusions and sensuality (represented by vegetable life) as the purpose of life.

Noah's mission was to unify human consciousness but he fractured it even more through his three sons. Shem (the higher consciousness or priesthood), Japhet (the conscious mind as potentially able to discern right from wrong), and Ham (the attachment to sensuality and the potentially negative aspects of lower consciousness).

By his own awareness, Abraham realized that human consciousness is destined to act and express all its aspects and dimensions as the unified and harmonic vehicle to reflect the unity of the Creator and His ways and attributes in His creation. In this realization, Abraham and his son Isaac both offered their lives to the service of the Creator in the full awareness that all comes from Him and belongs to Him.

In this knowledge there is no room for the vanities and futility of ego's fantasies and illusions. In this same awareness, Jacob realized the legacy of his fathers Isaac and Abraham as the destiny to be fulfilled by him and his descendants.

This is our destiny as legacy and inheritance, and in order to fulfill it let's be mindful that Israel's lineage comes from Shem through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as inheritors of the priesthood as the highest consciousness of God's love, in the knowledge that His ways and attributes direct His creation.

Our forefathers chose this destiny for them and for us, their descendants, and we also must choose back to God's love as our essence and identity that makes us different from the other nations. We choose back to our priesthood because the Creator commands us to be a kingdom of priests to proclaim His kingdom on Earth, which is His justice and righteousness. These are the material manifestations of His love in order to guide all nations in His ways. 

Individually, we internalize this commandment to direct and guide all aspects of consciousness in love's ways and attributes, opposite to falling into the negative dominion and subjugation of ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions, represented by the “nations” and “peoples” of the Earth.

Only love's ways and attributes represent true life, and this is why we ask our Creator.

“And say: 'Redeem us, O God of our redemption, and gather us together and deliver us from the nations, [so] that we may give thanks to Your holy name, [so] that in Your praise we may triumph'.” (I Chronicles 16:35)

Triumph as redemption comes when we become His ways and attributes by being and doing the goodness of His love as our true identity, and this is the meaning of our praises to Him. The Torah commands us to act, and our actions are our praises to God. We act according to His ways and attributes. We ask Him to lead us in our destiny to gather us together and deliver us from ego's fantasies and illusions.

Our praises are our offerings as the good actions to elevate all aspects of life to God's love, and in them we indeed are gathered together and redeemed. This is our legacy and destiny we want permanently in our lives, because His ways are His compassion, loving kindness and truth that protect us when we do goodness, as He commands us.

“Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord. Let Your loving kindness and Your truth always protect me. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant.” (Psalms 40:12, 25:10)

The goodness of our actions as love's ways and attributes are the offerings we elevate in our highest awareness of His presence.

“Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain [the Tabernacle, the Temple of Jerusalem], to the place where You dwell.” (43:3)

That place is our highest awareness of our connection to God's love.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vayikra: Uniting our Love with God's Love

This week we celebrate entering the third year of this blog. We started with the book of Vayikra back in 2010 as an expanding process of the messages in the book “God's Love”. The book is the result of notes taken during four years studying the mystical approach to Orthodox Judaism by the Chassidic tradition, presented from a philosophical perspective.

The idea is to convey the messages with a concrete and practical understanding of Jewish mysticism's abstract concepts, and apply them to material reality. We do this by going to the point of what is so “spiritual” about Judaism, and that is God's Love and our connection with Him. That's been the concealed purpose behind His Creation, hidden by us and not by Him, for His Love is already proclaimed and manifest. To confirm this we only have to take a look around.

We explain in the book that our Sages did not deliberately hid God as Love, and rather focused on the ethics and morals of Love as its ways and attributes in order to safeguard individual and collective peace and harmony. After all, Love is about good deeds and not good intentions.

We hope that maybe now, in our current times, most of us humans in general and Jews in particular are prepared in our consciousness to be aware of Love as our true Essence and identity, as the material reflection of God's Love. After this celebratory preamble, let's comment for the third time on the first portion of Vayikra.

Most of the book of Vayikra refers to our direct connection and relationship to the Creator, defined in the Torah as the priesthood, and this is why this book was named “Leviticus” by non-Jewish sources.

This connection and relationship with God occur primordially through the study of the Torah, the fulfillment of His Commandments, and the offerings (“sacrifices”) we elevate to Him in order to be close to Him.

Our Sages question the point of presenting “meal” offerings to the Creator, knowing perfectly well that He does not “need” anything from us but all the way around. They quote King David to reaffirm the point.

“Should I hunger I would not tell you, for the world and all it contains is Mine, and its fullness. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice to God the offering of thanksgiving; and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble [because] I will deliver you, and you shall honor Me.” (Psalms 50:12-15)

Hence, it is about us and our attitude toward God's Love that make us desire to come close to Him, as it is also indicated.

“For your own desire you should offer it.” (Leviticus 19:5)

Our offerings to Him are the traits, qualities and dimensions of our common Essence with Him, and all these as expressions of our Love as the guide and conductor of all our ways. This is the sweetness we experience and rejoice with, as we also delight in His Glory that is His Love.

Our Sages too refer to this sweetness when they say of a large ox, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor”; of a small bird, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor”; and of a meal-offering, “A fire-offering, a sweet savor.” They teach us that for God this “sweetness” is the same whether one offers much (an ox) or little (a dove) from him, as long as he directs his heart (Love) to Heaven (to honor God by being and doing His ways and attributes).

This sweetness is embraced by humbleness as our means to manifest Love in all we are and do, because humbleness is the empty vessel to pour God's will in our lives.

The Sages illustrate this with a story.

“A bull was taken to be sacrificed in the Temple but refused to move on. A poor man came with a bundle of hay in his hand and gave it to the bull, which ate it. Then the bull let itself be taken to the Temple. The owner of the bull was told in a dream that the poor man's offering to the bull was greater than the owner's offering of the bull.”

As we have mentioned in other commentaries, the bull represents ego as the driving force we must elevate to the Creator's will, through the highest awareness of our connection with Him (represented by the priest in the Temple), and we do this through Love as the natural conductor and guide of all levels and dimensions of consciousness, ego included.

The poor man represents humbleness as the means with which we convey Love (the hay) to feed and direct our driving force to the service of God. In this sense, humbleness and Love are greater than ego's materialistic desires (the bull).

In this regard ego's agenda is excluded from any of our ways, means and attributes to honor God's Love and His will.

“No meal-offering, which you shall bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven; for you shall make no leaven, nor any honey, [to burn to] smoke as an offering made by fire onto the Lord.” (2:11)

In this case leaven represents pride as self-enlargement, and is one of the reasons that our forefathers ate unleavened bread (matzah) during the Exodus from Egypt.

Let's be mindful that every level of consciousness must be an empty vessel to be filled with God's ways and attributes, and never forget that these do not cohabit with anything different from them.

Honey represents sensuality under the control of ego's fantasies and illusions. Our Sages also remind us that God does not relate to one who is full of himself, and He says about the prideful one that He does not dwell with him in the world.

In the total awareness of our Love and God's Love with their common ways and attributes, peace also becomes the cause and the effect.

Our Sages teach that the peace offering is not intended to atone as the other offerings, but exclusively for the enjoyment and delight to be close to the Creator. What is peaceful about it is the fact that the person who brings this offering, the priest and God share together the offering.

This makes it the perfect offering because there are no other reasons except for enjoying our connection with the One who gives us life and all that we are and have.

This awareness safeguards our freedom from any entanglement in ego's fantasies and illusions, and in this freedom we celebrate His Love as our sustenance and the Essence from which He created us.

In this connection we realize that our Love is His Love that nurtures us, and in this awareness we know that our Love is the bond with His Love.

“(...) all the fat is to the Lord.” (3:16)

Our enthusiasm (“all the fat”), as the greatest happiness and enjoyment, is what He wants from us: to be happy and rejoice in this world. Our utmost satisfaction, fulfillment and delight are to realize that God's Love is our true Essence and identity.

The portion ends with the atonement for transgressions against our fellow man, and are defined as betrayals against the Creator.

“If a person sins, and commits a betrayal against the Lord, and lies to his fellow (...)” (5:21)

Lying becomes a breach of trust and allegiance against our very Essence and identity. One of the synonyms of Love is truth, and such as there is no room for anything different than its attributes, and the context of Love is the ways we relate to our fellow man.

All the ways and means of Love are truth as the Psalmist points it out.

“All the paths of the Lord are loving kindness and truth to those keeping His Covenant and His testimonies. (…) Do not withhold Your compassion from me, O Lord; may your loving kindness and your truth always protect me.” (Psalms 25:10, 40:12)

Love and truth are inherent to one another. If there is no Love there is no truth, and if there is no truth there is no Love; therefore without them there is no Redemption.

“Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for you are God my Redeemer, and my hope is in You all day long.” (25:5)

God's Love is the truth of His ways and attributes, and all we call truth in the material world and in every level of consciousness must be in consonance with His truth. There is one Love, and that is God's Love; and one truth that is God's truth.

Q & A

I find difficult to apply some of the principles of Kabbalah to daily life, the "seven emotions" in particular. Though they are separate entities, I understand that they are connected with each other. I don't get how they relate to each other, considering their differences. I can relate to their interaction as unity in diversity, yet such interaction is not quite clear to me.

Indeed, our mystic Sages define the seven emotions as contained within each other, meaning that loving kindness (chesed) encompasses severity, truth, victory, honor, foundation and sovereignty, in a dynamic way which makes understandable their interaction. You can see it as a developing process, and not as plain interaction. It works the same as the seven days of God's Creation: one day is the foundation for the next. In this context, loving kindness is the human projection of the Light in the first day, severity is the reflection of separation to establish order and direction, truth as result of productive forces or qualities previously separated and capable to yield life, victory as the reflection of Divine direction, honor as the fulfillment of life, foundation as the meaning of the human potential to reflect Divine direction, and sovereignty as full awareness of Divine domain on every dimension and level of Creation. Likewise, these seven emotions or qualities relate to each other as a developing process. 

It is important to remark that loving kindness (here we rather call it Love) as the reflection of God's primordial Light, is the Divine emanation that sustains the whole “process”. Love generates and sustains its ways as order (severity or power to organize and establish), truth (the harmonious interaction of what has been divided or separated in order to generate more harmony), victory (as the result of preordained harmony), honor (as a consequence of harmony), foundation as full human awareness of harmony, capable to rule over all aspects and manifestations of Creation. In this sense, harmony is the purpose of Love. We realize that Love is the underlying Essence that gives meaning and transcendence to life in the material world, because Love encompasses and integrates all aspects of Creation, which includes our consciousness and its dimensions. 

In other words, the hidden meaning of the interaction of the seven emotions defined by the Zohar is Love, because Love generates all of them and therefore commands over them. We just need to be aware of this. Be practical and down-to-earth regarding abstract or symbolic concepts, and don't get trapped in their apparent complexity. This means to approach life and your immediate reality with Love as the connecting, interacting and integrating Essence in the entire Creation. Approach yourself and all aspects of your consciousness with an affectionate attitude, and you will understand what is right and wrong, true and false, useful and useless, positive and negative. Make Love your harmonizing reference.

I am concerned and actually worried about the increasing antisemitism and hostility against Israel, and even more about the divisions among Jews under such circumstances. Are there any signs that lead us to be more optimistic about our future as a Nation and as the persecuted people that we are?

Antisemitism, Judeophobia and hostility against Jews and Israel are nothing new, as you probably know. 70 years ago it also happened, and more than six million of our people were murdered amid the indifference of the rest of the world. 50 years earlier thousands of us were also murdered, robbed, raped and dispossessed in pogroms. Decades earlier we were systematically excluded or segregated from most “civilized” countries. Prior to that and for many centuries, we were expelled, dispossessed, persecuted, tortured and murdered because of our identity and tradition. 

There is no reason to believe that this predicament may end if we don't educate the world about who we really are as a people and as a Nation. We can't afford the luxury of assuming that non Jews are unprejudiced enough to accept us the way we are, which nowadays is not that much different than the rest of the world. They have an idea about who we are, and it is our obligation to correct such idea in order to let them know our version of the Jewish identity and not theirs. When they know our truth, they will respect, value and appreciate who we are. We have to tell them about every single contribution we have made to help this world become a better place for all. 

We start with the Torah as our identity and end with our contributions to law, medicine, science, philosophy, politics, and the humanities, including our philanthropists. Above all, they must know that all these are the result of our Love for life and harmony among all human beings, because our identity is about God's Love for His Creation, as is its stated and commanded to us in His Torah. We all have not only the duty but the obligation to tell the world who we truly are free from their stereotypes, envy, hatred and intolerance. Our identity is not aimed to show them that we are better because the source of goodness is our identity, but to invite them to be like us and embrace life and its blessings as the proper way of life. 

Don't be worried about how much others hate us, be concerned about who you are and educate others by your example, by being a Jew. Goodness is destined to prevail because goodness is the way of God's Creation. Sooner or later all humankind will embrace the blessings and not the curses, as we do when we get the full awareness of the meaning of being a Jew. The signals of the Redemption from our enemies are our goodness, our solidarity, and our contributions to have a better world. The more we give them for their betterment, the sooner they will be in our side. We just have to show them and tell them who we are

Regarding our disunity among Jews, after all that has been said here, we rather start teaching among ourselves our identity in our tradition, and return together united as the people and the Nation the Torah instructs us to be. At the meantime we have to respond with courage and strength against those who want to destroy us, because there are many who rather die with their hatred than learn from the blessings of life. It is also our obligation to eradicate them from our midst for the sake of our lives and the lives of our offspring, and also for the sake of the world that we strive to improve. Our identity means everything to us, and let us be reminded by this blessing from our daily prayers: 

“Grant peace everywhere, goodness and blessing, grace, loving kindness and mercy to us and to all Israel, Your people. Bless us, our Father, all of us as one with the Light of Your face; for by the Light of Your face You have given us, Lord our God, the Torah of life, and loving kindness and righteousness, and blessing and mercy, and life and peace; and may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at all times and in every hour with Your peace. Blessed are You, Lord, who blesses Your people Israel with peace.” and this is who we are.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vayakhel-Pekudei: The Sanctuary we share with God

We may say that the book of Exodus narrates our bondage and liberation from Egypt with one primordial purpose that the following verses summarize.

“You will bring them [the children of Israel from their slavery] and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, The place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. [Because it is our destiny to proclaim that the Lord have reigned, the Lord reigns and] The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:17-18)

We rejoice in our destiny.

“Jubilant are those who dwell in Your house, [because] they are praising You forever. Jubilant the people who are like this. Jubilant the people whose God is the Lord.” (Psalms 84:5, 144:15)

This is also the primordial purpose of Israel in the entire Torah, since the covenant with Abraham until our permanent settling in the promised land as the home from which we fulfill our destiny.

We have to reveal in all levels of consciousness who we are as the children of Israel, the meaning of our divine deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and what is this place built by God's hands as His house in the material world. All these define our essence and true identity with which we become aware of our eternal bliss as the people whose God is the Creator.

The verse above clearly states that we as Israel are destined to dwell in the same house where the Creator wants to dwell on Earth. Indeed it is a physical place in the land of Israel and within its eternal and undivided capital, Jerusalem.

“Blessed be the Lord from Zion, He who dwells in Jerusalem!” (Ibid. 135:21)

This is the city that He also built in our consciousness because His domain reigns in all time and space.

“And [king] David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the congregation [Israel]; and David said, 'Blessed be You, Lord, the God of our father Israel in all the worlds and times. Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty! For all that is in the Heavens and in the Earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, Lord, and You are exalted as Head above all.” (I Chronicles 29:10-11)

The awareness that all belongs to God leads us to humble our vain selfishness as the premise to unconditionally fulfill His ways and attributes as our true identity and destiny.

The sanctuary is the time and space where we are fully aware of God's ways, in which we realize His love and our love as the common bond with Him. The process of building the sanctuary in our consciousness requires our individual and collective effort as the work that we do in this world.

“Six days work shall be done; and the seventh day shall be holy to you, a Shabbat of solemn rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work therein shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35:2)

Our sages point out that “work shall be done” implies that labor is the means and not the end of life, and this explains why the sentence is not “you shall do work”. What is the kind of work that has to be done or needs to be done? Again, the sages refer not to the kind of work to be performed but the way we are entitled to do it.

This means that anything we have to do or choose to do must be done in consonance with God's ways and attributes. Hence in love's ways and attributes because the whole point of life is about love as the material reflection of God's love in His creation.

We have mentioned (see in this blog our commentary on “Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei: “The Sanctuary of God's Love” on February 20, 2010) that in this sense the Shabbat is a culmination or finalization of the way we have worked the previous six days. Our sages teach that we must emulate the Creator in His ways and means that He used in the six days of His Creation, and with the same magnanimity, goodness and loving kindness with which He relates to His creatures.

The Shabbat is a time beyond the material creation, therefore beyond our comprehension. Most of us Jews don't assimilate the transcendence of this “day” that is more about stillness than rest. Stillness in the sense of belonging to something completely impossible to describe. There are more than 39 “fences” to “guard” and “protect” the Shabbat.

Hence let's reflect for a moment on what is being so heavily fenced, guarded and protected. Many of us got trapped looking at the fences and not on what they protect, to the extreme that most of us forgot what that is and its meanings.

The Torah warns that whatever material thought or illusion that leads to transgress the Shabbat makes us liable to the death penalty. It is not difficult to deduce that we are indeed dead if we are out of what those fences guard.

The Torah is clear about the penalties and punishments for our transgressions, and we have said many times that such penalties and punishments are simply the consequences of our own separation from our essence and true identity.

We already know that we must choose between love's ways and attributes and ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions. Either choice has its consequences.

We can choose love's ways with the same intensity we may choose lust, greed, indolence, envy, impudence, anger and impatience. With this intensity or passion we can give to build the sanctuary for God and us, as our ancestors did.

“And they spoke to Moses saying: 'The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make'.” (36:5)

Another example is the following verse.

“And he made the washstand of copper and its base of copper from the mirrors of the women who had set up the legions, who congregated at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” (38:8)

Our sages say that that the Israelite women had mirrors in which they looked to adorn themselves to arouse their husbands' desire, and Moses rejected those mirrors because they were used to arouse lust. God told Moses to accept them because they were more beloved to Him than everything else, considering that with those mirrors the women begot many children in Egypt. When their men were exhausted by forced labor, the women would bring them food and drink, and they used the mirrors to arouse their husbands to cohabit with them, and conceiving and giving birth under the oppression of slavery.

“When the cloud rose up from over the sanctuary, the children of Israel set out in all their journeys. But if the cloud did not rise up, they did not set out until the day that it rose. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the sanctuary by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys.” (40:36-38)

These final verses in the book of Exodus make us aware that God's love in His ways and attributes dwells always in the highest level of our consciousness to protect us and guide us in our approach to life and the material world in all their aspects and dimensions. If this awareness is away from us, we must wait until we reconnect with it.

This is the way we do work six days because in the seventh day we are rewarded with the permanent dwelling in His Place, the dwelling in the Sanctuary that His hands have built, and where we are jubilant to be the people whose destiny is such.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Purim: The Meaning of the Jewish Identity

We have referred in this blog in various occasions to the Jewish identity as defined by the Torah, the book that attests the origin of the Jews. Our Sages say that if (God forbid) there was no Torah, the book that would replace it is the book of Esther because it parallels the events that the Jewish people experienced in the Torah's narration. In particular both books share the definition of the Jewish identity. Our Sages point out clear similarities between Moses and Mordechai, and though the Name of the Creator is never mentioned in the book of Esther, His Presence is evident in the narration. The message that we try to convey here is that the Jewish identity is essential to fulfill the reason behind our lives and our destiny in the material world.

And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed down and prostrated themselves before Haman; because the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordechai bowed not down nor prostrated himself before him. (…) because he had told them that he was a Jew.” (Esther 3:2, 4) At some point in our lifetime, we bow down to material fantasies and illusions that separate us from our true Essence and identity (see our commentary “Shemot: Our True Identity as Redemption” posted on January 8, 2012). The Creator put us in this world to experience life under material limitations and restrictions. Nature imposes its immutable laws that make us live submitted to them by Divine decree. Our problems appear when nature's laws and conditions give little space to our free will to make the right choices, and our difficulties become even more unbearable when we make the wrong choices. These are what we call ego's fantasies and illusions, that turn what seems to be simple into something difficult or complicated from which we can't free ourselves.

We are indeed commanded by the Creator to live in the world according to the conditions and restrictions imposed by nature, but this does not mean that we allow nature to shape our human character according to nature's negative or destructive outcomes. This was the way Pagan and “uncivilized” peoples behaved and ruled their individual and social lives, by acting and reacting either like certain animals or natural phenomena. The negative aspects of such references by “nature” are what turn life in this world harder and consequently pointless, and those are the traits that Haman personifies.

Our sages teach that Haman in his time represented Amalek, the constant enemy that undermines Israel, and we are commanded to remember him every day. They relate that name to a range of emotions and traits such as fear, hesitation, doubt and uncertainty, in the sense that they lead us astray from the right choices we must make and our true purpose in life. Mordechai the Jew represents our true Essence and identity that never prostrates to the negative aspects of human consciousness as reflections of the damaging outcomes of human nature. This also means that Mordechai personifies the highest level of consciousness that leads us in the right direction. In this context, Haman is the Jew's enemy, as it is Amalek and all that both represent: “And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hamedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.” (3:10)

The highest awareness of our true identity is the guardian at the gates of consciousness, as the means to connect with the One who created us. This guardian does not allow any space for negative and damaging traits in the way we treat our self and our surrounding reality: “Haman said moreover: ‘Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and tomorrow also am I invited by her together with the king. Yet all this availed me nothing, so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.’” (5:12-13) and most of the times in our transit through this world, the highest knowledge of the goodness of Love's ways and attributes seems to be unacknowledged and unrecognized by those to whom we give the best of us: “And the king said: ‘What honor and dignity had been done to Mordechai for this?’ Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him: ‘There is nothing done for him.’” (6:3)

In a higher level, the purpose of the lower aspects of consciousness is to acknowledge and recognize our highest awareness of who we truly are, instead of leading us to our defeat and death under ego's negative illusions: “Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordechai, and caused him to ride through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him: ‘Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighted to honor.’” (6:11) In this sense we have to eliminate the negative traits of human consciousness and subjugate those that we can direct towards positive ends: “(...) ‘If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, you shall not prevail against him, but shall surely fall before him.’” (6:13) and our seed as Jews is Love as the material manifestation of God's Love, and nothing prevails against His ways and attributes because they are the purpose and destiny of our Jewish identity.

God's ways and attributes define our relationship and connection with Him, and Esther's plea is the assurance of this in these verses that hint His hidden Presence: “Then Esther the queen answered and said: ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request; for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my peace, for the adversary is not worthy that the king be damaged.’” (7:3-4) and when we fully realize that our Jewish identity is bound to God's ways and attributes, and we fulfill His will as our destiny, we inherit the power to conduct the lower aspects of consciousness in the positive direction that only our complete awareness of God's Love as our Essence can give us: “On that day did the king Aashverosh give the house of Haman, the Jews’ enemy, unto Esther the queen. And Mordechai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordechai. And Esther set Mordechai over the house of Haman.” (8:1-2)

In our total knowledge of God's ways and attributes as our identity we are indeed empowered to overcome all the real and potential threats to our existence: “(...) the king had granted the Jews that were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, and to slay, and to cause to perish, all the forces of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. (…) and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.” (8:11, 13) and this is the way our destiny is meant to be, as long as we know that the reason and purpose of our life is to recognize ourselves in our Jewish identity: “The Jews had Light and gladness, and joy and honor. And in every province, and in every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a good day. And many from among the peoples of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them. (…) in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them.” (8:16-17, 9:1)

This is indeed the “happy ending” that we must pursue by knowing and exercising who we are: “And all the princes of the provinces, and the satraps, and the governors, and they that did the king’s business, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordechai was fallen upon them. For Mordechai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went forth throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordechai waxed greater and greater. And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto them that hated them.” (9:3-5)

This is the legacy that we have to bear permanently in our soul, mind, heart and body, not only once a year because our Jewish identity is the source of the sweetest of all joys: “(...) and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.” (9:28), and Mordechai the Jew, the Moses of his generation, reminds us to be Jewish as the Torah tells us: “For Mordechai the Jew was next unto king Aashverosh, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.” (10:3)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ki Tisa: The Attributes of God's Love

Our highest knowledge of God (represented by Moses) and His love enables the highest awareness of our connection with Him (represented by Aaron, the high priest) to lead every aspect and dimension of consciousness in God's ways and attributes.

These are manifest into the material world as love's ways and means. Aaron as the high priest is indeed the connecting element in our relationship with the Creator, though Moses as our highest knowledge of Him enables this connection. If our knowledge of God's love is poor, our connection with Him is also poor.

This knowledge is the premise to conceive who we are and what is our purpose in the material world. If we don't have it, ego's fantasies and illusions take over our consciousness. This occurrence is immediate because all levels of consciousness must be filled at all times with the choices we make in terms of ideas, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, feelings, passions and instincts. It works like this because it is part of human nature.

We must be mindful constantly of our knowledge of God and His love, because from it depends not only our connection to Him but our identity and purpose as His chosen ones.

This explains the following verse.

“When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron, and they said to him: 'Come on! Make us gods [idols] that will go before us because this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we don't know what has become of him'.” (Exodus 32:1)

God's love infuses our knowledge of Him to lead us in His ways.

“And the Lord said to Moses: 'Go, descend, for your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly.” (32:7)

In our awareness of God's ways we can dissipate the illusions that corrupt our true essence, identity and purpose. Our sages explain that the words in Hebrew and Aramaic for “idols” also mean “molds” from which “masks” are made. The masks we wear are the idols we follow instead of love's ways and attributes which are our true essence.

Let's be aware that ego's fantasies and illusions in the material world, as well as evil, are only references for us to exercise our free will in order to make the right choices. They are not there to be attached to or to be submitted in slavery to them, no matter how stubborn we may be in falling into their ephemeral pleasures.

“And the Lord said to Moses: 'I have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people'.” (32:9)

We Jews are intensively passionate in every aspect, trait and level of consciousness. This is the best positive quality as long as we direct it into God's ways and attributes. Let's be stubborn in becoming the goodness and blessings of God's love. Let's be the privileged and honored emissaries of His ways to make this material realm into His dwelling place amid us. See in this blog our commentary on Parshat Ki Tisa: “Between ego's fantasies and love's truth” on February 13, 2011.

God's love as our essence and identity must be embraced with all our might and ardent passion in what we discern, think, feel, speak and do. Once we enthrone love in all dimensions of consciousness, we transform all the illusions of the material world into the truthfulness of love's ways and attributes.

This is one of the hidden meanings of this coming verse.

“Then he [Moses] took the [golden] calf they had made, burned it in fire, ground it to fine [gold] powder, scattered [it] upon the surface of the water, and gave [it to] the children of Israel to drink.” (32:20)

The intense and passionate drive force (gold) of ego (the calf) must be transformed (“burned in fire” as sublimated by God's ways and attributes through the fire of His love) through humbleness (“powder”, dust) in our consciousness (“the surface of water”, water as thought or cognitive ability) with which we lead all its traits and qualities (the children of Israel).

In this sense, gold represents the most intense and passionate drive to be near the Creator and His love. Silver represents our discernment and understanding. Copper symbolizes our emotions, feelings and instincts.

Living in the realm of material illusions and striving to make love's attributes prevail among such illusions indeed become a constant war until we make love prevail over the negative aspects of consciousness.

“And Moses saw the people, that they were exposed, for Aaron had exposed them to be disgraced before their adversaries.” (32:25)

When we are betrayed and disgraced by ego's fantasies we hold on the goodness of love that sustains us as our true essence.

“So Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said: 'Whoever is for the Lord, [let him come] to me!' And all the sons of Levi gathered around him.” (32:26)

The sons of Levi represent the positive qualities in our consciousness that never betray love's ways and attributes as the awareness of our permanent connection with God's love. In this awareness we fight with and for love's ways against the negative and destructive traits of ego's materialistic fantasies and illusions.

Our sages say that the sin of the golden calf was orchestrated by God's love to teach us two things. First, that no matter the negative choices we make, we always can return to His love. Israel had to experience making the worst choices (falling into the idolatry of ego's illusions and commit the worst transgressions in their name) in order to show us that we can renounce them by choosing back to His ways and attributes. And second, He confirmed this by revealing to us (through Moses) His attributes of compassion (34:6-7).

By God's attributes we learn to know Him, and through this knowledge our connection to Him. Let's reflect on this verse previous to His revelation to Moses.

“Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back but My face shall not be seen.” (33:23)

Our sages explain that His “back” is what we see that He has done (His Creation) and His sustenance of it. Indeed we know Him through His works, through what His hand leaves behind, that which emanates form His love.

When we enthrone His love as His ways and attributes in all levels of consciousness, we radiate them in our faces as the reflection of our true essence and identity.

“Then the children of Israel would see Moses' face, that the skin of Moses' face had become radiant, and [then] Moses would replace the covering over his face until he would come [again] to speak with Him.” (34:35)

As we become fully aware of the knowledge of the Creator (as Moses was) we manifest (radiate) it in what we believe, think, feel, speak and do.

This is Israel's legacy, our legacy as Jews, our inheritance as the chosen people, the people of the Torah. Still it is our choice to embrace it. The prophet reminded us in ancient times, and also reminds us now.

“And Elijah drew near to all the people and said, 'Until when are you hopping between [over] two ideas? If the Lord is God, go after Him; and if the Baal, go after him'. And the people did not answer him a word.” (I Kings 18:21)

Are we also going to answer not a single word? It's either the truthfulness of love's ways and attributes, or the falsehood of ego's fantasies and illusions. The choice is ours.

Q & A

The way you communicate the messages of God as Love seems easy to understand, yet difficult to adapt to (the material) reality. How can we experience more Love in our lives amid the negativity we have to deal on a daily basis?

Indeed it sounds easy because at some point in our lives we have experienced full awareness of Love and its attributes. We know that without Love is simply impossible to live and sustain life. This means that also at some point we adapted Love to our surrounding reality, either as children or as parents, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones. We have pointed out countless times that the main obstacle to let Love lead in all circumstances is ego's “personal” agenda. We have said that the problems in our relationship with others begin when when we trespass the boundaries set by mutual respect, care and protection of each other. In other words, our freedom ends when the freedom of others beings, which means that we must not gain, enjoy or profit at the expense of others' loss, suffering or lack. In this sense, Love implies a win-win situation in which none of the parties involved loses. This is why we say that Love is the cause and the effect, because it must be in that way in order to be true Love. Ego's obstruction manifests when we want something at the expense or detriment of others, and Love's ways manifest when we share goodness for the advancement and betterment of all. This is the kind of consciousness that defines the Final Redemption in Judaism. We say in God as Love that “democracy” is not about 51% ruling and 49% ruled, or 51 winning and 49 losing and reduced to be “the opposition”, because we believe that true “democracy” (we put it on quotation marks because the term belongs to the “nations”, therefore alien to Judaism) is about general consensus. We all must agree on that which is for the individual and collective benefit. We also have mentioned that our mystic Sages teach that we fight darkness (negativity) not by declaring war on evil but by expanding Light (Love's ways and attributes), meaning by doing good and positive actions (what we call in Judaism “learning Torah and fulfilling its Commandments”) we dissipate evil and its derivatives. To answer your question, we experience more Love in our life when we follow its ways and practice its attributes. In this sense the more you love, the more you dissolve negativity in your midst. It may not be an easy process, but if you start with your own self trying to be mindful about Love as our true Essence and common bond with the Creator, His Love will guide you to clear the darkness that may be around. Be mindful that you love because Love is your Essence and identity, and you do it just for the sake of Love.

I have difficulty to understand passages of the Tanach (the Torah and the Hebrew sacred scriptures) though I am aware of their inner meanings beyond my discernment. Is there any way to assimilate the messages of those passages that seem to be far from our human understanding?

You already know what our Sages say regarding the levels of perception and/or understanding of our Hebrew scriptures, which are literal, allegorical, indirect, by ethical/philosophical deduction, and through esoteric/mystic understanding. They also remark that we must perceive, discern and assimilate all these levels, meaning that we have to understand and accept them as truthful ways and means to learn and know the Creator's messages in the whole Tanach. A fundamental example is the Exodus from Egypt that indeed occurred literally as mentioned in the Torah. We were slaves in the most depraved nation of ancient times, we were submitted to forced hard physical labor, we were exploited, humiliated, abused and murdered amid the most abject conditions. Our oral tradition is abundantly clear in this respect. At the same time, this particular historical facts reflect the level of spiritual awareness almost close to none, from which the Creator lifted our ancestors to freedom in miraculous ways. The conditions were so negative that only through direct Divine intervention was possible to exit the lowest levels of consciousness, and cross over to the highest levels in close contact with the Deliverer of such freedom. We also must be fully aware that the Torah is written in human language in order for us to understand the ethics and morals of God's Love, and His ways and means to relate with Him. Our Sages also explain that the entire content of the Hebrew Scriptures is Divinely intended as strict ethical rules and guidelines to safeguard our individual and collective well being. The strictness of this rules reflects the fundamental principle that Love does not cohabit with anything different from its ways and attributes. We must understand this strictness not as restrictions or limitations to our individual and collective freedom but exactly as the opposite, because Love is about inclusion and expansion unlike the excluding, subtracting and restrictive qualities of ego's fantasies and illusions. The strictness of Love's ways and attributes are aimed to eliminate anything that threatens their goodness and positive qualities. In this way we understand what our mystic Sages mean when they say that we must be always “eternally vigilant” in order not to go off the “straight and narrow path” of righteousness.

What are the signs of the Redemption promised by God and our Prophets?

Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, the Rambam) elaborates about this in his Mishneh Torah (Laws of the Kings), as well as other Sages, based on the books of our Prophets, and we have to understand these signs in the context of our current times. In other words, we must assimilate the Messianic era as the time in which Truth prevails. We have repeated in this blog that such Truth encompasses Love's ways and attributes as the material reflection of God's Love for us and His Creation. This means that living in the Truth is living in Love's ways, because Love is the cause of Truth. In a practical ethical and moral sense, when we live from, by, with, and for the Truth there is nothing different or opposite to it. Living with the Truth individually and collective is a clear sign that we are living in the Redemption, opposite to living in the lies of ego's illusions. The moment we abandon ego's illusions and choose to embrace Love's attributes as the real Truth, we are redeemed. Mutual cooperation and solidarity are also signs of the Messianic era, and in Judaism we refer to them as tzedakah (usually mistranslated as “charity”, and its true meaning is “doing righteousness as justice, or as the just thing to do for others, which is doing goodness”), and makes perfect sense because Redemption is about doing goodness to each other permanently. A definite sign of Redemption is when we fully enthrone Love as our true Essence and identity, as the sovereign conductor of all levels and dimensions of consciousness. In this sense we understand Love as “the flourishing power” of Redemption.

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.