Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ki Tisa: God's Love

The principle in the relationship between Israel and God is Love. We proclaim this principle twice a day before and after we say “Hear [understand!] O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One [and Unique]”, because it defines our identity. What we are, have and do are founded on this relationship, for we recognize that what we are and have come from the Creator, including Love as our common bond with Him. Being counted by Him reveals how precious we are for Him.

As long as we are bound to God by taking what we are and have to Him, nothing negative can happen to us amid the illusions of the material world. In this context we understand the beginning of this portion.

“When you count (lit. raise ki tisa) the head [the total sum] of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12)

We must be aware that since the moment God chose us as His partners for His Divine Plan, our bond with Him is permanent. This partnership, as we said above, is based on Love because God's Love makes it possible.

In this sense our duty is to know God in all His ways revealed by Him to us in the Torah. Once we adopt His ways and attributes, not just as our guidelines and purpose but also as our Jewish identity, we fulfill our partnership with Him.

This makes sense to “Know Him in all your ways” (Proverbs 3:6) because the point is to be always aware of our permanent bond with Him. This principle is fully realized in the Sanctuary God wants us to build for Him in order to dwell in our midst.

Though the Sanctuary chronologically came after the transgression of the Golden Calf, the Torah mentions it earlier because before any transgression we may incur there is already a place in our consciousness where we are permanently connected to God. We belong to a house that He has built beforehand, and this house is His Love for us.

The principle we have been referring to is about making the choice to live, experience and enjoy our connection with God as a matter of fact. It is a fact because He is telling us so. Therefore it is not a matter of faith or even trust, because it is the truth.

The Torah and our history prove that fact, and we know it is true because we have lived it and experienced it. How can we deny God's Love? How can we deny Love as the best we are and have? Only by creating an illusion of denial, by choosing to live in ego's false beliefs and feelings of lack.

These beliefs and feelings build the Golden Calf and the idols we empower to enforce the illusion of separation from Love as the material manifestation of God's Love. Our Sages say that the transgression in the Garden of Eden was repeated with the Golden Calf.

When we adopt the false belief that God is not enough, that His Creation is not enough, and that nothing is enough, we fall by transgressing the matter of fact that God is enough, and that we are also enough because we come from Him. Thus we understand the following verse.

“The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the Lord to make atonement for your souls.” (Exodus 30:15)

We have to elevate our consciousness to the awareness that in our bond with God we are and have all there is to live and manifest.

God's Love reestablish our connection with Him when we realize that. He atones for our souls, because once we are trapped in ego's illusions of grandeur, being self-centered and self-sufficient, the only way out from them is by returning to the Truth. This Truth atones for our wrong choices. Our atonement and return to the Creator occur when we realize and adopt His ways and attributes.

“And the Lord passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed: 'The Lord, the Lord, benevolent God, compassionate and gracious, patient, and abundant in loving kindness and truth; preserving loving kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation'.” (34:6-7)

Should we have to explain further these ways and attributes? Let's just say what we call them here in our blog: God's Love. All comes from God and all is sustained by Him, and that is the greatest Love of all. The opposite to this is our illusion that we rather believe in our feelings of lack out of ego's desire to be its own god.

These feelings and beliefs of lack are the “nations” that invite us to covet, lust, envy and fall trapped in their indolence, indifference and negativity.

“Beware lest you form a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land into which you are coming, lest it become a snare in your midst. But you shall demolish their altars, shatter their monuments, and cut down their sacred trees. For you shall not prostrate yourself before another god, because the Lord, whose Name is 'the Exclusive One', is an exclusive jealous God.” (34:12-14)

Likewise, Love's ways exclude anything different or oppose to its means and attributes.

“You shall not make molten gods for yourself.” (34:17)

We are destined to know our Creator, from whom all come to exist. We are bound to know our Essence and true identity. We can't settle for less and live in the illusions and fantasies of a false reality built out of ego's agenda. We must have an existential approach to life and the material world, and ask the transcendental questions about who we are, from what we came from, and where are we going to.

As Jews we have all the answers in the Torah, which defines our identity and delineates our purpose as God's partners in His Creation. We can't settle for less. Our lot and truth is Love as our common bond with God. That's who we are and have, and that is quite enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tetzaveh: Realizing Our Bond with the Creator

One of the definitions of the Sanctuary [Temple of Jerusalem], besides being a specific geographic location in the land of Israel, is a time and space in our consciousness where we are permanently united to the Creator.

The Prophet reminds us about this.

“Thus said the Lord God: 'Because I put them afar off among nations, and because I scattered them through lands, I also am to them for a little Sanctuary, in lands where they have gone in'.(Ezekiel 11:16)

There is a temple in the highest level of consciousness, and also a high priest who carries out this connection. This place in consciousness indicates what are we aiming for.

“For You, O Lord, are my refuge, the most high You made Your dwelling.” (Psalms 91:9)

King David refers to Zion/Jerusalem in many of his psalms to widen our awareness about the meaning of being close to God. What kind of place in our consciousness He desires the most for us and He to be together? We repeatedly say that love is our common bond with Him, and these verses reaffirm it.

“For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem, He has desired it for His home: 'This is My dwelling place forever. Here I will live, for I have desired it'.” (132:13-14)

Tetzaveh points out the commandment as connection to the means called the Sanctuary, which is also the space and time shared with Zion/Jerusalem, as referred by the psalmist in his verses of praise. It's the bond where the sanctuary and the high priest actually are one. Both even share the materials of their garments, which the children of Israel bring as offerings they take from their heart for the Creator.

Let's appeal to David's praises to reach a higher awareness of this connection.

“Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise your God, O Zion. For He has strengthened the bars of your gates, He has blessed your children within you. He makes peace within your walls, He gives you in plenty the best of wheat (...)” (147:12-14)

Thus we realize that we are an emanation of God's love. In His love we truly live and experience the goodness He is and wants for us, as long as we choose to be close to Him. His love is our nourishment as the blessing He is, from Whom all blessings come forth.

“Her [Zion/Jerusalem] provision I greatly bless, her needy ones I satisfy with bread, and her priests I clothe with redemption, and her loving ones shall sing aloud.” (132:15-16)

God's love is where we all want to dwell in.

“My God is my rock, I take refuge in Him; my shield, and the horn of my redemption; my high tower, and my refuge! My Redeemer, from violence You save me! (2 Samuel 22:3)

Away from the unrest of ego's fantasies and illusions, from which we want to escape.

“It will happen that whoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be redeemed. For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said; and among the remnant, those whom the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:32)

In this awareness we realize that love is our permanent bond with God's love.

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a mighty One who will redeem. He will rejoice over you [Zion/Jerusalem] with joy. He will comfort you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Again we reiterate that the high priest is the highest level of consciousness far away from the chains that keep us bound in the captivity of ego's fantasies and illusions. The high priest has the power to gather and unite the remaining levels and dimensions of consciousness, represented by the different materials of his garments.

This highest level of consciousness is destined to integrate and harmonize opposite traits and qualities that are part of who we are. The goal is not to repress or silence the lower aspects of consciousness, but to direct them into God's ways and attributes from which love's ways and attributes proceed.

As we achieve this formidable task, we also achieve our connection with God. In the same way God's love integrates and unites the diversity of His creation. He doesn't expect less from us. With our choices and decisions we have shaped our lives and the world we live in. Hence it's up to us to correct what we have disarranged. See in this blog  our commentary on Tetzaveh: Living our Connection with God's love” of February 26, 2012.

Our ability to harmonize every part that define our consciousness is also the means to meet our Creator. He is our God who commands us not to have the gods of others before His presence. This means we have to come to Him in His ways and attributes, and nothing different.

“For on My holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the reigning Lord, there in the land the entire house of Israel will serve Me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices.” (Ezekiel 20:40)

Our choice gifts are the best we can make of every part of us, lower and higher, in order to consecrate them for His will. The psalmist also refers to this task.

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters, and all [that lives in the] deeps. Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind, fulfilling His word. Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars. Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged fowl. Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth. Both young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted. His glory is above Earth and Heaven.” (Psalms 148:7-13)

As we have said, His glory is His love.

The physical absence of the Temple prompted our sages to institute our daily prayers in lieu of the daily offerings. Prayer is the way we bond with God for almost two thousand years. Our sages were aware that God's presence is also with us as the little Sanctuary (see above Ezekiel 11:6) within each one of us, and prayers become the offerings we bring up to Him.

Through these prayers we bond with Him in our love for Him.

“It is good to sing praises to our God, for it is pleasant, and praise is comely. The Lord builds up Jerusalem, He gathers together the dispersed of Israel, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.(Psalms 147:1-3)

Tetzaveh ends with the consecration of the incense, which our sages consider the culmination of our bond with God.

“and Aaron shall make incense (...) continual incense before the Lord for [all] your generations.(Exodus 30:7-8)

In our daily prayers, time and again, we ask God to restore His presence in Zion.

“You are our God, You are our Master, You are our Redeemer. You will save us. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; it is the time to favor her, the appointed time has come.” (Psalms 102:13)

And our sages add to our prayer.

“You are the Lord our God, and God of our fathers, before Whom they burnt the offering of incense” because in our bond with Him we are redeemed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Terumah: Building a House for the Creator

How do we build a house for God to live in us? Our Sages tell us that the references about the House of God in the Torah are the mountain shown by Him to Abraham, the field where Isaac prayed, and the stone where Jacob had the dream of the ladder.

These are physical places that represent three ways to approach our Creator. One of the meanings of terumah is offering, and we learn that the prelude to build His house is what we have to offer according to what our heart motivates us to give for that purpose. We see several elements related in that process.

We can't give what we don't have, and we can't be what we are not. In this sense, what we have is what we are, hence we give according to what comprises our identity. We often quote our Sages when they ask, “Who is rich?” and they answer, “He who is happy with his lot”.

They refer to a “lot” or “portion” in different levels, from material possessions to personal well being to spiritual fulfillment. Others call such portion the relationship that each individual has with God, considering that what we are and have come from Him. Therefore all depends on our relationship with Him.

In this context we assimilate that what we offer to God in order to build a house for Him, as the space and time of our connection to Him, comes from how rich or poor we are in our relationship with Him. In other words, the more we love Him the closer we are to Him. Thus we realize that Love is our lot. This is how we understand the meaning of “(...) from every man whose heart motivates him to take My offering.” (Exodus 25:2).

Let's be aware that this offering is taken, not given to God:.

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering (…)” (25:2)

The idea behind taking and not giving leads us to realize that what we are and have come from God, hence we take from what He gives us in order to return it to Him.

This is not about a game of “give and take” but to enhance the awareness of our relationship and bond with our Creator. We take our Love to be close to His Love. This is another way to say that Love is our common bond with God. This is the way to realize that our lot is Love as what we receive from God in order to be connected to Him.

We said above that there are several elements interconnected in this awareness. First Love as our identity and most valuable possession, then the intention that motivates us to build our permanent connection with God, and the levels and dimensions of our material consciousness gathered by who we are.

Abraham is the mountain, Isaac the field, and Jacob the stone with which we build the House of God, so He may dwell in our midst (in us). A mountain represents the weight of a conception or belief. A field represents the ways and means to adopt such conception or belief. A stone represents the permanent connection between the conception or belief and the one who has it.

The levels and dimensions we refer to are the aspects and qualities of consciousness, including discernment, thought, emotions, feelings and instincts, along with individual traits, talents and skills. As we mentioned before (see our commentaries on Parshat Terumah: “Elevating Life to Divine Love” of January 30, 2011 and “The Sanctuary as the Connection with God's Love” of February 19, 2012 in this blog.) all these are the items requested by God to build our permanent bond with Him, represented by gold, silver, copper, linen, olive oil, acacia wood, etc.

The message is that there is nothing superior or inferior in none of them, because they all are part of the way God created us. There is no judgment in the way they are because all serve the common purpose in the motivation to be close to our Creator.

We mentioned also that our Sages relate copper (of lesser value compared to gold and silver) to the lower aspects of consciousness, as essential to hold the tents of the Tabernacle.

“All the instruments of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of copper.” (27:19)

Hence we have to value and appreciate even more the lower aspects of consciousness because on them we hold and make firm Love as the house we build for God's Love to dwell in us. We have to infuse the strength and driving force of ego, passions and instincts in our emotions, feelings and thoughts in how we experience Love as our true identity. Love as who we are, have and do as our most valuable possession.

Love is also the encompassing and integrating force in our consciousness to build the house as the permanent bond with God's Love. In the Torah He shows us ways, means and attributes to achieve this purpose. The Torah is also the meeting place as the connection.

“(...) and in the Ark you shall put the Testimony [the Torah] that I shall give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the Ark-cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the Ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” (25:21-22)

We build a house for God with what He already gave us. Love as the material manifestation of God's Love is the portion that sustains our life. From this portion we take to reveal His Presence in our midst, in us, and in the material world. We will be able to reveal His Presence as we remove the negative aspects of consciousness through Love's ways and attributes. 

Happy are those who dwell in Your House! They are ever praising You. Happy are the people that is in such a case: yea, happy is the people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalms 84:4, 144:15),“Blessed are those You choose [the children of Israel] and bring near to live in Your courts! We are filled with the good things of Your House, of Hour Holy Temple.” (65:4).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mishpatim: Learning to Live in God's Love

Ego's fantasies and illusions correspond to idolatry as Love's ways and attributes correspond to real freedom. In this sense, idolatry is the opposite of freedom.

As long as we are bowed to anything that undermines freedom, we are caught in it. We can call it a negative approach to life, addictions, bad habits or lower passions derived from a false belief or feeling of lack. These are the “false gods” of the “nations” that we are commanded to reject, subjugate, conquered and destroy.

“You shall not prostrate yourself before their gods, and you shall not worship them, and you shall not follow their practices, but you shall tear them down and you shall utterly shatter their monuments.” (Exodus 23:24)

This as part of a previous warning.

“Concerning all that I have said to you you shall beware, and the name of the gods of others you shall not mention; it shall not be heard through your mouth.” (23:13)

This portion of the Torah contains several laws as commandments which are preceded by warnings against idolatry (at the end of the previous portion) and followed by similar warnings as mentioned above. We have said that one of the fundamental messages of the Torah is the condemnation of idolatry as the main obstacle to experience higher consciousness, aimed to connect us permanently with our Creator.

We see this from beginning to end in the Torah, since the transgression in the Garden of Eden, regarded as a “fall” into ego's desires, fantasies and illusions (represented by the serpent's seduction of Eve).

Ego's idolatry of its self-centered approach to life as experienced by the generation of the Flood.

Ego's enlargement of its self-conception as god in the generation of the Tower of Babel.

More idolatry in the times of Abraham, and more egocentric obsession with Pharaoh in Egypt, the Golden Calf, and more varying idolatrous conceptions up to our current times.

We must learn from our expertise in ego's controlling ways in our own individual lives, as well as from culture, fashion, ideologies, beliefs, behavioral patterns, obsessions, habits and addictions. We have to know in depth the false gods we worship, and the idols we serve.

In this process we will be able to discern fantasies and illusions as the result of our own invention, out of a feeling or belief of lack. We have said many times that the “sin” in the Garden of Eden was the result of the false belief of lack out of ego's desire to become its own god.

Once we can tell the real origin of our fantasies and illusions, we will be able to recognize that love as the material manifestation of God's love is our true Essence and identity. Once we recognize that without Love we are dead in the mirages of ego's illusions, we will be able to return to what is truly real.

This is why the Torah tells us that there are laws that make us understand the Ten Commandments given in the preceding portion. We have to reiterate that love's ways and attributes contain their own ethics. Love isn't love without its principles and values. There is a way to love, and this way is universally applied to those who say they love.

Thus we reject and condemn those who try to exempt themselves from judgment, when they claim obeying orders to justify murdering innocent people. These are the same people who, based on wicked ideologies, hate, instigate and perpetrate mass murder. In their cynicism they also claim to love their country, their spouses and their children.

Thus we understand that their wicked ideas, destructive beliefs and negative feelings are the gods and idols they worship, in which they become. See our commentaries on parshat Mishpatim: “The Laws of God's Love” of January 23, 2011 and “Torah's Laws as God's Love” of February 12, 2012 in this 

King David opens our eyes to awaken from ego's inventions.

“They [idols] have hands, but they don't feel. They have feet, but they don't walk, neither do they speak through their throat. Those who make idols end up like them. So does everyone who trusts them.” (Psalms 115:7-8)

Our Prophets reaffirm his words.

“Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation (...)” (Habakkuk 2:18)

“Those who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” (Isaiah 44:9)

The lesson of idolatry is to make us return to the true reality God is.

“And you shall worship the Lord, your God, and He will bless your food and your drink, and I will remove illness from your midst.” (Exodus 23:25)

God is the blessing from which all blessings come.

“There will be no bereaved or barren woman in your land; I will fill the number of your days.” (23:26)

Again God's love reminds us that He does not cohabit with anything different from His ways and attributes.

“You shall not form a covenant for them or for their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they cause you to sin against Me, that you will worship their gods, which will be a snare for you.” (23:33)

The laws in this portion teach us that life is a learning process from slavery to freedom. In our previous commentaries on this portion we said that our sages explain these laws not to justify or promote slavery, but to understand it as the service people must perform after losing the privilege of leading their own lives.

They explain further indicating that slavery must be understood as the service necessary to regain individual freedom. In this context, the masters to whom one was sold are the teachers, rules and norms we must assimilate in order not to fall into a negative situation that makes us lose our freedom, and that which makes us free.

In this sense freedom is the privilege to conduct our lives in love's ways and attributes, and not in the negative trends of ego's desires, fantasies and illusions. In this sense, we understand that love is our freedom as long as we live in the laws and ordinances of its ways and attributes, opposite to idolatry as slavery under ego's domains.

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.