Shavuot Renewal 5782

“And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”

– Ezekiel 36:25, JPS 1917 Tanach

The B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) had sunk to the 49th level of impurity in Egypt. Had we descended to the 50th level of impurity, according to chazal, we would have been indistinguishable from the Egyptians. From this perspective, we were not brought out of Egypt, based upon our own merit. This is akin to what is mentioned later in Torah, “Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart” (Deuteronomy 9:5).

Thus, we were taken out of Egypt by way of what is called itaruta dil’eyla, an “awakening from above,” wherein H’Shem brings about an effect from Shomayim. From out of the influence of an idolatrous society, B’nei Yisrael was freed from slavery, in order to serve H’Shem.

The 49 day counting of the Omer, between Pesach and Shavuos is a gradual ascent to the 49th level purity. A time to effect a gradual transition to a positive set of character traits, through an itaruta dil’tata, an awakening from below, i.e., from our own efforts. As B’nei Yisrael spent forty nine days on a journey from Egypt towards Mount Sinai, where the Torah was given, so opportunity given the opportunity to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew on Shavuot.

Omer: Day 17 Tiferes shebbe Tiferes – Back to the Garden

Tiferes shebbe Tiferes: Beauty within Beauty

The epitome of beauty that speaks of harmony and balance within all of creation was present in the beginning within Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). That harmony was disrupted, when Adam and Chava (Eve) partook of forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until that moment, the progenitors of humankind lived in a nondual world of blissful connection to G-d. Their relationship to Him was whole, and immersed in complete Oneness. They were at one with each other, and all of creation as well. Subsequent to their disobedience, the world became an admixture of good and evil.

Throughout history, these two forces often appeared in sharp outlines, discernible even to the casual eye, as well as the more carefully honed conscience. Today, the blur between good and evil that seems to have proliferated in the twentieth century is increasing to the point of concern, whereas the boundaries are no longer clearly marked in society. The prophet’s words apply, “woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that change darkness into light, and light into darkness; that change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The words of singer songwriter, Joni Mitchell, during the tumultuous 60’s still ring true, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.” How so? Through bringing compassion towards a disharmonious world, beginning with ourselves. For G-d primarily expects His crowning achievement (humankind) to live lives that reflect His image. Mankind has fallen far since the days of yore; yet, recovery for the soul is still possible. With a sincere effort, a response will be elicited from Above.

note: These are my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Pesach 5782 – 7th Day

“And Moses said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the L-RD, which He will work for you to-day; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” – Exodus 14:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

As the Egyptian army approached, Torah records that B’nei Yisrael, encamped near the Sea of Reeds, cried out to H’Shem in great fear (14:10). Commentary notes that the people were divided in their response: 1). Some cried out to H’Shem in prayer, akin to the later writing of the psalmist, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of the L-RD our G-d” (Psalm 20:8, JPS). 2). Another group of the people, having great trepidation about their circumstances, took the exact opposite approach, expressing their regret for having left Egypt, and complaining to Moshe (see Exodus 14:10-12).

When Moshe responded to the consternation of B’nei Yisrael, in light of their present circumstances, despite the seemingly near danger that was imminent, he said to them, “Fear ye not, stand still and see” (see above). Or HaChayim comments, that the words “stand still” convey the essence of prayer, a reliance on H’Shem, turning to Him in the midst of nisyanos (trials). He notes that the same Hebrew phrase is used in the Tanach, in regard to the prayer of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who prayed in all sincerity to H’Shem. The picture derived from this understanding is one of a people’s reliance on H’Shem, in hope of seeing His salvation at a time of great need, when Pharaoh’s army was bearing down on them.

That night, an angel of H’Shem protected the people from the Egyptians, a cloud darkened the Egyptian camp, while a pillar of light shined upon the B’nei Yisrael. Moshe stretched his hand over the sea; and, H’Shem caused the sea to part by way of a strong east wind. The Children of Israel passed through the sea; however, when the Egyptians pursued them, Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the sea. Our own expectations of H’Shem for deliverance in our lives, regardless of our circumstances, when made through the prayer of sincerity, may bring results greater than our expectations. Especially, when there is no other recourse to be made, it is then that we may see the grandeur of His salvation. This is the type pf prayer that will be required, directly preceding the Final Redemption.

Dawn Arrives Serene

"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." 
- Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The final dawn arrives to bring

a hopeful message tinged with joy,

compels the soul to lift on high

the weary eyes above the sky.

Until that day, I’ll hide away,

and bide my time, making rhyme,

behind the screen of inner space,

where no one sees my hidden face.

I’ll greet the dawn with praise and song,

without the slightest sound of alarm,

resting in my safest haven,

and in anticipation sing.

The veil will part in sky and heart,

revealing all to glorify the One,

Who in Heaven’s Highest Abode,

sends blessings from His treasure trove.

Hope in the Skies

Look up,

for the hour draws near.

There is hope in the skies,

beyond what is imagined,

by the fear in our hearts.

There is a lasting generation

of humanity that will survive

the death and decay of the earth,

before the arrival of its revival.

The truth will transcend science,

and reason outlast the media’s

implicit portrayal of doomsday,

on the brink of tomorrow.

I shall not seek Hollywood’s

fantastic predictions on the screen;

nor, fear the earth-changes,

while my faith is intact.

I will do my part to hasten

the renewal of the earth;

and prevent the suffocation of sea turtles,

by not accepting plastic bags at the store.

My conscience clean, I will rest in quietude

every night in expectation of a dawn,

that will succeed man’s best efforts

to create harmony within the biosphere,

as G-d enacts a rescue plan.

Hope Surfaces

Hope, is the mainstay of my life

and the fruition of my thoughts.

Hope, will outweigh the strife

that weighs heavily upon my heart.

Hope, the champion of the future,

a prelude to ultimate victory.

Hope, is enough to suture

the wounds inflicted by misery.

Hope, will mend the broken fragments

of a life unduly shattered.

Hope, will diminish the lament

of those whose clothes are tattered.

Hope, designed to stich each patch

and sew together the unraveled strands.

Hope, will help to gather all who are lost,

like collecting so many grains of sand.

Hope, will meld with faith,

bridging the gap in between.

Hope obtained, will never fade,

always realizing the dream.

Let Faith Reign

And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend.

Slow Train, by Bob Dylan

When society is upended,

and people are tormented,

take heart in your faith,

don’t let your soul go to waste;

there will be a slow train

coming around the bend.

Let faith reign in your heart,

don’t pretend to play the part,

when the mind is sincere,

and the pathway is clear,

there will be a slow train

on the tracks ready to start.

Let’s dare not be hesitant,

when opportunity prevails, take that first step,

look, the passenger door is open,

these tired souls that appear to be broken,

will be renewed on the slow train,

moving along the tracks.

Truth Conquers All

1.

All of the firebrands that you have thrown at me,

have been deflected, landed in fertile soil, and,

transformed into pillars of truth to guide my life.

The blazing torches of lies, brandished in my face,

have been quenched by the streams of sanctity,

and extinguished by waters from the well of salvation.

I have been inoculated against future deception,

and strengthened against the cunning of the Great Deceiver.

I have regained my sanity in a world of chaos.

2.

I put one foot forward each and every day of my life,

on the road towards freedom from my past bondage,

held as a mental hostage, in the lairs of my nemesis.

Yet, when you appeared, my bonds were loosened,

my nightmare ended, and new horizons emerged.

Now, carried away by the Spirit, to new vistas,

I have tread upon the tail of the serpent,

and danced amongst my people reborn.

Purim: Taanis Esther 5782

“‘Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?’”  – Esther 4:13-14, JPS 1917 Tanach

“There is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.” – Pirkei Avos 4:3

Esther petitioned King Ahasuerus to spare her people.  She, her maidens, and the Jewish people fasted for three days, before she approached the King.  She was risking her life, in doing so, because, no one could approach the king without permission.  Yet, she was emboldened to approach him, after fasting, with all of her people in support of her. 

Queen Esther was given her moment: “who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?”  H’Shem arranges the remedy, before the sickness (Talmud). Esther was made queen, before Haman hatched his plan to eliminate the Jewish people. Thank G-d. And, may we also see hidden remedies revealed as miracles, soon in regard to the modern-day Purim narrative in Ukraine. Ahmein.

Ultimately, we have H’Shem to seek as a refuge, both then and now; we should not take His shield of protection for granted; our refuge and fortress in Whom we trust (Psalm 91:2).  We should seek Him in all of our trials and tribulations, keeping in mind that He is the Source of our well-being. Especially, at this time to remember our brothers and sisters in peril, is an obligation and responsibility of K’lal Yisrael.

Wake Up Call

I woke up this morning, as the remnant of a dream lingered in my soul. All was foretold long ago; and, yet we seem to get so little of a glimpse on occasion into this hope for redemption. My academic background is in psychology; needless to say, I began to analyze my dream: Rockets turned into butterflies, and missiles turned into doves; the sky became bright blue, as light descended from above. As if in an overnight occurrence, the Third Temple appeared in Jerusalem; and, the king entered through the Eastern Gate.

Yet, before he could reach the throne, the processions stopped. The King exclaimed, “I can go no further.” Everyone looked astonished and turned one to another in wonder. Then, I woke up with the following words spoken quietly in my mind: the redemption will not occur until you correct your spelling mistake. So, I laughed and smirked, and went back to sleep, thinking, oh, what a silly dream. Later, I wrote in my journal that this dream was a wish-fulfillment tinged with anxiety because of my lack of self-esteem. Then, I turned the page in my journal, and continued to write…

What if the dream was a divine portent? I know that mysticism bears some light upon this dream, if I think about the nature of words and their power to move mountains. I recall hearing about a misspelling in a mezuzah scroll that brought ill fortune upon the people who lived at that residence, where the mezuzah was placed on the doorway. When the mistake was found, and the correction made, all turned out well for the family and their descendants. Now, I know there is a principle, isn’t there? “As above so below.” So, our efforts, thoughts and speech in this world have an influence upon the spiritual realm. Hmm.

Then, I realized, that I had recently written a poem about the Geulah. As usual, I placed the appropriate tags on the post for ease of accessibility and viewership; however, I wonder if I misspelled the word, redemption. So, I decided to check, half-heartedly remaining skeptical. Lo and behold, I had misspelled the word, redemption, spelling the word without the second “e” – redmption. I added the letter “e,” and quietly made my usual cup of green tea in the morning. I had a glimmer of hope in my heart, wondering if I had actually in some small way contributed to the hastening of the Geulah. After all, isn’t there a saying about how one mitzvah can change the entire world? Hmm.

I sat back down at my desk in front of the computer screen. I sat silently in deep thought. I decided to check the likes for that poem. There were the usual likes from people who read my posts; there were also some likes from some bloggers unknown to me. I checked the comments; many of the comments were from the usual crowd; there were a few from others not previously known. I continued with my day, not letting my dreams hold sway over reality. An hour later, I checked the post again; the likes were climbing higher than usual; the comments kept pouring in one after the other. Hmm. I must have struck a chord in the heartstrings of like-minded folk. I decided to place the poem on some other platforms. Then, I continued to work on some other writing tasks until dusk; studied Torah and called it a day.

The next day there was a bright light in my room, and it was not even daylight yet. I thought that I was still dreaming. Perhaps, I was still sleeping, I thought to myself; so, I decided to make a cup of tea. There was music emanating from my computer; yet, the pc was still closed for I always close up my laptop overnight. Normally, the music app only works when the laptop is open. I did not even recognize the song. Then, I began listening to the lyrics, “Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders?” I realized that these are the words of Az Yashir, giving praise to H’Shem, for having led us out of Egypt and split the Sea of Reeds.

Where was the music coming from? The online morning service that I attend had not even begun, so this couldn’t have been from the liturgy. The choir singing the song sounded as if composed of thousands of voices. Then, I remembered the commentary on this verse: the sages point out that the verb tense is in the future; in other words, not “Then Moses sang;” rather, “Then Moses [and the people] will sing.” When? According to chazal, after the Tehillas haMeisim (Resurrection of the Dead) at the beginning of the Messianic Age.

I couldn’t believe what I was thinking. Could this really be? Or was I still dreaming? I went into the restroom to splash some water upon my face. Then, when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked as if I was twenty years old again. Wait. Didn’t my friend once tell me that when Moshiach appears, those who are alive at the time will be transformed? And, that they will have a resurrection body like that of a twenty-year old? Could this really be happening?

I decided to check the news. All of the Israeli papers, including Arutz Sheva, the Jerusalem Post, and Ha’aretz had live coverage at the Western Wall. Is the Redemption at hand? Is the Geulah being broadcast around the world? Will all eyes behold him? As is written, “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4, JPSN). “I would behold G-d while still in my flesh, I myself, not another, would behold Him; would see with my own eyes” (Job 19:26-27, JPSN). Amein and amein.