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“War Today Will Bring Peace Tomorrow”

DaAti War brings PeaceWarfare seems endemic to the human condition, but why? Why must we fight? Why do we feel the insatiable need to confront, engage, and struggle with ourselves and others? Can’t we all just live in peace? Kabbalah explains that all struggle (physical and spiritual) rectifies “Divine sparks,” or, points of lofty spiritual potential that require our assistance - our engagement - if they are to become “revealed,” i.e. fully manifest to the outside. Explain the Sages, in this world (the physical world pre-Messiah, pre transformation), the “shell precedes the fruit,” i.e. coarse physical consciousness predominates over refined spiritual form. Hence, it is the task of man, explain the Rabbis, to struggle with this “shell” dimension (coarseness of a given situation) until he “cracks” it (discards its desire) thereby giving full expression to the “fruit” - the spiritual truth hidden within the experience. 

Let’s take the example of food. Noe we all must eat, but experience teaches us, it’s how we eat that determines if the food is good (healthy) or bad (injurious). If nutrient-rich foods are carefully chosen and adequate caloric intake is achieved, our bodies rise to achieve their strongest and most robust expression. But if we abuse food, eat contaminated/nutrient-deficient foods at too little or too much quantity, we suffer terrible, sometimes irreversible trauma. Hence, it is up to us to mindfully choose a dietary path that is healthy in both its quantity and quality. Explains Kabbalah, in addition to this physical dimension of nutrition there exists an underlying spiritual dimension (the Divine sparks mentioned above) that, like its physical counterpart, requires “mindfulness” - a selective mind able to discriminate between truth and falsehood - if robust “health” is to be achieved. 

To say it another way, when we “eat in order to live,” eat in order to achieve optimal health (the ideal of which is “service of God” as explained by the Sages), we “crack the shell” (the coarse physical consciousness of “living in order to eat”), and reveal the “spiritual fruit” - the Godliness of the act. So too, explain the Sages, with all things permitted by Torah. Explains Kabbalah, in all permissible activities, e.g. eating, sexuality, money, etc, there is found this dualism of shell/fruit consciousness. It is therefore up to us, human beings endowed with a holy soul, to choose the “fruit” over the “shell” (the soul over the body) no matter the experience. But that choice is not so easy, for in this world (as explained above) the “shell precedes the fruit” - our animal psyche tends more readily toward the “body,” the coarse and superficial dimensions of a given experience. It is for that reason we must “fight,” dig deep within ourselves and struggle, in order that we may rise above and “crack” the shell of the moment - “body” dimension - no matter its allure. Once revealed, the “fruit of the soul” (the Godly spark/inner dimension of a given experience) propels us higher and higher until we reach the level called “Shalom” (the Hebrew word for “peace”), the dimension of perfect bonding with God - the elevation of the Divine spark to its source above as explained at length in Kabbalah. 

To conclude: King Solomon famously declared, “There is a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Question: Why does war come before peace? Explain the Sages, war precedes peace because in this world (the coarse physical world) the shell precedes the fruit! In the language of the Talmud, “Today in this world to do them (to crack/discard their - our experiences - shells), tomorrow (in the era of the Messiah) to receive their reward” (the fruit/soul of the experience). 

Let’s fight then, not with each other, but with our experiences - our intentions. For it’s our intentions that will take us (when properly directed) above the “battlefield” of physical consciousness - consciousness of “shell” - and directly into the blissful embrace of “peace” - the consciousness of “fruit”! So choose wisely and remember that it is you (your intentions) that will determine shell or fruit, war or peace.
Choose wisely! 

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Sanctifying The Senses

DaAti Gate of SensesThe human experience is a complicated one for we are formed from both exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) forces. Take, for example, genetics; no one asked  for the gene pool “gifted” to them. Some got lucky, others, not so much. Then there are the parents. How did two such messed up people get a license to raise a child? In all seriousness, even the best and most loving of parents pass along an assortment of traumas and poor habits we would all much rather live without. With so much beyond our control (so many contributing growth/life factors beyond our say so), how do we grab the proverbial reigns and take charge of our lives - direct it toward the destiny we actually want? 

The answer is simple: Learn to guard the “gates”. 

Let me explain. 

While it is true that some of nature’s “creative strokes” lie outside (beyond) our freedom of choice, others are very much within our discretion and depend directly on our input. In particular, Kabbalah explains that each of our 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) comes with a built in “security gate”, defense system so to speak, that allows us to freely “flip the switch” and choose between “opening” the gate (allow the stimuli in) or “closing” the gate (deny the stimuli entry). 

This, according to the great commentator and Kabbalist, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (Igra d’kallah parshat Shoftim), is the significance of the Biblical verse, “Judges and police you will put in all your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:18). Explains Rabbi Elimelech, had the verse said “the gates of your city”, i.e. “Judges and police you will put in the gates of your city”, I would understand the verse to be commanding the fortification of all city entryways - to prevent a possible attack. But what does “your gates” mean? Answers Rabbi Elimelech, “your gates”, the portals and entryways of your body - your head in particular! To give an example, if our eyes see - lock onto - something inappropriate (something not in our spiritual best interest), we can choose to either: A) Look at and absorb the experience, or, B) Shut the “gates” (close the eyelids) and deny the noxious influence from entering and, potentially, wreaking havoc. Mastering each of the body’s senses, explain the masters, allows for deep and meaningful spiritual development, for only when the physical body is sanctified (beginning with its “gates”) can the soul (hidden deep within) “emerge” - become conscious. 

By sanctifying our eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hands and feet (limbs of “touch”), we create a suitable “dwelling place” for the Creator’s Holy presence. This may just be the only say-so we have........let’s take advantage of it! 

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“The Jewish Way Of Relating To God”

DaAti Relating to GodThe mind of a human being is filled with imagery, mental constructs derived (and assembled) from his/her experience of the world. Hence, it is difficult to understand how we, image-driven mortal beings, can relate to an infinite and limitless God, especially in lieu of the commandment, “Thou shall not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:3). Ok, so likenesses of all sorts are out! How then should we relate to our Creator?

In Kabbalah we are taught, though concrete images are indeed forbidden (as they are creations of God not God Himself), we may nonetheless use their associated meanings to develop a meaningful relationship with God. This idea called “abstraction” (lifting the literal idea to its higher meaning) is intimated in the prophet’s words, “From my flesh I envision God” (Job 19:26). Meaning, from my “flesh” (physical, emotional, and mental experiences), I shall envision (develop a sense of) God! Explain the Rabbis, so as long as we can properly abstract our wealth of worldly experiences (our “flesh”) to relate to God (develop a relationship with Him), we can avoid the pernicious waters of idolatry.

Let’s examine but one example from  Torah literature. In King Solomon’s Song of Songs, we read in chapter 6, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me, He pastures amongst the flowers” (6:3). Here, God is not likened to a distant king (an authority figure), but to an attentive, tender, and loving groom, who is constantly “shepherding” (guiding, protecting, and nourishing) His “beloved” (the righteous soul) through fields of “flowers” (places filled with rich spiritual delights). By comparing our benevolent Creator to a “Groom,” King Solomon wished to invoke the very deepest sense of relationship, a connection so pure and absolute, that it can only be likened to the love of soulmates.

This is the idea of “abstraction,” digging deeper beyond the metaphor or parable to discover the higher meaning.
May we merit that God will open all our eyes that we may better see (and comprehend) His wonders.

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God’s Names

DaAti Gods NamesIn the Torah (Bible) God is called by different names - 10 in particular as explained by the Sages. Let’s review a few. In the first chapter of Genesis, God first appears as Creator of the heavens and earth, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1). In that verse, God (in Hebrew) appears as, ELOKIM, “Master of all powers,” as explained by the Sages. Later, in the second chapter of Genesis, we learn of another Divine name - the “ineffable name” - HASHEM, “These are the generations of Heaven and Earth when they were created, on the day that Lord (HASHEM) God (ELOKIM) made the earth and heavens“ (Genesis 2:4). Here, God’s name, HASHEM, is understood to mean, “Active and continuous Governor,” as explained by the Sages. If we fast forward 2,248 years from Creation, we learn of yet another name, EHYH, “God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM (EHYH). Go tell the children of Israel, I AM (EHYH) sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). This is the name, explain the Sages, that relates to redemption.

Question: Why so many names? If God is indeed, One, “Hear oh Israel the Lord is God the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), why confuse us by using so many splendid titles? Just choose one, (to bolster the idea of God’s absolute unity) and let the narrative flow! Why specifically 10?

Explains the great Kabbalist Rabbi Yoseph Giktalia, the number 10 is a “magic number!” Why? Because the two smaller numbers that form it (1 and 0) reduce to 1, i.e. 1 + 0 (the two numbers that make up 10) = 1. Meaning, by writing specifically “10” names for God in the Torah (10 that reduces to 1), the Creator hinted that, in truth, everything is one! But this leads us back to the original question: Why 10 at all? I understand that 10 reduces to 1 (thus hinting at God’s ultimate unity), but why not just bypass all the fancy legwork and declare it outright - write one name for God and leave it at that?

Kabbalah explains that God’s names are descriptions of His will (each of the 10 names appears as a different aspect of the Creator’s will, e.g. ELOKIM describes His will to create, YHVH describes His will to govern, and EHYH describes His will to redeem, etc.) By telling us that all his “names” (manifestations of will) are in truth, one, the Bible teaches us that no matter what version of reality (Divine “Will” of the moment) we are facing, it is all (in truth) one - bound to His essential oneness.

And what’s the lesson?

We are never ever alone! To walk the Divine path correctly (to be successful on our spiritual mission), we must all remember that no matter the “climate”, the consciousness of the moment, God’s Providence is there - He is shaping, choreographing, and moving it all. In the language of the Talmud, “A bird does not dive into the sea (to snatch a fish) unless Divinely directed to do so!” This wonderful teaching incentivizes us to to never give up, but rather, to face life’s challenges with conviction and determination, remembering that this too is Him - a manifestation of His will. By remaining true to our mission and connecting to the Creator no matter the “name” (Will of the moment), we declare in body and soul, “God is one!”

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Does Creation Have A Reason?

Daati Mystery of CreationCreation is a great mystery, for neither the philosophical nor scientific schools of thought offer a truly satisfying answer to explain the “mind of God” - the Creator’s reason(s) for our existence, i.e. why we are here! A college student enrolled in an introductory Physics class once asked his professor, “Where did existence come from?” The professor explained, “The Big Bang.” The student pressed on with yet another question, “And what came before the Big Bang” (before space and time?) Answered the professor, “Singularity.” “Can you please explain to me what created the singularity” asked the  student? The professor smiled and pointing down the hallway declared, “For that, you should go consult with the theology department!” 

Some questions lie beyond our scientific rationale (our logical methodologies), for they touch a place deep within the human experience that our microscopes and telescopes can’t go. In short, they touch a place beyond all space, time, matter, and energy, beyond the constituents of our physical world. They reach the very soul of our existence. One such question has always been, If God is perfect (complete in every way), why did He create? What need is there to create seeing as it adds nothing to Him....He is already perfect? Explains the Rabbinical Sages, “God created because of passion!” Clarifies the great Chassidic Master Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, “We do not known the reason(s) for this passion (what motivated His passion), only, that there was a passion.” In short, creation is a Divine drive, a relentless compulsion, in a manner of speaking, who’s source lies “above mind” -  above all logic. In other words, you and I exist because God in some unimaginable way yearned - above all logic and rationale - for us to be. He wants only us and will have it no other way!

There is a powerful lesson to be learned here. 

In the book of Psalms, King David declares, “A world of kindness you (God) have made.” This kindness, explain the Sages, is one with the “mindless passion” mentioned above. You see God’s love (because it is connected to a passion that is above reason) has no limitations; hence, it never expires. This conveys a rather powerful message about love, tolerance, hope, and forgiveness. Namely, there is no place you can fall (no sin that is too deep or dark) that His love cannot reach. You need only call out, “From the depths I call to you” (Psalm 130) and you will be answered. This ability to tap into God’s love, a love beyond all reason, and climb out from the depths of despair, helplessness, grief, and loneliness, is the secret of “Teshuvah,” Hebrew for, “Returning.” 

So, return my brothers and sisters and remember, it is you who is God’s passion...He would have it no other way! 

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Rebuilding God’s Temple With Love

Daati Rebuilding Gods TempleThe 9th of Av is fast approaching and it is time, yet again, to review the circumstances surrounding the 1st and 2nd Temple’s destruction (the 1st temple was destroyed by the  Babylonian’s in 598 BCE and the 2nd temple by the Roman’s in 70 CE on the exact same day - 9th of the Hebrew month AV - as explained at length in the Talmud.) Explain the Sages, whereas the 1st temple fell because the people failed to show proper respect for the Sages, the 2nd temple fell because of the great sin called “Sinat Chinam”, Hebrew for, “Baseless hatred.” Question: Disrespect I understand since I have disrespected others and they have disrespected me, but what is “baseless hatred?” 

To understand “baseless hatred” we must first understand “baseless love.” Let’s begin with the word “baseless”, what does it mean? Simply defined, “baseless” means, “without reason” - above the mind. Explains Kabbalah, a person’s love of others is directly rooted in (and is proportionate to) his/her selflessness - the ability to transcend the self. When I love another, being careful to set aside my own self interest, I achieve a lasting love - a love that knows no limitations.  And why is “selfless love” - love  above mind - everlasting? Because it doesn’t accord with reason. To clarify, if a reason does exist, if love (or any emotion) is based on the mind’s condition, then the love is temporary (for should the “reason”, the source of the love, cease, the love itself will cease.) In the language of the Talmud, “A love that is dependent on something when that thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on something never dies” (Chapters of our Fathers, 5:16.)

From the above definition of “baseless love” we can readily understand the meaning of “baseless hatred” (the cause of the 2nd temple’s destruction.) Similar to love, any hatred spawned by reason (sourced in the mind’s perception) can be easily overturned if the reason itself ceases to exist. And similar to love, if the hatred is sourced “above mind” (doesn’t have a reason) it never dies. For example, if Reuben hates Shimon because Shimon spoke bad about him (a hatred sourced in reason), then if Shimon apologized (thud removing the reason), the hatred would cease. But if, God forbid, Reuben hates Shimon just “because” (there is no reason to which the hatred can be attached), then the hatred is forever!

To fix baseless hatred (and merit the rebuilding of  God’s holy temple, His house of love), we must first begin by converting “baseless” hatred into “baseless” (selfless) love. Next time you stroll into a communal setting and that special “someone” invokes a feeling of strong dislike, pause and determine (using your mind’s eye) the nature for the hatred: reason or baseless. If a reason should exist, see to it you resolve your antipathy (negate the hatred) by negating its reason, i.e. work it out. But if the hatred is of the baseless variety (above mind) convert it into its equivalent love, love without reason. Simply set the emotion aside and show unexpected and senseless kindness.

May we speedily merit to convert our senseless hatred into senseless love. Labour hard, for your every kindness (especially the selfless variety) adds a brick to the metaphysical temple that will soon, very soon, materialize to become part of our everyday earthly experience.

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