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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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The Torah As A “Vessel”

Daati Torah as a VesselThe original Bible (Torah) contains many mysteries, some textural, others, structural. Of the structural variety, one mystery stands out as particularly meaningful: the number of its books. Permit me to clarify. In the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat), the Torah is referred to as “Threefold Torah,” i.e. a Torah composed of 3 parts:

1) Chumash (5 Books)
2) Prophets (8 books)
3) Writings (11 books)

In total, the 3-fold Torah contains 24 books: 5 + 8 + 11 = 24. Taken together, these 24 books are called “Tanach” (pronounced “Tanak”.)
Now the strange part: numbers, in Torah tradition, convert into words (each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet possesses a unique numerical value.) When 24, the total number of books in the “3-fold” Torah, is converted to its corresponding Hebrew letters, the word “Kad” is formed (whose basic Hebrew meaning is “jug” or “vessel.”) This correspondence is quite strange, for a jug/vessel is nothing more than a common everyday household tool, utilized (especially in Biblical times) to draw water from a well or spring. Case in point, in the book of Genesis, Rebecca (future wife of Issac) appears before Eliezer (servant of Abraham) with a “kad” (vessel) on her shoulder. In the Torah’s language, “And behold, Rebekah went forth....and her vessel was on her shoulder” (Genesis 24:15.) And to where did she go? Continues the narrative, “And she descended to the spring and she filled her vessel, and she went up” (Genesis 24:16.)

So now comes the very big question: Why would the Torah - God’s special revelation to mankind - possess a numerical structure hinting at a common household item? Would it not be far more dignified to choose a number whose Hebrew equivalent equals something special, a crown or scepter perhaps? Why did God choose to build his law (24 books of the Bible) around an image so commonplace (vessels and jugs are found everywhere)?

“Commonplace” is exactly the lesson! Would the Torah’s structure have hinted (numerically) to golden crowns or silver scepters, I would be forced to conclude is was intended only for the super-elite, since it is they who possess such finery. By choosing to structure His law around “vessels,” something so ordinary, God wished to hint that His law belongs to everyone: rich, poor, you, and me.

In conclusion, the Torah might have originated in the heavens above - in the very highest of celestial palaces - but its wisdom was given to us below without discrimination. Hence, we all share a responsibility in its implementation, for we are all precious in the eyes of the Almighty, and we must all do our very best to bring His light into our “vessels” - our common everyday lives.

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Make Israel Here

Daati Israel in MindIsrael is a magical place, a bustling country filled with timeless rituals, ancient sounds, alluring aromas, and colorful landscapes. Everything seen and felt from the intricate tapestries set high upon Jerusalem’s many rocky archways, to the great winds that roar toward the evening through the hills and valleys of Matula, grabs the soul and shake it as if to say, “Awaken!” From the venders of Jaffo who labor by the sea, to the mystics of Tzvat who toil high in the north, Israel is truly one of a kind. 

Considering Israel’s unparalleled uniqueness, how do the Rabbis command, “Make Israel here,” i.e. make your “HERE”, wherever you are, Israel? If Israel is truly so special, how can one transform the consciousness of a New York City or Hollywood California, into the holiest land on earth? Let’s begin our analysis by first defining the spiritual meaning of “Israel”. Explains the holy Kabbalist (Jewish mystic) Rabbi Issac Luria of Tzvat, “Israel” (its Hebrew letters) permutes to form two words: “Rosh” (“head”) and “Li” (“to me.”) Israel, thus means, “A head to me,” i.e. a place in my mind! This, explain the Rabbis, is where “Israel” truly begins, for long before there was a physical Israel (Israel the land) there was a spiritual Israel (Israel the person), the 3rd Jewish Patriarch who fathered 12 righteous sons - the 12 tribes of the Jewish people. Israel is thus, first and foremost, a living consciousness, a special way of looking at the world. To best understand that “way” you need only to understand the first Israel, Jacob our father (who was named at birth Jacob, and only later, after battling and defeating the angel of Esav, was given the additional name Israel.) Explain the Sages, Jacob’s greatest spiritual talent lies in his ability to see and reveal Godliness in even the minutest of physical details. When Jacob arrives at a place, meets a person, or witnesses an event, however seemingly mundane, he immediately “digs in” - analyzes the experience - to discover the deeper spiritual meaning. By doing so, explain the Sages, Jacob constantly grows in his holiness (closeness to God) for he serves God everywhere no matter the activity. 

And this, then, is how we can fulfill, “Make Israel here,” by searching deep within ourselves, our every mental, emotional, and physical experience, until we find God’s wisdom - the lesson intended for us. Once you become well practiced  in such service you will discover that terms like great and small (profound and mundane) make no difference to the Creator, for in truth, every experience (no matter the size) can be an awakening, a sacred moment of Divine consciousness that is the beauty of the metaphysical mind-space called, “Israel.” 

God Bless and may we all merit to spread our own personal “Israel” to the furthest regions of the earth.

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Biblical Medicine

Daati Biblical MedicineWe all care about health for it is a priceless commodity that, like a rare and precious stone, must be guarded. The last century has seen an unprecedented effort to unify medical traditions, new and old, toward the single goal of advancing global healthcare. Hospitals, medical clinics, even college campuses now boast integrated facilities wherein doctors from many a diverse background can help patients meet their wellness goals. While medicine can get very complicated, in principle, it all really revolves around four distinct spheres: body, heart, mind, and soul. To say it another way, our defined self - who we are - is shaped not only by genetic factors (the body we occupy), but by our sense of self as it arises from our emotional (heart), mental (mind), and spiritual (soul) toil.
Hence, to be truly healthy, we must devote daily attention to our totality (our four spheres), for therein lies our wellness. There is one more detail that must be mentioned; for the above 4 spheres to function optimally, it is essential they learn to “flow,” to communicate as one. This “communicative unity” is termed simply integration - the ability for different (but complementary) systems to achieve optimal connection. Think of it like a car engine, all parts need not only be functional (“healthy”) in their own right, but able to connect (integrate) with one another. Combining all the above we can now say that human health depends on 4 factors that are in truth 5: body, heart, mind, soul, and integration - the web that unites them all. But how does any of this relate to the Torah/Bible? Explains the great genius Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (affectionately known as the Vilna Gaon), each of the 5 dimensions of body (elucidated above ) corresponds to one of the 5 Books of Moses! Meaning, when we learn and practice the law of God (as contained in the 5 Books) we nourish all the above mentioned 5 spheres!

To briefly summarize the relationship:
Genesis = Integration
Exodus = Soul
Leviticus = Mind
Numbers = Heart
Deuteronomy = Body
 
To briefly explain:
Genesis relates to integration because it’s Genesis that deals with creation. As creation is common to us all (we were all created), it is the great web that binds all phenomena. Hence, when we study Genesis we tap into the Divine power that integrates all systems together.

Exodus relates to Soul because it is Exodus that deals with emancipation from slavery. Explain the Rabbis, leaving slavery (the laws of man) to embrace freedom (the law of God) is synonymous with “birthing” the soul - revealing its potential. Hence, when we study Exodus we tap into the Divine power that reveals the soul.

Leviticus relates to mind because it is Leviticus that deals with the laws of sacrifice. Explain the Rabbis, a Biblical sacrifice is only kosher when the mind is involved - when we Intend through the sacrifice to come closer to God. Hence, when we study Leviticus we tap into the Divine power that reveals the Godly mind. 

Numbers relates to heart because it is Numbers that deals with the rectification of the heart. This, explain the Rabbis, is the secret of Israel’s 42 encampments in the desert - from Egypt to Israel (chronicled in detail at the end of the book of Numbers.) The mystical significance of the number 42 relates, as explained at length in Kabbalah, to 42 specific traits of the “broken” (dysfunctional) heart. By encamping 42 times, Israel sought to fix these 42 broken traits by converting them into Holy qualities. Hence, when we study Numbers we tap into the Divine power that reveals the Godly heart.

Deuteronomy relates to body because it is Deuteronomy that deals with the consequence of going astray - departing from a Godly path. Explain the Rabbis, going astray (sinning) is only possible at the level of body because it is there, in physical consciousness, that good and evil are found. Hence, when we study Deuteronomy we tap into Divine power that reveals the Godly body.

In conclusion, by learning diligently the Torah/Bible - God’s law as contained in the 5 Books of Moses - we nourish each of the five spheres of the body. May God Bless us all to attain our most optimal and resplendent health.

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Our 3 Fold Sanctuary

Daati 3 PillarsStaying sane in an insane world is difficult, for who amongst us is immune to its temptations? First the challenge: We are living in a high tech, fast-paced, impulse-driven reality in constant danger of becoming just another diseased mind (distracted and confused) of a 21st century machine. Our newly elected “overlords” sell us cheap thrills and demand we enjoy it, and enjoy it we do! Think about it, if thriving on the pain and misery of others wasn't immensely popular, the exploitive media, e.g. tabloids, would be out of business. Now the good news: there is a path, a Biblically inspired system formulated by the great Talmudic Rabbis that can help reorient the wandering mind and heart to focus on what truly matters: our soul, a relationship with our Creator.
In their (the Rabbis) original language, “The world stands on 3 pillars: service, study of Torah, and acts of kindness” (Talmud).

To clarify:
“Service” = Prayer.
“Torah study” = daily Torah/Bible learning.
“Acts of kindness” = good deeds.

These “pillars” are as if support beams, created to strengthen our “spiritual house” (our spiritual self), equipping us with the knowledge needed to weather the mighty storms of our complex world. Question: Why 3 pillars, why not 5 (like the 5 Books of Moses) or 10 (like the 10 commandments)? In Kabbalah, we are taught, man’s conscious self, the part of him susceptible to corruption, exists at 3 levels: thought, speech, and deed. Hence, if he (man) is to guard himself from the distractions of the world, he need erect a shield that protects these 3 areas of vulnerability.

To simplify:
“Service” (prayer) protects the mind.
“Torah” (Bible study) protects the heart.
“Good deeds” (acts of kindness) protects the body.

Let’s begin with prayer, the first of our 3 pillars.
Prayer (in Hebrew “Tefilah”) derives from the Hebrew root whose meaning is “connection.” When we pray we connect our all, our totality, to the Creator. That being said, there is a “general”, a leader of the body if you will, without which we can’t form a meaningful connection to our Creator. That “general” of the body is our mind. In the words of the great Tzadik (righteous holy soul) Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov, “You are where your thoughts are.” A wondering mind (a mind distracted by the vanities of the world)  prevents us from connecting deeply and meaningfully to God. To remedy this, the Sages instituted daily prayer, i.e. “connection,” as explained above. Such connection binds the mind of man to his/her Creator thus enabling all of him/her to maintain a sustained relationship.

Our second pillar is Torah (Bible) study.
In the 5th book of the Torah, Moses commands Israel, “And you will speak in them” (Deuteronomy 6:7). “In them,” explain the Sages, meaning, in the words of the Torah (the Bible). From this verse the Sages of the Talmud learn that one’s mouth should be preoccupied only with God’s words - God’s Holy writ as recorded in the Bible. Question: How can a person practically speak only about God? What about everyday conversation, casual banter? Explain the Sages, one must seek to reveal God wherever he or she is found; hence, even a casual conversation must be steered toward meaningful spiritual topics. No wasted speech! To help us rectify our speech so the words of our mouth should reflect Godly consciousness, the Sages instituted daily Torah/Bible study (the amount of which, great or small, depends upon the individual). By learning and vocalizing God’s word (as recorded in the Torah/Bible) we strengthen our ability to shift reality toward its intended spiritual expression.

The 3rd and final pillar is “Good deeds.”
The great Tzadik (righteous and holy soul) Rabbi Noam Elimelech of Lizhensk once said, “In previous generations, Divine service emphasized  Torah study. Now, in our time, Divine Service emphasizes (more than anything else) good deeds.” Question: Why is our time (our generation) especially focused on good deeds?
Explains the great Tzadik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the Rebbe), “Holy actions touch the simple essence of God.” To briefly explain, holy actions reveal Godliness at the level of the body (since it is the body that is used to carry them, the actions, out.) When we physically practice kindness, e.g. charity, we fulfill God’s ultimate desire, “And they will make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them” (Exodus 25:9). Ask the Sages, what does it mean “in them?” Who’s “them?” Explain the Sages, in their (the people’s) experiences! Hence, when we “act” (physically perform acts of kindness) we make a dwelling place (in ourselves) for Him. Such unity (God and man) at the level of body fulfills our Creator’s ultimate desire. Explains the Rebbe, as we near Moshiach’s (the Messiah’s) time (when His ultimate desire - to dwell with us- will be fulfilled), we prepare by creating “vessels” through holy actions. Such practice sanctifies and protects man at the level of body.

Conclusion: By practicing daily Prayer, Torah/Bible study, and Good Deeds, we protect our thoughts, words, and deeds from the vanities of the world. Such a 3 fold sanctification elevates our human experience to become a vessel (a holy vehicle) for Him.

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