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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘kabbalah’

On the Way to a Jewish State (Part 2)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

In our previous article, we laid the initial foundation for rectifying the state of Israel at the super-conscious and conscious-intellect levels of the psyche. With the first part in mind, we can now turn to the practical implications of the program for building a Jewish state. Settling the Land – Loving-kindness

The first of the attributes of the heart according to Kabbalah is the sefirah of chesed (loving-kindness). Like the right hand that offers and distributes goodness and blessing to all, this attribute is likewise motivated by love. The archetypal personality for this property is the first Jew, Abraham, the great believer and the man of loving-kindness, as the Torah phrase states, “Loving-kindness is to Abraham.”

On the public arena, the main relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is love, “The greatest sages would kiss the borders of the Land of Israel and kiss its stones and roll in its dust, as it says, ‘For Your servants desire its stones and its dust they have favored’.” Like a groom who loves his bride, such love effects a powerful attractive force, which, like a magnet, surpasses vast expanses of time and space.

That same love by power of which we have returned to the Land (not just because we were looking for a “safe refuge”) must be confirmed by a formal consummation of love, by declaring Jewish sovereignty over the entire country, as a natural right. We must also emphasize that this love is not just a natural love for our homeland, but a love that contains the full array of loving God (“Love Havayah, your God”); loving the Jewish People (“‘Love your fellowman as you love yourself’ is a great rule of the Torah”); and loving the Torah, because this fundamental triplet can only manifest in its entirety in the Land of Israel.

A clear statement must be issued to assert the fact that the source of our right to the Land of Israel is God’s promise to us in the Torah (as millions of gentiles all over the world also believe), and that the success of the reestablishment of the Jewish People in its land is only through God’s help. The Torah warns us that once we have settled the Land of Israel we should not say, “My power and the might of my hand has made me successful,” rather, we should “remember that Havayah your God is the one who has given you the power to be successful.” Following these lines, we suggest revising the declaration of independence for the Jewish state to include these basic principles of the Jewish People as it returns to its land.

Declaring sovereignty over all parts of the country that are in our possession is the “best thing” that can happen to the Jews and a necessary reaction on our part to the revelation of Divine loving-kindness in our era. This is not referring to a political declaration that is empty of content, but a statement that is accompanied by actions – because actions speak louder than words, as the mishnah states, “Say a little and do a lot.” We should wholeheartedly support settling the entire country, redeeming land, and developing agriculture and sources of livelihood, while heading towards financial independence and instilling a culture that balks at chasing after luxuries and advocates living modestly and frugally, “Who is rich? One who is happy with their lot,” “When you eat the efforts of your hand, happy are you and it is good for you.” A special emphasis should be placed on encouraging and preferring Jewish labor and raising the prestige of the Jewish worker through brotherly love, as the verse states, “And your brother shall live with you.”

Celebrating Jewish Twitter Week

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Appropriately enough this article first began as a series of tweets on my @YonatanGordon account. But to assist with readability, I decided to put them all together into one article. They’ve also been slightly edited.

This week is the Twitter week [1] of the Jewish year. The week when we read about the twittering bird in the beginning of the Torah portion of Metzora. In order to heal the effects of ill speech (lashon hara) the cohen (priest) brings two birds which chatter ceaselessly with twittering sounds. The idea to keep in mind, especially beginning anew from this week — Jewish Twitter Week — is that our tweets should always be positive, uplifting, and healing.

The important thing to have in mind this week is the importance of not speaking ill against others or the world. Positive speech is the order of this week and every week!

Coining Days

In marketing books they tell you to make up annual commemorations, coin phrases… This is okay as long as there is a true conceptual basis behind it. Sometimes the underlying message is crystal clear. e.g., Facebook went IPO exactly on Jewish Communication Day.

Power of a Positive Tweet

While no government bans twitter because of positive speech, the lesson here is that positive speech is even more potent than the opposite. This is the message of Jewish Twitter Week.

Continuing the meditation on the power of a positive tweet: a twitter life-saving news article after the Japan quake.

When the Egg Hatched

The first tweet from Jack Dorsey May 21, 2006 corresponded to 21 Adar, the memorial day of passing for Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. In our generation we see very clearly how quantity = quality. The more selfless good actions and tweets, the more tzadik-like we become. Rebbe Elimelech wanted each of us to be a tzadik – to ceaselessly do good while detesting evil. Having a twitter account helps at least with Part 1.

Since Twitter was announced on Rebbe Elimelech’s day of passing, this reminds us that our accounts should contain the unfolding story of our lives. This is the life story that every tzadik pens during their lifetime. Rebbe Dovid of Lelov once said, “Now we learn the tractate of Baba Kama, but in the World to Come there will be an additional tractate called Rebbe Dovid of Lelov.”

Number of Followers

Content-wise, there is no difference whether a person has one, thousands or millions of followers, the difference is in how we relate to each. We can train ourselves to see past the zeros of people with large followings (e.g., one million, 1,000,000), by working to internalize those zeros w/in us. While Randy Pausch sold over five million copies of “The Last Lecture” the readers that mattered to most to him were his three children.

Although we should only know of happy moments in our lives, when we view another as family, then we can see past a person’s current fame, popularity, etc…

The @ (At) Symbol

What we have now said relates to the concept behind the @ symbol. What Kabbalah calls traveling along the zero-point of consciousness [2]. You are where your thoughts are. If your thoughts are to earnestly relate to another, then the @ can indeed help connect.

The Ba’al Shem Tov used to skip time and space — leaping distances in an instant — while traveling in his wagon in order to help another. Today the @ symbol can remind us of this ability to leap to help another.

The # (Hashtag) Symbol

The most common place to meet people is at the crossroads, the intersection. This is the concept behind the hashtag # – the meeting ground. The hashtag expresses our hope for greater unity. For instance in politics: vertically minded are conservatives, horizontals are liberals (see here).

The Grand Unified Theory of Twitter

The two vertical and two horizontal lines of the # (hashtag) are unified through the zero-point — what we can now call traveling along the @ symbol. As we said above, to @ someone is to leap forward into order to benefit someone at a distance. Related to our Grand Unified Theory for Twitter: The @ relates to our desire to bring unity among all four groups of people (the two vertical and two horizontal levels), the # symbol.

Instead of working so hard to speak to the crowd (#) first work on relating honestly and empathically with others (@). The # follows from the @, not the other way around.

The lesson from this meditation is that it is better to search out and connect with people before hashtags.

Number of Followers

What does it mean if someone you @ doesn’t respond? Best approach is to work on oneself. No sincere voice, call from the heart goes unheard. I once knew someone that now millions know. But the difference is in me not him. It is my challenge to see past these millions to @ (connect with) the one friend. The flip side is also true. The more followers one has, the more responsibility. Mashiach feels the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Where do we find this “size of following” concept in the Torah? Regarding the men of truth that Moses appointed.  There are leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens. But the virtues are discussed before this: “You shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance, God fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain…”

1. Originally wrote “day,” but changed to week since it is the Torah portion for the entire week.

2. As explained in Lectures in Torah and Modern Physics)

Kaballah of Sugar-Coated Cyanide (the ‘Peace Negotiations’)

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Back in January, I compared the American peace proposals to a plate full of fruits filled with worms in, “America Serving Israel Plate of Worms, Not Fruit.” No matter how much you try to mask the sight or taste, I wrote that nothing can change the fact that the plan is not “kosher” (i.e., against the Torah).

I even included a cute personal story about wormy popcorn kernels, and the former children’s TV program, “How to Eat Fried Worms.”

Since then I’ve written lots of other things, so I didn’t think back to that article much. But ideas have a way of hitting the “airwaves.” So when similar comments were made yesterday, comparing the proposed Pollard exchange (God forbid) to America’s attempt to “sugar coat a cyanide pill” it gave me pause. Not because I thought this person read my article a few months back, or that he even thought much into the comment before saying it. Rather, the reason it gave me pause was because his way of saying it was way cooler than my plate full of wormy fruit analogy.

Between Sugar and Cyanide

In order to enter a meaningful discussion about the difference between sugar and cyanide, we need to first embark on a short chemistry lesson. Those experts in the field will forgive me as I’m simply copying from Wikipedia hoping that the “wisdom of the crowds” paid off in this case.

Without going into the details (again, I leave this to the experts) the molecular formula of Cyanide is CN− (the result of a chemical bond between carbon and nitrogen). On the other hand, sugar includes carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. For instance, the molecular formula for glucose is C6H12O6.

What is the difference? Whereas cyanide has carbon and nitrogen, sugar instead of nitrogen, has hydrogen and oxygen.

Now we get to our meditation, our story behind the story…

According to Kabbalah*, these chemicals represent the following:

C (carbon): Represents fire, the state of active combustion, and the sefirah of gevurah, might.

N (nitrogen): Represents earth, the solid state of matter, and the sefirah of malchut, kingdom.

H (hydrogen): The main component of water, represents the liquid state of matter and the sefirah of chesed, loving-kindness.

O (oxygen): Represents air, the gaseous state of matter, and the sefirah of tiferet, beauty.

Let’s start with Cyanide, CN−, or the grouping of fire and earth. Since this whole topic, the negotiations, is over earth (i.e., land), then it is easy to image how N comes into play. But the cyanide example relates very well to our topic in general. More than a discussion over land, the negotiations themselves are bitter, severe, and even deadly (God forbid). This is clearly the C or fiery component that combines with N to make this land-talk pill so very bitter to swallow.

The hero of the analogy is of course the sugar. The question is not whether the sugar is good, but whether there is also cyanide present. If having sugar is good, then let’s analyze what its made out of:

Sugar is composed of C (carbon), H (hydrogen), and O (oxygen). As we discussed, C relates to fire, might. That leaves H and O — The liquid flow of the sefirah of chesed (loving-kindness) and the sefirah of tiferet (beauty), which blends together the two opposites of chesed (loving-kindness) and gevurah (might).

While sugar contains the full triad of the emotive sefirot — chesed, gevurah, and tiferet — noticeably it does not contain the earth element — malchut (kingdom). This is an indication, an allusion made using our likely spontaneously said example, that before speaking about land, before even entering into a conversation, the three emotive sefirot must first be properly balanced and rectified.

Former Followers of ‘Kabbalah Centre’ Sue for Fraud

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

The controversial Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre is being sued for over $1 million by former followers in two lawsuits alleging fraud and misuse of funds.

Both suits were filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and claim that the Centre pressured the plaintiffs “to give money until it hurts,” in order to receive “the light” from its leaders, Karen Berg and her adult sons Yehuda and Michael.

Carolyn Cohen, a San Diego real estate broker, said that she and one of her companies lost some $810,000 to the Centre, which, she claimed, “engages in a pattern and practice of raising funds … for the purpose of enriching itself.”

San Diego business owners Randi and Charles Wax, the other plaintiffs, alleged losses of $326,000.

In both cases, the plaintiffs said they were told that the donations were earmarked for a new Kabbalah Centre building in San Diego and for a children’s charity, but they said the new Centre was never built and the charity abruptly ceased operation.

The late Rabbi Phillip Berg established the initial Kabbalah facility in Jerusalem and the first American operation in New York in 1965. Since 1984, the Centre’s worldwide operations, with 50 branches, have been headquartered in Los Angeles.

The Berg family has received worldwide publicity by attracting such Hollywood followers as Madonna, Britney Spears, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Over the past years, the Centre also has attracted numerous lawsuits in the United States and Britain, and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service launched a tax evasion investigation in 2010. The outcome is still pending.

Traditional rabbinical authorities repeatedly have denounced the Centre’s teachings and methods as a perversion of the Kabbalah’s profound mysticism. In Israel, one synagogue told The Jewish Press that after a Christian Zionist organization donated a set of Berg’s version of the Zohar, the local rabbi ordered that the books be buried so that they would never be read.

They were not burned despite his suspect interpretations because the set includes original text of the holy Zohar.

Superstition

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was a doughty activist against superstition and black magic. A gentle man but fiercely rational, he would travel throughout India exposing frauds, fakers, and tricksters. But he so enraged people who made a living out of superstition that he was shot dead at the age of 67, just a few weeks ago.

Judaism desperately needs a Dr. Dabholkar. We have been getting more superstitious as time goes by, not less. We may look condescendingly at Indian susceptibility to multiple gods and superstitious practices, but it seems to me that most Jews are not very different. Perhaps we are so insecure, gullible, and troubled that we are only too willing to believe any rabbi who claims he can perform some charm or magic, that we throw millions of dollars each year at people who take advantage of our weakness in the name of religion. What is more, if you call it “kabbalah” you are guaranteed a whole legion more of suckers.

I understand that people are insecure and weak and need props, supports and placebos. I understand that for all the technological advances of society humans remain fragile, insecure organisms that need to feel protected. But what is really troubling is that hardly any rabbis of note are prepared to speak out against this epidemic of delusions.

Maimonides, in his rational moments, was clear that references in our ancient sources to spirits, evil eyes, and other such supernatural phenomena were of significance only in that people actually believed in them and therefore psychosomatically, as we would say today, they actually affected them. If someone believed he had been cursed he felt cursed, and it took its toll on him. In parts of Africa I am told, to this day if the Witch Doctor says someone will die, he or she goes off to a special hut and dies. I often encounter people who explain their failures or tragedies in terms of the “Evil Eye”.

Until relatively recently the way everyone looked at the natural universe was through astronomy and its daughter, astrology. The Biblical word Mazal simply meant the heavenly bodies and they knew that the sun and the moon affected things on earth one way or another. But people believed that spells, charms, and incantations carried out by shamans and witches could change the course of the stars and our fates. Paganism asserted that we were the playthings of the gods and our fates were decided by them and the planets. The more you worshipped, the more gods you had, the less the likelihood of trouble.

In contrast, monotheism posited that in so far as anything could be affected on earth, it was our relationship with God, our actions that determined what happened. We might be able to avoid some or certain tragedies. But even then we had to accept and resign ourselves to whatever the Divine Will was. There were indeed things beyond our control, and if we could not change them we had at least, like Job, to bear them and accept them and make the best out of it all. There were no lucky charms with any guarantee. But that did not stop people from wanting them, from needing them.

The Biblical oracles disappeared either because they were captured in war or because they were abused. “King Hizkiyahu hid the Book of Cures and smashed the bronze Serpent (of Moses’s days) and the authorities of the day approved it” (Brachot 10b). Back in those days our religious leadership had guts and confidence.

But then Kabbalah emerged as a force within Judaism. It is a wonderful body of knowledge, not some dangerous hocus pocus to terrify little children. But in addition to the majesty of a way of refining one’s spirituality, to harness Divine energy, parts of it absorbed a great deal of medieval magic, angelology, and folk cures. And so today many Jews are still fearful of kabbalist curses such as the notorious “Pulsa Di Nura,” the strokes of fire, that was supposed to have caused Rabin’s death ( not of course some mentally deranged fanatic ). Anyone want to try it on me? Go head. Be my guest.

Jews have always been a varied collection of individuals. So it is not surprising that some are more credulous than others, some prefer a rational Judaism and others a mystical. I am just constantly surprised how people who run their business and professional lives with expertise, seem so willing to sacrifice all logic when faced with a crisis, and turn to soothsayers, tarot card readers, and rabbis who tell you that all bad things can be traced to a defective mezuzah, or that reciting a formula or changing a name will avert the catastrophe. If only it were that easy and obvious everyone would be religious!

Women behind Bars Get Three Days of Jewish Studies

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

For Jews in prison, incarceration can keep them isolated from their family and their faith. But thanks to the Aleph Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit, they and their loved ones receive some much-needed help from an organization that has been providing assistance for more than three decades.

In fact, the institute’s Yeshiva in Prison program recently expanded to include a visit for the first time to female prisoners, said Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the institute.

The program spans three days of interactive classroom-style work. Yeshiva volunteers work with inmates in small groups or on a one-on-one basis to provide introspection using the Torah. Inmates learn how to live as a Jew despite their surroundings.

The program covers many topics, including Jewish law, ethics, explanatory prayer services, kosher dietary laws, faith and reason, and Kabbalah. Daily afternoon lectures focus on the idea of personal responsibility, self-control and the skills for accepting authority.

The idea is to help channel the inmate’s energies in a positive manner, which could improve a sense of personal responsibility, explained the rabbi.

THREE-DAY PROGRAM FOR WOMEN

Earlier this month, program volunteers Rebbetzin Chanie Lipskar, Judy Adouth, Leah Lipskar and Rochel Katz went to Coleman Federal Prison Camp near Orlando, Fla., for their first time teaching female inmates.

The three-day sessions included a full-day program—8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—of interactive classroom-style learning. The volunteers also divided the women into smaller focus groups, each concentrating on a prepared course subject by the teacher.

Katz said of the experience: “I’ve gained as much as the inmates have, if not more.”

She alluded to preconceptions regarding inmates and prison culture in general, and noted that they can often be misguided. “Some of the women were doctors, and lawyers—educated women with tears running down their faces in gratitude for myself and my colleagues taking the time to spend the day with them,” she said.

Chaplain Yolanda Garcia works there, and called the Yeshiva program “awesome.”

“I think the women felt a sense of womanhood being around Jewish female representatives,” she said. “I actually received a ‘thank you’ card from them. It taught them how to get along with each other and pray with each other.”

Garcia welcomed the opportunity for the program to return to the prison camp. Rabbi Lipskar responded that the group will absolutely come back to female prisons.

WORK THAT TOUCHES THOUSANDS

The Aleph Institute was founded 32 years ago by Lipskar’s uncle, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, at the request of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The organization says it regularly services more than 4,000 Jewish inmates and nearly 6,000 of their family members. The institute has 35 employees, including a dozen rabbinical positions and many volunteers.

“From a personal perspective,” said Lipskar, “it’s very rewarding to make a tangible impact in someone’s life at very challenging times. It certainly is very special.”

Beyond the Yeshiva program, the institute’s prison work encompasses a range of activities at the federal, state and local levels.

During the High Holy days, for example, it helps conduct more than 300 services in prison. Much of Aleph’s inmate advocacy work is related to basic issues, Lipskar said, such as inmate placement, medical concerns and what materials can be contained in a religious library.

The foundation does not provide lawyers or legal advice, but it can be involved in the legal process, he said, such as creating alternative programs for offenders. If a medical professional is found guilty of prescription fraud, for instance, Lipskar said the institute could suggest he work a certain number of hours at a rehab center, perhaps cleaning bed pans, to appreciate the damage he has done.

“We try to help people through the entire process, and to maintain familial relations,” said the rabbi.

To that end, the institute has a gift program, sending birthday or Chanukah presents to children in the name of the inmate. There’s even a pen-pal program to write to Jewish inmates, both of which add moral support to their prison stays.

In addition to its prison-related efforts, the institute has been helping Jews in the military for 20 years now.

It works with close to 5,000 Jewish service members and their families through Aleph Operation Enduring Traditions. That support could take the form of advocating for the rights of Jews, providing training to military chaplains, sending food packages to personnel and even distributing camouflaged pocket-size Torahs.

Here Comes ‘Shovavim’

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

On billboards throughout Israel, posters announcing the commencement of Shovavim are beginning to appear in an assortment of bright, attractive colors. Shovavim refers to the six-week period which begins the week that the Torah portion of Shemot is read.

The term Shovavim is an acronym of the beginning letter of the six consecutive Torah portions beginning with Shemot. According to Kabbalah, this period is especially conducive to rectifying sexual transgressions (Arizal, Shaar HaYichudim, 4:3). Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook writes of a future time when the world will admire Israel’s quest for sexual purity as highlighted by the special fasts and prayers of Shovavim(Orot HaKodesh, part 3, pg. 296).

During Shovavim, Jews gather on Thursdays in synagogues throughout Israel to recite special prayers, called “Tikun Yesod” to cleanse the deep blemishes caused by sexual transgression, otherwise known as transgressions to the Brit. Tikun HaYesod means rectifying the spiritual channel, called “Yesod,” which brings Divine blessings to the individual and to the Jewish Nation. The foremost Kabbalists emphasize the great tribulations and sufferings caused by sexual transgressions. Joining the list today is watching pornography on the internet, which causes great damage to the Jewish soul, and brings terrible sufferings on the person and his loved ones through the harmful spiritual forces that a person creates and unleashes into his home through his transgressions of the Torah commandments involved in looking at forbidden images.

At risk of oversimplification of esoteric ideas, one who bears the stains of sexual misconduct is like one who is constantly accompanied by n invisible cloud of spiritual pollution, which interferes with all aspects of life. Kabbalists emphasize that usual modes of repentance do not suffice for transgressions which bring about the wasting of semen, and that they can only be rectified by a “great and constant penitence” (Zohar on Shemot, 3b). Thus, Kabbalists formulated special prayers and rectifications (tikunim) for the Shovavim period.

The Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe stressed that even married men and Torah scholars must make a concerted effort to repent during Shovavim (Halichot Chaim “Holidays and Seasons,” Shovavim). He gave passionate sermons as Shovavim approached, claiming that wholehearted repentance is more important during Shovavim than during the High Holidays. He exhorted followers to let their broken hearts give way to the joy of deliverance, and not succumb to depression and despair.

He taught that the greatest weapon against the evil inclination was Torah study day and night. Additionally, he prescribed ‘fasting from speech’ (taanit dibur), asserting, based on esoteric works (Chid”a, Ahavat HaKodesh, Tzipora Shamir, 7:101), that anyone who committed transgressions through speech was certain to commit sexual transgressions as well.

The Tikun HaYesod prayers and accompanying repentance are in lieu of the 84 fasts that the holy Kabbalist, the Arizal, prescribed for each transgression of spilling seed in vain (Tanya, Igeret HaT’shuvah, ch. 3; Mishnat Chassidim, Tractate T’shuvah). Rabbi Yaakov Emden discusses different types of fasts in his scholarly prayer book, “Beit Yaakov” (pp. 370-1). Since fasting impedes the body’s production of blood, it is like a sin-offering. Those who are unable to fast, either because of health, or because it impedes Torah study, should give charity instead, along with heartfelt repentance and confession (R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Igeret HaKodesh 3).

During this period, one should avoid anger. A person should also shun cynicism, frivolity and arrogance, and be very humble. Another recommended practice is to learn every day during the Shovavim period at least one complete chapter of Psalms and study chapters of the Mishnaic tractate Taharot.

For more information on Shovavim, check out www.jewishsexuality.com. If you can’t get to the Shovavim prayer gatherings, studying the articles posted on the site is the next best thing to being there. You’ll find Rebbe Nachman’s famous “Tikun HaKlalli”translated into English, along with other recommended tikunim, as well as the most important and definitive Kabbalistic essays on the subject, including essays from the Zohar, the Arizal, the Ramban’s Letter of Holiness, the Baal HaTanya, Rebbe Nachman, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, selections from “Taharat HaKodesh,” and Questions and Answers covering everything you always wanted to know about Jewish Sexuality but were too embarrassed to ask.

Happy Shovavim!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/here-comes-shovavim/2012/12/30/

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