Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taking the Light of Chanukah Onwards

Dear Friends, 
I hope you enjoyed a very meaningful and prayerful Chanukah as we did at Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin. We enjoyed having our tables filled with our dear students for Friday night, for a delightful meal, words of Torah, meditating and getting in touch with our inner dreams and visions at the Chanukah candles. The meditation for this week will help you find inner peace between the contrary aspects of yourself, and get in touch with the meeting point between Yehudah and Yosef within your own soul.

With Blessings of the Torah & the Land,

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum 

Click here to read "The Path to Peace and Redemption" Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Vayigash

Parasha Meditation Vayigash
Bereishit 44:18 - 47:27
After Chanukah, when each of us has been invested with new strength of emunah (faith) and excitement for the mitzvoth, we need to carry the message of Chanukah into coldest month of Tevet. Now, when the warmth of Chanukah is especially needed, we read Parashat Vayigash, which is about keeping our inner flame ignited from our Chanukah experience alive, and bringing shalom (peace) into the fragmentation of exile.

The descent of Ya’acov’s extended family into the darkest exile of Egypt was preceded by the fiery flame of Yehudah’s soul confronting Yosef’s inner fire. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה – “Yehudah approached him…”[1] Yehudah penetrated the depths of Yosef’s heart in order to convince him to release his brother Binyamin.[2] The word “Vayigash” means to draw near and to meet. The two different paths of archetypal Jewish leadership challenged and confronted each other until they both entered the meeting point of their very truest Divine inner self. This is true shalom, when each opponent draws out the very best from the other, in order to unite. רבי מאיר אומר אין ויגש אלא לשון שלום – Rabbi Meir says, there is no “Vayigash” except for the language of shalom.[3] We too need to access and confront the Yehudah and Yosef parts of our soul until we reach our inner truth where Hashem’s light shines through. When we succeed to find inner peace between these contrary aspects of ourselves, we can bring light to our darkest exile and engender outer shalom between the fragmented Jewish leadership in our Land.

This week’s parasha begins with the words, “Vayigash Yehudah” – “Yehudah approached.” He did not wait to be called. He took the initiative to do something. Similarly, each of us has to get out there and use some of the new potential we have acquired on Chanukah to bring about shalom in both our personal and broader world.

Sit comfortably in your chair take several deep breaths and relax. Breathe in Hashem’s life-giving light, breath out any tension from all the limbs of your body, starting with your head and finishing with your feet. Allow your mind to drift as you go through the happenings of your day in your mind’s eye. Which accomplishments did you achieve and which hardships did you undergo? Did you deal with the challenges of your day the best you could, or did you fall short of acting according to your truth? Allow all of the happenings to glide through you and accept them all, even when you didn’t live up to your fullest potential. Did you have a disagreement or confrontation with anyone today or in the last few days or weeks?

Allow your mind to focus on the last difficulty you experienced with another person. Think about why you felt/spoke/acted the way you did, where were you coming from? Now let your mind shift to the person you interacted with. Why did he or she feel/speak/act that particular way? What kind of criticism did the other person have of your way? Make an effort to find the kernel of truth in the other person’s approach. Try to get in touch with your own weakness discovered by your “opponent”, even if it hurts. Breathe into the pain of your own incapability. Breathe in the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ – ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש – shshshshshshsh
Repeat 4 more times.

The letter gimel is derived from the word גְמוּל –gemul, which in Hebrew means giving. This is alluded to by the leg of the letter gimel which expresses the running of the rich person to bestow good upon the poor.[4] Allow yourself to take a step with the gimel out of yourself, towards the person you interacted with. Go towards that person, to his or her inner core, to understand where he or she is coming from, and open yourself to feel deeply his or her point.

The second letter in the word גַּשׁ is שׁ – shin. This letter is related to the Hebrew word שִינוּי – shinui which means change. As you continue to breathe the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ – ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש – shshshshshshsh get in touch with the part of yourself which was opposed to the person you interacted with. Do you feel any change? Has the gap between you lessened a bit?

The letter שׁ –shin is also the secret of the three heads of the burning flame. Whereas the outer flame of the shin is continuously in a state of motion and change, the inner flame represents the changeless. It is your own personal fire and flame of strong belief in your path of personal truth.

וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה – “Yehudah approached him…”[5] The Admor of Kotsk says that the “him” refers to himself: Yehudah examined his own heart. He repeated what he had already said earlier to drive the words deep into himself, in order to fulfill the ancient Jewish teaching, that “what comes from the heart enters the heart.” He wanted his words to be so true and powerfully charged they would be understood and accepted by Yosef. Go deep into your own approach and connect with your truth that rises above the confrontation or criticism you received. In your mind’s eye understand and visualize your true response to the truth of your “opponent.”

Allow your personal truth to now come from an even deeper place – a place that can answer back any criticism from others. Continue to breathe the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ – ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש – shshshshshshsh. Invigorate and feel the fire of your truth with each exhale of the letter שׁ – shin. Feel how the power of your truth is penetrating into the power of your “opponent’s” truth, until both of you merge to unite in Hashem’s higher truth. Continue to breathe the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ – ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש – shshshshshshsh as you breathe into this higher truth, into the true meeting place between you, and the person with which you had a confrontation. When you are ready, slowly tap your hands and feet to the table and floor and open your eyes with a renewed perspective of yourself.


Sfat Emet[6] explains that we are called יְהוּדִים –Yehudim because we מוֹדִים – modim – admit that everything is from G-d. This is what causes us to draw near. There is an advice for all Israel in times of darkness and hester panim (The hiding of Hashem’s face). The advice is to nullify oneself to the will of G-d, by means of clarifying that also inside the darkness there is life of the will of G-d. This is the meaning of וַיִּגַּשׁ –“he drew near.” This is also called to draw near to Yosef, because Yosef is the inner point from Hashem. The gematria (numerical value) of the word Yosef is equal to the gematria of Tzion –156. Tzion is the meeting point between yesod (foundation) and malchut (royalty)[7]. This was indeed a very hard time for Yehudah, and his solution was to draw near to the inside of the matter. He did not add anything in his request, he only reviewed all of the matters for himself, to make them straight to himself, and to accept G-d’s will with happiness. When one clarifies that all is from G-d, then its inner meaning is revealed. It says “Yosef” who is the inner point, “could not refrain himself”[8] – and the inner point was revealed. It follows then “that every man was taken out etc,”[9] because the exterior which conceals the interior became nullified.

Vayigash” is a place of meeting between the darkness of exile, and the Divine light. This applies to both the global or individual exile, when we are exiled from being in touch with our personal truth. Hashem’s promise to go down with us in exile, includes even our individual exile when we feel estranged from ourselves and incapable of facing opposition. Within the pain of our incapability we will be able to find Hashem’s light and reconnect with our inner essence in a deeper way in order to emerge with renewed light.

[1] Bereishit 44:18
[2] The Mei Shiloach on Parashat Vayigash
[3] Yalkut Shimoni Bereishit, Chapter 43, Allusion 150
[4] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Hebrew Letters
[5] Bereishit 44:18
[6] On Parashat Vayigash, Year 1871
[7] The last two of the ten sefirot through which Hashem manifests in the world
[8] Bereishit 45:1
[9] The continuation of the verse previously quoted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Revealing Our G-dliness

This week I send you both a meditation for the parasha and a special “bonus meditation” for Chanukah that my husband teaches. Hope you will enjoy. 

Wishing you a delightful Chanukah filled with sparks of the hidden light.
Chanukah Sameach,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to see the latest itinerary for Rebbetzin's upcoming North American Teaching Tour.  Mark the Date!

Click here to read " Sing and Rejoice, Daughter of Zion!" - Rebbetzin's commentary on the special Chanukah Haftorah

Parasha Meditation Miketz
Bereishit 41:1-44:17
Parashat Miketz opens with Yosef’s release from prison. The name Yosef means to increase or add. Yosef’s status increased greatly in our Torah portion from a slave in prison to the viceroy of Pharaoh. When Rachel named Yosef, she prayed, “May G-d add on (yosef) to me another son (ben acher).”[1] Metaphorically, this means that Yosef has the ability to elevate worldly entities that have been estranged (acher) from their Divine core. In Yosef they are brought close and revealed as a manifestation of Hashem. The persona of Yosef refers to the soul of Jewish people, and the prison in which Yosef is held to the body, and to material existence as a whole. At times the physical confine the infinite power of the soul, and the limits of material existence, conceal its Divine source.

We are sent into this world to reveal G-dliness. The material nature of worldly existence may initially restrict the expression of our true nature, but the constraints will be temporary. Ultimately, just as Yosef became the ruler of Egypt, every Jew will be empowered to reveal how infinite Divinity permeates finite material existence.

The word miketz means not only “at the end” but can also refer to the beginning. Thus מִקֵץ - miketz in our Torah reading refers either to the “end” – the final two years – of the Yosef’s suffering in Egypt, or to the “beginning” – the two years leading to his attainment of power. According to the first interpretation, miketz refers to the most difficult challenges Yosef faced in Egypt, before daybreak when darkness becomes most powerful. According to the second interpretation, miketz refers to the dawn of Yosef's redemption.

The Zohar speaks of the ketz l’yamina – “the right end,” and ketz lismola – “the left end.”[2] There is a connection between the two. Hidden within the challenges of ketz lismola – the last moments of exile – are G-dly sparks. Confronting these challenges taps into the Divine energies and brings ketz hayamin – the beginning of the Redemption.[3] This is the concept of Mashiach ben Yosef[4], preceding our final redemption. May the transition experienced by Yosef become manifest for our people, leaping from the depth of exile to the final ketz hayamin of Redemption!

Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times and let go of anything you are may be holding on to. Breathe in Hashem’s life-giving energy, breath out, tensions, negativity and worry. Breathe in while imagine the letter מִ -mi, breathe out to the image of קֵץ-ketz, repeat five times. מִ -mi – the flowing water drawing out the essence of the word קֵץ-ketz, in which the beginning is in-wedged in the end. Allow yourself to go deep into the darkness of the קֵץ-ketz. Let the lower line of the kuf take you below the line. To that darkness and constriction you feel in your body. As you continue to inhale מִ -mi, and exhale to the image of קֵץ-ketz go deeper into your body and allow yourself to get in touch with any tension or pain you may be holding in any part of your body. Zoom into the body part which is tense or painful and keep breathing מִ -mi, קֵץ-ketz into it. Feel how the tension is gradually lifting as you are breathing yourself out of the constraints of you body. “קֵץ שָׁם לַחשֶׁךְ” – “He has put an end to darkness…”[5] Your body will no longer confine you.

Inside your heart you feel a warm fuzziness of Divine light. Breathe this light into each part of your body, to the breathing of מִ -mi, קֵץ-ketz, as all of your tensions evaporate, feel how each of your limbs, from head to toe, acts as an extension and auxiliary to your soul.

Focus your visualization on the letter ץ-tzadi which looks like a tree. The duality of the branches of the letter ץ-tzadi is united in its root below. Get in touch with the dualities of your life, the branches pulling you in different directions. Just as the branches are connected with their long root below the line, realize that your body and soul, the material and spiritual are rooted in the unity of all, in a reality hidden below the line. The lower line of the ending tzadi-ץ is the root of your soul which encompasses all of you, even your yetzer hara, the shadow-side of your soul, has its spark of holiness that needs to be released.

Tune into one of your destructive desires rooted in your yetzer hara. It could be the desire for chocolate, a jealousy feeling, a laziness to exert yourself, a lack of motivation to pray. Explore this feeling within you; remember a situation when it had power over you. Look into yourself at the moment of your embarrassment, as your shadow-side gets the better of you. Within the peak of your negativity look for a spark of positive motivation! Perhaps your craving was for sweetness, the sweetness of being close to Hashem, your jealousy could be rooted in your desire to grow and attain new heights that you see in another. Your lack of motivation to pray could be an expression of your desire to reconnect with Hashem in an even deeper way…. Use the spiritual flashlight of מִ -mi-קֵץ-ketz as a search-engine, searching for hidden sparks of holiness within the darkest part of your psyche. As you find them one by one, allow the spiritual flashlight of מִ -mi-קֵץ-ketz to become a magnet extracting the hidden sparks below and manifesting them above.

Both the letters of the word קֵץ extend below the line. This indicates their ability to extract and elevate fallen sparks. The letter ק-kuf with its numerical value of one hundred (ten times the ten sefirot) stands for kedushah, “holiness.” The descending zayin of the kuf below the line, symbolizes the ability to conceive Hashem even in the worlds antithetical to those in whom G-d’s Presence is revealed. The kuf symbolizes in particular the reality of fallen sparks, as well as the paradox of the simultaneous omnipresence of G-d’s transcendence and immanence. When the letter kuf precedes the letter tzadik, the word ketz, the “end” of time, is formed. This hints to the verse: “...He has set an end [ketz] to darkness.” The “end,” the coming of Mashiach and the subsequent era of resurrection, is the ultimate revelation of the great light and energy latent within the secret of the letter kuf. The innate holiness of each of its spark insures its ultimate redemption and elevation by the tzadik of the following letter. The tzadik is the eighteenth letter of the alef-beit, the gematria of chai, “life,” thus symbolizing the power to enliven the fallen sparks, as represented by the kuf. The letter ץ-tzadik with its long root resembles the “tree of the field” to which humanity is compared.[6] In its hidden root, all reality is united. Ultimate unity is the secret of ultimate elevation.[7]

The Menorah Within
A Meditation for Chanukah
by Rabbi Dr. Mechael Siegelbaum

(See the printable version for sources in Hebrew)

“Speak to Aaron and say unto him, When you set up the candles, the seven candles shall give light over against the face of the Menorah (candelabrum) (Bemidbar 8:2).

The Menorah is the head and the seven lights upon it- these are the two ears and the two eyes and the two nostrils and the mouth (Tikunei Zohar 13b).

Behold, this Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), is the axis joining the upper and lowermost extremes contained in the space of Atzilut. And within this Human are contained all the worlds, as will be explained, G-d willing. Now, regarding the inner self and essence, of this Human, we are not allowed to deal with at all. However, we can investigate and discuss that which emanates from Him. This is because the light of the Ein Sof (The Infinite) is so very great, it would be impossible to receive if not for the mediating effect of Adam Kadmon. Even from this Adam Kadmon, Himself, the light can only be received after it has exited from the openings and windows within Him, i.e., the ears, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth... (Arizal, Sefer Otzrot Chaim, Sha’ar Adam Kadmon).

Rabbi Chanina said: The Temple had windows. From them went out light to the world, ass it is written, “For the house he made windows wide and narrow.”[8] They were wide and they were narrow- narrow within and wide from without, in order to let out the light to the world… (Vayikra Rabah 31:7).

Yet to attain this degree of Divine Influence, previously mentioned, is impossible without the sanctification of the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. They are what actually radiate to him this Divine Influence... They are actually the seven lights... (Likutei Moharan, Mahadura Kama 21:2).

As one fills his hands to wash the face, he should say, “His hands are cylinders of gold.” When washing the face, say, “His head is fine gold.” When washing the eyes say, “His eyes like doves.” When washing the cheeks say, His cheeks like a bed of fragrant flowers.” When washing the lips say, “his lips- roses.” When drying the face say, “and their face, the face of a man, the face of a lion to the right of the four.” By doing so, he will find favor in the eyes of all who see him (B'er Heitev Orach Chayim 4:6).

“Hashem's candle is the soul of man, searching all the abdomen's chambers” (Mishlei 20:27).

The Menorah is a vessel for both holding and radiating light-it's inner essence. When raising up the lights, one must be sure to cause the seven lights in the face of the Menorah to shine. The face of a person is similarly his vessel with seven openings for holding and radiating his inner light.

At the essence of all creation are the Hebrew letters – the lights which give form to all reality. When we bond in devekut (cleaving) to the Ein Sof, as when davening, we raise up these lights of creation to their source. When joining the letters of prayer to the source of all, the Ein Sof, it is not enough to perform this action in the thoughts alone. “One must be sure to cause the seven lights of the face of the Menorah to shine.” In Hebrew, the word for face-פַּנִים shares the same root as the word for innerness פְּנִימִיוּת –penimmiyut, because the innerness is revealed on the face. The face or panim reveals what is hidden within, both through the organs of speech and the expressions of the face. When the vessels are purified, the true light of ruach hakodesh (Divine Inspiration) can be revealed.


Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times and let go of anything you are may be holding on to. Breathe in Hashem’s life-giving energy, breath out, tensions, negativity and worry. Feel the warmth emanating from your heart, spreading comfortably through your entire body. See Hashem's name burning like light in your heart. See the light of Hashem surrounding us. Breathing in, this light fills your heart. Breathing out, this light is returned to the Divine infinite, surrounding.

Allow this light to rise up into the head, like oil being drawn up in the menorah. Let this light shine from your ears. First the right, then the left. Now allow the light to shine through your nostrils, right and left. Let the light shine through the breath of your mouth, and then through your eyes. Now your whole face is able to shine more and more light out with every exhalation. Your face reveals the light of Hashem from within your heart (the פְּנִימִיוּת –penimmiyut, revealed on the פַּנִים-face).

When all these lights are opening and purifying your senses, they can now receive from the upper spiritual worlds. Your ears hear the music of The Garden of Eden. Your eyes see the name of Hashem in radiant splendor. Your nose breathes in the fragrance of The Garden of Eden. Your mouth tastes the sweetness of the טל – the dew of The Garden of Eden. With every inhalation, receiving from Hashem and with every exhalation, returning praise and thanks to Hashem. May Hashem bless us that upon now returning to body consciousness, that we may continue to express like the sun, this holy light and love to others!

Experiencing this meditation on the holiday of Chanukah, especially during the time when the lights are lighting, is particularly conducive to spiritual renewal. The final sealing of the judgment of Rosh Hashana is extended from Hoshana Rabah to the day preceding Chanukah, when renewed emanation and brilliance begins to descend on the souls of the people of Israel. Therefore, we kindle the lights on Chanukah, to signify the renewal of the brilliant spiritual lights which begins at this time. This abundant pouring forth of Hashem's blessings makes this an opportune time for healing.[9] Most people have become accustomed to controlling their feelings by severing the thoughts of the mind from the feelings in the heart, or to hiding their feelings by severing the feelings in the heart from their facial expressions. When not communicating with others, people can be seen immersed in thought, their facial expressions closed down within themselves. They can still perceive what goes on around them, but without letting anything of themselves out into the world. The above meditation teaches us to focus our minds on devekut, and then open up the channels of the heart to radiate the Divine light into this world.

[1] Bereishit 30:24
Zohar, Part 1, 63a
These teachings are based on In The Garden of The Torah, Insights of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson on the Weekly Torah Reading, Volume 1, p.57-61
Babylonian Talmud, Sukah 52a
Iyov 28:3
Devarim 20:19
Based on The Hebrew Letters, by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
1 Melachim 6:4
Rav Refael Moshe Luria, Ohr Yekarot, Inyanei Chanukah, pp. 6 – 9.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Re-connect with your Brightest Dream!

The time is approaching and I look forward sharing Torah from Eretz Yisrael with you.

I will b"H be visiting NY, Toronto, Montreal, Baltimore, Florida, Memphis TN and possibly in Atlanta during the month of February. There are several places where we are still waiting for confirmation, but I included them tentatively so you can mark your calendar. Click here for the latest itinerary.  If you live in any of these places and if you would like to host or help organize an event please contact

Thank you for all your positive feedback on the parasha meditation, hope you will enjoy this meditation on parashat Vayeshev to help you fulfill your greatest dreams!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to read "Sisterly Sensitivity" - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Vayeshev

Parasha Meditation Vayeshev
Bereishit 37:1-40:23
This week’s parasha is about reaching the bottom of darkness and emerging from there with new light. “Yehudah went down from his brothers.”[1] Yet, from his downward spiraling, the light of Mashiach was conceived. Yosef was a young dreamer, far from being ready to actualize his Divine potential, it was only after being thrown in the darkest pit that he began his path to spiritual fulfillment. The Sefat Emet explains[2] regarding Yosef’s dream about “Binding sheaves inside of the field,”[3] that the work of the tribes was to bind everything to its root in life – Hashem – permeating all reality. It was their holy endeavor to clarify that all things are connected, and cleave to their Divine root; in spite of the matters of this world which seem to separate everything.[4] The Hebrew word for sheaf – אֲלֻמָּה – shares the same root as the word for silence – אִלֶם. Therefore, “My sheaf rose,”[5] can mean “I was silenced.”[6] This is the aspect of Rachel and her children who grabbed the character-trait of silence.[7] “Silence” is knowing that we cannot act according to our intellect and will, except by being nullified to the upper providence. Even as Yosef told his dreams to his brothers, he was still in the process of internalizing this profound message. His ultimate metamorphosis took place only after being thrown into the pit. In the darkness of the pit, he transcended his intellect, realizing that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Hashem delivers him out of them all.”[8] This is where Yosef changed to become Yosef HaTzadik (the righteous), ready to actualize his dreams. We, likewise have the ability to tune into our dreams and visions and believe in their fulfillment beyond the limitations of our intellect. With Hashem’s help we have the opportunity to turn the bitterness of our lives into sweetness, and the darkness into the greatest light.

Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body. After several minutes of relaxing breathing, imagine that you are dreaming, allow the dream waves to rush over you, to wash over you, to flash over you. Imagine the letters of the Hebrew word for dream חֵלוֹם.

First imagine the letter ח-chet, like a gateway into a higher reality. The letter chet combines the two previous letters, ו-vav and ז-zayin, with a thin bridge-shaped line.[9] The new energy created by the union of the straight line of the vav – (ohr yashar-straight light) and the bent line of the zayin – (ohr chozer-returning light) is the secret of “hovering” – “The spirit of G-d was 'hovering' over the water,”[10] – “touching yet not touching.” By “hovering” over us, being revealed yet concealed, G-d continues to sustain us while allowing each of us to develop separately. Let the letter chet flash in and out as we connect to its energy of “touching yet not touching.”

Now allow yourself to imagine the letter ל-lamed as a tower soaring in the air aspiring to learn[11] to receive new insight from above. Imagine how your heart is thirsting to ascend and reach a higher level of consciousness through your dreams.

Let the connecting letter ו-vav appear in your mind’s eye. Imagine a straight line from above to below. Imagine this line of the vav opening the channel to bring down every level of higher consciousness that you are able to contact. 

While bringing down all of your higher insights you imagine the final ם-mem, the closed container, containing the underground stream of your dream-water. Breathe in חַ – Cha, breathe out לוֹם – lom, repeat four more times.

Get in touch with your dreams as you breathe, what are your aspirations? What did you once hope to become but never followed through? As you inhale in חַ – Cha, and exhale לוֹם – lom Discover your long lost yearnings, which may be buried under your fears, your feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem.

Imagine yourself in the field where all is open. There in the field בְּשָדֶה you can silence all the statics of your fears that conceal your true will. Now imagine the sheaves in Yosef’s dream אֵלֻמִים. In your breathing of the word חֵלוֹם exchange the ח-chet with the א-alef. Breathe in אַ – Aa, breathe out לֻם – lum, אֵלֻם- sheaf/silence. Silence yourself to the one-ness of Hashem. Allow all your exterior fears and feelings of inadequacies to melt away, as the oneness of the alef draws out your true Divine inner dreams and aspirations. As you get in touch with your true dreams, choose the strongest brightest one and take it with you into the darkest pit.

You are now alone in the well of darkness. It is pitch-dark, it is cold and scary. You are alone, solitary. All your fears re-emerge. Get in touch with your different fears, perhaps the fear of death, the fear of illness, the fear of the unknown, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not being able to succeed... Allow each of your fears to emerge to the surface and acknowledge each of them. Breathe into each of your fears, and try to relax them.

In the midst of the darkness of your fears, it seems as if all is lost, but then, in the darkness, you re-connect with your brightest dream and aspiration. Your dream is a shining beacon in the darkness. Its light cannot be extinguished by the gloom of darkness. Allow your dream to show you the way out of the dungeon and into a brighter reality. Hold on to your dream, float on your dream, as if on a cloud, and fly away from the darkness on your dream. Imagine yourself fulfilling your dream, actualizing your Divine potential.

Breathe into this new image of yourself being what you have always dreamed to become. Allow yourself to become your very highest self! Stay with this feeling and image of yourself for as long as you can. Enjoy the Divine Image of yourself. Then slowly tap your feet and hands to the ground and table before opening your eyes with a renewed resolve to live your life to its fullest.

Yosef’s story is one of continual ups and downs. He is the favorite elevated beloved son, and then he’s dumped into a pit and sold down to Egypt in slavery. Sometimes it is only when we are in the pits, that we rediscover ourselves and tune into the light within. Our normal awake state prevents us from descending “to the moral depths,” and likewise keeps us from ascending to “the very heights.” When we free ourselves from the constrictions of the external world, through deep meditation our imaginings, daydreams and emotions may either lead us “to the moral rock bottom” of Freudian fantasies, or to “the very heights” of cleaving to the Divine. What makes the difference? “It all depends on our spiritual stature, “on the spiritual level of our soul and on Free Will.”[12] This week’s meditation guides us to get in touch with both our greatest highest potential as well as our rock bottom, with the goal that through the darkest darkness we will be able to access our hidden light.

[1] Bereishit 38:1
[2] Sefat Emet, Parashat Vayeshev, Year 5631
[3] Bereishit 37:7
[4] This is also the spiritual work of counting the Omer
[5] Ibid.
[6] Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 1, Piska 5
[7] Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 71, Piska 5
[8] Tehillim 34:20
[9] The meanings of the Hebrew letters brought here is based upon The Hebrew Letters by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
[10] Bereishit 1:2
[11] The word lamed למד derives from the same root as lilmod ללמוד– to teach
[12] Based on Rav Avraham HaKohen Kook, Mussar HaKodesh, p.304

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Just Alone With Your Essence

These Parsha meditations are inspired from my practice in emunahealing and from teaching emunahealing courses. I never experienced any of my writing flowing from me, the way these meditations flow. They get written on Fridays before my Shabbat preparations. I look forward sharing with you healing teachings and personal emunahealing on my upcoming USA tour Feb 5-23, this week will be the last chance to book me I hope!

With Blessings of the Torah, and the Land,

Chana Bracha

Click here to read "The Secret Power of Shema Yisrael" - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Vayishlach

Parasha Meditation Vayishlach
Bereishit 32:4-36:43

After having crossed the Yabok River, Ya’acov prepared himself for prophesy by removing the physical, corporal outer layers of himself, so his soul would remain alone with the upper spiritual light. This is the meaning of “Ya’acov was left alone”[1] the name Ya’acov does not refer to his body, which is only his clothing, but rather, it refers to the inner Ya’acov, which is his soul.

Malbim explains that Ya’acov was able to remove all physical desires and strip off his body, until his essence (soul) remained alone. The “man [that] was wrestling with him”[2] refers to Ya’acov’s own physicality, which would not allow him to remove the corporal outer layer of himself. The “man” – his physical being – held on to him and tried to overcome him. The strength of his body – his physical forces were wrestling with Ya’acov – his spiritual forces, trying to prevent him from removing the manhood of his body. The Talmud teaches that the dust kicked up by Ya’acov and his opponent during their struggle reached up to the Throne of Glory,[3] meaning that it penetrated until the root of his Neshama, reaching all the way to the root of Emunah (faith). Ya’acov’s physical being – his yetzer hara represented by Esav’s angel, wanted to separate him from his root of Emunah. However, the power of evil was incapable of prevailing over Ya’acov, for he was able to overcome his physicality with the immense power of his soul.[4] Ya’acov’s struggle has far reaching significance for us today. The fact that it reached up to the Throne of Glory, can also signify the effect of that struggle on all future generations. The Throne of Glory represents G-d’s Providence, the guiding force in history. Ya’acov, was tested in all his limps, all his deeds, and all his spiritual powers. His victory empowers all of his seeds and the generations after him to prevail against evil in the world.


Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body. After several minutes of relaxing breathing, imagine you are standing by a river, visualize the clean water flowing down, see yourself in the mirror of the clear waters. What do you see? Notice that you are totally alone with yourself, surrounded by darkness.

ספר בראשית פרק לב (כה) וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב לְבַדּו
“And Ya’acov was left alone”[5] 
Get in touch with the feeling of being alone in your own skin. No pressures from outside, no distractions, nothing to conform to, no-one to try to please, just alone with yourself. You are לְבַדּ – alone. You are at one with your heart לֵב followed by the ד – the letter of humility that has nothing of her own. לְבַדּ Inhale לְ exhale בַדּ, repeat five times. Imagine your most beloved material possessions, your favorite outfit… your comfortable bed… your expensive pen… anything that you own, which you treasure. Imagine letting go of each of these possessions one by one as you breathe לְבַדּ Inhale לְ exhale בַדּ. Visualize yourself stripped of the outer layers of your stuff, just alone with your essence. Alone to the core, comfortable with yourself, not in need of anything. לְבַדּ – Inhale לְ exhale בַדּ, repeat five times. Alone with your essence, even beyond your body, let go of your worries about your health. Give them all up to Hashem and breathe into the knowledge that you have nothing. Its all Hashem’s even your body. Try giving it up to Him.

ספר בראשית פרק לב (כ) וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ 
“A man was wrestling with him”[6]
Tune into your own inner struggle. Remember one incident where your body and soul played tug of war. Your Neshama wanted so badly to do this particular mitzvah, but your body pulled you the other way, perhaps you didn’t want to spend all that money, or give away that precious possession, possibly your body was tired, lazy, didn’t feel like exerting and extending yourself. Imagine the glow of your soul as a bright ball of light, and enter your selfishness, laziness, tiredness etc. into this light-ball. Visualize how all of it is melting away, disintegrating, allowing your Neshama to get the upper hand. Yet, you still feel the struggle of yourself within yourself on a deeper level. The struggle to let go, and let G-d, the struggle to let go of what you have worked so hard to attain. Visualize that, which is dearest to you in this world, feel the pull. Get in touch with the pain of having to leave even this, and be alone, completely alone with your Neshama. לְבַדּ – Inhale לְ exhale בַדּ, repeat five times.

Now visualize the word יִשְׂרָאֵל – the yud–י , shin– ש, reish–ר, alef– א and lamed– ל. Yisrael.
You may be slowed down but you are not overwhelmed; you persevere. יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael.
This name can also be read Yashar El, the one who G-d makes straight. יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael. The one who is straight to G-d. יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael. Inhale Yish – יִשְׂ, exhale rael רָאֵל, repeat five times. Breathe יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael, into your head – ראש, breathe יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael into any part of yourself which is tense, painful or tired. יִשְׂרָאֵל – Yisrael. Feel invigorated, feel empowered, feel victorious. You have prevailed, “you have struggled with Divinity and Humanity and you have prevailed!”[7]

Bereishit 32:14-33 tells the story of Ya’acov preparing to face Esav by facing his own shadow side by the river. Before Ya’acov could confront Esav in person he had to confront the power of Esav which is hence his own yetzer hara, hence the general yetzer hara of the world, which is Esav's angel. [8]After this encounter, Ya’acov receives a new name: Yisra El – the one who struggles with G-d. The same name can also mean “straight to G-d,” because through the struggle, he came face to face with Hashem. The struggle is the essence of the name Yisrael. The fate of the Jewish people is one of constant struggle. How do we derive the power to carry on these struggles? The Midrash states:[9] “There is none like G-d; yet who is like G-d? Yeshurun” – (Yisrael). Just as it is written of Hashem, “Hashem alone shall be exalted.”[10] So, too, “Ya’acov was left alone.”[11] Both Hashem and Israel have the ability of being alone. No outside power can affect Hashem, by adding to or subtracts from His Essence. Israel has the ability to emulate Hashem in this respect. When we know who we are, then nothing external, no problem or challenge, can stop us. With the inner strength of character, we can recognize that all external obstacles are just that – external. We know that even our failures are only in unessential matters. When our essence remains untouched, we stay strong.

[1] Bereishit 32:25 
[2] Ibid. 
[3] Babylonian Talmud, Chulin 91a 
[4] Malbim, Rabbi Meir Loeb ben Yechiel Michael, Ukraine ,1809-1879, Bereishit 32:25
[5] Bereishit 32:25 

[6] Ibid. 
[7] Bereishit 32:29 freely translated
[8] Op cit. Malbim, Bereishit 32:25 
[9] Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 77, Piska 1 
 [10] Yeshayahu 2:11 
[11] Bereishit 32:25

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climbing the Rungs of Ya'acov's Ladder

Sunset from Bat Ayin
Click here to read Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Vayetze: "Ya'acov's Toil to Deserve his Wives"

The metaphor of Ya’acov’s ladder lends itself to profound meditation. The ladder symbolizes the connection linking earth to heaven, matter below to spirit Above, and us to G-d. Ya’acov’s ladder teaches us about how our relationship with Hashem in truth is a relationship with our own inner core. Hashem is the underlying structure of all of existence, including our own existence. Alienation from G‑d means alienation from the depths of the self. A relationship with Hashem means a relationship with our own inner core, with the reality of our reality. 

Parasha Meditation Vayetze
Bereishit 28:10-32:3

During his dream of the ladder, Ya’acov was looking into himself. We learn this from the word “bo” “...Behold, angels of G-d are ascending and descending ‘bo’ – on/in it/him.” The preposition ‘bo’ can mean either ‘on it’, ‘in it’ or ‘in him’. 
מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה סח פסקה יב
רבי חייא ורבי ינאי חד אמר עולים ויורדין בסולם וחד אמר עולים ויורדים ביעקב
Rabbi Chia and Rabbi Yanai, the former said they ascend and descend on the ladder, the latter said that they ascend and descend in Ya’acov.[1]

שפת אמת ספר בראשית - פרשת ויצא - שנת [תרמ”ז]
כי באמת האדם עצמו הוא הסולם ויש בו פנימיות הנשמה חלק אלוה ממעל רמז לבחי’ וה’ נצב עליו כנ”ל
In truth, the person himself is the ladder, and within him is the inner Neshama a part of G-d from Above, this hints to the aspect “G-d was standing upon him”[2].

Various levels of consciousness exist between us and our Divine self. Each rung represents a gradual ascent whereby we can earn wisdom and perfection one step at a time. As the ladder has no moving parts, it symbolizes ascent by way of our own personal effort. The Ladder reminds us that reaching the highest realms of consciousness is not a short, swift journey. However, we must also keep in mind that no journey is without its rests and pauses. Therefore, whenever we require a respite during our spiritual ascent, the rungs of the ladder provide us with the support and strength we need until we are ready to take our next step upward.
Sit comfortably in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times and let go of anything you are may be holding on to. Breathe in Hashem’s life-giving energy, breath out, tensions, negativity and worry. Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body. Relax, get yourself in a meditative mode, and imagine that you are Yaakov, “asleep, but your heart is awake”. See in your mind’s eye the ladder. Try to visualize its shape and color. Is it a small indoor ladder, or a larger gardening ladder? Is it made from wood, metal or another material? What is its color? Perhaps it has more than one color? How many rungs does it have? Now imagine yourself standing at the bottom of this ladder. Which difficulties and fears make it hard for you to take the first step to ascend the ladder? Perhaps it is negative habits, addictions, lashon hara, mitzvoth that are difficult for you. Try to identify these blocks and then try to connect with the light of Hashem which always comes down from Above. Try to bring Hashem’s light into your all of your negative actions in order to melt them away. Then take the first step to the bottom of the ladder. This is the level ofארץ  – Earth/ Malchut. You will be ascending the ladder from below on earth towards heaven above. Imagine saying the word “Amen” twice in your mind’s eye as you leave each rung of the ladder to climb the next rung of the ladder.

As you now stand on the bottom of the ladder, feel yourself standing firmly, get in touch with the thing on earth which supports you, your daily routines, the people who are close to you, your support system, get in touch with all the light of Hashem that flows through all the channels of your support system into you. Now look at up at the first rung. What blocks you from taking your first step? Which negative emotions are you struggling with, anger, worry, fears and doubts? Try to bring Hashem’s light into all your negative emotions and melt them away. See if you feel like taking another step onto the first rung of the ladder, as you say “Amen” in your mind’s eye. You now imagine reaching the first rung.

1.  וילוןVilon/Veil/Yesod
Imagine that you are now entering the veil of the Heavens, where the Divine light is indwelling in all physical and psychological substance. Remain on the first rung as you imagine Hashem’s light within you. Get in touch with the dream of your life, the things you always wanted to accomplish, but so far didn’t reach. Visualize fulfilling your dream. When you are ready, recite the word “Amen” twice in your minds eye and take some deep relaxing breaths as you ascend the next rung of the ladder to the second rung.

2. רקיעRakia/Expanse/Hod
Imagine the bright light of the sun warming you. Our body is continually filled with Hashem’s light and love even when we don’t see it or feel it, we know that we are filled with Hashem’s light. From your place on the ladder, send Hashem’s light and love to someone you love very much, or someone you know really need it. Now imagine the soft light of the moon, stars and constellations on a dark blue sky. Enjoy basking in the soft glow with the knowledge that Hashem guides all your ways through His faithful servants. Now visualize the letters of the word “Amen” and repeat it while you breath calmly and step up to the third rung. 

3.שחקים  – Shachakim/Clouds/Netzach
You are walking in a thick white mist; your feet tread lightly upon the flimsy ground, lifted, by the wonder and awe in your heart. You are chasing something, some mysterious beauty which hides behind the endless appearances of its perfection. There is no separation between one moment and the next, one victory and the next that you fathom in your mind’s eye. Each success you have accomplished blends into a greater success, as you imagine all the obstacles in your life that you succeeded to overcome. They are all so different, yet they are one and the same. Visualize the manna flowing down to you and taste its heavenly taste. Now imagine saying “Amen” twice and take some deep breaths preparing yourself to ascent to the fourth rung.

4. זבולZevul/ Habitation/ Tiferet
Imagine a beautiful garden and in its center the outline of the house you can call “home.” Imagine your true home, that you realize has always been the home of your wandering soul. Feel assured that you are not lost. Even as the vision fades from the eye of your mind and the dark clouds of your ordinary consciousness obscure its beautiful garden, you are ascertained that there is a place where you belong, a place in complete harmony with the essence of who you are, and your name. Your home is connected to the heavenly Jerusalem (Yerushalayim shel Ma’ala). Visualize  the Temple, and its altar upon which Michael the arch-angel and great prince stands and offers his offering. Take another few deep breath, recite “amen” twice in your mind, as you prepare yourself to ascent to the fifth rung.

5. מעוןMaon/ Dwelling place/Gevurah
In this realm you need to deal with your shadow side, the part of yourself repressed to the back by un-rectified knots. It could be knots of deep seeded jealousy, hatred, desire to injure others and yourself in order to survive, it could be your darkest fear and your deepest self-hatred. Imagine your gevurah, cracking each of these un-rectified nuts, see them melt away while you  bring Hashem’s light into each of them. Imagine the pitch dark night, and hearing the ministering angels singing songs of praises to Hashem. You can now rest at peace in Ma’on, in your personal refuge in the midst of spiritual ware-fare. No matter what kinds of adversities you may be facing, you have found a place of peace in a land at war. Find this Heaven in your heart. This secret place in your heart is beyond suffering. You may judge all things according to their nature and actions, and annihilate all things by means of love for their opposite, yet the emptiness of this sanctuary of peace is exempt. “Amen, Amen” you recite as you take some deep breaths and visualize entering the sixth rung.

6. מכוןMachon/Established Place/Chesed
Go through the doors of fire, and the chambers of vapor, storm, whirlwind and hail until you reach absolute Chesed.
ספר תהילים פרק פט (ג) כִּי אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה שָׁמַיִם תָּכִן אֱמוּנָתְךָ בָהֶם:
“For I have said, the world is built by Chesed – love, you establish your faithfulness in the very heavens.”[3] 
Get in touch with your absolute chesed, which is changeless and constant in its perfection. It is the most fundamental of all, a template and foundation for all which follows; the first certainty of God’s creation. Feel your love emanating from the spring of His eternal love and allow it to fill your heart and from their your entire being as you keep breathing slow loving breaths, feel how much you love yourself  and everyone else in your world, “Amen, Amen” continue your loving breaths as you imagine entering the seventh and final rung.

7.ערבות  – Aravot/Desert/Empty Expanse/ Keter/Chachmah/Binah
You are now floating into the holy heaven of Aravot, filled with the treasures of life and the treasures of peace and the treasures of blessing, and the souls of the righteous and the spirits and souls which are about to be created. Imagine the glittering dew in the sun with which the Holy One, blessed be He, is about to review the dead. There also are celestials and seraphs and holy beings and ministering angels and the throne of glory, and the King, the Living God, high and lifted up, sitting over them among the clouds, and darkness and cloud and thick darkness surround Him. There is again a firmament above the heads of the living creatures “shining like the glitter of the purest crystal.”[4] Now allow your mind to empty as you get in touch with that emptiness which is, paradoxically, most full. It is the emptiness of particular forms, in which all forms find their source. Nothing and all things are contained herein.

ספר תהילים פרק סח) ה) שִׁירוּ לֵאלֹהִים זַמְּרוּ שְׁמוֹ סֹלּוּ לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ וְעִלְזוּ לְפָנָיו:
“Sing to G-d, sing praises to His name, extol Him who rides upon the aravot – highest heaven – in Y-a His name, and rejoice before him.”[5]
The word “Aravot” which is often translated as “highest heaven” also means mixture, since this heaven is a mixture of fire and water. In this realm feel your deepest gratitude for all the goodness in your life, which arouses your deepest desire to praise Hashem in the very highest way. Know in your heart of hearts that Hashem stands beside you. Hear in your inner hearing Him say to you:

בראשית פרק יב (טו) וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ אֶל הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ
 “I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go. I will return you to this earth. For I will not leave you...”[6]
“Amen Amen!” Slowly begin to go down each of the rungs of the laadder from the highest heaven downwards. From the 7th and highest heaven Aravot, to the 6th realm of Machon, descending into the 5th level of Ma’on, until you come to the 4th rung of Zevul, plunging down to the 3rd realm of Shachakim, descending down to the second level of Rakia, followed by the first rung of Vilon until you finally return from your heavenly journey and reach the Earth. You are back on the ground, take some soft steps with your feet on the floor and tap your hands on the table before you release your arms and legs, then open your eyes.

The Symbolism and Imagery of Ladders
Going up the ladder is the spiritual stairway through which approach our Divine self, and reach higher realms of consciousness in our quest for spiritual perfection.

The two vertical uprights of the ladder symbolize that our upward ascent, from the bottom-most rung to the upper-most rung, is a journey through the realm of duality. Before we can step up to the next higher rung on the ladder we must first experience and master the lessons of duality which exist at our current level of elevation. As we steadfastly ascend the rungs of the ladder we slowly elevate ourselves, higher and higher, above the lower plane of the superficial and mundane. Upon reaching the higher rungs of the ladder, we begin to breathe in the rarefied air of Higher Consciousness. It is at these higher levels of consciousness that the mysteries of Eternity slowly begin to unveil their secrets to us.

The Divine unified realm is beyond all frustrations, confusions and restraints of the material world. Only tzadikim reach the top-most rung of the ladder – the realm of highest consciousness. Reaching this level through personal desire and effort enables the tzadik to transcend duality and achieve entrance into the Infinite Domain of Enlightenment and Unity. May we learn to access the light of our Neshama as we gradually climb Ya’acov’s ladder one rung at a time! May the inner light of each of us shine forth and uplift our personal surroundings this month, from the inside out!

[1] Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 68, Piska 12
[2] Sefat Emet, Bereishit, Vayetze 5647
[3] Tehillim 89:3
[4] Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 12b, Yechezkiel 1:22
[5] Ibid. 68:5
[6] Bereishit 12:15

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Revealing the Living Waters

The word B’erot means wells. Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin is named after the wells in the Torah. Here, we do the work of re-digging the wells of our mothers. We do a lot of digging at B’erot, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Through our spiritual digging – “soul- gym” we expand our souls and open its never ending spring. Through gardening and creativity we allow the wells of Torah to flow outwards and be expressed in many garments. Our yearning to express ourselves through dance, drama, painting and song are being reclaimed as vehicles to allow our personal expressions of the waters of the living well – our holy Torah. Drawing out the well and expressing its water outwardly, causes the inner spring to be opened even more. Like a nursing mother, the more the baby sucks to extract the milk, the more milk is produced within her breasts. By re-digging the wells and allowing them to be expressed through the garments of our creativity, we receive the ability to bring home the hidden sparks, even from the furthest exile. Students from the four corners of the earth, descendants of Anusim, Keifeng Jews, Benei Menashe and young women emerging from the Western exile keep knocking on our doors. Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin is a learning environment for women who seek to reconnect with their own inner source, Hashem within, and express their personal wellsprings in all the language of their souls.
Click here to read The "Esavs" and the "Yaacovs" of today - Rebbetzin Chana Bracha's commentary on Haftorat Toldot

Parasha Meditation Toldot
Bereishit 25:19-28:9

In this week’s parasha Yitzchak re-digs the ancestral wells in search of water.
ספר בראשית פרק כו
יח) וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו
“Yitzchak dug again the wells of water, which they had dug in the days of Avraham his father; for the Pelishtim had stopped them up after the death of Avraham. And he called the names after the names by which his father had called them (Bereishit 26:18).

The spiritual work of Yitzchak was to dig wells. The purpose of this work is to reveal the living waters which exists under the ground, and to bring it up. It is not the purpose to make waters flow into the wells from another source; but only to reveal the living waters which is already found within the wells themselves. For in truth, these wells retain by themselves the living waters, but they are covered up with dirt, pebbles and mud. When one removes these blockages, the living water is revealed. This work teaches us about Yitzchak’s spiritual work – To remove all the veils of the physical world, and transform it into a vessel for Divinity – to raise it up from below to above. Like the living waters themselves which rise up from below.[1]

יט) וַיַּחְפְּרוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בַּנָּחַל וַיִּמְצְאוּ שָׁם בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים: (כ) וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר עִם רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר לָנוּ הַמָּיִם וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ: (כא) וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׂטְנָה: (כב) וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וְלֹא רָבוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ רְחֹבוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי עַתָּה הִרְחִיב הַשֵם לָנוּ וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ
“Yitzchak's servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. And the herdsmen of Gerar did strive with Yitzchak's herdsmen, saying, ‘the water is ours’: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him. And they dug another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitna. He removed from there, and dug another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rechovot; and he said, for now Hashem has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Bereishit 26:19-22).

Yitzchak had to deal with the negative forces which tried to prevent his holy work of digging the wells. Although the herdsmen of Avimelech chased Yitzchak’s herdsmen away and shut up the wells, he was not discouraged but continued to dig the wells until he reached “Rechovot” –

“For now the Hashem has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Now, he was finally successful in separating and raising the sparks from their shells in order to live in perfect peace in the Holy Land.

Yitzchak was going through contention and conflict in order to dig the wells of Abraham – his spiritual heritage. Likewise, we are going through much turmoil and many challenges in order to reconnect with our source. We must dig deeply through dirt, pebbles and mud, and remove all of the blockages that block us from returning to the well of our mothers and fathers – “the well of living waters.” The way to our own source is paved with difficulties, but we cannot just take the easy way out and dig new wells, because only the wells of Avraham will reveal the true “living waters” for us. This is why it is so important to choose only a Mitzvah-observant spiritual healer and teacher of Jewish meditation – someone who drinks from the wells of Avraham – rather than from some other wells from “the other side,” which may possibly bring healing. However, healing from impure wells, not from the well of holiness will not elevate the Jewish Neshama (soul).

In the work of digging wells, we relearn something which was always part of our Neshama – The truth, which has been taught to us even before we were born, but buried deeply within our being. The well buried within us, is concealed by many layers of blockages. It could be covered up by secular upbringing, the western culture and our own inclination to separate ourselves from G-d.

There are spiritual blocks such as negative energy, lack of emunah (faith) and lack of tefilah (prayer). Emotional blocks include fear, trauma, guilt and anger, whereas physical blocks could be caused by pain, injury, shock and even lack of certain vitamins. In Emunahealing and meditation we can dig through the dirt, pebbles and mud of all of these blockages in order to reconnect with Hashem’s light within us reflected in “the well of living waters.”

Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body. After a minute or two of relaxing breathing, imagine the word בְּאֵר. Inhale in as you visualize בְּ, exhale as you visualize אֵר. Repeat this four times.

Now imagine that you inhale the living waters into your head, and exhale all the blocks of dirt, pebbles and mud from your head. Repeat this several times allowing the cleansing waters to enter your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, chin, cheeks and the back of your head, as you inhale, while the dirt, pebbles and mud is washed away from all these parts of your head with your exhale. Imagine how you wash away negative energy, lack of emunah (faith) and lack of tefilah (prayer). Visualize how the well-water opens your spiritual energy fields and recharges your head with emunah, unity and clarity.

Allow the waters to cascade down your shoulders and arms and then focus on inhaling living waters to your heart and exhaling all the dirt, pebbles and mud of your fears, pains, angers, traumas and childhood injuries from your heart. Visualize how the well-water opens your emotional energy fields and recharges your heart with love acceptance and humility. Allow the waters to cleanse the right chamber, then the left chamber of your heart, and all of its blood-vessels. Allow the well-water to enter your bloodstream and purify it.

Now visualize your liver on your right side below your ribcage. Imagine the well-water entering your liver and purifying it the toxins of your injuries, shocks and unhealthy eating. Visualize how the well-water opens your physical energy fields and recharges your liver with renewed energy, commitment to refining your lifestyle.

Allow the well of the living waters to rush through your entire being, and remove all the blocks that block you from being in touch with Hashem within. Repeat once again imagining the word בְּאֵר. Inhale in as you visualize בְּ, exhale as you visualize אֵר. Repeat this four additional times. Now just let your breath to flow naturally as you allow yourself to just be. Feel how cleansed you are now from your spiritual, emotional and physical blocks. Now you can feel Hashem’s light emanating your entire being. Take a few concluding breaths as you experience the presence of Hashem within you – your own “well of living waters.”

[1] Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson (The last Lubawitzcher Rabbi), commentary on the Torah, Parashat Vayera.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Speaking with Hashem in the Field

We had some downpour of blessed rain in the Land, as the Talmud says “The day of rain is greater than the day of the giving of the Torah!” As winter is coming forth, the students of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin warm themselves with Torah and Herbal teas from our garden. At this time I’m in the midst of planning my upcoming USA tour, and look forward to seeing old friends and alumnae. Please be in touch now if you would like the opportunity to host me in your community, so we will have time to ship my books, “Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion” second edition! This time I plan to come before TubShevat so I can teach you “Mystical and Medicinal Properties of the Fruits of the Land” and lead your TubShevat Seder the B’erot Bat Ayin way!
With Blessings of the Torah & the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to read "Developing Our Feminine Attribute of Bina" - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Chayei Sarah

Parasha Meditation Chayei Sarah
Bereishit 23:1-25:18

This week’s parasha is about finding a wife for Yitzchak and about Yitzchak’s prayer for his soul- mate. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan discovered the first source for Jewish meditation in this week’s parasha[1] where it states that “Yitzchak went out to speak (lasuach) in the field (ba-sadeh).”

וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים: ספר בראשית פרק כד פסוק סג
Yitzchak went out to meditate in the field towards the evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, behold camels were coming (Bereishit, Chapter 24, Verse 63).

Experiencing the solitude of the field and connecting with nature while watching the sheep is conducive to contemplation and communion with G-d. Our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’acov, were shepherds because this vocation offered perfect opportunity for meditative connection with Hashem. According to Rashi, when Yitzchak went out lasuach in the field, he was praying to Hashem. We learn this from the way the word lasuach is used in Tehillim,[2] “A Prayer of the afflicted…when he fainted, and poured out his prayer (sicho) before Hashem”.

Rashbam finds a parallel to the word lasuach in the word scrub (siach) mentioned in the story of creation.[3] He explains that Yitzchak went out in the field to inspect his crop.[4] Chizkuni synthesizes these two views, explaining, that Yitzchak went out of the Garden of Eden where he had been living for the last three years since his Akeida (near-sacrifice). He went out in order to (lasuach) plant trees, and to inspect his work, but also in order to (lasuach) converse/pray.[5]

Imagine Yitzchak walking between his plants (sichim) enjoying the beauty and Hashem’s blessings manifested in the majestic trees, as the sun is beginning to set behind the hills. While he inspects his plantings, he pours out his heart to Hashem in prayer, the prayer for his crop, shifts to the prayer for his spiritual crop – the offspring that he yearns for, shifting to the prayer from the deepest part of his soul, the prayer for his life-partner in serving Hashem and bringing forth children – the prayer for a wife.[6] Immediately, as he completes his prayer – the mincha (afternoon) prayer that he established for all future generations,[7] at this pivotal moment, “he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming,”[8] bringing his soul-mate Rivka towards him.

One of the earlier supports for Biblical hitbodedut (speaking with Hashem in the field), advocated so highly by Rabbi Nachman, is the Sforno[9] who explains that when “Yitzchak went out lasuach” – he turned away from the main road, in order to pour out his prayer before Hashem in the quiet field where he wouldn’t be interrupted by other people.

Sit comfortably in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body. After a minute or two of relaxing breathing imagine that you are alone in the middle of a lush field. There are no other people, only trees, shrubs, herbs and grass. Enjoy looking at the lushness of the leaves, the textures of the branches, feel the crispy moist earth under your feet. Inhale the fresh smells of the leaves and grasses after the rain. Hear the rustling of the trees in the wind, and the song of the birds in their branches. Taste the tastes of clean fresh air as you inhale both from your nose and your mouth. Now imagine how all the beauty of nature that you behold inspires you to pour out your soul in the deepest prayer. As you pray, imagine how every blade of grass, every tree-branch, every bird of the field joins your prayer, imagine how the entire field becomes energized, sanctified and synchronized with your breath of prayer.

Visualize the letters that spell out the word שָּׂדֶה (field) First the fiery sin ש with its three flames denoting shinui – change – as you enter the new energy field of prayer. Moving through the door of the letter dalet ד the – the poor –”that has nothing [d’leit] of her own.” Feel your own lowliness how you posses nothing of your own – how you are an empty vessel ready to receive Hashem’s blessings. As you move to visualizing the last letter of the word שָּׂדֶה the letter ה receive your gift from Hashem and manifest it into all the three garments of your soul. As you visualize the upper horizontal line of the ה imagine Hashem is purifying and filling your faculty of thought with His light, then visualize the right vertical line of the ה while imagine that your faculty of speech receives Divine illumination, finally as you visualize the unattached foot of the ה, imagine that all your actions become tuned up and synchronized with the Divine will.

Now visualize the entire word שָּׂדֶה with the definite article the prefix ה as in הַשָּׂדֶה

וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ וְכָל עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִצְמָח: בראשית פרק ב פסוק ה
Every plant in the field was not yet in the earth, and every herb of the field had not yet sprouted forth. (Bereishit 2:5)

הַשָּׂדֶה Includes the sin ש and the dalet ד of Hashem’s name Shadai ש-ד-י, the two hehs ה add up to the final letter yud י (the numerical value of each heh is five adding up to the ten of the yud).

Breath in as you visualize Sha שַ. Breath out as you visualize dai דַי

Repeat this breathing ten times.

The name Shadai refers to G-d’s power to make His Divinity conscious and accessible to every one of His creatures, regardless of their spiritual state. Imagine G-d’s power entering into every part of your life and being. Imagine yourself at work; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your work. Imagine yourself in relationship to those close to you; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your relationships. Imagine yourself deeply in thought; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your contemplation.

Notes: The gemara explains how shacharit (morning prayer), mincha (afternoon prayer) and ma’ariv (evening prayer) originates from the avot – Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’acov. [10]

Shacharit was established by Avraham, when he arose in the morning to view the destruction that Hashem had brought upon Sodom. “Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood (amad) before Hashem.”[11] We learn that the word “amad” refers to tefilah, because the words “va’yamod” and “v’yipalel” (standing and praying) are juxtaposed in another Torah verse.[12]

Mincha originated with Yitzchak, when he went out la’suach ba’sadeh towards the evening[13]

Ma’ariv was instituted by Ya’acov, when he was fleeing from Esav. “Va’yifga ba’makom” – He lighted upon the place…”[14] – “pegiah” refers to tefilah.

Rabbi Elly Krimsky explains that the three references to prayer by the avot correspond to three different motivations for prayer. Yitzchak’s prayer in the field corresponds to tefilah during ordinary day-to-day life - while working in the field (or in the office). The word sicha supports that Yitzchak’s tefilah represents day-to-day prayer as this word is often translated to mean everyday conversation.[15] Yitzchak, thus, represents the ability to be intensely focused on Hashem in the midst of the daily humdrum of life.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslau explains that the letter bet as a prefix, which usually means “in,” can also mean “with.” If so, we can understand that when Yitzchak went out to pray ba-sadeh, he was praying with the field! In other words, his prayer was so intense that nature itself felt compelled to join in.[16]

[1]Meditation and the Bible, Maine, Samuel Weiser Inc, p.101
[2] Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak, France, (1040-1105), Bereishit 24:63
[3] “No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…” (Bereishit 2:5).
[4] Rashbam, Rabbi Shemuel ben Meir, (Rashi’s grandson) France, (1083-1174), Bereishit 24:63
[5] Based on Chizkuni, Rabbi Chezkiyahu ben Manoach, France, (thirteen century), Bereishit 24:63
[6] This section is based on Rabbeinu Bachaya, Rabbi Bachaya ben Asher, Spain, (1250-1340) Bereishit 24:63
[7]Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 26b.
[8] The continuation of our original verse in Bereishit 24:63
[9] Rabbi Ovadiah ben Ya’acov, Italy, (1470-1550), Bereishit 24:63
[10] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 26b
[11] Bereishit19:27
[12] Tehillim 106:30
[13] Bereishit 24:63
[14] Bereishit 28:11
[15] See for example Tehillim 119:97
[16] Likutei Moharan, Part 2, Sign 1