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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Receiving Revelation and Healing

I hope you will try my parasha meditations. Baruch Hashem they are flowing to me, and I incorporate them into my emunahealing course. For myself, it is a very healing process to learn to be rather than do. There are so many things which need to be done perpetually, however, when we learn to slow down and do things mindfully, with Hashem’s blessing they may get done easier while our time is freed to experience Hashem’s closeness. Meditating and opening ourselves to expanded consciousness is part of the geulah process when “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Yoel 3:1). Find 10-15 minutes once a week to sit down with yourself, and with Hashem’s help you will experience an opening in your life. B”H I will make recording of the meditations some time soon.

Click here to read "The Power of Women's Emunah" - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Vayeira

Parasha Meditation Vayeira
Bereishit 18:1-22:24

This week’s parasha is about receiving revelation and healing. As Hashem revealed Himself to Avraham, He gives each of us a glimpse of His light as well. Hashem sent three of his archangels to Avraham and Sarah. Each angel is a spiritual force with its own mission. Michael’s mission was to inform Sarah about her forthcoming conception, and later to save Lot from the downfall of Sedom, Gavriel came to overturn Sedom and Amora, and Refael to heal Avraham. When Hashem revealed Himself to Avraham it states that “he was sitting at the opening of the tent” – “וְהוּא ישֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל”. Whenever it states in the Torah about our patriarchs that they were sitting, it means that they were meditating. Avraham was sitting and just being, sitting without judging, himself or others, sitting and allowing everything to pass through him and surround him. He was sitting “פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל” – “At the opening of the tent” – Opening himself totally to the energy field around him, opening himself totally to the presence of Hashem enveloping him, opening himself and allowing the Divine Presence to reveal Herself to him.

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו הַשֵם בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא ישֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם: וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה...בראשית יח:ב
“Hashem revealed Himself to him, at Alonei Mamre, while he was sitting at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day. He raised his eyes and he saw, behold three people standing by him, he saw and he ran towards them from the opening of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground…” (Bereishit 18:1-2).

“וְהוּא ישֵׁב” – 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. “וְהוּא ישֵׁב” – Sit with the feeling of being alive; simply BEING present and open, using your breath as anchor. Just be present with what is, without DOING anything with any of it. Just be in relation to it. Allow it. Permit it.

“פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל” – Be open to it. Just be open and allow, let all the sounds in the room pass through you, allow all your thoughts and feelings to come and go, without grasping, identifying or judging. Simply sit, in the present moment of being alive. Do not measure yourself, judge yourself, just make space for yourself as you sit. When you sit, you can free yourself of yourself even in the midst of yourself.

“וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו הַשֵם” – Open yourself and allow yourself to see and connect with Hashem. Let your eyes open to the revelation He wants to show you. It could be completely different than what you expect, what you think it is supposed to be. When you detach from yourself, your judgments and preconceived notions then you open yourself to see, to see beyond what you know. Not the projection of your desire, but what truly is, that which we don’t allow ourselves to see when we are so full of ourselves that there is no room for G-d. Go beyond counting your accomplishments, let go of even your spiritual self, as you keep breathing, taking in the breath from beyond. Do not fear to open yourself in wonder. Don’t be afraid to face any feelings which may come to you, whether a feeling of meaninglessness, despair, fear, they are all part of the experience which leads you to encounter Hashem. Don’t be afraid of fear as you come out into the open, the only place where G-d is revealed.

“וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו” – “He raised his eyes and he saw, behold three men stood by him.”As you breathe softly, imagine the energy of the archangel Michael standing at your right. Feel the energy of chesed (kindness), inhale softness love and compassion. Tune into how much you are being loved. Tune into the waves of love washing over you from your right.

Now imagine the energy of the archangel Gavriel at your left. Breathe in as you feel gevurah –strength and protection from your left. Inhale the gevurah energy. Your boundaries are becoming clear. You now have a vessel for all of the love. Imagine the shape of your vessel emerging from your left.

Breathe in, allow yourself to tune into the healing energy of the archangel of Refael from behind you. Inhale the healing energy from behind you to your entire being.

“וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ” – “He saw and he ran” – When Avraham looked again he saw the healing angel of Refael and was immediately healed and able to run. Open your eyes to a healing vision. Notice the colors shapes, feelings, of what you visualize in your mind’s eye. Allow the healing you receive to enter into every part of you that needs healing. Take your vision of Hashem’s healing energy and enter it to every place within you, where it is needed. Breathe slowly and allow your healing process to take place. Feel how your body is responding and opening itself to the healing energy. Slowly tap your hands and feet, open your eyes and return refreshed and healed to the reality around you.

וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה...בראשית יח:ב
“He raised his eyes and he saw, behold three people standing by him, he saw and he ran towards them from the opening of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground…” (Bereishit 18:2).

“וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ” – Ohr HaChaim notices that the Torah repeated that Avraham saw a second time. Perhaps we can say that only the second time did he see that the “men” were actually angels. However, this is not necessary, as Avraham was on such a high level that already the first time he saw, he knew. Rather, Scripture informs us that when Avraham looked again, he saw the healing angel of Refael and was immediately healed from his circumcision, as we see that he was able to run quickly towards them. Experiencing this amazing healing also explains why he bowed down in the greatest respect.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Go to Yourself: A Meditation

Now that we finally have entered the month of Chesvan, I enjoy the renewal of our daily routine following all the commotion of the holidays. After being loaded with all the lights of our spiritual experiences of Tishrei, we return to our daily day tasks with renewed strength.

I'm excited to teach such wonderful serious students, who are eager to learn and fulfill Hashem's will. Both at the midrasha and in my personal garden we are busy sowing the winter crop of greens, fennel, carrots, radishes and beets. What a wonder to behold the seeds from the old dried up plants of last years crop shoot forth fresh young sprouts!  

As part of my Emunahealing course, I was inspired to put together meditations in sync with the parasha. I hope very much I will be able to keep it up, as I get busier with the preparation of my annual tour at the beginning of February. See below my dates and topics. Please let me know ASAP if you are interested in hosting me in your community or help with the logistics, I'm trying to firm up my speaking schedule as soon as possible, and I look forward sharing Torah and healing from the Land.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land 
Chana Bracha

Parashat Lech Lecha
Bereishit 12:1-17:27

 Avraham’s journey parallels each of our personal journeys. When G-d told Avraham, לֶךְ לְךָ – "Lech lecha,” – “go to yourself” – to your source, He also told each of us at every moment. Our self image which we project into the world may not be true reflections of the inner core of our being. We have built upon ourselves layers and layers of external self-identifications….. Think about the things that weigh you down – that are not really part of true self that you want to let go of, in your journey to find your true inner self – Hashem’s Divine spark within you.

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. Imagine Hashem’s light filling you from Above. In your mind see the letters that form the words lech lecha. They extend as far down and as far up as they can go. Claim all of yourself – your entire range of being.
Go. Grow. Recall the lowest depths to which you’ve pain or sorrow.
Remember the greatest heights to which you’ve love and labor.

Breathe in as you imagine the word לְךָ – lecha – to yourself, breathe out as you imagine the word לֶךְ – lech – go. Continue breathing in and out while visualizing לֶךְ לְךָ – lech lecha and going deeper into yourself on the in-breath with the word לְךָ – lecha, while letting go on the out-breath as you imagine the word לֶךְ – lech. Repeat this ten times.

לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ - “Go from your country, your birthplace & your father’s house”
Are you ready to abandon everything that establishes and confirms your selfhood? – Your country, your birthplace and your father’s house? Are you ready to let go of the vital ground for self-confirmation, citizenship, property rights and inheritance? Your essential sources of security?

אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ – “To the Land that I will show you”
With each in-breath, seek a new and higher self-identity independent of land, nationality and family. Seek your relationship with Hashem. Are you ready to base your self identity on your eternal connection with the source of the present and the future?

With each in-breath, go deeper into your I which includes Hashem. It embodies the eternal Divine “You” into the very definition of your human "I".

With each out-breath try to let go of every un-essential layers of your self- image

מֵאַרְצְךָ – From your country, from the language and culture that you grew up in, from its national values such as democratic freedom, from the manners and body language of your country.

מִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ – From the customs of your neighborhood, the foods, traditions and unspoken expectations of your extended family.

וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ – from all the things your encountered in your childhood home that you promised yourself you would not repeat when you became a parent, but found yourself in the exact same behavior patterns. From those neuroses, judgments and criticism? From those petty expectations and snobbiness?

Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha from all that weighs you down
Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha go to your crown!

From jealousy and anger
Hatred and obsession
From judgment and slander
Sadness and depression

Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha from all that weighs you down
Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha go to your crown! 

From humiliation and dissolution
Pursuit of temptations that deceive
From and uncertainty and confusion
to your inner Divine spark believe!

Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha from all that weighs you down
Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha go to your crown!

From Holding on to the past, 
Childhood wounds and hurt feelings
To release and feel peace at last
With yourself in all your dealings!

Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha from all that weighs you down
Lech Lecha – Lech Lecha go to your crown!

Imagine being 100 % connected with your crown, – imagine it sparkle on top of your head with all its glory containing only the purest Divine Light. With each in-breath, the shape of your crown gets clearer and more defined, and it sparkles more and more.

Now that you are releasing the layers from your past that weighs you down. As you let go of any trace of fear of the unfamiliar, open yourself completely to הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ – “the Land that G-d will show you” – Open yourself to new possibilities in an unknown future.
Open yourself to the unknown change, hope and miracles.
Allow yourself to see the possibility for new beginnings, living a life of hope.

The name Lech Lecha, literally: “Go to yourself,” refers to our constant ascent from lower to higher spiritual levels as we fulfill our purpose in the world. The numerical value of the two words is one hundred, the age of Avraham when he performed the near-sacrifice of Yitzchak. This number encompasses all the ten sefirot with each of their ten sub-sefirot. One hundred is the number of completion.