Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Shema Yisrael – Unifying at Heart

Rebbetzin with Kochava at her beautiful wedding
This week is also called Shabbat Chazak, one of the four (the fifth time is on Simchat Torah) Shabbats when we complete one of the Books of the Torah, and the entire congregation rises and together calls out “Chazak Chazak V’nitchazaik”– “Strength! Strength! Let us strengthen ourselves!” Just as we have completed one of the Books of the Torah, May G-d help us be strong and complete all of the loose ends of our lives, physically and spiritually. Hashem blessed me with a meditation to help us get in touch with our innate אַהָבַת יִשְרָאֶל –Ahavat Yisrael – Love of all Jews, in order to be able to truly unify Hashem in the world when reciting the שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל – Shema Yisrael. 

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum 

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Vayechi - "The Bridge Between Life and Death" 

Parasha Meditation Vayechi
Bereishit 47:28-50:26
The Blessing of Redemption
This week’s parasha concluding the book of Bereishit culminates with the blessings that Ya’acov gave to his children. A blessing is a transfer of energy. In order to transmit Hashem’s blessing to another person, the “blesser” and the blessed need to be united, both with each other and with Hashem. This is why in preparation for blessing his offspring, Ya’acov dramatically entreated his sons: “Join together and I will tell you what will happen at the end of days.”[1] The ultimate blessing that Ya’acov desired to impart is the blessing of the Final Redemption. In order to reach the days of Mashiach, complete unity is needed.[2] Just as the first exile to Egypt came about because of the strife between Yosef and his brothers, likewise, the destruction of the Temple happened through unwarranted hatred among Jews. In order to prepare ourselves for redemption, we need to train ourselves to really love and unity with our fellow-Jews.

Eradicating Self-Indulgent Worry
“Redemption will not come until every prutah (the smallest denomination of coin) is gone from the pocket.” [3] Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the first Satmar Rebbe, noted that the word prutah shares the same root as the word pratiut – privacy. He explains that Mashiach can’t come until every pratiut – every self-indulgent detail that a person worries about for himself rather than worrying about his fellow, is dispensed with. When each of us will be united by caring about others the way we care about ourselves, we will merit the Final Redemption.

Israel’s Expression of Unity and Praise
After imploring his children to unify with the greatest possible love for one another, Ya’acov urged them to unify with Hashem. When Ya’acov, our father assembled his sons in Egypt, at his deathbed, he commanded them to unify the name of G*d, in order to follow the path of Hashem that Avraham and Yitzchak his father had walked. Ya’acov asked them and said, “My sons, perhaps someone among you is flawed and does not stand with me in the Unification of the Name?” They all answered in unity, “Hear Israel Hashem our G*d Hashem is One” – that is, “Hear from us, our father, Israel, Hashem our G*d, Hashem is one.” The old man answered “Blessed be the Name of the Glory of His Kingship for ever and ever!” And this is why all Israel has the custom to repeat this expression of praise used by Israel and his sons in these Torah verses.[4]

Physical and Spiritual Gathering
“Gather yourselves together, and hear, your sons of Ya’acov, listen to Yisrael your father.”[5] The Shlah HaKodesh connects the unification with Hashem expressed in the recital of Shema with the unification between the children of Israel. He asks, why did it state “Gather” immediately after it had stated “join together”?[6] “Join together” refers to physical gathering, while “gather yourselves together” refers to spiritual gathering, which implies removal of jealousy, hatred and competition from the heart. Without unifying as one person with one soul, it is impossible to receive unification with Hashem. Hashem only dwells on us, when Israel are unified at heart, without jealousy, like the ministering angels, about whom it states, “they all love…they all accept the yoke of the heavenly Kingdom upon themselves.”[7] Therefore, everyone must unify his heart with the entire congregation of Israel, as if speaking to every descendant of Israel, “Hear o Israel”– we are all united in love, without hatred and jealousy – and now we receive the unity of our G*d and recite, “Hashem our G*d, Hashem is One.”[8] Here follows a meditation to help us get in touch with our innate love for all of Israel and unify with Hashem.

Before starting this meditation, you may want to look intensely at the three Hebrew letters that make up the Hebrew word “Shema,” until these letters are imprinted in your mind’s eye.

1. 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. Continue following your breath until you feel totally relaxed.

2. Breathe in “She” – the fire of Shin, breathe out “Mah” the water of Mem.

3. Continue four more breaths and imagine that you unify fire and water with your inhalation and exhalation.

4. The last letter of the word “Shema” is the letter Ayin which means eye. Imagine you take the fire of the Shin and the water of the Mem and unite them inside the Divine Eye of Ayin. (If it is easier for you, you may imagine a large eye instead of the letter Ayin). Hold this visualization as you continue breathing softly.

5. Now empty your “Divine Eye” and place inside of the Ayin the person you love most in life. It can be your spouse if you are married, or a parent, a sibling, a very close relative or friend.

6. Imagine filling this beloved person with Hashem’s light from head to toe, inside of your mind’s eye.

7. Get in touch with your own heart as you breathe, feel warm softness from your heart and allow yourself to feel the love you have for the person you love most in life.

8. Allow this love to spread within your entire body. How does it feel? Is it warm and soothing? A stable unwavering feeling or a passionate feeling that comes in spurts? Are there any place within your body where you find it difficult to express your love?

9. Breathe Hashem’s light into the places of yourself where your love may be blocked.

10. Then breathe in “She” – the fire of Shin, breathe out “Mah” the water of Mem. Continue four more breaths and imagine unifying fire and water through your inhalation and exhalation.

11. Now place inside of your Divine Ayin a person you have a difficult time with in life. It can be a child, a mother-in-law, a neighbor who has caused you trouble, or anyone with whom you have or have had a conflict.

12. Imagine filling this person with Hashem’s light from head to toe, inside of your mind’s eye as you breathe. If you get stuck and find it difficult, try to remember that this person too is a child of G*d. Just as you love your children, or your parents love you, Hashem loves this person so very much, and desires to fill him or her with Divine light.

13. When you have completed filling this person with imaginary light – as if you paint every part of him or her with infinite Divine light – return to focus on yourself.

14. Is there any part of yourself that feels hatred, jealousy or competition with the person with who you have clashed? Locate any possible negative feeling towards this person inside of your body. Perhaps in the right side of your head, or in your shoulder or heart you feel a certain kind of resentment. Focus in on this feeling. What color does it have? What texture? Is it round or square dotted, spiked or smooth?

15. Try to remove this resentment from your body into an imaginary basket outside of yourself.

16. Now take an imaginary paintbrush of light and paint everything in the basket with Divine light, until the resentment dissipates.

17. Breathe in “She” – the fire of Shin, breathe out “Mah” the water of Mem. Continue four more breaths and imagine unifying fire and water through your inhalation and exhalation.

18. Now imagine that you are a drop of water within the great ocean of the Jewish people. Together with all of Israel, you are part of the great waves and their frosty foam. Let go, let go, let go!

19. Imagine yourself melting away and merging with that which is so much greater than yourself. Imagine yourself being just a drop of “Mah” riding on the waves.

20. Now breathe in “Mah” the water of Mem, breathe out “Mah” the water of Mem. “Mah-Mah” “Mah-Mah” Continue four more breaths and imagine unifying yourself with all of Israel through your inhalation and exhalation.

21. Get back in touch with the love you have for your most beloved person in life. Imagine expanding that love to include all of Israel, even those whose outlook or lifestyle is opposed to yours. We are all most beloved children of Hashem. When we unite like “one person with one heart”[9] then we can unite Hashem in the world. שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל הַשֵם אֱלֹקֵינוּ הַשֵם אֶחָד – “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad” – Hear oh Yisrael, Hashem is our G*d, Hashem is One!”[10]

After the Holocaust, R. Yosef Kahaneman zt’l, the Ponevezhe Rav began looking for Jewish children who had survived the war. It was known that some of the children had ended up in churches and were being raised as Christians. The Rav encountered one church that denied the existence and presence of Jewish children within their midst. Yet, he was granted permission to enter the children’s quarters to inspect for himself. When he entered, he began calling out “Shema Yisrael” and instinctively many of the children raised their hands to cover their eyes and started calling out “mama! mama!”

The “Shema Yisrael” stems from the deepest level of the Jewish soul, the יְחִידָה – yechidah –where all Jews are united with each other and Hashem. The gematria (numerical value) of אֶחָד / echad and אַהָבַה/ahava is identical, they are both thirteen. For this reason in the introductory paragraph before the recital of Shema we pray for the love of Hashem and His unity, in the secret of “Unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name.”[11] Moreover, the section of love “And you shall love…”[12] follows directly the Shema Yisrael verse. We thus find that the Shema Yisrael is sandwiched between “Love and Love.”

With every recital of Shema, we bring down Hashem’s light upon ourselves and in the world. The belief that Hashem’s Oneness unites us and includes all forces of the world, is our ultimate service of unifying Hashem. This emunah is our beacon of light through the dark times of our lives.

[1] Bereishit 49:1.
[2] The Shlah HaKodesh, Parashat Vayechi, Derech Chaim, Tochachat Mussar.
[3] Yalkut Shimoni Devarim, Chapter 32, Allusion 946.
[4] Rambam, Laws of Recital of Shema 1:4.
[5] Bereishit 49:2.
[6] In the previous verse, Ibid. 1.
[7] The Siddur, the paragraph preceding the Recital of Shema.
[8] The Shlah HaKodesh, Mesechet Yoma, Derech Chaim, Tochachat Mussar.
[9] Rashi, Shemot 19:2 explains that we reached this level at the giving of the Torah.
[10] Devarim 6:4.
[11] Ba’al Shem Tov on the Torah, Parashat Vaetchanan.
[12] Devarim 6:5.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reaching the Meeting Point of Contention

Savouring the first light of Chanukah
I hope you enjoyed a very meaningful and prayerful Chanukah as we did. Every year on Chanukah our entire family living in Israel makes a great effort to get together. In spite of all our differences both politically, religiously and geographically, one of us hosts about thirty sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews for a special Chanukah bonding. 

The annual Chanukah party that my grandmother Trudi bat Bernhard OBM. used to host was the highlight of the year. She went into the greatest effort to gather us together and ensure that we were all comfortable to get close to one another. During Chanukah nine years ago, my grandmother was in the hospital. However, she made sure that the annual Chanukah party then scheduled for the first night of Chanukah at the home of my cousin would not be cancelled. Therefore, she passed away only on the second night of Chanukah. We all make special effort to attend our annual Chanukah family parties, to honor my grandmother’s memory. 

This week’s parasha is about making peace in the family. The meditation will help you deal with challenging relationships and find inner peace between the contrary aspects of yourself. By means of this process it will be possible to get in touch with the meeting point between Yehudah and Yosef within your own soul.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Vayigash The Path to Peace and Redemption

Parasha Meditation Vayigash

Keeping our Inner Flame Alive
After Chanukah, when each of us has been invested with renewed strength of emunah (faith) and excitement for the mitzvot, we need to carry the message of Chanukah into the coldest winter month of Tevet. Now, when the warmth of Chanukah is especially needed, we read Parashat Vayigash, which is about keeping our inner flame alive, and bringing shalom (peace) into the fragmentation between the different segments of our people.

Entering the Meeting point of the Truest Divine Inner Self
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.

Making Inner Peace Between Our Conflicting Selves
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.

Reaching the Level of “Vayigash” – Drawing Near
Sfat Emet[4] 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. We need to clarify to ourselves that even in the midst of darkness there is life of the will of G*d. When we nullify ourselves to the will of G*d, during the times of darkness and hester panim (The hiding of Hashem’s face), then we reach the level of וַיִּגַּשׁ/vayigash/“He drew near.”

Revealing the Inner Point (Tzion)
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).[5] This was indeed a very hard time for Yehudah, and his solution was to draw near to the inside of the matter, and accept G*d’s will with happiness. When we clarify that all is from G*d, then its inner meaning is revealed. It states, “Yosef” who is the inner point, “could not refrain himself”[6] – and the inner point was revealed. It follows then “that every man was taken out etc.,”[7] because the exterior which conceals the interior became nullified.

Taking Initiative to Approach
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.

1. 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 toes.

2. 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?

3. Allow all of the happenings of your day 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?

4. 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?

5. 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.

6. Try to get in touch with your own weakness discovered by your “opponent,” even if it hurts.

7. Breathe into the pain of your own incapability. Breathe in the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh. Repeat four more times.

8. The letter גְ/gimel is derived from the word גְמוּל/gemul, which in Hebrew means giving. This is alluded to by the leg of the letter גְ/gimel which expresses the running of the rich person to bestow good upon the poor.[8] Allow yourself to take a step with the גְ/gimel out of yourself, towards the person you interacted with.

9. 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.

10. 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?

11. 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.

12. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה/“Yehudah approached him…”[9] 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 that 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 may have received. In your mind’s eye understand and visualize your true response to the truth of your “opponent.”

13. Allow your personal truth to come from an even deeper place – a place that can answer back any criticism from others. Continue to breathe into 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.

14. 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 into the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh as you breathe into this higher truth, to 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 inner peace with yourself and others.

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] Sefat Emet, Parashat Vayigash, Year 1871.
[5] The last two of the ten Sefirot through which Hashem manifests in the world.
[6] Bereishit 45:1.
[7] The continuation of the verse previously quoted.
[8] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Hebrew Letters.
[9] Bereishit 44:18.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Igniting the Darkest Shadow sides of your Soul

B'erot Chanukah Party Motzei Shabbat
There were also sufganiot and latkes
I hope you are playing the dreidel this Chanukah. This is a very deep minhag (custom). By playing dreidel we can nullify the four dark Kingdoms of our psyche. When the four sides of the dreidel spin around so fast that its sides blur into nothingness, then the sharp foundation point of the dreidel representing the fifth, Divine component of our Divine Soul, is activated. The four letters on the dreidel nun, gimel, heh and shin spell out גשנה/Goshna – the meeting point of Yehuda and Yosef. This is the same gematria (numerical value) of the נחש/snake (358) from which the kingdoms of darkness draw their power. However, Hashem puts an end to their power. The משיח/Mashiach – who also has the gematria of גשנה/Goshna and נחש/snake – will soon nullify the snake of the yetzer hara in the world.[1] Tune into this week’s meditation to work on transforming the inner snake – the shadow side of your soul into the brightest light!
Chanukah Sameach!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum
Read Rebbetzin's commentary to the special Chanukah Haftorah -"Sing and Rejoice, Daughter of Zion!"

Parasha Meditation Miketz
Bereishit 41:1-44:17
Elevating and Connecting the Estranged
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 being a slave in prison to becoming the viceroy of Pharaoh. When Rachel named Yosef, she prayed, “May G*d add (yosef) to me another son (ben acher).”[2] 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 was held to the body, and the material existence as a whole. At times the physical confines the infinite power of the soul, and the limits of material existence, conceal its Divine source.

The Temporary Darkness of the World
“It was after the end (מִקֵּץ) of two years…”[3] “קֵץ שָׁם לַחשֶׁךְ” – “He puts an end to darkness…”[4] Hashem determined a certain limited time for the world to be in darkness. All darkness in the world both for the general community of Israel and for the individual emanate from the yetzer hara. Only as long as the yetzer hara is in the world, will there be darkness in the world, as it states, “…the stones of darkness and the shadow of death.”[5] As soon as the yetzer hara is uprooted from the world, darkness will cease from the world…[6] The way to get out of being submerged in darkness, is by withstanding the tests of the yetzer hara. Then we can reach the level of “He puts an end to darkness…”[7] As soon as the light is shining for us, and we perceive the emptiness of worldly pursuits, then the yetzer hara fades away. The aim of the yetzer hara is to darken our eyes, in order to prevent us from seeing the light of Hashem. This is the meaning of “They have eyes but they do not see.”[8] Using their eyes for selfish pleasures of this world, prevent people from seeing the Divine light. This was the intent of the Greeks “who darkened the eyes of Israel,”[9] so they wouldn’t see the light of G*d. The only way to break the shell of the Greeks is by igniting the light.[10] 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 Dawn of Yosef’s Redemption
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.

Confronting the Challenges of the End of Days
The Zohar speaks of the ketz l’yamina – “the right end,” and ketz lismola – “the left end.” [11] 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 l’yamina – the beginning of the Redemption.[12] This is the concept of Mashiach ben Yosef,[13] 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 comfortably in your chair; close your eyes and take several deep breaths, and let go of anything you may be holding on to.

1. 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.

2. 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 while visualizing קֵץ /ketz, go deeper into your body and allow yourself to get in touch with any pain or tension you may be holding in any part of your body.

3. 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 your body. “קֵץ שָׁם לַחשֶׁךְ” – “He puts an end to darkness…”[14] Your body will no longer confine you.

4. Inside of your heart you feel a warm fuzziness of Divine light. Breathe this light into each part of your body, while visualizing 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.

5. 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 unified 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.

6. The lower line of the ending ץ/tzadi 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. Breathe deeply and accept yourself completely including your shadow side.

7. Tune into one of your destructive desires rooted in your yetzer hara. It could be the desire for chocolate, a feeling of jealousy, 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.

8. Within the peak of your negativity look for a spark of positive motivation! Perhaps your craving for sweetness, was for 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.

9. 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.

10. As your hidden sparks of goodness buried in the darkness surface, welcome these sparks back home one by one by visualizing and embracing your hidden goodness. Allow yourself to get in touch with your personal self-image. Do you feel better about yourself? Are you able to accept yourself completely even your shadow sides? Or at least accept yourself a little more?

Both the letters of the word קֵץ/ketz 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 the revealed Presence of G*d. The ק/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 ק/kuf precedes the letter ץ/tzadi, the word קֵץ/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 ק/kuf. The innate holiness of each of its sparks insures its ultimate redemption and elevation by the tzadik of the following letter. The tzadi 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 ק/kuf. The letter ץ/tzadi with its long root resembles the “tree of the field” to which humanity is compared.[15] In its hidden root, all reality is united. Ultimate unity is the secret of ultimate elevation.[16]

[1] Based on B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
Bereishit 30:24.
Bereishit 41:1.
Iyov 28:3.
Berishit Rabah, Parasha 89, Piska 1.
Iyov 28:3.
Tehillim 115:5.
Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 2, Piska 4.
Netivat Shalom, Parashat Miketz p. 259.f
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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuning into our Dreams, Visions & Aspirations

Mazal Tov to Rina on her upcoming wedding!
Some people lack the self-confidence, to believe they can make a difference in the world. Others give up their aspirations when facing obstacles in life. This week’s parasha teaches us hope from within despair. The light of Mashiach sparkles through the greatest darkness. Hashem promised Avraham that his seed would be like the stars in heaven.[1] Since then, we – the seed of Avraham – have the ability to glow in the dark. Believing in Hashem is believing in ourselves – for we are a part of Divinity from Above.[2] 

This week’s parasha ushers us into Chanukah which educates for the future to come.[3] During the time of redemption and revelation we will be freed from the chains of our self-imposed prison to accomplish our brightest dreams. Yosef teach us how to emerge that that from the darkest pit, the highest height, by believing in his dreams. This parasha meditation facilitates reconnection with our brightest dreams and aspirations – in perfect preparation for Chanukah. 

Chanukah Sameach!

May the light of Chanukah imbue you with courage to believe in your dreams and aspirations!

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum 

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

Click here to read a special Chanukah Dvar Torah by Rebbetzin Chana Bracha - "Women uncover the Hidden Light of the Eternal Menorah"

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 Dream that Silences the Intellect
The Sefat Emet explains regarding Yosef’s dream about “Binding sheaves inside of the field,”[2] 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.[3] The Hebrew word for sheaf – אֲלֻמָּה – shares the same root as the word for silence –אִלֶם. Therefore, “My sheaf rose,”[4] can mean “I was silenced.”[5] This is the aspect of Rachel and her children who grabbed the character-trait of silence.[6] “Silence” is knowing that we cannot act according to our intellect and will, except by being nullified to the upper providence.[7]

Believing in our Dreams
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 several deep breaths. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body.

1. 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.

2. Imagine the letters of the Hebrew word for dream חֲלוֹם. 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]

3. 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 you connect to its energy of “touching yet not touching.”

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

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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 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.

8. 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.

9. Now imagine the sheaves in Yosef’s dream אֲלֻמִים. In your breathing of the word חֲלוֹם exchange the ח-chet with the א-alef. Breathe in אַ – Aa, breathe out לֻם – lum, אֲלֻם– sheaf/silence.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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. From being the favorite elevated beloved son, he gets 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 15:5.
The Book of Iyuv 31:2.
B’nei Yissaschar on Kislev, Tevet article 2.
Bereishit 38:1.
Bereishit 37:7.
This is also the spiritual work of counting the Omer.
Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 1, Piska 5.
Bereishit Rabah, Parasha 71, Piska 5.
Sefat Emet, Parashat Vayeshev, Year 5631.
Tehillim 34:20.
The meanings of the Hebrew letters brought here is based upon The Hebrew Letters by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.
Bereishit 1:2.
The word lamed למד derives from the same root as lilmod ללמוד– to teach.
Based on Rav Avraham HaKohen Kook, Mussar HaKodesh, p.304