Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eradicating our Deepest Fears

You can learn from me personally about the Three Primal Fears in my Introduction to EmunaHealing Workshops...  
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Dear Friends, 
I relate personally to this week’s Parashat Bo – about going out towards the fearful unknown, for in only one week I will be on my way to face the fearful unknown of leaving the comfort zone of my beautiful home in Israel. On my upcoming North America tour (click here for details), I don’t know how I will get to all the different places where I’m supposed to teach, I don’t know if people are going to come flocking to learn with me, whether I will make my fundraising goal, and sell all the copies of my book Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion, which we have sent by mail to my various hosts. I don’t know how well received my classes will be, if people are going to be enthusiastic or throw tomatoes. In trying to deal with my own fears I have designed this parasha meditation to work on eradicating our deepest fears. According to the Zohar Moshe too was afraid when having to confront the source of evil. Read on how we can learn to overcome fears from the way Hashem assuaged Moshe.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to read "Hashem's Feminine Indwelling Presence" - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Bo.

Parasha Meditation Bo
Shemot 10:1-13:16

This week’s parasha opens with Hashem sending Moshe to face Pharaoh, whose heart Hashem has hardened. Hashem said to Moshe: “Come to Pharaoh…!”[1] The Hebrew בֹּא אֶל פַּרְעֹה –”Bo el Pharaoh” is usually translated “Go to Pharaoh” But “Bo” means “come,” not “go.” The Zohar comments on the reason why Hashem tells Moshe “Come” rather than “go” to Pharaoh. Rabbi Shimeon said: Now it is time to reveal secrets that are bound above and below. Why does it say, “Come to Pharaoh”? It should have said, “Go to Pharaoh” .... But G-d brought Moses into a chamber within a chamber, to the... supernal and mighty serpent from which many levels evolve...which Moses feared to approach himself... Zohar, part II, 34a

What exactly did Moshe fear and how does Hashem’s prompting him to “come to Pharaoh” relieve this fear?

Fear is one of the main spiritual blocks in most people’s lives. On my upcoming North American tour in the EmunaHealing introductory class, I will be addressing the Three Primal Fears and how to overcome them (click here for more details). We all suffer from various fears both known and especially unknown. Fear is the underlying emotion that affects our unconscious choices and ambitions in so many ways; it even affects our physical health. What makes our fears so detrimental is that they are invisible, and we aren’t always able to define them. In order to alleviate our fears we need to uncover their root, so that we will learn to face our worst fears.

Moshe had already visited Pharaoh many times before Hashem told him in our parasha, “Come to Pharaoh.” What made Moshe more afraid of Pharaoh this particular time?

Until now Moshe had dealt with Pharaoh’s various exterior layers without confronting his actual essence. Now at the verge of the seventh plague Moshe was terrified when told to enter into the core essence of Pharaoh’s evil, the “great serpent.”[2] Therefore Hashem responded “Come to Pharaoh,” – “Come with me – you don’t go alone. I come with you and help you eradicate the evil at its core.

Loneliness is the root of fear. I have often thought how irrational it is that I feel more afraid when alone than in the company of another person. The object of my fears, whether it be fear of death, illness, terrorism or accidents won’t be escaped by the fact that I’m not alone. Yet, it is the feeling of being alone and isolated in our suffering that causes fear. Fear emanates from the feeling that no one can understand us, even if someone does empathize with us; they are not with us all the way, because they are not one with us. Rabbi Nachman relates Pharaoh to the void of original tzimzum[3] facing this void, we feel we are on our own – isolated in a desolate universe, disconnected from any source of sustenance. Even the holy Moshe, was gripped by terror, when challenged to encounter and purge the root essence of evil. G-d, therefore assured him by saying “Come to Pharaoh” – “Come with Me,” I go with you. As Rabbi Simon Jacobson writes,[4] “this is the powerful message that each of us must take from Parashat Bo – “Come with Me.” No matter how lonely we may feel, especially in our loss and pain, we are not alone. The only answer to the invisible power of fear – the fear of being alone – is to recognize that you are not alone. You are never alone.”

Sit comfortably in your chair or on a cushion on the floor with your back straight. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and try to get in touch with your body. As you breathe and relax become aware of any possible tensions throughout your body. Visualize the letters of the word בֹּא – “bo” – come. On the in-breath visualize the Hebrew letter בּ – beit. On the outbreath visualize the Hebrew letter א – alef. As you inhale feel as if you are going deeper into yourself. While exhaling imagine attaching yourself to the alef – the Oneness of the word – Hashem. Rather than going in the order of the “alef beit”, you are going backwards from the “beit” to the “alef”. The world is created with the letters of the alef beit.[5] Imagine going backwards in your creation to a more primal part of your being. Now think of difficulty that you are facing in your life. It may be a reoccurring kind of difficulty, a goal that you have been unable to meet, although you have made resolutions to reach it over and over. Allow your breath to take you wherever it takes you, and ask Hashem in your mind’s voice “Which fear is blocking me from reaching X goal?” or “Which fear is blocking me from overcoming X?” Just be still without trying to visualize or breathing in any particular way, open yourself up to receive Hashem’s answer for you. Keep breathing naturally until the fear that is blocking you from achieving your goal surfaces in your mind’s eye. If you feel blank, just keep repeating the question over and over until you receive some kind of answer.

When you have discovered the underlying fear preventing you from success in a certain area, make a positive affirmation in your mind’s voice. “I chose to allow Hashem’s light to eradicate the fear of X!” Try to get in touch with where in your body this fear is located. Breathe into that body-part. Try to get in touch with the shape and color of your fear. Perhaps it’s a big black hole, or a dark bulging mass. Imagine Hashem’s light entering you from above your head, and try to visualize taking this light and entering it into the place of you your fear, as you breathe slowly and relaxed. Keep infusing your fear with Hashem’s light, and visualize the black mass of your fear slowly evaporating, as you assure yourself, that you are not alone in your fear. Hashem is right there with you supporting you and helping you overcome even your worst fear. Continue this visualization until the black mass of your fear has totally disappeared. Then slowly tap your hands and your feet on the floor and table, before opening your eyes and return to regular awakened state, relieved and with a lighter feeling.

This meditation is composed to help overcome our deepest fear through heightening the awareness that we are never alone. Developing compassion and empathy for others is another way of overcoming loneliness – the source of our existential fears. The Plague of the Darkness mentioned in this week’s parasha teaches us a lesson about love and compassion. During the three days of darkness, people were unable to see their friend, and even unable to move from their place. “One could not see another, and was unable to stand up from his place for three days...”[6] The verse hints at the consequence of living without unity. Seeing our fellow and being able to move from our place are connected. When we are insensitive to other people’s suffering, it is as if we choose not to see our friend. By ignoring the pain and despair of our friend we create the deepest emotional darkness.

Rabbi Moshe Leib Sassover used to tell his chassidim that he learned what it means to love a fellow Jew from two Russian peasants. Once he came to an inn, where two thoroughly drunk Russian peasants were sitting at a table, draining the last drops from a bottle of strong Ukrainian vodka. One of them, in a slurred drunken drawl yelled to his friend, “Igor! Do you love me?” Igor, somewhat surprised by the question answered, “Of course Ivan, of course I love you!” “No no”, insisted Ivan, “Do you really love me, really?!” Igor, now feeling a bit cornered assured him, “What do you think? I don’t love you? Of course I love you. You’re my best friend Ivan!” “Oh yes, yes?” countered Ivan. “If you really loved me… then why don’t you know what hurts me and the pain I have in my heart?” Let us step out of the loneliness of our own fear by trying to feel the pain of our friend.

[1] Shemot 10:1.
[2] Yechezkiel 29:3.
[3] Likutei Moharan, Mahadura Kama, Siman 64.
[4] The Autonomy of Fear
[5] Sefer Yetzira, Chapter 2.
[6] Shemot 10:23.

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