Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Choice is Yours - The Outcome is Not

Dear Friends,
The Purim story illustrates how everything is from Hashem. In spite of Haman’s desire to annihilate the Jewish people, he ironically brought us to the greatest Teshuva (repentance) and increased the light of Israel. Haman’s evil scheme eventually caused the Jewish to have “Light, happiness, joy and honor.”[1] Rabbi David Aaron, during a class he gave in Bat Ayin, explained how we are not in charge of our actions, only of our choices. Haman chose to kill the Jews, but Hashem did not allow his choice to be carried out in action. It is up to Hashem whether we will be able to execute our choices. However, it is up to us to choose the good, to choose life. Purim is, therefore, about refining our choices and desires. This week’s Parsha-Meditation is about getting in touch with our desires and elevating them. Read on to help if you would like to purify your desires from the desire for dead material things, to desire more spiritual “life” L’Chaim!

Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditation Ki Tisa
Shemot 30:11-34:35
Parashat Ki Tisa describes the sin of the Golden Calf, which teaches that no one is completely immune to idol-worship (Literally “strange service”). According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson ob”m, a version of modern idolatry is when a person is involved in a Jewish lifestyle partially, but does not embrace Judaism in a total way. Allowing a separation between ourselves and Judaism, may eventually cause actual idolatry, G-d forbid. Therefore, we need to constantly evaluate if our service is appropriate and complete, to prevent descending to the level of “strange service”. The spiritual ammunition against falling into “strange service” is the opening verse of our Torah portion: כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל –“Raise the head of the Jewish people”.[2] This implies to be more involved in studying Torah, especially its inner dimensions. This is the best way to eradicate “strange service” both from within and without.[3]

Elevating the Evil Cycle
The Hebrew word for calf is עֵגֶל – egel. The root ע – ayin, ג – gimel ל – lamed also forms the Hebrew word עָגִיל agil, which means earring, from which the Golden Calf was made. This word is connected to the word for circle – עִגוּל which can either refer to an evil cycle or a positive spiral-like cycle, revolving around ascent toward Godliness. A negative cycle is when a person follows the cycles of nature, without recognizing the Divine Providence in the world. This reflects the Golden Calf, made partially of gold from the women’s earrings, which the men had forcefully taken from them.[4] King David implores G-d to lead him in מַעְגְּלֵי צֶדֶק –“ma'aglei tzedek,”[5] – righteous circular ways.[6] From within the evil cycles of strange worship, there is a road to G-dliness. The construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), whose golden vessels were also made of the jewelry of the women,[7] was the rectification for the Golden Calf. When jewelry brings out the true grace of a righteous woman, it is holy, and reflects the holy Mishkan.[8]

Our Desires Indicate Who We Are A woman’s desire for jewelry can either come from a low place of “Golden-Calf-desire” for the physical, or from a spiritual desire to reflect Hashem’s glory, beautify herself for her husband, and take pleasure in the holidays. We are what we desire. When we desire material things we are connected to the body. When we desire spiritual things we are connected to our soul. However, desire for physical things can sometimes emanate from our soul, when we desire the physical for spiritual reasons. For example, for some women, cleaning and decorating their home, is a spiritual worship of Hashem. Periodical self-assessment can help us get clarity of where we are holding, and spur us to consciously chose a more spiritual path. We can ask Hashem to help us rectify our desires, so that we will desire closeness to Him.

Sit comfortable in your chair and close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and get in touch with yourself. Feel how your body is touching the chair you are sitting in. Imagine a circle of light surrounding your head as you breathe into it several times. Move your consciousness to your torso and imagine a golden circle surrounding it as you breathe into it. Finally, connect with your pelvis and breathe slowly into it several times as you imagine a circle of light surrounding it. Feel relaxed and centered. As you continue to breathe slowly, ask yourself, “What am I making into an idol? What materialistic goals are running my life?

Who am I? I am my desires! What are my desires? Who I am? What do I desire? Life of Death? Do I desire to pray? Do I desire the spiritual tranquility of Shabbat, the mitzvah of welcoming guests? Or do I desire to go shopping, to see movies and read fashion magazines? Please add to this list of questions to yourself. What do I truly desire? Do I desire physical things, or do I desire spirituality and closeness to Hashem? Are my physical desires spiritual? Or are my spiritual desires physical, for the sake of my ego and self-aggrandizement?

If my desires are mostly physical, then I’m not so connected to my Neshama. Ask yourself: How can I have more life in my life rather than choosing something that makes me feel dead?

In the stillness of yourself, imagine Hashem before you and ask, “Please Hashem, help me become more connected to my Neshama. I desire to desire spiritual things, but my spiritual will is weak. Hashem please strengthen my spiritual will, and help be detaching more from the physical and dead, and become more connected to You and to true life!” Now, with Hashem’s help, quietly resolve to choose life rather than death…the reality, not the fantasy.

We have the ability to refine our will, by getting in touch with and recognizing our material desires. Our purification emanate from the source of our impurity. They are both part of the same cycle. Therefore, the atonement for the golden calf is through the Red Heifer as Rashi explains, “This may be compared to the case of a handmaid’s child that defiled the king’s palace. They said: Let the mother come and wipe up the excrement. Similarly here: since they became defiled by a calf, let its mother (a cow) come and atone for the calf.[9] These two animals are photo negatives of one another. The difference between them is that the Golden Calf is dead, whereas the Red Heifer is very much alive and filled with blood used for sacrifices. It is “life” that makes the difference between ultimate sin and ultimate redemption. Let us detach from the desire for “dead things” and learn to appreciate that which is connected to the Source of life, L’Chaim!

[1] Megillat Esther 8:16.
Shemot 30:12.
Based on article by Rabbi Shaul Leiter (W:5760-25/KiTisa) for the ASCENT of SAFED website
Rashi, Shemot 32:2.
Tehillim 23:3.
The Hebrew word מַעְגַל can also mean road or way.
Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 44.
Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg, Rectifying the Golden Calf with Balanced Leadership,
Rashi, Bemidbar 19:22

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