Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Time-out for Self-reflection and Meditation

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha at the Tomb of our Patriarchs, Hevron
The lights of Pesach lead us to the vessels of getting back into our routine following the holiday. While we count the Omer, we are building our ability to hold Hashem’s light, one aspect at a time. This week of gevurah (constraint) which follows directly after the chesed (expansion) of Pesach is especially suitable to build for the boundaries necessary to hold the lights we experienced during the holiday.[1] At this time we also move from the expansive holiday togetherness to the more solitary everyday routine. This more self-contained mode of reality is reflected in our weekly parasha when we learn about the seclusion which both the birthing mother and the person with tzara’at needed to undergo for personal purification. Personally, I try to purify from all the heavy extra food I tried not to eat on Pesach. Read on to get to the post-Pesach reclusive rebalancing meditation.

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

Click here to read Rebbetzin's Haftorah Commentary to Haftorat Tazria-Metzora

Parasha Meditation Tazria-Metzora
Vayikra 12:1-15:33
In Parashat Tazria we learn that a person must spend time in physical seclusion, truly alone during specific periods of his or her life. When we get out of sync, we need this aloneness in order to return physically and spiritually to a balanced state of being, before being ready to return to the community. Parashat Tazria opens with eight verses describing the seclusion and purification period that women were required to go through after giving birth. A new mother needs this time alone to integrate her life-changing experience, and re-emerge into the family and community as a new person.

The remainder of the parasha is about the period of isolation of the person afflicted with tzara’at – a disease usually translated as leprosy, yet it is more accurately translated as psoriasis.[2] This skin disease was only the outward physical symptom of a spiritual disorder or confusion.

Rather than going to the doctor, people with symptoms of tzara’at had to turn to the Kohen – the spiritual healer. Only he was able to make the diagnosis of tzara’at for which the prescribed treatment was immediate isolation. “All the days during which the plague shall be in him, he shall be טָמֵא (ritual impure), he is טָמֵא. He shall dwell alone, outside the camp shall his habitation be.”[3]

Even if we don’t experience the physical symptoms of tzara’at today, we certainly don’t lack spiritual disorder or confusion. In our social media day-to- day lives, we interact continually, and often, in auto-pilot mode. When we feel confused, conflicted or in a state of imbalance, seclusion, silence and time alone, provide an essential part of the answer to healing ourselves and our Neshama (soul), It may be helpful to turn to friends and family when we need support, yet, at some point, it is time to turn inwards for answers. We need to take the time to sit again, to do the inner work that only we can do for ourselves.

While those afflicted with physical tzara’at were required to be secluded in order to heal themselves, those affected with spiritual tzara’at – confusion, worry and lack of emuna – may benefit from the spiritual seclusion of meditation. Keep in mind that spiritual negativity is contagious. You would do you’re your community well, by taking time out rather than burdening them with your complaints. When you are about to meditate or during a meditation session, you might reflect over why have you chosen the silence and internal seclusion of meditation in that moment. How does the seclusion heal you or re-balance you?

Meditation takes time. I find it hard to take this time out from all my responsibilities. Yet, this time is my offering for inner healing in an effort to bring more balance to my interactions and lives with which my life is intertwined. Let us take some moments to rebalance ourselves with ourselves, return to our breath and see what arises. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion, and allow your breath to raise and lower your chest rhythmically. Notice how you are feeling at this moment, notice the places within you which could be more comfortable. Breathe into your places of pain or discomfort and feel how the tension dissolves. Imagine your breath is like a flashlight illuminating the dark parts of your soul. Breathe light into your confused darkened spirit, and experience how the darkness gradually flickers and turns into light.

Imagine you walk alone through a dark tunnel, grabbing hold of the slippery walls reaching the light at the end. A tall mountain meets your eye as you emerge from the tunnel. You start climbing the mountain. At first, the earth is soft and sandy and then gradually it turns more rocky and stony. You pass rows of tress, with lush green leaves, the trees make room for the most exquisite spring flowers blooming close to the ground, notice all their various colors and shapes. You keep climbing up the mountain, while breathing rhythmically. You feel your heart beating as you continue climbing. It seems like you have reached the peak, but each time you reach the top of the mountain, there’s more distance to go. Finally, the trail ends in just rock. You reach the top and turn slowly to take in the entire, incredible view. You are alone בָּדָד (badad) and at one with G-d’s creation. Being alone...being alive....feeling the greatest joys. Inhale while visualizing going inward to the sound of בָּ – ba, exhale while visualizing the letters and the sound of דָד – dad. Repeat nine more times, then walk down the mountain and return to yourself.

The Hebrew word for alone בָּדָד – badad, from our Torah verse הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב – “…He shall dwell alone…”[4] has the numerical value of ten. Ten is the number that indicates the oneness within the multiplicity. Hashem Who is One manifests himself through ten sefirot. Everything within this world has a beginning, end and middle. By its widths it is likewise divided into three: Right, left and middle. Likewise in its depth it consists of inner, outer and middle. Together the lengths, widths and depth each have three dimensions which makes nine. The tenth dimension gives a space for these nine manifestations to exist.[5] Thus by sitting alone – בָּדָד – badad, we can experience our aloneness as part of the manifestation of Hashem’s oneness expressed through the ten dimensions of בָּדָד – badad.

[1] From the day following the Seder we count the Omer that reflected the barley offering during Temple times. During each of the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot when we count the Omer one of the seven emotional manifestations of Hashem is reveals. The first week during the holiday of Pesach corresponds to Chesed, the second week Gevurah, the third to Tiferet etc.
Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica, Shai A, Vardy D, Zvulunov A (2002). "[Psoriasis, biblical afflictions and patients' dignity]" (in Hebrew). Harefuah 141 (5): 479–82, 496. PMID 12073533.
Vayikra 13:46.
Rabbi Moshe Shatz, Ma’ayan Moshe, page 22.

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