Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves

  Drama exercise in Megillat Ruth class
This Parasha Meditation is about realigning ourselves with ourselves in preparation for receiving the Torah. The quality of the midbar (desert) is the most suitable place for this process. Here is an excerpt from a description of B’erot Bat Ayin’s desert hike by Alumna student Chaya Berdigo:

As we entered the caverns, the rocks turned to soft sand, winding down into a labyrinth of cascading mounds, the silence growing, glowing like the full moon guiding our footsteps. Who can speak of the desert at night? There is so much to say, and still no words. Sitting in a circle, our guide Yisrael Cheveroni asked us to close our eyes and imagine the sounds of a forest - trees, birds, animals, water. Then he asked us to imagine the sound of the ocean. Finally he told us to open our eyes; to look and listen to the place in which we sat. After repeating this meditation, our guide reminded us that the Hebrew word for desert midbar" is related to "medaber", which means "to speak.”  The desert is a place so seemingly silent, and yet Hashem knows that it says so much. We need to take time to listen, in order to hear its silent voice that pierces the soul.

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Shavuot Sameach!
May we merit aligning ourselves to become the perfect vessel for Hashem’s Torah to flow through us!
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Hashem's Eternal Bond to Us - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Bamidbar
Parasha Meditation Bamidbar
 Bamidbar 1:1-4:20
Realigning Ourselves with Our Fellow Jews and the Torah
The Shabbat preceding Shavuot the Jews of the Diaspora reconnect with Israel in the Parasha reading. In the spirit of Shavuot, we always begin the Book of Bamidbar together in unison prior to receiving the Torah. In Parashat Bamidar the position of the twelve tribes surrounding the Holy Ark with the Torah is delineated.[1] In preparation to receiving the Torah on Shavuot we all need to realign our position in relationship with our fellow Jews and with our holy Torah; keeping in mind that the Torah must always remain the center of our lives.

Hashem gave the Torah on Mount Sinai because it humbled itself saying: “I am lowly.” Therefore, Hashem elevated this mountain by giving the Torah upon it.[2] This teaches us that the only way to receive the Torah is through humility, symbolized in the lowly Mount Sinai. Entering the bare wilderness without even trees and flowers engenders humility. Experiencing the simplicity of nothingness, but infinite sand is reflected in our psyche, washing away our extraneous attachments and arrogance. It was fitting that the Giving of the Torah took place in no-man’s-land amidst the stark desolation of the Wilderness. Likewise, no-one can take ownership on the Torah. Unlike the Crown of Kingdom, and Kehuna (Priesthood),[3] the Crown of Torah is free for all to take. It enters the open hearts of those who are not too full of themselves to make a space for the Torah to enter.

In the Wilderness
הָמִדְבַּר מְדַבֵּרHamidbar medaber – The wilderness speaks – When we enter the vast open empty space of the wilderness, we are able to hear the sound of silence. Without the humdrum distractions of technical devices, mundane chores that need to get done, the constant background noises of cars driving by, we can turn inwards to the Divine voice within, and re-evaluate who we really are.

In this week’s Parasha, the Israelites are counted. The word described for how each of the Israelite presented himself before Moshe prior to the census is unusual:

ספר במדבר פרק א:יח- וְאֵת כָּל הָעֵדָה הִקְהִילוּ בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ עַל מִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם.

“All the congregation assembled together on the first day of the second month, (וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ – veyitvaldu), and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.”[4]

Rabbi Yisroel Sisskind notices the special meaning of the word the word (וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ – veyitvaldu), which appears only once in all of the Tanach (Pentateuch). Literally this word means that the Israelites gave birth to themselves. Yet, Rashi explains that “they accounted for and gave bona fides for their genealogical descent, thereby proving their right to claim membership in a particular tribe.”[5] Rabbi Sisskind asks, why use such a unique form of the verb “to give birth to oneself” as a way of saying “they presented their family records”? It is possible that by researching our family tree and realigning ourselves with our ancestors we can become aware of our source and who we really are. This is similar to giving birth to ourselves.

If possible, it is beneficial to practice this meditation in nature, optimally in the actual desert, which probably most of us are unable at this point.

Make yourself comfortable on your cushion or chair, (or in the sand) close your eyes and take several very deep breaths. Try to empty yourself completely with every exhalation. Allow all the background noise to pass through you, and imagine now that you are walking in the wilderness. All around you is only sand and bare mountains. You are all alone as you face the emptiness of the void. Allow this emptiness and space enter into you, and become aware of all the superfluous items you are holding on to. Imagining digging a deep hole, deeper and deeper, big enough to bury everything you no longer have any use for. You may enter into this imaginary hole anything you don’t need, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Make sure you enter all your arrogance into this hole. Notice how liberated you feel without it. Imagine emptying your heart from resentment, jealousy, anger and hatred. Place your hands near your heart without touching and feel the warmth emanating from it. Your heart is now ready to be reborn and infused with the holiness of Torah. Imagine the smallest letter of י – yud inside of your heart. This is the letter of wisdom and beginning. Following the yud, appears theל  – lamed, which means teaching. Hashem’s Torah teachings enter you, as you are reborn. Now visualize how the lamed extending itself to give its teaching over to the letter ד – dalet, which is turning its back as it receives lamed’s teachings. This symbolizes how children turn away from their parents, as they receive their teachings, in order to forge their own personal path. Dalet can also mean a door. Imagine the door of your heart opening, and through it walks your mother and father, they each give you a gift. Behind your parents their mother and father walk in with a special gift for you. Behind each of your grandparents, all your four sets of great grandparents walk through the door, each with a gift for you. Keep visualizing all their mothers and fathers for as far back as you are able to imagine. Try to fathom the infinite mothers and fathers it took to create you, with your particular gifts, talents and character-traits. Feel thankful and centered in yourself and enjoy the gift of being you! When you are ready you may open your eyes and face the world.

Shavuot is called in the Torah “Day of the First Fruits.”[6] This is a time when the fruits are beginning to ripen on the trees in Eretz Yisrael. Likewise, at this time, after having matured emotionally and spiritually through the counting of the Omer, we ripen into what we are meant to be, becoming reborn as who we really are.

[1]  Bamidbar 2:2.
[2]  Midrash Rabah, Bamidbar 13:3.
[3] The Kingdom is inherited from the house of David, and Kehuna from Aharon the Kohen.
[4] Bamidbar 1:18.
[5] Rashi ibid.
[6] Bamidbar 28:26.

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