Thursday, May 17, 2012

Walking Upright with G-d

Pre-Wedding Tichel Party at B'erot this week for Chana Miriam
(standing between Rebbetzins Chana Bracha and Elana)
This week’s parasha is intrinsically connected with counting the Omer which must be in upright position, because the barley was standing upright in the field. Our posture and the way we carry ourselves, when we move through life, is very significant for how we feel and look. The letter of the month of Iyar, is the letter Vav,[1] which is a straight line connected to our spine. At this time we have a special segula (spiritual ability) to succeed in aligning our spine to become a straight line rather than bent, and curved. The more we align ourselves with the character traits that we encounter, as we move through the sefirot, the more we will be able to stand upright – erect without fears and hang-ups! I bless all of you and myself that we will take the opportunity to work on aligning ourselves both physically, emotionally and spiritually, to prepare for receiving the Torah in the very fiber of our being!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditation Bechukotai
Vayikra 26:3-27:34
This week’s parasha opens with Hashem’s redemptive blessings, when we walk in His statutes and keep Hashem’s mitzvoth (laws).[2] The first letter of the parasha is an אalef – the first letter of the word אִם – “if” – “If you walk in my statutes.” The last letter of the blessings is a תtaf – the last letter of the word קוֹמֲמִיּוּת – “upright” – concluding all of the blessings in the parasha. This teaches us that these blessings can only be fulfilled completely when all the people of Israel keep the entire Torah from alef to taf (from A-Z).[3] When we reach this level we will be worthy of the final blessing, that Hashem will break all the burdens that are weighing us down, and align our posture to make us walk upright:

:אֲנִי הַשֵם אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִהְיֹת לָהֶם עֲבָדִים וָאֶשְׁבֹּר מֹטֹת עֻלְּכֶם וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמֲמִיּוּת (ויקרא כו:יג)
I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt from being their slaves, and I will break the bars of their yoke, and I will make you walk upright (Komemiyot).[4]

What does it mean to walk upright (Komemiyot) and why is this so important that the Torah placed this blessing as the final all inclusive blessing in the book of Vayikra?

Targum Yonatan translates the word Komemiyot: – “ "והלכית יתכון בקומא זקופא – “I will make you walk with erect stature.”[5] Whereas Targum Onkelus translates: – "ודברית יתכון לחירות" – “I will bring you to freedom.”[6]

In order to be able to walk upright with erect stature, we need to free ourselves from all fears and worries, as we build our self-confidence. This blessing can only take place fully, when the Jewish people live like a free people in the Land of Israel. Then Hashem’s light shining through the Temple, will melt away both our outer and inner enemies. We pray for this blessing daily in our morning prayer, in the entreaties leading up to the Shema Yisrael prayer, and whenever we recite Grace after Meals, at the conclusion of every meal with bread we request: “May the Compassionate One break our yoke from off our neck and lead us upright into our land.”[7]

Rav Ginsburgh[8] notices a seemingly contradiction between the blessing to walk erect and the Talmudic statement that a person should not walk with erect stature:
...ואל יהלך בקומה זקופה דאמר מר המהלך בקומה זקופה אפילו ארבע אמות כאילו דוחק רגלי שכינה דכתיב מלא כל הארץ כבודו (תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף מג/ב)
…Nor should one walk with erect stature; since Mar said: “If one walks with erect stature even for four cubits, it is as if he pushed against the heels of the Divine Presence, since it is written, ‘The whole earth is full of His glory.’”[9]

According to the Talmud, walking with erect stature, is a sign of arrogance, pushing ourselves forward, as if our head pushes away Hashem’s feet above us. Rav Ginsburgh solves the seemingly contradiction, by explaining that there are two different kinds of relationships with Hashem. The Babylonian Talmud depicts the relationship during exile, when we experience G-d’s presence primarily above our head. However, during the Messianic era, we will once again experience G-d’s presence face to face – in front of us, as King David described “I have set Hashem always before me.”[10] We will then return to the relationship that the first man and woman had with Hashem in the Garden of Eden.

A different Talmudic interpretation of the word קוֹמֲמִיּוּת – (komemiyot) coincide with this concept. “Rabbi Meir says, komemiyot refers to the two komot (statures) of the first human being.”[11] Adam and Eve were originally created much “taller” than people are today. Their spiritual height enabled them to be, so to speak, “eye to eye” with Hashem. Our relationship with G-d is evolving towards this level of spiritual height, where G-d’s presence is before us rather than above us. Therefore, the blessing that G-d will lead us upright refers to the Messianic era, when walking upright no longer will be “pushing against the heels of the Divine Presence,” since rather than being above our head, G-d’s presence will primarily be experienced before us, at eye level.

In this week’s parasha, prior to the blessing that G-d will lead us upright, He first promised us that He will walk among us:
.(וְהִתְהַלַּכְתִּי בְּתוֹכֲכֶם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי לְעָם. (ויקרא כו:יב
“I will walk among you, and will be your G-d, and you shall be my people.”[12]

Rashi depicts the idyllic scene of the renewed relationship with G-d that this blessing implies: I WILL WALK AMONG YOU – I will, as it were, walk with you in the Garden of Eden as though I were one of yourselves and you will not be frightened of Me…”[13] In order to be able to truly walk upright without fear, we need to first return to our original relationship with G-d in the garden of Eden.

Although the blessings in this week’s parasha will only be fulfilled totally when Hashem’s presence returns to reside in the Temple, as we have entered the redemption process, we may take the blessings in our own hand. We can empower ourselves to work on and rehearse Hashem’s promise “to make us walk upright.” So, this time, I’m not going to ask you to sit down and get comfortable in your chair.

This week’s meditation is a walking meditation, which can be practiced whenever you are walking, on the way, or even inside your home from one room to the other. Stand upright. Try to become aware of your posture. Are your shoulders slouching and your neck sloping forward? Stand against a wall, and allow the back of your head, your elbows and back of heals touch the wall. Push your pelvis slightly upwards so that your stomach flattens. Take some deep breaths, and feel your lungs expanding, and your chest rising.

Focus on the parts of your body that are unable to become totally aligned. Can you feel what kind of burden and weight in these parts of yourself that resists your standing upright? Perhaps, it is a lack of self-confidence that makes your shoulder slouch? Perhaps there are fears preventing you from standing erect. Look straight ahead and imagine Hashem’s presence before you. You may want to close your eyes briefly and imagine Hashem’s light in front of you at eye distance. Open your eyes, and mentally send Hashem’s light into the parts of yourself that resist standing upright. Feel your spine lengthening, as if a string from above were pulling you upwards to an erect posture.

Now begin to slowly walk as upright as you are able to. As you walk keep imagining Hashem’s presence before you, and. an invisible string pulling you upwards. Open your mouth and speak to Hashem as a person speaks to his friend. Tell Him about your challenges in aligning yourself and standing completely upright. Ask Hashem to remove everything that is weighing you down. When you have completed your walk, feel relieved and notice how you have come one step closer to: “I will break the bars of their yoke, and I will make you walk upright.”[14]

Walking upright with Hashem can be expressed in both the physical, spiritual and emotional realm. In recent times, as we have entered the redemption process, we have begun to align ourselves both physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Alexander technique, which teaches ease of movement through lengthening the spine and becoming upright was developed in our century.[15] Moreover, our generation is working hard to align ourselves emotionally through various kinds of therapy and spiritual healing, and through the world wide Ahavas Yisroel Project.[16] In the spiritual realm, there is a shift from relating to Hashem as a punishing G-d above our head, to becoming more connected with love of G-d, and relating to Hashem more like a friend. This is why Rabbi Nachman’s teaching about “talking to Hashem like you’d talk to your best friend” has gained so much popularity in our recent time. The empowering blessings in our Torah portion are on the verge of being fulfilled, as we approach the zenith of all time when G-d will tell us: “…call me Ishi (my husband), and do no longer call me Ba’ali (my master)!”[17]

[1] Sefer Yetzira 5:7.
Vayikra 26:3.
Rabbeinu Bachaya, Vayikra 26:13.
Vayikra 26:13.
Targum Yonatan ben Uziel, Ibid.
Targum Onkelus, ibid.
ברכת המזון – Grace After Meals.
In his video shiur: “Seeing Eye to Eye with G-d”
Yesha’yahu 6:3, Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 43b
Tehillim 16:8.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 100b, and Baba Batra 75a
Vayikra 17:12.
Rashi Ibid.
Vayikra 26:13.
The Alexander technique was invented by F.M Alexander, lived Australia from 1869-1955.
For more info about the Women’s Ahavas Yisroel Project see
Hoshea 2:18

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