Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Developing Inner Vision

The Land is very very good - Rebbetzin in her garden

Twenty years ago during Parashat Beha’alotcha we left USA, where we had to live for four long years. In Israel, when we arrived, it was Parashat Shalach during that week. So I can extend celebrating our twenty years anniversary of returning to the land, to this week as well. I remember it was really difficult to come back with a full heart and soul. It seems like everything in the land was so rough without any protective cushioning. I remember noticing walls with peeling paint, lights without lampshades, and lots of kids with runny noses. Even the sun seemed to be burning us with its uncovered brightness. It was then we noticed the Sefat Emet about the spies and about developing inner vision, which brought my husband and I back to seeing the land with other eyes. Hashem had told Moshe to send spies to לתור –“latur” – meaning to look for the good in the land, yet they became מרגלים – “meraglim” – meaning they looked for the negative. [1] During that first Shabbat back in Eretz Yisrael my husband and I worked on turning our eyes of “meraglim” into eyes of “latur.” It was a painful process to let go of our comfort zone, and shed external layers, but in the end we succeeded to crack the nut of Eretz Yisrael, and enjoy its fruit. 

Read on to learn the main gist of the Sefat Emet that changed our outlook on the Land. Following the meditation, I share a poem I wrote during my first week back in the Land, inspired by the Sefat Emet.

With Blessings of the Torah & the Land, 

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read The Ability to Completely Turn Life Around
-Rebbetzin's Commentary to Haftorat Shelach Lecha 

Parasha Meditation Shlach L’chah
Bamidbar 13:1-15:41

Developing Inner Vision
This week’s Parasha teaches us to develop inner vision. Only through inner vision is it possible to see the goodness of the Land of Israel. Living in the land of Israel entails many obstacles. Life here can be tough and rough. The salaries are low, if we are lucky enough to get a job. The beds can be hard and uncomfortable, the people can be pushy, the bureaucracy can be frustrating, not to mention the apparent mess and disorganization etc. Yet, when we discover the hidden light of the land, although it can be so strong that it almost blinds us, our emunah leads us to overcome all the exterior obstacles, and connect with the holy essence of Divinity which is connected to this land like no other. This can be compared to discovering Shabbat. At the beginning, all the things which are forbidden might blind us from appreciating the gift of Shabbat. Yet, by keeping it we gradually sensitize ourselves to receive its blessings. Likewise, by living in the land of Israel we can open ourselves to receive the hidden blessings of the land.

Actualizing the Hidden Light of the Land
Kalev and Yehoshua told the people who complained about the Land of Israel: “The Land that we passed through to spy it, this land is very very good.”[2] In truth the land of Israel is prepared for the Jewish people alone, the good light which is hidden within it is revealed to them... For the Jewish people becomes rectified through the land of Israel, and the land of Israel becomes rectified through the Jewish people... “Your people, the children of Israel are all righteous, therefore, “they shall inherit the hidden land.”[3] The meaning of the word לְעוֹלָם – “l’olam,” is that although the holiness within it is hidden and concealed. (נעלם – ne’elam), the Jewish people have the ability to actualize the hidden light within the land. Therefore, it states: “The land was desolate and void…”[4] and only afterwards: “G-d said let there be light.”[5] In the same way, before Israel entered the land, its hidden goodness was not revealed within it. Therefore, the spies said, “The land through which we have gone to search is a land which eats its inhabitants.”[6]

The Land of Israel: Root of All Blessings
The spies should have understood that the land of Israel is prepared for the Jewish people alone. That is the reason why it spat out the nations who lived there before them. “The land will not vomit you out when you defile it, as it has vomited out the other nations that were before you.”[7] Only Kalev and Yehoshua said, “The land is exceedingly good…if Hashem desires us, then He will bring us into this land…”[8] They understood that Israel has the power to reveal the hidden light within it. The Land of Israel is similar to the Shabbat. Just as it states in the holy Zohar, that Shabbat is the source of all the blessings,[9] so is the praise of Israel not recognized on the surface, yet the root of all blessings in the world depends on the land of Israel.[10]


Make yourself comfortable, take several deep breaths and relax even more. Imagine one of your favorite places in the Land of Israel. It could be the sandy beach with blue frosty waves of water, or perhaps it’s the green mountains of the Galilee. You may really be drawn to the plane empty vast desert, or the fervent fiery stones of the Kotel (Wailing Wall), or another holy place or nature spot in Eretz Yisrael that you really love. Imagine how the place looks. Take it in visually, the colors, shapes and textures you see.
Now hear the sounds of your favorite place… The birds singing, the people praying, the water gushing, the wind blowing… Touch your favorite place and feel its textures, soft, tough, try moist…. Smell the fragrance of the flowers, the richness of the soil or the freshness of the grass after the rain, or perhaps the perspiration of the people next to you. Now taste the tastes of the place, the salty or sweet waters, the fruits growing in your chosen place, even the air has taste. Take in your favorite place with all your senses! Feel comfortable and enjoy. Mentally thank Hashem for having created this place that your soul yearns for – Eretz Yisrael!

1. Inhale א – Alef – One,
2. Exhale רץ Ratz – Run,
3. Inhale ישר Yeshar – (straight)
4. Exhale א-ל – E-l (to G-d).
Repeat this breathing imagery four times

Now imagine a place in Israel that you have a difficult time with. Perhaps it is noisy, smelly, tense. Perhaps you may feel it is disorganized, rough and tough. Perhaps in place of the red carpet, you encounter thorns. Tune into this place; notice the things that disturbs you about it. Breathe Hashem’s light into the things that challenge you about the place, and try to get in touch with the redeeming quality of each of them. Perhaps the roughness you are faced with is an expression of honesty and sincere directness. When you open your inner vision you can transform the tense to become intense.

Repeat the Eretz Yisrael breathing imagery again, as you imagine a place that is difficult for you to relate to in the Land of Israel. Imagine the difficulties burst one by one, as you breathe the letters of Eretz Yisrael into them. With practice you will develop your inner vision and actualize the hidden light of the Land even within its darkest places. When you are ready you can softly tap your hands and feet and open your eyes.


Here is a poem I wrote when I first returned to the Land of Israel twenty years ago:

The land of Israel is like a nut
which must be cracked.
We need faith to believe
that the fruit exists inside the shell.
The shell which blocks our vision
calls attention to the rough
and difficult life.
Yet, our faith will lead us
to see with other eyes.
When we let our eyes penetrate
beneath the shell,
then we will be ready to crack it open.
The shell is like nature,
the fruit is beyond..
If we try to exist in this land
according to the rules of nature
the shell becomes like a wall
which pushes us out.
Only when we surrender to the will of G-d
will we be able crack the nut open,
and see the hidden light,
which fills this land.
We discover that the shell
was only part of our own limitation
a reflection of our blocked vision
now penetrated and dissolved.
We need not discard the shell
but employ it in building bridges
above struggling waters
and channel them into canals and ditches
like love flows from the heart
transforming our lives
to nurture gardens of Eden.

[1] Haketav V'hakebalah, Parashat Shalach.
Bamidbar 14:7.
(.וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ טוֹבָה הָאָרֶץ מְאֹד מְאֹד: (במדבר יד: ז
Yesha’yahu 60:21. The word לְעוֹלָם – “l’olam” is usually translated “forever.” I.e. “They shall inherit the land forever.” However, it can also mean hidden.
Bereishit 1:2.
Ibid. 3.
Vakikra 18:28.
Bamidbar 14:7-8.
Zohar, Part 2, P. 88a
Sefat Emet, Bamidbar, Parashat Shalach, year 5661.


  1. gorgeous! thank you so much!

  2. Thank you so much for your comments!
    Hope you can come and actaully experience the spiritual light of the Land and especially in Bat Ayin!