Tuesday, November 6, 2012

With Hashem in the Field

Joy | Blessing | Awe
As we enjoy a blessed fall of comfortable cooler weather, the students of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin warm themselves with Torah and Herbal teas from our garden. We have a wonderful group of very intelligent expressive students, with lots of great energy. I’m so proud of our talented Azamra B’erot Band, fulfilling my vision of integrating Torah & creativity. 

The Midrasha garden also bursts forth amazing crops of humongous pumpkin, kale, Swiss chard and more, in addition to a selection of edible weeds that I teach my students how to use. This time when the weather is pleasant, is a perfect time to practice meditating in the field as Yitzchak did in this week’s Parasha. 

I hope you will have opportunity to practice my Parasha Meditation, which is designed to help us feel Hashem’s presence in nature and spiritualizing the garments of our souls. 

Blessings of the Torah and the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read "Developing our Feminine Attribute of Binah" - Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Chayei Sarah
Parasha Meditation Chayei Sarah
Bereishit 23:1-25:18
The Torah Source for Jewish Meditation
This week’s parasha is about finding a wife for Yitzchak and about Yitzchak’s prayer for his soul-mate. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan discovered the first source for Jewish meditation in this week’s parasha, where it states that “Yitzchak went out to speak (lasuach) in the field (ba-sadeh).”[1]
וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים
“Yitzchak went out to meditate in the field towards the evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, behold camels were coming.”[2]

The Solitude of the Field
Experiencing the solitude of the field and connecting with nature while watching the sheep is conducive to contemplation and communion with G-d. Our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’acov, were shepherds because this vocation offered perfect opportunity for meditative connection with Hashem. According to Rashi, when “Yitzchak went out lasuach in the field,” he was praying to Hashem. We learn this from the way the word lasuach is used in Tehillim:[3] “A Prayer of the afflicted…when he fainted, and poured out his prayer (sicho) before Hashem.”[4]

Praying in the Field
Rashbam finds a parallel to the word lasuach in the word scrub (siach) mentioned in the creation story.[5] He explains that Yitzchak went out in the field to inspect his crop.[6] Chizkuni synthesizes these two views, explaining, that Yitzchak went out of the Garden of Eden where he had been living for the last three years since his Akeida (near-sacrifice). He went out in order to (lasuach) plant trees, and to inspect his work, but also in order to (lasuach) converse/pray.[7] 

Prayer for Spiritual Crop with His Life Partner
Imagine Yitzchak walking between his plants (sichim) enjoying the beauty of Hashem’s blessings manifested in the majestic trees, as the sun is beginning to set behind the hills. While he inspects his plantings, he pours out his heart to Hashem in prayer, the prayer for his crop, shifts to the prayer for his spiritual crop – the offspring that he yearns for, shifting to the prayer from the deepest part of his soul, the prayer for his life-partner in serving Hashem and bringing forth children – the prayer for a wife.[8] Immediately, as he completes his prayer – the mincha (afternoon) prayer that he established for all future generations,[9] at this pivotal moment, “he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming,”[10] bringing his soul-mate Rivka towards him.

The Power of the Mincha (Afternoon) Prayer
Yitzchak’s afternoon prayer for his soul-mate was immediately answered. From here we learn that especially the mincha (afternoon) prayer is answered.[11] Yitzchak’s prayer close to the sunset also hints that “before the sun of Sarah set, the sun of Rivkah shines.”[12] “Therefore, Scripture informs us that Rivkah came close to sunset… so that these righteous women, who are like the orbit of the sun, should never lack from the world; and in order that there should never lack a lit candle in the tent, an overhanging cloud and the blessing in the dough.”[13]

Hitbodedut before Rabbi Nachman
One of the earlier supports for Biblical hitbodedut (speaking with Hashem in the field), advocated so highly by Rabbi Nachman, is the Sforno who explains that when “Yitzchak went out lasuach” – he turned away from the main road, in order to pour out his prayer before Hashem in the quiet field where he wouldn’t be interrupted by other people.[14]

Sit comfortable in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Breathe deeply and feel completely relaxed in all of the limbs of the body.

1. After a minute or two of relaxing breathing imagine that you are alone in the middle of a lush field. There are no other people, only trees, shrubs, herbs and grass. Enjoy looking at the lushness of the leaves, the textures of the branches, feel the crispy moist earth under your feet.

2. Inhale the fresh smells of the leaves and grasses after the rain. Hear the rustling of the trees in the wind, and the song of the birds in their branches. Taste the tastes of clean fresh air as you inhale both from your nose and your mouth.

3. Now imagine how all the beauty of nature, that you behold, inspires you to pour out your soul in the deepest prayer. As you pray, imagine how every blade of grass, every tree-branch, every bird of the field joins your prayer, imagine how the entire field becomes energized, sanctified and synchronized with your breath of prayer.

4. Visualize the letters that spell out the word שָּׂדֶה (field) First the fiery sin ש with its three flames denoting shinui – change – as you enter the new energy field of prayer. 

5. Moving through the door of the letter dalet ד the – the poor –”that has nothing [d’leit] of her own.” Feel your own lowliness how you possess nothing of your own – how you are an empty vessel ready to receive Hashem’s blessings.

6. As you move to visualizing the last letter of the word שָּׂדֶה the letter ה receive your gift from Hashem and manifest it into all the three garments of your soul – thought, speech and action.

7. Visualize the upper horizontal line of the ה while imagining Hashem purifying and filling your faculty of thought with His light.

8. Then visualize the right vertical line of the ה while imagine that your faculty of speech receives Divine illumination.

9. Finally as you visualize the unattached foot of the ה, imagine that all your actions become tuned up and synchronized with the Divine will.

10. Now visualize the entire word שָּׂדֶה with the definite article the prefix הheh, as in הַשָּׂדֶה – hasadeh.
וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ וְכָל עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִצְמָח
Every plant in the field was not yet in the earth, and every herb of the field had not yet sprouted forth.[15]

11. הַשָּׂדֶה Includes the sin ש and the dalet ד of Hashem’s name Shadai ש-ד-י, the two hehs ה add up to the final letter yud י (the numerical value of each heh is five adding up to the ten of the yud). Breath in as you visualize Sha שַ. Breath out as you visualize dai דַי Repeat this breathing ten times.

12. The name Shadai refers to G-d’s power to make His Divinity conscious and accessible to every one of His creatures, regardless of their spiritual state. Imagine G-d’s power entering into every part of your life and being.

13. Imagine yourself at work; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your work.

14. Imagine yourself in relationship to those close to you; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your relationships.

15. Imagine yourself deeply in thought; allow Hashem’s power to enter the field of your contemplation.

The Talmud explains how shacharit (morning prayer), mincha (afternoon prayer) and ma’ariv (evening prayer) originates from the avot (forefathers) – Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’acov.[16] Shacharit was established by Avraham, when he arose in the morning to view the destruction that Hashem had brought upon Sodom. “Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood (amad) before Hashem.”[17] We learn that the word “amad” refers to tefilah, because the words “va’yamod” and “v’yipalel” (standing and praying) are juxtaposed in another Torah verse.[18] Mincha originated with Yitzchak, when he went out “la’suach ba’sadeh towards the evening.”[19] Ma’ariv was instituted by Ya’acov, when he was fleeing from Esav. “Va’yifga ba’makom” – He lighted upon the place…”[20] – “pegiah” refers to tefilah.[21]

Rabbi Elly Krimsky explains that the three references to prayer by the avot correspond to three different motivations for prayer. Yitzchak’s prayer in the field corresponds to tefilah during ordinary day-to-day life – while working in the field (or in the office). The word sicha supports that Yitzchak’s tefilah represents day-to-day prayer as this word is often translated to mean everyday conversation.[22] Yitzchak, thus, represents the ability to be intensely focused on Hashem in the midst of the daily humdrum of life.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslau explains that the letter bet as a prefix, which usually means “in,” can also mean “with.” If so, we can understand that when Yitzchak went out to pray ba-sadeh, he was praying with the field! In other words, his prayer was so intense that nature itself felt compelled to join in.[23] 

[1] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Meditation and the Bible, Maine, Samuel Weiser Inc, p.101.
[2] Bereishit, 24:63.
[3] Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak, France, (1040-1105), Bereishit 24:63.
[4] Tehillim 102:1.
[5] “No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…” (Bereishit 2:5).
[6] Rashbam, Rabbi Shemuel ben Meir, (Rashi’s grandson) France, (1083-1174), Bereishit 24:63.
[7] Based on Chizkuni, Rabbi Chezkiyahu ben Manoach, France, (thirteen century), Bereishit 24:63.
[8] This section is based on Rabbeinu Bachaya, Rabbi Bachaya ben Asher, Spain, (1250-1340) Bereishit 24:63.
[9] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 26b.
[10] The continuation of our original verse in Bereishit 24:63.
[11] Kli Yakar, Rabbi Ephraim Shelomo ben Aharon of Luntshits, Poland, (1550-1619), Bereishit 24:63.
[12] Bereishit Rabah 58:2.
[13] Kli Yakar, Bereishit 24:63.
[14] Rabbi Ovadiah ben Ya’acov, Italy, (1470-1550), Bereishit 24:63.
[15] Bereishit 2:5.
[16] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 26b.
[17] Bereishit 19:27.
[18] Tehillim 106:30.
[19] Bereishit 24:63.
[20] Bereishit 28:11.
[21] Midrash Agadah, Bereishit 46.
[22] See for example Tehillim 119:97.
[23] Likutei Moharan, Part 2, Sign 1.

1 comment:

  1. Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
    I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this week's דבר תורה.I love to daven in my garden,weather permitting.Your poetical description of Yitzchak Avinu examining his crops before his discussion with Hashem was a real gift. My tour around my garden is my favorite preparation for davening.Connecting with Hashem's creation,examining each new leaf or the gift of some beatiful flowers...That's the grounding that's so desparately needed in today's society.The connection with Hashem and Hashem's creation can help us retain or regain our sanity,to return to who we need to be.