Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reaching the Meeting Point of Contention

Savouring the first light of Chanukah
I hope you enjoyed a very meaningful and prayerful Chanukah as we did. Every year on Chanukah our entire family living in Israel makes a great effort to get together. In spite of all our differences both politically, religiously and geographically, one of us hosts about thirty sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews for a special Chanukah bonding. 

The annual Chanukah party that my grandmother Trudi bat Bernhard OBM. used to host was the highlight of the year. She went into the greatest effort to gather us together and ensure that we were all comfortable to get close to one another. During Chanukah nine years ago, my grandmother was in the hospital. However, she made sure that the annual Chanukah party then scheduled for the first night of Chanukah at the home of my cousin would not be cancelled. Therefore, she passed away only on the second night of Chanukah. We all make special effort to attend our annual Chanukah family parties, to honor my grandmother’s memory. 

This week’s parasha is about making peace in the family. The meditation will help you deal with challenging relationships and find inner peace between the contrary aspects of yourself. By means of this process it will be possible to get in touch with the meeting point between Yehudah and Yosef within your own soul.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Vayigash The Path to Peace and Redemption

Parasha Meditation Vayigash

Keeping our Inner Flame Alive
After Chanukah, when each of us has been invested with renewed strength of emunah (faith) and excitement for the mitzvot, we need to carry the message of Chanukah into the coldest winter month of Tevet. Now, when the warmth of Chanukah is especially needed, we read Parashat Vayigash, which is about keeping our inner flame alive, and bringing shalom (peace) into the fragmentation between the different segments of our people.

Entering the Meeting point of the Truest Divine Inner Self
The descent of Ya’acov’s extended family into the darkest exile of Egypt was preceded by the fiery flame of Yehudah’s soul confronting Yosef’s inner fire. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה – “Yehudah approached him…[1] Yehudah penetrated the depths of Yosef’s heart in order to convince him to release his brother Binyamin.[2] The word “Vayigash” means to draw near and to meet. The two different paths of archetypal Jewish leadership challenged and confronted each other until they both entered the meeting point of their very truest Divine inner self. This is true shalom, when each opponent draws out the very best from the other, in order to unite.

Making Inner Peace Between Our Conflicting Selves
רבי מאיר אומר אין ויגש אלא לשון שלום – Rabbi Meir says, there is no “Vayigash” except for the language of shalom.[3] We too need to access and confront the Yehudah and Yosef parts of our soul until we reach our inner truth where Hashem’s light shines through. When we succeed to find inner peace between these contrary aspects of ourselves, we can bring light to our darkest exile and engender outer shalom between the fragmented Jewish leadership in our Land.

Reaching the Level of “Vayigash” – Drawing Near
Sfat Emet[4] explains that we are called יְהוּדִים/Yehudim, because we מוֹדִים /modim – admit that everything is from G*d. This is what causes us to draw near. We need to clarify to ourselves that even in the midst of darkness there is life of the will of G*d. When we nullify ourselves to the will of G*d, during the times of darkness and hester panim (The hiding of Hashem’s face), then we reach the level of וַיִּגַּשׁ/vayigash/“He drew near.”

Revealing the Inner Point (Tzion)
This is also called to draw near to Yosef, because Yosef is the inner point from Hashem. The gematria (numerical value) of the word Yosef is equal to the gematria of Tzion –156. Tzion is the meeting point between yesod (foundation) and malchut (royalty).[5] This was indeed a very hard time for Yehudah, and his solution was to draw near to the inside of the matter, and accept G*d’s will with happiness. When we clarify that all is from G*d, then its inner meaning is revealed. It states, “Yosef” who is the inner point, “could not refrain himself”[6] – and the inner point was revealed. It follows then “that every man was taken out etc.,”[7] because the exterior which conceals the interior became nullified.

Taking Initiative to Approach
This week’s parasha begins with the words, “Vayigash Yehudah” – “Yehudah approached.” He did not wait to be called. He took the initiative to do something. Similarly, each of us has to get out there and use some of the new potential we have acquired on Chanukah to bring about shalom in both our personal and broader world.

Sit comfortably in your chair, take several deep breaths and relax.

1. Breathe in Hashem’s life-giving light, breath out any tension from all the limbs of your body, starting with your head and finishing with your toes.

2. Allow your mind to drift as you go through the happenings of your day in your mind’s eye. Which accomplishments did you achieve, and which hardships did you undergo? Did you deal with the challenges of your day the best you could, or did you fall short of acting according to your truth?

3. Allow all of the happenings of your day to glide through you and accept them all, even when you didn’t live up to your fullest potential. Did you have a disagreement or confrontation with anyone today or in the last few days or weeks?

4. Allow your mind to focus on the last difficulty you experienced with another person. Think about why you felt/spoke/acted the way you did, where were you coming from?

5. Now let your mind shift to the person you interacted with. Why did he or she feel/speak/act that particular way? What kind of criticism did the other person have of your way? Make an effort to find the kernel of truth in the other person’s approach.

6. Try to get in touch with your own weakness discovered by your “opponent,” even if it hurts.

7. Breathe into the pain of your own incapability. Breathe in the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh. Repeat four more times.

8. The letter גְ/gimel is derived from the word גְמוּל/gemul, which in Hebrew means giving. This is alluded to by the leg of the letter גְ/gimel which expresses the running of the rich person to bestow good upon the poor.[8] Allow yourself to take a step with the גְ/gimel out of yourself, towards the person you interacted with.

9. Go towards that person, to his or her inner core, to understand where he or she is coming from, and open yourself to feel deeply his or her point.

10. The second letter in the word גַּשׁ is שׁ/shin. This letter is related to the Hebrew word שִינוּי/shinui which means change. As you continue to breathe the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh, get in touch with the part of yourself which was opposed to the person you interacted with. Do you feel any change? Has the gap between you lessened a bit?

11. The letter שׁ/shin is also the secret of the three heads of the burning flame. Whereas the outer flame of the shin is continuously in a state of motion and change, the inner flame represents the changeless. It is your own personal fire and flame of strong belief in your path of personal truth.

12. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה/“Yehudah approached him…”[9] The Admor of Kotsk says that the “him” refers to himself: Yehudah examined his own heart. He repeated what he had already said earlier to drive the words deep into himself, in order to fulfill the ancient Jewish teaching, that “what comes from the heart enters the heart.” He wanted his words to be so true and powerfully charged that they would be understood and accepted by Yosef. Go deep into your own approach, and connect with your truth that rises above the confrontation or criticism you may have received. In your mind’s eye understand and visualize your true response to the truth of your “opponent.”

13. Allow your personal truth to come from an even deeper place – a place that can answer back any criticism from others. Continue to breathe into the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh. Invigorate and feel the fire of your truth with each exhale of the letter שׁ/shin.

14. Feel how the power of your truth is penetrating into the power of your “opponent’s” truth, until both of you merge to unite in Hashem’s higher truth. Continue to breathe into the word גַּשׁ – inhale גַּ/ga, exhale שׁשששששששששש/shshshshshshsh as you breathe into this higher truth, to the true meeting place between you, and the person with which you had a confrontation. When you are ready, slowly tap your hands and feet to the table and floor and open your eyes with a renewed inner peace with yourself and others.

Vayigash” is a place of meeting between the darkness of exile, and the Divine light. This applies to both the global or individual exile, when we are exiled from being in touch with our personal truth. Hashem’s promise to go down with us in exile includes even our individual exile when we feel estranged from ourselves and incapable of facing opposition. Within the pain of our incapability we will be able to find Hashem’s light and reconnect with our inner essence in a deeper way in order to emerge with renewed light.

[1] Bereishit 44:18.
[2] The Mei Shiloach on Parashat Vayigash.
[3] Yalkut Shimoni Bereishit, Chapter 43, Allusion 150.
[4] Sefat Emet, Parashat Vayigash, Year 1871.
[5] The last two of the ten Sefirot through which Hashem manifests in the world.
[6] Bereishit 45:1.
[7] The continuation of the verse previously quoted.
[8] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Hebrew Letters.
[9] Bereishit 44:18.

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