Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pesach & Renewing our Belief in Miracles

The Challenge of Believing in Miracles when Life gets Tough
Pesach in B'erot
Pesach is about renewing our belief in miracles. Even if we surely believe in G*d and in His Torah, it can be difficult to integrate this belief into our personal lives, especially when things get tough. Sometimes we fall into thinking that Hashem has forgotten us, allowing the negative side of darkness to have free rein. I recently went through a personal difficulty. I would say the hardest thing that ever happened to me. None of you should know of such agony! I was about to fall so low into despair, thinking that everything was lost. Of course, I still believed that everything was from Hashem, and for the best, yet I caught myself thinking that it was for the best to punish me for all my multitude of sins and shortcomings. I surely deserved that everything would end up in the worst possible way. I thought I still had great emunah (faith) thinking that emunah is not just the naïve belief that everything will turn out well in the end, as many things don’t really turn out so well in the end. We all know that true emunah is to believe that even when things don’t turn out well, like the Holocaust, it’s still for our best. So I was spiraling down into the negative thinking of the worst possible scenario that could happen to me, which of course in my great “emunah” I accepted would be for the best.

Fear of the Evil Eye
I felt that due to my selfish bragging, I had opened myself to the evil eye – (ayin hara), remembering the Talmud that quotes Rav proclaiming that “Ninety-nine percent of those buried in the cemetery died as a result of the evil eye, and only one percent died naturally.”[1] With hindsight, I now understand why ayin hara only affects those who believe in it, because if we look at ourselves through Hashem’s eye of kindness we do not leave room for the evil eye to have any power over us. The problem arises when we allow other people’s evil eye to affect us, and we begin to look at ourselves in their negative judgmental light. However, as long as they are unable to affect our positive hopeful attitude towards ourselves, then we do not allow ayin hara to have any effect on us.

G*d’s Unity Transcends the World of Light and Darkness
Negative thoughts of despair are really like idol worship because they empower the sitra acha (the side of impurity) by telling ourselves that the one and only G*d, has hidden His face and allowed evil to take over. This is almost like giving power to a dual Deity, the G*d of goodness and G*d forbid the god of negative darkness and evil eye, etc. The Torah teaches us to believe in One and only G*d, Whose unity overrides the world of dichotomy including good and evil, light and darkness, etc. The existence of darkness is only for the sake of illuminating the light which grows brighter through contrast and counterpoint. This is why Israel had to go down to the very darkest most perverse place in the world – Egypt, before we could be redeemed to receive the greatest light of the Torah.[2]

The Effects of Positive Thinking
So is it not naïve to always believe that everything will turn out good in the end? Why should I believe in something which may be unrealistic? Positive thinking can affect the final outcome of every situation, according to the saying: “think good and it will become good.”[3] The righteous women in Egypt acted according to this principle when they packed their tambourines. “Miriam the prophetess sister of Aaron took the drum in her hand.”[4] The righteous women of that generation trusted that Hashem would perform a miracle for them, and they therefore brought drums with them from Egypt.[5] King David writes in his Tehillim, “Hashem is your keeper; Hashem is your shadow upon your right hand.”[6] Just as the shadow follows the movements of the person, likewise, according to how a person acts below, so is he acted upon from Above. In the same vein when we have mercy towards others, Hashem will have mercy upon us. Therefore, if we are sure that Hashem will provide for all our needs, all our requests will be fulfilled from Above. However, if we are always worried, then the object of our worries will come to pass, G*d forbid. “Happy is the person who won’t forget You, but places his trust in Hashem, then Hashem will be his shadow.” King David trusted so greatly in Hashem, that he would recite songs of praise to Hashem before the redemption from the many troubles he experienced. Likewise, Israel recited song at the Sea before the actual redemption, as they trusted that Hashem would surely part the Sea for them. When we trust that Hashem will fulfill all our needs, then G*d will fulfill all our needs, for He is our shadow.[7]

Believing in the Best Possible Outcome
True emunah is to believe that things will turn out according to the revealed best possible way, even if it will take a miracle to make that happen, for “is anything too hard for Hashem?”[8] Our positive thinking will affect the final outcome both because a positive attitude energetically attracts positive outcomes, and also because our actions are affected by our attitude. If we have a positive outlook, we will act in ways that bring about the positive end result. Our prayer is so much more powerful when we believe that Hashem will answer it for good. However, if in the end things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, then is the time to have emunah that this too was from Hashem for our own good. Yet, to begin with we must always believe in the very best possible outcome. Even when things look impossible, “Hashem’s salvation is like a blink of an eye.”[9]

Exodus from Darkness
The Pesach story teaches us to believe in miracles to bring about a happy end. Although we had sunk into the very lowest level of being absorbed within the darkness of Egypt in the 49th gate of impurity, Hashem still took us out with a strong arm[10] full of wondrous miracles, to the 49th gate of purity. The Exodus is called: הכל יסוד היסודות ושור – “The foundation of the foundations and the root of all.”[11] Through the revealed miracles of the Exodus we learn to recognize the hidden miracles of everyday life, which are the foundation of the entire Torah. In order to have a portion in the Torah we need to believe in everything described in it which is all miracles beyond nature.[12]

Celebrating the Belief in the Impossible
I want to take this opportunity to thank Hashem for His goodness and blessings. As we chew on our matzah – bread of emunah – and celebrate the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt, I celebrate my personal miracle and belief that the impossible can truly happen in all of our lives. I pray for miracles to happen in all of your lives as well. May those of you who are single keep up your faith that the right man is around the corner! May all the barren women receive renewed faith that they too will bear fruit! May we all be strengthened in the belief that the final Geulah (redemption) is at our doorsteps, and may our strengthened emunah draw down the Shechina to become our shadow for the ultimate good!

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 107b.
[2] Maharal, Gevurat Hashem, Chapter 4.
[3] Original Yiddish: Trakht gut vet zein gut. By simply trusting in G*d, our prayer may be answered. This saying is attributed to the Tzemach Tzedek, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, September 9, 1789 – March 17, 1866 the third Rebbe of the Chabad movement.
[4] Shemot 15:20.
[5] Rashi, Shemot 15:20.
[6] Tehillim 121:5.
[7] Kedushat HaLevi, Parashat B’Shalach, Rebbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdizchov, 1898.
[8] Bereishit 18:14.
[9] Tefilah following Tikun HaKlali.
[10] Shemot 13:9. 

[11] Maharal, Gevurot Hashem, Chapter 3.
[12] Ramban, Shemot 13:16.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pleasure & Will – The Crown the Jewish Soul

Feeling the presence of Hashem - Gush Etzion
The animal sacrifices are difficult to relate to; however, I found personal meaning in them with the help of Rav Ginsburgh’s writings, relating the sacrifices to the human psyche. I hope this meditation will be helpful to refine our will and our desires for pleasures, as part of our spiritual preparation for Pesach! 

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditation Tzav
Vayikra 6:1-8:36
It is difficult to relate to the Book of Vayikra, as it is all about the sacrifices, which we no longer keep. However, learning about the sacrifices becomes more meaningful, when we understand how each part of the sacrifice represents and rectifies a different part of our psyche. Of the animal sacrifice two parts were offered exclusively to Hashem: The חֵלֶב – chelev – “choice fats” and the דָּם – dam – “blood.” “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that you shall eat neither fat nor blood.”[1] This eternal prohibition pertains to both the person bringing the sacrifice and to the Kohen. No-one may partake of the “choice fats” or the blood. We learn from this that the very best must always be given to our Creator.[2]

Pleasure & Will – The Crown of the Jewish Soul
The crown – כֶּתֶר – keter of the Jewish soul includes the super-conscious “pleasure” – תַּעֲנוּג – ta’anug, and the “will” – רָצוֹן – ratzon.[3] The conscious intellect and emotions are like the wheels of a machine, dependent on the vital energy of these two powers. Our “will” and “pleasure” are represented respectively by the “blood” and the “choice fats.” When a person brought a sacrifice, the blood of the slaughtered animal would first be sprinkled on the altar. This culminated the process of offering up of one’s will to G*d. Afterwards, the Kohen would burn the choice fats on the altar. This would culminate the process of offering up one’s pleasure to G*d.

Rectifying our Unconsciousness through the Sacrifices
Hashem’s Divine Presence was most manifest within the Temple. During Temple times, the Divine service would actually reach into our unconscious and rectify it. The process of the sacrifices thus ensured the righteousness of all those who came to the Temple. Without the Temple, we cannot access the far reaches of our unconsciousness. Yet, the prohibition to eat the “blood” and “choice fats” of any kosher animal still applies today. Therefore, we must continue to rectify our will and pleasure to whatever extent we are able, and offer them up to Hashem.

This meditation is designed to help you get in touch with your will and desire for pleasure, in order to help rectify them and give them over to Hashem. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Take several long, deep breaths and get in touch with how your body is seated on the chair or cushion.

1. Feel how your breath is actually Hashem breathing through you. Imagine how your breath brings oxygen into your bloodstream.

2. Breathe into your arteries, and imagine how your blood circulation is invigorated by your conscious breathing.

3. Allow the happenings of your day to pass through you. Visualize all the things you accomplished, and all those things you didn’t get to yet. Take a deep breath.

4. Get in touch with your will! What would you like to do the most if you were able? Imagine all the things you would like to do, if you only could.

5. Now take all of these things – the manifestations of your will – and place them into an imaginary box, wrap it with beautiful wrapping paper and tie it with a ribbon. Imagine placing this box in your palms facing upwards, offering your will to Hashem.

6. Imagine the box disappearing from your hands, replaced by a different gift, which you now hold in your hand.

7. Before opening your hand, breathe deeply and try to get in touch with your true spiritual desires buried deep within. It could be your desire to pray, to become more giving, to understand truth, to take on Jewish leadership, and so on. Perhaps you have been afraid to want these things, feeling ashamed or not worthy. Evaporate any negative feelings of guilt and unworthiness. Allow yourself to want what you truly desire deep down.

8. Now open your hand and behold Hashem’s gift to you. Hashem is giving you a refined will.

All the things you always wanted to want are in this gift for you. Feel your appreciation of this gift Hashem is giving you!

9. Now take several relaxed breaths and allow your mind to wander to all the things you enjoy. Think about what gives you pleasure. It could be a gourmet meal, an intimate encounter with your beloved, a loving interaction with a child, or a special honor or award you received.

10. Take those things which give you pleasure and place them in a new imaginary box. Wrap it beautifully with a nice ribbon and offer it up in your open palms to Hashem.

11. Again, your gift has been received by Hashem and replaced with His personal gift to you. As you unwrap your spiritual gift, discover the spiritual pleasures that are your true pleasures.

12. Unwrap each pleasure one by one and try to get in touch with the warmth, love and joy each of these spiritual pleasures gives you. Gently tap your hands and feet on the ground and table before opening your eyes to face a new, refined reality.

There are actually three points of the כֶּתֶר – keter – crown: (רָצוֹן) – “will”, (תַּעֲנוּג) – “pleasure” and (אֱמוּנָה) –“emunah” – simple faith. When a sheep is brought as a sacrifice, in addition to the “blood” and the “choice fats,” the rump, located near the tail of the sheep, is given exclusively to Hashem.[4] This third part – the rump – is even fattier than the “choice fats,” i.e., it represents even more pleasure than pleasure. The Hebrew word for “rump” – אַלְיָה – aliya begins with the letter alef – א. The first letter of the חֵלֶב – “choice fats” is chet – ח, while the first letter of “blood” (דָּם) is dalet – ד. Together, these three letters spell out the Hebrew word –אֶחָד – “one.” The two levels of pleasure and the level of will form our complete Oneness with Hashem. Perhaps we can say that by means of refining and offering our will and pleasure, we can reach the level of emunah in the One and only G*d, to Whom all our desires and pleasures must always be directed.

[1] Vayikra 3:17.
[2] Rav Ginsburgh this parasha mediation is based loosely on this teaching.
[3] Likutei Torah, Parashat Nitzavim 49:3.
[4] See for example Vayikra 7:3.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

“Online” With Hashem

Flowering Fruit Trees
This week we are starting the new book, Vayikra, which is all about Hashem’s calling to us, and our calling to serve Him. Parashat Vayikra coincides with the month of Nissan, which is the time to work on our speech.[1] Perfecting speech corresponds essentially to refining our communication. 

In this parasha meditation I discuss communication between parents and children, as an analogy and springboard for improved communication with Hashem. While we clean our cabinets for Pesach, let us work on cleaning our speech, so we can emerge with improved communication in time for Pesach, which also means Pe–sach – the mouth speaks. By the time of the Seder, with Hashem’s help, our improved communication skills will optimally bring us to the highest relationship with Hashem and our family!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Vayikra: "Praising Hashem Through Song"

Parasha Meditation Vayikra
Vayikra 1:1-5:26
This week, we begin reading the Book of Vayikra – Leviticus. Literally the Hebrew word vayikra means “He called.” “He [Hashem] called (vayikra) Moshe, and Hashem spoke with him from the Tent of Meeting saying.”[2] The last word “לֵאמֹר – (l’emor) – saying” is extra. If Hashem spoke, obviously He would be “saying.” Whenever the extra word “saying” appears, it teaches us about the ongoing continuous prophecy applying to all future generations.[3] Just as Hashem called Moshe, He continuously calls us throughout the times for an ongoing relationship.

Calling – An Expression of Love
Rashi explains that a “calling” preceded all sayings and commands. It is an expression of love, an expression that the Ministering Angels use, as it states, “One called to the other.”[4] However, to the gentile prophets Hashem revealed Himself with an expression of happenstance and uncleanness,[5] as it says, “G*d happened upon Bilam.”[6]

The Small Alef
Rashi learns this from the small alef at the end of the word וַיִּקְרָא– vayikra, making the alef stand out and emphasizing the difference between the word וַיִּקְרָא – vayikra – “He called,” and the word וַיִּקָּר – vayikar – “He happened upon.”[7] This small alef teaches us a big difference between the relationship of the Jewish people with Hashem, and that of the other nations of the world. The Jewish people are supposed to have an ongoing, continuously open relationship with G*d, whereas His relationship with the gentile nations is more of an on-and-off type.

Online with Hashem
Rabbi Pinchas Winston makes the following analogy: This can be compared to using cable for internet versus a regular modem. When a person uses a modem to connect to the internet, he has to dial up the server, get in, and wait until all the inter-computer protocol has finished before being able to access everything from e-mail to websites. This takes time, and is not always successful the first or second time. However, the beauty of cable is that you are always connected. The connection is continuous and therefore getting in is quick as is using the Net. There is never a moment when we are supposed to think we are “off-line” from G*d. This is why halacha dictates levels of conduct and modesty even in the most private of places and moments. There is still a difference between this analogy and true relationships. Whereas keeping the lines of communication constantly open between two computers takes very little effort on our part, maintaining an ongoing, upbeat and loving relationship with another human being requires a tremendous and continuous act of will; how much more so with Hashem!

A Mother’s Calling
The relationship between children and parents is a great practice for having an ongoing relationship with Hashem. A dear friend once came crying to me. Her son had called her while she was at a meeting. When she tried to return his call, no one picked up. She thought that perhaps they don’t hear the phone (which had happened in the past), so she continued to call again and again, frustrated that no-one answered the phone. When her son finally called her back, he reproached her, “Why did you continue calling and calling? Didn’t you realize that when no-one picked up, it wasn’t a good time to call? By calling so much, you were disturbing the children from going to sleep!”

Off-line with their Mother
My friend couldn’t believe her ears. “I would never do this to my mother or mother-in-law,” she exclaimed. “First of all, I would never let them call again and again if I was home, even if it wasn’t a convenient time for me to talk. I would certainly pick up the phone, and let her know that I’m sorry I can’t talk now, but I’ll call you back as soon as I can.” She explained, “This way I would save my dear mother or mother-in-law from the frustration of having to repeat calling without anyone picking up the phone. Not only did my children not pick up, they moreover had the nerve to rebuke me for repeatedly calling.” This mother felt hurt because her children chose to be “off-line” from communicating with her. It is painful when we reach out and are not being met, and even rejected. I told my friend to embrace her pain, and just sit with it, trying to connect with the pain of the Shechina (Divine Indwelling Presence). When our Divine Mother calls us continuously, do we pick up the receiver? Or do we let Her call and call? Hashem constantly reaches out to us, but we often chose to be “off-line.” We can learn from this incident to be more attentive to the call of the Shechina, whether through the difficulties we experience, or through becoming more aware and recognizing the Divine Supervision within our lives. Let us decide right now to respond every time our Divine Mother calls!

This meditation is not limited to when you sit down and take some deep breaths.

1. This meditation applies when you walk on the way, work in your kitchen or in the office, when you feed your children, when you clean the house and prepare for Pesach, etc. Whenever you are happy, and whenever you are sad, always remember to stay “online” with Hashem.

2. Try to feel G*d’s presence before you always. שִׁוִּיתִי הַשֵם לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד – “Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid” – “I have set Hashem before me always.”[8] When you are continuously “online” with Hashem, you can learn to experience all your difficulties and hardships as a mirror for improving yourself to get even closer and strengthen your relationship with Hashem.

3. Whenever it is hard, imagine the oneness – the small alef, from the word vayikra always at your side, always calling you back to be close.

4. Accustom yourself to say: “Thank you, Hashem” whenever something good happens, even the smallest thing such as when the glass bowl fell to the floor without breaking.

5. Stay “online” with Hashem always, and learn acceptance, realizing that everything is a gift, even the challenges. When you are “online” with Hashem, there is never a moment or incident which should make you upset.

Besides emphasizing the difference between the word וַיִּקְרָא – vayikra – “He called,” and the word וַיִּקָּר – vayikar – “He happened upon,” the reduced alef also hints to the fact that Moshe humbled himself by making himself small. He was reluctant to record the word vayikra in the Torah, indicating Hashem’s special relationship with him. In his humility, he did not want to be distinguished from the nations with whom Hashem relates in an on-and-off relationship, indicated by the word vayikar.[9]

An additional interpretation of the small alef teaches us that in spite of the specialness of Hashem’s call to Moshe, it was still incomplete. Perfect “online” communication can only take place when the Shechina will dwell in her permanent home – the Beith Hamikdash (Temple) in Yerushalayim. It is impossible to attain the highest kind of communication with Hashem on foreign soil, outside Eretz Yisrael – the Holy Land, in a tent-like dwelling-place erected only temporarily for Hashem. Therefore, the small alef illustrates that the ultimate goal has yet to be achieved, may it be soon!

[1] Bnei Yissaschar, Article 1 on the month of Nissan.
[2] Vayikra 1:1.
[3] Mechilta, Parashat Beshalach, parasha 1.
[4] Yeshayahu 6:3.
[5] The Hebrew word Vayikar can mean both “happened” and “seminal emission.”
[6] Bamidbar 23:4 and 23:16.
[7] Rashi, Vayikra 1:1.
[8] Tehillim 16:8.
[9] Vayikra 23:4 and 23:16.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning to Give from the Heart & Spirit

Way to Go Girls! 
B'erot madricha Nili & students Sarai & Sara
 ran the Jerusalem 10k last week
As we complete the Book of Shemot we are now in the peak of Pesach cleaning, clearing our energy fields from all the extras. That which no longer has any use for us becomes spiritual chametz, blocking our channels and clogging up our direct connection with Hashem. By sharing our possessions with others who needs these things more than ourselves, we clear our energy fields and remove the static fog that prevents us from opening our spiritual antennas. 

Our weekly Torah reading teaches us how the children of Israel wholeheartedly donated their materials for the Mishkan – Tabernacle. This Torah is synchronized with the period prior to Pesach – the perfect time to work on letting go of attachments to material things, and sharing our stuff with people we love and those in need. It is only possible to impart something that we ourselves have. Therefore, it is important to learn to be realistic in our giving. Some people want to give gold but all they have is silver. Rather than insisting on giving what we decide we want to give, with refined generous spirit we learn to give what the recipient needs from us. 

This week’s Parasha Meditation focuses on opening our heart while also getting in touch with our generous spirit. It guides us to practice spiritual gift giving, and letting go of material attachments, so that our giving can be more realistic and balanced. 
Wishing you all happy giving, and joyful Pesach preparations! 

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click here to read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat HaChodesh - the special haftorah read on Shabbat HaChodesh - the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nissan 
OR Click here to read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Parashat Parah

Parasha Meditation Vayakhel-Pekudei
Shemot 34:36-40:38
Successful Tabernacle Fundraising
Moshe’s fundraising for the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was easy. Without Moshe having to knock on a single door, all the Jewish people enthusiastically brought donations of materials in abundance for the Mishkan. “They came, everyone whose heart lifted him up and everyone whose spirit volunteered him, and they brought Hashem’s offering for the Tent of Meeting, and for all its service and for the holy garments.”[1] What is the difference between the person “whose heart lifted him up,” and the kind of person “whose spirit volunteered him”? Ramban holds that the wise people were lifted by their heart to know how to do the work for the Mishkan.[2]

Between Internal or External Giving
Malbim explains further that the heart is the exterior vessel for the spirit רוּח/Ruach – Spirit. The spirit raises images from the depth of the soul and reveals them upon the face of the heart. Whereas the spirit is an internal integral part of the soul, the heart is its exterior ruling power, through which Free Choice is expressed.[3] Our Torah verse thus describes two different attitudes with which people gave; those whose internal spirit spurred them to give, and those whose external heart prompted them to give.

Volunteer Spirit or Open Heart?
There are people whose spirit is filled with good images and volunteerism, yet their heart still does not chose to be generous, because of their love of money. There are others, whose spirit does not volunteer them, yet their heart is generous and loves to give because money is not important to them. Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder clarifies that some people feel an urge deep down to give, but as the urge comes more to the surface, it meets limitations. A person might really want to give, but he is too attached to his money, time, and personal resources. This person is called one whose “spirit volunteers” but whose heart is limiting. Another kind of person is one who does not feel a deep urge to give, but he doesn’t consider his time or money so important, so he is willing to give of them freely. He is called one whose spirit does not move him deeply to give, but his heart is open.

Generosity Inside and Out
Malbim explains that when it came to donating for the Mishkan, everyone had both a volunteer spirit and an open heart. This is why the Torah verse states both that every person was “lifted up by his heart” to have a good will to give, and was moved by “his spirit that volunteered him” to connect deeply through the depth of his faculty of imagination with the great benefit of this generosity.

Sit comfortably in your chair or cushion, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Pay good attention to your rhythmic breath, and allow yourself to relax even more.

1. Ask Hashem to help you get in touch with your רוּח – ruach – spirit, the deepest spiritual backdrop seat of your emotions.

2. Continue breathing deeply while you connect with your ruach – the mediator between your neshama which is inherently G*dly, and your nefesh which secures your physical survival. Your ruach is in between.

3. Visualize the three letters spelling out the word רוּח/ruach – Spirit. The first letter ר – reish means head and has the shape of the profile of the back of the head. ר –reish is connected with the neshama. Imagine an illuminated ר – reish. Breathe into the ר – reish. Inhale rei, exhale from your mouth to the sound of shshsh…

4. Now imagine the last letter of the word רוּח/ruach, the ח – chet which means sin and is connected with the body. Visualize its shape of a closed container which separates between the body and the higher realms. As you breathe deeply imagine the two legs of the ח – chet as if they were the two legs of your body.

5. The middle letter וּ – vav, which means “and” corresponds to the ruach – the connecting point between the neshama and the body. As you breathe slowly and deeply connect to your רוּח – ruach.

6. Allow your ruach to take you back to a time when you felt especially fulfilled and happy. Get in touch with this exhilarating happiness. Let the waves of happiness emanating from your ruach wash over you.

7. Now take some of this happiness and place it into an imaginary box, wrap it beautifully and tie it with a ribbon. Imagine sending this gift to someone you love, and to someone who really needs it. You can send your spiritual gift to several different people without depleting yourself from its content.

8. Continue sending this gift to as many people as you feel like. You can always send it again at a different time.

9. Now let’s move to get in touch with our heart. Place both of your hands on your heart and try to feel the rhythmic beating of your heart. If you can’t feel it there, you may move one hand to your throat.

10. Think about a material thing that your heart desires very much. It could be a garment, jewelry, money, an electronic item, or your favorite food.

11. Imagine a person you love very much, and imagine how much you would like to share with that person. You would love the person you love to have what you have.

12. Choose one of your favorite material possessions and pray to Hashem silently to help you let go of your attachments to this item. Imagine how life would be manageable even without this favorite thing, especially considering how you could make someone else so happy.

13. Now imagine your heart enveloped by a wall. Ask Hashem to help you open your heart. Implore Hashem with the following short prayer: “פְּתָּח לִבִּי”/petach libi – open my heart! Inhale “פְּ/pe” exhale “/תָּח tach,” inhale “לִ/li,” exhale “בִּי/bi.” – “פְּתָּח לִבִּי”/ “petach libi!” Visualize a small opening in the wall surrounding your heart expanding and getting bigger and bigger filled with light.

14. Decide now in your heart to give away your favorite thing to a person whom you love so much. If it is too difficult to give away your favorite object, you can practice on something which you like very much but it is not your most favorite thing. If this too is hard, then you can practice on something you like even less, and gradually as you repeat this meditation you can learn to open your heart more and more, to give even more. Tap your hands and feet gently before opening your eyes.

It is important to act upon the decision you made during the meditation and give the actual material gift to the person within twenty four hours. This way you ensure that your heart won’t turn you astray to make you change your mind. So give your gift in real life today!

In Yonatan ben Uziel’s Aramaic translation of the Torah, the Hebrew phrase “all whose spirit volunteered them” is translated to mean “one whose spirit was perfected to the level of prophecy.” This person has the ability to reach such a level of refinement that s/he becomes a Mishkan, his/her heart becomes an altar, and his/her clothing become the holy garments.[4] When we connect with the spirit of giving inside of us and learn to give with an open heart, our gift has a much greater impact. Therefore, it is better to give something small with a generous spirit and a complete heart than to give something greater, which our heart is not really ready to give yet. On the surface the gift may be the same gift as something given in a begrudging way, but on the energetic level they are light-years apart. There is even the kind of person who has nothing to give, but if s/he could, s/he would give everything s/he had.[5] Hashem, knows a person’s thoughts,[6] and considers as if this person has built the entire Mishkan.

[1] Shemot 35:21
[2] Ramban, Shemot 35:21
[3] Malbim, Shemot 35:21
[4] Yonatan ben Uziel, Shemot 35:21.
[5] Malbim, Shemot 35:21.
[6] I Divrei HaYamim 28:9.