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.

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