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.

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