Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Developing Inner Vision and Exploring the Spiritual Land

Rebbetzin with B'erot Alumna Chana
Twenty one years ago during Parashat Beha’alotcha we left USA, where we had to live for four long years, as my husband paid off his student loans by serving as a physician in the Memphis Correction Center. In Israel, when we arrived, it was Parashat Shalach during that year. I remember it was really difficult to return with a full heart and soul. It seems like everything in the Land of Israel was so rough without protective cushioning. I remember noticing walls with peeling paint, exposed light-bulbs with missing lampshades, and loads of kids with runny noses. Even the sun seemed to be burning us with its uncovered brightness. It was then on Shabbat afternoon when we sat down to study together that the Sefat Emet commentary on the weekly parasha fell into our lap. This commentary brought my husband and I back to seeing the land with other eyes, as it illuminated us to develop inner vision. Hashem had told Moshe to send spies to לתור/“latur” – to explore referring to looking for the good in the land, yet they became מרגלים/ “meraglim” – meaning they looked for the negative. [1] During that first Shabbat back in Eretz Yisrael my husband and I worked on turning our eyes of “meraglim” into eyes of “latur.” It was a painful process to let go of our comfort zone, and shed external layers, but in the end we succeeded to crack the nut of Eretz Yisrael, and enjoy its fruit. Read on to learn the main gist of the Sefat Emet that changed our outlook on the Land. Following the meditation, I share a poem I wrote during my first week back in the Land, inspired by the Sefat Emet.

With Blessings of the Torah & the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Shlach L'chah "The Ability to Completely Turn Life Around"

Parasha Meditation Shlach L’chah
Bamidbar 13:1-15:41
Developing Inner Vision
This week’s Parasha teaches us to develop inner vision. Only through inner vision is it possible to see the goodness of the Land of Israel. Living in the Land of Israel entails many obstacles. Life here can be tough and rough. The salaries are low, if we are lucky enough to even get a job. The beds can be hard and uncomfortable, the people can be pushy, the bureaucracy can be frustrating, not to mention the apparent mess and disorganization etc. Yet, when we discover the hidden light of the Land, although it can be so strong that it almost blinds us, our emunah leads us to overcome all the exterior obstacles, and connect with the holy essence of Divinity which is connected to this Land like no other. This can be compared to discovering Shabbat. At the beginning, all the forbidden works might blind us from appreciating the gift of Shabbat. Yet, by keeping Shabbat we gradually sensitize ourselves to receive its blessings. Likewise, by living in the Land of Israel we can open ourselves to receive the hidden blessings of the land.

Conquering the Land through Emunah in its Spiritual Nature
The Netivat Shalom explains that the mistake of the spies was that they didn’t understand the spiritual quality of the Land of Israel, which is beyond nature. They thought that as soon as they would leave the desert, their miraculous existence being nourished directly by Hashem’s miracles would cease. They, therefore, desired to spy the land in the physical sense, in order to learn the best military strategy of conquest. Moshe, however, had in mind that the spies would explore the spiritual nature of the Land of Israel. He understood that since the holiness of the Land is so great, so is its flip side. The Land of Israel is surrounded by the impure husks of the Canaanites and Amalekites. It is important to prepare oneself spiritually for entering the Land by finding out the nature of these husks in order to know how to overcome them. For this reason Hashem told Moshe to spy the land “according to his own da’at – mindset”[2] – rather than according to the mindset of the spies, they were to explore the spiritual rather than physical nature of the Land. The only way to conquer the Land is through steadfast emunah (faith) in its supernatural quality, realizing how “the eye of G-d is constantly overseeing it.”[3] Since the spies were lacking this emunah, they were unable to inherit the Land.[4]

Actualizing the Hidden Light of the Land
Kalev and Yehoshua responded to the people who complained about the Land of Israel: “The Land that we passed through to spy – this land is very very good.”[5] If you look for the spiritual quality of the Land you realize how the land of Israel is prepared for the Jewish people alone. Then the good light which is hidden within it is revealed. The Jewish people and the Land of Israel are one, for the Jewish people become rectified through the land, and the Land becomes rectified through the Jewish people. “Your people, the children of Israel are all righteous, therefore, “they shall inherit the hidden land.”[6] The meaning of the word לְעוֹלָם/“l’olam,” is that although the holiness within it is hidden and concealed. (נעלם – ne’elam), the Jewish people have the ability to crack open the husk and thus actualize the hidden light within the Land. Therefore, it states: “The land was desolate and void…”[7] and only afterwards: “G-d said let there be light.”[8] In the same way, before Israel entered the land, its hidden goodness was not revealed within it. Therefore, the spies said, “The land through which we have gone to search is a land which eats its inhabitants.”[9]

The Land of Israel: Root of All Blessings
The spies didn’t understand that the Land of Israel spat out all the nations who lived there beforehand because it is prepared for the Jewish people alone. “The land will not vomit you out when you defile it, as it has vomited out the other nations that were before you.”[10] Only Kalev and Yehoshua understood that Children of Israel have the power to reveal the hidden light within the Land when we believe in its spiritual nature. Therefore they stated, “The land is exceedingly good…if Hashem desires us, then He will bring us into this Land…”[11] The Land of Israel is similar to the Shabbat. Just as it states in the holy Zohar, that Shabbat is the source of all the blessings,[12] so is the praise of Israel not recognized on the surface, yet the root of all blessings in the world depends on the Land of Israel.[13]

Make yourself comfortable, take several deep breaths and relax even more.

1. Imagine one of your favorite places in the Land of Israel. It could be the sandy beach with blue frosty waves of water, or perhaps it’s the green mountains of the Galilee. You may really be drawn to the plane empty vast desert, or the fervent fiery stones of the Kotel (Wailing Wall), or any other holy place or nature spot in Eretz Yisrael that you really love.

2. Imagine how the place looks. Take it in visually, the colors, shapes and textures that you see.

3. Now hear the sounds of your favorite place… The birds singing, the people praying, the water gushing, the wind blowing…

4. Touch your favorite place and feel its textures, soft, tough, dry moist….

5. Smell the fragrance of the flowers, the richness of the soil or the freshness of the grass after the rain, or perhaps the perspiration of the person sitting next to you.

6. Now taste the tastes of the place, the salty or sweet waters, the fruits growing in your chosen place, even the air has a taste. Take in your favorite place with all of your senses!

7. Feel comfortable and enjoy. Mentally thank Hashem for having created this place that your soul yearns for – Eretz Yisrael!

8. A Inhale א/Alef – One
B. Exhale רץ/Ratz – run,
C. Inhale ישר/Yeshar – straight
D. Exhale א-ל /E-l – to G-d.
Repeat this breathing imagery four times

9. Now imagine a place in Israel that you have a difficult time with. Perhaps it is noisy, smelly, or tense. Perhaps you may feel it is disorganized, rough and tough. Perhaps in place of a red carpet, you encounter thorns. Tune into this place; notice the things that disturb you about it.

10. Breathe Hashem’s light into the challenges you face in this place, and try to get in touch with the redeeming quality of each of them. Perhaps the roughness you are faced with is an expression of honesty and sincere directness. When you open your inner vision you can transform the tense to become intense.

11. Repeat the Eretz Yisrael breathing imagery again, as you imagine a place that is difficult for you to relate to in the Land of Israel. Imagine each of the difficulties bursting one by one, as you breathe the letters of Eretz Yisrael into them. With practice you will develop your inner vision and actualize the hidden light of the Land even within its darkest places. When you are ready you can softly tap your hands and feet and open your eyes.

Here is a poem I wrote when I first returned to the Land of Israel in 1992:


The land of Israel is like a nut
which must be cracked.
We need faith to believe
that the fruit exists inside the shell.
The shell which blocks our vision
calls attention to the rough
and difficult life.
Yet, our faith will lead us
to see with other eyes.
When we let our eyes penetrate
beneath the shell,
then we will be ready to crack it open.
The shell is like nature,
the fruit is beyond..
If we try to exist in this land
according to the rules of nature
the shell becomes like a wall
which pushes us out.
Only when we surrender to the will of G-d
will we be able crack the nut open,
and see the hidden light,
which fills this land.
We discover that the shell
was only part of our own limitation
a reflection of our blocked vision
now penetrated and dissolved.
We need not discard the shell
but employ it in building bridges
above struggling waters
and channel them into canals and ditches
like love flows from the heart
transforming our lives
to nurture gardens of Eden.

[1] Haketav V'hakebalah, Parashat Shalach.
[2] Rashi, Bamidbar 13:2.
[3] Devarim 12:12.
[4] Netivot Shalom, Parashat Shalach, pp. 62-63.
[5] Bamidbar 14:7.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ טוֹבָה הָאָרֶץ מְאֹד מְאֹד
[6] Yesha’yahu 60:21. The word לְעוֹלָם – “l’olam” is usually translated “forever.” I.e. “They shall inherit the land forever.” However, it can also mean hidden.
[7] Bereishit 1:2.
[8] Ibid. 3.
[9] Bamidbar13:32.
[10] Vayikra 18:28.
[11] Bamidbar 14:7-8.
[12] Zohar, Part 2, P. 88a
[13] Sefat Emet, Bamidbar, Parashat Shalach, year 5661.

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