Thursday, June 27, 2013

How can Killing a Fellow Jew Restore Peace???

Summer Session - Torah and Healing - Herbal Workshop Hike
I’ve always been a “peacenik”, even before I turned teenager. I never could understand why the whole world wasn’t able to get along in universal peace and brotherhood. I grew up in the aftermath of the 60ties and had badges of “Make love not War” everywhere. At our family dinner tables we had long discussions. I couldn’t relate when my father called the Arabs “a harsh and cruel enemy.” Then my mother said something so simple I’ll never forget it. “As long as you sisters won’t stop fighting, there won’t be peace in the world.” Baruch Hashem as much as I used to fight with my sister, we are now the very best and closest friends. So now wouldn’t my mother agree that we are ready for redemption and world-peace? 

Actually, this week’s parasha interestingly enough teaches that sometimes it is necessary to distance ourselves from negative relationships even if it’s our own brother or sister. Surprisingly, at times a violent act, which may seem cruel on the outside, brings the greatest peace in the world, when the inner intention is most selfless and holy. 

It’s hard to understand, but our parasha clearly teaches that Pinchas from the tribe of Levi brought peace by slaying the prince of the tribe of Shimon, his brother. 

I invite you to read on to get a glimpse on why the Torah condones Pinchas’s exceptional act which regular people are unable to emulate in any way. Today, we are not on the level to transform jealousy and vengeance in its root into rectified zealousness. Yet, we can aspire to work on our jealousy by means of the meditation I share with you below.

With blessings of a fruitful summer,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Pinchas - "Soul Reincarnations"

Parasha Meditation Pinchas
Bamidbar 25:10-29:39
Severing Unhealthy Relationship for the sake of Restoring Peace
Parashat Pinchas teaches us about rectifying jealousy and anger – קִנְאָה/kinah, by unifying judgment – דִין/din with its source in Hashem’s infinite kindness – חֶסֶד/chesed. Pinchas succeeded in restoring Shalom (peace) to the world, by separating the undesirable elements of the tribe of Shimon from the Jewish people, and thus severing the tribe of Levi from its unhealthy relationship with Shimon. Pinchas’ act of rectified zealousness enabled the Levites to serve as a conduit for peace and brotherhood for the entire people, through their subsequent Temple service. Pinchas also succeeded in rectifying his tribe’s previous expressions of anger, after Levi and Shimon took vengeance on the people of Shechem for raping their sister, Dinah.[1] When the tribes of Shimon and Levi are joined together, their tendency for anger and vengeance can go overboard. Therefore, on his deathbed, Ya’acov reproached them saying: “Shimon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence is their kinship.”[2] Pinchas did not act out of personal spite, but only for the sake of allowing Hashem’s kindness to shine, by means of removing the blocks standing in the way. By expressing rectified kinah – (jealousy/vengeance), completely devoid of any ego, he unified judgment with mercy, and was consequently rewarded with Hashem’s “covenant of Shalom.”[3] Shalom with its letter ש/shin standing for אֶש/esh – fire and its letter מ/mem standing for מָיִם/mayim – water denotes the unification of opposite elements.

Overcoming Anger through Invoking Hashem’s Perpetual Presence
The word קִנְאָה/kinah usually translated as jealousy is also linked to judgment and anger. The root of this word mentioned three times in the opening verse of Parashat Pinchas alludes to three aspects of anger/jealousy/vengeance: “בְּקַנְאוֹ /By avenging,” “קִנְאָתִי/My jealousy,” and וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי/“I did not destroy the children of Israel in My judgment.”[4] The numerical value of the root קנא/kina 151[5] equals the Name of G*d – E-k-yeh/ א-ק-י-ה when each of its letters are spelled out a certain way.[6] This Name of G*d ((א-ק-י-ה meaning: “I will be,” which was first revealed to Moshe at the burning bush, gives us the reassurance that Hashem will always be with us.[7] Meditating on this Name enables us to overcome anger.[8] Arizal recommends, when one gets angry, to meditate during the Morning Prayer on the Name א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh spelled out as mentioned above. He reveals that the numerical value of this Name קנא/kuf nun alef – 151 also equals that of the Hebrew word for “anger” כַּעַס/ka’as with the kollel.[9]

Cracking the Nut of Jealousy and Anger, Removing the Peal of Judgment
The three aspects of vengeance are alluded to in the verse: “I descended to the garden of nuts.”[10] The numerical value of the word for “garden of” – “ginat,”/gimel-nun-tav is 453, which is 3 times 151. The nut actually has three klipot (husks) the outer soft husk that disintegrates when the nut is ripe, the hard outer shell, and the soft inner peal that adheres to the nut itself. In order to reveal the inner goodness of the soul, we must discard each of the shells of קִנְאָה/kinah. Learning not to judge others is the most difficult aspect of קִנְאָה/kinah to overcome. It is characterized by the inner peal which we usually eat together with the nut. Although I didn’t find in the Arizal’s writing explicit differentiation between each of the three aspects ofקִנְאָה /kinah, it seems to me that the outer aspect is anger, going deeper into the anger one arrives at jealousy, underneath which the negative emotion of being overly judgmental is situated.

Taking the Law in His own Hand
If קִנְאָה/kinah alludes to these three negative character traits what was so good about Pinchas applying them in his violent act towards the head of the tribe of Shimon? How could it be right for a Jew to take the law in his own hand and kill his fellow Jew? I believe the answer lies in Pinchas’ motivation. His קִנְאָה/kinah was not his own, but Hashem’s as the verse testifies: “…בְּקַנְאוֹ /by avenging קִנְאָתִי/My vengeance.” His motivation was solely for Hashem and for the sake of saving the lives of the Israelites who were dying by the numbers in the plague. By having reached a place in himself completely beyond the ego, Pinchas’ vision was not tainted by petty self-interest and therefore he was able to perceive the root cause of the plague and clearly fathom the only way to stop it. The level of his consciousness bridged between that of a prophet and a Torah scholar. Therefore, Pinchas’ action was able to sweeten the judgment in its root through his deepest care and mercy for the children of Israel, who were dying in the plague. By acting with this motivation, he channeled judgment to serve as a means of separating between ultimately good and evil – life and death. Thus Pinchas succeeded in alleviating Hashem’s anger, stop the plague,[11] and atone for the children of Israel.[12]

Make yourself comfortable in your place, and take some deep healing breaths.

1. Keep breathing as you tune into remembering the last time you felt jealous, or any particular time that you especially remember being jealous at someone. Jealousy is a combination of fear and anger. Fear of losing something, and anger at someone who seems to be taking away what you feel belongs only to you.

2. Recognize and accept your emotions. Tell yourself, as you breathe deeply, even if I am jealous I still truly love and appreciate myself. Get in touch with and dissect your feelings.

3. Ask yourself whether your jealousy consists of more anger or fear, and why. Where in your body exactly does your jealousy reside? A gripping sensation in your stomach is a sign of fear, burning tightness in your shoulders and jar is most likely anger.

4. Breathe deeply and relax your jar, shoulders and stomach. Do not allow your face to express jealousy or anger.

5. Identify what your jealousy is teaching you about yourself and the things that are important to you. If someone talking to a friend of yours makes you jealous, personal relationships may be important to you. If you’re jealous about money, you may have an underlying need for financial security.

6. Ask yourself, “Why am I jealous over this? What is making me jealous? What am I trying to keep? Why do I feel threatened?” When you begin to understand what makes you jealous, you can begin to take positive steps to remove the cloud of negative emotion that accompanies jealousy.

7. Search for underlying false beliefs that make your jealousy flare up. Everyone walk around with negative “stories” such as, “I don’t deserve to get married.” “People only befriend me when they can get something out of me.” You can change your feelings by changing your “stories.” Choose nurturing and supportive beliefs and gradually your anger and jealousy will disappear.

8. Now visualize the Name of Hashem א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh. The letter א/alef- then ה/heh, then י/yud and again ה/heh. Inhale א/alef, exhale ה/heh, inhale י/yud, exhale ה/heh. Repeat four times. If you are able to, visualize the Name א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh spelled out,
א-ל-ף – ה-ה – י-ו-ד – ה-ה with appropriate breathing.

9. Inhale and feel how Hashem is always with you. Exhale feel how He provides you with exactly what you need in order to fulfill your mission in life.

10. Look for your own good qualities and make a mental list of all the blessings in your life for which you are grateful. Keep breathing slowly and deeply as you thank Hashem for each of His gifts to you.

11. When you emerge from this meditation into real life, put on a non-jealous facade, while you work on overcoming jealousy. Eventually, working your way through your feelings, the facade will become real. In the meantime you will protect yourself from appearing jealous to others.

An additional way to overcome jealousy and anger is through immersing in a mikvah. The numerical value of the word מקוה/mikveh (mem-kuf-vav-heh), is also 151, the same as that of the word for jealousy קִנְאָה/kinah, or anger כַּעַס/ka’as, plus the kolel.[13] After working on your jealousy and anger and after trying the above meditation, going to the mikvah will work wonders, why not try it?!

[1] Bereishit 34:25.
[2] Ibid. 49:5.
[3] Bamidbar 25:12.
[4] Bamidbar 25:11.
[5] kuf =100, nun =50, alef = 1.
[6] The Name of G*d א-ק-י-ה spelled out as follows: alef spelled out alef, peh, lamed =111+ heh spelled out heh, heh = 10 + yud spelled out yud, vav, dalet = 20 + heh spelled out heh, heh = 10. Together (111+10+ 20+10) – adds up to 151 the exact gematria of the word קִנְאָה/kinah.
[7] See Rashi on Shemot 3:14, “אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה” – “Just as I am with you in the current exile so will I be with you in all future exiles.”
[8] Based on Arizal,Sha’ar HaPesukim, parashat Pinchas.
[9] Including counting the word itself as one. Arizal, Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh, Remedy #13.
[10] Song of Songs 6:11.
[11] Bamidbar 25:8.
[12] Ibid 13.
[13] Arizal, Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh, Remedy #15.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Transforming Curses into Blessings

Bat Ayin sunset through one of the Magen David's on the student dorm windows
When I was a little girl growing up in Denmark I remember the song “Mah Tovu, Ohalecha Ya’acov….”[1] – “How goodly are your tents Ya’acov, your dwelling places Israel.” My sisters and I used to sing this in rounds from the back of the car when we were driving with our parents to our summerhouse. I used to love the tune even when I had no idea what the words meant. 

Isn’t it amazing how these beautiful words came out of the mouth of the wicked sorcerer Bilam who desired to obliterate Israel with curses? Hashem transformed his evil eye to goodness and turned Bilam’s curse into a six worded blessing.[2] 

The ancient Magen David – “Shield of David” symbol which I use often in spiritual healing likewise has six points. We have the Divine power to train our eye to see only goodness in others and in ourselves, and thereby transform curses into blessings. The Magen David not only protects us both from receiving negative energy, but moreover, visualizing the Magen David can help prevent us from sending out negative energy as well. 

Therefore, I have designed a Magen David meditation to help us sending out positive light to ourselves and others. It is important to practice seeing our own light rather than being too perfectionistic, beating ourselves up, for not being this-enough, nor that-enough, for not living up to our unrealistically high expectations of ourselves. What about beginning to bless ourselves instead of sending ourselves negative energy? Instead of “I should not have responded so judgmentally to that person and I can’t believe I did not learn from my last experience...” Whatever we did, was it really so bad that we deserve to feel terrible for the rest of the day, and re-play the conversation over and over again in our head? What about transforming that self-inflicted curse into a simple blessing? Let us send ourselves transformative lights of blessings! For example we can bless ourselves something like: “May I be empowered to cultivate more mindful speech! May I be blessed with the patience to really hear and accept others!” 

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

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Balak - Walking Modestly With Hashem

Parasha Meditation Parashat Balak
Bamidbar 22:1-25:9
Printable Version 
Unified Vision – The Source of our Blessing
We arrive at Parashat Balak during the zenith of the summer month Tamuz – the season of the eyes, and rectification of vision.[3] It is the time to guard our eyes and see only the good in the world and in other people. The ability to guard and focus one’s eyesight correctly is the rectified “sense” of sight.[4]

The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for eye עין/Ayin is 130, its small gematria being 13. Thirteen is a very interesting number; it bonds multiplicity into oneness. This is why both the Hebrew word אהבה/ahava – love and אחד/echad – one share the numerical value of thirteen. When we unite in love, the multiplicity of our individualities merges to become one. Our twelve tribes are connected through their one father Ya’acov/Yisrael. While Jews look to make many into one, non-Jews look to make the one (G-d) into many, (trinity). Therefore, they cannot relate to the holiness of number thirteen, which is considered an “unlucky number,” in non-Jewish circles.

In this week’s parasha there is a contrast between the gentile and Jewish relationship with our eyes. Bilam “lifted his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes”[5] Rashi explains that he wished to cast an evil eye upon them.[6] Casting an evil eye on people is essentially cutting off their spiritual channel to the oneness of G-d – the source of their blessings. It is interesting to notice that the root word עין/eye which is the focal point of the parasha occurs exactly thirteen times in Parashat Balak. The attempt to apply witchcraft and curse on the Jewish people by separating their individual diversity from Hashem’s oneness backfired and turned into the thirteen attributes of mercy unifying Hashem – the source of our blessing.

Cursing is Separating from the Source of Blessing
There are several words for curse in Hebrew, the most common is klalah from the root קלל/kalal which is etymologically related to the word קל meaning light – taking someone lightly and disrespecting him. The word for curse used in Parashat Balak is ארה /ara. I’m trying to figure out why that word means curse. It has the same letters as the Hebrew word for light אור/ohr, except it is missing the vav. This letter also means “and” and has the ability to connect. Truth is connecting all the strings and seeing the whole picture. This is why the vav is called the letter of truth in Kabbalah.[7] The word for light in Hebrew is always written with the vav, even though vav’s are often missing in the Hebrew language when the vav is used as an “oh” sound. Perhaps the deeper meaning of the kind of curse Bilam was trying to cast on Israel – the ארה/ara without the vav – was to disconnect them from each other and Hashem – the source of their blessing. I found substantiation for this concept in the Netivat Shalom who writes that Bilam’s purpose was to separate Israel from cleaving to Hashem in order that the curses would have power over them. Therefore, he tempted them with the daughters of Moav and with the idol-worship of Ba’al Peor. The source of the devekut (cleaving) of a Jews to Hashem is in the mind and in the heart. Bilam therefore, attempted to separate Israel from Hashem through the mind by means of tempting them to idol-worship, and through the heart by means of the temptation of the women.

Torah and Tefilah – Israel’s Eternal Protection from Negative Energy
Torah and Tefilah (prayer) protect us from contaminating our minds and heart. Through Torah learning our minds, opinions and beliefs become purified, and by pouring our hearts out in tefilah before Hashem we purify our hearts. The houses of prayer and Torah study purify the hearts and minds of a Jew and enable him to cleave to Hashem. Therefore, in order to contaminate our hearts and minds Bilam desired that we would have neither synagogues nor Torah study halls.[8] Yet Hashem reversed his curse to blessing: “How goodly are your tents…”[9] – these are your prayer houses “….your dwelling places Israel”[10] – these are your study halls. Through Bilam’s reversed curse Israel became blessed that we will always have the ability to cleave to Hashem through our perpetual houses of prayer and Torah study. Through the power of Israel’s eternal Torah and tefilah we cleave to Hashem and thereby receive everlasting protection from negative energy and the evil eye.

The Eye as the Source of Curse or Blessing
According to the western scientific view, the eye is merely a passive sensor of light. However, in Chassidut, the eye has power to influence and change reality.[11] It has the ability to affect the world for good or evil. Recently quantum physics have proven this concept by demonstrating that an object being observed acts differently than when it hasn’t been viewed. The eye has the power to change reality for good or bad. The evil eye is the source of all curses and can cause people to lose money, get sick, or become depressed etc. Rav once went down to the graveyard, he did what he did and he said, “Ninety nine died as a result of Ayin Hara, and one died through natural causes.”[12]

However, the power of the positive is always greater. Looking at someone with love and care has tremendous healing powers, and brings about happiness, prosperity and blessing. You can get a feel for how people’s eyes send out messages, by gazing at the eyes of a few different friends and opponents! You can also work on maximizing your own power of blessing through practicing looking with eyes of love.

This meditation is designed to strengthen your power of blessing by guiding you to practice giving out “ayin tova” – the good eye which bestows healing goodness and blessings towards others and yourself. The first four steps are practice steps to help strengthen the power of your eyes. The two first steps can be practiced separately at any given time and place, not necessarily at the same time as step 3 and 4.

1. Practice focusing your gaze on one point, and see how long you can hold the gaze. (You could practice this whenever you are waiting for something).

2. Shift your gaze from the one point to the whole of which the point is part, then back to the one point. Repeat several times

3. Draw a blue Magen David on a white surface, and look at it for at least two minutes.

4. Close your eyes and visualize the Magen David, try to hold the vision for as long as possible.

5. Look at a person in your life that you love very much. It could be a spouse or child, sibling, parent or close friend. Tune into the person’s face and look for the glow of Hashem’s light in that face. Imagine expanding this glow of light.

6. If you can’t find the person’s glow or he or she is not well, practice sending rays of light to that person through your eyes. Look for where the person is in need of light and focus your light to that particular place.

7. When meditating alone visualize people in your life that you love and imagine expanding their glow of light or sending them light to the places they need. Visualize how the person you love is gradually becoming more filled with light, life, health and happiness! Repeat this exercise as much as possible, until it becomes natural for you to send light whenever you are communicating with others.

Taking the Leap of Choice from Curse to Blessing

Curses whether in the form of berating oneself or hoping that something bad happens to someone we do not like, are ultimately destructive, and limit our spiritual and emotional development. However, blessings allow for mindfulness, gentle self-evaluation, forgiveness, and moving on. How would our moment-to-moment life experience change if curses were not an option and if God only allowed us to bless ourselves and bless others, to offer ourselves and other people mindful hope for mindful change?

[1] Bamidbar 24:5.
[2]“ מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל”
[3] Sefer Yetzira, Chapter 5:4.
[4] Rav Ginsburgh, Gal Einai, .
[5] Bamidbar 24:2.
[6] Rashi, Ibid.
[7] Zohar, part 2, 169a.
[8] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 105b.
[9] First part of Bilam’s curse turned into blessing Bamidbar 24:5.
[10] Second part of Bilam’s curse turned into blessing (bid.)
[11] See for example Kedushat HaLevi, Parashat Balak.
[12] Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 107b.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Actualizing our Trans-rational Latent Emunah

We have entered the heat of Tamuz enjoying the last chances to play our instruments in happy rejoicing before the three weeks of semi-morning. As we come closer to the mourning for the destruction of the Temple we are called to purify our hearts from jealousy and anger, and strengthen our emunah. 

Parashat Chukat is about strengthening our emunah, even in the mitzvot that don’t make sense, like the mitzvah of the Red Heifer which opens our Torah portion. The Netivat Shalom explains that it is only through emunah and bitachon (trust) that we merit the Land of Israel. “Trust (betach) in Hashem and do good, dwell in the Land and foster emunah.”[1] By means of trusting in Hashem we will merit to inherit the Land and dwell securely within it. The more we trust in Hashem the more secure we will be in our Land. How much histadlut (effort) we need to do in order to have our needs met depends completely on our faith. 

Many spiritual healers and “light workers” testify how we can manifest what we need be means of the power of visualization alone, without any physical effort. When I believe that good things are going to happen, I will by means of spiritual law attract these things to happen. We live in a very exciting messianic era where the whole world is beginning to manifest goodness by means of the power of meditation and visualization of Hashem’s light in their lives. 

In this parasha meditation I guide you through strengthening emunah to help alter our attitude and transform negativity. With our strengthened emunah we can learn to accept even the mitzvoth that we have a hard time connecting with. I hope the meditation I designed, with the dual purpose of strengthening our emunah to prevent anger and accept trans-rational mitzvot, will help me too keep all of Hashem’s commandments with happiness.

Enjoy your summer!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Chukat, The Pilegesh in Our Times

Parasha Meditation Parashat Chukat
Bamidbar 19:1-21:35
Printable Version
Beyond Rational Logic
Parashat Chukat is about trans-rationally accepting Hashem’s decrees through steadfast emunah. The word “chukat” from the root “chok” means “statute” – a law that cannot be fathomed by the human mind. The laws of the Red Heifer (Para Aduma), which opens our parasha, are likewise beyond rational logic. In our time and day, it is very difficult to obey laws that we don’t understand. Even the words “to obey” and “commandment” grate our ears, and are no longer political correct. The gematria (numerical value) value of the word chok is 108. This is the same gematria as in the phrase “זה בכל לבבי”/ze bechol levavi – “this is with all my heart.”[2] When our mind has reached its limit, and can no longer relate, that is when we need to apply our full heart in love and commitment.

Rocklike Obedience
By hitting the rock instead of talking to it, Moshe defied applying all his heart to fulfill Hashem commandment, thereby forfeiting a precious opportunity to teach the Jewish people about the importance of heartfelt desire to obey Hashem. Had Moshe spoken to the rock and had the rock brought forth water, Hashem would have been sanctified before the whole congregation. The Israelites would have understood that if this rock which cannot speak nor hear fulfills the bidding of the Omnipresent G-d, how much more must we![3] Rocklike obedience derives from steadfast emunah. Hitting the rock was an expression of lack of emunah for which Moshe was criticized. “Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel…”[4]

Shining forth Emunah through the Clouds of Doubt
It takes more effort to hit the rock rather than talking to it. Moshe thought that the Jewish people were on a low level of emunah after their repeated complaining in the wilderness. Therefore, he assumed that they needed him to hit the rock twice corresponding to their low level of emunah. His main mistake was that he forfeited the opportunity to actualize the Israelites’ latent emunah, by simply talking to the rock. Moshe failed to reveal the spark of complete trust (bitachon) buried within the inner dimension of the Jewish soul. Even when a Jew doesn’t feel emunah, it is important to trust that the emunah exists deep down – engraved within the soul-root of every Jew – within our inherited spiritual genetics. Therefore, if we feel down and far from emunah, we must believe that we can believe. We can actualize our latent emunah by repeating over and over to ourselves: “Although I don’t feel emunah right now, in the inner dimension of my soul I do believe!” Sometimes the clouds cover the light of emunah, which can be compared to the light of the sun. Even during a cloudy day the light of the sun is still not weakened. It is only the clouds that conceal its light. In the same way, even when we don’t feel emunah, it is only the clouds of doubts that conceal it. However, in the inner dimension of our Jewish soul, complete emunah always shines like the sun on a clear day.[5]

The Iron Curtain of Anger
According to Rambam, Moshe’s main sin was that he lost his patience and got angry with the children of Israel when he exclaimed: “Hear you now you rebels!”[6] G-d reproached him for this, for it is inappropriate for a man of his stature to lose his cool before the entire community of Israel. This behavior constituted chilul Hashem (profanation of G-d), since Moshe was supposed to be the model of good conduct for all the people.[7] Anger is an expression of lack of emunah. It constitutes an iron curtain against accepting Hashem’s will through every challenge we face. Sure, people can be annoying, and things don’t always go our way. However, rather than taking the staff in our own hand and hit with it, let us recognize Hashem’s power which the staff represents, and accept what comes our way.

This meditation is designed to help strengthen your emunah, preventing anger and accepting Hashem’s trans-rational commandments.

Close your eyes and make yourself comfortable in your seat. Breathe deeply several times and let out the air slowly.

1. Imagine breathing into your eyes three times, relaxing all tension from them, relax your eyes, relax them even more.

2. Allow the actions of your day or the previous day or two to flow through you, and think about a difficult situation that you have faced, where you began to lose it.

3. Go through what happened in your mind’s eye. What did the person do or say that made you so upset? Which angry thought are you still harboring? Imagine your negative thoughts as clouds.

4. Allow the clouds of all your negativity to pass by you without hanging on to them. Breathe into each of them, slowly and relaxed. As you breathe, visualize each of the clouds dissolving, disappearing back into the bright blue sky.

5. Now go back to the last interaction you recall where you fell short. Accept yourself completely where you were at then.

6. Make a fist with your hand and rub you’re your chest on the left side near your heart while reciting three times: “Although I feel/did/said/ X (fill in the blank) I still love and appreciate myself.”

7. Now imagine what happened again, but this time, reconstruct your act in the scene to the ideal way you would have liked to see yourself speak/behave.

8. Imagine a circle of light surround yourself acting/speaking the ideal way. This circle of light will guard the inner vision of your potential self, to bring you closer to fulfilling it, when the opportunity arises.

9. Now imagine a mitzvah from the Torah which is difficult for you to fulfill – A precept that doesn’t make sense to you, or that you have a hard time with. Visualize how this mitzvah emerges from the light of the Almighty G-d.

10. Imagine Hashem’s powerful light zapping up all your resistance to the particular mitzvah with which you have a hard time.

11. Now it is time to transform our mental attitude to learn to surrender. Recite in your mind’s voice three times: “Oh Hashem, Thy will be done....”

12. Imagine yourself opening your hands to receive and accept the gift of this mitzvah with grace.

13. Mentally place it in your heart – and make a resolution to accept this mitzvah with your entire heart as you recite the following phrase three times: “זה בכל לבבי”/ze bechol levavi – “this is with all my heart.” When you are ready, you can return back into your life with renewed acceptance and peace.

Even the master of all prophets stumbled in the matter of emunah, as it states in this week’s parasha “Because you believed Me not…”[8] Maharal explains that Moshe’s anger derived from a lack of emunah. Steadfast emunah brings about song and happiness, thereby precluding anger. It was G-d’s will that Moshe speak to the rock. Therefore, He had prepared the miracle that the rock would respond to speech, because He desired that the children of Israel accept His precepts and be drawn to G-d through happiness rather than through force. Witnessing the rock happily deciding “on its own” to produce water, when softly requested to do so, rather than being hit, would inspire the children of Israel to likewise happily decide to do Hashem’s bidding without being forced to. [9] May we walk along the path of the true way of emunah, which is only through good will and happiness!

[1] Tehillim 37:3.
[2] I found this gematria in Dr. Yisroel Sisskind’s email comment to Parashat Chukat, July 2011.
[3] Rashi, Bamidbar 20:12.
[4] Bamidbar 20:12.
[5] Netivat Shalom, Parashat Chukat, p. 121.
[6] Bamidbar 20:10.
[7] The Introductions of the Rambam, Shmoneh Perakim, Chapter 4.
[8] Bamidbar 20:12.
[9] Maharal, Gevurat Hashem, Chapter seven.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Eradicating the Energy of Korach from Within

As the heat wave is burning in Eretz Yisrael so is the fire of jealousy burning in Korach’s heart. Fire can warm and give light. It can be useful yet it can also be dangerous and burn you and your property. A fire which can burn a house may be caused by machloket and lack of unity. Uniting through the waters of Torah can extinguish the fire. I overheard my friend who is celebrating her son’s wedding outdoor during this month of Tamuz exclaim: “I hope it’s not going to be too hot.” “Well at least it won’t be too cold” I encouraged. “If it’s too cold” she retorted, “you can always put on a sweater, but if it’s too hot what can you do?” 

What can you do when the flames of jealousy burns in your heart like in the heart of Korach? Netivat Shalom explains that all of creation indeed is one whole organism united by the Higher Power Who infuses it with life and keeps it going.[1] This can be compared to a person who fell from a ship into the water. The captain threw a rope down to him and yelled, “Hold on to this rope, and don’t let go! If you let go you will not stay alive!”[2] – In the same way meaningful true life is only when we are connected with the Source and with each other. It is only through the view of the klipah (shell) of the “other side” that we feel separate from one another. 

Read on about the nature of jealousy and how to eradicate Korach’s energy from our heart by meditating on unity and interconnectedness of us all!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Korach - "The Feminine Role in Establishing True Kingdom"

Parasha Meditation Parashat Korach
Bamidbar 16:1-18:32
This week’s parasha is about machloket – Dispute and division between people caused by power-struggle and jealousy. The root of the Hebrew word מחלוקת/ machloket, is חלק/chelek, which means “portion.” Ben Zoma teaches us:

“אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ” – Who is rich? The person who is happy with his portion.”[3] 

Why is this simple statement so difficult to fulfill? We all desire to be rich – not having to worry about money – to be blessed with all our needs taken care of. We all yearn to enjoy both physical, emotional and spiritual wealth, yet it is still so difficult to follow the Talmudic recipe for attaining wealth and fulfillment – to be happy with what Hashem is giving us. If we could only learn to count our own blessings rather than looking with envy at the greener grass of our neighbor, we would experience the wealth of personal fulfillment in our lives.

The Strife of Korach: Power-greed and Jealousy
Korach’s dispute was spurred by his personal jealousy and greed for power. Korach was jealous because Moshe had appointed Elitzafan son of Uziel, prince instead of him. Therefore, Korach instigated a rebellion against Moshe in order to gain the high status he felt he deserved. Korach’s grandfather Kahath had three sons, Amram, Yitzhar and Uziel. Since Moshe and Aharon, the sons of Amram, Kahath’s oldest son, already had high positions, Korach the son of Kahath’s second son Yitzhar, felt that he was “next in line.”[4] Little did Korach know that had he not rebelled, he was going to be appointed the prince of the entire tribe of Levi, rather than just the prince of the house of Kahath.[5] This teaches us the great harm of jealousy which may cause someone to lose that which originally was coming to him.

Eradicating the Energy of Korach from Within
“Jealousy, lust, and honor-seeking remove a person from of this world.”[6] How exactly is jealousy generated? The cause of jealousy is when a person feels that he is not receiving what he deserves. In Korach’s case, he felt he wasn’t receiving the proper amount of honor. If we were to truly be happy with the portion we receive, then we would never be jealous of others. In order to make peace with our personal allotment in life, and with the people around us, we need to eradicate the energy of Korach from our psyche.

Wealth and Honor Depends on Attitude
The majority of Americans would rather earn less money, as long as they earn more than everyone else.[7] The innate desire for money isn’t to have as much as possible... Rather, our desire is to simply have more than others. I remember when we lived in USA, we felt much poorer than now. Although we lived in a townhouse of two floors, had two cars and two wardrobes of fancy clothes, we had less than the rest of the Jewish community. So we were poor! When we returned to Israel, although we lived in a caravan, we were rich, because our son had a closet full of fancy toys from America! So wealth and honor is relative and depends greatly on our attitude. When we look at what others have, without realizing that Hashem has given us exactly the amount of honor, wealth and possessions that we need in order to fulfill our destiny, we may lose so much more.

Jealousy Causes Bone-loss
Jealousy forms when a person wants more than he has. It can cause us to lose our happiness and our health, as jealousy eats away our bones. King Salomon teaches “…Jealousy is rottenness to our bones.”[8] I was thinking perhaps that jealousy is the underlying emotional cause for the prevalent osteoporosis in our time. Perhaps even more effective than dealing with all the physical causes such as chronic dehydration, medical conditions, and diet, rather than stuffing ourselves with calcium pills, we may be able to prevent osteoporosis by simply practicing overcoming jealousy and becoming happy with our lot in life.

The Secretive Weakness of Jealousy
Without doubt, jealousy harms both ourselves and others, even if it goes on only in the confines of our own minds. It states about Yosef’s jealous brothers that “they could not speak with him peacefully.”[9] Rashi explains, “from their discredit we may infer something to their credit: they did not speak one thing with their mouth having another thing quite different in their hearts.”[10] However, in general, jealousy is a secretive weakness. Outwardly we may be friendly, to avoid being perceived as petty and malicious, whereas inwardly we may be thinking spiteful jealous thoughts. Eventually any hidden jealous feelings are bound to emerge to the surface somehow, by a bitter remark or intonation.

Distorted Worldview
If we want to consciously try to better ourselves and grow into our highest potential, indulging in the negative energy of jealousy can be a significant stumbling block to inner progress. Rather than working on ourselves, jealousy will cause us to blame others and exaggerate their bad qualities. Jealousy causes us to see the people around us in distorted ways, “And oft, my jealousy shapes faults that are not.”[11]Jealousy is hard to get rid of, because we tend to indulge in it without making any effort to root it out. Let us take this opportunity to uproot jealousy before we allow it to damage precious friendship and cause bone-loss G*d forbid!

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy resting in yourself.
Take some deep breaths and relax even more.

1. Imagine a golden circle of light surrounding you. This is your personal domain. Visualize whatever is precious to you inside of this protective circle.

2. Start with the people in your life that you hold dear, then your personal virtues, and then your most precious possessions.

3. Each time you enter a person, a character-trait or a possession inside your visual circle, thank Hashem for bringing these things into your life and personal domain.

4. Now imagine a person whom you may at times feel jealous at.

5. Draw a protective visual circle around the person you feel jealous at. Imagine the things that belong to this person inside of his or her protective circle, whether people, character-traits and/or possessions.

6. Try to send light and blessing to this person and his or her personal domain inside of the circle.

7. Recognize that Hashem has given each of you exactly what you need. Thank Hashem for your blessings. Thank Hashem for the other person’s blessings.

8. Allow yourself to truly recognize the goodness in what the other person has, and rejoice on his or her behalf.

9. Now imagine a larger circle of light encircling both your and the other person’s personal domain respectively. You are together in this all-encompassing protective circle. You are all interconnected in Hashem’s greater oneness.

10. Feel happy for your own and for your friend’s accomplishment! Only when we are together will we reach our mutual goals with love!

Jealousy comes from a feeling of separation – the mind tends to build barriers between ourselves and others. When we go beyond the mind and use our hearts of goodwill, we recognize how we are all inter-connected, all part of one cosmic family. When we feel that someone else who has achieved something great is part of our extended family, then we can feel the same joy as if we had done the thing.  

“When one part of my body does something, the other part does not feel miserable, because each knows that it belongs to the same body, and that the entire body is its reality. When I work with my mind, my feet do not feel miserable, because they have established their oneness with my mind….Unless and until we have realized others as our very own, we call them different personalities, different individualities. But if we can see and feel them inside ourselves as members of our own larger family, jealousy will disappear from our life of aspiration.”[12]

The Chafetz Chaim[13] already explained this principle with the following parable: “If a person walked on the way, and one leg stumbled over the other leg, and caused him to fall to the ground and become hurt, obviously the person is not going to become angry on his leg. For the leg is part of his body, and everything is one even if it is divided into different limbs. In the same manner a person and his friend is really one being, they all derive from the same root.”[14] Meditating on the interconnectedness of all Israel will help us eradicate hatred, resentment and jealousy from our hearts.

[1] Netivat Shalom, Parashat Korach, p. 93.
[2] Midrash Bamidbar Rabah 17:6.
[3] Pirkei Avot 4:1. בֵּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר... אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קכח), יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ
[4] Rashi, Bamidbar 16:1.
[5] Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (A.K.A. Chidushei Harim) on Parashat Korach.
[6] Pirkei Avot 4:21. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקַּפָּר אוֹמֵר, הַקִּנְאָה וְהַתַּאֲוָה וְהַכָּבוֹד מוֹצִיאִין אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם (פרקי אבות ד:כא)
[7] Survey conducted by Robert Frank, a professor of Economics at Cornell University.
[8] Mishley 14:30. משלי יד:ל) ) ...וּרְקַב עֲצָמוֹת קִנְאָה
[9] Bereishit 37:4.

[10] Rashi ibid.
[11]William Shakespeare, Othello, Act 3, Scene 3.
[12] Nirbhasa Megee August 7,
[13] Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, Dziatłava, 1838 – Radun 1933.
[14] Chafetz Chaim, Shemirat Halashon, part one, Sha’ar Hatevuna, chapter 6.