Friday, March 25, 2011

Parshat Shemini - Change

Parshat Shemini: Lev. 11:32-33 "And if any of these dead [creatures] falls upon anything, it will become unclean, whether it is any wooden vessel, garment, hide or sack, any vessel with which work is done; it shall be immersed in water, but will remain unclean until evening, and it will become clean.  But any earthenware vessel, into whose interior any of them falls, whatever is inside it shall become unclean, and you shall break [the vessel] itself.”

In line 32, the dead, unclean creature has fallen upon the outer surface of the object. But in line 33, the contamination is in the interior of the vessel. When the outside is contaminated, a gentle act (just immersion – not even scrubbing and soap) and patience (just wait until evening) are sufficient to create a change from unclean to clean. But when the inside becomes contaminated, then the radical act of breaking the container itself is needed. So too it is with us. When our garments or our skin (perhaps to be understood as our outer face or our social roles)  becomes uncomfortably touched, we need simply to immerse ourselves in something calm – perhaps chanting a psalm or saying a self-affirmation or a blessing –and then be patient that the discomfort will pass. However, when our innermost self is touched by something not alive and not kosher, we must take action to shatter the very conception of self. The deadness – the not change – that has contaminated the self, must be cleansed by a radical change, a breaking of our separate and limited self.

May we understand that change, both small and large, is continual. And may we discern those times when our best action is to be patient and wait for change to take place on its own, and when the most skillful response is to initiate change with an intentional breaking of our own patterns.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Parshat Tzav - The fire within

 Parshat Tzav: Lev. 6:1 “A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.  .  .  .”     
Fire is a process that brings together oxygen with fuel to release energy. Such a process goes on inside of us. Our cells are continually combining oxygen that we breath in with food that we eat to generate the energy we need to stay alive. There is a never-ending cycle of creating and breaking molecular bonds to release the energy we live on. When we quietly tune in to inner sensation, we can sometimes sense a continual buzzing or humming that vibrates and pulses through the body. If this energy were visible to us as light (as it is in some organisms such as the firefly or the luminescent deep sea creatures) we would perceive each other as sparkling, flashing beings shedding light all around.

When we look deeply inside ourselves and others, may we understand and appreciate the unending, eternal, and sparkling essence that powers our aliveness.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Parshat Vayikra - Call and response

Parshat Vayikra: Lev. 1:1. “And the Lord called unto Moses (vayikra el moshe), and spoke to him out of the tent of meeting.  .  .  .”    

The phrase vayikra el moshe links the opening of Leviticus to the revelation on Mount Sinai in Ex. 24:16, the only other passage in the Torah where God “called to Moshe” in these words.  Rabbis Shefa Gold has a wonderful chant “Elecha Ya Yikra.”  To you God I call.  As we slowly and rhythmically sing these words from the depth of our being, let us call to the source of all being.  And in the silence and breadth that follow, may we hear God’s call (nekra vechanenu vaanenu). 

see: for more on Rabbi Gold's chants and chant practice: C-DEEP

Friday, March 4, 2011

Parsha Pekudei - Filled with Emptiness

Parsha Pekudei
Exodus 40: 33-34. ”He [Moses] set up the courtyard all around the Mishkan and the altar, and he put up the screen at the entrance to the courtyard; and Moses completed the work.  And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan.

We have been reading for weeks about the elaborate, careful and precise preparation of the Mishkan. To what purpose? All of that skillful effort was directed to creating an empty space. Yet it was that emptiness that invited something more to dwell within.

 May our care with our practice lead to an emptying, to the letting go of self concepts, so that we become attuned to, and allow our actions to be guided by the holy presence within.

Inspired by Alison Laichter, Executive Director, Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn