Friday, January 27, 2012

Bo: Facing up to ourselves

Parshat Bo: Exodus 10:28-29 – “Pharaoh said to him, "Go away from me! Beware! You shall no longer see my face, for on the day that you see my face, you shall die: [Thereupon,] Moses said, "You have spoken correctly; I shall no longer see your face."  

We carry many Pharaohs insidemany reactive habits that create pain for ourselves and for the people around us. When we face one of our inner Pharaohs, we often lock into an struggle between a part of ourselves we perceive as good and a part that we perceive as bad.  If we try to examine the habit carefully, it often responds with storms of protest: “ Don’t look at me like that! I have to be this way. There is no other way to act. You will die if you don’t have me around to protect you.” Although this inner Pharaoh sounds at first like an imperious ruler, when we listen more closely we can hear it is really more like a tantruming three-year old.  Instead of responding by getting up in the face of the habit, we can instead take it into our lap, stroke its head, and hold it with compassion for the circumstances that caused that Pharaoh to arise. Amazingly, when we take this approach, the habit’s hold over us subsides. And in that moment, the self-conception that contained a good part and a bad part, a Moses and a Pharaoh, dies as well. In its place grows a more unified, liberated and wholesome way of living with ourselves and acting in the world.

May we treat our inner strivings and restrictions with compassion and be blessed to witness the melting away of our limiting sense of self and may that compassionate work of our hands, heart and mind be established in the world.

 Thank you to Brian Arnell of Awakened Heart Project for pointing out the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh concerning how to work with habit energy. See for example: <>

Friday, January 20, 2012

Va'eira: Responding to the call of liberation

Parsha Va'eira
Exodus 6:9 - Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses because of [their] shortness of breath and because of [their] hard labor.

For me, Exodus 6:9 is an intensely sad line. I picture what could have been, if only. So much misery and suffering could have been avoided if the Isrealites had heard Moses, really HEARD him, and been willing to walk out of slavery right then and there. If they had listened and heard with faith that divine strength would support their freedom journey, they would have been practically free right then. Instead Moses had to bargain and argue with Pharaoh, making it seem as though it was Pharaoh who had the power to grant freedom, when all along it was the Isrealites who needed to listen and act in accord with the divine flow.

 I see this pattern in my own life. Liberation is speaking directly to me, but I do not hear. I think the oppressor or oppressive situation must change first, when really it is I who must take the first step toward liberation.

May we hear the voice of liberation calling to us and have the faith to make one small move to meet it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shemot: What we learn from Moses' names

Parshat Shemot: Exodus 2:1-2 A man of the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son, and [when] she saw him that he was good, she hid him for three months.
Exodus 2:9-10
.. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will give [you] your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him.  The child grew up, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became like her son. She named him Moses, and she said, "For I drew him from the water."

Common sense says that Jochved and Amram (Moses’ parents) must have had a name for him other than Moses, which was a name that he did not receive until he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Tradition tells us that he actually had as many as ten names. Moses was called Yered (ירד), implying descent, by Miriam; Avigdor (master of the fence) by his grandfather, Chever (connector) by his father, and Yekutiel (יקותיא-ל), from the root kavei (קוה) meaning hope, by his mother. God, however, only calls him Moses in the Torah. From this we learn that although we may present various faces or roles to different people in our life,  the way to relate to divinity is from the place within us that is always flowing like water, yet is still constant and unvarying.

May we be blessed to relate to the world from that aspect of our true self that is steady and constant, yet always flowing.

for sources for Moses' names, see:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Parshat Vayyechi: The blessing of radical acceptance

Parshat Vayyechi: Gen Ch. 49:28. All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them, every one according to his blessing he blessed them.”  
Reading Jacob’s deathbed pronouncements to his sons can be troubling.  We call these blessings, but many of the statements seem harsh, even belittling. In what way can we see these statements as blessings?  Assuming that these were accurate assessments of each son, and assuming that Jacob delivered the statements without blame, perhaps the value is in having someone see you accurately and clearly.  Being seen completely by another person can be uncomfortable, but it is also intimate and, in some ways, freeing. It is a great gift when someone sees us and accepts us as we are.

May we be blessed to see clearly and accept our whole selves, just the way we are. And from that acceptance, may we grow.