Friday, April 11, 2014

Parshat Acharei - Change starts from the inside

Parshat Acharei Lev. 16:33 "And he shall effect atonement upon the Holy of Holies, and he shall effect atonement upon the Tent of Meeting and upon the altar, and he shall effect atonement upon the kohanim and upon all the people of the congregation.

 When we seek to atone, to change, to start again, we can follow the model of the high priest. First, we must look deeply into our innermost being (the Holy of Holies inside), then we must look at our relationship with the transcendent (the Tent of Meeting). Once these have been put right, we can change our relationships with those who lead us and who those who are our companions. The key is starting from within.

May we be blessed to experience profound liberation, starting at the core of our beings, and proceeding to emanate from the core outward so that all of our relationships become wholesome and free.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Parshat Terumah: Facing the emptiness, we hear the holy.

Parshat Terumah. Exodus 25:20-22. The cherubim shall have their wings spread upwards, shielding the ark cover with their wings, with their faces toward one another; [turned] toward the ark cover shall be the faces of the cherubim. And you shall place the ark cover on the ark from above, and into the ark you shall place the testimony, which I will give you. I will arrange My meetings with you there, and I will speak with you from atop the ark cover from between the two cherubim that are upon the Ark of the Testimony, all that I will command you unto the children of Israel.

The instructions for building the ark and its cover elaborately describe creating forms. Yet the place from which God speaks is not from one of the created forms, but from the space between the forms, the two cherubim whose faces are turned toward each other. We can see in these instructions for building the ark the essential dance between form and flow, between creation and the emptiness from which it arises. We learn that to hear God's voice, we must turn toward each other in love, while creating space for new insight to arise.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mishpatim: The fullness of life

Parshat Mishpatim Ex. 23: 26. There will be no bereaved or barren woman in your land; I will fill the number of your days.

An unsatisfying and perplexing verse. Rashi adds "There will be no bereaved… woman: if you comply with My will" but this does not fully resolve the discomfort for it implies that whenever we see someone who is bereaved or empty, it is their fault for being out of sync with divine will. We know, however, that bereavement happens eventually for all of us who love someone, whether or not we comply with the divine. And barrenness also happens to most of us at some point in life - not the barrenness of not bearing a child, but the barrenness of not being able to nurture creativity, bring forth new projects, achieve our goals. These are universal experiences. So what could the verse be telling us? 

The promise of the verse, including Rashi's addition, is that careful attention to the reality of being, can allow us to live our lives more fully. We will experience moments of bereavement and barrenness, but in understanding that these are part of what fill our lives, we can transcend them. We can find, even in bereavement and loss, a fullness, an appreciation of life's richness. The bereavement, the barrenness, like the winter, will eventually yield to spring filled with new insights.

May we learn to see even the painful, empty experiences as moments that are part of living fully. May we skillfully allow those painful experiences to open us to receive new insights and to deepen our compassion for ourselves and for others.