Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chayei Sarah – The Balance of Good and Evil

Why was Sarah not allowed to give birth until she was 90? It has to do with the balance of good and evil in the world. In the course of the explanation, we will find out about the meaning of the A-T,B-SH. We will not reach a complete explanation yet, but will find out something very important instead.

To arrive at a hidden meaning of words, the Kabbalah sometimes uses the reflection where the first letter of the alphabet becomes the last, the second letter become the one before the last, and so on. Therefore, א becomes ת, and ב becomes ש, and so on. This method is called את-בש.

The first three letters of the alphabet, aleph (א), bet (ב), gimel (ג) have the combined gematria of 6, vav (ו). This hints at the six directions (winds) of the world (space), which were kneaded together with the heaven and earth. After that, the earth (physical matter) was formed, which corresponds to the letter dalet (ד), and dalet includes the four principal elements - fire, wind, water, dust (ארמע).

Then comes the letter hey (
ה), which is found in the word "He created them" (בהבראם), which can also be understood as "With hey He created them" - this is the second letter hey in the name of God, the "small hey."

These are the five letters of holiness, standing at the beginning of creation. Then come the four letters of the evil forces (תשרק), hinted at by "empty and void". Thus, with the letter aleph came the letter tav (
ת), the evil deceiving husk. This is the rule: when holiness ends, evil, or concealment, begins.

Then came the three letters representing falsehood, sheker (שקר), the next letters at the end of the alphabet. In the letter kuf (ק), there is a long hanging vav (ו), which represents the snake, who spoke falsehood and walks on his belly. It also hints at Haman, who is a snake, and who prepared for Mordechai a gallows of 50 amot high.

Since the evil has no power to act on its own, at the beginning of "falsehood" (שקר) stands the letter shin (ש), which is also a letter of holiness.

Art: Paul Gauguin - Fire By The Water

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vayera – Some Practical Magic

God appeared to Abraham in the Plains of Mamre...” 

In contrast to his own rules, Arizal here gives a few pieces of advice that relate to practical Kabbalah.

The first words of this Torah portion have a holy name of Ariel encoded in them: ויר"א אלי"ו = אריא"ל, and the extra letter vav, ו, corresponds to the name of God called “Av” - with the Gematria of 72 - יוד הי ויו הי.

There are many omens that one can performed based on this name. If one feels that his evil inclination is getting the better of him against his will, he should concentrate on the letter vav, corresponding to the name of God “Av”, and say to himself the name Ariel eleven times.

Second: if one has an enemy, he should write the name Ariel on a clay vessel twenty-one times, together with the name of his enemy, and throw it with force, so that it breaks, at the door of his enemy or at a place where he passes, and he will see miracles.

Third: after one immerses himself into a mikvah, he should repeat this name 242 times, as the gematria of Ariel, and this is very good for his soul.

Fourth: when one wakes up and arises from his bed in the morning, he should repeat this name 242 times, and fortified by this, he will understand everything that his eyes are going to see this day.

Fifth: when one wakes up in the middle of the night to say his midnight prayers, called Tikkun Chatzot, after he finishes his prayers and says the confession, he should mention the name 11 names, then 23 times in the “Who hears prayer,” - and that will help in the correction of his soul.

Sixth: saying this name 242 times helps to enlighten his eyes, and it also has many other beneficial effect – “Only I have not seen them all” - adds Rabbi Chaim Vital - “And may the Blessed God enlighten our eyes with His Torah!”

Art: Gustave Caillebotte - Bathers

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mysticism Explained by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's knowledge was encyclopedic, he has written 111 books on all areas of Judaism, from popular booklets to Torah translation to Kabbalah. His photographic memory held thousands of pages, some from rare unpublished manuscripts from various libraries of the world. In his TV interview he gives an introductory overview of Jewish mysticism, and his every word is fresh.

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lech-Lecha – “The Land Which I Will Show You”

The spiritual entity Zeir Anpin – Small Countenance - is one of the five spiritual entities that exist in the Cosmic Worlds. After God has created the world for the first time, the souls, not being able to resemble their Creator in His ability of giving, did burst, or break. God reconstructed five entities from the shards, and now they could give to each other. Zeir Anpin is one of them.

Abraham, Rachel, and Leah are not only personalities, but are also physical representations of the spiritual regions in Zeir Anpin. Initially Abraham was lower in Zeir Anpin than Rachel. Now God is telling Abraham that he should leave the lower land and direct himself to the upper Land, Israel, represented by Leah.

That is why God called this land “which I will show you.” At the time of Abraham, Zeir Anpin did not have fully developed brain, or capacity to understand, and the area of Leah in Zeir Anpin was not revealed nor seen – because it can only be understood with a fully developed capacity for understanding. That is what God meant when he told Abraham, “I will make you a great nation” - that Abraham will develop the brain of Zeir Anpin, and through this development all will be able to see and understand the spiritual quality represented in the world by Leah, who in turn represents the Land of Israel.

Art: Henry Mosler - The Broken Sabot

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anna Karenina as a Fight Between Morality and Mysticism

The first words of the novel, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way “ can be alternatively interpreted as an attention-catcher, a banality, or a plainly wrong statement of the writer whose life does not fulfill his ideals.

However, based on the assumption that the work of a genius touches us to the core because it itself touches on the ideas which serve as a foundation of the world, we can interpret it as complete and absolute truth. Accordingly, it should be read as, “(Seemingly) happy families are all alike; every unhappy family (author trying to resolve the question in a real, deep, way) is unhappy in its own way (requires an individual approach, which can be worked out only through sufferings required to obtain knowledge)”. Don't get scared, not necessarily physical suffering, but in the sense of "more wisdom - more sorrow; more knowledge - more grief."

Every person can give an obvious answer about what is right and what is wrong. Anna is her husband's wife, given to him by God, and it should stay that way. This is wrong, however, too obvious to be true. Every time a person brings in God to support his stance against others, he is prejudiced and is therefore wrong.

Vronsky is obviously Anna's true love, and true partner, if only because they are indeed lovers. The conflict here, one might say, is that Vronsky has not completed his correction, he is not perfect, whereas Anna is. The only reason she is reincarnated is for him – and he blows this chance, probably again and again.

Tolstoy is probing the veracity of this answer from many points of view, represented by the others in the novel. Will he get it? Let's wait for the next 50 pages.

Art: Heinrich Matvejevich Maniser - Anna Karenina

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why did God create the world?

To contemplate Glenn is to ask why God had to make the world, and why in just six days. And was He too but the victim of, the sacrifice to, a yet greater power, for if nothing can be totally self-generating, if God and Glenn are/were celibate, is it not reasonable to believe in the constant, greater creative element which permeates our universe and of which we, in our ordinary lives, recognize only the expected and accepted, in the usual acts of living and dying but which in rare individuals takes over completely and in which the creative is revealed in all its awesome purity and power.”

Yehudi Menuhin