Reflections: A Balancing Act

B”H

When our environs do not bring us peace and contentment, what is the proper course of action? Where is the remedy to be found? I believe that within the midst of our nisyanos (troubles), G-d must be sought out for solace; otherwise, our peace of mind would be relative – dependent upon ever changing circumstances. What other resource is as potent as the Omnipotent?

There is a maxim, expressed in various forms, that happiness is to be found within ourselves. Yet, I prefer to reframe this adage, “true contentment is found within our connection to G-d.” This becomes more apparent, considering the overall inability of anyone to remain completely stable, having a disposition of equanimity towards all things, in every situation.

At least, I can certainly speak for myself, inasmuch that it is not within my own power to be the cool, calm, and collected kind of person that I once used to be. Hence, I seek out G-d in every moment, in order to connect with His higher wisdom. I also seek out lesser means, such as good music to comfort the soul, journaling to express my emotions and inner feelings about this, that, and the other in life; and, additionally, I make sure to exercise, in order to work out the stress that manifests in my body.

My own personal discontent with certain circumstances in my life, may only be a reflection of my spiritual impoverishment. Perhaps, in the past, before my religious, aka, “spiritual journey” began, I may have been more content with worldly endeavors and creature comforts. Yet, as is demonstrated by Moshe’s own personal encounter with G-d, as well as other scriptural narratives, the way to ruchnius (spirituality) is opposed to gashmius (materiality), despite any attempt to reconcile the two; otherwise, the endeavor is compromised, and the soul remains in stasis, along with the status quo.

Case in point, if there is a constant struggle between the yetzer hara (literally, evil inclination) and the yetzer tov (good inclination), each inclined towards its corresponding realm of preference, then the soul is subject to one or the other at any given moment; those who are unaware of this battle, nor the presence of these two inclinations, are at a disadvantage, as dominance is given to the yetzer hara by default, otherwise known as the “animal soul.”

Chassidism teaches that there needs to be a balance between the “godly soul,” and the “animal soul;” yet, this seems like a compromise to me; besides, I have never been able to find that balance. Rather, I am compelled to make a sharper delineation between the two, than is often mentioned in certain chassidic sources.

The balance to be found is then relegated to the peace of mind that results, by staying focused on H’Shem; also, to look towards Olam Haba (the World to Come), instead of becoming entangled in Olam HaZeh (This World), to the extent that we can not see the forest for the trees.

daily contemplation: Spiritual Evolution

B”H

March 23, 2020

“It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Michael Stipe, R.E.M.

The popular myth, floating around within the perimeter of the New Age Movement and elsewhere, based in part on the theology of Teilard de Chardin connotes the idea of a type of spiritual evolution. This gained ground in its primitive form with the pseudoscience of the 100th monkey theory.

In a nutshell, the hundredth monkey effect posits that their will be a shift in human consciousness that occurs, when a critical number of people reach a certain awareness of some spiritual truth. This realization is not passed to others in the usual way through word of mouth, books, or other forms of media, rather, from “mind to mind.” Unfortunately, this fantastic idea is a myth based on a misrepresented study of Macaque monkeys by Japanese scientists in 1952.

Teilard de Chardin’s theology centers on what is referred to as the Omega Point, wherein the biological evolution of the earth coincides with G-d’s plan for the Universe. Accordingly, the consciousness of man progresses with the evolution of the earth itself as part of one overall process. The end goal is when consciousness becomes divine, at a certain point in history – the Omega Point – when this occurs as a natural outgrowth of a type of quasi biological-spiritual evolution. This fits in well with New Age thinking, including Gaia (seeing the earth as a living being).

The truth of the matter is that Teilard de Chardin’s writings were initially viewed as heretical, by the Catholic church. Yet, now they have been accepted by many non traditional spiritual thinkers in belief and practice. Thus, this departure from Biblical truth continues to gain momentum amongst New Agers.

Therefore, it is especially important at this time, to clear off the smorgasboard of delights that taste delicious, yet have no substance, nor nutritional value. Nor, can they provide nourishment for the soul. Spiritual growth is dependent upon the individual effort of every person, in conjunction with G-d’s help, as He provides the true nourishment for the soul.

There is no indication given anywhere in the Bible, that everything will naturally progress to a higher level of reality for all inhabitants of the earth. Rather, we are all called to follow a distinct path of righteousness, as predicated by G-d’s commandments. There is no automatic plateau that humanity en masse will arrive at in the future. Rather, “The L-RD knoweth the days of them that are wholehearted; and their inheritance shall be forever” (Psalm 37:18, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Meditation: Periphery

B”H

March 18, 2020

In the small corner of the world where I live, Corona virus has not yet hit the city, nor the county. Yet, initially, I had been taking the immanent threat more seriously than others in the community. Now, others should feel more compelled to do so, because of new restrictions being implemented within the city.

Coincidentally, I have arrived full circle within the framework of my belief and practice. Having been through many defining moments on my derech (path), I am at the footstep of the door of new beginnings in the midst of uncertainty. A place where opportunity prevails, and creativity coexists with an acceptance of the way life is at any given moment in time, including national crises.

For myself, I foresee that the traditions of my religion will play an even more important role during these troubling times of “hunkering down.” For amidst the chaos, these will continue to bring a sense of structure to my life. I will avail myself of them.

Additionally, I am learning that when nisyonos (trials) increase, I feel more drawn to G-d, replete with a compelling inclination to seek that place of tiferes (harmony) within myself, having been created in G-d’s image, as all mankind is. Yet, the responsibility to adhere closely to godliness is ours.

So, while I may remain on the periphery, as all of us may experience, within the confines of our solitude, I reach out to Shomayim (Heaven). And, I remain confident in my bitachon (trust) in H’Shem (the L-RD), that all will proceed according to His ratzon (will).

“Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee.”

– Deuteronomy 4:36, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily reflection: Comfort Zone

B”H

March 3, 2020

Everyone wants to believe what they want to believe; and, nobody wants to believe anything unseemly. Anything that would cause a person’s views to shift, this way or that way, away from one’s comfort zone is avoided. As if there is a “do not enter” sign placed before them, when an incongruous idea is presented.

I appear to be no different in that respect, whereas I hold onto the traditional values of my religious belief and practice. Yet, others, would not tread upon this territory, even though, similarities in thinking may prevail over differences. Somewhere, there is still room for conversation.

daily reflection: Illumination

B”H

March 2, 2020

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.”

– Exodus 27:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

Only the purest of olive oil was sanctioned for use in the seven-branched menorah (candelabra) in the Sanctuary. The specifications given in Torah, concerning this requirement, point towards a teaching. Only the first droplets of oil from the olives could be used for the illumination of the menorah. By analogy, when our lives are under pressure, our best efforts are brought forth to meet the challenges designed for us from Above, for the sake of our spiritual growth.

daily reflection: Groundwork

B”H

March 1, 2020

Below the ground, a structure is rooted in the earth, whereby its stability is secured. The same is true with a more common, natural example, trees, whose roots provide nourishment as well as a secure attachment to the ground. In both cases, what we do not readily see, is the groundwork.

By analogy, the truths of a religious belief and practice are not visible to the eye that does not attempt to see more than what is on the surface. To perceive the underpinnings of belief and practice, the mind must inquire into the groundwork; otherwise, only a superficial understanding is gained.

Dependency on a religious structure, without personal inquiry, study, and observance will not suffice for an understanding that goes beyond the superficial. Only by delving into the details, by connecting to G-d on a daily basis, and inquiring into His ways, can a person be completely, nourished by the roots of religion.

daily contemplation: Spiritual Atunement

B”H

February 27, 2020

Tune in, if you will, to the nature of your being, notwithstanding the many bandwidths that may prevent you from clearly hearing your own. Make the effort, above all else, to guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) against the noise and chatter of the outside world. For, only in the silence of the heart, can your spiritual tuning fork be heard as it rings.

daily contemplation: Chasing Shadows

“Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him.”

– Psalm 85:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

Looking forward in time, I have a vision for the near future. Yet, there is a certain derech (path), for me to arrive at the destination. There is a specific manner, that outlines how to get there. The road whereon I may accomplish my goals, step by step, in an incremental manner, is fraught with hazards. Even so, this has been provided for, that I may reach the heights of spiritual growth in my life in due time.

Only when I begin to consider sheker (falsity) as real, do I compromise the effort being made: chasing the shadows of my past, instead of following the dreams of my future, I may falter on the way. Wherein lies the reconciliation of my previous footsteps, along the road to freedom with my present-day life? Shall I let the sands of time drift, and cover over my footsteps? Or shall I retrace my steps, in order to analyze, learn, and grow through my introspection?

The ever-present risk is the potential to get sidetracked; yet, I can not move forward without knowing where I came from. If I do not recover my past, in a manner that gives me a foundation for the future, then the future that I envision for myself will crumble. My heritage, family roots, and future of my people, all play a role, that forms a necessary part of the overall equation. With G-d at the helm of the ship, so to speak, keeping everything on course, shall I falter?

Inner Calling

B”H February 9, 2020 “How long, O L-RD, wilt Thou forget me for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” Psalm 13:2, JPS 1917 Tanach The concept of hester panim (G-d’s hiding his face) from man, speaks of the need to find Him within the circumstances of our lives, despite His apparent […]

Inner Calling — Clear Horizons