We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Daily archives for January 12th, 2018

OMG!

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

shitholeShithole countries. Oh, my. The racist-in-chief wants nice white folks from non-shithole places like Norway. Now, some of my best friends are Norwegian, in fact, I married a Norwegian so I don’t have anything against the Norse, but really? Are they the only acceptable gene pool for future immigrants? I hope not, because no sane Norwegian still resident in the homeland would give up their frigid utopia for the seething id of Trump’s version of America.

Can one word push a very stable genius who’s “like, really smart” out of office and back to the locked ward from whence he came? Hope so.

Reimagining/Reconstructing

Winter                                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

Alan James Garner - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Alan James Garner  Own work, CC BY SA 3.0, https commons wikimedia org

Last night, third night in a row at Beth Evergreen, was the MVP, the mussar vaad practice group. Tuesday was the unveiling of the third stained glass window. Wednesday was the first class of the third in the first year kabbalah curriculum, the Mystical Hebrew Letters. On a personal, physical level this many evening sessions, which extend well beyond my usual 8 p.m. bedtime and then require a half hour ride home afterward, exhaust me. But on a psycho-spiritual level the nourishment I receive more than compensates.

As I wrote this last sentence, I looked up at Black Mountain and noticed a pink glow, a penumbra at its peak. A good symbol for the new understanding that is beginning to dawn on me.

In the mid-day mussar class, where we are near the end of the Messilat Yesharim, the path of the upright, by the 18th century kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Luzzato, Jamie commented, “Remember, these are kabbalists. They include proof texts as an invitation to rethink them as metaphor, not to accept their literal meaning.” Jamie has said this before, in the kabbalist classes especially. “The Torah is a metaphor, not history.”

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

A bit later, he asked, “What is Torah study?” This was a topic we covered over a year ago when beginning Luzzato’s work. Torah study is not about content. It is not, in other words, limited to scholarship about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Torah study is a method and it involves paying close attention to the person next to you, to the sunrise over Black Mountain, to the cry of a sparrow, to the way a lodgepole pine sloughs off snow, to the needs of the dog sleeping beside your chair. to the nature of fire crackling in the fireplace. Torah study is about loving attentiveness. It is a way of engaging the sacred world which we can know first from within our own person and which permeates that which we encounter throughout our lives.

And, again, aha! The sun, the sacred sun with its life-giving light, just lit up Black Mountain and showed me a sign, a way of illustrating a literally dawning awareness. The wind, the finger of the sacred blows as the ruach, the breath of spirit, the breath of life and moves the lodgepole pines in our front yard. The pines themselves erupt out of the stony Shadow Mountain ground, able to express life in a soil mostly barren of the rich nutrients available in the farmlands of the American Midwest.

Marily, Tara, the Burning Bush

Marilyn, Tara, the Burning Bush

I find this means I can read the word God in a new way. Shortly after Jamie commented on Torah study, we read a sentence in Messilat Yesharim that included the English word omnipresence, as in God’s omnipresence. I asked Jamie what Hebrew lay behind this translation. He looked it up, “Hmm. Something like, permeated knowledge.”

God lit up for me. Ah, if I do Torah study, if I engage in loving attentiveness to my Self, my own Soul, and those of others and of the broader natural world, then I can find the knowledge which permeates all things, that very same shards of the sacred that shattered just after the tzimtzum to create our universe. That is God being available everywhere. This is far different from the Latinate imponderable of omnipresence, sort of an elf on the shelf deity lurking in every spot, finding you everywhere. And judging.

hist_univNo. God is another word for the intimate linkage between and among all things, from the smallest gluon to the largest star. God is neither a superparent nor a cosmic Santa Claus writing down your behaviors in the book of deeds; God is a metaphor for the sacred knowledge which permeates the perceivable, and the unperceivable, world.

Our deeds are, of course, written in the very real book of our life, so they have consequences, not only on our life as whole, but as they impact others and that same world which we all inhabit. You could also see God’s judgment as the manifestation of those consequences, in their positive and negative natures, not as a divine finger shaking or outright punishing, but as ripples from one instance of the sacred to the another.

 

In the Beginning

Winter                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

AlKabbalah last night. The first session of Mystical Hebrew Letters. Rabbi Jamie began teaching kabbalah at the Kabbalah Experience with this class several years ago. It moves from the broader conceptual fields of Soul and Space, the first two classes this year, to the particular examination of the Hebrew alphabet.

As with all the kabbalistic material, the subject matter gets complicated fast. We began with an overview of this ancient language. According to recent scholarship Rabbi Jamie says, it is the oldest alphabet in the world. Like most early languages, Chinese for example, it began as pictographs.

alephAleph, the first letter, was an ox-head. The word aleph means ox-head, or head of ox, also learning and chieftain. Prior to the use of Arabic numerals each Hebrew letter stood in for numbers with the letter aleph as number one. The word aleph means 1,000. Thus, aleph symbolizes the philosophical notion of the one and the many.

It is silent. Not sure why, but aleph and ayin, though used in the written language, are always silent. As silent and first in the alphabet, it also symbolizes the silence out of which came everything.

(next day) Stopped writing this yesterday when my need for sleep overcame my ability to write a coherent sentence.

The big idea I took away from this class involved aleph and my reimagining/reconstructing emphasis on incarnation rather than transcendence. Jamie introduced the notion of the alphabet, the Hebrew alphabet, as a funnel flowing from aleph in the ein sof (unlimitedness), its silence standing for the space created when the ein sof contracted, the tzimtzum, and filled with ohr, the first light of creation which fractures and travels down through the tree of life with its 22 channels (connecting lines) to the tenth sephirot, or malchut/shekinah, which is this world. Its letter is tav, the 22nd and last letter.

At first I thought, oh this emphasizes transcendence, the physical world developing in a top down fashion from a realm unconnected to it save by the thinnest of conceptual threads. Then Jamie began to introduce the location of the letters on the tree of life and aleph did not appear above the keter (the crown at the top of the tree of life), but on the parallel line of connection between chesed and gevurah, essentially the middle of the tree of life. Huh? How could this be?

These two images represent the two different ways of understanding this idea:

EinSof

This one shows the first representation of the funnel idea that came to me. It does in fact emphasize transcendence. But, when we remember (difficult to do when material is presented on paper) that the tree of life is three-dimensional and can be seen as a sphere, another possible image presents itself.

aleph

As the rabbi likes to say, Aha! The nub of creation, the contraction of the unlimited ein sof, the movement from the quantum world to the Einstenian/Newtonian this world, the shattering of the ur-ohr, the first light of creation, happens in the center of the sphere and radiates outward. Yes. The divine moves from within all to create, in an outward push, the shekinah, the divine manifested in created matter. This is big-bangy. The tzimtzum just proceeds the big bang which radiated outward from an unfathomably concentrated spot in the beforeness of whatever it was, the ein sof, to create literally everything we know.

This puts the sacred neither above nor below but within. In order to access sacred nature we do not need to cast a prayer upward toward the heavens or outward to a religious institution, but inward to the aleph in our own soul, to that silent spot in ourselves where resides our shard of the ohr, the first light.

Here is an image of the tree of life that shows the location of aleph between chesed and gevurah. Remember that the tree is three dimensional like the DNA helix.

tree_of_life2

 

 

 

January 2018
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails