Shalom friends, and Hodesh Tov- Happy New Month!
Today is Rosh Hodesh- the New Moon of the month of Adar. The Talmud says, "Mishei nikhnas Adar, marbim simkha- when Adar enters, joy increases!" May we all experience an increase of joy in our lives and on this planet.
The reason for the increase of joy in Adar is the joyful holiday of Purim, which is based on the Biblical story of Queen Ester. Strangely, this Biblical book doesn't mention God's Name even once. The hint is that, unlike other Biblical stories where God is a character that says and does things, our actual experience of Divinity is the underlying Presence of Being that underlies all experience. God's Name isn't mentioned because the unfolding of events in the story implies an underlying intelligence that expresses itself through the characters and coincidences of the story- just like real life.
What a coincidence that the conditions for life on this planet are just right... what a coincidence that anything exists at all for that matter. The greatest miracle is not some supernatural event in a story like the plagues of Egypt or splitting the red sea. The greatest miracle is the fact of Being- right now.
Being aware of this greatest of all miracles- called "Radical Amazement" by R. Abraham Joshua Heschel- is a facet of Presence that can naturally blossom during meditation. But how do we keep this awareness during the hustle and sometimes chaos of daily life? How do we stay Present in Action?
That's what this week's teaching is all about. Enjoy...
Zekher (Remembrance Phrase for the Week):
"What does this moment need from me?"
Chant (from Psalm 147):
Nidkhei Yisrael Y'khanes, HaRofei Lishvurei Lev
The Outcast of Israel, The Divine Will Gather In, Healer of the Brokenhearted!
Teaching, Chant and Meditation Audio for streaming or download:
Teaching, Chant and Meditation Video:
Chant Only Audio for streaming or download:
Chant Only Video:
When we think of meditation, the image of quietly sitting still probably comes to mind. That’s because keeping your body still tends to be more conducive to the mind becoming still, and when your mind gets quiet, you can experience the spaciousness of your awareness beyond your thoughts- the space within which your thoughts arise. On the other hand, when your body is busy moving around and doing things, the mind tends to become busy as well, and you can lose connection with that depth of peace that’s available when you’re present.
However, you can be present even when you’re busy, and in fact part of the aim of quiet meditation is to help you be present in all of your life- not just when you’re sitting quietly. But of course, this is difficult because most of our actions are aimed at the future; we do things in order to bring about a certain result, and when your mind is focused on that future goal, your connection to the present can be reduced and become merely a means to get to some future moment in your imagination.
And on top of that, when things aren’t going very well, the effect is worse. For example, let’s say you’re about drive somewhere and your car doesn’t start. Or you’re about to pay for something and you can’t find your wallet. Things like this happen all the time, and when they do, the conflict between what you want to happen and what is happening can be emotionally irritating, creating frustration or anger- all of which have a strong gravity that pulls you away from Presence, and into the drama of your mental and emotional conflict.
So how do you counter all these tendencies so that you can really practice Presence in action?
This week’s Torah reading is Parshat Terumah. Terumah means an offering, or a contribution. It begins with God telling Moses to say to the children of Israel:
“Yik’khu li trumah me’eit kol ish asher yidveinu libo- Take for me an offering from every person whose heart is motivated to give…”
The offerings that they’re talking about range from precious metals, to animal skins, to incense spices, to pieces of wood- all things that will be used to build the mishkan- the portable temple that the Israelites carried with them as they travelled through the wilderness. The word mishkan comes from the root which means to dwell or be present, as in the word Shekhinah which means, Divine Presence. So in the opening of this parshah, we’re hearing about all the different ways the Israelites contribute toward the Sanctuary of Presence. But if we look more deeply, this opening verse gives us three hints about how we can be more present in our own actions.
The first and most important hint is in the name of the parshah- Terumah, which means, “offering.” If you want to be present in the busyness of daily life and overcome that tendency to see this moment merely as a means to get to some future moment, then let your actions be offerings. Whenever you do something, and you can do this many times a day, bring to mind that your actions are for the sake of serving something. Since most of what we do is often serving some purpose for others, this isn’t so difficult. But even when you do things for yourself like eating or resting, you can still offer it as a gift, because of course you have to keep yourself healthy in order to be of service to others.
And, the more you think of your actions as offerings, you might even get inspired to change the way you do things for the better, or even take on some new positive actions, or get rid of some not so positive ones. The point here to bring more consciousness into whatever you’re doing by acting with a loving spirit.
The second hint is implied in the words, kol ish- every person. In other words, every person has their own unique path. If you go around wishing you were someone else, or wishing you were in a different situation, you devalue your own path, and create an inner feeling of separation. But if you constantly take to heart that this moment is the moment to offer what only you can offer, regardless of whether it seems impressive in the external sense, then you can really inhabit your body and inhabit your actions. Furthermore, the words kol ish, every person, can also mean “all of the person.” In other words, put all of yourself into whatever you happen to be doing.
And that brings us to the third hint that’s implied in the words, “…asher yidveinu libo- whose heart is motivated to give…” This means, you can learn how to be present from whatever you’re really motivated to do. Notice how it feels when you’re doing things that you love, how you’re fully engaged and doing for its own sake, and bring that degree of presence to all your actions, even when you’re doing things you don’t necessarily want to do. In that way, everything you do becomes a kind of devotion or prayer.
There’s a story that the Baal Shem Tov was once smoking his pipe by the window, when he was taken aback by the sight of a man walking by, who glowed with the most beautiful holy Presence and joyful radiance. The Baal Shem asked a disciple who the man was, and his disciple told him that the man was a hose-maker.
So, the Baal Shem sent the man a message to please bring four pairs of hose. Soon after, the hose maker appeared before the Baal Shem, displaying his wares, light shining from his face. The hose were well made of good sheep’s wool.
The Baal Shem asked him, “How do you spend your days?” The man answered, “I ply my trade.”
“And how do you ply it?” asked the Baal Shem.
“I work every day until I have forty or fifty pairs of hose, then I put them into a mold with hot water and press them until they’re as they should be.”
“And do you do any special prayers or meditations?” asked the Baal Shem.
“I just recite the psalms that I know by heart, all day long as I work.”
After the Baal Shem had purchased the hose and the man left, the Baal Shem turned to his disciple and said, “Today you have seen the cornerstone which will uphold the temple until the coming of the Messiah.”
So what does the Baal Shem Tov mean when he says that this hose maker is the cornerstone of the temple until the Messiah? The temple, as we’ve seen, represents intensification of Presence. The Messiah means the end of exile, because the traditional belief is that when Moshiakh comes, all the Jews scattered throughout the world will be gathered in, and everyone will commune with the Divine in the temple once again.
But on a deeper level, exile isn’t only about being separated from your native land. Exile is what happens within when you don’t fully inhabit who you are and what you’re doing in the present moment. When that happens, your consciousness pulls away from itself, creating the experience of incompleteness. And in that inner exile, nothing is all that satisfying. But when you’re gathered in, so to speak, when you connect deeply with your actions, there’s a deep satisfaction even if you’re doing things that aren’t particularly exciting.
So in this week of Shabbat Terumah, the Sabbath of Offering, let’s practice making all our actions offerings, gathering ourselves back into the fullness of who we are and opening to the healing and wholeness that flows from that.
And to help us accomplish this, there’s a wonderful verse in Psalm 147 that’s chanted every day as part pesukei d’zimra, the verses of praise in the morning prayers. It says, Nidkhei Yisrael Yekhaneis- The Outcast of Israel will be gathered in. As we chant these words, allow yourself to be gathered in by the words of the prayer, fully coming into vibration of the chant in your body, inhabiting the movement of your breathing and the articulations of your lips. It then says, Harofei lishvurei lev- healer of the broken hearted. As you reunite with yourself and with the Divinity of this moment, you may feel some broken heartedness that wants to be healed. Let yourself open to pain if it’s there, and allow the healing power of Presence to flow.
This week's practice is becoming aware of mental judgment. Throughout the week, as often and you can, see if you can notice when your mind is making making judgments such as good/bad, true/false, appropriate/inappropriate, and so on. No need to try to get rid of judgment, but only to notice and not judge your judgment. If the judgment is helpful, keep it. If it's just creating negativity, let go of it. But either way, see if you can feel yourself to be the awareness of the judgment, rather than get "drawn into" the judgment. This week's video/audio teaching will explore this more deeply. The chant, Hashem Elohekhem Emet, will also help remind you of the practice; you can sing it to yourself throughout the week whenever it's helpful.
Listen Below to Teaching, Chant and Meditation by clicking below on "Download File" to stream or download the MP3. (For Mac, download with control-click):
Watch Below Video Teaching, Chant and Meditation:
What does it mean to notice the judgments of your mind?
Some obvious examples of judgment are being critical of people, or getting angry when things don’t go your way. But judgment can also be a positive thing. When you choose to meditate, for example, that’s a great application of the mind’s ability to make a good judgment. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with judgment- in fact you can’t live without it. The problems start when you’re not aware that your mind is making a judgment, when you’re judging unconsciously. That’s because when you’re not conscious of your judgment, you identify with it. Your awareness gets absorbed and trapped by the judging mind, which creates stress and a felt sense of separateness or incompleteness. But when you notice the mental process of judging- not trying to suppress or stop the judging, but just noticing it- then even though your mind is judging, you are not judging. You are noticing the judging.
To understand this more deeply, it’s helpful to note that there are really two modes of perception that are always present within our experience. We could call these two modes, the relative and the absolute.
The relative mode is the perception of different degrees of something. For example, if you’re eating lunch, the food might be really good, or it might be just okay, or it might be terrible. Similarly, you might be really hungry, or a little bit hungry, or not at all hungry, and so on. These are all part of the relative aspect of experience, the perception of which is dependent on judgement, because your mind judges things in relation to past experience.
But there’s also an absolute aspect of experience. While the relative aspect has to do with different degrees of something, such as more or less, hotter or colder, better or worse and so on, the absolute has to do simply with the fact of something. Either something exists in your experience, or it doesn’t; it’s not about degree.
So your lunch might be good or bad in the relative sense, but in the absolute sense, your lunch simply is. This absolute aspect is the foundation upon which the relative aspect rests. After all, if your lunch ceases to be, then there is no relative aspect. Your lunch can’t be hot or cold or good or bad unless it first of all exists.
So why is this important?
Because these two aspects of your experience correspond to two different levels of your own being. Whenever you’re judging or discerning anything (which is what the thinking mind does), then you’re dealing with the relative aspect of your experience: “What do I have to do today, how do I accomplish this or that, let me pick up the toothbrush and not the chainsaw...” and so on.
That’s your thinking mind, and the more time we spend in our thinking minds and in the relative aspect of experience, the more we feel ourselves to be relative beings- we feel like we’re succeeding or failing, like we’re happy or sad, good or bad and so on. In other words, if you’re living primarily in the relative mode, judging the relative qualities of things, then you’re also going to be judging yourself. You’re going to be concerned with self-image, with self-worth, with your personal story and so on. In other words, you’re going to be living life through that sense of a separate “me” called the ego.
But, if you step back from all that judging of your relative experience and simply notice: "this moment is as it is."
Then, a much deeper level of your own being comes forward- what we might call the absolute level of experience, otherwise known as, awareness. Your awareness is totally beyond ego, because while your mind is busy preferring this or that, worrying about this or that, your awareness is simply noticing what is.
In order to understand the distinction between your thinking mind and your awareness, it’s helpful to notice that while your thinking mind can’t function without your awareness in the background, your awareness isn’t at all dependent on the movement of your mind. A nice metaphor for understanding this distinction is the ocean and the waves. The waves are completely dependent on the ocean, because the waves are nothing but the surface movement of the ocean. No more ocean, no more waves. But if the waves cease to be, the vast ocean with its great depths remain. In the same way, your awareness is actually the vast ocean of consciousness within which the waves of your thoughts rise and fall.
Now if you’re living mostly on the level of the waves, that’s the ego- the “me” with its problems, concerns, successes and failures. Of course that’s part of who you are on the surface of your consciousness, but the question is, is that where you want to live? Or, do you want to live in the vast depths of your consciousness, in the fullness of who you are, beneath those little waves of your mind-based identity.
This week’s Torah reading is Parshat Mishpatim. Mishpatim means, "judgments." It begins with God saying to Moses:
“V’eleh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneihem- And these are the judgments you will place before them.”
It then goes on to talk about various civil laws that Moses is to teach the Israelites. But in this first sentence there’s a special hint about how to connect with the vast ocean of consciousness that you are, rather than be trapped by the waves on the surface. It says that the mishpatim, the judgments, should be lifneihem- before them.
In other words, don’t get unconsciously absorbed into the judgements of your mind, but rather see your judgments as if they’re “before” you. That means, don’t try to stop your judgments or get rid of them, simply notice them and let them be. The more your practice noticing your judgments, without judging your judgments, the more you’ll begin to feel yourself as the noticing, rather than the judging. And that simple noticing is the vast ocean of consciousness beneath the waves of thinking. But in order to really keep your judgments lifanekha, before you, so that you don’t get trapped by them, you have to be willing to stay with the truth of whatever you’re perceiving, without imposing your own interpretation.
The Hassidic rebbe, the Seer of Lublin once said, “I prefer sinners who know that they are sinners, rather than righteous people who know they are righteous people.”
Now why would he say that? Because if you know that you’re a sinner, you’re probably seeing yourself truthfully- after all, most of us make at least a few mistakes once in a while. But if you see yourself as perfectly righteous, you’re probably interpreting things in a skewed way to satisfy a certain self-image. And self-image, otherwise known as ego, is on the level of the waves. Of course nowadays, there can be just as much ego in putting yourself down as in puffing yourself up, but the point is to let go of self-image, let go of needing things to be a certain way, and stay with your actual experience, because the part of you that knows your actual experience is that inner vast ocean of consciousness.
So in this week of Shabbat Mishpatim, the Sabbath of Judgment, let’s practice seeing whatever judgments arise in the mind, allowing them to come and go in the space of this moment, through the practice of Presence and meditation.
And to help us do that, let’s chant words, Hashem Eloheikhem Emet which come from the end of the third paragraph of the Sh’ma.
The first two words, Hashem Eloheikhem can be translated, "Being" or "Existence is your own Divinity." This refers to the inner vastness, that ocean of consciousness we were talking about. The third word, Emet means “Truth.”
So these three words together are reminding us: if we want to connect with that vast ocean of consciousness beneath the surface waves of the mind- Eloheikhem- your own Divinity- than simply be with the Emet- the Truth of how Hashem/Existence- is manifesting in this moment. Meaning: be present with whatever judgments or thoughts are arising in your mind, whatever feelings are arising in your body, whatever is happening in your situation, everything.
Hashem Eloheikhem Emet
Being is your own Divinity, Truth
Listen Below to chant only by clicking below on "Download File" to stream or download the MP3. (For Mac, download with control-click):
Watch video for chant only:
This week's chant comes from the Ashrei, which is a special prayer formed from three different psalms. The Ashrei is traditionally chanted three times per day- twice in the morning and once in the afternoon, and is seen as a particularly powerful tefilah by the early rabbis. The sages in the Talmud (Berakhot 4b) said that anyone who recited it three times per day will have a share in Olam Haba-the "World to Come." If you understand Olam Haba to mean the "Becoming World," then the Ashrei becomes a powerfully transformative practice that connects you to the Truth of this moment- the unique unfolding of Being that is happening always right now. This chant comes from the line that says, "Poteiakh et yadekha, umaspia l'khol khai ratzon- You open your hand and satisfy the desire all life."
Watch video, download audio podcast and read below- enjoy!
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Kol Khai Chant
Poteakh et yadekha, Poteakh et yadekha
Umaspia l’khol khai ratzon, Umaspia l’khol khai ratzon
Kol Khai, Kol Khai, Kol Khai ratzon
(You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of all life)
A friend of mine was in a restaurant. The wait person took a really long time to bring his meal, and didn’t even come by to check in or apologize for long time. So, as he sat there waiting, getting more and more angry, he began plotting some really mean thing to say to the wait person.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. “Hold on a minute,” he says to himself. “I have never been hungry my whole life. In fact, I've pretty much always been able to go out to eat whenever I want to. I generally have much more than I need, I have never lived in a land where there was war or famine, I’m basically healthy, and so on, and so on, and here I am getting so mad just because I have to wait a little longer for my dinner.”
Now this was like a mini-spiritual awakening for him, and as his anger evaporated, he made the choice to not only be nice, but to give the wait person a blessing and a really big tip as well.
I love this story not only for the spiritual transformation that occurs, but because it’s an example of what can happen when we open up to deeper and deeper levels of truth. Have you ever been angry or resentful or judgmental, and you justify it by saying, “Hey, this is my truth. This is how I really feel.” Okay, so on one level it’s good to acknowledge the truth of how you feel. And maybe you’re even totally justified in feeling that way.
But the transformation in the story doesn’t negate the truth of the situation, it simply expands beyond it into a wider truth- a wider context within which those feelings of anger were arising. And within that broader context, the ego was unmasked and unplugged.
There’s a wonderful story in the Talmud along these lines, in Brakhot 10a. It says:
Once there were some boors, or gangsters who would hang out in the neighborhood of Rabbi Meir. They would taunt him and abuse him so much, that he prayed they should all die. Along comes his wife Beruria who says, “Mai datakh? Is there a reason? How could you pray such a thing?”
Rabbi Meir answers, "Mishum dikhtiv- but it says (in Psalm 104, verse 35), ‘Yitamu khatayim- let sinners die!”
Beruria answered back, “But does this verse say khotim which would mean sinners? No- the word is khatayim- which doesn’t really mean sinners, but rather that which causes people to sin- namely, the yetzer hara- the evil inclination”- or today we might call it, the ego.
Then, she doesn’t stop there, but she says:
"Go down to the end of the verse where it says, ‘ur’shayim od aynam- and let the wicked be no more.’ Now, if all the sinners were to die, would that mean there would never be any wicked people ever again? Of course not, because anyone in any future generation could become wicked at any point. Therefore, in order for the wicked to truly be no more, the psalmist must be praying not that wicked people should die, but that the underlying cause of wickedness should die. So Ela, rather, you should pray for rakhamim- for mercy on these people, that they should do Teshuvah, which means turning."
In other words, just like the guy in the restaurant, their consciousness should make a U-turn to see themselves clearly and become free from the forces of ego in which they are ensnared.
So how do we make this U-turn in consciousness, this teshuvah to unplug the antics of the ego? One way is to emulate the process in the story. Really look at what narrative underlies your feelings. In the story, there was a self-centered narrative that wait people should bring me my dinner right away- that’s what I’m paying them for- something like that. Then, bring in a different, wider narrative. In this case, it was the narrative of gratitude- there was so much blessing, that it became total inappropriate to complain.
And this, of course, is one of the functions of prayer- to practice reframing your experience in wider and wider contexts, so that you become an embodiment of wisdom, rather than ego. On a deeper level, you can ultimately come to see that everything happening arises as a manifestation of Reality, or God, and ultimately God is all there is, so there’s no longer any “me” to complain or feel entitled to anything.
These two levels are hinted at by the verse from the Ashrei, in Psalm 145, Poteakh et yadekha umaspia khol khai ratzon- You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of all life.
On one hand, this verse is acknowledging all the blessing that’s coming to you as a gift. Poteakh et yadekha- You open Your hand- umaspia khol khai ratzon- and satisfy the desire of all life.
At the same time, the words khol khai- all life- are also God, since God is the Reality of all being, the Hay HaOlamim- the Life of All Worlds. So on this level, God is the Giver and the Receiver- and there’s nothing but God, nothing but Reality, Nothing but What Is...
Greetings beloved friends!
This Friday night, running through Saturday night is Tu Bishvat (The 15th of Sh’vat)- the New Year of the Trees. There’s a wonderful ritual of eating different kinds of fruit to celebrate the trees, and also to connect with your inner tree, the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah. There’s a beautiful seder put together by my friend Rabbi David Seidenberg, which I’m posting as well, and you can get a lot more wonderful materials for Tu Bishvat on his website, neohasid.org, so check that out if you’re interested.
View or Download Rabbi David Seidenberg's 1-Page Haggadah Flow Chart:
In this video I want to talk about two kinds of motivation to do your avodah, your spiritual practice:
Download or Stream Audio mp3:
Karov Karov Karov l’khol korav
Hashem is close to all who cry out-
There are generally two kinds of motivation for spiritual practice:
The first kind of motivation comes from your mind. You understand intellectually that it’s a good idea to meditate, so you try to convince yourself, discipline yourself, make rules for yourself and so on, in order to motivate yourself to practice.
For most people, this strategy alone doesn’t work too well. Just look at all the people who smoke cigarettes or eat unhealthy food. Nearly everyone knows those things are bad for you intellectually, but that’s not enough to change their habits. Why? Because the motivation to smoke the cigarettes is much more powerful, since it comes from desire. You may understand that you should stop, but you don’t want to stop, and want is far more powerful than intellectual understanding for most people. So, if you want to be motivated to do your avaodah, it’s usually not enough to think you should do it, you have to want to do it, which is the second and far more powerful type of motivation.
So where does that thirst come from- that longing for the Divine, or for liberation, or for Truth, or Oneness?
It can come in one of two different ways. The first way it may come is from experiencing intense suffering, and wanting to get free from it. The second way it may come is from getting a little taste of Divine bliss or freedom or Oneness and wanting more. And sometimes, you might be motivated by both.
There’s a story about the legendary Hassidic rebbe, Rabbi Barukh, that illustrates this last scenario nicely. The story goes that Rabbi Barukh was teaching on the hundred and nineteenth psalm, which says in verse 19:
“Ger anokhi ba’aretz- al tister mimeini mitzvotekha- I am a stranger on the earth- don’t hide Your commandments from me!”
Rabbi Barukh explained that this is like a person who’s been driven into exile, and they come to an alien land where the language and the customs are completely different. But then, a second stranger appears, and even though the first stranger may have had nothing in common with the second stranger, they both now have one thing in common- they’re both strangers in the alien land, so they become great friends, all because they’re both strangers. And so this is what the Psalm means- it’s saying to Hashem:
“Ger anokhi ba’aretz- I feel like a ger- a stranger- out of place and disconnected from my life and the world. But you Hashem are present here as well- so please, al tister mimeini mitzvotekha- don’t conceal Yourself from me, but let me connect with You.” (The word for “commandment” shares a root with the Aramaic word, tzava, which means to connect.)
So in the story, first is mentioned the feeling of being disconnected, separate, or alien. That’s the suffering that leads the stranger to a spiritual longing, and so the stranger cries out to God, “Don’t conceal yourself.”
Practically speaking, you can try this yourself any time you’re feeling suffering. The tendency when you feel suffering, of course, is to pull away from your feeling, to judge it, to wish you were feeling something else. But instead, try remembering- this suffering is part of Reality, arising in the space of this moment, and therefore God, or Truth, or Being is just as much present in the suffering as in the highest spiritual experience. You can even pray like the story, “Oh Hashem, reveal yourself in this space.”
When you do that, what happens?
Instead of pulling away or judging your experience, you come into it, you savor it- in other words, you become present. And when you become present, you can begin to notice that however unappealing or strange your situation is, it’s all happening within the space of this moment, which is not different from the space of your own Presence, and there’s nothing more intimate, more complete, more beautiful than this Presence.
So when you approach your suffering in this way, coming close to it rather than pulling away from it and transforming it into prayer, you may feel the suffering more not less, but you move through it much more quickly to the Divine Presence that’s underneath. In this way, you’re motivated in your practice both by the experience of suffering, as well as the sweet taste of Presence.
This week’s Torah reading is Parshat Behsalakh. Beshalakh means, “sending out.” It says:
“Vay’hi beshalakh Paro et ha’am- and it was when Pharaoh sent out the people- v’lo nakham Elohim derekh eretz p’lishtim ki karov hu- God didn’t lead them on the road to the land of the Philistines which was closer- ki amar Elohim pen yinakhem ha’am birotam milkhama v’shavu mitzrayma- because God said, ‘The people might reconsider when they see battle and return back to Egypt.’”
Metaphorically speaking, Pharaoh sending out the Israelites is like when we are sent out of our inner bondage by the experience of suffering; we don’t like the suffering, so we’re motivated to find spiritual freedom. And if you want spiritual freedom, there’s a really fast, direct way to get it- just come to this moment as it is, without resistance. That’s the practice of Presence.
But then it says, “…v’lo nakham Elohim derekh eretz p’lishtim ki karov hu- God didn’t lead them on the road to the land of the Philistines which was closer…”
The reason is that when they encounter battle with the Philistines, they might go back to Egypt. And this is the obstacle that many people get caught in when doing spiritual work. You start practicing Presence, then all this inner pain comes up- all your psychological issues and resistances, and rather than be motivated by all that suffering you’d rather go back to your old strategies. It’s easier to just drink some wine and watch a movie.
At that point, you need something even deeper to keep you on track, and that’s the power of faith hinted at in the phrase, “Ki Karov Hu.” In the plain sense, this simply means, “which was close” referring to the road in the land of the Philistines, which would have been the closer path for the Israelites to take. But the word Hu is also a Divine Name. Karov means close, but it can also mean intimate, connected. So on this deeper level, it’s saying that the Divine is present on the road of battle, that is, the experience of deep suffering. Have faith in that, because at first you won’t experience it. You’ll experience pain. But know ki karov hu- beneath the suffering is the spacious openness and wholeness of this moment, the Divine Presence that is not separate from your own presence, your own consciousness. You can access this Presence by being present- that is, by being karov, coming close to your actual experience in this moment, especially in suffering. Faith, and prayer, can help you do that.
So as we come close to this Shabbat Beshalakh, the "Sabbath of Sending," may we come close, karov, to the Reality of our actual experience and allow that truth to send us out from Mitzrayim- from the constriction of separation, into the wild mystery of Presence...
Reb Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks