“Coming Into the Field of Being”| ד DALET – “Receptivity”
Parshah Summary – P’shat (literal level)
The parshah opens on mount Sinai (b’har – “on the mountain”) with the laws of the Sabbatical year: every seventh year, all work on the land should cease, and its produce becomes free for the taking for all, human and beast. Seven Sabbatical cycles are followed by a fiftieth year— the Jubilee year, on which work on the land ceases, all indentured servants are set free, and all ancestral estates that have been sold revert to their original owners. Additional laws governing the sale of lands, and the prohibitions against fraud and usury, are also given…
Torah of Awakening
וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר׃ דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהֹוָֽה׃ שֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃ וּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗ת שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהֹוָ֑ה שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר׃
Hashem spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I give to you, the land shall rest a sabbath of Hashem. Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of Hashem: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard…
- Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:1-4; Parshat Behar
A disciple asked Rabbi Simha Bunem:
“It is written, אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל – These are the words which you shall speak to the Children of Israel. (Ex.19:6)
"And Rashi comments, לֹא פָּחוֹת וְלֹא יוֹתֵר אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים; – ‘These are the words’- no more, and no less. What does he mean by that?” Rabbi Bunam explained: “Moses was overflowing with the teaching and wanted to reveal everything. But, the people wouldn’t have been able to receive it, for a person needs to seek and strive for wisdom; being spoon-fed doesn’t work. Moses has to say just these words to them, no more and no less, so that they might feel: something is hidden here, and we must strive to discover it for ourselves.
“That is why, further on, we read: וַיָּ֣שֶׂם לִפְנֵיהֶ֗ם אֵ֚ת כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה And he set before them all these words – meaning, the words that were spoken, no more and no less, as well as the words that were not yet discovered…”
Anyone who teaches knows that it is a relational process: the student must want to learn and, to some degree, discover for themselves. Attempting to teach when there is no desire to learn can be a frustratingly futile activity. But, when the student seeks to learn that which they do not yet know, then the learning becomes alive and new; old information is received with fresh insight, as if for the first time.
שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר – you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard… “Planting fields” refers to grain, and from the grain is made the ancient staple, bread. “Pruning vineyards” is a reference to grapes that are made into wine.
וּמַלְכִּי־צֶ֙דֶק֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ שָׁלֵ֔ם הוֹצִ֖יא לֶ֣חֶם וָיָ֑יִן וְה֥וּא כֹהֵ֖ן לְאֵ֥ל עֶלְיֽוֹן׃ – And King Melchitzedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High… - Bereishit (Genesis) 14:18
Wine and bread are not only basic foods, they’re also sacramental foods, forming the ritual part of sacred meals on Shabbat and festivals. The earliest reference to this practice is this passage in which Malkitzedek, the priest-king of Shalem, blesses Avraham and brings him bread and wine. There is a teaching attributed to Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach which points out that wine gets better and better with age; you pay more for wine depending on how old it is. Bread, on the other hand, has to be fresh; no one wants a fifty year-old loaf of bread.
Similarly, there is an aspect of the spiritual path that is ancient and an aspect that is fresh and new. For example, Torah, including the whole Jewish tradition, is ancient. There is a special richness in being connected to this ancient lineage; so much so that many are able to tolerate the many passages of Torah that feel disturbing, unethical, and sometimes completely wrong. And yet, that richness doesn’t really come to life unless it is combined with fresh, new insights and interpretations. For the tradition to really live, it also has to be like bread – we need hidushim – new insights, new ways of reading the texts and practicing the tradition.
On a deeper level, the very practice of Presence Itself also contains these two aspects. On one hand, there is nothing more ancient than the present moment. There is nothing that has ever existed outside the space of this one, eternal moment; there has never been and can never be an instance of the present moment being absent. That is why one of the names of God is Atik Yomin – the “Ancient of Days.” And when we become fully present to the eternal space of The Present, there is a feeling of transcendence that arises, a knowing of oneself as that space, an intoxication in drinking from the “wine” of Being.
At the same time, in becoming present to That which is most ancient, there is also a spontaneous letting go of the past – a dropping away of mental and emotional baggage so that the fullness of this moment appears not as ancient, but as radiant, alive and new – like a freshly baked challah. In this way, that which is most ancient gives rise to that which is most new – in meeting this moment, free from the conditioning of the past, we are greeted by a new potential, never before seen. But if the “field’ and “vineyard” are the eternal and ever-renewing fruits of our practice, what does it mean that we may not harvest them? Is there a time when we should not reap the benefits of the path?
וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת – The land shall rest a sabbath… Actually, the “Shabbat” for the “land” is the very essence of the path. There are many factors that must support our practice – we must plan and organize of lives to allow for the daily “tending the Land.” But, when we engage the practice itself, we must let all that go and come fully into the moment…
כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם – When you come into the land that I give to you… This is the true Shabbat Shabbaton – to “come into the land” means to recognize that the appearance of Reality Now is the Gift of Being. It is “given” to us from the Mystery; it is not the result of our intentions or efforts. And while it is true that from the point of view of ordinary life we must attend to the blossoming of this realization with our efforts, to truly live this realization we must fully “come into the land” – we must rest in the field of Being that is not separate from the consciousness we are. This is meditation. And to truly rest in the “Shabbat” of meditation, we must become fully receptive to all that is now arising. This is the Path of Dalet ד – the middah of Receptivity, of resting in the recognizing that everything emerges from the Mystery and returns there, a gift both new and ancient, this holy moment…
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