When Reb Yosef Yitzhak of Lubavitch was four years old, he asked his father, Reb Shalom Ber, this question:
“Abba, why do we have two eyes, but only one mouth and one nose?”
“Do you know your Hebrew letters?” asked Reb Shalom Ber.
“Yes,” replied the boy.
“And what is the difference between the letter shin and the letter sin?” continued Reb Shalom.
“A shin has a dot on the right side, and the sin on the left.”
“Right! Now, the letter shin represents fire, and fire makes the light that we see by. The dots on the right and left are like your two eyes.
“Accordingly, fire has two opposite qualities. On one hand, it can give us life by keeping us warm and cooking our food; that’s the right dot. On the other hand, it can burn us; that’s the left dot.
“Similarly, there are things you should look at with your right eye, and things you should look at with your left eye. You should always see another person with your right eye, and candy and toys with your left eye!”
There is one holy fire.
It’s the same fire that Moses saw at the burning bush, the same fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness, the same fire that erupted on Mt. Sinai. It’s the fire that burns in the heart and sets you free- free to live not just for yourself, but for the Mystery that is now awakening within you. Reality becomes conscious- looking now through your eyes, reading these words.
But for this One Consciousness to remain free, it must express itself in two ways- the “yes” and the “no”.
“Yes” to blessing, “No” to reaching- to seeing fulfillment outside yourself. “Yes” to loving people, “No” to the candy and toys that keep you stuck.
How can you discern which eye to look through? Listen to your body!
In this week’s reading, Balak king of Moab becomes frightened of the Israelites who are camping in a nearby valley, so he petitions the prophet/sorcerer Bilam to curse the Israelites.
On his way out to the Israelite camps, there is a strange and unique passage- one of only two instances in Torah where there are talking animals! Bilam rides his donkey through a vineyard, when a Malakh Hashem- a Divine angel- blocks the path with sword drawn. But only the donkey can see the angel; Bilam is oblivious to it.
The donkey veers off the path to avoid the sword-wielding angel, and accidentally presses Bilam’s foot into a wall. Bilam gets mad and hits donkey with a stick, at which point the animal opens her mouth and speaks: “Ma asiti l’kha- what have I done to you that you hit me?”
Bilam yells back, “Because you mocked me! If I had a sword I’d kill you right now!”
Says the donkey, “Am I not your donkey that you’ve ridden until this day? Have I ever done anything like this before?”
Then Bilam’s eyes are “uncovered” and he sees the angel with the sword as well. Bilam bows, prostrates, apologizes, and goes on his way up a mountain to view the Israelite camps.
When Bilam opens his mouth to pronounce the curse, a blessing comes out instead: “Lo hibit aven b’Ya’akov- (The Divine) sees nothing bad in Jacob... Mah tovu ohalekha Yaakov, mishkenotekha Yisrael- How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel! ...”
The donkey is your body- the mammal-beast you live in. You may think you want to say something, but your words will be a curse if you can’t “see” the “Divine angel”. But the donkey sees it- and the donkey can talk! Meaning- your body has wisdom, and it can talk to you, if you listen.
When you have the urge to speak- listen to your body. Attune to the talking animal. What does God want you to say? Your body is the gateway to that awareness. And from that awareness, open your mouth and let the blessing come!
I bless you that your thoughts and words should take the form of blessing, and from their power the whole world should move swiftly toward consciousness and healing.
7/3/2015 12:37:53 am
my body is a donkey and my two eyes are right and left dots.. what does sin and shin mean?
Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks
7/3/2015 05:48:31 am
Sin and Shin are Hebrew letter. Actually, they are the same letter, except for the placement of the dots, which make one have a "shh" sound and the other a "sss" sound.
7/3/2015 03:54:21 am
Pardon me but I believe you have Bilam and Balak reversed in your writing. Balak is the king and Bilam is the prophet. Very nice summary here.
Brian Yosef Schachter-Brooks
7/3/2015 05:46:14 am
Thanks so much Sarah! A little symptom of writing it at 2:30 am... fixed it! :)
7/6/2015 05:30:00 am
Great read! Thanks for writing :)
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