The Flower- Parshat Akharei
What will it take to set your heart free?
To answer that, we must ask- what is it that imprisons your heart?
The other day I was holding some books in my hands and my daughter came up to me and said, “Here Abba, for you!” She was trying to give me a little flower.
“One moment,” I replied, “let me put these down so I can receive your gift.”
The heart is not imprisoned by something external, but by the burden of whatever is being held. Let go of what you are holding and the heart is free. There is a little girl offering you a flower- that flower is this moment. Put down your burden and receive the gift.
A friend once said to me, “I always hear about the teaching that I should ‘just let go’. But what does that mean? How do I do that?”
You might think that if “letting go” sets you free, it should be easy. Just let go! But it’s not always easy.
To answer, we have to look at the reasons for “holding on”. There are two main reasons the mind tends to “hold on” to things.
First, there is holding on to the fear about what might happen. It is true- the future is uncertain. Holding onto your preoccupation with time gives a sense of control. There is often the unconscious belief that if you worry about something enough, you will be able to control it. Of course, that’s absurd, but the mind thinks that because of its deeper fear: experiencing the uncertainty itself.
If you really let go of your worry about what might happen, you must confront the experience of really not knowing, of being uncertain. There may be pain in that, and there is resistance to pain. But, if you allow yourself to experience the pain of uncertainty, it will burn away. On the other side of this pain is liberation- the expansive and simple dwelling with Being in the present.
Second, there can be some negativity about what might have happened in the past. If you let go of the preoccupation with time, if you let go of whatever “happened”, you must confront the fact that the past is truly over. The deeper level of this is confronting your own mortality. Everything, eventually, will be “over”.
But, let go of the past, feel that insecurity of the fact that everything is passing, and you will see- there is a gift being offered right now. It is precious; it is fragile- a flower offered by a little girl, this precious moment.
“v’al yavo b’khol eit el hakodesh- he shall not come at all times into the holy…” This week’s reading, Parshat Akharei, begins with this warning to Aaron the Priest.
We may try to reach holiness by working out the past in our minds, or by figuring out the future, but as it says, “v’al yavo b’khol eit… he shall not come at all times…”
You cannot enter into holiness through time!
To enter the holy, you must enter only at one time- and that time is now. Your grasping after the future must be burned up, and your clinging to the past must be released, as it says-
“v’lakakh et shnei hasirim- he shall take two goats…”
One goat is “for Hashem”- meaning, the future is in the hands of Hashem. This goat is slaughtered and burned- meaning: experience the burning of uncertainty and slaughter your grasping after control.
The other goat is “for Azazel”. The word Azazel is composed of two words- “az” means “strength”, and “azel” means “exhausted, used up”. In other words, the “strength” of the past is “used up”. Let it go, or it will use up all of your strength! This goat is let go to roam free into the wilderness- meaning- the past is gone, over, done.
The past has gone its way, the future is in the hands of the Divine. Those Divine hands are not separate from your hands. Set your hands free to receive the flower of this moment-
-and may all of our actions also be an offering of something holy and precious as well. Good Shabbos!
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