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weekly reading: The Light of Insight

B”H

Shiur for parashas Tetzaveh 5780

“Bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.” – Exodus 27:20

The light in our lives, that kindles our understanding is a gift from H’Shem, without any shadow; yet, the intuition we receive from Him is often clouded by our own perception of reality; in other words, rather than remaining pure, the vision becomes obscured. In all likelihood, the main culprit that casts a shadow upon the glimpses of wisdom that vanish, before we can procure knowledge from those flashes of insight, is the accruement of aveiros (transgressions) that create a dullness – a lacklustre – upon our hearts and minds.

Perhaps, this may be one reason that Moshe said of the final generation before Moshiach that “H’Shem will circumcise your hearts” (Deuteronomy 30:6), in the days leading towards the Final Redemption. In order to bring the unadulterated light into our lives, our hearts must be purified from the taint of the world, that has left a near indelible impression upon our thinking, viewpoints, and perspective in life. Our minds have been corroded by the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) that has pervaded every aspect of our being. Yet, we will be shown the light in due time, as we walk upon the derech (path) towards righteousness.

daily reflection: Comfort Zone

B”H

March 3, 2020

Everyone wants to believe what they want to believe; and, nobody wants to believe anything unseemly. Anything that would cause a person’s views to shift, this way or that way, away from one’s comfort zone is avoided. As if there is a “do not enter” sign placed before them, when an incongruous idea is presented.

I appear to be no different in that respect, whereas I hold onto the traditional values of my religious belief and practice. Yet, others, would not tread upon this territory, even though, similarities in thinking may prevail over differences. Somewhere, there is still room for conversation.

daily reflection: Illumination

B”H

March 2, 2020

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.”

– Exodus 27:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

Only the purest of olive oil was sanctioned for use in the seven-branched menorah (candelabra) in the Sanctuary. The specifications given in Torah, concerning this requirement, point towards a teaching. Only the first droplets of oil from the olives could be used for the illumination of the menorah. By analogy, when our lives are under pressure, our best efforts are brought forth to meet the challenges designed for us from Above, for the sake of our spiritual growth.

daily reflection: Groundwork

B”H

March 1, 2020

Below the ground, a structure is rooted in the earth, whereby its stability is secured. The same is true with a more common, natural example, trees, whose roots provide nourishment as well as a secure attachment to the ground. In both cases, what we do not readily see, is the groundwork.

By analogy, the truths of a religious belief and practice are not visible to the eye that does not attempt to see more than what is on the surface. To perceive the underpinnings of belief and practice, the mind must inquire into the groundwork; otherwise, only a superficial understanding is gained.

Dependency on a religious structure, without personal inquiry, study, and observance will not suffice for an understanding that goes beyond the superficial. Only by delving into the details, by connecting to G-d on a daily basis, and inquiring into His ways, can a person be completely, nourished by the roots of religion.

After the Sabbath

B”H

March 1, 2020

“A still small voice.”

– 1 Kings 19:12

Too often, the weekday pace consumes the passage of time, without providing nourishment for the soul. Yet, initiative needs to be taken, in order to preserve the sanctity of the soul, even within the framework of mundane activities. As we prepare for the new week ahead of us, let us keep this in mind; and, try to find solace, within the midst of the daily grind.

“And He said: ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the L-RD.’ And, behold, the L-RD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the L-RD; but the L-RD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the L-RD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the L-RD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

– 1 Kings 19:11-12, JPS 1917 Tanach

weekly portion: Terumah 5780

B”H

Shiur for parashas Terumah 5780

“Let them make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them.”

– Exodus 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

The purpose of the building of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert) was to provide a sanctuary (mikdash) for the L-RD to dwell amongst the B’nei Yisrael. H’Shem’s presence rested between the golden cherubim, on top of the cover of the Ark.

Or HaChayim notes, about the pasuk (verse), “That I may dwell among (within) them,” that “It does not say ‘within it,’ which means that the place that G-d will sanctify to dwell there is within the children of Israel.” (commentary to Exodus 25:8, sefaria.org).

The ultimate purpose of the sanctuary (mikdash) is to serve as a place of residence, so to speak, for the Shechinah. Yet, G-d’s Divine Presence may also dwell within the clay vessels that He created.

“Know ye that the L-RD He is G-d; it is He that hath made us, and we our His, His people, and the flock of His pasture.”

– Tehillim 100:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily contemplation: Spiritual Atunement

B”H

February 27, 2020

Tune in, if you will, to the nature of your being, notwithstanding the many bandwidths that may prevent you from clearly hearing your own. Make the effort, above all else, to guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) against the noise and chatter of the outside world. For, only in the silence of the heart, can your spiritual tuning fork be heard as it rings.

daily contemplation: Searching

B”H

February 26,2020

“Seek ye the L-RD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.”

– Isaiah 55:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

In my life, sometimes there is a lull of excitement – six days each week, excluding the Sabbath. Perhaps, excitement is not the correct word. There is actually nothing in my life that other people would consider exciting; after all, I am an introvert. And, I am content with the pace, quality, and level of exhilaration of my life.

Yet, at times, there is an undercurrent of ennui that may surface. These are the times to reflect even more, than my usual nature requires. These are the moments, times, and seasons to reach out to G-d. Judaism teaches that He is both immanent and transcendent (within and without). So, sometimes, reaching out towards G-d, begins with a quiet meditation on the inner stirrings of my soul.

Torah Insight: Harmony

B”H

30 Shevat 5780

February 25, 2020

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be made of hammered work.”

– Exodus 25:31 , JPS 1985 Tanach

The golden menorah (seven-candled lampstand) was placed directly outside of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, behind the paroches (curtain). The menorah was hammered out of one large ingot of gold. This connotes the spiritual understanding, that the light of G-d should permeate all areas of our life.

The propensity to compartmentalize different aspects of ourselves, by keeping different areas of our lives separate, may bring disharmony to the soul. We can not be whole, unless our values encompass every part of our existence, inclusive of all the activities that we engage in, as well as every moment of our day.