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daily contemplation: Shifting Values

B”H

February 16, 2020

“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”

– Exodus 6:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

There is a saying, concerning the departure from Egypt, that B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) had a much more challenging task ahead of them: removing Egypt from their hearts. They were brought out through the strength of G-d, Who redeemed them “with an out stretched arm.” Yet, the greater effort on their part, was incumbent upon themselves to make the changes in their new approach to life, effectively, leaving their past ways behind.

Although help from Above, through G-d’s intervention, may serve as a catalyst to change, our response is required, with the upmost discipline, to heed the call to freedom on a daily basis. Although B’nei Yisrael was freed from slavery, they became servants of G-d through matan Torah (the giving of the Commandments). True freedom is embracing the yoke of Heaven, so that we may be free from the burden of chet (sin).

weekly reading: The Doorway

B”H

parashas Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 – 24:18)

It is notable that the parashas begins with the ordinance (mishpat) that a Jewish bondsman may serve his master for six years; however, in the seventh year he goes free.

The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 216 years. We received the Torah less than two months after leaving Egypt. After receiving the Ten Commandments, the mishpatim (ordinances) were given.

The first ordinance given is the designation of freedom a Jewish servant receives after only serving for a limited amount of time. It is as if the Torah is saying, that the Jewish people are not meant to remain in bondage again, not even as indentured servants.

The only exception is the servant, who after six years, would prefer to remain with his master. He declines his freedom; subsequently, his ear is pierced by an awl on a door to mark his perpetual servitude. This act serves as a reminder that the same ear that was pierced, should have heeded the call to freedom.

The door represents freedom, because of the blood of the Pesach offering that was placed on the doorposts in Egypt, right before B’nei Yisrael was freed. Our freedom is sustained through the following of the mitzvoth (commandments). As explained in the following manner:

The commandments were inscribed (cherut) on stone tablets; yet, the Hebrew word cherut, with a different vowelization, means “freedom.” What is the connection? When we observe the commandments of G-d, we are freed from slavery to our yetzer harah (evil inclination). Eventually, the commandments will be inscribed on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

weekly reading: Yisro’s Belief

B”H

Shiur for parashas Yisro 5780

(Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

Measure for measure, H’Shem enacted judgment upon Egypt. Turning the Nile River into blood, reminded Pharaoh of his guilt, concerning his decree against male infants, that they be drowned in the Nile. And, the perishing of Pharaoh and his army at the Sea of Reeds was an expression of H’Shem’s judgment against Pharaoh. As implied by Yisro’s words:

Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, “heard of all that G-d had done for Moses, and for Israel his people” (Exodus 18:1, JPS). “Now I know that the L-RD is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11, JPS). He continued, by making the implication that in the same manner that the Pharaoh conspired against the Children of Israel, so was his army destroyed. I.e., measure for measure, by means of water.

Although Yisro had worshipped many gods, according to Tanchuma, he had renounced idolatry. Yet, it was not until he heard of H’Shem’s plagues against Egypt – each one symbolizing H’Shem’s superiority over an Egyptian god – and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, that he recognized H’ Shem as “greater than all gods.”

Up until then, his belief was predicated upon rational inquiry; he had his doubts about the efficacy of the many deities that he used to worship. Yet, when he heard of H’Shem’s greatness being demonstrated in a tangible way through the plagues, and the splitting of the sea, his belief was upgraded to the level of da’as (actual knowledge). So strong was his belief in H’Shem, that he chose to align himself with truth. Only H’Shem is the One true G-d. All other so-called deities are no-things.

Meditation: Know Thyself

B”H

February 14, 2020

“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the G-d of thy father, and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind.” – 1 Chronicles 28:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Greek adage is to know thyself. Yet, King David told Solomon, his son, “Know thou the G-d of thy father.” Solomon was full of wisdom. He wrote the Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Yet, perhaps, King David was calling upon Solomon to stay focused on H’Shem.

Many people today would like to find themselves, and achieve their potential, otherwise stated as “self-actualization.” This is all well and good. Yet, to leave G-d out of the question will leave the aspirant short-sighted. There is so much more potential for us, when we acknowledge G-d in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). He should be our goal: in finding Him, we find ourselves. By getting to know Him, we are better able to understand ourselves.

Meditations: Out of the Mire

B”H

February 13, 2020

“Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.”

– Psalm 69:14, JPS 1917 Tanach

Some mornings, it is as if I’m stuck in the mire of my past; a sign for me to somehow reconcile my feelings in an honest way with myself and G-d. Waiting patiently for insight, I felt compelled to write in my journal this morning, as well as share a few words. These are candid words; I hope that they will be accessible to others for the sake of their own journey. For myself, a glimmer of light has appeared on the horizon. My hope is that the same will be true for others in due time, according to G-d’s will.

It is a progressive path, not an overnight realisation, as if everything shifts into resolution at once. The uphill climb is not easy; it takes effort, determination, and constant hope. “The L-rd is good unto them that wait for Him” (Lamentations 3:25). Perhaps, quoting this verse sounds like a contradiction. How is it possible to act and wait at the same time? Keeping with my routine, staying the course, and placing my trust in G-d, I also wait for his response to the prayers of my heart.

candid reflection

B”H February 12, 2020 I often find myself in an existential bind: because my identity is partly defined by my expression of belief through writing, as well as my personal thoughts, as funneled through that belief, it is almost as if I could say that “I write therefore I am.” Of course, this also implies […]

candid reflection — Clear Horizons

the Inner Journey

B”H “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.” Psalm 119:43 , JPS 1917 Tanach An acknowledgment of my own lack of gratitude compels me to look at my feelings that are often negative to some degree, even when the positive in my life seems to abound. Perhaps, this is notable […]

the Inner Journey — Clear Horizons

Tu b’Shevat

B”H

Tu b’Shevat Guide

“It is a good custom for the faithful to eat many fruits on this day and to celebrate them with words of praise.” – from Pri Etz Hadar ch. 1, sefaria.org

Baruch atah H’Shem Elokeinu melech haOlam borei pri haEtz. Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Baruch atah H’Shem Elokeinu melech haOlam shehechiyanu, v’kiemanu, v’higianu lazman hazeh. Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, who has granted us life, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

The concept of enacting a tikkun (rectification) through the conscious eating of a variety of fruits on this day is exemplified within the teachings found in the Pri Etz Hadar – Tree of the Goodly Fruit – that serves as a type of manual for Tu b’Shevat. To eat with intention (kavannah), means to acknowledge the spiritual significance of the day, as well as the symbolism from different types of fruits. Especially important are the seven species from Israel mentioned in Torah:

“A land of wheat and barley, and [grape] vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey. – Deuteronomy 8:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

Inner Calling

B”H February 9, 2020 “How long, O L-RD, wilt Thou forget me for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” Psalm 13:2, JPS 1917 Tanach The concept of hester panim (G-d’s hiding his face) from man, speaks of the need to find Him within the circumstances of our lives, despite His apparent […]

Inner Calling — Clear Horizons

Thirst Quenched

B”H February 8, 2020 “O G-d, Thou art my G-d, earnestly will I seek Thee; my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and weary land, where no water is.” Psalm 63:2, JPS 1917 Tanach G-d is still my G-d, that is in season or out of season. In other […]

Thirst Quenched — Clear Horizons