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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Sefirot and the Counting of the Omer (Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

With G-d's help, we continue our efforts to explain Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

In his first Ma'amar on Lag Ba'Omer (18th of Iyar, 5711), the Rebbe explains how the Counting of the Omer is connected to purifying and rectifying the animal soul, and that there are two elements: the rectification (Beirur)of a person's mind (Mochin) and the rectification of a person's attributes (Middot). In turn, the Rebbe explains that these two rectifications are connected to the bringing of the Omer offering and the counting itself.


The Omer offering is brought from barley (animal food), and the Talmud teaches that a baby does gain the intellectual capacity to speak until he's tasted cereal, which indicates that the Omer offering is connect to the intellect, the Mochin of the animal soul.


After the rectification of the intellect comes the rectification of the [emotional] attributes, both on a daily basis and on a weekly basis. There is a "general" rectification on the level of Makif (surrounding, not penetrating) and a "specific" one that goes into the detail of each of the seven emotional attributes and is properly internalized. The idea of the step-by-step, slow, deeper and detailed rectification is expressed in working on the subdivisions of the emotional attributes, until one's thoughts, speech, and deeds are as they should be. This is the idea of taking each day to work on a subdivision, Chesed shebeChesed, Hod shebeHod, etc. 


The Rebbe also explains what certain subdivisions represent. For example Chesed shebeChesed symbolizes that out of the love one has for Hashem, he loves also what Hashem loves. When one sees someone studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvot with fear of Heaven, that inspires love for that person. Chesed shebeChesed also inspires a person to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot him/herself with great alacrity.


Gevurah shebeChesed means that love for Hashem causes a person to hate those that are against Him. Tiferet shebeChesed is related to love for the beauty and sweetness of the Torah and mitzvot. Netzach shebeChesed is the determination (out of love) to study Torah and fulfill mitzvot against any obstacles, and Hod shebeChesed is related to the idea of fighting with any outside forces that are trying to prevent him from his goal. Yesod shebeChesed is related to a deep soul connection [foundation] to Torah and mitzvot, and Malchut shebeChesed is bringing oneself [and all the above] to a state where all his thoughts, speech, and deeds are solely connected to Torah and mitzvot.


The Rebbe further explains that all the good qualities above have a negative counterpart. The subdivisions of Chesed for example, can be rooted in the love for physicality that takes him away from G-dliness. A person may, G-d forbid, take all the of the above (the love, the hate, the beauty, determination, etc.) and apply it to the physical.


The Rebbe points out that Hod is also connected to the idea of acknowledgment. Hod shebeHod, which is the Sefirah for Lag Ba'Omer, represents a level of acknowledgment that is intrinsic to this characteristic, unrelated to reason or even to the higher emotions. It is the lowest level of holiness - even if one bows during Modim (the prayer of thanks/acknowledgment) without even knowing why, there is still hope for such a person, and he/she is still connected to holiness.


The task of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was to connect the highest levels of holiness to the lowest ones, and that is why his highest revelations, which he revealed on the very day of his passing, were on the day of Hod shebeHod.



[Now that Chanukah and, L'Havdil, Thanksgiving (celebrated together for the first and probably only time in history) are upon us, may we all connect to the idea of Hod, giving thanks, and renew our hope and expectation of the day when the holiness of each and every person will be revealed.

The following are the additions we make on Chanukah to the prayer of Modim mentioned above, part of the Amidah:


On Chanukah and Purim, the following is added.
And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time ---
On Chanukah continue here: 

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/867674/jewish/Translation.htm

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Yitkafia and Yit'apcha: Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

This coming Friday is the Yud Tes (19th of) Kislev, which is known in Chabad circles as the "Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut. It marks the liberation of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that Yud (the 10th of )Kislev marks the birth of a chassid, while Yud Tes Kislev marks his brit-milah (circumcision, the removal of the outer barrier).

In honor of this day, we will, G-d willing, attempt to explain Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which trace their back to the Alter Rebbe himself.


The first concept to be explained here are the concepts of Yitkafia and Yit'apcha. In one of his first Maamarim, the Rebbe explains that our Divine service in this world, known as Avodat HaBeirurim (sifting through and elevating the holy sparks of this world) consists of taking what is undesired and associated with the [cosmic] left (the side of impurity) and uplifting them and integrating them into the [cosmic] right (the side of holiness). He further states that this is service of Torah study itself, clarifying what is allowed and what is forbidden and elevating it to the "right."


The Rebbe then states that when it comes to this Divine service, there are two major approaches, Yitkafia Sitra Achra (holding back the evil inclination), and Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora (transforming darkness into light). Both have advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other.


The service of  Yitkafia involves the good inclination "dressing" itself into the evil inclination, and overpowering and overwhelming it, until it itself becomes subservient and nullified to the good. Yitkafia is the Divine service of the Beinoni (the "intermediate") and is applicable to every individual. It is compared to an actual war, a struggle exemplified by Jacob's (the good inclination) wresting with Esau's angel (the evil inclination). Vay'avek ish imo – “And a man (angel) wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:25)


The advantage of Yitkafia is that that the evil must fully acknowledge the good. Its disadvantage is that the evil never really goes away. Like the concept of nullification in Jewish law, sometimes nullification takes place when you have 60 times more of the kosher substance than the non-kosher one, sometimes you have 1000, and sometimes even 10,000. No matter the difference, the non-kosher substance never disappears completely, it is still there to some extent. 


Another disadvantage of Yitkafia is that the interaction between the good and the evil cannot help but slightly weaken the good, just like wen you pour sweet drinkable water over bitter water, the entire body of water now becomes drinkable, but is not as sweet as the original sweet water.


Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora involves a revelation of Divine light that automatically transforms the evil inclination into good. Its advantage is that it leaves no trace of the evil. The disadvantage is that the evil does not acknowledge the good inclination - it becomes transformed automatically, in the face of the new light that is revealed. 

  
The Rebbe compares the difference between Yitkafia and Yit'apcha to the two different ways a litigant can emerge victorious in a court room. One way to defeat the prosecution is by the defense offering arguments that successfully counter those offered by the opposing party. This would be equivalent to Yitkafia, where there is a struggle, a back and forth between the two sides. Another way the defendant can win is if the King himself appears in the courtroom. The revelation of the countenance of the King [and his decision as a matter of equity to side with the defendant] makes both sides work for the defense. This would be the equivalent of  Yit'apcha.

When it comes to our Divine service, we can fight the evil inclination by reading chassidic works that others related to morals and ethics that help us "know the enemy" and properly fight the evil inclination through Yitkafia. [It is worth noting that Yitkafia applies even in the realm of what is permitted, yet susceptible toabuse. One must know when it may be necessary to hold back even when doing something completely "kosher"]. Yit'apcha usually involves a revelation from above, Divine assistance in the form of a Rebbe's encouragement, for example. 


There is an even higher level of Yit'apcha. This level is above understanding and feeling, which comes from the very essence of the person, from his/her innermost desire to abandon all evil in order to be close to Hashem.  A person may not even know what is harmful spiritually and may not know what is G-dly either, but something inside him/her nevertheless pushes the person away from evil and to come closer to G-d. 


[In the coming days of Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah, may we all connect to this essence, to that pure flask of oil that each one of us carries inside, stamped with the seal of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creative Writing: Poetry


Procurando Meu Canto

Achei minha voz

Conheci os amigos
Relembrei meus avós.

Procurando meu canto

Senti minha dor
Lavei minha alma
Expirei meu calor.

Procurando meu canto

Construi minhas casas
Reatei as raizes
Soltei minhas asas.

Procurando meu canto

Cantei pra Você
Encontrei, finalmente,
Minha razão de viver.


Bedtime Shemah
I have died
So many times
That when I go
It won't be new
My eyes will close
My mouth ajar
I'll say the words
I know are true:
There is no doubt
There is no I
There's only Truth
There's only You
Then, wrapped in white
I'll wait and see 
The Heavens' first
Light shades of blue
I'll give my thanks
And wash my hands
Shake off the dust
And start anew.

I am the Place

In which you sit
Life, vest,
Oxygen, mask.

I am the belt
Holding you tight
Buckling and
Unbuckling.

I am the seat
That makes you float
If you hug me
Against your chest.

I am the One
Who comforts you,
Pilot now signaling

It is safe to stand.



Jacob, Israel

I try so hard
In every way
To get Your smile
And get Your say

Perhaps one day
After all that trying
After all that living
After all that dying

My seeds will grow
To become trees
And testify
About that child

And then that man
Who tried so hard
And finally got

What he couldn't see.


Yom Yerushalayim

Chega o dia que cansa
Ser manso, pacato
Sensato palhaço
Chega a hora que explode
A força enforcada
Feroz e selvagem
Com garras, coragem
Jumento tornado
Tigre de fogo e carvão
Reconquista por fim
O próprio coração
Cidade da paz
E temor.


Nepal


Completely nothing

He couldn't move
His mind a daze
His world confused

Not knowing
If he was coming
Or he was going.

Out of fuel
For quite some time
His body failing
As were his rhymes

He'd sing
His final song
And then he'd go.

Then he remembered
An ancient shepherd
Who worked for love
For seven years, then seven more

They went by slow
But even so
They were like days.

He too felt dead
For quite some time
And yet he knew, he surely knew
That like the dew

He'd be revived.

PS: : "Love is as strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:16)



It Comes as No Surprise

That outside the
Land of giants
Everything again
Feels so small.

If after 9 months
It took me
Almost a decade
To settle,

Is it really a shock
That I'd return
With my head again
In those clouds?

No longer breathing
Its air, bathing
In Its water,

No longer standing
On Its earth, warm
From Its fire.

It's all
To be expected,
Yet painful
All the same.

PS: Israel has four main holy cities:Jerusalem (fire), Hebron (earth), Tiberias (water) and Tsfat (air)


In the Holy Land


The angels I've seen

Have no chubby cheeks,
Fluffy feathers or wings.

They have just direction

To give and care deeply,
Few words, hardly any expression.


Alive at Week's End

Not because
I earn or
Spend


But because
I yearn,
Expand.

Weak finished,
I learn to
Stand

Witness,
Return, and
Mend.


Some Times

No matter how right
And successful
The operation,

How strong the bond
And bright the light
After the darkness,

The wound remains
And the heart still
Beats a bit broken.


I Don't Have All the Answers

I don't have all the answers
Not even the questions.

All I have is the will
To learn and to change.

And that's all I need.


Allah huAkhbar
G-d is Great
He is All and
More
People peep
Like mice at bar
Holes
And make Him
small.


The Left Leg

Was never meant
To be the head.

I hold my own
But seek balance
In my right twin.

I flex and bend
So not to brake.

Protect my toes,
My heal and soul
With my thick skin.


Come and see

Come and hear,
Smell and touch,
Taste and fear,
Love so much.

Come and sing.

Come and heal,
Smile and try,
Dance and feel,
Laugh and cry.

Whatever you do,
Make sure to come.
Uman Uman Rosh Hashana...


In the Morning

In the morning
I wrap myself
With explosives
Close to my heart,
Arms, and head.

I search for
The biggest crowd
Of Jewish men,
Covering my face
With a cloak.

I anxiously wait
To sacrifice
Body and Soul,
Lighting a Fire
For Life, and not death.


Surrounded by Distant Family

Sitting in a gymnasium,
Praying for their release
I could not help but think that
We are all kidnapped children.
(Literally, Tinokot sheNishbe'u)

Yet, we too are not alone.
We are One, and we have each other.
We've been united and must remain so,
For that is the ultimate goal, the only way out,
The source of our redemption.

Return us to You,
And we will return, together.
Bring back your boys.


After a Long Day

I opened up my computer and
A pop-up window appeared.
It had a heart and read in pink:
"Does Skype power your passion?"

They do not know that Mine is
Vast and total.

If only there was a Skype for it,
Something to keep me connected.
If only I could see and still
Listen, talk, and live...

Then perhaps I would not feel
The emptiness.

The crater that remains from the blast
That formed me into a vessel,
Rendering other food tasteless and
The air outside of it impure.

Here, there is no way to fill
The void, I know.

There are but moments of brightness,
The promise of reward, and
The gratification in knowing that
I do not want or need it.

The only true reward is to serve
The One I love.

Everything else is just a
Flashing light on a screen
On which I must click,
and hit "OK."


The Heart of the Matter

When the soul first enters the body,
 It asks: "Why do I need all this opposition?
I already had a place to live,
So why do I have to conquer this one?"

With time, it realizes that to be truly whole
And holy requires both body and soul,
East and West, the Jerusalem above
And the Jerusalem below.


Some points

At some points,
I worried about
Sounding smart.
At some others,
Sounding funny.
Buy these days,
All I care about
Is sounding true,
Like my Self.


From my posts

Some people
May think
I'm crazy.

Of course,
I am.
Isn't everyone
Who is in love?



180

There's a lady
Who for years
I would see

On the street
Taking walks
Dragging half
Of her body.

She's here now
And I cannot
Believe my eyes.

Her back straight,
No longer angled
Forty-five degrees,

She is running.


Tag Me In Your Prayers

Tag me 
In your 
Prayers

Like what's
Behind
Purim
Masks

Beyond
Yellow
Electronic
Smiles

React
To More
Than just
Posts

And you
Will come
Face to
Face

With the
Fact that
I am
You

And our
Life is
In a
Book

Of the
Kind One
Has to

Open.


Some Times

No matter how right
And successful
The operation,

How strong the bond
And bright the light
After the darkness,

The wound remains
And the heart still
Beats a bit broken.


Just Paths

The truth is that
There's no quick fix
Just simply paths
Of the Tzadik.

No lasting signs,
Bright finish lines,
Cures from coffee,
Much less from wine.

There's no plateau,
Or staying still,
You either grow
Or you will wilt.

Just step by step,
That's all there is.
A few more up
Until you slip.

Then comes the trick,
To just restart,
Get up and go
Until you find

That brick by brick,
Through sweat and tears
A few mistakes 
And many fears

You've built a home.






Sunday, November 11, 2012

Todah

At what 
You think 
Is a 
Low Point 

In what 
You think 
Is a 
Bad day 

Take a 
Deep breath 
Say a 
Thank you 

And watch 
How it 
Beautifully unfolds.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Be Maccabees



Musical Adaptation by the very talented Stephanie Romay, more information at https://www.facebook.com/ellayelmusic

I wish I could tell you
Everything is ok.
I wish I could say it
Everyday.

I wish I could tell you
Let's just go on our way
No looking, holding back
Anymore.

But I can't.

What I can tell you is
It WILL be ok
Everything's according to
His way.

But that doesn't mean that
There's not a lot to do
To pretend so is simply
Not true.

And I can't.

And yes, life is good,
Yes, G-d is good,
There's so much to thank
And enjoy

You know it's not easy
To be Maccabbees,
At peace while still
At war.

Yet, we can. Yes we can.

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF PEREK SHIRAH HERE!

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