Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PROOF OF PURCHASE

My travels to Israel inspired me to learn Hebrew. One of the most common words is kabbalah. This word was not new to me. I've heard it for years, even before I knew what it meant. The only thing I knew about kabbalah was that it was the study of something mystical and mysterious that revealed the hidden secrets of life. Then one day, when I was going to return an item I purchased at a store in Jerusalem, I was startled the first time the cashier asked me, "yesh kabbalah (do I have a receipt)?" At first, I went into my 'translation-delay' mode, then I got it. "Wait a minute," I thought to myself, "This holy mystical word that reveals the secrets of the Universe is the same word as proof of purchase?" It's as simple as that, a receipt? That's when it all became clear to me.

All the mysticism, all the secrets of the Universe are not merely about receiving them... it's about proving that I received them. If I learn something Kabbalistic, I must provide proof=a kabbalah, a receipt that proves it was received.

In the grocery store, I can provide proof with a small piece of paper. In life, the only way I can provide proof is through my actions. It's one thing to receive something and to have possession of it but it's completely different to have a receipt that proves it's yours, that you own it. You can learn, read and intellectualize the great mystical secrets of the holy textbooks of Kabbalah but until have a "kabbalah" there is no proof.

Our kabbalistic journey towards the undiscovered trait of compassion in our souls has begun. Tomer Devorah (the Kabbalistic text by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero/Sfat 1600's) has been our road map. Rabbi Miller has been our tour guide. As we journey through the pages, the words have jumped off the paper, into our hearts and touched our souls. The secrets are becoming unraveled and revealed. The dark and difficult passageways are becoming illuminated. Each week, Rabbi Miller clears the way and provides the light for us to see through the darkness. We are becoming enlightened as we continue our journey through the winding paths.

Tomer Devorah reveals an incredible secret. The hidden wisdom (the secret) is in the text and is repeated and continuous at the end of each chapter. We are learning the 13 Supernal Attributes of Mercy (Michah 7:18-20), Hashem's compassion. This has not been hidden since many of us may have heard it before. At first glance, it doesn't seem as if there is anything mystical or extraordinary about the text. Yet, as we continue through the pages, it becomes apparent.

The hidden secret that is being revealed is the proof that we also possess these attributes.
It is teaching us that, we too, have the ability to act with such a high level of holiness in our everyday behavior. Hidden deep within us, locked away in the depths of our soul, is an undiscovered potential for compassion that we have yet to tap into. That is our essence.

As simple as that may seem, when you take a moment to ponder it... you realize how powerful and empowering it truly is. The study of each attribute of Hashem's compassion, specifically and clearly proves how it is obvious throughout the Torah and how it is also evident in our own lives. What makes it so mystical is the fact that it's not simply intellectual learning- each lesson is proof that it's true. It is obvious to see. Yet, putting it into practice is not so simple.

Tomer Devorah starts each chapter proving Hashem's ways and how they are apparent in our lives. Then it ends each chapter, clearly and specifically, stating that man too should emulate, acquire, behave and conduct himself in the same way. That means we can!

That is the holy secret. That is the essence of who we are, each one of us possesses the ability and the holy potential to do so. WE CAN. As difficult, and impossible, as it often seems, Tomer Devorah is telling us... we can do it. The essence of who we are, our hidden potential, our unknown greatness is being revealed. We are capable of so much more than what we are currently experiencing. Our greatness is unknown to us, yet being revealed. Take a moment to dwell on that... to know that you too, can act the same way.

If you do, you are emulating Hashem and living true to your essence... pure and true to your holy tzelem Elokim, your Holy Goodness.
You are living kiddush Hashem, sanctifying His Holy name throughout the day in all your inter-personal relationships, exactly the way He wants you to live.

When we learn, recognize and become awakened to how Hashem is with us, we are handed the guidebook with details so that we can discover our own compassion and know that we too, can treat others the same. Tomer Devorah tells us how.

Tomer Devorah clearly states each attribute and then specifically tells us how to emulate that attribute in our own lives, in our inter-personal relationships. It inspires and awakens what is hidden within us. When we understand Hashem's essence, we can understand what is etched in our soul. Then we can actualize it, experience and make it happen.

Attribute One- "Who is a G-d like you?"
1) This is an exclamatory statement of awe and amazement. Despite our shortcomings, flaws and sins... it is awe-inspiring that Hashem continues to be present in our lives. If we go against His will for us, He does not abandon us. "Even when He is insulted, He does not withdraw His benevolence." We constantly insult Him by ignoring His ways and all the precious gifts he bestows on us daily.
In Bereshis it says, "Hashem breathes into man a living soul." (V'yipach b'apov nishma chaim). This did not happen once and end there. For He continues to breathe into us a living soul and continues to be present in our lives.
Emulation:
2) "This is a virtue man should emulate, namely, tolerance." We can continue to love others even when they hurt us. We should not withdraw our love. Practice kindness by listening to others with tremendous empathy. Give with all your heart. See the holy sparks in yourself, as well as in others. Become inspired and awaken to your holy essence. Feel the presence of Hashem breathing a living soul into you.
Attribute Two- "(One) Who pardons iniquity:"
1) "Hashem bears the sin and endures it, just as He sustains the entire world, He sustains the destructive creature until he repents."
Emulation:
2) "He (man) too should be tolerant and bear the yoke of his fellow man and his evil ways, even though his transgressions are of such magnitude that the evil remains. He should tolerate one who sinned against him until the sinner mends his ways or the sin disappears of its own accord." We too should be tolerant and patient giving others the chance to do better. Bear an insult with silence and all your sins will be forgiven (Gemora: Rosh Hashana p17).
Attribute Three- "And forgives... transgression:"
1) Hashem forgives. And when He forgives, He takes our impurity and cleanses it. Not only does He forgive but He sends purifying waters and washes away the sin. Hashem cleanses the sins of the Jewish people. Hashem gave the Jewish people the process of teshuva. Through this, He shines His brilliant light of holiness upon us which rectifies our impurity. Our sins are like the dew, not like rain. Dew is a gentle mist that coats the leaves and awakens the inner core and strength of the plants. Rain saturates the ground drowning the leaves. Sins are like the dew... the gentle mist that awakens your inner strength.
Emulation:
2) "A person should behave in exactly the same way. He should not say, "Why should I be the one to rectify someone else's sins?" He should forgive the transgressions of others. We should forgive others when they err, as we too make mistakes and want to be forgiven and given the chance to improve our ways. When we do, we actually cleanses others of their sins. Let our sins (and the sins of others) be the light to the future. Let them awaken our inner strengths and inspire us (and help us to inspire others) to improve our (their) ways. Forgive the transgressions of others. Never enter into power struggles of control. Practice forgiveness by praying for people that need spiritual assistance.
Attribute Four- [And forgives the transgression of] the remnant of His heritage:"
1) "A person should conduct himself the same way towards his friend, since all the people of Israel are blood relatives, being that all souls are united, and each person has a part of all others within him." Hashem loves us as if we are His family, his closest relatives. We are His heritage and his legacy.
Emulation:
2) Apply this in our families. Our families are a frame of reference to understand how Hashem loves us. We have to master our family relationships first. From this, we can understand how Hashem loves us and then we can spread the love to our friends, neighbors and associate. Then we can live by the axiomatic principle of the Torah (love your neighbor as you love yourself). If we don't forgive others, we also feel the pain. The more we love others, the more love we awaken in Shemayim and in our lives.
Attribute Five- "He does not maintain His anger forever:"
1) "This is a fitting attribute for a person to acquire in his conduct towards his fellow. Hashem does not hold a grudge. He turns his wrath into rachamim (compassion).
Emulation:
2) Do not hold a grudge. Extinguish your anger and then act with love. Let the anger in your heart disappear and draw near to others with love. "Anger is punishing yourself for someone else's flaws." Make every effort to extinguish the hurt in your heart. Master over your heart.

How is this possible for us, mere human beings, to act this way? Tomer Devorah tells us we can. As impossible as it seems, Tomer Devorah reveals that this super-power is hidden within us. If you are ready to receive it, you can strive to achieve it. You can believe it and buy into it. However, it doesn't become real until you provide proof of purchase.... through your actions.

You must live by it.
Follow the roap map,
stay on the path,
feel confident and empowered in knowing
that the hidden secrets are being revealed.

YOU TOO CAN EMULATE, ACQUIRE, BEHAVE AND CONDUCT YOURSELF IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY.

May Hashem strengthen you to believe you can and to do so.

Learning Tomer Devorah is deep and challenging to do alone. One needs a guide to unravel the mysteries of its wisdom. If you would like to join us in the course, please contact Rabbi Miller at salantorg@gmail.com or mussarvaad@gmail.com.
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