Personal Note: Learning a kabbalistic text has been a strange and mysterious experience for me. There are times when it seems so beyond human comprehension that it seems bizarre. Yet mystically something about its wisdom still seems to enter my nishama, even when I don't know think that it does.
A CHEST OF DRAWERS
When a pregnant young mother awaits the birth of her first child, she does not receive training that will teach her how to care for her unborn baby. Courses are available that will teach her how to breathe through her labor pains or how to hold down a squirming baby long enough to bathe and change his diapers. But she is never given an instruction book on how to teach, discipline and love the infant growing inside her. The only knowledge she has to guide her into the unknown territory of motherhood is based on how she was raised. How can she possibly know what to do?
Hopefully, she was showered with love from a compassionate and caring mother, then she is the fortunate one-blessed with a chest of drawers filled with lessons of love. She can open the desired one that will guide her through the challenges in front of her. She can pull out the memories of her past to guide her through the present and lead her towards her future. As simple as opening a drawer to decide which item of clothing is appropriate for the day- according to the weather, where she is going and of course, the latest style- so too, does she decide what to pull from the chest of drawers of her mother's lessons; also based on the atmosphere of her home, the direction in which she is going and the latest trend in parenting.
For the fortunate ones, who were raised by compassionate women overflowing with love, their drawers are full. Sadly, since many people are critical as to how they were loved, their drawers are empty. When the challenges arise, they stand before an empty chest searching for answers to guide them through the next struggle. Searching through each drawer for clues, all they find are empty drawers.
Tomer Devorah is our chest of drawers. As we open each one, we are overwhelmed by its wisdom. Tomer Devorah provides us with drawers filled with compassion and love, the kind of love we could not imagine as possible. We can look in the drawers and see what is there for us, yet we stand there clueless, not knowing what to do with what we see.
As difficult as it is for a new mother to force the small, fragile arms of her newborn baby into tight and tiny pajamas- so too do we, struggle to fit into the Tomer Devorah chest of drawers. The fit is tight and we struggle to push ourselves into it, but once we do, we are comforted by the warmth of its wisdom, as a newborn baby wrapped snugly in tight pajamas.
The drawers of Tomer Devorah provide us with teachings of compassion that are so beyond our levels of understanding, that we stand there motionless. The chest of drawers is overflowing with wisdom teaching us compassion, often hard to comprehend causing us to doubt its' teachings. Yet, we must know it is true, for it is handed down to us from our matriarchs who raised us properly with compassion, love and limits. And if we struggle and squirm to squeeze into its tight fit, we will benefit and experience the warmth of its love. From that, we know it's true.
Let's open the drawers and see what's inside.
(Attributes 1-8 were covered in the last two blogs)
Attribute #9: "And you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
Hashem forgives us, cleanses our sin and washes them away. With His Infinite Compassion and love for us, He cleanses us, elevates us and minimizes our aveiras. This is the attribute of teshuva. Hashem wants our teshuva. The yetzer hara is given the task to be the cause of trouble. For our sins cause us to do teshuva, love Hashem and from this, we awaken the rachamim in Shemayim.
When others sin, "we should not despise him, he is like your brother." We should draw close to the downcast and have compassion for them. We should not say his sin caused him suffering, but we should have compassion and say, that sin can also cause him to do teshuva and love Hashem.
Everyone is hurting in some way. Every person has troubles. We can be the healing balm to those around us. We must tap into our incomprehensible levels of compassion to open our hearts to those with troubles. Reach for an even higher level of compassion within yourself- choose a person that has troubles and think of how you can be there for them- without judgment or criticism, reach out to him and help him through his struggles.
Attribute #10: "Show faithfulness to Ya'akov."
"Ya'akov" refers to individuals who are of average spiritual stature, yet they execute justice and fairness. They live by the strict requirements of the Law. Hashem is faithful and compassionate to them, for it is not easy to be spiritually average yet remain honest, on a straight path and live by the Laws.
So too, should we be fair and faithful. We should see others through our own merciful eyes. We should make every attempt to temper justice with mercy.
Be honest, fair and faithful. Keep your word. How we conduct ourselves is how Hashem is with us.
Attribute #11: "Kindness to Avraham"
Hashem conducts HimSelf towards us with the kindness of Avraham.
Avraham went beyond the requirements of the Law. Hashem goes beyond the Law for us.
We too should go beyond what the Law requires to be kind, patient and compassionate towards others.
Move away from demanding your rights. Experience the chesed of Avraham. See through the eyes of a completely merciful heart.
Attribute #12: "Which you have sworn to our fathers"
Even for those who lack spiritual integrity- Hashem has a storehouse of compassion for them. His storehouse of compassion is for all his creations, even the seemingly unworthy. He allows them the opportunity to redeem themselves, on what merit? Because Hashem made an oath to the Avos, chus avos (on the merit of the Patriarchs). Even for those who do not behave properly, their fathers were upright and worthy. They should merit good because they are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov.
Find in our hearts mercy and compassion for all and say, "ultimately this person too is a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov."
When we come across an unpleasant person, repeat the words of Tomer Devorah... this individual is a descendant of Avraham, Yitchak and Ya'akov and let that enter your heart.
Connect to your own personal "storehouse of compassion" for all, even the seemingly unworthy.
Attribute #13: "From days of old"
This attribute is the crowning rectification (the diamond in the crown). This is the attribute of Hashem's rachamim when all else fails. If He sees no merit "now" he will remember the Days of Old. He will remember all the good deeds of Klal Yisrael from when they were born as a nation. He will include that in the remedy for that is how He rules the world. He will remember only the good traits and hide His eyes from seeing aveiras.
So too should we, go beyond ourselves (when we see only the flaws and faults) to see everybody in a positive eye. If we encounter a negative person, one in whom we cannot see any redeeming qualities, remember him as a newborn baby. See them as a pure and holy nishama. Remember others this way and apply this attribute in our interpersonal relationships.
Start with the easiest and then move on to the more difficult people and situations. Be aware that this is the crowning diamond of all the attributes of Hashem's rachamim. When you see the essence of others, you see your own essence. When you raise others up, remember you raise yourself up, as well.
Find a picture of the person (you would like to apply this to) as a small child or a baby.
See their pure and good holy nishama- for this is their true essence. Everyone has one.
Me Mei Kedem- Remember the Days of Old.
We have now finished learning the 13 Attributes of Hashem's rachamim. Tomer Devorah teaches us exactly how to emulate them and Rabbi Miller provides us with a p'ula, a spiritual exercise, exactly how to practically apply it to our interpersonal relationships in our daily situations. However, Tomer Devorah also teaches us that as we conduct ourselves in this world, we are worthy of awakening His rachamim for us in Shemayim.
Too often we become over-involved in our emotions and our ego, that we forget when we do, Hashem is not present. We ease Hashem out. Tomer Devorah tells us to learn His Attributes, emulate them and awaken the outflow of mercy from Above. We should never ignore them or let them depart from our lips. We should make constant use of them as the situations arise. We should remember to say "this situation requires this attribute." For when we do, Hashem shines His light into the world.
May Hashem shine His light of rachamim upon you.