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Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Difficult Dance. Which is Greater: Transcendence or Immersion?

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

What is life? Life is energy and energy is about rhythm.

The mystics call it “rotzo v’shuv” (based on a verse in Ezekiel’s vision “v’hachayut rotzo v’shuv,” literally “and the energy runs and returns”). “Rotzo” is a state of yearning and transcendence; “shuv” is a state of immersion and integration.

The very engine of life is driven by the pulsating dance of “rotzo” and “shuv.” This is true on all levels of life. On a cosmic level, all of existence is essentially Divine breath, throbbing energy, constantly recreating existence. And on a microcosmic level, individual life is fueled by the heart beat contracting and expanding, and the breath exhaling and inhaling.

Psychologically too what makes a human being human is a constant ebb and flow – of tension and resolution, transcendence and integration, abstraction and concretization. Human nature is not satisfied with animal bliss; it consistently reaches upward, aspiring, dreaming – seeking to improve itself and beyond. And then we return – re-immersing and integrating the transcendent experience.

All growth is built on the dual principle of first desiring and striving for something we don’t yet have, and then acquiring and internalizing it. Like climbing a ladder: You see the step above you and then you climb and conquer it. As you climb higher broader horizons open up, feeding our hunger for more and than sating that hunger, only to whet our appetite for experiencing higher states of being.

All growth is built on the dual principle of first desiring and striving for something we don’t yet have, and then acquiring and internalizing it.

A healthy life and a fulfilled one is when we master the balance between these two poles: A healthy measure of both angst and calm, of dreams and their fulfillment. Unhealthy situations are usually a result of imbalance between the two, with either too much tension and too little resolution or the other way around. Some people dream well, but don’t implement; others act but don’t imagine.

No one is perfect, and it requires constant vigilance to ensure that the transcendent yearning should be balanced by contained integration, so that we have our heads in the heavens but our feet firmly planted on the ground. Yet, life gets out of control – and this is the root of many maladies – when one of the two dominates to the extreme. Sometimes this takes on the shape of exaggerated exuberance, unrealistic fantasies and illusions of grandeur. On the other end of the spectrum, the lack of aspiration can easily evolve into despair and resignation – with no hope or faith in a better tomorrow.

Life then is essentially a journey. Its essential nature is one of movement and rhythm, characterized by cycles of ups and downs, dynamically flowing back and forth.

If we were all in touch with this basic truth, the fundamental nature of life’s vicissitudes, we would be able to ride through most of our challenges, even the difficult times. The problem is that even if we understand with our minds the cycle of life, our subjective hearts get caught up in the moment, consumed by either the moment of joy or pain, unable to see the spinning wheel.

Which is why the Baal Shem Tov uses the “spiral staircase” as an analogy for life’s cycles: In Yiddish a spiral staircase is called “shvindel trep,” literally: Swindling steps. Why? Because when you climb a regular vertical staircase, you see yourself getting closer to the destination as you climb the stairs. A spiral staircase “swindles” you, because as you get closer to the destination you have to turn completely around, in a 360 degree turn, to the point where you cannot see the apex. As you climb you keep turning your back to the destination, and just before you reach the top, you must turn completely around for the last time. The key is to always remember, even when your eyes cannot see it and your heart cannot feel it, that we are on a climbing staircase, and we must continue to move.

This is all good and fine in the normal flow of life. We can understand that we all will go through our ups and downs, and need to adjust to the rhythms. But unfortunately at times the “downs” manifest in such intense ways – whether it be in a collective tragedy, as in the Egyptian bondage or the Holocaust, or in a personal tragedy – that all the explanations are rendered meaningless.

Yet, even in the deepest darkness we see that the Jewish people enslaved in Egypt – and then time and again in their sufferings throughout history, till the most recent Holocaust – had some superhuman strength that empowered them to hold on, to become stronger and greater, “the more they were oppressed the more they proliferated and spread” (Exodus 1:12).

This can be explained as the strength that comes from being challenged. But we see that not all nations and individuals react quite the same way in face of suffering. Clearly there is something more.

The Jewish people in Egypt, and throughout the ages, survived and thrived due to their profound, inherent faith in the Divine purpose of existence, which insists on the soul descending and immersing in life as we know it in order to transform the darkest and lowest of places into a Divine “home.”

Though the soul naturally flickers like a flame, yearning and returning in its dual “rotzo v’shuv” dance, ultimately the soul is imbued with the need to immerse which is rooted in the Essence and its “desire” to have a “home” in the “lowest of worlds.”

This is a revolutionary concept posited in this week’s Samach-Vav discourse.

Initially it would appear that the soul is naturally more transcendent (rotzo) than immersive (shuv).

Initially it would appear that the soul is naturally more transcendent (rotzo) than immersive (shuv). A spiritual person is drawn to the sublime rather than the material, and finds it easier to separate from the material world rather immerse in it.

In truth, however, the transcendent nature of the soul is only in the conscious “personality” of the soul; its nature like a flame is always to rise and be engulfed in its source. But the essence of the soul, which is rooted in the Divine Essence, senses in its total selflessness the Divine desire to immerse in life.

Indeed transcendence is possible only outside of the Essence, not inside the Essence. By definition transcendence means that the given entity is in a state of want. Yearning to reach its source and being repelled by its finite groundings propels the entity to gravitate upward into a state of transcendence. Yearning is a direct result of feeling distance from the object you are yearning for. But within the Essence of reality transcendence and yearning is not necessary nor does it make sense.

Thus the power to transcend comes from a more “external” level than the power to immerse. Transcendence is a state of revelation that needs a reason and cause to transcend, unlike immersion which is rooted in the Essence and its “desire” to have a “home” in the “lowest of worlds,” which is not driven by a reason or cause and is beyond any defined state of revelation.

So the need to immerse in life is actually paradoxical: On one hand it is much more difficult than the inclination to transcend. On a conscious level the soul feels the tug from above and therefore finds it more natural to yearn rather than to immerse. On the other hand on the Essence level immersion is the ultimate purpose, but to reveal it requires our complete dedication and hard work.

This ingrained sense, implanted in the deepest recesses of the soul, that we must immerse in the world (and not escape from it) – and the human effort to completely subjugate itself to this cause – is what gave the Jewish nation in Egypt and throughout the history the power to live through it all the unbearable suffering and prevail in invincible fashion.

Usually we would think that transcendence is what allows us to rise above our suffering world. Yet, here it is actually the need to immerse, engage and refine the world that gives us this power.

The practical lesson for us is this: The best way to face the most difficult challenges in life is not to retreat and disengage from life and retreat. Quite the contrary: We must intensify our engagement and double our efforts in refining the world around us, by committing to an extra act of virtue, to an additional mitzvah – to being a better person and inspiring others to improve their lives.

Such an approach definitely demands more effort and is more difficult. But it is this self-generated exertion (not due to any revelatory inspiration) that generates new energy and changes the universe.

Which is brings us back to the fundamental theme of Samach-Vav: Our efforts are not just revealing hidden dimensions, but actually initiating new ones. But to do so, you and I have do something new.

Doing exactly what our natural habits do not want to do is the newest thing you can ever do.

As taken from, The Difficult Dance – The Meaningful Life Center

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Aprendiendo de las sensaciones de su cuerpo

por Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Tu cuerpo contiene muchos recuerdos y secretos. Ya sean sensaciones “buenas” o incómodas, las sensaciones de su cuerpo están destinadas a alertarte sobre el estado más profundo de tu ser. Aparentemente, puede parecer que el dolor y el placer corporal son experiencias circunstanciales, que no nos dicen mucho. Eso, sin embargo, es una visión limitada del cuerpo y su relación con el alma. En verdad, los sentimientos de tu cuerpo a menudo reflejan las necesidades de su psique. La siguiente es una breve discusión basada en la sabiduría cabalística de más 4000 años de antigüedad sobre cómo se debe sentir tener un alma sana en un cuerpo sano.

Cómo se siente “simplemente ser”

Piense en lo que significa estar vivo. ¿Qué se siente simplemente con existir, ser? ¿Cómo se siente la vida? Si puede describir cómo se siente la vida, sería una señal de que algo anda mal. La salud no tiene sensación. Dolor, enfermedad, cuando las cosas van mal, entonces sentimos algo. Cuando está sano, respira normalmente y tiene latidos cardíacos regulares, no experimenta ninguna sensación. Simplemente eres. ¿Qué se siente al “estar vivo”? En realidad, no tiene sensación.

La vida significa ser, existir. El ser no tiene sensaciones. Puede experimentar una sensación, pero por sí sola simplemente es. Tan pronto como sienta que existe, no experimentará la existencia misma; sólo una manifestación de ello. De manera fascinante, y contraria a la intuición, cuanto más consciente eres de ti mismo, menos eres en realidad.

La autoconciencia revela una desconexión entre cuerpo y alma

En pocas palabras: estás en el mejor momento cuando menos consciente estás de ti mismo. La experiencia más cercana a lo verdadero es cuando te sientes completamente inmerso en la experiencia, hasta el punto en que no puedes distinguir entre tú y el momento que estás experimentando. Piensa en un momento en el que estuviste completamente absorto en un libro que estabas leyendo, hasta el punto en que ni siquiera podías sentir que estabas leyendo o pasando páginas; estabas experimentando la historia de primera mano como si estuvieras allí. O piensa en un momento en el que te quedaste despierto toda la noche involucrado en un proyecto que amabas y que te entusiasmaba. El tiempo voló y ni siquiera te diste cuenta de lo cansado y hambriento que estabas, hasta que sales del momento y de repente tomas consciencia el tiempo y el lugar.

Una vez que su yo externo se desconecta de su yo interior, la conciencia es un paso necesario para regresar. Pero la experiencia suprema es cuando logras una unidad con nuestra voz interior que ni siquiera requiere, y está más allá, de un estado de conciencia. Algunos llaman a esto “estar en la zona”, donde no eres consciente de ti mismo y solo sirves como un canal de una conciencia superior. El sujeto y el objeto se han fusionado en uno.

La llamada de atención

Cuando ves más allá de una vida unidimensional, cuando te das cuenta que estás compuesto no solo por un cuerpo, sino por un cuerpo que contiene un alma, reconoces que hay un propósito mucho más elevado para tu vida y un significado mucho más profundo de lo que sientes en tu cuerpo. Tanto tu carencia de sensación (la cual refleja que estás absorto en la experiencia) como tus sensaciones expresan tu yo interior.

¿Cómo expresan las sensaciones de tu alma?

En primer lugar, la conciencia de tu propia conciencia actúa como una llamada de atención o alerta para ayudarte a recuperar el contacto con tu yo interior y llegar más allá de la conciencia de ti mismo, viviendo una vida de inmersión completa y sin fisuras en el propósito de tu vida.

En segundo lugar, cuando te conectas a un estado suprasensorial, puedes corroborarlo en tus sensaciones y sentidos. Se trata de una experiencia como la que tienes cuando escuchas música o miras una escena hermosa, tus sentidos visuales y de audio experimentan algo que trasciende los sentidos. Y finalmente, sus sentimientos de placer o dolor sirven como catalizador y trampolín para acceder a tu alma y su conciencia espiritual.

Sentir dolor u otras sensaciones en tu cuerpo son oportunidades para desafiar la forma en cómo ves la vida. Éstas pueden llevarte a los límites de tu existencia, permitiéndote verla desde un ángulo nuevo y revelador. Entonces, la verdadera pregunta que debe hacerse no es solo porqué a veces se siente usted mismo, sino qué se supone que debe aprender de ello.

Ejercicio: Piense en un momento en el que experimentó una fuerte sensación corporal. ¿Qué podría enseñarte sobre tu yo interior? A medida que avanza el día, tome conciencia de los sentimientos de timidez. Piense en lo que están tratando de decirle.

Según tomado de, https://www.meaningfullife.com/learning-from-your-bodys-sensations/?ct=t%28SW%24Learning+From+Your+Body%27s+Sesations%29

Traducido por drigs (CEJSPR)

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Learning From Your Body’s Sensations

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Your body contains many memories and secrets. Whether they are “good” sensations or uncomfortable ones, your body’s sensations are meant to alert you to the deeper state of your being. Ostensibly it may seem that bodily pain and pleasure are circumstantial experiences, which don’t tell us much. That, however, is a limited view on the body and its relationship to the soul. In truth, your body’s feelings often reflect your psyche’s needs. The following is a brief discussion based on 4000-year-old wisdom of Kabbalah of how it should feel to have a healthy soul in a healthy body.

What “Simply Being” Feels Like

Think of what it means to be alive. What does it feel like to just exist, to be? What does life feel like? If you can describe what life feels like, that would be a sign that something is wrong. Health has no sensation. Pain, illness – when things go wrong – then we feel something. When you are healthy, breathing normally, and have a regular heartbeat, you do not feel sensation. You just are. What does “alive” feel like? It actually has no sensation. 

Life means to be, to exist. Being has no sensations. It can experience a sensation, but on its own it just is. As soon as you feel you exist, you are not experiencing existence itself; only a manifestation of it. Fascinatingly — and counter-intuitively — the more you are aware of yourself the less you are actually being. 

Self-consciousness Reveals a Disconnect Between Body and Soul

Simply put: You are at our best when you are least conscious of yourself. The truest experience is when you feel completely immersed in the experience, to the extent in which you cannot distinguish between you and the experience. Think of a time that you were completely absorbed in a book you were reading, to the point where you didn’t even feel yourself reading words or turning pages; you were experiencing the story first-hand as if you were there. Or think of a time that you stayed up all night involved in a project you loved and were excited by. Time flies and you don’t even realize how tired and hungry you are, until you get out of the moment and suddenly feel the time and the place.

After your outer self is disconnected from your inner self, awareness is a necessary step to return. But the ultimate experience is when you achieve a unity with our inner voice that does not even require — and is beyond — a state of awareness. Some call this “being in the zone,” where you are not conscious of yourself and only serve as a channel of a higher consciousness. The subject and the object have fused into one.

The Wake-up Call

When you see beyond a one-dimensional life, when you realize that you are comprised of not just a body, but a body containing a soul, you recognize that there is a far higher purpose to your life, and a far deeper meaning to what you feel in your body. Both your lack of sensation (which reflects your self being absorbed in the experience) and your sensations express your inner self.

How do your sensations express your soul? Firstly, your awareness of your own awareness serves as wake-up call to help you regain contact with your inner self and reach beyond self-consciousness – living a life of complete seamless immersion in the purpose of your life. Secondly, as you connect to a supra-sensory state you can then manifest them in your sensations and senses. Like when you listen to music or gaze at a beautiful scene — your audio and visual senses experience something that transcends the senses. And finally, your feelings of pleasure or pain serve as a catalyst and springboard to access your soul, and your spiritual consciousness.

Feeling pain or other sensations in your body are opportunities to challenge the way you look at life. They can bring you to the edges of life, allowing you to view it from a new, revealing angle. So the real question you must ask is not justwhy you sometimes feel yourself, but what you are meant to learn from it.

As taken from, Learning From Your Body’s Sensations – The Meaningful Life Center

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Conceptos judíos en la película “Soul”

por Ruchi Koval

Conceptos judíos en la película

La perspectiva judía sobre la vida después de la muerte, el propósito y quién eres realmente.


¿Qué nos ocurre cuando morimos? ¿Quiénes somos realmente los seres humanos? ¿Cuál es el propósito de la vida? ¿Cuál es el poder superior en el universo? Estas son sólo algunas de las preguntas “básicas” que explora Soul, la última película de Disney/Pixar.

La película sigue la vida de Joe Gardner, un músico de jazz que inconvenientemente muere justo antes de la gran oportunidad de su carrera. Su cuerpo y su alma se separan y de repente se encuentra frustrantemente en el “Más allá”. Lo que ocurre a continuación es donde todo se vuelve interesante.

Los temas de Soul en muchos aspectos se superponen con las enseñanzas judías. En otros sentidos divergen. Vamos a analizarlo un poco.

El “Más allá” (y el “Gran antes”)

“En contra de tu voluntad eres creado, en contra de tu voluntad naces, contra tu voluntad vives y contra tu voluntad morirás, y en contra de tu voluntad deberás rendir cuentas de tus acciones ante Dios”. (Pirkei Avot 4:29)

A Joe le dicen que está en el “Gran antes”, donde se encuentra con las almas que están por bajar a la tierra. Esto se alinea con el concepto judío de un “olam haneshamot“, un ‘mundo de almas’, de donde Dios elige cuando un niño debe nacer en este mundo. Como aprendemos de la enseñanza que citamos de Pirkei Avot, al igual que 22, el nombre del alma valiente que se niega a nacer y que acompaña a Joe Gardner en su aventura, todos nos resistimos a nacer. ¿Quién podría querer ser arrojado de un mundo de verdad, sabiduría y proximidad a la luz de Dios para bajar a un mundo de dolor, pérdida y mentiras? Nacer es una concesión, no una recompensa.

El judaísmo enseña que nosotros creamos nuestro propio “más allá” con nuestros actos y elecciones, y tendremos que vivir con esas elecciones para la eternidad.

Después de morir, nos vemos obligados a rendir cuentas de todos nuestros actos. Con suerte, al reflexionar sobre una vida bien vivida, habrá momentos de orgullo repletos de najat. Pero también experimentaremos recuerdos que nos avergonzarán. Joe se encuentra en la “Exhibición de ti mismo”, donde deambula por lo que hizo en su vida y se contrae de dolor ante algunas escenas.

—Ummm, disculpa. ¿Qué está pasando aquí? ¿Spray Binaca para el aliento? ¿Colonia barata? ¿Quién fue el curador de esta exposición?

—Tú —le responde su guía.

El judaísmo enseña que nosotros creamos nuestro propio “más allá” con nuestros actos y elecciones, y tendremos que vivir con esas elecciones para la eternidad. Puede ser algo celestial o infernal, depende de quienes seamos, qué hayamos hecho y qué valoremos. Es tu propia exposición y tú fuiste su curador.

Joe enfrenta el “Más allá”

El tema de la reencarnación surge cuando (alerta de spoiler) Joe y 22 regresan a la tierra. Joe está muy emocionado de volver a la tierra… pero reencarna en un gato. Esto da lugar a algunas escenas muy graciosas, pero lo curioso es que Joe sigue teniendo los recuerdos de su vida previa. En el concepto judío de la reencarnación, el alma no quiere volver a la tierra. Recuerda: el más allá es un lugar hermoso de luz y verdad, y una vez que el alma regresa allí, se resiste a partir. “Contra tu voluntad naciste…”

Pero el propósito de la reencarnación judía es completar una tarea que quedó incompleta, lo que la literatura mística llama tu tikún, tu ‘rectificación’. Y no tenemos recuerdos de nuestra vida previa. Eso sería demasiado sencillo, sabríamos exactamente qué debemos hacer. El punto es encontrar por nosotros mismos cuál es nuestro propósito. Es otra oportunidad de hacer las cosas bien. Aunque nadie quiere regresar a esta tierra, si lo hacemos podemos lograr cosas grandiosas.

Cuerpo y alma: ¿quiénes somos?

Un rey tenía un bello jardín con frutos magníficos y colocó dos guardias para que lo cuidaran: un ciego y un paralítico. El paralítico le dijo al ciego: “Veo que el jardín tiene unos frutos exquisitos. Si me llevas a donde están los frutos, ambos podremos comerlos”. El ciego aceptó y ambos comieron los frutos. (Talmud, Tratado Sanedrín 91b)

Los Sabios del Talmud nos enseñan que cada ser humano es un matrimonio entre el cuerpo y el alma. Así como los dos hombres de la parábola se necesitaban mutuamente para completar la tarea, así también el cuerpo y el alma se necesitan mutuamente para poder hacer algo en este mundo. El cuerpo necesita al alma para que lo dirija y lo anime con conciencia, deliberación y sabiduría. El alma necesita al cuerpo para cumplir en el mundo todas las tareas que la van a elevar en su travesía por este planeta. Ninguno puede funcionar sin el otro. Sin embargo, no debemos equivocarnos respecto a quién es el jefe:

“Todas estas grandes sabidurías son del alma y no del cuerpo, el alma dirige al cuerpo como un hombre monta un caballo, con las riendas en la mano, dirigiéndolo y guiándolo en la dirección que desea, de modo que el caballo está subordinado al jinete y no a la inversa. Así también el alma guía al cuerpo, el alma es el director y el cuerpo el subordinado” (Orjot Tzadikim).

Cuando Joe y 22 regresan a la tierra, hay una pequeña falla en el sistema (no intentes burlar a Dios). Como resultado, Joe está dentro del cuerpo de un gato, y 22 está en el cuerpo de… Joe. Este es un recurso gracioso que da lugar a muchas preguntas interesantes respecto a quién es realmente la persona. ¿Somos nuestro cuerpo? Claramente no. Joe está en el cuerpo de un gato y 22 se asentó en su cuerpo previo.

Entonces, si no eres tu cuerpo, ¿quién eres? ¿Eres tu personalidad? ¿Eres tus ambiciones? ¿Tus sueños, tus deseos, tus sentimientos? Sí, sí y sí, y eso es lo que llamamos tu alma. Tu alma es una pequeña porción de Dios que hace que seas TÚ. Esa es la mejor versión de ti, lo más elevado y lo más noble en tu colección.

Joe y 22 en el “Gran antes”

Queda claro que el alma de Joe está en el gato. Es importante recordar esto, porque muchos nos identificamos fuertemente con nuestro cuerpo, pero a menudo perdemos la sintonía con nuestra alma. El judaísmo nos recuerda que somos un alma y tenemos un cuerpo. El jinete está a cargo, no el caballo. Como suelen decir: “No somos seres humanos que tienen una experiencia espiritual; somos seres espirituales que tienen una experiencia humana”.

¿Cuál es el propósito de la vida?

“…he aquí la conclusión del asunto: teme a Dios y cumple Sus mandamientos, porque ese es el propósito de la humanidad” (Rey Salomón, Libro de Eclesiastés)

La película dedica mucho tiempo a explorar cuál es nuestro propósito. ¿Acaso es nuestra chispa, lo que más disfrutamos en el mundo? ¿Es eso que nos pone en “la zona”, lo que nos transporta a otro reino, como le ocurre a Joe con la música de jazz?

El judaísmo deja claro que la razón por la que vivimos es para conectarnos con nuestra fuente, con Dios, y con la divinidad, y de esta manera transformarnos en una persona mejor y hacer que el mundo sea un lugar mejor al hacer brillar nuestra luz singular donde sea que vayamos. Muy simple, ¿verdad?

Por lo tanto, en cierto sentido Joe tiene razón cuando dice respecto a la música: “No se trata de mi carrera, es mi razón para vivir”. Pero pierde de vista algo fundamental: lo que tú haces con la música es lo que marca toda la diferencia. Si Dios te dio un talento, y tú no lo usas para transformarte en una mejor persona y/o para mejorar al mundo, entonces has usado mal el regalo Divino.

El rey Salomón nos dice en Proverbios: “En todos tus caminos ten presente a Dios”, lo que significa que no importa lo que hagas en este mundo, desde desayunar, hasta mostrar los talentos que Dios te ha dado, ganarte la vida, educar una familia o ayudar a un vecino, todo puede lograr tu propósito si conectas esos puntos con Dios. Debes tomarte un momento para reconocer los regalos de Dios, expresar gratitud por ellos y planificar con atención cómo usarás tu tiempo, tu personalidad, tus fortalezas para el doble propósito de mejorarte a ti mismo y al mundo. Este es el nexo critico que determinará si has vivido una vida con propósito o simplemente has desperdiciado tu potencial.

Si bien cada ser humano debe tratar de encontrar su “chispa”, es más importante descubrir cómo aprovechar lo que ya sabemos sobre nosotros mismos. ¿En qué soy bueno? ¿Qué disfruto? Y entonces preguntarte: ¿Cómo usaré esto para conectarme con más fuerza con el Poder Superior, para difundir más bondad en este planeta durante mi estadía en él, y para sacar a relucir todo mi potencial?

¿Quién es Dios?

“Soy la unión de todos los campos cuantificados del universo. Aparezco de una forma que tu débil cerebro humano pueda comprender” (Jerry, Soul)

En la película, los seres “divinos” que se llaman Jerry (excepto el que se llama Terry), son criaturas amables y benevolentes con una animación al estilo Picasso que cambian de forma a medida que las observas. Aunque hablando estrictamente ellas no son Dios, hay un elemento interesante que puede revelar lo que enseña el judaísmo sobre el concepto más difícil de captar: la identidad de Dios.

En el libro del Rav Aryeh Kaplan Si tú fueras Dios, él crea un escenario y les pide a sus lectores que se imaginen estar a cargo de una isla. Tú quieres lograr que los isleños lleguen a su máximo propósito, pero tienes algunas limitaciones. Una de ellas es que nunca, bajo ninguna circunstancia, puedes revelar tu existencia, porque eso alteraría el delicado equilibrio de Dios y les quitaría el libre albedrío. Terry, el ser divino que se percató del intercambio de cuerpos entre Joe y 22, tiene que bajar a la tierra para arreglar el problema. Vemos pequeñas señales de su existencia que viajan por la ciudad, reparando lo que se debe reparar.

Así también, Dios se revela a través de cosas pequeñas, lo que llamamos hashgajá pratit o ‘providencia Divina’. Yo trabajo como líder de viajes de Momentum, una organización que provee una experiencia espiritual durante todo el año para madres judías, y todo comienza con un viaje a Israel. En la primera noche de nuestro viaje les presentamos el concepto de “providencia Divina”. Desafiamos a las mujeres a buscar durante su semana en Israel los momentos en los que ven pequeñas señales de la presencia de Dios en sus propias vidas. Salen a luz las historias más bellas, permitiendo que todas sientan la mano de Dios acomodando todo para ellas.

A mí me gusta llamar a estos momentos un “abrazo de Dios”. Cuando tengo un mal día y me siento derrotada o desanimada, y luego brilla para mí un rayito de sol, eso es un abrazo de Dios. Cuando siento que mis problemas me abruman, y entonces aparece un profesional o un amigo que me ilumina el camino, ese es mi abrazo de Dios. Cuando no se me ocurre qué hacer y de repente “aparece” una idea en mi cabeza, ese es mi abrazo de Dios.

Por lo tanto, aunque en esencia es imposible conocer a Dios, Él nos da señales que nos permiten percibirlo… sólo tenemos que saber buscarlas y tener los ojos y los oídos abiertos para sentir los abrazos.

¿Qué es realmente lo que pasa cuando morimos? ¿Quiénes somos los seres humanos? ¿Cuál es el propósito de nuestra vida? ¿Cuál es el poder superior en el universo? Estas son grandes preguntas con grandes respuestas. Respuestas a las que podemos dedicar toda nuestra vida. ¡Y te recomiendo que lo hagas!

La película Soul intenta ofrecer algunas pequeñas respuestas. Y también tu alma tiene algunas respuestas. Sube el volumen de tu alma y escucha sus mensajes.

Según tomado de, Conceptos judíos en la película “Soul” (aishlatino.com)

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

‘White genocide’ and other horrific myths driving Jew-hating Capitol rioters

by Jonathan D. Sarna

Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli (C), a QAnon supporter, enter the Capitol in Washington, DC on Januart 6, 2021.(Saul LOEB / AFP)
A deep dive into American anti-Semitism reveals the dark roots of some hate symbols seen during the mobbing of the US Capitol

Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli (C), a QAnon supporter, enter the Capitol in Washington, DC on Januart 6, 2021.(Saul LOEB / AFP)

One of the many horrifying images from the Jan. 6 rampage on the US Capitol shows a long-haired, long-bearded man wearing a black “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, and under it the phrase “work brings freedom” – an English translation of the Auschwitz concentration camp motto: “Arbeit macht frei.”

Another image, more subtle but no less incendiary, is of a different man whose T-shirt was emblazoned with the inscription “6MWE” above yellow symbols of Italian Fascism. “6MWE” is an acronym common among the far right standing for “6 Million Wasn’t Enough.” It refers to the Jews exterminated during the Nazi Holocaust and hints at the desire of the wearer to increase that number still further.

These and related images, captured on television and retweeted on social media, demonstrate that some of those who traveled to Washington to support President Donald Trump were engaged in much more than just a doomed effort to maintain their hero in power.

As their writings make clear to me as a scholar of American anti-Semitism, some among them also hoped to trigger what is known as the “Great Revolution,” based on a fictionalized account of a government takeover and race war, that, in its most extreme form, would exterminate Jews.

Extreme anti-Semitism

Calls to exterminate Jews are common in far-right and white nationalist circles. For example, the conspiracy theorists of QAnon, who hold “that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump,” traffic in it regularly.

The anonymous “Q” – the group’s purported head who communicates in riddles and leaves clues on message boards – once approvingly retweeted the anti-Semitic image of a knife-wielding Jew wearing a Star of David necklace who stands knee-deep in the blood of Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians and asks with feigned innocence, “Why do they persecute me so?”

Images of long-nosed Jews dripping with the blood of non-Jews whom they are falsely accused of murdering have a long and tragic history. Repeatedly, they have served as triggers for anti-Semitic violence.

More commonly, including in recent days, QAnon has targeted Jewish billionaire philanthropist and investor George Soros, whom it portrays as the primary figure shaping and controlling world events. A century ago, the Rothschilds, a family of Jewish bankers, was depicted in much the same way.

QAnon members also mark Jews with triple parentheses, a covert means of outing those whom they consider usurpers and outsiders, not true members of the white race.

‘White genocide’

Another website popular in white nationalist circles displayed photographs of Jewish women and men, downloaded from university websites, so as to help readers distinguish Jews from the “Aryan Master Race.” “Europeans are the children of God,” it proclaims. “(((They)))” – denominating Jews as other without even mentioning them – “are the children of Satan.”

The website justifies rabid anti-Semitism by linking Jews to the forces supposedly seeking to undermine racial hierarchies. “White genocide is (((their))) plan,” it declares, again marking Jews with triple parentheses, “counter-(((extermination))) is our response.”

Members of the Proud Boys, another group that sent members to Washington, likewise traffic in anti-Semitism. One of the group’s leaders, Kyle Chapman, recently promised to “confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization.” The West, he explained “was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race.”

Chapman, like many of his peers, uses the term “white genocide” as a shorthand way of expressing the fear that the members of the white population of the United States, like themselves, will soon be overwhelmed by people of color. The popular 14-word white supremacist slogan, visible on signs outside the Capitol on Wednesday, reads “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

Composed by David Lane, one of the conspirators behind the 1984 assassination of Jewish radio host Alan Berg, this slogan originally formed part of a larger document entitled “The White Genocide Manifesto.” Its 14 planks insist that Jews are not white and actually endanger white civilization. “All Western nations are ruled by a Zionist conspiracy to mix, overrun and exterminate the White race,” the manifesto’s seventh plank reads.

While influenced by the infamous anti-Semitic forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the document goes further, blaming members of what it euphemistically calls the “Zionist occupation governments of America” for homosexuality and abortion as well.

QAnon followers, the Proud Boys and the other far-right and alt-right groups that converged on Washington imagined that they were living out the great fantasy that underlies what many consider to be the bible of the white nationalism movement, a 1978 dystopian novel, “The Turner Diaries,” by William Luther Pierce.

The novel depicts the violent overthrow of the government of the United States, nuclear conflagration, race war and the ultimate extermination of nonwhites and “undesirable racial elements among the remaining White population.”

Symbolism outside the Capitol

As opinion writer Seyward Darby pointed out in The New York Timesthe gallows erected in front of the Capitol recalls the novel’s depiction of “the day of the rope,” when so-called betrayers of their race were lynched. Unmentioned in The New York Times article is that the novel subsequently depicts “a war to the death with the Jew.”

The book warns Jews that their “day is coming.” When it does, at the novel’s conclusion, mass lynchings and a takeover of Washington set off a worldwide conflagration, and, within a few days “the throat of the last Jewish survivor in the last kibbutz and in the last, smoking ruin in Tel Aviv had been cut.”

“The Turner Diaries”’ denouement coupled with the anti-Semitic images from the Capitol on Wednesday serve as timely reminders of the precarious place Jews occupy in different corners of the United States. Even as some celebrate how Jews have become white and privileged, others dream of Jews’ ultimate extermination.

As taken from, ‘White genocide’ and other horrific myths driving Jew-hating Capitol rioters | Jonathan D. Sarna | The Blogs (timesofisrael.com)

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Aggadah and the Tragedy of “Secularism” in Religious Jewish Education

by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Rav Kook & Aggadata

A young man approached his Rabbi and told him proudly that he “had gone through” all of the Talmud.

To which his Rabbi asked him: And how much did the Talmud go through you?

This story illustrates one of the greatest tragedies of modern religious (orthodox) education. This misfortune also effects education in the secular world. With few exceptions, orthodox Jewish education is mainly secular, even while deeply involved with Jewish law and custom. What appears to be a religious education, when we look deeper, reveals itself to be in essence secular, and thus uninspiring. Or, in the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l, quoting something heard in academia,  “On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.”[1]

In previous essays we discussed the fact that, in the absence of prophecy, Judaism has lost much of its redemptive purpose. What is left is “Pan Halacha,” which focuses only on how to behave, but is incapable of showing us the way to reach a spiritually liberated world. Judaism has also lost its prophetic notion of universality, its universal goals for all of humankind, and has become partially crippled.

As a consequence Judaism has turned inward, becoming almost a conventional religion, similar to other religions. Much of its focus is now turned toward such issues as the synagogue, fixed prayer, Shabbat, kashrut, marriage, circumcision, and the laws of mourning. Much of this was the result of the experience in Galut, which made Judaism unnatural. It could not breathe and fell victim to stagnation.

The Upcoming End to Exile and the State of Israel’s Prophetic Dimension

However, all this changed radically in our days when the Jewish people was able to liberate itself from its nearly 2,000 years of “deep freeze” during which its main goal was just to survive. The State of Israel has made it possible for the Jews to re-enter world history and to begin to play a much larger role than they have done over the past 2,000 years.

The very fact that the Jewish State was established is itself a clear indication that prophecy is not a thing of the past but is pertinent to both the present and the future. The State itself seems to be a manifestation of a prophecy by the great biblical prophets thousands of years ago. (See for example: Yechezkel: 36: 8-12.)

The Israeli State has made great contributions to the world in the fields of science, security, medicine, and technological innovations, to the point that it is called the most advanced “start-up” nation in the world. Some of the innovations produced by Israel have become so much a part of our daily lives that we wouldn’t think of doing without them. But while most of these contributions have been in secular fields, it is clear that this is the first indication that the Jewish people is slowly returning to its prophetic, redemptive mission of leadership.

Even as Israel excels in secular fields, there are indications that within certain communities and educational institutions, Judaism’s ground is shifting to a more visionary attitude, although, for the most part, in small ways.

And yet, we see that Judaism at large—regretfully even in Israel—is still seen and practiced in terms of Galut. It is still waiting to be redeemed. It is still a Judaism without the prophetic voice, in which its Heilsgeschichte (redemptive history) becomes a major player and mover.

Since it will likely be some time before we see prophets walking the streets of Israel and returning Judaism to its full redemptive capacity—its natural habit—it will be necessary to search for existing ways by which we can lay the foundations for this future reality.

Aggadah: Prophetic Literature

It is here that one specific element in (pre)Talmudic, Midrashic literature can be of enormous value— the world of Aggadah. This part of Jewish Tradition can be defined as all the material that does not determine the practical observances of Halacha, but which goes far beyond the legal reality.

The Aggadah is a profound spiritual nature with prophetic overtones. Aggadah is the prophetic voice within Judaism, where prophecy not only speaks, but allows the reader to answer.

But what exactly is Aggadah?

Aggadah has many dimensions. It is an attempt to provide insight into the quality of a given act required by Halacha; it may provide a sense of the spiritual transformative change that accompanies that act. It is the part of Judaism that deals with the sum total of human life. It prevents mechanical observance by freeing man’s inner spirit.

Whereas Halacha is the consummation, Aggadah is its aspiration. It is the refinement of Halacha. While the Halacha is a code for life—for Jews, but in many ways for gentiles as well—it can deal only with the generalities and capabilities of humankind. Aggadah, on the other hand, provides hints of a greater degree of godliness that might be applicable only to a chosen few.

Aggadah shows us the way to voluntary choices beyond the technicalities of the law. It allows us to cultivate the capacity to enter an unseen world, and gives us the ability to go beyond the realms of the definable, perceivable, or demonstrable.

It offers us religious metaphors to touch the infinite through the use of symbolism, creating a kind of spiritual camera that creates mental images of the indescribable. Through Aggadah, we can perceive that heaven and earth are one; we can experience the divine force flowing through our lives and all forms of life.

Aggadah is redemptive, for it brings history alive through the music of prophecy, revealing the threads  woven into the fabric of human development, exposing elements of future events.

Aggadah speaks about genuine faith, wisdom, and ethics—sometimes through incredibly improbable tales of journeys, parables, business counsels, and medical advice. It explores the psychology of the subconscious and figurative (or real) stories of our forefathers and Sages. It discusses the messianic age and the nature of prophecy. It reveals the contradictory states of the human mind, as exemplified by the generation that witnessed the revelation at Sinai and afterwards worshipped the golden calf.

Many of the Aggadic stories cannot be taken literary; rather, they make us aware of a higher truth, which can only be alluded to—a truth that is beyond historical perspective, philological expression, or scientific observation. It is a vehicle that frees the mind from the limits of material constraints and yet keeps it within the bounds of the intelligible.

Parts of the Aggadah are obscure and difficult to understand, making use of hyperbole far beyond the realm of literal belief. Yet, Aggadah cannot be seen as some kind of folklore or an invention of the sages. It is clear that its wisdom is rooted in pre-Talmudic traditions. This can be seen by the fact that many of its stories and observations are mentioned in Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, such as the miracles in the Temple which Josephus must have heard from people whose ancestors actually saw them.[2]

It is the literature of Aggadah that allows the student to come as close as possible to prophecy without the prophets being around. Its redemptive nature is a marvelous step in the right direction. It prepares the student for the moment when actual prophets stand up again among Israel and redeem all of the world.

Two important commentaries on the Talmudic Aggadot are Chiddushei Aggadot (Novellae on the Aggadot) by Rabbi Shmeul Edels, (1555-1631) known as Maharasha, and Chiddushei Aggadot by Rabbi Yehuda Loew, “the Maharal” (1520-1609). Also important are many other works by Rabbi Loew, in particular, Be’er ha-Golah.

The Unfortunate Rejection of Aggadah

And it is this literature, which despite being incorporated in the Talmud and Midrash, has been neglected and often ignored throughout Jewish history. This neglect probably started with the collapse of the former Jewish commonwealth, which necessitated so great a focus on Halacha that the legal parts of the Talmud began to dominate Jewish life far beyond its natural domain. This situation ultimately led a “Pan Halachic” world, in which even the teachings of Aggadah were slowly “halacha-ized” and dogmatized. This is now the norm in many religious communities and yeshivot.

Most likely, the Aggadic literature was seen as too esoteric—too enigmatic and allusive—and far beyond the intellectual and spiritual capacity of most students and rabbis. It was therefore disregarded, and even snubbed as an escape mechanism, so as not to have to deal with it. It was too scary and impractical for daily consumption.

It was much easier to deal with the world of Halacha—the down-to-earth details of Jewish life in the form of do’s and do-not’s, the black-and-white of life’s challenges, without the need to enter the higher spiritual world. The entrance to this world requires touching what is really untouchable. For most people, the demonstrable and the definable is more attractive and accessible than the world of Aggadah.

To a certain degree, the nature of Judaism itself is responsible for this state of affairs. Judaism has always accentuated the practical, the down-to-earth approach to life. After all, it is our deeds that count above all else, and which are able to make the world a better place. Still one should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

My Yeshiva Experience and the Absence of Aggadah

I clearly remember that in the yeshivot, where for more than 12 years I was privileged to study with some of the most outstanding Talmudists of the day, we used to skip the Aggadic material in the tractates that we were studying.

We focused mainly—or even solely—on discussions related to Halacha, “lamdanut”, and “chakirot”, conceptual inquiries concerning Talmudic concepts, along with pilpul, a highly analytic, almost mathematical, and sometimes excessively hairsplitting approach. For us, this was the Talmud; Aggadah was not on the agenda and was more or less ignored.

It was this approach that made the prophetic dimension of Judaism “persona non grata”, and turned our intensive highly sophisticated studies of the Talmud into an almost secular undertaking. Our learning lacked the religious/spiritual dimension needed to understand the spirit and nature of the Talmud. The Talmud was studied as an academic intellectual work instead of as a work of spiritual, prophetic, and even poetic dimension, in which the music of the soul was crucial.

This is still the case in many yeshivot. But and as mentioned, there are exceptions. Several yeshivot have started to give much more attention to the world of Aggadah.

The Prophetic Voice of Rav Kook

It is here that we should mention the unique works of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865-1935), former Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Talmudist, mystic, and profound thinker. In his many books we encounter a prophetic voice, a call for redemptive history, and an overwhelming love of all human beings. His works are studied, commented on, and have given rise to a complete literature in recent years. They have revealed to us a new and highly original perspective on Judaism.

Rav Kook’s work Ein Ayah, a commentary on Ein Yaacov, which is itself a compilation of all the Aggadic material in the Talmud, is of the greatest importance. Study groups are found throughout Israel where his thoughts are studied and developed.

His Lenevuchei HaDor (For the Perplexed of the Generation) offers us some of the most far reaching ideas on Judaism, its redemptive role, and new Halachic prophetic dimensions, in all of Jewish literature.

The growing interest in Rav Kook’s works is closely related to a new interest in “Meta Halacha”—a view “beyond” or “above” Halacha. Meta-Halacha is difficult to define, but is clearly influenced by the world of Aggadah, in which Halacha is seen through the eyes of Aggadah. This often means lifting Halacha out of its traditional “Pan Halachic” boundaries.

Rabbi Kook and some other famous thinkers have paved the way for this kind of redemptive Halacha, a new, more prophetic Judaism, in which the “secularism” of Talmudic studies is replaced by profound spiritual insights. And so a more prophetic dimension is entering Jewish Studies in Israel, a redemptive voice in modern times.

What this means for Jewish education and even for secular education remains to be discussed.

With thanks to Yael Shahar for her editorial comments.


Notes:

[1] Jonathan Sacks, “Atheism has failed; only religion can defeat the new barbarians”, The Specator, 15 June 2013.

[2] See Taanit 23a.

As taken from, Thought to Ponder: The Upcoming Post Corona Crisis – Part 5 (campaign-archive.com)

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

In New Book, a Mohel Reveals All

avatarby Henry Michael Lerner

A brit milah ceremony in which an eight-day-old Jewish male is circumcised. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

So You Want to Make a Bris by Dr. Henry Michael Lerner, Outskirts Press, November 2020.

So You Want to Make a Bris was written because, as a practicing obstetrician and mohel, I have seen so many young Jewish couples struggle with their decision after the birth of a newborn son as to whether or not to have a bris, how to set up the bris, how to find a mohel, etc. The book covers all aspects of setting up a bris and — perhaps even more importantly — discusses the religious and historic significance of doing so. 

Below is an excerpt from the book:

Why the Eighth Day?

Many rules pertaining to the performance of a bris for non-Orthodox Jews are flexible — but that the brit milah is to be done on the eighth day after the birth of a baby is not — with certain technical exceptions to be discussed below. Why is this the case? Why is this requirement for having the bris ceremony on the eighth day so important?

There are three major reasons.

1. Because God Says So

The first reason is that it is divine law. In Genesis, God specifically tells Abraham to circumcise his son Isaac on the eighth day and that all Jewish male newborns are likewise to be circumcised on the eighth day in perpetuity.

No special reason is given in the Bible for this specific time frame in which to fulfill the commandment that marks the entry of a Jewish male into the covenant between God and the Jewish people, but as with many aspects of Judaism, theories and stories have arisen to fill the explanatory vacuum. One such is that seven days represents the cycle of creation in which God formed the entire world and then rested for a day. With the work of creation out of the way, it was thus logical that the eighth day be designated as the time for the binding of the covenant between God and each new generation of the Jewish people.

2. Biology

Most women having a vaginal delivery in the United States will have the following experience: after delivery, if the baby is vigorous, he or she will be placed on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin bonding. After about five to ten minutes, a nurse will ask the mother if she can take the baby to the warmer to evaluate the baby and give the baby some medications. These medications are erythromycin ointment to prevent infection of the eyes and an injection of vitamin K to help augment the baby’s blood-clotting factors.

Why is the vitamin K shot needed? It turns out that a baby’s blood-clotting factors do not mature spontaneously until about the eighth day. Therefore, probably by trial and error, it was determined in ancient times that the safest day for the minor surgical procedure of circumcision was about the eighth day.

Additionally, by the eighth day, a healthy baby is usually strong and stable enough to safely undergo the circumcision procedure.

3. Shabbat

A tradition in ultra-Orthodox communities holds that by performing the bris ceremony on the eighth day, every baby gets to live through one twenty-four-hour period of Shabbat holiness before having his bris and entering into the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

Performance of the bris on the eighth day is considered so sacred a commandment that it even supersedes the normal regulations of not performing work on Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and other Jewish holidays. Exceptions are as follows:

  • If the bris ceremony is postponed because of a baby’s health issues, the bris would not be subsequently scheduled on a Shabbat, Yom Kippur, or other holidays.
  • A bris performed for conversion likewise is not performed on Shabbat, Yom Kippur, or other holidays.
  • If a baby is born via cesarean section on Shabbat, his bris would be postponed to the ninth day, a Sunday. Likewise, after a cesarean birth a bris would not be performed on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, or other Jewish holidays, even if that were the eighth day. The ceremony would be delayed until after the holiday.

Illness

It is very clearly stated in Jewish law that all requirements for performing the bris ceremony on the eighth day following the birth of a boy do not apply if a baby is ill or for whatever reason is considered not healthy enough to undergo the procedure. This is consistent with all Jewish law, which follows the general rubric that Jewish laws exist to enhance life, not for blind fulfillment that would hamper health or life. Health reasons for postponing a bris include the following:

  • Jaundice of the baby
  • Prematurity
  • Infection
  • Being underweight
  • Respiratory instability
  • Abnormal anatomy of the penis

If a bris is postponed for health reasons, it can be rescheduled on any day at least seven days after the baby’s physician says that the baby is healthy enough to have a circumcision, but, as noted above, not on Shabbat or other Jewish holidays.

Calculating the Eighth Day

According to the rules of brit milah (bris), the eighth day is defined as the same day of the week that a baby is born but one week later. Since by Jewish law a new day begins at sunset, if the baby is born after sunset, that new day defines the starting point for the calculation of the eighth day. There are various arcane rules concerning when a bris should be performed if a baby is born at dusk, but in general it is safe to lean toward doing the bris one day later than potentially doing it too early.

Bending the Rules

One of the biggest issues for mohels (those who perform the bris ceremony) is when they are asked for reasons of convenience, family travel, or other issues to perform a bris on other than the eighth day. This dilemma arises because the rule concerning the eighth day is such a vital part of the entire covenantal ceremony. In the end it is up to the mohel and the family having the bris to determine if reasons for not having it on the eighth day are significant enough to warrant violating this honored tradition.

Such a situation might arise when 1) there is a death in the family, 2) relatives’ travel plans are complicated by bad weather, or 3) some other major family crisis occurs. Bottom line: A bris should not be rescheduled from the eighth day unless there is a compelling reason for doing so.

Dr. Henry Lerner, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School and an emeritus Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Harvard Medical School, has been in practice for over 40 years. He is also a certified mohel. He has delivered more than 10,000 babies, performed more than 4,000 circumcisions, and officiated at more than 500 brises.

As taken from, In New Book, a Mohel Reveals All | Jewish & Israel News Algemeiner.com

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

¿Por qué está bien que el libre albedrío sea paradójico?

Los judíos desafían a las criaturas que tienen su propio raciocinio

Por Tzvi Freeman

El libre albedrío es una piedra angular del pensamiento judío desde sus inicios. Y desde entonces se presenta como una paradoja.

La Biblia hebrea comienza con Di-s llamando al cielo y a la tierra a la existencia a partir de la nada absoluta.1 Hay una repercusión oculta allí: que la materia misma de cada cosa no es más que la voluntad de Di-s de que exista. Las cosas suceden solo porque Él dice que deben suceder.

Sin embargo, la creación final y definitiva de este Creador Todopoderoso es una criatura que puede elegir si hacer la voluntad de Él o no. En otras palabras, nosotros, el ser humano.

Y no por una equivocación de Frankenstein sino con una intención deliberada.

“A imagen de Di-s, Él los creó”, dice el libro de Génesis.2 Esa es una frase capciosa. Aquel que precedió al cielo y la tierra ciertamente no tiene una imagen.

Más bien, el significado es que Di-s quiso que este ser fuera único como Él es único. Así como su Creador eligió libremente la naturaleza de cada cosa que creó, este ser es libre de elegir si seguir su naturaleza dada por Dios, trascenderla o destruirla.

De hecho, después de que Adán desobedeció el mandato de Di-s y comió el fruto del árbol del conocimiento del bien y del mal, Di-s dijo: “En verdad, este humano es algo único, que por sí mismo puede conocer el bien y el mal”3 .

Y ahí está el acertijo: incluso cuando esta criatura está desafiando a su Creador, lo hace con la corriente de vitalidad y voluntad que fluye hacia él desde su Creador.

El libre albedrío y la roca imposible

¿Recuerdas la vieja pregunta sobre si Di-s puede crear una roca tan pesada que ni siquiera Él pueda levantarla? Aquí está esa piedra: Di-s ha decidido con su poder ilimitado dar vida a algo tan grande que no está en sus manos; por el contrario, Él ha hecho que dependa de ello, y eso es nuestro libre albedrío para respetar o ignorar su autoridad.

Eso no es una paradoja que tú y yo acabamos de descubrir. En el Talmud, encontramos a Rabí Janina enseñando:

Todo está en las manos del cielo, excepto el temor al cielo, como está dicho: “Y ahora, Israel, ¿qué quiere Di-s de ti, aparte de que debes ser temeroso de Él?” 4

Rabí Akiva presenta la misma paradoja desde un ángulo diferente. Dice: “Todo está previsto, sin embargo, se otorga libertad de elección”. 5

Es decir, hay un destino que se conoce. No puede ser de otra manera. Es así porque Di-s quiere que sea así. Y, sin embargo, te da permiso para llegar allí a través de tu libre albedrío.

Libre albedrío, paradoja y realidad

Este es un conflicto que es parte integral de la experiencia humana:

Por un lado, todos estamos de acuerdo en que experimentamos nuestras acciones como actos de libre albedrío. De hecho, nuestras sociedades, leyes y moral se basan en esta suposición. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo, cualquier persona pensante se da cuenta de lo impotentes que somos ante las fuerzas de un universo prácticamente infinito.

Resolver esta paradoja, entonces, es hacer las paces entre nuestra experiencia subjetiva y la objetividad de la razón humana, entre nosotros como individuos y nosotros como parte de este gran universo.

En un nivel más profundo, se trata de hacer las paces entre dos grandes fuerzas de nuestro universo, el fenómeno autoorganizado de la vida y la implacable entropía de la ley natural.

La oportunidad de la paradoja

Aquí está la clave: una paradoja no es un error de lógica. Es un descubrimiento maravilloso.

Si todo tuviera sentido para nosotros, sabríamos que todas las ventanas de la sabiduría se han cerrado. Como en la ciencia y las matemáticas, es el descubrimiento de la contradicción y la paradoja lo que nos permite darnos cuenta de que hay algo más allá de nosotros mismos y de nuestra perspectiva limitada.

Niels Bohr, uno de los padres de la física cuántica, creía que el descubrimiento de una contradicción es una señal de que estás en el camino correcto. A menudo citaba las palabras de Thomas Mann: “Una gran verdad es aquello cuyo opuesto es también una gran verdad”. Incluso creó un escudo de armas personal, con el lema “Contraria Sunt Complementa”― los opuestos se complementan.

También aquí: lo que nos parece un conflicto irresoluble de dos aspectos de la realidad nos obliga a ver una realidad superior. Nos revela los límites del antropomorfismo de Di-s, nos lleva a ver que el Creador no es como lo creado. Comenzamos a entender, parafraseando las palabras de Isaías, el profeta de la paz, que los pensamientos de Di-s no son exactamente los mismos que nuestros pensamientos y que Su forma de hacer las cosas no es exactamente la forma en que nosotros las haríamos.

No, una paradoja no siempre significa que nos hayamos equivocado. Muy a menudo significa que estamos viendo una verdad profunda desde una perspectiva limitada.

El gusano unidimensional: un experimento mental

Aquí tienes un ejemplo de un mundo unidimensional. Es una línea, como esta:

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Solo por el bien de la ilustración, imagine un gusano inteligente que habita un mundo unidimensional. Llamémoslo “Slim”.

Slim sabe que puede quedarse en su lugar o moverse a otro lugar (hacia adelante o hacia atrás). Un día, Slim decide esforzarse más. Estirándose y estirándose, de repente choca algo delante de él, la cual, se da cuenta, es su propia cola.

Pero, ¿cómo es posible? ¿Cómo puede Slim avanzar y chocar con lo que está detrás de él? ¿Cómo podría alejarse de su lugar para llegar a su lugar?

En el mundo unidimensional del gusano Slim, no hay respuesta. Es probable que Slim regrese a su longitud original sin estirar y finja que esto nunca sucedió. Pero una criatura bidimensional podría observar el enigma de Slim desde su perspectiva e intentar explicarle: “¡Oye, Slim, la línea por la que viajas es un círculo!” 6

También Albert Einstein pudo resolver muchos de los problemas de la física al describir nuestro mundo en cuatro dimensiones en lugar de tres. De manera similar, Bohr comprendió que nuestras mediciones del mundo cuántico eran solo eso, mediciones. La realidad es algo que no podemos observar.

Lo mismo se aplica a nuestra paradoja primordial. Somos seres creados que intentamos comprender el funcionamiento de nuestro Creador. Pero los dos existen en planos completamente diferentes. No es de extrañar que acabemos con tantas aparentes contradicciones.

Libre albedrío de arriba hacia abajo y de abajo hacia arriba

¿En qué se diferencia nuestra perspectiva de la de nuestro Creador?

Simplemente, nuestra perspectiva es que Él es el gran jefe que dirige el espectáculo, mientras que nosotros somos los pequeños personajes, siguiendo su caprichoe. Algo parecido a marionetas.

Esta es una vista clara y ordenada de Di-s. El problema es que no funciona. Y la razón por la que no funciona es porque no podemos encajar perfectamente al Creador en los parámetros binarios de su creación.

¿Cómo se ve Di-s a sí mismo y a su creación?

No hay forma de decirlo o saberlo. Como el gusano unidimensional no puede saber lo que queremos decir con un círculo, aún más complejo es para nosotros conocer a nuestro Creador para quien incluso el tiempo y el espacio son parámetros innecesarios.

Pero a través de otra paradoja ―proporcionada por el rabino Shneur Zalman de Liadi― podemos acercarnos a esa verdad más allá de nosotros, lo suficientemente cerca para ver desde lejos lo que nunca podemos tocar.

En el Libro de Samuel, Janá canta: “Porque Di-s es un Di-s que todo lo sabe”. 7 Las palabras que usa tienen un segundo significado más profundo. También se pueden traducir como “Di-s es un Di-s de dos conocimientos”.

¿Cuáles son esos “dos conocimientos”? El rabino Isaac Luria los explicó en términos cabalísticos como “conocimiento de nivel superior” y “conocimiento de nivel inferior” 8 Pero, ¿por qué Dios emplearía una forma inferior de conocimiento?

Rabí Shneur Zalman explica: 9 Di-s crea el mundo sabiendo que existe. Para que sea un mundo que pueda conocerlo, él emplea dos modalidades de conocerlo. Una modalidad es de arriba hacia abajo, la otra es de abajo hacia arriba.

El conocimiento de arriba hacia abajo se llama así porque ve lo que está arriba ―el Creador― como la única existencia verdadera, y lo que está abajo, la creación, como una nada.

El conocimiento de abajo hacia arriba cambia eso: ve lo que está abajo como una existencia verdadera y lo que está arriba como una nada, ya que, como dijimos, el Creador está más allá de la comprensión de lo creado.

Dos mentes creativas

Siendo bastante abstracto, ofreceré una analogía de la creatividad humana:10

Estás de espaldas a la hoguera con un círculo de campistas. Necesitas inventar una historia rápidamente. Gracias a Di-s, tienes una gran imaginación. De esa imaginación surgen personajes vívidos, escenas fantásticas y aventuras emocionantes.

Por supuesto, sabes que todo esto es solo tu imaginación. Ninguno de ellos es real. Todo lo que es real es que estás inventando una historia.

Pero una imaginación alocada por sí sola no es suficiente para crear una historia fascinante. Para dar vida a tus personajes y mantener a tu audiencia comprometida, necesitarás algunas herramientas. Como una trama. Como el desarrollo del personaje. Y, sobre todo, consistencia: una vez que hayas creado un personaje, tendrás que ceñirte a la personalidad del personaje que has creado o permitir que cambie de manera fluida y convincente a través de los eventos de la historia en lo que se llama un “arco de personaje”.

Ahora no es tan extraño: no es más que tu imaginación, pero para hacerlo creíble, debes creer en ello tú mismo.

Observa ahora el génesis de la historia en la que viven los personajes, es decir, este continuum espaciotemporal. Es cierto que existen algunas distinciones cruciales entre tu narración y la de Di-s. Por más creativo y original que seas, tus personajes están modelados a partir de la arcilla de tus experiencias pasadas, emociones y perspectiva de la vida. El Creador, por otro lado, nos saca a nosotros y a nuestro mundo entero de la nada absoluta.

Sin embargo, cuando lo hace, seguimos siendo solo una fantasía. No tenemos ego, no tenemos voluntad propia y ciertamente no tenemos libre albedrío. Mientras existamos en el modo de conocimiento de arriba hacia abajo, no existiremos por completo.

Así como quieres una historia convincente, Di-s quiere un mundo real, un mundo en el que sus criaturas tomen decisiones y asuman la responsabilidad de sus acciones. Para lograr eso, implementa otro tipo de conocimiento. Él nos conoce de adentro hacia afuera. Nos conoce porque estamos aquí. Sabe lo que hacemos y por qué lo hacemos. Ese es el conocimiento de abajo hacia arriba.

Ahora Él tiene un mundo donde no hay más realidad que Él, mientras que al mismo tiempo la verdadera realidad de cada cosa es nada más que Él. Ambas son verdaderas, porque Él desea ambas realidades. Ambos son ciertos, porque ambos son elementos esenciales de la historia que cuenta.

Pero la verdad absoluta, la que nos es imposible de comprender, es que Él es capaz de ambas realidades juntas en perfecta armonía. Y eso se ve en el milagro de la vida, de seres deliberantes. Porque ahí es donde convergen estos dos opuestos.11

Cuerpo, alma y libre albedrío

No tenemos una analogía de nuestra realidad para comprender esto con claridad. Pero tenemos algo cercano: la relación entre el alma y el cuerpo.

El alma y el cuerpo no son el dualismo estricto que muchos imaginan. Una criatura viviente no es una marioneta. El alma no es un fantasma dentro del cuerpo.

Más bien, cuando un organismo está vivo, todas las células de ese organismo están vivas. Si el organismo está herido, sus células entran en acción. Cada célula sabe lo que hace la otra, cada célula sabe lo que debe hacer y cada célula asume su trabajo de forma diligente. Ese es el significado de la vida: que la fisicalidad del cuerpo se trasciende a sí misma.

De modo que el alma no necesita ordenarle al cuerpo que viva. Cuando el alma desea algo, el cuerpo no es coaccionado por ese deseo. Como han señalado muchos biólogos, no podemos hablar de causa y efecto en un organismo como lo hacemos en física y química. La vida es un fenómeno holístico. El cuerpo es un todo único y se comporta como tal.

“Así como el alma llena el cuerpo”, enseñaron los rabinos, “así Di-s llena el universo”.12 Por supuesto, no de la misma manera: el alma no da existencia al cuerpo. Y el alma está limitada por el cuerpo, siente su dolor, se deleita en sus placeres, mientras que el Creador del universo no tiene tales limitaciones.

Sin embargo, todavía hay un símil: así como el alma llena al cuerpo, para que el cuerpo y el alma se conviertan en un todo único y vivo, así se puede encontrar a Di-s en la esencia y el ser de cada una de Sus creaciones, inclusive estando Él más allá de ellas. Su voluntad es su alma.

Todo esto ocurre en el modo de arriba hacia abajo de conocer la creación.

En cuanto a la separación que cada criatura siente, que se conoce a sí misma como su propio ser que dirige su propia vida, ese es el resultado del conocimiento igualmente verdadero de la creación desde abajo hacia arriba.

Como se prometió, la paradoja del conocimiento divino y nuestro libre albedrío nos lleva a un concepto más significativo y real de Di-s. No solo nuestra capacidad para elegir es un reflejo de Di-s en este mundo, sino incluso nuestro propio sentido de nosotros mismos como seres autónomos, eso también es Di-s.

Dos formas de saber qué elegiremos

El modelo de dos mentes de Rabí Shneur Zalman no solo aclara muchas cuestiones en el debate sobre el libre albedrío, sino que también aclara la confusión acerca de lo que parecen ser descripciones contradictorias de la relación de Di-s con nuestro mundo.

El Talmud a menudo usa una forma pasiva para el conocimiento de Di-s: “Es revelado y conocido ante Tí…” No “Di-s sabe”, sino “Es conocido” por Di-s. Aquí no hay acción-reacción, no hay causa y efecto.

Así también, en nuestra liturgia matutina, decimos: “Tú eres Él mismo antes de que el mundo fuera creado. Tú eres Él mismo después de que el mundo fue creado”. Para Él, nada cambia nunca. De hecho, en relación con Él, incluso como este mundo existe, permanece como esencialmente nada.

Eso es lo que queremos decir con que Di-s es Uno: Él es una unidad inmutable, no afectada por ninguno de los eventos de tiempo y espacio que se extienden desde Su voluntad y conocimiento, porque esa voluntad y conocimiento no es algo separado de Él. Como lo expone claramente Maimónides, Di-s es “el Conocedor, el Conocimiento y el Acto de Conocer” que “conoce todas las cosas a través del conocimiento de sí mismo”13 .

Todo esto está en una modalidad: El conocimiento de Di-s de arriba hacia abajo. Pero cuando decimos que “los hijos de Israel clamaron desde su trabajo” en Egipto, “y Di-s lo sabía”14 ―y ahora entra en acción para salvarlos de sus opresores― entonces estamos hablando del conocimiento de abajo hacia arriba. Estamos hablando de Di-s en cuanto se incluye en Su propia historia.

Lo mismo se aplica a Di-s juzgando el comportamiento de la generación del Diluvio, provocando ira contra los egipcios, mostrando favor hacia los justos o juzgando el comportamiento de cualquiera. ¿Cómo lo sabe? Por nuestras acciones. Y, en esta modalidad, Él reacciona también a esas acciones.

Es por eso por lo que muchos de los otros pensadores judíos afirman que no hay ningún problema con el conocimiento de Di-s y nuestra libre elección, porque están hablando de este conocimiento ipso facto. Explican que Di-s está más allá del tiempo y, por tanto, sabe lo que vamos a hacer. Pero este conocimiento de Él no nos hace elegir. Por el contrario, nuestras elecciones Le hacen saber. Rabí Shneur Zalman diría que están hablando de la modalidad de conocimiento de abajo hacia arriba (ascendente) de Di-s.15

Cuando decimos que Di-s lo sabe todo, y Su conocimiento da existencia a todas las criaturas y eventos, estamos hablando del conocimiento de arriba hacia abajo. Es por eso por lo que Maimónides y otros enseñan que este conocimiento es imposible de comprender para nosotros.

Sin embargo, tampoco podemos decir que Su conocimiento nos lleve a hacer lo que Él sabe.

Eso es porque causa y efecto es una construcción binaria. Debe haber dos cosas: una causante y la otra el resultado de esa causa. Como tu mano dentro de un títere. Todo lo que hace el títere es gracias a ti. No tiene independencia, no tiene voluntad propia.

Pero con la perspectiva de arriba hacia abajo de Di-s, no hay nada para Él meter su mano. Entonces, cuando existe una criatura, la existencia, voluntad y vida de esa criatura es la existencia, voluntad y vida de su Creador. Tienes libre elección porque tu Creador tiene libre elección.

¿Qué tan libre es el libre albedrío?

Hemos hablado de cómo las creaciones de Di-s pueden tener su propia voluntad, a diferencia de las creaciones del ser humano. Eso es porque la voluntad de Di-s es la esencia misma y el ser de cada uno de los seres humanos, mientras que, al mismo tiempo, Él permanece completamente más allá de todos ellos.

Lo que todavía tenemos que explicar es cómo una criatura, específicamente la criatura humana, es capaz de decir “no” a la voluntad de su Creador. La clave para comprender ese acertijo está en el modelo que nos proporcionó Rabí Shneur Zalman, y en la analogía del alma y el cuerpo.

Pero se necesitará otro artículo para abrir la puerta a esta pregunta ―quizás la más vital― de la libre elección: ¿Cómo eligen los seres humanos otra cosa que no sea la voluntad de su Creador, y cómo todo permanece, sin embargo, en manos del Creador?

NOTAS AL PIE

  1. Ver Ramban, Génesis 1:1, así como otros comentarios ad loc. Lo mismo está implícito en la declaración de Rashi (ad loc), “aún no hemos sido informados de cuándo se crearon el agua y el fuego”.

2. Génesis 1:26. Ibíd. 5: 1. Ver Seforno y Kelí Yakar ad loc.

3. Génesis 3:22 según la traducción de Maimónides, Shmoné Perakim, 8:10. Véase también Rashi ad loc. Maimónides, Mishné Torá, Hiljot Teshuvá 5:1. Midrash Rabá, Génesis 21:5.

4. Talmud Berajot 33b. Ibid Meguilá 25a.

5. Mishná Avot 3:15.

6. Aquellos familiarizados con la lógica reconocerán esto como una exposición simplificada del segundo teorema de incompletitud de Gödel.

7. I Samuel 1:2.

8. Likutei Torá, Shemot.

Torá Or, Parashá Vayerá, Maamar Erda Na. Likutei Torá, Parshá Behar, Bi’ur a Shabtotai, parte 3. Ibid, Parashá 9. Bamidbar, final de Biur hasta B’Shaá Shehikdimu. El concepto se repite en muchos más maamarim de R. Shneur Zalman, y se aclara en las obras de sus sucesores.

10. Ver Maamar Gadol Yihaye, Capítulo 4. Maamar Pataj Eliahu, Capítulo 2.

11. Ver Maamar V’jazakta, último párrafo del capítulo 2.

12. Midrash Tehilim sobre el Salmo 104.

13. Maimónides, Hiljot Yesodei HaTorá 1:5.

14. Éxodo 2:23-25

15. Véase Likutei Sijot vol. 27, página 251, nota al pie 14.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

How Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Borrows From an Ancient Jewish Idea

Jamie Foxx voices the main character in Pixar's "Soul." (Screen shot from YouTube)
Jamie Foxx voices the main character in Pixar’s ‘Soul’

‘Soul’ offers a variety of sweetly packaged, life-affirming answers to life’s big questions, answers that have resonances in a variety of world religious traditions

Pixar’s “Soul,” released on Friday on Disney+, is a tender balm of a movie about an aspiring jazz musician who dies on the day he gets his big break. Watching “Soul,” which is set in a richly imagined New York City, as well as in a blissed-out, blue-ish, and minimalist realm of unborn souls, in the final days of 2020 is once elegiac (the riotously crowded New York it depicts sure isn’t there at the moment) and soothing, like applying a poultice to a wound. The New York of our dreams may be in limbo, but there’s still Pixar offering its pastel take on, well, limbo. 

“Soul” may not feature the nuanced emotional intelligence of the previous Pixar hit “Inside Out,” which takes place mostly inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, nor the devastating power of the opening minutes of “Up,” but it is the first to make its central subject a question of metaphysics. The question of metaphysics. Namely, what is the body and what is the soul?

For those of us who take Pixar’s metaphysical questions seriously — and as a Jew, a rabbi, the father of young children, and an adult who remembers being wowed by the first “Toy Story” in the theater, I take these questions very seriously indeed — ”Soul” offers a great deal to think about. Watching it over the weekend with our two boys gave us a most welcome opportunity to talk about some big-ticket Jewish questions as well as an occasion to sit back and inhabit a lush world beyond the little realm of our apartment.

For a movie about the nature and destiny of the soul, “Soul” is wisely spare when it comes to explicit religious content. Quite simply, there isn’t any. The abstract beings (all named Jerry or, in one case, Terry) that guide souls in the hereafter and in the Great Before are somewhat godlike, but they certainly don’t seem to be gods. And the subject at hand isn’t why things work as they do, or, really, what the capital-M Meaning of it all is. Instead, the story of Jamie Foxx’s poor Joe Gardner is focused squarely on questions surrounding the nature of his soul’s “spark” (and the spark of one other lost soul, voiced by Tina Fey) and what that has to do with his body and his path through life. 

“Soul” offers a variety of sweetly packaged, life-affirming answers to these big questions, answers that have resonances in a variety of world religious traditions. Certainly, in the Jewish mystical tradition, there is much ado about soul sparks. There are also cognate visions of the Great Before, my personal favorite being the Kabbalistic image of the tree of souls, hung richly with the fruit of future lives, which, when ripe, are blown down to earth by a light wind. This particular image doesn’t appear in Pixar’s version of things, but it is certainly of a piece with the gentle realm where new souls are nurtured before birth. 

It doesn’t give too much away to tell you that one of the movie’s central messages is that true personhood is rooted in the union of body and soul, that they are both indispensable ingredients of life’s confection. If Joe Gardner’s adventure with an unborn soul named “22” yields any concrete moral, it is that corporeality and spirituality are intimately bound up with one another. Each is incomplete, perhaps woefully so, without the other. And of the many ideas that Pixar gracefully bandies about in “Soul,” it is this one that strikes me as the most profoundly Jewish.

On this very subject, there is a famous midrash, or ancient rabbinic homily, about a body and soul separated by death and standing before God in judgment. The soul, pleading her case, argues that all of her sinful behaviour was caused by the body’s base desires. The body, not to be outdone, makes the point that without the soul he would have been entirely lifeless and therefore unable to transgress. Accepting their arguments, God puts them back together and punishes them in unison.

I have always found this story irresistibly charming (very much like a Pixar movie) not because I am in love with the idea of divine retribution, but rather because, as an embodied soul myself — or, if you like, as a body who happens to be ensouled for the moment — it simply rings true. One of the enduring contributions of the ancient rabbis is their forceful insistence that we are Jews not only because we have Jewish souls (though they did believe that) but also because we have Jewish bodies, the product of Jewish families and pumping with Jewish blood. The human being, in this view, is not a metaphysical construct — as Tina Fey’s character somewhat derisively describes the realm of souls. Nor is the human being only a soft, perishable body. Rather, a human being is a luminous, fragile and ultimately temporary marriage of the two. In “Soul,” it is only when our heroes discover and inhabit this truth that they both get to where they need to go.

In a year in which so many bodies have been ravaged — and in which so many souls have been frayed — you can do a lot worse than sitting back and, for just under two hours, allowing Pixar to offer up some humane and very Jewish answers to some very deep questions. The movie itself is perhaps somewhat slight, given it’s rather weighty subject matter, and the answers it gives may not knock your socks off. But they just might soothe your soul, and, as we close the book on 2020, I say that’s plenty. I give it three out of four sparks.

As taken from, How Pixar’s ‘Soul’ borrows from an ancient Jewish idea – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

The Cyclical Exodus

The book of Genesis deals with the life stories of the nation’s patriarchs and matriarchs, beginning with Abraham, continuing with Isaac, and ending with Jacob and his sons. Essentially, these are narratives about individuals. The book of Exodus puts the focus, for the first time, on the Jewish people, not as a list of individuals but as a whole nation. With this begins a new narrative in the Torah – the story of the Jewish people. To be sure, in the book of Exodus as well, much attention is focused on the life of Moses. However, his story is the story of the Jewish people’s emergence, in which the story of Moses the individual occupies only a subordinate place.

The Genesis narratives are certainly important, and they, too, have national significance, as our sages say, “The experiences of the patriarchs prefigure the history of their descendants.”1 Nevertheless, in and of themselves, they are still narratives on a small scale. From Exodus onward, however, the narrative is on a much larger scale; it is the narrative of the Jewish people as a whole. Hence, even the minor narratives in Exodus have greater significance for us than the Genesis narratives do.

The Exodus from Egypt

The major and central narrative in the book of Exodus is undoubtedly the story of the Exodus from Egypt: the experience of exile and the process of leaving it. The Exodus is a central theme not only in the book of Exodus but in Jewish life in general. An examination of the siddur reveals that we mention the Exodus at every opportunity, both when there is a clear and obvious connection, such as on Pesach, and when the connection is less obvious as well, such as on all the other festivals – Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh HaShana, and Yom Kippur. Even in the text of the Kiddush that we recite each Shabbat, the Exodus features prominently.

The Egyptian exile and the Exodus are, for us, far more than the specific historical narrative that appears in the book of Exodus; they are basic elements within our being. The exile and the redemption in Exodus were not a one-time event, but merely the paradigm for an event that recurs again and again throughout our history – exile followed by redemption followed by exile again – and thus the metamorphosis of the Jewish people continues.

These processes of exile and redemption exist on an even larger plane, as the basis of the entire world. The Jewish people are not the only ones who experience these stages; all of humanity does so as well. This does not happen in the same way and on the same level for every person or every group of people, but these are basic stages in the life process of everyone, individuals and nations alike.

We go through this cycle in the course of our individual lives. Some people spend sixty years in Egypt and ten years in the wilderness, some spend forty years in Egypt and forty years in the wilderness, and some merit a more generous division: They spend a short period of time in exile followed by a longer time in the redemption stage. But on the whole, the human life cycle always adheres to this process: There is a stage of exile, of difficulties and problems, followed by a stage of redemption, of bursting through the difficulties and the problems, and the cycle continues.

Scientists often speak of basic structures of which everything that exists in the world is merely a copy. For example, almost all forms of matter share the same type of molecular bonds, which serve to join together the tiny particles present in any material. Whether the material is as simple as salt or as complex as a hormone, every form of matter has a basic structure that repeats itself in other instances throughout the universe. Correspondingly, the cycle of the Egyptian exile and the Exodus is the prototype for this central pattern that we continue to experience, both as a community and as individuals, in a variety of forms.

The simple reason for mentioning the Exodus daily is not just to recall the historical story; rather, it is because the life cycle and even the daily cycle always follow this pattern. The cycle of exile and redemption forms the basis of our lives, and in this respect the story of the Exodus exists on a different plane from the other stories in the Torah; it is the central story of existence.

The Torah relates two universal stories: the story of Creation and the story of the Exodus. The story of Creation is a pattern that begins with a perfect world – the world of the Garden of Eden – and reaches a crisis that necessitates a resolution – in this case, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Although this is the story of all of existence, nevertheless, it is not exactly what we encounter every day. Our world is not built like the Garden of Eden – it is certainly not a perfect world. To be sure, it is important to know that such a world once existed, but in our individual experience and in human life in general, we do not encounter it. We start out in a different kind of world, one that is patterned after the Exodus. Our world is built on the reality of exile, a complex existence with problems and difficulties. In the midst of exile, we must endeavor to ultimately attain redemption.

The meaning of exile

We see that exile is not an accidental state – neither in our own history nor in the world in general. Therefore, understanding exile is all the more important. It is clear that exile is not a pleasant existence and that it entails various difficulties. But what is the essence of the problem with exile? What is its fundamental difficulty?

Exile has inherent significance beyond the reality of being unable to live in one’s desired geographic location – in our case, the Land of Israel. When we say that the Jewish people is in exile, this is more than a determination of place, for exile is a state that is intrinsically problematic, not just because of its geographic location.

The problem of exile as it has been described as follows: “Your descendants will be strangers in a land not theirs”2 is ­tolerable – it is just a stay in another country. Does the true exile begin when “they will be enslaved and oppressed”? Perhaps, in determining whether a certain country is considered “exile,” one need only check whether he is subjected to oppression. If he is oppressed, this is indeed exile; if he is not oppressed, then it is merely another country outside the Land of Israel. Hence, people might argue today that while life in Syria was certainly exile, life in America does not qualify as exile, because in America neither “and they will be enslaved” nor “and oppressed” apply.

In truth, it appears that exilic existence involves a more fundamental problem. The essential point of exile is that something is not where it should be, in its appropriate place. In the normal course of things, it may be that a person temporarily resides outside his homeland. The new place may be uncomfortable for him, but that is not yet considered an exilic existence. Nowadays, when a Frenchman moves to Canada, he may feel like a “stranger,” but this is not an essential problem that creates a life of exile for him. If a carp is transferred from a pool near Atlit to a pool near Nahariya, it may have difficulty adapting, but being in one pool or the other is not an essential difference for it. Regardless of the pool in which it ends up, it is in an appropriate place for a fish. But when a fish is taken out of water altogether, whether this occurs near Atlit or Nahariya, or whether it was treated properly or not is irrelevant; it is in a place that is fundamentally inappropriate and, for a fish, life-threatening as well.

Individual or collective?

There are several stages to the Egyptian exile. The People of Israel settle in Egypt over a long period, and not all of this period is considered exile, certainly not in the true sense. Jacob and his family travel to Egypt of their own volition, willingly and for their own good. When, then, does their existence become one of exile? Where is the dividing line?

It appears that the oppression of the Egyptian exile begins only when Pharaoh says to his people, “Behold, the People of Israel are too numerous and strong for us.”3 The beginning of the Egyptian exile hinges on the Egyptians’ perception that Israel is a foreign nation – they sense Israel’s foreignness. As long as this awareness is lacking, and the Egyptians relate to the People of Israel as individuals, this is not yet exile; the People of Israel are merely strangers.

Exile hinges on whether the person is part of a collective or a separate individual. When individuals, even a large number of them, are in another country, they may be considered foreigners, strangers in a strange land; but when there is a whole collective, an entire nation, in a place that is inappropriate for it – that is exile. For this reason, one of the ways in which Diaspora Jews often seek to solve the problem of exile is by attempting to ignore their collective identity. They want their countrymen to relate to them as to individuals, not as parts of a whole. They avow that they are Jewish only by chance, just as a Turk happens to have been born in Turkey and an Italian happens to have been born in Italy – they do not belong to the Jewish collective. Once these individuals remove themselves from the collective, then although they are not in their true homeland, and they are different in many ways from their non-Jewish neighbors, this is an individualized problem and not one of exile.

Even in the reality of Egyptian bondage, there surely were Jews who took such an approach. Imagine a Jew living in Egypt who is suddenly forced into slavery and ordered to work with mortar and bricks. These decrees are certainly not pleasant for him, so what does he do? The first thing he thinks of is how to advance in rank – how to be appointed a foreman and not merely a regular worker. After becoming a foreman, he continues to rise in rank becoming a taskmaster, and then rises further in the ranks until he finds a more desirable position. This Jew sees the problem as a personal one – a problem connected to his place and his personal situation – and he relates to the problem correspondingly. From his standpoint, the general state of things is, on the whole, in order. Therefore, if he is not content with where he is, or if something is bothering him, he adapts by simply changing his position, shifting to a more personally comfortable place, but doing nothing to fundamentally change his situation.

Awareness of exile and redemption

One who relates to himself strictly as an individual will never leave Egypt. He manages to convince himself that he has it good – so things are good for him; why should he change? Only one who is aware of his situation, who understands that he is in exile, has a chance of leaving it for the “good and spacious land.”

Awareness of exile begins the moment there is a sense, which sometimes comes from within and sometimes comes from without, that the problem is not just a personal problem but an overall problem of disharmony. When there is awareness of exile, the problem is no longer how to make small adjustments within the reality but how to get out of this place entirely.

Awareness of exile is the awareness of the need for a ­revolution – that is, for a fundamental change in the order of the existing reality. One who considers himself a stranger is likely to think, for example, that he gets the worst jobs only because he does not yet have citizenship in his resident country. So he will try to attain citizenship and suffice himself with that localized solution. Only a feeling of essentially not belonging to the place in which one resides can bring an individual or a nation to move out. Only such a feeling will lead to an awareness of the fundamental problem of exile and produce the need for a revolution.

Emergence from exile requires an essential change, because the whole essence of redemption is revolution, an essential change in the world order. This point bears on a simple question that commonly arises: Does everyone who moves to Israel necessarily emerge from exile? What happens, for instance, when someone moves from a Jewish city like Miami Beach to a Jewish city like Jerusalem? In such cases, what usually happens is that the person, for some reason, is not comfortable in his hometown. The seaside weather is too humid, perhaps, and he prefers to live in Jerusalem’s drier climate. Or perhaps he wants to send his children to a Belz cheder, which is lacking in his hometown. In any case, he moves to Jerusalem, and all is well in the end. In all other respects, from his standpoint, there is no essential difference between the two places, and his life remains fundamentally unchanged. In such cases, there are two possibilities: either the exile was not really exile, or the redemption was not really redemption.

These two states – exile and redemption – go together; they are interconnected. It is precisely a person’s awareness that he is in exile that creates the opening through which he may emerge from that exile and attain redemption. So long as one accepts as a given the framework of the existing reality, he will never be able to recognize the possibility of redemption. So long as one sees the problems as a handful of disagreeable details within a reality in which he basically feels at home, he has no reason to take action to change that reality. Only when a person comes to the realization that he lives in exile – that the situation is fundamentally out of order – only then can he begin to discuss redemption, an essential change in the reality.

The existence of exile and the possibility of attaining redemption are, thus, bound up with the fundamental question of how the individual views the reality of his life. The moment one comes to the awareness that his reality is not as it should be and that it must be changed on an essential level is the very moment when he can begin the process of redemption.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Tanchuma, Lech Lecha 9; Nachmanides on Genesis 12:6.

2. Gen. 15:13.

3. Ex. 1:9.By Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz)

As taken from, The Cyclical Exodus – An Essay on Parshat Shemot – Kabbalah, Chassidism and Jewish Mysticism (chabad.org)

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2021 in Uncategorized