“How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel.”
Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov mishkenotecha Yisrael. Read the Hebrew words, and for anyone who has been to Jewish camp or Jewish anything, the melody just pops into your head. This verse is said upon entering a synagogue, it’s part of the daily Morning Prayer
and even if you don’t recite it, you may know it because it’s one of the most famous verses in the Torah, and it’s in the Torah portion,
And so one would think that these words of praise were uttered by G‑d or by Moses, or at least by someone “very holy.” And yet, these words emanated from the mouth of a notorious Jew-hater, Bilaam,
who was hired by Balak (the newly appointed King of Moab) to curse the Jewish people in the desert.
Three times, Bilaam tried to curse the Jewish people, and yet each time, he blessed them instead. Now prior to the first two attempts, Bilaam and G‑d had a “conversation,” whereby G‑d either instructed
Bilaam what to say or put the words directly into his mouth. And so despite his utmost intentions and hatred, Bilaam could only utter words of blessing and praise for the Jewish people.
Therefore, before the third and final attempt, Bilaam decided to take a different tack since these “conversations” with G‑d were not going his way. This time, Bilaam concentrated on the so-called
faults and transgressions of the Jewish people, trying to discredit them so as to overcome G‑d’s benevolence and whip up a host of spiritual negativity against the Jewish people.
A G‑dly Lens
And so, after he was all fired up, Bilaam lifted his eyes to blast the Jewish people with his “evil eye.” But when he lifted his eyes and looked—truly looked—Bilaam noticed how the placement of
the tents was designed for the utmost respect of privacy and dignity. He saw order. He saw righteousness. He saw goodness. And he was moved. The Torah states, “Balaam saw that it pleased the L‑rd to bless Israel” (Numbers 24:1). And in so doing, even if it
was a very temporary shift, Bilaam saw a new reality, a G‑dly reality, and his curses were transformed into blessings.
So the question is, how could such words of praise come out of Bilaam’s mouth and of his own accord?
It’s a not-funny joke that if a notorious anti-Semite says something nice about the Jews, then it
must be true. It’s just human nature; we have a hard time believing certain ideas when they originate from sources very close to us. How credible is it when we sing our own praises? And so, if a non-Jew praises the Jewish people, that’s good. But if
a Jew-hater effusively praises us? Wow! What could be better?
Now let’s take a deeper look and find a lesson we can apply to our own lives. Besides our tendency to discount positivity from close sources, I think that most of us have a hard time being kind
and benevolent to ourselves.
When is the last time you checked in on the inner dialogue in your head, and your running thoughts and feelings about yourself? I decided to pay attention to my inner voice the other day, and I
was shocked at how intolerant and cruel I can be to myself.
How often do we become our own Bilaams—in effect, cursing ourselves. I can assure you, however, with 100 percent certainty that shame and blame are never the paths to sustained change or growth.
So what is?
When Bilaam decided to “change his mind to be like G‑d,” that’s when the transformation happened. That’s when the curses turned to blessings. I believe that’s the key. In our Morning Prayers, we
acknowledge that the soul G‑d placed in us is pure. Further, we are made in the image of G‑d, and we have G‑dly souls.
Seeing Is Believing
Ponder this. The more I love myself—my real self, my G‑dly self—and the more order, righteousness and good that I see when I look inside, the more I will naturally align my actions to be congruent
with that vision. Then, I can make conscious choices that honor my core being, where growth and change naturally occurs. So I suggest the following …
Step One: Notice the toxic inner talk. But please don’t criticize the critic, or you’ll stay in the same loop. Have compassion and understand that it’s a habituated form of thinking. Don’t
get hooked; it’s not you. It’s a bad and unconscious habit. Increasing your awareness of this bad habit will help you break it.
Step Two: Counteract the negativity with positivity—lots of it. We weigh negativity more than positivity, and so to maintain loving, benevolent and thriving relationships, we
must offset critical or negative comments with three to five positive ones, or suffer the consequences. I never realized that it applies to our own self-talk as well! And so every time you hear yourself making a negative comment to yourself, offset it
with three to five positive and realistic comments that are constructive.
Step Three: Give yourself permission to see yourself with G‑dly reality. No one is going to see anything in us that we don’t see. Allow yourself to recognize how good you really are.
When we can live from this joyful place, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. Imagine a world where all curses were transformed into blessings, where we looked with inner and
outer eyes that only saw order, righteousness and good—not for an inspired moment, but as the natural state of continuous connection to our Source. In fact, let’s start now.
Internalize & Actualize:
Using the steps above, every day this week write down every negative thought you have about yourself. At the end of the week, look in the mirror and read them aloud. Pay attention to the language you use and the way you speak about yourself. If you wouldn’t say these statements to someone else, stop saying them to yourself.
Look through the statements you wrote down from the week. Take one that kept repeating or that was harshest. Now counteract it with three to five positive statements. Write them below. Ideally do this for every negative statement you made during the week.
This one may be hardest, as this may not yet be your reality. But the more you start to envision it, the sooner that shift will change. Write down how you want to see yourself and to do so, envision that you are speaking to yourself as a soul and not who you are in your body. If you could speak to your essence before you even came into this world, in your perfected state, what would you see and say?
Because a petition to the High Court of Justice to halt illegal construction and restore the status quo at the site was rejected, construction continues and Israeli sovereignty is being trampled.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced back in February that he had instructed authorities to prevent the opening of a new mosque at the Temple Mount’s Gate of Mercy, the Islamic Waqf has continued construction work at a feverish pace, causing irreparable damage to the ancient structure.
Israeli nongovernmental organization Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice on the eve of Jerusalem Day, renewing its earlier call to prevent the opening of the mosque. Regavim submitted an urgent request to the court for a temporary injunction that would close the structure, in an attempt to restore the status quo at the site. The petition, based on documentation of the waqf’s recent activities at the site, proves beyond a doubt that the waqf has taken steps to permanently turn a historic structure at the Gate of Mercy into a mosque, carrying out construction work that has irreparably damaged the ancient building, in flagrant violation of Netanyahu’s instructions to enforce the closure of the building.
Regavim’s first petition was submitted in March, but Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz allowed the government and the waqf 90 days to respond – all the time the waqf needed to transform the site into a Muslim-only compound.
The defense establishment identified radical Islamist activity at the site, orchestrated by Hamas operatives, and the government requested a court order to shut down the site, which was duly issued by the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court. The waqf ignored the court order and continued its construction project – in broad daylight and in flagrant disregard for the law.
In light of the ongoing construction work and the government’s failure to enforce the closure order issued at its own request, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to shorten the 90-day period granted to the state and the waqf to respond to the earlier petition. In its response to this petition, the government argued that the relevant authorities “are taking steps to regulate an overall approach for dealing with the Gate of Mercy compound; there is, therefore, no need for a temporary injunction to be issued at this stage.”
Not surprisingly, Justice Mazuz rejected Regavim’s request for a temporary closure order; even less surprisingly, despite the government’s claim that it was tending to the matter, the waqf continued to carry out illegal construction work on the Mercy Gate structure, installing ceiling fans, lighting, furniture, and room dividers – permanent changes that have harmed the ancient structure, all without any oversight of the Israel Antiquities Authority as required by law.
The exclusive use by Muslim worshippers of this building turns it de facto into a mosque, which creates a security threat of the highest order – one that security experts warned against in no uncertain terms. This was precisely the scenario the government foresaw when it asked for (and received) the Magistrates’ Court’s closure order.
Netanyahu declared at the end of February that “Israel has not given its consent to opening the mosque on the Temple Mount.” A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office at the time declared that Netanyahu had given instructions “to enforce the court order without compromise and to ensure that the site remains closed,” but in practice, it appears that the work that is turning the site into a mosque has passed the point of no return.
“It is impossible to overstate the massive damage that has been done to the rule of law in this case: Lawbreakers do whatever they please at a holy site that is of indescribable religious and archaeological significance, in violation of a court order,” said Yakhin Zik, director of operations at Regavim. “Without a temporary injunction, the illegal seizure of the compound and the illegal construction work will continue. The bottom line is that on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s watch, Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is being trampled.”
Aunque esto puede sonar bastante franco, la mayoría de las personas no lo comprende. Hasta los grandes pensadores se pierden en la espesura de lo físico, al punto que no son capaces de distinguir entre ellos y la forma que ocupan temporalmente. Como ejemplo, uno de los grandes debates morales dentro de la medicina del tiempo presente es la definición de la muerte. ¿Acontece cuando el corazón deja de latir? ¿Es cuando ya no hay actividad de ondas cerebrales? ¿Y qué sucede con una persona en estado vegetativo durante diez años que es mantenida viva a través de un respirador? ¿Está viva o muerta?
La muerte no debe ser difícil de definir. Es cuando el espíritu, la esencia de la persona, ya no ocupa su cuerpo. Mientras estés ocupando tu cuerpo, estás vivo. Una vez dejas el cuerpo, estás muerto. ¿Qué tiene de complicado?
La razón por la que la muerte es difícil de cuantificar es porque la ciencia es muy efectiva al medir las propiedades físicas. ¿Cuánto tiempo? ¿Qué tan denso? ¿Qué tan caliente? ¿Qué tan distante? Pero tú no eres físico. Tu cuerpo es físico. Tú no. Estamos tan acostumbrados a mezclarnos con nuestros cuerpos que nos cuesta trabajo recordar que son entidades separadas. Entonces al final terminamos aplicando medidas físicas a algo que no existe en esa dimensión.
Es como intentar pesar la luz. Si alguien te preguntara: “¿Cuántos kilos pesa un rayo de luz?”, lo mirarías de forma extraña. Podemos medir la luminosidad. La candela es una medida estándar conveniente de referencia. Pero el peso es un criterio equivocado para medir la luz. Del mismo modo, no podemos utilizar atributos físicos para medirte a ti. No podemos poner “tu esencia” dentro de un tubo de ensayo, agregarle colorante rojo, calentarlo y observar de qué color se tiñe. El cuerpo es medible en términos físicos. La presión sanguínea es cuantificable. La eficiencia respiratoria puede ser calculada. Los niveles de gas en la sangre pueden ser determinados. Pero, ¿qué pruebas puedes hacer para saber si tú aún estás ahí? Tú no eres físico, y cualquier intento por medir tu yo con algún criterio físico fallará. Por tanto, así como el peso no es relevante para la luz, la muerte no es aplicable para ti. La muerte se aplica para la vida física. Así que mientras el cuerpo muere, tú permaneces vivo.
Yo no soy el cerebro
Sin embargo, hay un paso más que debemos dar para comprender totalmente este concepto. Cuando comenzamos este proceso de relacionarnos con nuestro cuerpo y con nosotros mismos como entidades separadas, mucha gente se queda con la mirada en blanco, ya que estas ideas son tan extrañas para ellas como el polvo de la luna. Después de un tiempo, comienzan a relacionarse con sus cuerpos como una capa exterior, una funda, una herramienta que utilizan. Entonces llega el momento del ¡Ajá! Como un foco de luz que se enciende, sus rostros se iluminan de emoción y gritan: “¡Ya lo entendí! ¡Ya lo entendí! Yo no soy mi cabeza. No soy mi pecho. No soy mi espalda. ¡Ni siquiera soy mi corazón! Finalmente lo entendí. ¡Yo soy mi cerebro! ¿Correcto?”.
¡Incorrecto! Cuando entierran al cuerpo, el cerebro es enterrado con él. Justo como tú no eres la cabeza ni el pecho, tampoco eres el cerebro. El cerebro es el órgano con el que tú piensas. Es algo que utilizas para filtrar tus experiencias, pero no eres tú. Este es un paso muy significativo. Hasta tu cerebro es físico.
Un flashazo de intuición
¿Alguna vez has tenido un destello de intuición? Fue difícil de explicar; simplemente supiste algo. Quizá fue una corazonada, una idea, pero estaba ahí. Entonces tuviste que pasarlo por ese concreto proceso llamado pensamiento. “Déjame ver… lo que quise decir es que…”. Este es un ejemplo de saber algo y luego tener que procesarlo mediante tu cerebro. El cerebro es lento y grueso; lento para entender y rápido para olvidar. Cuando dejas esta gruesa capa de materia física que llamamos cuerpo,tú ya no estás limitado a pensar mediante el cerebro. En ese momento todo llega en un brillante resplandor. Tú percibes. Tú entiendes. Y tú recuerdas cada acción, cada conversación y cada pensamiento que tuviste, desde que fuiste un infante hasta tu último respiro. Todo está ahí, accesible, porque tú y tus pensamientos son uno.
¿Alguna vez te has preguntado qué sucede con un gran estudioso de Torá quien, al final de sus días, sufre de la enfermedad de Alzheimer? Él pasó toda una vida acumulando sabiduría y ahora no puede acceder a ella. ¿Qué sucede cuando se va de este mundo? Como un anciano, es incapaz de recordar la Torá que estudió porque el órgano físico llamado cerebro no está funcionando adecuadamente. Su cerebro está dañado, pero él, su esencia, recuerda todo. Cuando termine su vida, todo volverá de regreso a él.
Esta tendencia de vernos a nosotros mismos como entidades físicas constituye un pensamiento severamente limitante, e inhibe nuestro crecimiento. En el nivel más simple, si no comprendemos quiénes somos y de qué estamos hechos, es seguro que nuestra vida no tendrá sentido. Tendremos muchas, muchas preguntas y no habrá respuestas.
¿Qué vale más en la vida judía, la acción o los sentimientos? En otras palabras, ¿tiene más valor hacer las cosas sin sentirlas o sentirlas sin hacerlas?
Muchas veces escucho el argumento por no cumplir con tal o cual precepto: “porque no lo siento”. También se escucha el argumento, “No tengo que cumplir con los rituales ya que siento a D-os en mi corazón y con esto me alcanza”.
Me hace recorder la historia de un Rabino que estaba caminando por la calle y vio a un hombre gordo fumando.
“¿Por qué fumas?” preguntó. “¿No sabes que hace mal para la salud?”
“Resulta que comí mucho y el fumar me ayuda con la digestión,” respondió.
Al rato se cruza con un flaquito que está fumando. “¿Por qué fumas? ¿No sabes que el fumar hace mal para la salud?”
“Resulta que hace días no como y el fumar me ayuda a calmar el hambre,” respondió.
Levantó el Rabino sus ojos al cielo y dijo: “¡Amo del Universo! ¡¿Por qué no le sacas un poco al gordo y se lo das al flaco y así ninguno tendrá necesidad de fumar?!”
La verdad es que todos somos diferentes y todos tenemos nuestros desafíos particulares. Para alguno el desafío es no conformarse con los sentimientos y para otros el desafío es no conformarse con la acción.
La semana pasada leímos en la Torá sobre los doce espías que Moisés envió a recorrer la tierra de Canaan en preparación a su conquista. Volvieron con un informe negativo. “Es una tierra que traga a sus habitantes,” dijeron. “No la vamos a poder conquistar.” Citamos las enseñanzas jasídicas que explican que su preocupación no fue por el lado físico, ya que presenciaron tantos milagros que no tenían porqué dudar de un nuevo milagro. Su preocupación fue más bien por el lado espiritual. Los judíos en el desierto no tenían preocupaciones materiales y podían dedicarse a la vida espiritual. Temían que al entrar a la tierra fértil de Canaan iban a ser tentados a explotar su potencial y la vida espiritual iba a ser relegada a segundo plano o hasta ignorado por completo.
Su error fue que el objetivo por el cual D-os creó al mundo no fue para que se ignore el aspecto físico y material, sino para que se “conquiste” y encause hacia el objetivo por el cual ha sido creado: servir como herramienta por medio de la cual poder plasmar la dimensión Divina también en el plano terrenal.
El episodio de los espías y sus consecuencias crearon las condiciones para el episodio con el cual abre la lectura de esta semana, Kóraj1
Kóraj era un personaje respetado dentro del pueblo judío de aquel entonces. Se sintió ofendido por el hecho de que Moisés y su hermano Aarón ocuparan posiciones tan altas dentro de la sociedad. “Todos los integrantes de la congregación son sagrados y D-os se encuentra en ellos,” dijo. “¿Por qué se elevan uds. por encima de la congregación de D-os?”
La queja de Kóraj en su esencia fue: Si el servir a D-os fuese una tarea nada más que en el plano espiritual, podría entender en qué son superiores Moisés y Aarón. Su nivel espiritual es indiscutiblemente superior al de los demás. Pero si lo principal en el servicio a D-os está en el plano físico, como se vio en el episodio de los espías, ¿dónde está la diferencia entre Moisés y Aarón y el resto del pueblo, ya que en el plano de la acción somos todos iguales?
En otras palabras: las dos historias de los espías y de Kóraj representan dos argumentos diferentes. Los espías argumentaban que lo principal es el nivel espiritual de uno y la entrada a Israel iba a perjudicarlo y Kóraj argumentaba que si lo principal es la acción, ¿qué importancia hay en el trabajo espiritual personal?
Moisés les contestó que la designación de Moisés y Aarón a sus respectivos cargos no era por su iniciativa personal, sino por la iniciativa de D-os. “Esperen hasta la mañana y entonces D-os hará saber a quien ha elegido,” dijo.
“Mañana” vs. la mañana
Para ver el final de la historia, lo invito, querido lector, a leerlo en el original. Lo que quiero compartir aquí es la respuesta de Moisés: “Esperen hasta la mañana…”. ¿Por qué los hizo esperar hasta la mañana? El comentarista bíblico Rashi trae dos explicaciones: 1) quizo darles la oportunidad para arrepentirse y retractar su rebelión; 2) quizo señalarles que así como no se pueden anular los límites que D-os puso entre el día y la noche, de la misma manera no se puede anular el cargo que D-os le dio a Aarón.
El Rebe pregunta: ¿Cómo queda respondida la pregunta de por qué les hizo esperar “hasta la mañana”, no podía haber logrado lo mismo diciéndoles que esperaran hasta la noche?
Explica que aquí yace un mensaje más profundo. Moisés quiso hacerles entender que el objetivo del cumplimiento de las Mitzvot es 1) manifestar la presencia de D-os en el plano físico 2) de una manera evidente.
Si bien tener diamantes es algo valioso, no alcanza; deben ser pulidos y deben brillar.
La enseñanza que el Rebe extrae de todo esto para cada uno de nosotros:
1) No alcanza con sentir a D-os en el corazón; hace falta también expresar Su presencia en el plano de la acción.
2) No alcanza con sólo hacer con perfección las cosas que D-os quiere que se haga en el plano físico; hace falta también asegurar que dichas acciones “brillen”, que irradien una luz espiritual que sirva para iluminar al mundo que nos rodea y para inspirar a todos que vienen en contacto con dicho comportamiento.
Aplicado a la vida cotidiana:
El hombre se compone de alma y cuerpo y la tarea es descubrir y manifestar la dimensión Divina inherente en ambos.
Para algunos el desafío está en cumplir las cosas “religiosas” en la práctica, ya que se conforma con “sentirse muy judío”. Para otro el desafío está en crecer personal y espiritualmente, y que sus actitudes para con el prójimo y el mundo que lo rodea brillen, más allá del cumplimiento práctico de las Mitzvot.
Nadie puede zafar de esta doble responsabilidad. Hay que ser y también “parecer”.
En términos futbolísticos:
Según el Prof. José Ricardo de León hay dos canchas en las cuales se juega el partido, la cancha de “abajo” y la cancha de “arriba”. Yo lo entiendo como queriendo decir que el desafío está tanto en el plano de los pies, la técnica, como en el plano de la cabeza, la actitud.
Lo mismo ocurre en el partido de la vida: debemos atender a ambas canchas, la terrenal y la espiritual.
La Torá cuenta que la humanidad adquirió un alma (una neshamá), cuando Dios la “insufló” dentro del hombre en el momento de la creación.
“Y Dios formó al hombre del polvo de la tierra, e insufló en su nariz aliento de vida, y el hombre se volvió un alma viviente” (Génesis 2:7)
¿Por qué la Torá utiliza esta imagen peculiar de la respiración para describir la forma en que Dios le dio el alma al hombre?
Nuestros Sabios explican: “Todo el que respira, respira algo de su interior”.1 La respiración requiere que se exhale el aire desde lo más profundo de nuestro ser. Cuando la Torá dice que Dios “insufló” un alma al hombre, nos enseña que Dios le dio al hombre algo de Él, por así decirlo. La respiración de Dios le dio al ser humano una esencia espiritual, trascendente, algo de origen divino.
La idea abstracta de un elemento divino que existe dentro del hombre es difícil de entender en términos concretos. Por eso, nuestros Sabios tomaron prestados términos tales como “luz” o “energía” divina al referirse a este elemento divino del hombre. Cuando la divinidad del alma del hombre se actualiza e ilumina a la persona con luz divina, el hombre se considera “sagrado” o “santificado” (kadosh). La santidad existe cuando lo divino se revela en una entidad física.
Su ubicación y asignación
La energía divina del alma es tan intensa, tan espiritual, tan fuera de este mundo, que no puede habitar por completo dentro del ser físico de la persona. Simplemente es demasiado para que un cuerpo humano pueda contenerla. Por esta razón, sólo una pequeña parte del alma del hombre reside en su interior. El resto permanece afuera o “por encima” de él.
El potencial humano para la espiritualidad es mucho mayor que lo que podemos sentir.
Esto significa que el potencial humano para la espiritualidad es mucho mayor que lo que podemos sentir. Como la engañosa punta de un iceberg que apenas asoma sobre la superficie del océano, pero que oculta por debajo una gigantesca masa de hielo, el alma divina del hombre apenas encuentra un punto de apoyo en el hombre. La mayor parte de su luz divina permanece más allá del alcance del hombre, su fuerza y su iluminación imperceptible para la persona misma. (Sin embargo, toda la divinidad del alma del hombre es parte de él. Dios se la entregó y forma parte de su identidad personal, a pesar de que una gran parte de ella en verdad no entre en su cuerpo físico).
Sin embargo, la asignación del alma divina no es algo fijo e inactivo. Es posible que la persona incremente el flujo de energía divina hacia su ser físico. Cuando esto ocurre, la persona se vuelve más espiritual, más sagrada, más divina. Lo mismo ocurre a la inversa. La energía divina del alma del hombre puede fluir hacia el exterior de su cuerpo físico. Esto hace que la persona sea menos espiritual, menos sagrada y menos divina, porque la energía del alma regresa al depósito de energía divina que existe fuera de la persona, oculta del mundo físico.2
Un sistema de tres partes
Debido a esta relación entre la parte del alma del hombre que existe fuera de él y la que reside en él, los Sabios describen que el alma está compuesta de tres partes.
La primera parte del sistema es la parte “más baja”. Es la parte del sistema más unida con el ser físico del hombre, y es el receptáculo dentro del cual él puede recibir la luz divina y guardarla en su interior. En hebreo esta parte se llama nefesh, una palabra que deriva de la raíz que significa “reposar”, porque a través de ella la luz del alma divina “reposa” o habita dentro del hombre e ilumina su cuerpo con santidad.
En el otro extremo se encuentra la parte “más elevada” del sistema. Este es el depósito que contiene la parte del alma del hombre que es incapaz de entrar a él debido a su intensidad y su incapacidad de contenerla. Esta parte se llama neshamá, un término que se utiliza para referirse a todo el sistema.
La parte final de este sistema es el agente que conecta a las otras dos partes. Es el canal que conecta el recipiente interior del hombre que puede albergar la divinidad, con el depósito de divinidad que se concentra fuera de la persona. En otras palabras, es la “cañería” que permite que exista un flujo entre las dos partes del alma del hombre. Este facilitador de flujo divino se conoce como ruaj.
La parábola clásica de este sistema es una vela de aceite.
1. La llama desafía lo físico y por lo tanto representa el depósito de luz divina que existe fuera del hombre.
2. La mecha es un objeto físico y representa al cuerpo humano. La mecha tiene el potencial de ser iluminada por la llama, pero también puede consumirse debido a la intensidad del fuego.
3. El aceite es el agente que lleva la llama a la mecha de tal forma que pueda residir dentro de la mecha, es decir, que ilumina la mecha sin consumirla.
Juntos, el aceite, la mecha y el fuego producen una vela de aceite encendida, lo que representa el flujo exitoso de la luz divina hacia el hombre y la iluminación resultante de su ser físico con espiritualidad, santidad y divinidad.
Incrementar el flujo de divinidad
La cantidad de luz divina que puede entrar al hombre y residir en él depende de él mismo. Cuando comienza la vida, la persona tiene una mayor identificación con su ser físico y está, por naturaleza, alejada de la santidad. Por lo tanto, sólo una cantidad muy pequeña de divinidad puede entrar inicialmente y residir en su interior. Pero a través de un gran esfuerzo, el hombre puede elevarse a sí mismo y mejorar su receptáculo interno de divinidad.
La cantidad de luz divina que puede entrar al hombre y residir en él depende de él mismo.
Es importante recordar que para introducir más luz divina en su ser físico, la persona no tiene que “crear” luz divina. La luz de su alma ya le fue entregada y está esperando poder fluir hacia ella. Simplemente tiene que convertirse a sí misma en un recipiente mejor para poder contenerla.
Consideremos una parábola simplificada (desde un punto de vista eléctrico) del sistema eléctrico en el hogar. En nuestra parábola, el cuerpo humano es comparado con una habitación a oscuras. El foco de luz que hay en la habitación forma parte de la habitación. Afuera de la habitación, hay una fuente de electricidad, como una central eléctrica local. Entre el foco de luz y la fuente de energía hay cables eléctricos que transmiten la energía hacia el foco e iluminan la habitación. Si alguien usa cables muy gruesos, el flujo eléctrico desde la fuente es maravilloso. Si los cables son delgados, el flujo eléctrico es menor y también hay menos luz.
¿Cómo se puede iluminar mejor una casa oscura? El foco de luz ya está colocado en su lugar, listo para iluminar. La electricidad está acumulada en la central eléctrica, lista para fluir a la casa. En este punto, la iluminación sólo depende del tendido eléctrico.
La misión del hombre es trabajar sobre su “cañería” (o en nuestra parábola: la capacidad de su cableado), y en incrementar el flujo de energía divina hacia sí mismo. Al incrementar su capacidad de energía divina, el hombre se ilumina todavía con más luz divina y emerge como un ser más espiritual. Cuando esto ocurre, el hombre comienza a cambiar su existencia puramente física por una existencia espiritual, un reflejo de lo divino.
Esto es lo que la Torá le ordena al hombre (Levítico 19:2): “Serán sagrados”. El hombre tiene que tratar continuamente de incrementar la cantidad de luz divina que hay en su interior, y a través de esto incrementar su nivel de espiritualidad, santidad y divinidad.
Esto es un extracto del libro de Rav Aryeh Leibowitz: “The Neshamah: A Study of the Human Soul”.
1. Sefer Ha-Peliá s.v. שאל משה, Ver también el comentario del Rambán sobre Bereshit 2:7; Shiur Komá de Rav Moshé Cordevero cap.51 y Likutei Amarim Tania, cap. 2.
2. Los conceptos básicos de este artículo se encuentran en la literatura judía, pero se analizan con mayor profundidad en el pensamiento jasídico. Una breve introducción a algunos de los conceptos básicos aquí expuestos se puede encontrar en Sheloshá Maamarim, de Rav Kalonimus Kalmish Shapira, maamar 1.
The ketoret (incense) offering was perhaps the most prestigious service in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and in the Holy Temple. The ketoret consisted of a special blend of herbs and balms whose precise ingredients and manner of preparation were commanded by G‑d to Moses.
Throughout the year, the ketoret was burned twice daily on the golden or “inner” altar that stood within the inner section of Temple, distinct from the outdoor copper altar upon which animal sacrifices and libations were brought.1 Additionally, the highlight of the Yom Kippur service was the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies with a pan of smoldering coals in one hand and a ladle filled with ketoret in the other, and then placing the ketoret over the coals and leaving once it was filled with the fragrant smoke.2
The Torah describes an episode in the desert when the Israelites were struck with a plague due to their complaining and blaming Moses and Aaron for the deaths of Korach and his cohorts. Moses tells Aaron to take a firepan with incense and go among the congregation and atone for their sins. Aaron does this and stands “between the living and the dead,” and the plague is halted.3
So what was the ketoret and why was it such a significant part of the Temple service?
What Was It?
The incense offering was prepared every year. Just preparing it was a divine commandment, as the verse states: “And you take spices . . .”4 There were 11 spices, four of which are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, and the rest of which were communicated orally to Moses and are part of the Oral Tradition.
But although the Talmud lists the names of the ingredients of the ketoret, there are differing opinions as to what herbs these names refer to. The English translation below is mostly based on Maimonides’ description and list in his Mishneh Torah of the ingredients in Arabic. (The list of Hebrew names is from the Talmud. The first four items are named in the Torah itself.)
In addition to the 11 spices that would be measured out by exact weight, they would also add salt of Sodom and Jordanian amber. Another two ingredients (vetch lye and “caper wine”) were used in preparation of the tziporen (onycha) spice.
There was also a special herb, referred to simply as maaleh ashan (“makes smoke rise”), that would produce a pillar of smoke that rose straight up rather than spread out. The identity of the herb was a secret that was closely guarded by members of the Avitnus family, who made the incense based on the tradition of their ancestors.
(These final ingredients did not produce aromas of their own and are therefore not counted among the 11 spices.)
The 11-ingredient mixture was finely ground, and then a fourth of a kab (a volume equal to approx 1376 cc8 ) of the salt of Sodom and a small amount of Jordanian amber and the smoke-raising herb were added. A maneh of it was burned every day on the golden altar—a half a maneh in the morning, and another half toward the evening.
There were 365 maneh in each batch, corresponding to the 365 days of the year.9 On the day before Yom Kippur, the three remaining maneh were finely ground once again, and the High Priest would take a handful to offer on Yom Kippur.
The Talmud relates that since offering the incense would bring blessings of wealth to the one who offered it on the altar, it was decided that as many different priests as possible should have an opportunity to do this service. Thus, no priest was assigned this task more than once in his lifetime.10
What is the Reason for the Incense?
Maimonidies writes that since many animals were offered in the Holy Temple, the Temple would have smelled like a slaughterhouse if nothing had been done to counteract it. They were therefore commanded to burn incense there twice every day, in the morning and in the evening, in order to give the place and the garments of those who officiated there a pleasant odor. This, he adds, also “boosted the dignity and respect of the Temple. If there had not been a good smell, let alone if there had been a stench, it would have produced in the minds of the people the reverse of respect; for our heart generally feels elevated in the presence of good odor, and is attracted by it, but it abhors and avoids bad smell.”11
However, as many point out,12 this could hardly be the main reason for the ketoret, especially in light of the fact that the Torah warns of severe punishment for replicating the exact specifications of the ketoret and burning it outside of the Temple. This implies that there was something deeper to this holy incense.
Getting Rid of the Odor of the Animal Soul
The mystics explain that the animal offerings in the Temple represent the person’s offering of his own animal soul to G‑d—the subjugation of one’s natural instincts and desires to the divine will. To be sure, the animal soul of man possesses many positive traits that can be directed toward positive ends, but at the same time it is also the source of many negative traits. When a person brings his “animal self” to the Temple of G‑d and offers the finest parts of it upon the altar, there is still the foul odor—the selfishness, the brutality and the materiality of the animal in man—that accompanies the process. The burning of the ketoret possesses the unique capability to sublimate even this “bad odor” of the animal soul within its heavenly fragrance.13
But there seems to be an even deeper reason. After all, it is one thing to explain that the ketoret was brought in the Temple to take care of the “bad spiritual odor” left over from the offerings of the animal soul to G‑d, but why is the ketoret brought into the Holy of Holies, a place where no animal sacrifices were offered, a place of pure holiness?
One With G‑d
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that while the Hebrew word for “offering” is korban, which means “close,” the word for “incense,” ketoret, reflects the Aramaic word keter, which means “bond.” Although an offering brought one close to G‑d, being close doesn’t necessarily mean you bonded; you can be a separate entity that is merely close to G‑d. With the ketoret, one would bond and be connected to G‑d.
When one brought an offering in the Temple, in essence he was uplifting the mundane and physical to the Divine. Hence, he brought a physical animal or meal offering on the altar. With the incense, the purpose was for the person himselfto connect to the Divine through the ketoret.
In other words, the offerings reflected the uplifting and rectifying of the more outer dimensions of the person—thought, speech and action—and directing them to the service of G‑d, while the sublime fragrance of the ketoret represented the inner and essential connection that we all have to G‑d. When this connection is revealed, then automatically all of our other aspects, including thought, speech and action, are directed and become connected to the Divine.
Thus, the ketoret represented nothing less than the essential connection we each have with G‑d.14
In line with the verse “We will render [the prayer of] our lips in place of [the sacrifice of] bulls,”15 the sages write that it is very advisable to recite daily the verses that include the passages pertaining to the various offerings in the Temple, including the verses pertaining to the ketoret. This is typically done before morning and afternoon services, as outlined in the siddur (prayerbook).16
The Zohar associates many merits and blessings with the reading of the ketoret each day and states that “whoever occupies himself with reciting it every day with sincerity and comprehension will have a share in this world and the next, and will be spared from the forces of impurity, negativity and judgment, and will be linked to the source of life.”17
“Cassia” is just a Hebrew loanword used in English text. Maimonides in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Keritot 1:1) says that he cannot identify this spice. Some have identified it with cassia, an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon, but differing in strength and quality.
Maimonides writes that it is “al-oud,” an Arabic word, meaning, agarwood. Others translate it as cinnamon. They would then identify kelufah as either a different type of cinnamon or simply as “aromatic bark.”
In an ordinary lunar year, there are 353, 354, or 355 days. Hence, at the end of the year, there was a certain amount left over. On the first of Nissan, the remainder of the incense was redeemed and then given back to the craftsmen who prepared it. Afterwards, it was repurchased from them. It was done this way so that if a leap year would be declared, there would still be enough ketoret.
Some have the custom of having the verses about the incense written on a piece of parchment and reading from it daily as a segulah for financial success (see, for example, Rabbi Chaim Plagi in Kaf Hachaim 16:18). Others, however, are of the opinion that writing just these verses without the rest of the Torah on a piece of parchment may be problematic (see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his responsum Yabia Omer, vol. 9, Yoreh De’ah 23).
It is a scene that still has the power to shock and disturb. The people complain. There is no water. It is an old complaint and a predictable one. That is what happens in a desert. Moses should have been able to handle it with ease. He has been through far tougher challenges in his time. Yet suddenly at Mei Meriva (“the waters of contention”), he exploded into vituperative anger: “‘Listen, you rebels, shall we bring you water out of this rock?’ Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff” (Num. 20:10–11).
In past essays I have argued that Moses did not sin. It was simply that he was the right leader for the generation that left Egypt but not the right leader for their children who would cross the Jordan and engage in conquering a land and building a society. The fact that he was not permitted to lead the next generation was not a failure but an inevitability. As a group of slaves facing freedom, a new relationship with God, and a difficult journey, both physically and spiritually, the Children of Israel needed a strong leader capable of contending with them and with God. But as builders of a new society, they needed a leader who would not do the work for them but who would instead inspire them to do it for themselves.
The face of Moses was like the sun, the face of Joshua was like the moon (Bava Batra 75a). The difference is that sunlight is so strong it leaves no work for a candle to do, whereas a candle can illuminate when the only other source of light is the moon. Joshua empowered his generation more than a figure as strong as Moses would have done.
But there is another question altogether about the episode we read of this week. What made this trial different? Why did Moses momentarily lose control? Why then? Why there? He had faced just this challenge before.
The Torah mentions two previous episodes. One took place at Mara, almost immediately after the division of the Red Sea. The people found water but it was bitter. Moses prayed to God, God told him how to sweeten the water, and the episode passed. The second episode occurred at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1–7). This time there was no water at all. Moses rebuked the people: “Why are you quarrelling with me? Are you trying to test God?” He then turned to God and said, “What am I to do with this people? Before long they will stone me!” God told him to go to a rock at Horeb, take his staff, and hit the rock. Moses did so, and water came out. There was drama, tension, but nothing like the emotional distress evident in this week’s parsha of Chukat. Surely Moses, by now almost forty years older, with a generation of experience behind him, should have coped with this challenge without drama. He had been there before.
The text gives us a clue, but in so understated a way that we can easily miss it. The chapter begins thus: “In the first month, the whole Israelite community arrived at the desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community…” (Num. 20:1–2). Many commentators see the connection between this and what follows in terms of the sudden loss of water after the death of Miriam. Tradition tells of a miraculous well that accompanied the Israelites during Miriam’s lifetime in her merit. When she died, the water ceased.
There is, though, another way of reading the connection. Moses lost control because his sister Miriam had just died. He was in mourning for his eldest sibling. It is hard to lose a parent, but in some ways it is even harder to lose a brother or sister. They are your generation. You feel the Angel of Death come suddenly close. You face your own mortality.
Miriam was more than a sister to Moses. She was the one, while still a child, to follow the course of the wicker basket holding her baby brother as it drifted down the Nile. She had the courage and ingenuity to approach Pharaoh’s daughter and suggest that she employ a Hebrew nurse for the child, thus ensuring that Moses would grow up knowing his family, his people, and his identity.
In a truly remarkable passage, the Sages said that Miriam persuaded her father Amram, the leading scholar of his generation, to annul his decree that Hebrew husbands should divorce their wives and have no more children because there was a 50 per cent chance that any child born would be killed. “Your decree,” said Miriam, “is worse than Pharaoh’s. He only decreed against the males, yours applies to females also. He intends to rob children of life in this world; you would deny them even life in the World to Come.” Amram admitted her superior logic. Husbands and wives were reunited. Yocheved became pregnant and Moses was born. Note that this Midrash, told by the Sages, unambiguously implies that a six-year-old girl had more faith and wisdom than the leading rabbi of the generation!
Moses surely knew what he owed his elder sister. According to the Midrash, without her he would not have been born. According to the plain sense of the text, he would not have grown up knowing who his true parents were and to which people he belonged. Though they had been separated during his years of exile in Midian, once he returned, Miriam had accompanied him throughout his mission. She had led the women in song at the Red Sea. The one episode that seems to cast her in a negative light – when she “began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife” (Num. 12:1), for which she was punished with leprosy – was interpreted more positively by the Sages. They said she was critical of Moses for breaking off marital relations with his wife Tzipporah. He had done so because he needed to be in a state of readiness for Divine communication at any time. Miriam felt Tzipporah’s plight and sense of abandonment. Besides which, she and Aaron had also received Divine communication but they had not been commanded to be celibate. She may have been wrong, suggested the Sages, but not maliciously so. She spoke not out of jealousy of her brother but out of sympathy for her sister-in-law.
So it was not simply the Israelites’ demand for water that led Moses to lose control of his emotions, but rather his own deep grief. The Israelites may have lost their water, but Moses had lost his sister, who had watched over him as a child, guided his development, supported him throughout the years, and helped him carry the burden of leadership in her role as leader of the women.
It is a moment that reminds us of words from the book of Judges said by Israel’s chief of staff, Barak, to its judge-and-leader Deborah: “If you go with me, I will go; but if you do not go with me, I cannot go” (Judges 4:8). The relationship between Barak and Deborah was much less close than that between Moses and Miriam, yet Barak acknowledged his dependence on a wise and courageous woman. Can Moses have felt less?
Bereavement leaves us deeply vulnerable. In the midst of loss we can find it hard to control our emotions. We make mistakes. We act rashly. We suffer from a momentary lack of judgement. These are common symptoms even for ordinary humans like us. In Moses’ case, however, there was an additional factor. He was a prophet, and grief can occlude or eclipse the prophetic spirit. Maimonides answers the well-known question as to why Jacob, a prophet, did not know that his son Joseph was still alive, with the simplest possible answer: grief banishes prophecy. For twenty-two years, mourning his missing son, Jacob could not receive the Divine word. Moses, the greatest of all the prophets, remained in touch with God. It was God, after all, who told him to “speak to the rock.” But somehow the message did not penetrate his consciousness fully. That was the effect of grief.
So the details are, in truth, secondary to the human drama played out that day. Yes, Moses did things he might not have done, should not have done. He struck the rock, said “we” instead of “God,” and lost his temper with the people. The real story, though, is about Moses the human being in an onslaught of grief, vulnerable, exposed, caught in a vortex of emotions, suddenly bereft of the sisterly presence that had been the most important bass note of his life. Miriam had been the precociously wise and plucky child who had taken control of the situation when the life of her three-month-old brother lay in the balance, undaunted by either an Egyptian princess or a rabbi-father. She had led the Israelite women in song, and sympathised with her sister-in-law when she saw the price she paid for being the wife of a leader. The Midrash speaks of her as the woman in whose merit the people had water in a parched land. In Moses’ anguish at the rock, we sense the loss of the elder sister without whom he felt bereft and alone.
The story of the moment Moses lost his confidence and calm is ultimately less about leadership and crisis, or about a staff and a rock, than about a great Jewish woman, Miriam, appreciated fully only when she was no longer there.
Analysis of skeletons in the Philistine city of Ashkelon answers the elusive question of just where the Israelites’ biblical archenemies came from
Science has made a huge leap forward in dispelling the mystery that surrounds the Philistines, the biblical archenemies of the Israelites who suddenly appeared on the coasts of the Levant more than 3,000 years ago.
The origins of this ancient population have eluded scholars for centuries. Now, an analysis of DNA extracted from skeletons unearthed at Ashkelon, on Israel’s southern coast, confirms the theory that the earliest Philistines had at least some European ancestry, most likely from the south of the continent. This supports the long-held theory by some scholars, based on clues from ancient texts and similarities in archaeological finds from the two regions, that the Philistines hailed from the Aegean.
“This is pretty critical evidence that we are on the right track in understanding the Philistines as a people who came out of the Aegean and reached places like Ashkelon as immigrants,” says Daniel Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College and co-director of the dig at Ashkelon.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, shows that these early European settlers quickly intermingled with the local population. Within a couple of centuries the Philistine genome became virtually indistinguishable from that of the Levantine peoples among whom they dwelled.
The new research appears to confirm what ancient texts, including the Bible, tell us about the origins of the Philistines. More broadly, it sheds light on the enigmatic Sea Peoples, a loose coalition of marauding groups – which included the Philistines – who have often been blamed, perhaps unfairly, for singlehandedly causing the sudden destruction of major civilizations during the so-called Bronze Age Collapse.
Since the early 19th century, when hieroglyphics were first deciphered, scholars have identified the biblical Philistines with the “Peleset” described in Egyptian records as one of the Sea Peoples who came from “their islands” and attacked Egypt during the reign of Ramses III, in the first half of the 12th century B.C.E.
The Sea Peoples were barely repulsed, but Egypt was diminished, losing its empire in the Levant. Meanwhile, the Philistines settled on the southern coast of Canaan just as other great civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean, including the Myceneans and the Hittites, disappeared entirely. Questions of what role the Philistines and the other Sea Peoples played in this collapse, whence they came from any and why they swept through the Mediterranean have been hotly debated by researchers
But pots and pans can be traded or imitated, and there is an opposing school of thought arguing that the Philistines themselves were not Aegean. Some researchers believe their origins should be traced to the Levant, possibly to southern Anatolia, where a kingdom with the Philistine-sounding name “Palasatini” or “Palastin” emerged after the collapse of the Hittite empire.
While it is possible that European settlers or their influence also reached the northern Levant, it is no longer feasible to theorize that the Philistines were simply a local cultural variation, say the archaeologists behind the new study.
“The DNA shows that no, these were new people who came in and brought with them their own culture and traditions,” says Adam Aja, an archaeologist from Harvard University and assistant director at the Ashkelon dig.
The researchers sequenced the genomes of Ashkelonites from different periods in antiquity, comparing them to each other as well as to ancient and modern DNA samples from across the Middle East and Europe.
While humans share about 99 percent of their DNA, there are some parts of the genome that are more variable and prone to change because they don’t have a biological function, explains Michal Feldman, a Ph.D. student in archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
“Within these sites of the genome you can find differences between various populations if they were relatively isolated from each other for a long period of time,” says Feldman, who is the lead author on the study published in Science Advances. “Using statistical methods we can compare different groups, and place these individuals on the genetic map to know which groups they are closer to.”
Europeans were here
Out of 108 bones sampled at Ashkelon, only 10 yielded sufficient amounts of DNA. The earliest subjects were three individuals who lived between the 18th-16th centuries B.C.E., long before the Philistines arrived, when the city was a Canaanite settlement. These people’s genome is closest to that of modern-day Near Easterners and to Bronze Age samples from across the Levant and Anatolia, the study says.
But things change when looking at the DNA of four infants found buried underneath houses dated to the late 12th century B.C.E., just after the Philistines are known to have settled in Ashkelon, at the dawn of the Iron Age. These babies (who were unrelated to each other) could count European hunter-gatherers amongst their distant ancestors, according to the study.
“In the future, as we get more samples from across the region, we will be able to speak more precisely about the source than we can do now,” says Master, the lead archaeologist on the study. But the genetic modeling, coupled with the archaeological evidence already tips the scales heavily in favor of the Aegean hypothesis.
Still, the study does not provide the last word on the origin of the Philistines. For one thing, it is based on a very small sample and on DNA taken from one city, Ashkelon, rather than from the multiple sites in the region that the Philistines occupied, says Aren Maeir, a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University who did not take part in the study.
Even the genetic data recovered from the four early Iron Age infants cannot be unequivocally interpreted as indicating that these people had a single point of origin, says Maeir, who directs the excavation at Tel es-Safi, once known as the Philistine city of Gath.
“The Philistines used to be understood as a monolithic culture that invaded from somewhere the coastal plain and took over,” says Maeir. “Today many people argue that when you look at the early Philistines you don’t see a single culture but what we call an ‘entangled’ culture, one formed by contributions from many peoples, with influences from Cyprus, Anatolia, Greece and other places that are all mixed in with local elements to form this Mediterranean salad: and this is what we see in the material culture and in the ancient DNA.”
Whatever the statistical significance of the samples from Ashkelon, Tthere is one more twist in this story, which comes from the DNA of three skeletons recently uncovered in a Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon that were was dated to the 10th-9th centuries B.C.E.
In these individuals, who lived just a couple of centuries after the Philistines first arrived, the European genetic component is almost undetectable. On average their genome resembles more that of the Canaanite Ashkelonites from the Bronze Age than their chronologically closer ancestors in the early Iron Age.
This means that those European migrants very quickly “intermixed with the local people and became the local people, genetically indistinguishable, even as some of the traditions they brought with them were carried on,” says Aja.
We don’t know for sure whether this means that the new arrivals interbred just with the original population of Ashkelon and its nearby towns, or if they also mingled with members of other local groups, including the ancient Hebrews. But in any case, this finding is fairly in line with what archaeologists have uncovered so far about this long-lost culture.
The Philistines disappeared from history when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II conquered them (soon to be followed by Judah and the rest of the Levant) at the end of the 7th century B.C.E. Since they have left us very few inscriptions, the only primary historical sources we have about them are from their adversaries – Egyptians, Hebrews, Assyrians and Babylonians – some of whom may have been prejudiced in describing them as barbaric outsiders, says Master.
In reality, the archaeological record shows that the Philistines were sophisticated traders and their culture very quickly became completely Levantine in character, just like the genome of their people. For example, the few Philistine inscriptions that have survived show that early on they used a Cypro-Minoan script, but in later periods switched to a writing that is almost indistinguishable from ancient Hebrew and other local Semitic languages, Master explains.
And the Bible itself, while casting aspersions on the “uncircumcised” and polytheistic Philistines, does suggest that intermarriage with them was not unheard of. Even Samson, the biblical bane of the Philistines, attempts to marry one at the beginning of his adventures (Judges 14-15).
“So beneath all the antipathy in the ancient texts, you sense that there is something going on,” notes Master. “People were going back and forth, and even though there was an obvious political difference and a lot of rhetoric, on the ground there was also a lot of interaction.”
The relatively rapid pace at which the Philistine genome – and culture – went native also tells us something about those early European settlers who started it all. Archaeologically, it has been difficult to determine whether their takeover of Ashkelon and other sites on the coastal plain was a violent or peaceful affair – it may have varied from place to place.
But the genetic study proves that the new arrivals must have been fairly small in number compared to the population they eventually merged with.
“It’s not as if they come and establish a beachhead and continue to talk with the people back home,” says Master. “This is a one-time influx of people who are not being replenished and are cut off from wherever they came from: they are on their own.”
They just wanted to live
The scarcity of their numbers suggests that the first Philistines may have been small groups of refugees fleeing from some catastrophe, or even bands of pirates and mercenaries, as they and the other Sea Peoples are often described in ancient texts.
But whatever their nature, it is becoming increasingly difficult to credibly see them as a large mass of barbarians that swept through the Mediterranean and were solely responsible for the Bronze Age Collapse.
They may have been aggressive in their search for a new home – there is no reason to doubt Ramses III’s claim that they attacked Egypt – but it’s hard to believe that on their own they could bring down multiple great empires.
Research on the period has already been going in this direction for a while. Studies like those of historian Eric Cline suggest the Bronze Age Collapse was not sparked by a single cause but by multiple systemic and environmental factors that caused a domino effect among polities that were deeply interconnected. Climate change may have been a major contributor, as scientists studying the pollen record in the Sea of Galilee have shown that between 1250 and 1100 B.C.E. the entire region went through a period of severe droughts, which would have caused famine, unrest and population displacement.
“The Philistines were probably reacting to their environment, either the movement of other people or environmental stresses,” says Aja. “There must have been a very dramatic reason for them to leave their homes and migrate over what was then a fairly large distance. Why did the leave? Why did they come to the Levant to start from scratch and create new families?”
Answering such questions is important not just to illuminate the Bronze Age Collapse, but to understand the underlying problems that can undermine civilization at any time – especially today, the archaeologist says.
“These are very timely questions when you look at the movement of people in the world today as a reaction to conflict or environmental pressures,” he says. “People will go to great lengths and put themselves in great danger to move because, they want to have better lives, they want to live.”
¿Te sientes culpable porque tu hijo se mete en problemas o no puede salir adelante solo?
Como padre uno se cuestiona si tiene la culpa porque sus hijos constantemente se meten en problemas, se pelean con quien sea o no pueden tener éxito en general. De hecho, desde temprana edad, tienen que escuchar quejas por su mala conducta y falta de disciplina.
Estos niños rápidamente son etiquetados como “niños problema” aunque ellos pueden ser el reflejo de un hogar disfuncional, con padres problemáticos. También pueden ser el resultado del tipo de educación que reciben en su casa, ya sea exceso de autoridad o, por lo contrario, padres ausentes y súper permisivos, o bien simplemente pueden ser seres más conflictivos y difíciles.
Tomando en cuenta que hay padres presentes, amorosos, responsables, funcionales, exitosos y, además, tienen otros hijos con los cuales no tienen problemas, entonces cabe la posibilidad de que la personalidad de este hijo/a sea difícil y el reto para ayudarlo/a a salir adelante sea más complicado.
Cuando esto sucede, es necesario que los padres se recuerden continuamente que: ellos NO son malos padres porque sus hijos no son lo que ellos esperaban. O porque no les puede ir bien en su vida. En realidad, el comportamiento de sus hijos no dice nada de los éxitos o de los fracasos de sus padres. Ellos son personas independientes que tienen su propio carácter y su personalidad.
Cada persona ve y explora el mundo con sus propios ojos y toma la decisión de cómo quiere actuar.
Hay hijos con personalidades más fáciles que otros. Crean menos problemas y su comportamiento es más dócil. Son más accesibles y se les puede entender y comunicarse mejor. Su crianza, dentro de lo que cabe, es una etapa agradable, con las dificultades normales, pero su desarrollo y adaptación al mundo es un proceso manejable.
De igual forma están los hijos que desde que nacen son problemáticos, son intolerantes a muchos alimentos, son inquietos, agresivos, su carácter atrae a los problemas. Ellos no siguen las normas establecidas ni las reglas naturales. Son rebeldes, problemáticos y desde temprana edad, tienen una relación difícil con sus padres y con el mundo en general.
Como padre uno hace lo posible por ayudarlos y proporcionarles las mejores herramientas para que salgan adelante. En muchos casos, a pesar de los múltiples problemas, ellos llegan a crecer con éxito y se pueden incorporar a la sociedad convirtiéndose en seres responsables e independientes.
Sin embargo, el sabor amargo que deja su crianza, el sentimiento como padre y la duda que se carga por tantas dificultades, difícilmente se llega a olvidar.
Cada uno tiene el derecho de tener la vida que quiere. Los padres no son dueños de sus hijos, y a pesar de que se les da todo el amor y entendimiento que se puede, los hijos tienen sus propios pensamientos, sus elecciones y su forma de ser.
La receta: Reconociendo la individualidad de los hijos
Amor incondicional – aceptación, cariño y cuidado sin prejuicios, ni consideraciones
Respeto – reconocer las diferencias, fortalezas y debilidades con decoro
Empatía – entender y poder ver el mundo con los ojos del otro
Límites – establecer con claridad las reglas y las normas a seguir
Paciencia – aguante y confianza para que la vida tome su camino
Afirmación Positiva para aceptar a los hijos como son:
Mi hijo/a es un regalo muy especial, lo valoro y lo cuido como el tesoro más valioso que tengo. Él no me pertenece y no soy responsable por sus decisiones. Me alegro por sus triunfos y me duelen sus fracasos. Hago todo lo que este en mi alcance para ayudarlo a que sea una persona independiente y exitosa, pero él es el único que puede decidir qué quiere hacer con su vida.
Como manejar la culpa y aceptar a mi hijo/a
Los padres siempre buscan lo mejor para sus hijos. Como padres siempre se da todo lo que tiene, entiende y conoce para que sus hijos triunfen y aprovechen su vida al máximo.
El papel de los padres es de preparar a sus hijos para que sean independientes y responsables. Los hijos pueden aprender las lecciones y seguir el camino que se les ofrece, o bien tomar otra avenida y vivir sus consecuencias con sus aprendizajes.
Los padres también tienen sus limitaciones. Por más amor y paciencia que tengan no siempre está en sus manos poder ayudar a sus hijos a superar sus debilidades o sus problemas.
“Es más efectivo encontrar una conexión sincera con tus hijos en lugar de corregirlos, criticarlos y castigarlos”.
The vast trove of Sigmund Freud’s letters sheds light not only on the subjects that occupied the father of psychoanalysis, but also on the role the very act of writing them played in his life
At the age of 17, Sigmund Freud wrote to a friend: “Until now [you] have probably remained unaware that you have been exchanging letters with a German stylist. And now I advise you as a friend, not as an interested party, to preserve them – have them bound – take good care of them – one never knows.”
The young Freud was prescient. His devotion to letter-writing was extraordinary, even in a period that cultivated personal correspondence as an art. He’s estimated to have written 30,000 letters during the 83 years of his life. His estate contains wild and very humorous writing from his youth, passionate and revealing love letters to his fiancée, and the formative – and no less passionate – correspondence with his Berlin-based friend Wilhelm Fliess. Alongside these is correspondence documenting the “self-analysis” chapter of his life, whose peak is the discovery of the Oedipus complex and the solution to the riddle of the dream. By the time he was 30, it was clear that for Freud letter-writing occupied a place not only in his interpersonal relations but also in his discoveries, in the emergence of psychoanalysis as a world scientific movement and in sustaining his unflagging creativity.
Freud’s correspondents could take note of the tension between his positivist aspirations as a scholar and a physician, and the poetic and lyrical elements of his personality; become acquainted with the interplay of revolutionism and conservatism in his thought; and be regaled with his thoughts about femininity, sexuality, parenthood, money, smoking, cancer, ecology, archaeology and “an inhuman law devoid of empathy, which imposes the pursuit of a pregnancy even on a mother who does not want it.”
These correspondents, unlike the readers of his books and his scientific papers, learned how he felt about his public status, about politics, the war of 1914-1918, metaphysics and culture. They were convinced of both his adamancy and his openness in regard to the innovations they suggested, and got to know his changing thoughts about psychoanalytic technique, the interpretation of dreams, the place of early sexual trauma in the life of the psyche and about homosexuality. With some people, he shared his thoughts in the wake of his meeting with Albert Einstein and about the odd fantasy he cultivated in his younger days to analyze the Russian czar and thereby avert another war.
Freud enjoyed surprising recipients of his letters with sensational reports and various items of personal news: about his decision to stop smoking (which lasted exactly until he finished writing the letter in which he described that decision) or about a jolting encounter with Austrian anti-Semitism, which he experienced as a resident in a hospital, as he recounted it to his fiancée, Martha Bernays:
“On Sunday Koller was on duty at the Journal, the man who made cocaine so famous and with whom I have recently become more intimate. He had a difference of opinion about some minor technical matter with the man who acts as surgeon for Billroth’s clinic, and the latter suddenly called Koller a ‘Jewish swine.’ Now you must try to imagine the kind of atmosphere we live in here, the general bitterness – in short, we would all have reacted just as Koller did: by hitting the man in the face. The man rushed off, denounced Koller to the director who, however, called him down thoroughly and categorically took Koller’s side. This was a great relief to us all. But since they are both reserve officers, he is obliged to challenge Koller to a duel and at this very moment they are fighting with sabers under rather severe conditions. Lustgarten and Bettelheim (the regimental surgeon) are Koller’s seconds.
“I am too upset to write any more now, but I won’t send this letter off till I can tell you the result of the duel. […] All is well, my little woman. Our friend is quite unharmed and his opponent got two deep gashes. We are all delighted, a proud day for us. We are going to give Koller a present as a lasting reminder of his victory.”
Similarly, Freud’s enigmatic Jewishness, which has deeply preoccupied his biographers, cannot be understood without reading his letters. The same holds for his attitude toward socialism, his response to the Nazis’ rise to power, his take on the Zionist movement, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the incipient acceptance of psychoanalysis in Hebrew culture, and his thoughts on death, telepathy and archaeology, music and dogs. Above all, without his letters it is impossible to understand his attitude toward the truth – that is, his daily relationship with truth and the depth of his commitment to it, a topic that runs like a thread through Freud’s epistolary writing. In a letter from 1882, he wrote to Bernays:
“For my beloved Marty,
“I am beginning these notes without waiting for your answer, my girl, in order to tell you more about myself and my activities than our personal contact would allow. I am going to be very frank and confidential with you, as is right for two people who have joined hands for life in love and friendship. But as I don’t want to keep on writing without receiving an answer I will stop as soon as you fail to respond. Continuous inner monologues about a beloved person that are not corrected or refreshed by that person lead to false opinions about the mutual relationship, and even to estrangement when one meets again and finds things to be different from what one had thought. Nor shall I always be very affectionate, sometimes I will be serious and outspoken, as is only right between friends and as friendship demands. But in so doing I hope you will not feel deprived of anything and will find it easy to choose between the one who values you according to your worth and merit, and the many who try to spoil you by treating you as a charming toy.”
Public interest in Freud’s letters began with a bundle of his letters that found their way to Paris and in 1937 came into the possession of the French psychoanalyst Princess Marie Bonaparte. When she informed Freud that she had purchased his letters to Fliess from a German bookseller, he wrote back that he would like her to do with them what a Jew does when cooking a peacock: He cooks it, buries it for a week and then retrieves it from the ground and throws it into the garbage. Bonaparte insisted on keeping the letters, and during the Nazi occupation transferred them to London. “Just imagine,” she wrote to Freud, “that we didn’t have Goethe’s conversations with Eckermann, or the dialogues with Plato.”
Like wolves intent on devouring prey, historians of psychoanalysis cast their gaze on the huge wooden closet that stood next to Anna Freud’s bedroom in London, where she had stored her father’s letters.
It was Kurt Eissler, a New York psychoanalyst who founded the Freud Archive in the 1950s and started systematically collecting Freud’s letters from around the world, and who was finally permitted to open the closet and read the letters to Fliess, which are considered the cradle of psychoanalysis. He felt that he held the fate of an entire science in his hands. Hidden within the letters, is there also testimony about sexual exploitation of patients by their parents, which Freud knew about and repressed? Does the Freudian revolution rest on an original sin capable of refuting psychoanalysis and all its thinking from Freud until our day? Those questions will continue to occupy Freud scholars for decades to come. But the interest in his letters to Fliess sparked a desire to become acquainted with the totality of Freud’s epistolary writing. Its contours were gradually revealed as an immense continent made up entirely of letters. And they, in their turn, validated the assertion of Thomas Mann, another of Freud’s correspondents, that Freud’s contribution to German literature is as great as his contribution to science.
“A single idea of general value dawned on me. I have found, in my own case too, [the phenomenon of] being in love with my mother and jealous of my father, and I now consider it a universal event in early childhood, even if not so early as in children who have been made hysterical […] If this is so, we can understand the gripping power of Oedipus Rex, in spite of all the objections that reason raises against the presupposition of fate; and we can understand why the later ‘drama of fate’ was bound to fail so miserably. The Greek legend seizes upon a compulsion which everyone recognizes because he senses its existence within himself. Everyone in the audience was once a budding Oedipus in fantasy and each recoils in horror from the dream fulfillment here transplanted into reality, with the full quantity of repression which separates his infantile state from his present one.”
That 1897 letter to Wilhelm Fliess contains the first mention of the Oedipus complex, which is identified more closely than any other concept with Freud’s thought. But a perusal of his letters (preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which is the custodian of the Sigmund Freud Archives, they are addressed to 600 different recipients) shows that the obligation of self-observation – an ideal that drove millions of educated Europeans beginning in the 18th century to keep diaries in which they documented themselves before retiring for the night – reached new heights in Freud’s epistolary writing. The writing of a letter – and in this, the epistolary genre, which by definition involves communication with another individual, surpasses the boundaries of the “ideal self” addressed in a tiresome diary – entails a certain risk. Writing to another person will almost always overwhelm the writing self and bring to light something the author had not intended to reveal to his interlocutor or to himself. I tend to see Freud’s epistolary writing as the continuation of the self-analysis of one who was already convinced that the unconscious needs another in order to tell the subject’s story. Here’s what Freud sounded like in a letter to his fiancée while he was studying under Jean-Martin Charcot in Paris in 1886:
“I consider it a great misfortune that nature has not granted me that indefinite something which attracts people. I believe it is this lack more than any other which has deprived me of a rosy existence. It has taken me so long to win my friends, I have had to struggle so long for my precious girl, and every time I meet someone I realize that an impulse, which defies analysis, leads that person to underestimate me. This may be a question of expression or temperament, or some other secret of nature, but whatever it may be it affects one deeply. What compensates me for all this is the devotion shown to me by all those who have become my friends – but what am I talking about?”
“But what am I talking about?” asks the person who, within a short time, would burst the bounds of the religious confession and the literary confession and teach his patients the advantages of a new form of psychological confession – namely, the basic rule of psychoanalysis: From now on, say everything that enters your mind. When a patient in analysis asks, “But what am I talking about?” it is a sign that the analysis is working and that the patient is in the midst of a new monologue with himself.
Apparently at an extremely early stage, Freud felt that free writing of the sort that appears on stationery (with the addition of a moderate use of cocaine) was for him a condition for original scientific thinking; that he must harness the artist in himself for the benefit of the scientist he so ardently wished to be. And let us not forget that in his letters, far more than in his theoretical writing, Freud shared with his correspondents his process of creation. “I was depressed the whole time and anesthetized myself with writing, writing, writing,” he wrote to the Hungarian analyst Sandor Ferenczi. To the pacifist author Romain Rolland, who wished to interest him in the treasures of Indian culture, he would write, “In our perception, even thinking is a regressive process” (that is, in the psychological sense).
The young Freud was an industrious scientist (400 eels fell prey to his research on the reproductive organs of the wretched creatures). His early articles attest to his also having been a gifted clinician. But it’s doubtful that he would have discovered the healing potential that free association can have – when it encounters a listener who is in a state of free-floating attention and surrenders to the flow of his unconscious thoughts – if he had made do with dissecting eels, scurrying between patients or publishing case histories of hysterical women, without spending long hours alone in his room writing letters. Accordingly, the birth of psychoanalysis should be attributed to a successful fusion between ambition, inquisitiveness and persistence, and the creative imagination and extraordinary verbal abilities with which Freud was endowed. In other words, one can draw a connection between his scientific discoveries and his response to the urge to write, to keep a record, to capture himself in the word and to share with others everything that entered his mind.
“I know that in writing I have to blind myself artificially in order to focus all the light on one dark spot, renouncing cohesion, harmony, rhetoric and everything which you call symbolic, frightened as I am by the experience that any such claim or expectation involves the danger of distorting the matter under investigation, even though it may embellish it. Then you come along and add what is missing, build upon it, putting what has been isolated back into its proper context. I cannot always follow you, for my eyes, adapted as they are to the dark, probably can’t stand strong light or an extensive range of vision. But I haven’t become so much of a mole as to be incapable of enjoying the idea of a brighter light and more spacious horizon, or even to deny their existence.” (Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, May 25, 1916)
Freud’s letters are not only texts of “candor,” in the tradition of the confessions of Augustine, Goethe or Rousseau. They are concise documents that possess the power to arouse questions such as “What is thought?” or “What is sincerity?” Freud does not wallow in the impossibility of communication through letters – a motif that has engaged wordsmiths, men and women alike, from time immemorial in their correspondence with their lovers. It’s not the “limitations of writing” or the connection between “truth and creating” that occupy him; it’s the limitations of self-knowledge and self-awareness. Patently he would dispute Franz Kafka’s pronouncement (in one of his letters to Milena) that writing letters is “an intercourse… with one’s own ghost.” Readers of Kafka’s autoerotic love letters are able, in my opinion, to understand why Kafka attributed the calamity of his life to the possibility of writing letters, and why he accused his own letters of “always betraying him.”
Not so for Freud. He takes pleasure in writing, and the words cascade from him generously and assuredly, but as a person of emotional and intellectual partnership, even letters to a beloved one or to an intimate friend are no substitute for the desire to rub up against the lives of others. Accordingly, the recipient of a letter from Freud didn’t feel that the great man had “done him a favor” by replying to him. Freud did not hide from his correspondent his feeling that he, Freud, needed the epistolary presence in his life and acknowledged his dependence on an “intelligent reader” like him. So it’s easy to imagine the surprise of Yohanan Levinson, a dentist from Kibbutz Givat Brenner, when he received a detailed letter from Freud in 1936, who was then at the height of his fame. Forthrightness and love of the truth also characterized his replies to many authors who solicited his opinion of their writing.
“What I have to say about your argument will not surprise you, as you seem to be familiar with my attitude to philosophy (metaphysics). Other defects in my nature have certainly distressed me and made me feel humble; with metaphysics it is different – I not only have no talent for it but no respect for it, either. In secret – one cannot say such things aloud – I believe that one day metaphysics will be condemned as a nuisance, as an abuse of thinking, as a survival from the period of the religious Weltanschauung. I know well to what extent this way of thinking estranges me from German cultural life. Thus you will easily understand that most things I read in your essay have remained unappreciated by me, although I several times felt that the essay contained quite ‘brilliant’ thoughts.” (Letter to Werner Achelis)
When correspondence with a student or a friend loses its flavor, the significance is that the entire relationship is in doubt. Freud did not hide that truth from correspondents. “You will undoubtedly suppose that I am writing to you from practical motives and not from an inner urge after such a long break. And that is so,” he wrote to Fliess in one of the letters concluding long years of intensive relations. When relations with Carl Jung foundered, Freud observed them from an epistolary perspective, writing him: “There can be no doubt that I was a demanding correspondent… I took myself in hand and quickly turned off my excess libido. I was sorry to do so, yet glad to see how quickly I managed it. Since then I have become undemanding and not to be feared.”
If for his patients Freud was an attentive listener, for his correspondents he was an alert reader, a jumpy seismograph reacting to surface and subterranean layers in the letters they sent him; apologizing for not having succeeded in fully grasping the meaning of a pen-friend; providing a glimpse into the reason for his delay in replying to a letter. The word “empathy,” which we have become accustomed to think is crucial in psychoanalysis, rings so hollow in the face of one simple, true line of Freud’s: “How irksome it must have been for you to put down on paper these difficult matters, which it is so much easier to talk about!” he wrote to Lou Andreas-Salomé, the legendary lover of Rilke and Nietzsche, who was taking her first steps in the world of psychoanalytical thought and had written him a delightful, if somewhat confused, letter. A few days later, Freud dispatched unusually fierce words to the director of a private sanitarium for patients with nervous disorders in Germany, whom he thought had gone a bit overboard in his admiration for him:
“I think you are forcing me into your father-mold, even though I am not in the least suited for the part. One time I fulfill for you the role of an aged and revered father to whom one must bow down and who must be protected at all costs, but who must also be pitied, for his end is approaching and his life was unbearably difficult; another time I am for you a dark leader who disposes of anyone who only dared express himself freely; and here I am, already in the role of Kronos, the god who devours his children. Today I hear from you that I am a person who makes do with himself and is incapable of accepting anything from anyone else. Whereas I think that these are delusions whose source lies in transient reflections. The truth is that I am not all that old, and also quite flexible; am in no need of pity and get along wonderfully with my true children; relentlessly seek to forge new friendships and am ready to make certain concessions for their sake. But what are all these attempts at persuasion for? After all, in true analysis things are done in a similar manner: It is immaterial what the father thinks he is, he will apparently have to fulfill the imago of the father that was burned into phylogenesis.”
Freud’s uncompromising attitude toward truth is also discernible in his letter of reply to the American mother of a homosexual who wanted to send her son to the professor for a cure:
“I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact, that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime and cruelty too.”
Freud’s handwriting is large, angular, unruly and mostly legible; the letters of the alphabet are crowded onto large sheets of paper that were cut especially for him. The lines are dense, touching one another. The momentum of the handwriting is not curtailed even when the pen reaches the edge of the page, and long words spill over from one line to the line that follows. The torrent of letters that surged from his study every day for decades continued to accompany him on vacations, too. At the end of every day of analytical work, an hour was devoted to correspondence. Anna Freud related that her father wrote about 10 letters an hour – another reminder of the resemblance between Freud and such geniuses as Bach or Alexander von Humboldt, who were endowed with an incomprehensible capacity for work.
The epistolary corpus that Freud left behind is one of the largest that have been preserved in the modern era. Today, 80 years after his death, it is evident that civilization proceeds without transmitting manuscripts of exemplary figures in human history. It is precisely because of this that the encounter with Freud’s letters brings home the loss entailed in the almost total disappearance of this form of communication and literary genre, which enriched the self-archive of so many people from the dawn of history. The publication of Freud’s letters at this time – to repeat what he wrote at the age of 17 to his friend Eduard Silberstein – is an unmelancholy attempt “to fill that gap.”
Eran Rolnik is a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and historian. “Sigmund Freud – Letters,” translated, annotated and edited by Dr. Rolnik, has recently been published in Hebrew by Modan Publishers.