Archives for October 2016

Torah Reflections October 23 – 29, 2016

Bereshit

Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

The Kabbalah of Creation

I love the esoteric interpretation by Nachmanides—Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, born in Spain (1194-1270)—on the first verse of Genesis:
In a beginning God created the heaven and the earth. [Gen. 1:1]

Nachmanides helps us see that the usual English misses the deeper meaning. If we were to strictly follow the way the verse is written in Hebrew we would write this sentence as follows:
In a beginning created God the heaven and the earth. [Gen. 1:1]

In so doing we are confronted with the possibility that the word “God” might not, after all, be the subject of the sentence, but instead, may be its object. And if this is the case, what then, is the subject that “created”? And more specifically, what is it that “created” God?

Nachmanides answers as only a mystic can. He points to the fact that in Torah the word “beginning” has a little crown drawn atop one of its letters. The word “crown” is Keter in Hebrew, and Keter represents the highest level of consciousness on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. Keter is described as pure consciousness, Mind beyond Mind, ultimate Divine Formlessness within which the original inspiration for creation stirs; the first ripple in the stillness of the Infinite One. For Nachmanides, Keter is the missing subject: “… Keter created God…”

The way I personally render Nachmanides’ teaching is by creating a space between the words. As I read this first verse it looks like this in my mind:
“In a beginning _______ created God…”
In that space I breathe the silence of Pure Consciousness, Ultimate Formlessness out of which God is created.

God is created? Now what could that possibly mean? Here again, the English betrays us. The word translated as “God” is Elohim in Hebrew. Elohim is the name of God written in the plural; the One manifesting as the many. Pure Consciousness, Formless Awareness cannot create on its own. It needs first to manifest itself as Elohim so that, as Elohim, it can proceed with Creation. Elohim is the feminine aspect of the Divine, the Womb of Existence that receives the creative spark out of Pure Consciousness and births a Universe.

Nachmanides, like all mystics, invites us to the mystery beyond our so-called reality. He tells us not to stop at a literal interpretation of the events that befall us but to see behind them the mystery of the Infinite One unfolding before our very eyes. What if, this year, as we embark on a new cycle of reading the Torah, we began seeing our world not through our little i’s but through the eyes of God, present to the miracle that is every moment, every thing, every one?

 

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 10)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.
_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּשִׂנְאַת חִנָּםAl chet sheh-chatanu… b’sin’at chinam. .
For the sin we have sinned before You by hating too easily.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I often through others out of my heart when…
I will strive to keep an open mind and heart by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 9)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.
_____________________

Al chet sheh-chatanu… b’kash’yut oref. .עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּקַשְׁיוּת עֹֽרֶף
For the sin we have sinned before You through being obstinate.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I find myself being stubborn and unyielding when…
I will work to be more flexible by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 8)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.
_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בִּפְלִילוּתAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha bi-f’lilut. ..
For the sin we have sinned before You in judging others and ourselves unfairly.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I find myself acting in judgmental ways when…
I will work to keep an open mind and give others the benefit of the doubt by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 7)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.
_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּמַשָּׂא וּבְמַתָּןAl chet sheh-chatanu… b’masa u-v’matan. .
For the sin we have sinned before You through dishonest and hurtful business dealings.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I find myself acting in dishonest ways in my day to day dealings when…
I will practice ethical living by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 6)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.
_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בִּלְשׁוֹן הָרָעAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha bil’shon ha-ra. .
For the sin we have sinned before You by hurting others through our speech.

Writing/discussion prompts:
The root cause of my hurting others through my words is…
I will cultivate guarding my tongue by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 5)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.

_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּחֹֽזֶק יָדAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha b’chozek yad.         .
For the sin we have sinned before You by hurtfully exercising power.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I sometimes use my position of power to hurt others when…
I will work to restrain my hurtful impulses by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 4)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.

_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּלָצוֹןAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha b’latzon.       .     
For the sin we have sinned before You through scorning others.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I sometimes treat others with contempt or disdain because….
I will work to be more humble and compassionate toward others by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 3)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.

_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּהוֹנָֽאַת רֵֽעַAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha b’hona-at re-a.    .
For the sin we have sinned before You through deceiving another person.

Writing/discussion prompts:
My impulse to deceiving another person most often comes from….
I will endeavor to change my ways by….
You will gently support me when I forget by…

Al Chet: A High Holy Day Exercise (Day 2)

Al chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha…

For the sin we have sinned before you…

 

There are 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During these 10 days we are asked to take an inventory of the ways we have missed the mark (sinned) this past year. Each day I will offer an excerpts from the High Holy Day liturgy of the Al Chet, the ancient litany of confession that we share as a community during worship.

Each day, take a moment to reflect that day’s affirmation. Write for yourself and/or discuss with a friend/partner and/or as a family the ways you have missed the mark, your commitment to change your pattern of behavior, and a gentle and compassionate way to support each other while holding each other to our word.

Begin and conclude the exercise with a prayer:
For all the times when we did something, we said something, or thought something that was hurtful to ourselves or to someone else, God of Forgiveness, please forgive us.

_____________________

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָֽאנוּ לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּגִלּוּי עֲרָיוֹתAl chet sheh-chatanu l’fanecha b’gilui arayot.   .
For the sin we have sinned before You through acting against our own morality.

Writing/discussion prompts:
I act against my own morality when…
I will practice acting from a place of integrity by…
You will gently support me when I forget by…