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B’haalot’cha: Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

“The I of The Storm”


Like many times before in the Exodus narrative, the Hebrews are, once again, rebelling against Moses and complaining about their current condition. This time, the wilderness’ food monotony is what causes their home-sickness, when home in this case is the fantasized abundance of food of lost Egypt.

Now our soul is dried out, there is nothing except this manna to look at. And the manna was like coriander seed, its appearance was as the appearance of crystal.” [Num. 11:6-7]

The English translation; “to look at” as well as the repeated word “appearance” is the same Hebrew word “ayin” which means “eye.” Instead of “this manna to look at,” the Hebrew says: “to the manna our eye.” Instead of “it’s appearance was the appearance of crystal,” it literally says: “it’s eye like the eye of the crystal.”

Perhaps the Hebrew is hinting at something deeper, something the non-mystically-inclined translator might miss. For Jewish mystics, Creation is a manifestation of the word of God as described in the first verses of Genesis. Every thing, every being, is the manifest vibration of that ongoing Divine “spoken” word; the Eternal birthing Itself as the finite, moment to moment. This vibration, this force that gives everything its existence now, and now, and now, is understood by our mystics as the “ayin,” the “eye” of each thing.

Perhaps, like the eye of a storm is its calm center yet is not separate from the storming spiraling form around it, our sages used this image to point to a profound spiritual teaching: That which is perceiving through the “eye” of every aspect of Creation is the Eternal Oneness of Being. The coriander seed’s “eye,” the “eye” of the crystal, or our own “eye” is one and the same. This entire vibrating Universe is, according to our sages, Self-Aware Divine Consciousness. That Awareness is That which is reading these words right now, the “eye” within the vibrating form that responds to your name. You are not reading this page, God, the “eye” of all things, is.

Yet this teaching is hard for us to fathom. We have trained ourselves for as long as we can remember to make-believe that there is a separate “me”–a lone island in the ocean of Creation—that is, in fact, doing the seeing; a separate entity in charge, in control of this discrete body-mind.  All that is perceived through the senses seems to continually reinforce this notion of separation, of a “me” in-here distinct from a world out-there. This is what our tradition calls “ayin ha-ra,” the “bad eye,” or “false seeing.” Though we do not question our understanding of what appears to be on the outside as being separate objects, we seldom do the same when turning our attention inward to recognize our sensations, emotions, desires and thoughts also as arising objects in consciousness. All four, instead, are identified with, becoming constitutive of this mistaken sense of being this separate entity we call “me,” that is erroneously believed to be doing the looking. To counter this “false seeing,” our practice is to hold all that arises in our consciousness, whether perceived as being outside or inside our self, identically, as objects. Only when every thought, every idea, concept, belief is seen as objects that are part of the whirling vibration that is this “me” form, can we begin to ask: What, then, is aware? What, then, is aware of being aware? And as the silence within deepens with our practice, we uncover the eye at the center of the storm, the eye of God aware of all arising content, our true identity.