Compose this song for all your generations. Imprint it in the memory of the Children of Israel. Bequeath them a song to sing that will bear witness to My eternal Presence among them. (Devarim 31:19).
On the last day of his life, Moshe received the inspiration to compose: Ha’azinu, the song of deep listening. (Devarim 32:1). For each year, as we complete the Torah, we lose a Moshe, in preparation for the birth of a new Moshe, the part of ourselves that can hear the vibrations of divine guidance and speak it as oral Torah in the New Year. When the old year’s Moshe recognizes its impermanence, it condenses its entire Torah into a song.
For I know that without me, you won’t be able follow the way that I have been guiding you without going astray and that ultimately something that seems really bad will happen to you when you act in ways that disturb Be-ing. So Moshe whispered the words of this song into the collective memory of all Israel. (Devarim 31: 29-30).
Listen deeply…. The Slonimer Rebbe says that this song is the most important parashah in the entire Torah.
Balance the higher portions of the soul when I AM speaks, so that your body can also hear what is coming through. (Devarim 32:1).
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us how important it is to make sure that our bodies have a share in the lessons that our souls are learning. As our Torah says of Herself, I am not just way up in Heaven… (Devarim 30:12). The greatness of Torah is not its lofty abstractions, but its power to make us more whole and integrated, right here in the manifest world. When our minds are calm and integrated with our bodies, we can unite Heaven and Earth and receive the lessons we need to positively affect what needs to be fixed in our worlds. To be effective, we need to develop the capacity to speak from the Heart. As the Talmud says:
Whoever speaks while aware of the Divine Presence will be heard… (B.T. Blessings 6b).
With this teaching in mind, the Rebbe Elimelekh reads the verse like this:
Make sure you are aware that Heaven is listening whenever you speak, and then your words will have the power to enter other people’s hearts. (Devarim 32:1).
Let me receive Torah from above like rain and let my prayer nurture growth below like dew… (Devarim 32:2).
For I am bringing forth a new Name for Be-ing and making the G-dfield ever greater. (Devarim 32:3).
It is a Hasidic teaching that as a result of our teshuvah practice, between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we can draw down a new and more evolved manifestation of Be-ing (YHVH) into the New Year. When we think of G-d in too rigid a way, it makes our G-dfield too limited. Because we are made in the Divine image, when our G-d is too limited, our potential is also limited. Just as we need a new Moshe, we also need a new G-d in order for our souls and the world to evolve.
The Ba’al Shem Tov told an odd parable that may seem shocking, but is really liberating when properly understood:
Once a Queen wanted to test the gratitude of Her subjects. So She went out among them to distribute alms to the beggars of Her realm. There was one old woman, who whenever anyone gave her anything, would only say, “whatever you give, comes back to you.” Even when the Queen gave the old woman alms, she only said: “whatever you give, comes back to you.” The Queen was furious when she heard how the beggar responded to Her gift. She went back to the castle and asked the royal baker to make some especially fine pastries that were laced with poison. The pastries were delivered to the old woman. When she saw how fine the cakes were, the beggar decided to save them for the right occasion. A little later, the Queen’s son passed by and asked the beggar woman if she had anything for him to eat. She told him, “Yes, indeed. I have some very fine pastries from your Mother.” The prince ate the cakes and died. When the Queen realized that She was the cause of Her son’s death, She recalled the words of the old beggar woman: “whatever you give, comes back to you.”
As long as our souls are developing in this world, our G-d is also evolving. Whenever we fall out of alignment with Be-ing, we “arouse Divine anger” and can expect to learn an appropriate lesson.
The Shaper of Life acts perfectly, all Its ways follow the law of a G-d who is in training with us; there is no meanness, Its actions are straightforward and direct. (Devarim 32:4).
Ultimately, G-d is also learning from our mutual dance. Our pain is also the Shekhinah’s pain. What we may perceive as Divine disapproval is really G-d suffering along with us.
The Shekhinah is also impaired, the flaw is not just in Her children; the world is still unfolding, as yet only partially evolved. (Devarim 32:5).
One of our challenges is to recognize that we are not only the children of Divinity, but also called upon to be Divinity’s parents.
For Be-ing’s sake, won’t you be wise enough to rescue the Shekhinah? Didn’t your Divine Source place you here in the World of Assiyah for that purpose? (Devarim 32:6).
The great kabbalist, Isaac Luria mythologizes this raising of the Shekhinah as the re-birthing of a new G-d. According to the Lurianic kavvanot (deep visualization practice) we view the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as a time when the old G-d undergoes surgery. During this operation, the sefirot of the Divine Female (the G-dfield) are separated and expanded, while the previous year’s YHVH (the Source of Be-ing) is anesthetized. When this operation has been completed, a new YHVH is awakened during the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. During Sukkot, the Divine union of male and female aspects of Divinity can be renewed.
How can we possibly call a new YHVH into existence? Through the secret of:
Neutralize Divine judgment with kindness. (Devarim 32:1)
We can let go of our presumptions concerning what we think the G-d in our minds requires in order to be pleased with us and with others. Through greater kindness, which the Kabbalists call G-d’s greatness, we can now birth a kinder, greater G-d and draw a new YHVH into time and space.
We need to put the crystallized idea of last year’s G-d to sleep, so that an independent Shekhinah can break free of last year’s confining exile. To accomplish this, we listen deeply to Moshe’s song.
Always remember that the manifest world including its current G-d is but one configuration of the sefirot (seven powers of divine emanation) that are constantly changing. Turn to your Wisdom and receive guidance or ask your teachers and they will teach you. (Devarim 32:7).
The way that the Supernal Source manifests in this world with its temporary boundaries and limitations always only reflects the present state of human consciousness. (Devarim 32:8).
The portion of Divine Be-ing that can be established within the realm of human experience depends on the people who can overcome their sense of limitation (without dissolving). (Devarim 32:9).
Such a one finds Divine Be-ing even amidst the mournful pain of desolation and confusion. Then Be-ing encompasses her, enlightens her, and preserves her like the apple of Her Eye. (Devarim 32:10).
Like a giant eagle arousing her young, Be-ing raises one so awakened to Herself, resting only in Divine Be-ing, one knows that no other power truly exists. (Devarim 32:11-12).
The unpleasant expressions of Divine “tough love” are inevitable parts of the dialectic of our relationship of returning to and from Be-ing. Regardless of how much we may feel trapped in them, Moshe’s song guides us to the deeper view:
See now that I AM Present in everything. There is no other power besides Me. I AM is the Destroyer and I AM is the Enlivener; I AM has wounded and I AM will heal. Beyond My reach there is No-thing. (Devarim 32:39).
If we listen deeply enough to this song, we can begin to sense the limitless No-thing from which all the disparate modes of Be-ing emanate. On Yom Kippur, we are instructed to ascend to a level of pure Divine Light that even precedes the emanation ofYHVH. This Shabbat, the Shabbat of Returning, may this song be our guide.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
On Rosh HaShanah all aspects of yourself present themselves before Be-ing who G-ds you…in order to renew your commitment to Divine Guidance and its method of training…so that Be-ing who G-ds you will continue to evolve you as a Holy People… (Devarim 29:9-12
I rejoice in Be-ing, my soul is gladdened by the One who G-ds me, clothing me in the garments of salvation and righteousness, gleaming like the radiant appearance of a bride and groom (Isaiah 61).
According to tradition, last Shabbat we read a list of “curses” in parashat Ki Tav’o, so that all of the curses of the year that is ending will be exhausted before we begin the New Year. On the Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah, we always read parashat Nitzavim which comes between the “curses” and the New Year. (See B.T. Megillah 31b).
This parashah reminds us that the New Year renews our conscious relationship with Be-ing, and this mysterious partnership commits us to both its blessing and its “curse.” In order to enter the New Year in a spirit of joy, we need to see clearly that what may at first appear to us as a curse (alah) also contains Divine energy and will within it (Elah). Seeing our “curse” as a method of Divine training can help us begin to relieve our anxiety concerning facing a Day of Divine Judgment.
In order to continue to evolve you as a Holy People this Day. (Devarim 29:12).
Rashi comments that the evolving relationship with Be-ing is like the sustaining flow of time. Just as each day begins with darkness and continues with light, so Be-ing has shined upon you in the past and will do so again in the future. Your curses and afflictions help you maintain and stabilize your connection to Be-ing. Renewing the covenant means re-enlisting for a new course of training our souls by facing a new series of tests and challenges. By first examining all the previous year’s challenges, we can exhaust their hold on us and awaken refreshed to face a new day and its challenges. Rashi is teaching that we develop stability on the path, precisely through recognizing that the things we find difficult are essential parts of our soul’s training.
One great mystery of Rosh HaShanah is, how through doing teshuvah, our relationship with Be-ing can trump the karmic law of strict judgment. Since we may feel disheartened through identifying with a limiting view of ourselves, Moshe reminds us in thisparashah of a more profound view.
Be-ing who G-ds you will continue to evolve you as Holy People…and is bound to continue to G-d you through the energies of Hesed (unconditional kindness), Gevurah (tough love), and Tif’eret (skillful compassion). For this conscious relationship and its method of soul training do not only involve Be-ing and your present state, but affect both that part of yourself that has already manifested in relation to Be-ing who G-ds you as well as that not yet evolved potential that is still within the Unconscious. (Devarim 29:11-14).
We can be happy through recognizing the “curse” as a method of soul training and be blessed with a peaceful heart, knowing that whenever we act without awareness, Be-ing will not be willing to pardon that, but will awaken us through the Divine soul training method, until these unconscious moments cease to come between us and Heaven. (Devarim 29:18-19).
Because Be-ing is always beyond the limits of our comprehension and consciousness, no law that we can comprehend can ever fully explain all of Be-ing’s power. Even though we commit ourselves to acting according to our best understanding of what the Torah requires of us, there is always much more to reality than our minds can ever grasp.
Be-ing who G-ds us is always a mystery even beyond whatever can be revealed to us in this entire Torah. (Devarim 29:28).
For that reason, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov often exhorted his Hasidim, “never despair.”
Once at Naropa, someone consulted an oracle and received a very frightening reading. When Reb Zalman was consulted, he said: “when you don’t like the reading, give it a positive interpretation.”
You should be happy regardless of what occurs, whether blessing or curse… and return to your Heart, from wherever Be-ing who G-ds you has placed you. Return to Be-ing who G-ds you and listen for the vibration of Divine command at that moment. (Devarim 30:1-2).
In the joy of returning from duality to Be-ing, one is poised to receive Divine guidance.
Then Be-ing who G-ds you redeems your Divine spark and through the power of Divine Love gathers you back from whatever dim state Be-ing that G-ds you had placed you in. (Devarim 30:3).
Regardless of how far you may think you are from integration and devequt (conscious communion with your inner source of holiness), Be-ing who G-ds you gathers you up from there… and returns you to the Land… and you can interface with it, even beyond Hochmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Descriminating Understanding). (Devarim 30:4-5).
The Source of our Be-ing is always present. Within time, we are always resting in the Source, emanating from it, or returning to it. Whenever there is a profound experience of returning to Be-ing, there is a proportionately deep response, of opening our hearts.
Then Be-ing who G-ds you opens your Heart and concealed love for Be-ing who G-ds you pours out through all parts of your deepest self, so you can know what it means to really be alive. (Devarim 30:6).
Rebbe Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, the great advocate for humanity’s fundamental goodness, teaches that Be-ing is not compelled by any karmic law. The essential nature of Divinity is compassion, which takes precedence over dualistic justice. So, on Rosh HaShanah, Be-ing can offer us the possibility of overcoming the karmic implications of the previous year’s divine training methods.
Be-ing who G-ds you overrides all the karmic implications of strict justice regarding all that you have done (during the previous year)… and is again just as happy with you as the moment when you were born. (Devarim 30:9).
In that sense, Rosh HaShanah is a deep re-birthing experience.
Our minds are often fascinated by mysterious and intriguing esoteric teachings and concepts. Although we may enjoy the process of learning to communicate in this way, we need to make sure our fascination for conceptualizing the mystery does not increase our confusion. However subtle and evocative our spiritual language may become, we are always speaking of basic human experience.
This Divine guidance through which I AM is connecting with us on Rosh HaShanah is not from somewhere beyond our own experience. It is not something so abstract that I can’t even explain it to myself. It is not beyond the realm of my own consciousness, so that I should think: how can I ever possibly be evolved enough to know what I need to do? (Devarim 30:12-13).
The Divine Guidance that moves us is as close as our own mouths and hearts. (Devarim 30:14).
So, on Rosh HaShanah, see clearly that I AM places within your own experience both Life and Good as well as Death and Evil; For I AM connects you on Rosh HaShanah to the great Love for Be-ing who G-ds you, so that you will desire to follow Her ways, attentive to Divine Guidance, ready to do what is necessary and what is right, so that you may live and evolve to reach the Land blessed by Be-ing who G-ds you. (Devarim 30:15-16).
I AM assures you on Rosh HaShanah that the parts of yourself that are easily diverted will perish. They will not long be able to obscure your fundamental humanness, which has the capacity to transcend the levels that descend from Binah. (Devarim 30:17-18).
The union of Divine Transcendence and Immanence on Rosh HaShanah, attests that I AM places before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse, so you may consciously choose Life… through loving Be-ing who G-ds you, deeply sensing its vibration, and remaining constantly aware of it…for Be-ing is the very essence of your Life, expressing itself as your humanness, through the energies of Hesed (unconditional kindness), Gevurah (tough love), and Tif’eret (skillful compassion), which Be-ing is bound to manifest. (Devarim 30:19-20).
May the holiness of Rosh HaShanah return us to Life.
May our hearts overflow with love for the Source of All.
May the bondage of last year’s karma be released.
And may we joyfully enter a new round of soul training
In the service of Be-ing.
Le-shanah tovah tikateivu.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
At this stage in the month of Elul, we can see that we are coming to the source of all creation in the realm of time and, concomitantly, as we proceed along the path of teshuvah, we can begin to discern a greater opening into the deepest depths of consciousness.
There is great joy when you come to that Land of Unlimited Beginning, where Be-ing who G-ds you connects you to the Stream of Divine Be-ing, and there you can channel its flow while resting within its source. (Devarim 26:1).
The Rebbe Elimelekh finds in this verse a reference to the state of a realized soul that is both resting in the source of Be-ing and also a channel for conducting its healing energy into the most manifest aspects of this very world. The Hebrew word nachalah(conventionally translated as “inheritance”) has the sense of “what is flowing to you.” The very same letters can also be read, hyper-literally, as nachal H’, which means the Stream of Divine Be-ing.
When a person is able to rest within the Land, the two primary aspects of duality, YHVH and Elohim, are united. In this integrated state, the personality dissolves into Be-ing and at the same time, the G-ding aspect of Be-ing fills the already prepared vessel of the soul with an empowering divine flow. The ability to consciously draw down and direct this flow so that it positively affects our experience is the source of deepest healing and transformation. Inspiration and renewal are its fruits. The active wielding of this creative power is a great joy and can enable us to more skillfully play our unique roles in helping make our “worlds” a place where Divinity is revealed.
And then you must select the first fruits… (Devarim 26:2).
In its simplest sense, the commandment of bikkurim initially involved bringing to the Temple offerings of the first fruits of the seven species that grow in the Land of Israel. With this commandment, the Torah teaches us a ritual that celebrates and dramatizes the deep ecological interdependence of Divine source, sacred earth, and spiritually conscious humanity: the primordial union of Heaven, Earth, and the service of the axial beings who unite them.
And then you must select the first fruits… (Devarim 26:2).
Rashi, commenting on the meaning of first gives us a beautiful image: A person goes down to the field and discovers a fig that is just beginning to ripen earlier than the others and binds it with a reed, so it can be identified as a first fruit.
The early ripening fig reminds us of how special a moment it is when one first discovers signs of renewal. In the course of our lives, so much appears routine and, despite our best efforts, most of our development occurs within the unconscious. Whenever we notice that something new actually does occur, it is irresistibly attractive. Our sages, using the example of the freshly ripened (organic) fig, point out a danger that is present in such a moment: we may be so attracted by the fig that we will immediately pop it in our mouths without thinking. In acting so unconsciously, we miss out on a unique opportunity to raise the fruit’s spark, by remaining aware of its divine source.
If, however, we restrain ourselves, binding it with a reed of conscious awareness, the moment may become a powerful gateway to the Land of unlimited Beginning. In pausing to contemplate the miracle of the fig’s ripening, Heaven and Earth are united, and if we are deep enough, we can even enter into the Land in which Be-ing who G-d’s us connects us to the Stream of Divine Be-ing.
The Slonimer Rebbe reminds us of the extraordinary importance that the Midrash attributes to the commandment of first fruits.Sifrey, commenting on this verse, states that as a reward for doing this mitzvah you will have the merit to enter the Land. Bereishit Rabbah even goes further, stating that all of creation exists for the sake of performing the mitzvah of first fruits.
How can first fruits that come from the Land bring us to the Land?
We may assume that Rashi and the Sages, who lived after the destruction of the Temple, were not only talking about first fruits in the literal sense. Indeed, rabbinic sources already interpret first fruits as prayer, the best intentions of the Heart that we can offer to our Divine Source.
From an even deeper qualified non-dual kabbalistic perspective, we learn that a fig, as a fruit whose outside is as delectable as its inside, represents the highest spiritual world of Atzilut. At this level, there is no qelippah (shell) present to conceal the divine nature of all that is manifesting. Thus the world of Atzilut is the world of Hokhmah (Wisdom). In order to enter the non-dual Land of unlimited Beginning and to fulfill the purpose for which all creation exists, we need only to be awake enough to discern with the Eye of Wisdom how first fruits are arising within our own human experience, as emanations emerging from Be-ing who G-ds you.
And then you must discern how first fruits of your humanness are uniquely emanating from the Land of Unlimited Beginning that Be-ing who G-ds you gives to you; by placing yourself in the integrated state, you go to that Place where Be-ing who G-ds you chooses to manifest the Shekhinah. (Devarim 26:2).
Literally, the verse speaks of putting (the first fruits) ba-tene’. The word tene’ is conventionally translated as “basket.” However, an early Hasidic commentary recognizes the word tene’ as an acronym for ta’amim, niqqudot, otiot: the melody, vowel points, and letters of the Torah. All three must be integrated in order to chant the Torah text properly.
These three aspects also represent the three lower worlds, or main realms of manifestation: feeling, thought, and body. From this deeper perspective, the Torah is instructing us here to place ourselves in the integrated state, which can bring us immediately into the Presence of the Shekhinah.
When your inner Priest appears you can confirm and declare before the Divine Presence that I have now reached the Land of unlimited Beginning that Be-ing is bound to bestow upon us through the union of Hokhmah and Binah (Devarim 26:3).
The inner Priest then liberates the integrated self from the power of the personality and causes it to rest as a sacrifice on the altar of Be-ing who G-ds you. (Devarim 26:4).
At that moment we may confess to Be-ing the truth of our lives.
Originating in Hokhmah my soul became lost in the realm that derives from Light, Air, and Water. It descended into a state of constriction, where it was fearful and weak. Nevertheless it evolved and became strong and multifaceted. (Devarim 26:5).
Still my limitations troubled and afflicted me. It was an ordeal to deal with them. When all parts of myself cried out to Be-ing who G-ds me through Hokhmah and Binah, Be-ing was aware of my energy and witnessed my afflictions and tensions. And Be-ing powerfully and decisively liberated me in amazingly wondrous ways. (Devarim 26:6-8).
Be-ing brings us to this very Place and bestows upon us this Land of unlimited Beginning, from which nurture and sweetness flow.(Devarim 26:9).
That is why I am now discerning the first fruits of my own humanness, which emanate from Be-ing, and resting in the Presence of Be-ing who G-ds us… (Devarim 26:10).
Practicing bikkurim, discerning how the first fruits of our humanness emanate from Be-ing who G-ds us, can bring us to that wholeness that the Slonimer Rebbe calls emunat ha-eyvarim, faith that extends beyond the head and the heart until it is present in every cell of our bodies.
You do a full prostration in the Presence of Be-ing who G-ds you. (Devarim 26:10) and in this state of complete immersion in theStream of Divine Be-ing, (Devarim 26:1) from which nurture and sweetness flow (Devarim 26:9),
You experience the great joy of the total goodness that Be-ing who G-ds you emanates within you and all that surrounds you, integrating the part of the self that is already consciously deployed by the Shekhinah and even that still fearful part that is not yet liberated. (Devarim 26:11).
May we all have the merit to experience first fruits
And to bind and gather them in the basket of the integrated self.
May our offering of first fruits which emanate from the Land
Return us directly to the Land.
May the nurture and sweetness that we draw forth from this teaching
Exhaust all curses and deficiencies before Rosh Ha-Shanah.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
(aka Rabbi Miles Krassen)
When you take the initiative in dealing with the unique challenges that your soul needs to confront, Be-ing who G-ds you places the challenge within your power… (Devarim 21:10).
The Or Gedalyahu reminds us of the teaching: without the Holy One’s help, no one would be able to overcome their challenges. (B.T. Kiddushin 30b).
Everything that exists in the realm of time and space depends completely and at all times on the Ground of Be-ing that is beyond time and space. As the Zohar teaches, if the artisan who fashions all the vessels would withdraw its presence for even a moment, the entire manifest display of all worlds and their contents would cease to exist. Everything is dependent for its very existence on the unknowable and inconceivable Eyn Sof and nothing is capable of acting in a manner that is truly independent of divine agency. Nevertheless, here within time and space each individual’s holy soul is slowly awakening, mysteriously evolving as each person plays its part in the sacred process of realizing and revealing the divinity that is concealed within manifestation.
In order for this process to unfold within time and space, humans have to gradually develop souls that have the capacity to consciously serve their divine source. Toward that end, every being is confronted with challenges and obstacles in life which offer opportunities for evolving consciousness. Among the most perplexing mysteries in a non-dual world are those challenging experiences that inevitably test our present limits
In the Torah, the paradigm for this essential element in the soul’s evolution is the secret of the Golden Calf.
The Children of Israel resorted to this constructed, external, dualistic image, when they were unable to deal with the challenge of the extended absence of Moshe, their direct link to Divine Presence. What makes this moment so powerful is the fact that the souls of Israel had previously ascended to the ultimate experience in which I Am was revealed to them on Mt. Sinai. They already knew the Only One through direct revelation. So how could they fall back so far as to construct and worship a Golden Calf? Indeed, the rabbis teach us: the truth is that Israel was not worthy of that act. They only did it so that we would learn the practice of teshuvah. (B.T., Avodah Zara 4a).
The great medieval French commentator, Rashi, notes here that the Israelites were by that time highly evolved. They were indeed capable of overcoming their inner challenges, but what happened occurred by divine decree. In other words, even the most highly evolved souls undergo experiences that constitute serious, even overwhelming, challenges. The more we evolve and gain greater knowledge of that One, the more we are graced by the presence of divine aid in our lives. However, whenever we are ready for further evolution, that flow of divine aid is concealed and the soul finds itself in a situation where it is confronted by serious opposition.
From this paradigmatic experience of the Children of Israel, we learn the practice of teshuvah, the need and possibility of returning ourselves to alignment with our divine source and to the condition in which we can again receive directly the flow of divine aid. In this way, we can continue to evolve as conscious agents of the One.
According to our sacred calendar, the Israelites did teshuvah for forty days: the entire month of Elul and the ten days of teshuvahfrom Rosh Ha-Shanah until Yom Kippur. As a result, they were able to bring down a second Torah, written by Moshe’s own hand. Paradoxically, this second Torah is even more evolved than the first, because it includes an “oral” Torah that is present in this world in proportion to the prayers and spiritual evolution of human beings, and not only as a divine gift.
The mystery of the power of teshuvah is hinted in the letters of the name of the month Elul, alef lamed vav lamed, which are the first letters of the verse, Ani Le-dodi Ve-dodi Li. (I go to my Beloved and my Beloved comes to me.) (Song of Songs 6:3). Ani Le-dodi: Through my teshuvah, prayer, and tzedakah (support of righteous causes) during the month of Elul, I make the effort to reach my Beloved. Ve-dodi Li: and my Beloved comes to me on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur.
Thus, during Elul, the month of divine favor, we always read the parashah which begins When you take the initiative in dealing with the unique challenges which your soul needs to confront, Be-ing who G-ds you places the challenge within your power… (Devarim 21:10).
In this verse, the Torah uses the term, milchamah, which literally means “war,” but the sages have already taught us that the verse refers to the inner struggle that all souls must encounter in order to achieve integration. In confronting our own challenges, which are unique to each person’s soul and experience, it is necessary to seize the initiative, to go out and deal consciously with these “enemies,” before they become too much for us.
The Holy Kohen, Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef of Polnoy, transmits a deep teaching in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov concerning this “war.” The Ba’al Shem Tov taught that there are essentially three possible responses whenever one is tested. To illustrate this, he told the following story.
A king once wanted to test the faith and love of his subjects. So he chose one of his closest servants, dressed him up as a great king and sent him out to declare war against his subjects. When the servant appearing as king met the first group and declared war, they immediately prepared themselves for the battle. When he came to the second group, they said “Since he is such a great king, why should we fight?” Finally, the faux king traveled farther until he came to a town of sages. The sages inquired deeply, until they were able to see through the disguise. (Sefer Toledot Ya’aqov Yosef, Va-yaqhel, see Sefer Ba’al Shem Tov,Bereishit, 141).
The meaning is that serious challenges that confront us are essentially tests of our faith in the non-dual nature of reality and our love and devotion to the divine source. Whenever we face these tests, there are basically three ways of responding. The two conventional responses are either to be overwhelmed by the challenge and to capitulate without a fight or to attempt to combat the problem with the rigidity of “fight or flight” mode. Although both of these conventional responses may be the best that we can do at certain stages in our development, neither will aid us very much in our conscious quest to further evolve. The third mode of dealing with such tests is the way of the wise, who have cultivated judges and executors (see previous parashah). In this way, one neither avoids nor rushes into combat, but sees through and dissolves the shell of separation from Divine Presence with the gnostic eye of faith.
In viewing our problems in this way, the shell of opposition becomes transparent and we can see through the disguise that is concealing the divine spark from us at that moment. From this more evolved perspective, we may now recognize the sparks of a deeper teaching shining through the shells of the letters at the beginning of our parashah.
When you break out of the conventional way of relating to your challenges as a war, Be-ing who G-ds you places Herself in your hands, and you can redeem the spark of Shekhinah that was held captive within your unique challenge. (Devarim 21:10).
You will then be able to recognize the beauty of the Shekhinah even within her captivity and your passion will be aroused to liberate Her and merge with Her. (Devarim 21:11).
Invite Her into the depths of your soul, where she can reveal Her true nature and rid Herself of the fangs of judgment. (Devarim 21:12).
Once She has removed the disguise of Her captivity, let her dwell deep within you, arousing tears of teshuvah for the entire month of Elul, and then in the month of Tishri, you may fully merge with Her, in the way that consecrated lovers know they are One. (Devarim 21:13).
May we all be blessed to recognize our unique challenges
As opportunities to liberate sparks of Shekhinah.
May rescuing captive sparks become our passion.
May their liberation melt our Hearts
With holy tears of teshuvah for the whole month of Elul
That we may unite with our Beloved on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
(aka Rabbi Miles Krassen)
Provide yourself with judges and executors in all she’arekha (your gates) (Devarim 16:18). When? In all your gates, but especially do this practice during the month of Elul, the gate through which we enter the New Year.
What are judges and executors? The Slonimer Rebbe teaches us that it is never sufficient just to learn teachings. If we are unable to apply the teachings in our actual living experience, they will remain mere platitudes and will have little effect on the way we actually live. So, in order to make progress, to enter gates that lead us closer to Be-ing who G-ds us (Devarim 16:18), we need to cultivate two qualities: judges and executors. On the simplest level, that means both scholars and doers.
Judges alludes to cultivating the ability to discriminate between blessing and curse. This is a quality that is acquired through deep contemplation and reflection on the inner meaning and principles of Torah. It represents the perception and understanding of what is “lawful” and right. But, as essential as this quality is, without executors, we wouldn’t be able to apply the teachings in real life. We need not only knowledge of what is right, but the ability to act on our level of discrimination at the very moment that it ceases to be merely theoretical. Thus we must also cultivate the quality of executors, the motivated awareness to recognize when a teaching needs to be followed and the will to be able to make sure that what is required occurs.
In all your gates. According to Kabbalah, gates refers to the organs of sensation, particularly, the seven orifices of the head, ears, eyes, nose and mouth. In order to do teshuvah, to steer ourselves in the right direction, we need to have conscious judgespresent to monitor how we are relating to what we hear, see, smell, and taste. The presence of judges in this sense enables us to recognize whether what we are experiencing at any given moment through our senses connects us to Be-ing that G-ds us. If not, we need the power of our conscious executors to carry out our will, through enabling us to do teshuvah at that very moment, by separating ourselves from the energy that is leading us astray, and reconnecting ourselves to the Divine Presence within.
On another level, the Torah is teaching that it is most effective to do teshuvah (to turn ourselves back from distracted states of identification with what our senses are experiencing) if we recognize what is arising and intervene, while the thought or impulse is still in all your gates. The meaning is for the executor to be awake and ready to act, before the impulse or emotion is expressed. We need to be constantly aware of what is arising subjectively within our minds. As the Zohar interprets the verse, the master is known within the gates, (Proverbs 31:23), within the gates and imaginings of the mind stream. (Zohar Genesis, 103a).
Additionally, Rebbe Elimelekh, author of Sefer No’am Elimelekh, teaches that we have to make sure that our judges will make a judgment that is righteous (Devarim 16:18). Don’t make a judgment that creates a state in which you do not recognize the Presence,for if you bribe yourself with anything less, you will lose your Wisdom Eye and any claim of righteousness will be a distortion. (Devarim 16:19). The purpose of the inner judge is not only to enable us to act with intention, but to show us a way that can maintain, strengthen and renew our inner access to the witnessing Eye of Wisdom. The Wisdom Eye is the inner quality that enables us to be aware of the Divine Countenance. We need to provide ourselves with judges who can determine for us how to be in continuous relationship with Presence in any situation.
If you really want to be alive, don’t just settle for a concept of righteousness—continue pursuing righteousness until it arises in the very being of your Heart and there you will interface with the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who Gods you is giving you. (Devarim 16:20). We learn here not to be satisfied with only knowing what is righteous in your mind, dig deeper within until righteousness reveals itself to you in the very depths of your own Heart. When righteousness is present as an essential quality of the Heart, mind and heart can be integrated. In that unified state, the additional enlivening energy is provided that is necessary for manifesting divinity within earthiness itself.
With judges in place, we can witness objectively what is occurring so that when a manifestation of attraction or aversion arises within you through the gates of the senses that Be-ing who G-ds you provides and which may lead to a breach in your inner pact with Be-ing who G-ds you, making you a slave to other apparent powers…
Then, as soon as you become aware of it, give it your closest attention and if it is true that such an abomination is occurring within you, remove that manifestation of attraction or aversion that is causing this evil within the gates of your senses, strike it with the Jewels of Understanding, until that manifestation of attraction or aversion breaks open and the spark of divine energy that enlivens it is liberated. (Devarim 17:2-5).
As soon as the inner judge determines that an experience is developing that will sever our consciousness of inner connection with divine guidance, the inner executor must blast open the obfuscating experience with the energetic rays of understanding. If the executor is skillful, focused attention can pulverize the obscuration and enable the hidden divine energy to emerge and flow freely.
However this method of releasing holy sparks is not so easily mastered. It will certainly take at least two or three observations (of a particular form of attraction or aversion) before its energy can be liberated, its spark may not be fully liberated on the basis of consciously witnessing it only once. (Devarim 17:6).
Should this practice prove too confusing and you are unable to determine how to judge clearly what aspects of your experience that arise through the gates of your senses require the executor, then pray for divine guidance so you will reach a contemporary teacher who can teach you how to do it. Then you will be able to do what they teach you from the place of divine guidance and carefully adhere to the way that they teach it… (Devarim 17:8-11).
The more proficient you become in the practice of provide yourself with judges and executors (Devarim 16:18), the closer you will come to interfacing and resting in the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who G-ds you is giving you… (Devarim 17:14). Skillfulness and diligence in this practice leads to an increasing state of integration of all parts of oneself. As the integrated state becomes more constant, an abiding conscious center emerges, the inner ruler.
Then when you are ready for an inner ruler to arise…Make sure the inner ruler is one chosen by Be-ing who G-ds you from among the deepest parts of yourself that descend directly from the divine source. ((Devarim 17:15). As one develops judges and executorswithin, the ability to act decisively and intentionally increases. We must make certain that this inner ruler that arises is a divinely chosen melekh, who is in constant consultation with Be-ing who G-ds you and not a self-serving autocrat. (The Hebrew root MLKhmeans both sovereignty and consultation.)
This power must not be used to increase causes that will transport you back again into constricted consciousness, since Be-ing already taught you not to go back that way any more (even before the inner ruler arose). (Devarim 17:16).
And when the inner ruler is joyfully resting on the throne of inner consultation with divine Guidance, be sure to write down its inspired insights as oral Torah to be studied in the presence of the parts of oneself that serve and transport the Divine Presence. (Devarim 17:18).
The inner ruler should constantly review this teaching in order to learn how to remain in awe of Be-ing who G-ds you, through keeping all of this teaching and practicing it in the ways that are required. (Devarim 17:19).
By avoiding all narcissism and not deviating from divine instruction, the inner ruler can sustain its role of implementing divine guidance through integrating all parts of the self. (Devarim 17:20).
In this sacred month of Elul, the Gate of teshuvah,
Through which we enter the New Year,
May we all be blessed with increased motivation
To witness closely everything that enters
All of our Gates
So that through the efforts of our judges and executors
We may attain even greater closeness to the Divine Countenance
Through releasing the hidden energy of our holy sparks.
May we all be blessed with integrating inner rulers
Who vibrating in awe
In constant consultation with the Master of the Universe
Skillfully direct us on our evolving paths.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
(aka Rabbi Miles Krassen)
See (Devarim 11:26). See what? See that the month of Elul is rapidly approaching, when the Divine Beloved is most accessible to every holy soul. We bless the New Moon of Elul on Shabbat Re’eh.
See that I Am is right this very moment placing before all of you a blessing and a kelalah. (Devarim 11:26). What does kelalah, usually understood as “curse,” mean in this verse?
It is so easy to see things in dualistic terms, but how does the Torah really want us to see? As Source of all that appears, Be-ing is constantly placing before us both what we may conceive of as a blessing and also what seems to us to be a curse. If we separate the apparently undesirable from the Source, duality becomes a curse. But if we can see that Be-ing is manifesting as both “blessing” and “curse,” then the kelalah (curse) becomes lighter (kalah) until it can be transformed through the special transformative practices of Hasidism and seen as itself an aspect of the blessing.
Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, taught the whole earth is full of kinyanechah (Psalms 124:4) means that every situation is an opportunity for acquiring “You” – You who pre-exists creation and You who alone truly exists even after creation. (Morning blessings).
It is a blessing when you really pay attention (Devarim 11:27) and see that what may appear as a curse, I AM is sending to you now, is really a great blessing in disguise by means of which we can establish a deeper bond with Be-ing Herself. The Maggid of Mezritch is really teaching us that everything that occurs to us, including all the negative traits, thoughts, and emotions that may arise within our experience, can be transformed. Paradoxically, these “bad” experiences offer the greatest opportunity and highest level of practice for developing our spiritual qualities and serving the Source of Be-ing.
Regardless of whatever occurs, it is a blessing whenever you really pay attention to the fact that Be-ing who G-ds you is now sending your way an opportunity for uniting with Her. (Devarim 11:27). It only becomes a curse if you don’t transform it into an opportunity for cleaving to Be-ing who G-ds you and allow yourself to be diverted from the way that I AM is directing you at that moment, to follow after other lower powers that are really not so impressive from the perspective of the truer mind state of da’at (when one is directly experiencing the Presence of Be-ing who G-ds you). (Devarim 11:28).
Rebbe Elemelekh of Lizhensk, one of the highest of all the students of the Maggid of Mezritch, had an even deeper way of seeing. Why is our parashah called “See” and not “hear” as in other cases where the Torah requires our heightened attention? Rebbe Elemelekh explains that hearing can easily be associated with fear. Just by hearing about something terrible, we can already experience a deep state of fear. But to truly experience love, the Beloved has to be Present. We have to actually experience the One we love. If the Beloved is not close enough to see, we may experience great longing, but not yet love itself. Love is experienced in the union of Lover and Beloved. In Hebrew, ahavah (love) and echad (one) have the same gematria(numerical value) to teach us that love implies oneness.
And so we learn, when you are in the non-dual state of seeing, I AM causes multiplicity to manifest before you (the plural lifneychem), and at that very moment both blessing and curse still arises (Devarim 11:26). In other words, even while resting in the ground of non-duality, “see” the duality that still arises within multiplicity. Realizing the non-dual view does not exempt us from our avodah.
The point is never to assume that avodah (living in a way that advances the realization of the Divine Dream) is ever finished. “Beginner’s Mind,” from the perspective of Hasidic teaching, means never assuming that one has become accomplished. Every moment is a new beginning. So even though one may experience the view of non-duality and really see everything without exception as an emanation of Be-ing who G-ds you, nevertheless, within time and space, as the Ba’al Shem Tov teaches, we still have to make a havdalah, a clear separation between blessing and curse. For as long as we can distinguish the difference between them, the process of evolving consciousness can be accelerated as we consciously transform our curses into blessings. How? Through seeing the curse as curse, relaxing into the hidden Presence of Be-ing that G-ds you at that very moment, and allowing the energy of the “curse” to softly lighten as it is released.
So, it will be a cause of joy when Be-ing that G-ds you takes you to the Ground of Be-ing that you are always approaching, so you can interface with it, while you clearly distinguish the blessing from the curse. For are they not both still arising on the other side of the crossing-over into non-duality place…? (Devarim 11:29-30).
For you are even now truly crossing over beyond Jordan (the place from which Binah descended) to come to the interface with the Ground of Be-ing, that Be-ing who G-ds you gives you to interface with and rest in. (Devarim 11:31)
When you are there, be mindful in doing everything that must be done, and that it is right to do, which I AM causes to manifest before you within multiplicity. (Devarim 11:32).
These are the things that must be done and that are right to do that you should be mindful of while resting in the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who G-ds your highest sefirot gives you to interface with as long as you are alive on this manifest earth. (Devarim 12:1).
Lose completely the outmoded old-paradigm view that divinity is exclusively found and served only in specifically demarcated holy places. Destroy all childish notions in your mind and heart of how to serve divinity, until not a trace remains. (Devarim 12: 2-3).
That’s not the way to serve Be-ing who G-ds you. But, rather, constantly be on the lookout for anyplace where Be-ing that G-ds you chooses to manifest the Shekhinah. (Devarim 12:4-5). Offer right there on the spot whatever you have, including your sacrifices, your generosity, your helping hand, and make your vows and commitments there. (Devarim 12:6).
And you will be nourished there by the energy of your service in the Presence of Be-ing who G-ds you, happy in all that you do and in every context within which Be-ing who G-ds you blesses you. (Devarim 12:7).
You won’t continue to act without Divine Guidance the way you do here now, because you have not yet reached the place of Inner Repose that Be-ing who G-ds you is bestowing upon you. (Devarim 12:9).
But when you cross over the Jordan (from which Binah descended) and you rest in the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who G-ds you is already always bestowing upon you, then you will no longer feel threatened by external enemies, but will rest secure(within the Ground of Be-ing). (Devarim 12:10).
And even if the place where Be-ing that G-ds you chooses to manifest the Shekhinah seems very distant from you” meaning that you are far from fathoming what the true non-dual view is, “just follow I AM’s direction and make lesser kinds of offerings from the resources that Be-ing bestows upon you and you will still be nourished by the holy sparks of your service even though you have not fully transcended your limited self, and this way you may yet acquire all that your soul truly desires.” (Devarim 12:21).
May we all be blessed to truly see how both what appears to us as blessing
and what appears as curse
arise from the One Ground of Be-ing Herself;
May that deep insight enable us to lighten all that appears as curse,
transforming everything to blessing,
that we may live on the angelic food of our soul’s holy sparks,
and in that way do our unique service
in all the sacred places revealed to us
with inner repose and full of joy.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
(aka Rabbi Miles Krassen)