Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Psycho-Drama of the Temple Offerings

adapted from Rabbi Richman on Temple Talk March 27, 2012

"The Temple offerings are symbolic on a cosmic level. They symbolize man identifying with various aspects of his own personality and life force and rectifying that. There is a tremendous amount of symbolism in the Temple offerings, but the main thing regarding the offerings is that Hashem takes pleasure when man does what He said to do.

"The Temple service is a 'psycho-drama.' It is a drama that has a profound effect on the mentality of the people involved in it. You can try and smooth talk your way out of the need for offerings today. You can try to be genteel and delicate about the Divine Service and just talk about the incense offerings. But the fact of the matter is that there are animals being offered on the alter of the Holy Temple.

"There is blood. There is slaughtering. Hashem said to do it in this way so that man can go through a deeper understanding of his own life force. And so that he can understand where he has gone astray and how he can make sure his Divine image is once again elevated. The experience of the Temple offerings draws a person closer to Hashem, hence the meaning of 'korban,' to draw close.

"The fact is today that we are not so close to Hashem. But the korban will draw us back. And again, without apologizing, the Temple offerings are a 'psycho-drama.' It is extremely tramatic. It is extremely jarring and unnerving. And that's okay, because it is real.

"We are spoiled rotten in our generation. We don't know what it means to realign ourselves; to receive a 'kick in the head' as it were, figuratively. We don't know what it means to see with a certain kind of bold clarity that our lives are sands running quickly through the hour-glass of time. The Temple service is an opportunity when Hashem says, 'I'm going to shake you up and make you realize that life is precious. Stop being an animal! Start living the life of a man.' That's what happens in the Divine Service.

"Do you have a problem with that kind of Divine Service? Do you have a problem with the One G-d of Heaven and earth running the show? If you've got a problem with that, look at the universe and where you fit into it. Because it's about you fitting into His universe, not about Him fitting into your little universe that you carry around."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rebuilding the Temple Will Ruin Everything

Rebuilding the Holy Temple will ruin everything. Well, almost everything.

The Temple will ruin the plans of terrorists to destroy Israel.

The Temple will ruin the plans of terrorists period.

The Temple will ruin the domination of regimes, dictators, and so-called democratic governments who care more about power than the people under their power.

The Temple will ruin the lies and idolatry of religion.

The Temple will ruin the business of human trafficking.

The Temple will ruin the grips of famine.

The Temple will ruin the inflated ego of mankind.

The Temple will ruin the lies of the media.

The Temple will ruin the mental apathy and slumber that has gripped mankind.

The Temple will ruin the business of war.

The Temple will ruin almost everything. Not because it's a magical building. But because of Who it will house. There is not enough room in this world for both the Divine Presence and all that is listed above. Ezekiel saw the remedy for the world. He saw the Divine Presence return. But there is only one place this will happen. In the rebuilt Temple. Man has shown what he can do. Isn't it time to give the Divine Presence a chance?

Become an advocate for the only lasting change in the world. Join the efforts of the Temple Institute's 3rd Annual Temple Mount Awareness day:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Esther Factor

As so many others do, I feel such sadness over the children and Rabbi who were murdered in Toulouse. After the murder of the Fogel family, perhaps I naively thought that nothing could match the magnitude of that tragedy. I was wrong. But beyond sadness, I feel anger too.

Of course it's no surprise that the world would express a moral equivalence between seeking out Jewish children to murder in cold-blood versus Palestinian children getting killed in the crossfire of Israel defending itself, just as the EU's Baroness Ashton was so quick to do. But what bothers me even more so is Jewish leaders' reaction to the tragedy.

Yes, Jews across the world were quick to express outrage and sadness at the tragic events. But then what? The status on PM Netanyahu's official facebook page today was in regards to the cost of cable TV in Israel. Really? That in itself made me want to go sit in a corner and cry all day. Jewish children are gunned down by a wild beast masquerading as a man, and the Israeli government seems to be back in a "business as usual" mode.

"We must now wage war against these fundamentalist political and religious groups that are killing our children, that are killing Christian children, Christian young men, young Muslim men and Jewish children." How I wished these were the words of the Israeli government ready to wage a real war against every enemy of the Jews, no matter where they exist. Instead they are the words of French politician Ms. Marine Le Pen. Jewish leaders in France were quick to distance themselves from Le Pen's viewpoint. Joining in the appeasement and political correctness charade they pointed out that the gunman was a lone extremist.

How can Jewish leaders, who I assume just recently read the Book of Esther, forget how the story ended? Did it end with Esther believing and stating that Haman was a lone extremist? Esther asked for the blood of ALL those who were against the Jews. And she got what she asked for - the deaths of over 75,000 anti-Semites. She understood the words of her ancestor King Solomon. She understood that there is a time to kill.

I have pondered for a few weeks a quote in one of the Temple Institute's articles about Esther. It is a bold, audacious quote that stands out in this day and age of appeasement. Deriving from the actions of Esther the article states, "Torah teaches us that violence must be met with violence. Passivity and victimhood do not bring peace. Strength and victory bring peace."

Esther seemed to have understood that principle. When will the Jewish leadership understand it again?

It is hard to hear of the deaths of children. It is even worse knowing details. It is said that the animal masquerading as a man chased down 8 year-old Miriam Monsonego, pulled her by the hair, and put a gun to her head. The gun jammed though. So the animal switched guns and then shot her in the head. The switching of the gun only took a second. But it is agonizing to think of the fear running through little Miriam's mind during that split second.

Miriam Monsonego is Klal Yisrael. She was corned by an animal and killed. It seems as if Israel is in that same corner. When will Israel decide to fight back? And how do we maintain hope that Israel will decide to fight back when Hashem says, "For a day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redemption has come. I looked, but there was not helper, I was astounded that there was no supporter." I suppose in writing that I have just answered my own question. Ultimately, there is no one to put our hope in other than Hashem.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

May You Be Like Esther

May you be like Esther fulfilling your appointed role, never missing your cues, continually doing the Creator’s bidding clothed in dignity and strength.
As Esther, may you remain patient in your “hidden” times, trusting that Hashem’s perfect timing coordinates your affairs.
May you be confident yet humble when it is your time “to shine,” acting with conviction, courage, and bravery; a catalyst to turn the tide towards good, and thwart the efforts of evil on every scale - in yourself, in your home, in your community, in the world.
May you be like Esther, a messenger of timely, direct words. May you boldly approach Hashem and people around you with words that change the course of events. May your words bring relief, healing, and encouragement to those around you.
May you be like Esther, shedding any masks no longer needed. May any negative emotions or negative perceptions of yourself drop and dissolve, leaving you not your old self, but a person perhaps you have yet to be.
As Esther may you be blessed with comrades to support you in your designated role. May “Mordechais” offer you advice, protection, and belief in who you are.
May lessons learned long ago by a queen in Persia, learned by Sages who have clinged and continue to cling to Torah, learned by brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight the evils of Haman, guide you and bring you courage as you go on grocery shopping trips, when you sit down to dysfunctional family dinners, when you are cut off in traffic, when you hug and soothe a hurting child, when you feel like the child who needs to be hugged and soothed, when your beliefs and choices are misunderstood, when you watch loved ones suffer, and when you wonder if you are adequate enough to maintain the tasks at hand, day in and day out.
May you be blessed to be you. The real you, conceptualized so long ago, brought into the physical realm not too long ago, and destined to spend a particularly long time in the World to Come. May you one day enter the World to Come with the satisfaction that Esther must have felt, knowing that she had done all that she could do, that she had done what she was meant to do, and that she chose to believe in herself, and more importantly, had full faith in the One who made her.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who Is That Masked Man?

Jews around the world will soon celebrate Purim. One celebratory tradition is to wear masks and costumes. There are a number of reasons for dressing in disguises on Purim, but on a simple level it is to remember how G-d saved the Jews while staying "anonymous." G-d worked behind the scene but His works remained masked or disguised as naturally occurring events. Hence wearing masks is a major theme of Purim.

I want to delve a bit deeper and suggest that wearing a mask on Purim is like a wink to Hashem as we say to Him, "We are willing to play your Own game as we realize life is nothing as it seems." What do I mean by that? Many Jews, and non-Jews like me, proclaim on a daily basis the Oneness of Hashem. His Oneness is the core of our faith. The more we understand the Oneness of Hashem, the more we as individuals, or perhaps I should say the illusion of our individual self melts away. Hashem is the only reality. Our individuality and our separateness is an illusion. We live, move, and have "our" total existence in Hashem.

You've most likely heard the story of the four sages who were allowed to enter Paradise. Of the four, only one, Rabbi Akiva, processed and reacted correctly to the Truth he was shown and therefore he left in peace. Rabbi Nachman's teaching on this story helps us understand the "correct" vs "incorrect" way to process and try to understand G-d's Oneness while living a life of "separateness." Rabbi Nachman teaches that the concealment of G-d's Oneness and Allness was necessary so that man could exercise free will and receive G-d's Lovingkindness. Rabbi Akiva accepted the fact that Hashem designed a system, i.e. a world of "separateness," in which His Unity could be fully appreciated. He was able to accept and appreciate the value of living in a world of illusion and separateness because ultimately and ironically this is the place in which G-d's Oneness can be discovered the most. Rabbi Akiva went behind the "curtain of separateness" so to speak, but had the wisdom not to question why Hashem had set up this illusion. Instead he nodded to His Master. A nod that said, "As any man, I will never fully understand You, but I accept Your Ways, and I will play by Your rules."

Esther and Mordechai had this same kind of faith. Even though they must have felt completely isolated and separated not just from their fellow Jews, but even from Hashem at times (read Psalm 22 as the sages teach that Esther prayed this to Hashem) they ultimately displayed the kind of faith that attested to the fact that their feelings of separateness were but a mere illusion. They appeared to stand alone as "individuals" but the reality is and was that they did not exist outside of Hashem's Oneness.

Donning a mask on Purim is a way of declaring the same kind of faith that Esther and Mordechai had and the same kind of understanding that Rabbi Akiva had. Deep down our spirits know that Hashem is the only reality. I, like many others, who daily proclaim the Shema, close my eyes when saying, "The L-rd He is One," because I realize His Oneness cannot be perceived by my senses; I cannot "see" His Oneness with my physical eyes. But my spirit can "see" His Oneness. Our spirit is aware of being perpetually attached to His Oneness. Our highest level of spirituality knows no separateness. But our physical eyes and our mind tells us different. We see our individual self. We see other people around us. We feel things that no one else feels. We experience things that no one else experiences. But our spirit knows that this is a mere illusion designed by Hashem in order that we might ultimately find ourselves in His Oneness.

I loved the analogy that Rabbi Chaim Richman recently used in describing how Hashem garbs Himself in nature so that we can "see" Him. Just as the character Griffin in the H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man had to wrap himself in gauze, an overcoat and hat to be seen, so too does Hashem wrap Himself in nature and events to be "seen." Stay with me here. The deeper we delve into understanding G-d's Oneness, the more the illusion of our individuality falls away. We as individuals start to disappear, so to speak. We become more and more invisible. Yet on Purim we don garb, like the character Griffen did, so that we as individuals can be seen and used by Hashem.

So even though on Purim it is a physical hand that reaches up to put a mask on a physical face, deep down it is our spirit giving a wink and a nod to our Master as we say, "We are willing to play your game. We are willing to appear as individuals and do what each of us needs to do. Just as Esther and Mordechiai played their roles, we are willing to play our roles. But we know it is just a show. We know we really only exist in Your Oneness." If we truly believe this, then we can have faith like Esther and Mordechai had.

It is a great irony and mystery that Hashem is hidden in us. His Oneness is hidden in the illusion of our individuality. Our comfort comes in knowing that He "separated" us from Himself for a reason and that if we let Him, He will use us as "individuals" solely for His purposes and that ultimately we will find our true selves in Him and Him alone.