Saturday, January 20, 2018

NOTE: Throughout this blog, depending on the context, I will either use the name Elohim (aka 'God') or YHWH (aka 'the LORD')* because -- according to Jewish tradition -- the name YHWH is associated with mercy and leniency** whereas the name Elohim is associated with severity, might, creative power, justice and judgement.***
This is why in Genesis chapter 4 (right after they are kicked out of the Garden), the name 'YHWH' first appears alone... which is another way of saying that Elohim needed to 'cease and desist' ('shabat'- ch.2:2-3) in order for the 'world' to continue.

* It is important to know that the names Elohim and YHWH are NOT two Gods.  The names just designate whether God is dealing with man with a preponderance of severity (Elohim) or leniency (YHWH). 
Also, I will sometimes use the compound name YHWH-Elohim (these names of God appear together as one name in Genesis chapters 2 and 3, indicating the transition from severity/Elohim [ch.1] to mercy/YHWH [ch.4 and on]) instead of simply using the [non-Hebrew] word 'God' (which indicates to me a balance between severity and leniency).  But, of course, I will still have to use the word 'God' sometimes where the name YHWH-Elohim would just be too alien and awkward

**and very often -- though not always -- it is associated with ceremony and ritual (i.e. 'religion'), which is ALWAYS a manifestation of mercy and leniency

*** attributes I associate with a state I will call -- depending on the context -- "the primal moral state" or "the relentlessly creative world of Genesis chapter 1"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Garden of Eden represents the Kingdom of YHWH-Elohim, which is a state of being exquisitely tuned to the moral key.
The Tora (and this blog) is the story of [us] moral weaklings ('THE REST OF US') who've had a taste of this primal moral state and retreated* from it to 'religion', which is a state where YHWH -- in His mercy -- lowers the moral pitch.*
This new ['religious'] world (or 'state') is "very close to you... in your heart to do it." (Dt.30:14)

* Genesis 1 tells us that Adam was created in the "image and likeness of Elohim" (a being created in, but not necessarily for, the relentlessly creative 'world' of Genesis chapter 1).  Then comes chapter 3 where he says, "I was afraid because I was naked."(v.10)  Why is he afraid of his 'nakedness'?  Wouldn't one be embarrassed, not afraid?  One would be if we were only talking about physical nakedness.  What is happening is that he has taken on more life and energy than he can morally handle, so he hides in fear.  Next -- mercifully -- comes a 'cover' (the cover of 'religion') from YHWH (see the June 25, "Part 2" post on the purpose of blood sacrifice).
Interestingly, in chapter 5, Seth is said to be "created in [Adam's-- not Elohim's] likeness and image"(v.3).  This implies that the world is being keyed to a more suitable pitch. It is no coincidence that the last verse of chapter 4 says that men "began to call on the name of YHWH", which is a 'religious' act, and thus associated with mercy/leniency.  The culmination of this process occurred in the 'Covenant of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy' (Ex.34:6-7: "YHWH, YHWH..."!).  It promised -- in the wake of the Golden Calf incident -- that the relationship between YHWH and Israel would continue, but at a less intense and therefore more forgiving level.
This mercy/leniency/YHWH connection is corroborated by the fact that whereas the first set of tablets (the Ten Commandments) were hewn and engraved by Elohim (Ex.31:18; 32:16), YHWH commissioned Moses to hew the second set, which YHWH later engraved (Ex.34:28).
Also, it is important to add that the covenant [of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy] made in chapter 34 only modified (from severity to leniency) the terms (v. 6-7) and conditions (v. 11-26; note how they are ALL RITUAL AND CEREMONIAL; see the Jan.20 post above on the connection between mercy/leniency, ceremony/ritual-- i.e. 'religion' -- and YHWH) of the Ten Commandments

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In suzerain-vassal (king-subject) covenants from the ancient near east, love meant loyalty to the ruler.  Therefore, to "love YHWH with all ones heart, soul, and might" (Dt.6:5) means to be loyal to Him.
YHWH is a 'jealous God', which means He demands exclusivity.
Jewish tradition holds that if you forsake idolatry you fulfill the whole of the Tora (Talmud Hor.8a), and vice versa (Sifra Deut. 54).
But what is idolatry?
It is known that most ancient cultures had a concept of a 'Most High God'.  The only problem was that He was seen as too distant and imposing to have a real relationship with.  Hence, the creation of intermediaries (see Maimonides M.T. Laws of Idolatry ch. 1).
When man looks to 'heaven' and 'sees' anything between him and God, that is idolatrous ("You shall have no other gods before Me").
The archetype of the intermediary in Tanakh is the Golden Calf (see also Jeroboam's Calves- 1Kings 12:25-33).  But why construct a calf (a baby cow)?  Why not a grown bull?
Rabbi David Fohrman taught that because of the awesomeness of the Sinai revelation ("Let not Elohim speak with us lest we die"-Ex.20:19), and the fact that Moses hadn't come down the mountain after 40 days, the people feared he was destroyed by the encounter.  So they created something that could stand between them and Elohim.
Making a molten (lit. masking*- Ex.32:4) calf is really quite logical.  A calf sucks from its mother (read: God), and through identifying with this 'Sucker' a quite 'touching' relationship with the 'Most High God' -- so it seems -- ensues.**
We witness this in Christianity.  It is -- in essence -- Calf worship. Jesus is the "Son of the Father", and "no one can come to the Father except through the Son".
The calling of Jesus the "Lamb of God" (Jn.1:29) should remind us of the Passover lamb in Egypt.  Its slaying  signaled Israel's willingness to forsake such touching -- yet forbidden -- relationships.
This act [of slaughter] began -- on a national level -- the 'cleaning out' (think matsa and leaven) of the space between man and the 'Most High God'.

 * Like Adam and Eve making for themselves fig leaves to cover their [moral] 'nakedness' and then YHWH making for them proper [animal] 'clothing', so YHWH gave us the mitsvot instead of Calf-'screens' of our own creation.
You may ask,  "Why can't we follow YHWH-Elohim by just doing good?"  Because --  essentially -- a 'naked' ( relationship with Him without the 'masking'/'screen' of the mitsvas/halakha (i.e. 'religion') is too morally challenging for most people.  Such a God-alone relationship is simply about doing-the-right-thing at all times-- no exceptions, and no place to 'hide' (again, ch.3 Genesis)

** you can worship (or concentrate on) anything and receive answers, messages, and manifestations ('signs and wonders').  The universe or nature is set up -- as Jung discovered -- synchronistically (meaningful coincidences) to reinforce and engage playfully and seriously with those who so desire.  Take Mary (Jesus' mother) veneration in Catholicism.  It works.  I know personally a Catholic who has a simple, working relationship with her.  "She always comes through for me".  So what's the difference between the help one receives from YHWH (or Elohim, if you are able to handle the heat of the relentlessly creative world of Genesis chapter 1) and other objects of worship (or veneration)?  On a natural level there is no difference.  If you worship (or venerate) and beseech the Universe, Jesus, Mary, a saint, or the picture of your guru, you will get real, meaningful life changing results.  So -- like Pharaoh -- hearts and minds are 'hardened' and 'strengthened' because idolatry works and is convenient (i.e. close at hand- 'touching')

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Let's talk about love, opening the heart, and showing real feelings to others.
The limbic system (or mammalian brain, as it is sometimes called) -- the seat of emotions -- is structured very differently from the neo-cortex, the seat of the intellect. This difference is reflected in the Kabbalistic tree of life where between the 'upper' three sefirot of intellect and the next ('lower') three of feeling there is a sefira called Da'at (knowledge).
When moving 'down' into the feeling realm where one really knows and in turn is really known by another, there must be a scary* movement into 'unknowing' because one is handing control from the neo-cortex to the limbic system.  
All I can ask of another human (e.g. friend, lover, psychedelic guide) is that they be with me as I move past the threshold of Da'at to the other side.

* In Kabbalah, Da'at, if it is represented at all (in most schemes there is only an empty space where this sefira should be), has a dashed (not solid) circle, implying that before [true, heartfelt] knowing there must be [a scary] unknowing.  In other words, the dashed/broken circle represents the breaking of the [stranglehold of the] intellect

Sunday, June 25, 2017

 Part 1
An Approach to a 'Hard' Jewish Law: Sabbath Observance

What if I find dignity and freedom in working and resting whenever I want?
Shabbat is the only ritual commandment among the 'Ten Commandments' and-- as far as I know-- the only ritual commandment (commandments between YHWH and man) the prophets railed against its non-observance.
So perhaps it's THE ritual link to the non-ritual / ethical / moral commandments.
Let's say that I fail at a moral test-- which is really a test given by YHWH-Elohim; therefore I have not only failed myself and the person or society, but I have failed Him as well.
I am now naked and ashamed. What do I do?  Can I simply redeem myself through a ritual?
What does my moral / ethical failure represent? A lack of faith in YHWH-Elohim. How? Because if I really trusted Him, I would have allowed myself to move courageously into the do-the-right-thing zone and let the chips fall where they may by performing the famous 'leap of faith'. But I didn't, and so I now mourn in my nakedness and shame ('dust and ashes').
At this vulnerable point, the Sabbath stands as a beacon of mercy in the night of our moral failure, guiding us to a precious scrap of dignity by REDEEMING OUR FAITHLESSNESS IN YHWH-Elohim BY SHOWING FAITH IN HIM THROUGH OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH, WHICH IS REALLY ONE DAY IN WHICH WE CEASE 'TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS' IN ORDER TO RITUALLY SHOW OUR FAITH THAT HE WILL PROVIDE.
It's as if the coward has a second chance in a simulated area in which he can redeem his failure to 'leap' by sitting down! (the root meaning of Sabbath/Shabbat is 'sit')
This simulated moral victory gives us the rest that enables us to tolerate the relentlessly creative [and moral] 'world' of Genesis chapter 1-- a world that still exists for those strong, or foolish, enough to inhabit it, although it has been mercifully moderated by the Tora 'FOR THE REST OF US'.


Part 2
An Approach to Another 'Hard' Jewish Law: Kashrut

After 'Adam's' sin, "YHWH-Elohim" (these names of God appear together as one name in chapters 2 and 3, indicating the transition from severity/Elohim [ch.1] to mercy/YHWH [ch.4 and on]) kills an animal to properly clothe them.  Abel then picks up on this 'illustration' by sacrificing a [kosher] animal on an altar.  Finally, there comes the bloody altar of the Tabernacle/Temple.
As written in Leviticus 17:11, the purpose of the blood is JUST to ILLUSTRATE atonement (KPR) for us.  The root of KPR is KP-- to cover.  Cover what?  OUR FAILURE TO ABIDE IN THE PRIMAL MORAL WORLD / YHWH-Elohim's KINGDOM / 'EDEN'.
Destroying a [kosher] animal -- who represents our 'destruction' before Elohim and His uncompromisingly moral Kingdom* -- effectively illustrates this.
The purpose of the kosher system (kashrut) -- formally initiated after after the destruction of this primal [vegan] world (Gen.9:2-4) -- is similar to the purpose of the blood sacrifices at the Temple: redemption** through an illustration-- only on a plate instead of an altar.

* the only 'justification' I can see for the extermination decrees (see esp. Joshua) is that Canaan/Israel -- the only area that straddles three continents -- is YHWH's 'portion', of which He is zealous/jealous of; therefore tenancy -- whether in a covenant with Him or not -- comes with conditions.  In other words, when the Amorites, Canaanites, and later the Israelites accumulated transgressions they were -- in a sense -- 'ritually slaughtered'. 

 ** like the one-tenth 'redemption' value for a bottle, 'religion' (see the 'December 12' post above) is better than [getting] nothing

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On Dealing With the 'Hard' Jewish Laws:

"Observing [the rituals] has to be rooted in each individual Jews' ABILITY rather than in her WILL.  Only that Jew who is capable of hearing the divine voice of revelation speaking and commanding through a particular law or practice could relate to such a law or practice as an integral, meaningful part of his Jewish life rather than as an obsolete ritual demanding rigid, rote obedience."  (Franz Rosenzweig)

On the Hard Questions We Ask About God and the Tora:

"God purposely conceals His true purpose.  In fact, He must occasionally mislead man.  If everything were clear, men would be automatons, and those least free, most timid and fearful, would be the most "pious".  But evidently God wants only the free to be His.  He must make it difficult, nay impossible to understand His actions, so as to give man the opportunity truly to believe.... So there remains nothing for God but to tempt man, even to deceive him."* (Franz Rosenzweig)

* yes, the Tora is historical fiction; and yes, it must be this way

Monday, October 19, 2015

God cannot create create something other than Himself.

God cannot hide from Himself the fact that He is God.

The former destroys Western Dualism; the latter destroys Eastern Non-Dualism.

Since the two 'axioms' cancel each other out, I am free from both both 'East' and 'West'.

What this does is to clear a space [between 'East' and 'West' with Israel located at the center-- the mean point where meaning is] in order for the flash of inspiration (the Ruach haKodesh-- the spirit located at the 'Center' / the mean / Israel / the Temple) to occur.