Human Nature

“And the children struggled within her.”

– Genesis 25:22, JPS 1917 Tanach

“And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.”

– Genesis 25:27, JPS 1917 Tanach

Jacob received his name, from the root word eikev meaning “heel,” because when born he was grasping onto Esau’s heel. “Jacob’s holding on to the heel of Esau may symbolize that values which Esau would stamp his foot on would be the very ones Jacob would cherish” (Akeidat Yitzchak). The comment points toward the differences that appeared in the personalities of Jacob and Esau as they grew up. Esau was an ambitious hunter who spent all of his time in the field, while Jacob is described as an ish tam (wholesome man), who quietly devoted himself to raising sheep, and reflecting upon the nature of G-d.

The two were somewhat diamatrically opposed to each other. Thus their relationship can be seen as representative of the two opposing spirits of man: the yetzer tov (good inclination), and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). These two inclinations battle against each other within the soul of every human being. Yet, not everyone may be aware of the prolific conflict that occurs, especially if leeway is constantly being given to the less moral impulses of one’s character. Only when opposing baser instincts, does an individual begin to feel the tension between doing what is right, or giving in to inferior behaviors.

Yet, to consistently take the path of least resistance, permitting inertia to influence the soul to the point of sluggishness, and simply “going with the flow,” without considering where the course of one’s path will lead, is to remain subject to what is otherwise referred to as “the animal soul,” the part of ourselves that favors our natural inclinations. Rather, true “spirituality,” in accord with the quest for perfection, and the human endeavor to excel, must be focused on uplifting our souls, above the realm of commonality with animals. We breathe, eat, and sleep; yet, our purpose of existence goes beyond the mundane; true happiness can only be derived from pursuing a “higher goal” in our lives.

Abraham’s Perception

“Abraham lifted his eyes, and perceived.”

– Genesis 18:2

Abraham was in communion with G-d, while sitting at the entrance of his tent. If he could be pictured there, in silent contemplation, perhaps, with his eyes closed, he might appear as if he was meditating. At some point, he lifted his eyes, being stirred out of his deep personal experience of being in G-d’s presence; and, he perceived three men standing nearby him. What did he perceive? He may have perceived that they were angels; he may have also immediately realised that they had been assigned to carry out a mission from Above. He hurriedly tended to their needs.

Then, he and his wife Sarah who had been barren for thirty nine years were told that they would have a son one year from the time of their appearance. After the message was delivered, Sarah laughed at such an extraordinary proclamation. She was mildly reproached for laughing, as if she doubted what she heard. Yet, “Is anything to hard for the L-RD?” (Genesis 18:13-15).

Next, two of the angels walked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, while G-d explained to Abraham what was about to take place. The cries of these two cities had reached the heavens; judgment was about to occur from the heavenly realm (see Genesis 18:20-21). Yet, Abraham tried to persuade G-d to spare the cities for the sake of any righteous people, who may have also been living there. Before an indiscriminate pouring down of fire and brimstone would overturn the cities, Abraham asked, “Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked?” Shall not the judge of the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Abraham takes G-d to task, entering into a dialogue with him, on behalf of the righteous. If there were only ten righteous people in the cities, G-d agreed that he would spare those cities.

Yet, apparently, there were not even ten righteous persons living amongst the wicked occupants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, and his immediate family were evacuated by the angels in an urgent manner. His wife, hesitated, longing for her married daughters who had stayed by their disbelieving husbands. Perhaps, she had also turned back, because she did not want to leave behind her a life of security, comfort, and contentment. She turned into a pillar of salt; perhaps, because of exposure to the fire and brimstone. A stark reminder of the consequences of immobility, in the face of urgent action required during a catastrophic event.

“And it came to pass, when G-d destroyed the cities of the plain, that G-d recalled Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.” – Genesis 19:29

Beginnings

“In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.”

– Genesis 1:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

“And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them.”

– Genesis 1:27, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you.”

– Jeremiah 1:5, JPS 1985 Tanach

You are unique, designed for a purpose, beyond even your own expectations. What doubt might you have that you were born for a reason in the right season? Even in consideration of the challenges in life, that you may be facing right now, as well as any laments about things not working out in the past, G-d’s timing is perfect. Everything has been taken into consideration, in order to provide opportunity for the maximum potential of your soul to achieve spiritual growth. When we turn our hearts towards Him, seeking His wisdom within the framework of our daily lives, we may begin to see more clearly, how everything has been designed for our good in mind.


G-d may call out to you, to move forward, at some point, within the framework of His blueprint for your life; even, perhaps, every day, in the smaller details of your life’s journey. Perhaps, you are already experiencing this. He is interested in the many facets of our lives. When He created the heavens and earth, He never abandoned His creation; rather, He directs and guides, shapes and molds, if only we are willing to be influenced by Him.


In service to Him, you will always have a reason for being here on this earth.

Even if your current condition is one of stasis, this could be a preparation for a unique mission, that only you can enact. Every single soul on earth has a purpose. When we are able to use our discernment, in regard to our unique calling, we may begin to accept our circumstances, as a necessary requirement to shape our character, so that we can be used for a higher purpose. On the one hand, the most challenging experiences in life may serve to improve our character. On the other hand, at times, we need to focus on nurturing our soul, readily opening ourselves to becoming better people through self improvement, before we can effectively accomplish the goals in life that G-d may have in mind for us.

Regrets over past misdeeds provide opportunity for teshuvah (repentance); whereas teshuvah was created before the creation of the world, in order to provide an essential way to return to G-d. The past may lead to the future in a transitional manner, when maladaptive patterns are diminished, and life brings restoration, as was meant to be from the beginning of time. In service to G-d, success is on the horizon, by way of careful steps, one at a time, towards the goals that are revealed to you. He may serve as a Guide and Companion; yet, He may also send others, who will help you along the way.

“He will shelter me in His pavilion on an evil day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock.”

– Psalm 27:5, JPS 1985 Tanach

“Compassionate Father, draw Your servant to Your will.”

– Yedid Nefesh

Transition

This blog may soon include a more casual presentation of ideas, worthy of the blog’s new name. Please, bear with me during this transition. Wherever inspiration leads, I will follow, as long as the end result still resembles my basic perspective on life.

I would prefer not to let creativity lead too far out of the bounds of the yoke of Heaven, that I have accepted upon myself. Please, sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. Above all, enjoy G-d’s Creation by not spending too much time in front of the screen.

May the Almighty bless your day. Shalom.

Sukkot: Inclusivity of the Nations

https://youtu.be/56f_js2xN90

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto H’Shem seven days.” – Numbers 29:12, JPS

The festival of Sukkot, as prescribed in Torah, included offerings for the nations for their protection from affliction. There were a total of seventy bulls offered over a period of seven days. This specifically designated amount of offerings corresponds to the primary nations mentioned in Genesis (Sukkah 55b). In the future, all of the nations will be required to worship in Jerusalem (it is likely to presume that they will send delegates). This is a sign of the Messianic Era, when Moshiach will reign from Jerusalem.

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles [Sukkot].” – Zechariah 14:7

“And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-RD, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-RD from Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 2:3

Unravelling Negativity

by Tzvi Fievel Schnee

“Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.” – Psalm 51:4-5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Dovid HaMelech (King David) was constantly aware of the sins of his past. This awareness imbued him with humility, in the face of G-d’s righteousness. “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my supplanters [heels] compasseth me about” (Psalm 49:6, JPS 1917 Tanach). Literally, “the sins of my heels,” referring to the breaking of lesser mitzvoth, that people, figuratively speaking, tend to trample upon, mistakenly thinking that they are insignificant. Yet, even King David, was concerned, that he might be prevented from entering Olam Haba, because of the sins of the heels in his own life.

“Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope” (Isaiah 5:18, JPS 1917 Tanach). As is mentioned in Chok L’Yisrael, based on the Zohar Bereishis 198a, the phrase, “the cords of vanity,” is also likened to the sins of the heels. Additionally, the phrase, “cords of vanity” is reminiscent of the prayer, Ana Bekoach, where we request of H’Shem, that He “untie the bundled sins.” These sins are traditionally understood to be the collective sins of Israel.

On this Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may we as well as all of Israel (K’lal Yisrael) be forgiven. Effectively, in due time, may this lead to our complete renewal as individuals. Furthermore, as a nation, may Israel’s redemption also be enacted through teshuvah. “And a redeemer will come to Zion, And unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, Saith the L-RD” (Isaiah 59:20, JPS 1917 Tanach).

weekly portion: Terumah 5780

B”H Shiur for parashas Terumah 5780 “”Let them make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:8 The purpose of the building of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert) was to provide a sanctuary (mikdash) for the L-RD to dwell amongst the B’nei Yisrael. H’Shem’s presence rested between the […]

weekly portion: Terumah 5780 — Etz Chayim

weekly portion: Terumah 5780

B”H Shiur for parashas Terumah 5780 “”Let them make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:8 The purpose of the building of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert) was to provide a sanctuary (mikdash) for the L-RD to dwell amongst the B’nei Yisrael. H’Shem’s presence rested between the […]

weekly portion: Terumah 5780 — Etz Chayim
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