The link below organizes this article and adds a transcript from the guided teshuva
It is Tisha B’Av, Monday night August 4, 2014, 9 Av 5774. We sit on the floor mourning the loss of being able to associate with Your presence as we did in the times of Shlomo HaMelech’s Temple.
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas not yet in place but due to begin in several hours, the past almost two months since June 12 when three teenagers were kidnapped and killed have raised our emunah and our achdus. Unlike seeing a miracle and then faltering in emunah at our next challenge, the constant barrage of rockets and open miracles provides in this moment a palpable awareness that even though You are concealed, You are here intimately involved with every detail and re-creating the world in every moment. This Tisha B’av, the ability to do the constant mitzvah of Know there is Hashem, the first commandment that tells us I am the Lord Your Gd Who Took You Out of Egypt to be Gd to You is a shining light. Concealed in nature, Your Light has emanated into every day for more than these three weeks and we feel able to associate with the pleasure inherent in doing so. No more do we desire to ever be separated from the experience of being able to associate with Your Light even when we are in the throws of challenge such as we are today. Your Mercy is evident and through the eyes of our tzelem elokim that is inseparable from Your Attributes of Mercy,we look up to the heavens and experience that even though You are concealed from our vision, Your Love and Presence are with us in a palpable way.
We are embattled with an internally experienced enemy called the yetzer hara who is in control of our lives and our human nature. The mitzvah to know that there is No Other Power other than Hashem reminds us that despite Your authorizing the Soton to run an apparent pluralistic world, You Hashem are the light above Him and ultimately, everything comes from You. In this way, everything is good, no matter how we experience it internally. Yet it is Your Will that we do battle with these natural emotions because the process of doing so is the function that You desire of Nishmas Am Yisrael, to create positive influence that You may use in the next moment to sustain the way nature is run.
What does this mean in the moment of challenge? If I experience a negative reaction of any kind, something happened that was not of my choosing yet it is up to me to take responsibility in a way that is pleasing to You. In order to take responsibility to help, generally we need wisdom from the Torah that either we forgot or that we need to acquire. Torah is truth and it restores the soul. All its pathways are peace.
To take responsibility, it is good to have self-knowledge, and that self-knowledge includes understanding about what it means to be a soul in a body, not just self-knowledge about our unique circumstances and personality. What do all people share that it is good to have knowledge about?
When we are in a negative frame of mind, it starts from a lack. We experience lack and in a split second that fast-moving human nature under the direct control of the Soton, through our unconscious, subconscious, and bodily urges identifies the area where the “me” is frustrated in its values and then collects imagination to build upon the goals of the “me.” Lack. Me. Imagination. Lack. Me Imagination = lower will. The lower will and our analytical mind together provide the experience of being in time and space taking responsibility and doing what our best judgment tells us in order to make a correction, bring the matter to a good and just conclusion, in accordance with Torah. When we succeed, we feel “happy” because our intelligence and our efforts proved successful according to the goals we set.
Is this happiness? It is surely a victory in time and space. Is this happiness though? Why even ask that question! We just won, right? So we are happy, right?
The tzelem elokim wants to associate with Hashem’s light, to experience the delight of His Presence. Have we enhanced or diminished the ability of the tzelem elokim to delight in Hashem’s Omniscience with statements such as, we won, we are right?
Hashem gave us success because it was good, but it is important to see that happiness lies in a deeper service of Hashem.
Lack. Lack triggers the awareness that I desire something and it is not being given to me. Because I believe I am good, and that I deserve this, I experience lack. The I that thinks we deserve it – that is our sense of independent autonomous existence combined with our judgments and self-love. Here it is important to understand that the sense of independent existence is an utterance of Hashem. In order for anything to appear in the world, Hashem’s utterances must be concealed by the letters of the Hebrew aleph bais. By breathing and uttering, Hashem’s Glory fills the world but the external appearance within the world is that objects, including our bodies, our circumstances, and our personalities, subconscious and unconscious, are formed according to the letters Hashem uses to create us. Our outwardly defined beings that provide us life and visibility in time and space interact with the outwardly defined objects, other people, and circumstances that Hahsem forms through assigned letterings over His Utterances. Lack then is an internal experience of something external within me based in the lettering over Hashem’s utterances that is interacting with something truly external outside of me based on its lettering over Hashem’s utterances. These perceptions are enough to trigger our neurocircuitry, particularly our instincts of self-preservation and desire to acquire and dominate.
The sense of autonomous independent existence is a covering over the tzelem elokim designed to present a real, yet not absolute true, alternative to the idea that Hashem’s glory fills the world. There is only Hashem, but we have the perception that there is also a me, a real entity with free choice. And that is true, Hashem determines everything except whether or not we will have awe of Hashem and realize that our sense of autonomous independent existence has inherent falsehood BECAUSE the entire world is filled only with Hashem’s Glory. Thus, as much as we may be ethical, upright, responsible, Gd-fearing and more, basing choices on a reality of being autonomous and independent will inevitably have negative consequences because it is inherently not absolutely true. The absolute truth is that all there is in the world is Hashem Who has to conceal His Light in order for a world to appear. Now here is the empowering thing. Hashem has concealed Himself and created the world allowing His Shechina to be stuck in time and space and all this darkness and confusion for one reason. To give US the opportunity to choose to say Hashem Echad! He desires to give us the ultimate good, and that good is the pleasure of touching His Perfection when we submit to the reality that our tzelem elokim that is inseparable from His Attributes of Mercy is the Source of all happiness and pleasure because it is the neck through which Hashem’s light can be connected into time and space and the neck through which the Shechina trapped in the darkness can flow and become connected again to His Light. To the degree we understand that our service to Hashem means flowing light between heaven and earth, we will have a different relationship with the negativity that challenges us.
It is with free willed choice that we can empower ourselves to pry imagination away from our sense of autonomous independent existence and glue it to identifying with tzelem elokim that is made in His Attributes of Mercy. The effort to do so is a reflection of knowing that there is No Other Power. When we get caught in the natural neurocircuitry of self-preservation, using our free will to glue imagination to absolute truth, to the wisdom that all there is in the world is Hashem’s Glory no matter how it appears, we are “crossing a firmament” between the heaven and the earth in order to curtail darkness and instead sustain our tzelem elokim. How this feels might be likened to a tug of war…whose head is the crown going to land on, Hashem’s Head or the apparent me’s? Who is our imagination and intellect going to listen as the dominant influence? Again, when we know there is Hashem and that all there is in the world is Him, no matter how whiney our self-referencing messages are, we have an ability to see them as external to the true reality of ourselves as tzelem elokim inseparable from Hashem Whose Glory fills the world.
Lack, autonomous independent existence, and imagination reveal where we need to apply Torah in order to release the Shechina from being trapped in the dark and in order to redirect the lower will back to serving Hashem with all our heart, all our soul and all our might.
Every atomic particle on the periodic chart falls into a category of solid, liquid, gas or radioactive. Being able to discern the influence of these natural atomic particles within our nature gives us a way to find the Torah we need to re-set the atomic particle to its neutral form – releasing the Shechina trapped by the letters Hashem chooses for our lower will. It is important to be able to do this work remembering that we are NOT the labels these letterings suggest. Rather we are our effort to release the Shechina and wipe the lettering off our will. The reason this is important is that many of us grow up to a degree with shame, blame or less than ideal parenting and all the misconceptions that we form when our young minds are wet cement remain part of our neurocircuitry affecting our emotions and our relationships. This is how Hashem sets our free will point. However, it is NOT our identity, nor is it the basis of esteem. Instead, our identity is that of tzelem elokim and our esteem is our free willed choice to replace the confusion in a broken vessel with a reflection of light from Hashem’s Attributes of Mercy. That effort is our tikun, it is the unique purpose for which we are here. Just as a liver removes impurities from the blood, and the liver is NOT the impurities, so too the tzelem elokim through free will and speech replaces the confusion within our physical existence with light and rectification that is tikun so that Hashem’s revealed good can be reflected into time and space. Amazing.
Thus it is good to learn Torah that explains the significance and correlations of
Lack. I have a desire. Water. Water is Chesed. Hashem only does good. Hashem is all chesed. He is the only Source of Chesed. There is no other place where Chesed can come from, only from Him, although He may send it through a sheliach. The desire that I have is not seen by Hashem as good. Either I need a larger vessel to contain the good or it is really not good for me or He desires relationship in prayer or something from my free willed choice. The Torah that is needed here is the wisdom that all there is in the world is Hashem and we are never abandoned by Him.
Autonomous independent existence. I deserve this thing that I think is good and I blame and want to shame and condemn and judge the matter or person withholding the object of my desire. Perhaps I become angry, afraid, arrogant. FIRE. Fire is can be total destruction, burning things to ashes. But fire can also be warmth and light and bring blessings. Behind fire is passion. With intellect to know that Hashem is the Source of all vitality, I can use fire to burn out the false imaginary beliefs about the desire that I think will bring happiness that Hashem does not provide to me. In essence, I can use the fire to free the false belief that my happiness depends on obtaining the object of my desire. This is fundamental to restoring imagination to cling to proper understanding of happiness and how we experience happiness, as the pleasure of doing mitzvahs and emulating Hashem. Bringing these understandings about chesed/water to subdue and direct our passion, fire, we use our passion for pursuing Torah and for praying with fire, with love and awe.
With tiferes, we combine the chesed/water with the gevurah/fire and utter a word in speech. Hashem Echad. The breath from the world of thought combining with the sounds we create through our bodies creates a positive influence and a spiritual being that leads us in the path we desire to go, to use all our heart, all our soul, and all our might to be a vessel that can contain the pleasure that Hashem desires to bestow upon us and to receive that pleasure as we reflect His good into the world. This is crucial practice because if what I find pleasurable is eating a box of chocolate and Moshiach comes and there is the ability for the soul to experience the pleasure of associating with Hashem in a revealed way, and I say great but where is the chocolate, I am going to have a massive headache because the pleasure Hashem wants to give me will not be able to be held within the vessel of my mind. And the pleasure of the chocolate will have lost its appeal. Thus while we have free will, we have the opportunity to build within us a worthy vessel by gluing our imagination to the desire to reflect Hashem’s Attributes. In doing so, we triumph choosing mercy over our sterner nature. This is the very best way to make good use of the life force that Hashem sends to us. Imagination pursuing desires based on natural leanings towards the goals of the autonomous independent experience of self can lead to destruction, although we may not realize it, intend it, or calculate that into our analysis. The free willed choice to use imagination in every instance to pursue happiness based on Torah and emulating Hashem is the resolution of Hashem Echad, Hashem is One. In this way, everything we do is the result of asking ourselves, what does Hashem desire of me in this moment, how do I serve Hashem right now?
Once we have a moment of clarity, we can then turn to a good deed, a tikun, a yeud, our unique expression that brings through our heart into the world of action in time and space a reflection of Hashem’s goodness. This is earth. Malchus.
We are built to relate to the negativity that is natural to human existence with the focus of being an organ called Nishmas Am Yisrael designed to release the Shechina trapped in the galus of our suffering and to reset the will of the lower soul so that it is free of human nature and thereby we are unencumbered from exercising free will to serve Hashem with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might. Our esteem is our effort to do this work. The pleasure is the simple sincerity of moments of connection and clarity that help us build in our hearts a true temple for Hashem out of the fabric of the raw material He sends us transformed through our free willed choices and speech.
May our effort to triumph tzelem elokim in order to reflect Hashem’s Mercy into time and space create merits for Klal Yisrael and be the arousal from below to generate an arousal from above whereby Hashem will choose to deal with us according to rachamim over din. And may we soon be zocheh to see the light of redemption with the restoration of His Presence revealed in Yerushalayim.