“See I present before you today a blessing and a curse.The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your Gd, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your Gd, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gds of others, that you did not know” Devarim: Re’eh: 11:26:28
Please take a moment to reflect on mercy: Beloved Children Rabbi Feinhandler Parshas Reeh
The goal of Elul is to create an arousal from below. That arousal is created when we triumph tzelem elokim over our natural urges or at least make a thoughtful plan based on introspection, where we perceive we need Hashem’s help to grow in our ability to do so, and set goals for ourselves for the upcoming year. Women interested in a 30 day telephone workgroup for cheshbon hanefesh are invited to join in at www.arousalfrombelow.com
Below are images to help describe how to triumph tzelem elokim over natural urges and still be loving and gentle to oneself and experience the joys and comforts we crave in our lives.
Hashem is all powerful and all kind. He is the source of all life force and the source of all vitality and goodness. Life force, power, is likened to fire and vitality, chesed, is likened to water. Fire and water are awe of Hashem and love of Hashem.
Hashem creates His Name with an emanation of His Light. His is the only Power there is. Through His Thoughts, Hashem creates Torah, His Name as a way for us to have a relationship with Him, and the soul of Nishmas Am Yisroel. The energy of the soul of mankind is powered by Hashem’s Thought. If He stops thinking of us, we evaporate into nothingness. The energy and power of Hashem stem from the upper yud of His Name and includes Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy that we cry out during the high holidays. (See tomer devorah links on this page). The power in the upper yud is referred to as the male waters, the giving force.
The first commandment is to know there is Hashem Who brought us out of Egypt to be our Gd. He is the only Giver. The Source for all vitality is Hashem. Water symbolizes chesed, revealed kindness. The first commandment corresponds to the utterance of Hashem Let there be light. With Hashem’s utterance, the upper kay of His Name is created, with speech, with the sefira of chesed. The entire universe comes into existence. Hashem has now created two avenues of extending into the world, through His Thought, which is fire, and through His Utterances, which is water.
The created world is formed through a contraction of Hashem’s light, which is concealed by the letters of the speech He utters giving the perceived world an outward identity masking His Chesed. Thus there is now a coating to His Glory with two parts, taiva covering the chesed, and gaiva covering the power. Nevertheless, the entire universe is filled only with His Glory. The purpose of the concealment is in order to create the opportunity for mankind to be able to choose or not to have awe in how Hashem has created us in order to have a relationship with us. Hashem desires to give to a being that contains His Image in order that the being can receive and enjoy that relationship.
Yet the coverings are also filled with Hashem’s Glory and when a person understands this and it is built into our thoughts and expressed in our deeds and speech, the glory that is concealed in the coverings is revealed once again bringing a special nourishment to the world that can only be brought through the free willed choice of a person.
Regardless of how we choose, because we have a tzelem elokim, free will, and the creative power of speech that is a Divine gift, our actions and speech are potent and create influence, either positive or negative, within the universe and within the heavens. What people do matters ! Our speech is creative and our choice of tzelem elokim over natural urges is the way the power appears in the world – the outer appearance can be something that we relate to as pleasure and happiness or heaven forbid, as suffering. Our intentions and words bring into time and space the “mask” over Hashem’s Glory. Our free willed choices matter more than we realize.
Hashem’s kindnesses are numerous – water, food, sunlight and more. We like to fill our plate with His Kindness. And He Loves us. Yet there is a kindness and a pleasure that is also available to us that we may never have experienced unless we have the Torah learning to know to seek after it. That pleasure is the joy of revealing Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy over the natural urges we may encounter.
Each person is made in Hashem’s Image, meaning we have a tzelem elokim that contains characteristics that resemble each way that Hashem is infinitely merciful and kind. Our tzelem elokim is poured into a body, a vessel, that is uttered into existence. Literally Hashem breathes a tzelem elokim into an earth-based form, covering the tzelem elokim, in order that we have the opportunity to choose to emulate Him AND to unmask His Glory from the utterances that He speaks which conceal His Glory in the natural world. All there is in the world is the Glory of Hashem. Hashem’s Glory fills the world. Hashem desires us, a person with a tzelem elokim covered over by a body and all our natural urges, to receive the power He sends to us and uplift it back to Him along with the glory hidden in the materials we take off nature to unmask and reveal His Glory in nature, including in human nature. All nature is composed of four basic elements, water, fire, wind and earth – liquid, radioactive, gas and solid. (see above reprinted for convenience: Nevertheless, the entire universe is filled only with His Glory. The purpose of the concealment is in order to create the opportunity for mankind to be able to choose or not to have awe in how Hashem has created us in order to have a relationship with us. Hashem desires to give to a being that contains His Image in order that the being can receive and enjoy that relationship.
Yet the coverings are also filled with Hashem’s Glory and when a person understands this and it is built into our thoughts and expressed in our deeds and speech, the glory that is concealed in the coverings is revealed once again bringing a special nourishment to the world that can only be brought through the free willed choice of a person.)
And here we are, a tzelem elokim in a body that immediately begins to develop its intellect, its ability to interact with the world, to learn and develop an image for ourselves, confidence, relationships, the ability to love and be loved and more.
By the time we are adults, we have developed a good picture of who we are, what our talents are, what we like and don’t like, what our challenges are, and more. We react emotionally when our image that we project for ourselves does not succeed, and we receive an insult, a rebuke, a rejection, a challenge or more.
We begin to question because our survival instincts from our physical being challenge the tzelem elokim for what happiness is. We all like to be seen in the manner that we project as who we are. Yet this is not always how we are treated. Without Torah, it is possible to make the mistake that our happiness depends on securing the dependency need through the approval of another or the goal that we are determined to reach in worldly terms. We make our effort, but without Torah, we do not realize that success depends only on Hashem.
What has happened to our image of ourselves? Why can’t we take the happiness we desire from the world? Is there something wrong with us? without Torah we begin to take the fire of our tzelem elokim and trap it in worldly matters that cause us to move farther away from Hashem’s attributes of mercy and we become bitter. Bitterness is a sign that we have trapped happiness in something that is not absolute truth, namely the image that we create for ourselves because Hashem gives us free will to do so.
The more we consider our image and ego as something solid, the more words we spend explaining ourselves and all the reasons we are hurt and offended. If happiness becomes trapped in the image and in our belief of the details we need to secure ego benefit, we are using the power of the life force that Hashem gives us to animate something small, diluting and lowering the order of the world in order to bring to a place that is really nothingness life force.
When our life force is not anchored in Hashem’s 13 middos harachamim, our existence gets drawn into a whirlpool toward the vortex of darkness that can pull us under. Without Torah, this is where we spend our energy, trying to stay out of the vortex, swirling. With Torah we have an ability make porous the ego so that the life force, our tzelem elokim, can be in contact and connect with Hashem’s 13 attributes of mercy at all times.
Thus when we see the first signs of fire, anger, fear, arrogance, judgment, or condemnations of self or others, we can properly and immediately understand that our tzelem elokim and sense of happiness have become trapped in a false place. And, with Torah, we know what to do, because the only power in the world is Hashem and if we have fire, it is in need of rising and conecting to Hashem once again. We have to bring the imagination of the ego that is experiencing lack aware of the Torah it needs for its own good to return to happiness being the experience of pleasure in reflecting Hashem. With that in mind, with love in our hearts and with awe in how Hashem creates us, we can take our next step.
Before a fire in a fireplace is lit, the floo has to be opened and the air in the chimney has to be heated. In this way, a flow of air up the chimney is begun. This flow of energy in the spiritual experience we are describing is our emunah. When we have emunah in Hashem and know that everything is good no matter what, and we choose to adjust our imperfect understanding back to that in order to restore the order of Hashem’s Glory being all there is in the world, we release the firey passion in the anger, fear, judgment, condemnation, arrogance and more so that the passion can ascend through passion for Torah learning and in tefilla asking Hashem to please help us cling to His 13 Attributes of Mercy. Once we begin redirecting the passion upwards, we have accomplished the first step of the BESHT process of teshuva of submission. This is from Hashem. It is good. It feels bitter and we cry out to open relationship.
once we submit the bitterness, with love in our hearts to reconnect happiness to Hashem’s 13 attributes of mercy, we can begin to rectify the elements of human nature from the ego that covered over Hashem’s glory in water, fire, wind and/or earth with the intention of now using the passion to burn off the mask over those elements as they exist in our makeup. Just as we go to an eye doctor who puts lenses over our eyes to correct our vision, so too can we correct the elements of water, fire, wind and earth in our human nature. With love in our heart for hashem and awe for how He creates the world, we can realize that He is asking us to release the Shechina from the mask He utters over His Glory as it exists in our specific human nature . Hashem is willing to suffer with us in this bitterness in order to give us the opportunity to say Hashem is One for which He gives us eternal reward! When we look at the bitterness to find the desire, the taiva, that was our image but not the good that the Source of all vitality uttered as good and to find the anger or fear, the gaiva, that was our image but was too solid and trapped the passion for Torah and prayer in a worldly search for happiness, we are literally redeeming the Shechina from the galus of our human nature. As we do, we gain access to that life force, that passion and that glory for experiencing the happiness of reflecting a greater amount of hashem’s 13 attributes of mercy into the world. The example of this is when Avraham got up to greet the three travelers knowing that rising above his nature to do a mitzvah would give him a greater experience with Hashem. Throwing into the firey passion of Torah learning and prayer whatever impurities compose the mask over what conceals Hashem’s revealed good in our nature is our burnt offering and confirms to Hashem our love and awe of Him, our desire to uplift this world, and to draw His 13 Attributes of mercy into time and space in a stronger passionate way. our identity really becomes our effort to do so rather than the impurities we throw into the caldron to burn off lower levels of existence.
The power of the life force that comes from Hashem to us through our tzelem elokim then flows upwards in His service. When we express it in our actions and speech, we are connecting the life force with the revealed glory of what had been concealed in the elements of our human nature. doing so nourishes the universe in a way that only people can do. This is the arousal from below through which we affirm with love and awe of Hashem that we have solid emunah and experience our connection with Him as tzelem elokim as reality over the image of ourselves that is ego based. We know we have been granted success when we experience calmness, find ourselves no longer headed toward the vortex of the whirlpool. Instead, we feel excited and experience the sweetness of reflecting Him into our actions and speech.
We are the neck that connects heaven and earth. When we force our passion with emunah back to connecting to the Source of the life force, Hashem, out of love and awe of Him and a desire to serve Him and bring His 13 attributes of mercy to the world, we complete a loop that nourishes the universe and increases our capacity for pleasure, real pleasure, that being the experience of reflecting His attributes into the world as a stronger system for doing so. Hashem fully knows what comforts and individual desires we long for. He wants to give them to us. But it is crucial that we understand our primary functioning and where the good comes from. Otherwise, it truly is NOT good for us to have what we want, for it traps happiness in externalities and keeps us far from our primary role as a system of life force here to experience the pleasure of reflecting Hashem into time and space so that HIS Glory can be seen in this world.
May our efforts and excitement to embark on the journey of uplifting our human nature for the purpose of releasing the Shechina from the galus of our egos, out of love and awe of Hashem, demonstrate our emunah and total trust in Him and how He has designed the world, and may that create the arousal from below that will signal to Hashem that we have done or are committed to doing teshuva and are the generation meritorious for redemption b’ahava, may it be this hour.