Reflections on Behalotecha – Kindling Character Traits from Apples from the Orchard – Arizal on the Parsha

This blog post is inspired by the above excerpt from Apples from the Orchard.

It is compassionate of Torah to tell us how we are spiritually constructed so that we may come, over time, through hisbodedus and contemplation, to apply more and more of our real free will to rectifying our character traits and the four foundations (earth, wind, water and fire).

There is a concept of run and return. Perhaps it is a familiar term to some and not to others, yet everyone experiences the emotions that put us in motion. The question becomes whether the actions or speech we take are revealing our true essence or not.

We may even have confusion over what our true essence is.

The Torah teaches us that there is a vessel and a filling, a body and a soul, a cup and water, a candlestick and a candle.

These are not one and the same, even though in delivering its purpose it appears to be one thing. A cup of water is something we view as a single whole, not as a cup and some water. It is integrated.

Watch how babies come into the world. Clenched fists, crying, totally dependent souls in body. One integrated unit in appearance, but in reality, it is a vessel called a body that is enlivened by a flow of compassion that is given a unique design by Hashem. Just as every snowflake is one substance, no two snowflakes have ever been identical.

There is an “operating system” called nature for the body. Hashem designs each body as well and in so doing, we all know these are hardly a unique design – variety abounds, along with challenges and various talents and gifts. There is a flow of compassion that surrounds every atom of the body, though, maintaining it with a compassion that is once again that universal enlivening flow.

These two flows are intended to meet within the heart of a person and unify.

How this happens is through the use of real free will.

The obstacles are unrectified character traits – influences from the raw elements of earth, wind, water and fire that flow through us (solid, gas, liquid and radioactive). And the obstacles often feel like they are dragging us over fiery coals.

If the whole world is surrounded by compassion and filled with compassion, why do we feel like we are being dragged over fiery coals? Why do we not experience a constant flow of compassion? Man has dominion over everything in the universe through the elements and our choices. Infinite light surrounds the world and is able to enter our hearts through our ingestion of food and our perceptions. We have natural reactions to these raw elements, as if the body and soul can be only one integrated unit according to the natural messages. Torah teaches us that the soul and thebo dy can become integrated according to the messages of Torah and emulating the thirteen attributes of Hashem’s compassion.

The work is for us to have the emunah to awaken ourselves and uplift our natural compassion.

Torah teaches us that Hashem is One. And we have a drive to implement the wisdom that we know. Ideally, our drive is to strive to live by the truth that Hashem is One. Yet we are in a fallen world and have a huge blind spot. And that blind spot is that we have compassion upon ourselves. Thus, it is easy for us to see that we may fall short of living as Torah demands -after all, coming closer to Hashem is an Infinite path and we do not want to feel inadequate or unworthy. Torah teaches us that it is a ladder and the goal is to make an effort to go up the ladder. We may fall down, but we keep our eyes upwardly focused.

What does this translate to?

I suggest twos questions.

Am I applying the compassion in my heart in a way that will expand and nurture awareness that Hashem is doing everything so that my will to implement His Oneness in my actionsh as that intent to the best of my current ability?

Have I shown compassion in a way that forgets or diminishes or adds concealment that Hashem is doing everything?

In all fairness, it is important to remember our design. Our nefesh elokis grows up with impressions from when we are very young based on the culture within our home of origin. whether or not these were healthy impressions, they are familiar and have a sense of comfort for that reason. What we are comfortable with may feel compassionate to us! Very often, our frustrations may be coming from clinging to the familiar and mistaking this for being compassionate.

Shall we ask the above two questions? Do we see how these questions help us discover the despair and the self-interest that may be an undertow away from Hashem is doing everything? Are we willing to name it to tame it – a projection of the Soton designed to help us use real free will and emunah to bring together the compassion that surrounds and fills all the worlds?

Are we willing to look inside with the understanding that our hesitation to do so may be only a vessel we are clinging to and not our essence? If we are aware that the strength and force of our hesitations is compassion trapped in a natural vessel, are we willing to depend on Hashem and pray for mercy so that we may restore that compassion to a place above our wisdom that may nurture awareness of Hashem?

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