Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Mah Tovu: An Organismic Whole

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The following comes from Reb Zalman on this week’s Torah portion, Balak.  [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman

When Balak called on Bilaam to come and curse the people, 

Balak, as we get it  from the Torah, was an Aramean, because Pethor, the city where Balaam was, was near the Euphrates and not quite where the Moabite country was.

[NOTE:  Numbers 22:5, “Balak sent messengers to … Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people.”]

now there are several words being used for curse:

The Zohar has a remarkable thing about how Balak was a magician. 

[NOTE:  Zohar Balak (3:184b) states that Balak was called “ben Tzipor because he would use a bird as a means to perform his magic and he also understood wisdom by way of a bird.]

For Balak, there was something impossible at that point about handling the Jewish people’s presence, and therefore, he wanted to have a kind of curse put on.  Not everybody believes that verbal curses or magic and voodoo can really influence things, but this is exactly what Balak wanted; he really believed that curses work.

The lightest curse is kal, l-kalel, which comes from “making light off,” and just sort of like, “insulting.”

The next one is arur which is really much stronger.  And it was this second kind of curse, arur, that Balak wanted to do. 

Aror is to remove the protection from somebody.  A person under the influence of a curse of Arur will not then be protected.  Then, the karmic power that was to have taken vengeance on a person is able to do so. 


The Four Worlds and the Economy

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Reb Zalman writes: 

The Four Worlds and the Economy was transcribed from talks I gave on two occasions covering how the Four Worlds impacts on the Physical Plane and, by extension, the economy.

“We are eager to find solutions for the current financial breakdown of society and the marketplace.  While we are giving our support to President Obama and giving him credit for his efforts to solve a global financial crisis, there is another perspective which comes from an awareness we can garner from our mystical tradition.  From the Four Worlds, we learn that changes in the Physical World, (i.e., financial), are energized from other planes of existence.  

“We must activate the repair across the board: Physical; Affective / Emotional; Mental / Intellectual; and Intuitive / Spiritual.  If we can successfully integrate with all the levels and access those other worlds, then we will nurture ourselves on higher planes along with our physical (financial) needs.  

“I hope these thoughts will help show ways we can do our part and this will thereby help with the president’s efforts so that they will bear fruit.  May you gain insights you need to steer through the difficulties of these times and may our efforts heal the markets of labor and goods, and of employment and housing.”

The Four Levels

by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

The union of male and female needs some explanation. 

[Note:  “The union of male and female” is employed frequently in traditional liturgy and chassidut representing redemption.  A world out-of-balance is like a husband and wife in separation, or the Shechina / Feminine God-aspect (literally, “Indwelling Presence”) exiled from the Kadosh Baruch Hu / Masculine God-aspect (literally “Holy One Blessed be He”).  Another usage is from the way of interpreting Shir haShirim / Song of Songs as an alegory of love between God (here considered masculine) and Israel (here considered feminine).  While traditional symbolism portrays this as a heterosexual union, this image may not work for all Jews.  Nonetheless, Reb Zalman’s point here is related to the physical and and the higher worlds and this message transcends orientation.  gabbai Seth.]


Election Day / Judgment Day

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Four years ago, Reb Zalman sent a letter to Rabbis regarding his suggestions for Election Day preparations.  In it, he compares Election Day and Yom HaDin / the Day of Judgment and recommends that they be approached in similar ways, with Selichot / Prayers of humility and forgiveness, and fasting.  Here’s the core ideas from the original letter, updated to reflect Reb Zalman’s thoughts for the current climate, as I heard them in a talk he recently gave for OhalahGabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“To my Fellow and Sister Rabbis:

Shalom.  This coming November 2008, we will undertake the mitzvah / obligation of voting. 

“Much depends on this election.  It is indeed a Yom Hadin / Judgment Day. 

“May God bless us with the wisdom to do what is right and to learn from what we have seen.

“May we, before entering the ballot chamber to vote, struggle with the questions of our time to the best of our abilities.  I want to do so with an open mind, and I urge you to do the same.

“A really important part of this process is to openly raise the kinds of questions with which we must wrestle if we are to learn anything from what has befallen us.


Envisioning Success in Annapolis

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

From Reb Zalman: 

“It seems to me that all of us need to exert our hope and faith for the success of the negotiations in Annapolis this week.  We should hold the image of a Middle East that has healed from its deep wounds.  On both sides the narrative has to be changed radically. 

“The atavistic reinforcement of reptilian brain reactivity cannot be changed by the mere ‘rational’ cortex language, the type of language that will be used during that conference.  

“It is not likely that the shift will happen without a spiritual transparency to the will of God and the healing of the planet. 

“There’s a missing ingredient, not to be found in any discussions of the peace issue from either side.  That ingredient is the recognition of a benefit of having the other as neighbor.

“At the moment, the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (also, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon), do not seem to see any benefit in having the democratic state of Israel as a neighbor in their midst.  And Israel also does not seem to see a benefit of having an Arab/Muslim/Palestinian state as an intrinsic entity either.

“Until this vision is added added, the discussions will lack something crucial, negatively influencing the likelihood of a peaceful outcome.