Vessels of Receptivity this Shavuot

Dear Friends:  For your Shavuot celebrations, please read the following, Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor:

From Reb Zalman
Date: 2008/05/30 Fri PM 12:48:11 EDT

With Shavuot coming next week, we have been preparing for receiving the Torah, and I have been occupied with some concerns I want to share with you.

Professor Heschel taught that the Torah is an answer to our questions. This is a wonderful way to look at it, emphasizing that it’s not just one-sided, with God sending down.

So the questions we bring are important.

Alas, I fear we have forgotten what the questions were.

One of the ways we traditionally prepared for the questions was by reciting the catalog of Written and Oral Torah during the night of Shavuot, called a Tikkun of Shavuot / Repairing of [our condition at this time on the planet through receiving Torah on] Shavuot. It included a digest of a few sentences from the beginning and the ending of every Parshah of the Chumash, then the same from the rest of the books of the Tanakh / Scriptures, and then Mishna, Talmud and Zohar. This was our preparation for the questions.

The story is told of Rabbi Aaron of Karlin: After having spent a night doing the Tikkun of Shavuot with his Hasidim, he announced to them from the pulpit, “Now deliver the goods,” as if to say, “Enough at the catalog.   Now, we have studied Torah and must fulfill what the Torah said.”

The reciting of this Tikkun Shavuot was intended to stimulate receptivity for those parts of the Torah that need to come down.

So we need to be sure we are in touch with the right questions for our time.

From a mystical perspective, it is clear that “A bat Kol / heavenly voice comes forth every day from Mount Sinai” (Avot 6:2), implying that any divine event is not limited to time and space.  It therefore depends on us to create vessels of receptivity, vessels which are to be filled by the revelation descending to us. (At times, people maintain that the revelation isn’t happening in our day and age, but this is because they are not preparing the containers for it.)

There is a wonderful tale in the Tanakh, of a wife of one of the sons of the prophets (Kings 2, 4:1, ff.). Her husband had recently died, apparently in a spiritual exercise. She is now destitute and in debt and, her sons are to be indentured to a harsh creditor. When she pleads with Elisha to help her, he suggests that she gather empty containers, as many as she can find or borrow, and that she then begin to pour from a small flask of oil that she already had in her possession into the empty ones. From this small flask she is able to pour and pour and fill all the empty containers. This gives her the necessary money to settle her late husband’s debt.

When the last container she has was filled, the text states, “and now the oil stopped.”

I’m saying that the vessels of oil are like our vessels of receptivity from questions that are the real concerns for this time. Without them, we will not receive the revelation required at this time.

Now I want to share the list of my containers with which I hope to approach Mattan Torah / Giving of the Torah. But first, I want to speak of how I see the Sinai theophany right now.

In our tradition there are varied voices and opinions about what took place at Sinai.

“Did we hear all the 10 Commandments?”

“You heard only the first two? And were they said at the same time?”

“She only heard the word Anokhi?”

“He said all he heard was the Aleph with the Kammatz, while they said it was only the Aleph without a vowel.”

Regardless what form it takes, the most important thing is that we might hear the basic “Anokhi” / I am YHVH your God. The Anokhi is the connection and it is behind all the answers and revelations of the solutions to our problems.

When you read the questions that have been agitating me, you will see that I am needing to hear the Anokhi that comes from our mother the earth, from Gaia.

Do not worry. This Anokhi does not really make God smaller.

If you remember fractals, there is the Anokhi in the center of our personality replicated in the fractal of the Anokhi in the immediate environment, in turn, transcended by the global Anokhi and again transcended by the solar Anokhi, which once again is transcended by the galactic Anokhi and that, in turn by the cosmic Anokhi and then the transcosmic infinite Anokhi.

The questions that agitate me at this time can only come from Terran, global, Gaian Anokhi.

Here, is a list of those containers with which I hope to approach Mattan Torah for 5768:

  • Ecology and eco-systems
  • Economy
  • Overpopulation
  • The high cost of living not matched by the income; the general impoverishment of the middle and lower classes
  • The number of hungry and homeless
  • Poverty
  • Starvation
  • Diseases, (AIDS, etc.)
  • Wars and terrorism
  • Religious bigotry
  • An absence of guidelines for family ethics
  • An absence of guidelines for sacred sexuality
  • Sacramental eating, healthy eating so that the dinner table becomes an altar
  • Ways to prepare ourselves so we will reap the benefits of good night sleeps
  • Ways to look at our current technologies to build the current sanctuary.
    • (Just as we derive the 39 kinds of work forbidden on Shabbat from the work of the artisans who built the sanctuary, and this was rooted in the technologies of that time, so we now reverse this idea. As then, we need to construct our sanctuary based on the technologies of our day which will help us increase our reach.)
  • Cloning
  • Space travel
  • Issues in all aspects of psychology and sociology, especially the transpersonal psychology and transpersonal sociology
  • Research in spiritual and ethical formation
  • Taming the reptile; riding the mammal in us
  • Finding the optimal use of ethnicity
  • Researching into usage of words, how they currently lock us into the wrong forms of thoughts, a sub Esperanto, improvement, semantics, epistemology so that we feel, think and know appropriately in the revelation that comes down
  • Arts and aesthetics in the service of healing the planet
  • Feminism and justice for GL BT
  • Money, currency, finances and investments
  • We have the ability to explore outer space, like the way the Mars exploration goes on, but we are still primitive when it comes to mind exploration and inner space
  • Being open for divine input into the continuity of circumcision
  • Our work on eco kashrut (it is still primitive)
  • The penal system and the death penalty; gun possession
  • Karma clearing; Recycling; Composting

And to hear all this in the Anokhi of the earth.

9 Responses to “Vessels of Receptivity this Shavuot”

  1. Ayla Says:

    Thank you dear Gabbai Seth for all your great work!

  2. Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill Says:

    I want you to know that I really appreciate your including me in these Words of Wisdom from my Rebbe and Teacher, Reb Zalman. I came to Jewish Renewal through his book “Paradigm Shift,” and continue to marvel at his ability to touch and teach. He is a true tzaddik.

  3. Laura Says:

    Thank you for good thoughts. I love the idea of Anokhi at so many different levels, feeding into the idea of fractals, the vessels of receptivity and the idea of being mindful of what are our questions for this time and space in which we are living. I could just go round and round and keep coming back to contemplate on these things. One thing that I also am contemplating at this time is the cycles of life (which would probably fit under your “ecosystems” question) and how things turn again, renew, live, die, repeat themselves but also in the repeating there are variations on the theme that create beauty in new intricate ways patterns old yet familiar and new at the same time.

  4. Shira Szabo Says:

    While the list of “vessels of receptivitiy” from Reb Zalman are extensive, each one brings me to the question of how do I “see”, “feel” and “relate” to God in each. In other words, where is God in these pictures of life on the planet? Someone recently said they heard of a study whereby people’s use of their time was being analyzed from a monthly perspective….8 hours using the bathroom, 240 hrs sleeping, so many hours eating, etc. The point of the study was to reveal the fact that very few hours are spent in “meaningful ways”. This analytical approach to our use of time bothered me. There was an absence of sanctity in our rituals of eating, sleeping, lovemaking, etc. In reality I felt there was an absence of God consciousness in ALL of our ways of being. So in returning to Reb Zalman’s list of containers I find myself asking the question: “How do I experience or relate to God in ecology and eco-systems, in wars and terrorism, in space travel, in karma clearing…etc.? Where is the Anokhi? And is it not possible to regain an all-embracing consciousness of God if I just begin with any one of the containers? Would my awareness and love of God grow exponentially if I held the intention of experiencing God in a particular container? In other words, from my particular life focus, could I begin to connect with Anokhi in ALL aspects of planetary life?

  5. Gloria Says:

    Thank you for making this teaching available. Our congregation will be discussing it during our Shavuot night of study.

  6. Eleora bat Yisrael v'Carole Says:

    Thanks, Reb Zalman, for your multi-faceted teachings. Your light continues to brighten the world. May you stay in good health so that (halavai) we can enjoy High Holydays together again.

  7. Gloria Orenstein Says:

    In your teaching, I feel the interconnectedness and alignment in time of our reception of the Torah and the transformation in our country’s leadership. May our next leaders be guided by the wisdom of this teaching, weaving the spiritual, the temporal, the political, and the ethical into an illuminated fabric of life on earth, guided by wisdom. May “enlightenment” recover its true meaning. Thank you for these sacred vessels of transformation.

  8. Devorah the singer and healer Says:

    Meditation on the Anokhi based on Reb Zalman’s holy words is a deep blessing. It has led to a question: Is it useful or beneficial to maintain a deep well of joy regardless of outer circumstances elucidated in Reb Zalman’s message? For, on Shavuos night, that is what I have experienced, and the blessing of carrying that into my daily activities here in the Big Apple…

  9. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Dear Devorah the singer and healer:
    A “deep well of joy” sounds like a good thing. I think anyone would want one. In terms of, “regardless of outer circumstances,” I remember Reb Zalman saying that the building blocks of prayer are the gaguim, the yearning, longing, bringing to God of our requests to fix those things that need fixing. So I would think that broken things in outer circumstances aren’t just replaced with deep wells of joy.

    Can one feel joy too while connecting to brokenness? A famous Reb Zalman quote: “Consciousness is like tofu (i.e. it is pretty neutral). If you ‘marinate’ it in kvetch, you will have kvetch. If you ‘marinate’ it in joy you will have joy.” (I think this is in “Jewish with Feeling” and other places too. Sorry, not at my fingertips.) So this suggests that we can choose regarding consciousness. Certainly, it is better for us health-wise to be positive and optimistic and also in terms of interactions with those around us. But it seems we are in touch with the pain too.

    Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

Leave a Reply