Friday, April 27, 2007

Parsha Acharei Kedoshim:

We are poised here in the contemplation of holiness the consideration of which presents a challenge to our idea of what is our true vision. If you want to know where it is in mind that you may go searching then this is a question that must be answered as well as a perception that must be entered into in order to be shown the right way of being. You have the choice of seeing clearly through a lens of perfect clarity or you may also choose to view your world through a kaleidoscope of images some true some illusory. In these kaleidoscopes there are mirrors of reflection that deflect the clear light of vision.

The mirrors of reflection: Herein you mind bounces around experiences like a ping-pong ball runs helter-skelter through the game maze. Everywhere you turn you are confronted with the images of yourself, as you perceive the world around you. If you do nothing to change this all of your influences cannot help but be a confused jumble of information. There is no direction to this flow only a letting loose of momentum that is sure to spend itself frivolously.

The clear light of vision: Your thoughts are directed with a purpose that is connected to holiness. Each time you imbue yourself with this holiness by listening intently for it your world and everything in it take on a greater meaning. We are surrounded by thought energy at every moment impinging upon our consciousness in waves of emotion.

Lev 16:2 and the LORD said unto Moses: 'Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the ark-cover which is upon the ark; that he die not; for I appear in the cloud upon the ark-cover.

The proscription on approaching the ark carries the deepest meaning of all. Torah is like a coat that you wear when the weather turns cold. If you were to simply take the coat off and examine it in the minutest details you would discover its composition in terms of the fibers of the coat, its intricate design, its colors and its weight. All this could of course occupy centuries of inquiry. However, all the while you were doing this you wouldn’t be taking advantage of the primary reason for the coat in the first place which is to keep you warm. In similar fashion these verse in Leviticus dazzle us with myriad descriptions of what to do and how to do it. The details are staggering. The difference in discovery becomes a left-brain right brain thing. One may analyze to their heart’s content or intuit these meanings according to the moment in which they become revealed.

Left Brain

Looks at parts

Right Brain

Looks at wholes

This discussion must therefore proceed using a combination of both disciplines concentrating on the Right Brain abilities to draw in this information as our coat from the above analogy draws the warmth within as a hedge against the weather. What we are talking about here is entering inside of holiness. This holiness is the moment of communion we experience as we reach up for Hashem and receive the answering inspiration. We cannot be sure of our steps here therefore we have to tread lightly in the process so as not to lose our connection. If we try to take this connection by storm so to speak we will lose it. We will become dead to it. Hashem tells Moses to tell Aaron how to approach. Moses represents the certainty of the way to connection. Moses achieves connection in the most dramatic fashion ever since the burning bush experience in Sinai.

Ex 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: 'Moses, Moses.' And he said: 'Here am I.'
5 And He said: 'Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.'
6 Moreover He said: 'I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

Here is a wonderful metaphor for how each of us approaches holiness. It is ironic in the sense that all his life this is what Moses sought and then experiencing it he is afraid. This kind of thing happens to each of us in our search for connection. We experience this and then turn aside and like Adam in Gan Eden attempt to hide from Hashem. What is this turning away all about? It is the ego that doesn’t understand this communication. It is the left-brain association with the status quo that is fearful of this connection being afraid that it will become subsumed by such power and the awesome potential that this connection represents. Therefore Hashem or the connection itself tells Moses to teach Aaron about holiness and his approach to holiness so that he will not be afraid and be able to enter into connection completely. When Moses is told to take off his shoes it is because he was leaving the status quo or earthly way of looking at things. Aaron too must be prepared for holiness.

R. Apaisu and his donkey were walking down a country lane. Springtime was fully in bloom. The air was warm and intoxicating with scents and wonderful flying creatures buzzing and flitting here and there. It was just after noon and R. Apaisu found himself wishing for some cooling shade where he could enjoy his noon repast. No sooner did he have this thought when in the distance he spotted an oak grove around the bend to the right. Just as he came near to the trees his donkey chose that moment to do what donkeys do best which is to sit down on its haunches and start scratching its ears. The shade was no more than six feet away and R. Apaisu was tempted to simply go sit down and leave the donkey to its amusements however, it is never prudent to leave a donkey sitting there in the middle of the road. So he stayed with the donkey laughing at her comical efforts. The donkey looked up and heehawed sounding a little bit like a cross between an old wagon wheel creaking and that future donkey of renown the infamous Shrek. Eventually the she returned upright and hurried so quickly into the shade that R. Apaisu was taken by surprise. He was right in the middle of a reverie inspired by last nights meeting in Gan Eden with all of the sages. Curiously enough he remarked to himself as he followed a few steps until he was deep inside of the oak grove, even there in Gan Eden he remembered quite a few donkeys walking about in what seemed to be a discourse on humor and its relevance to Torah, especially when considering the portions in Leviticus but certainly applicable to the full range of Parshas studied throughout the year. It brought to mind an earlier discussion he had with Zov Tov perhaps the greatest Torah scholar Morocco had ever known and also a man whose heart overflowed with good will towards others. R. Apaisu sat down in the stillness and took out an apple and began to replay their conversation.

“Zov, one of my students was speaking with me the other day. He has such a problem with this double Parsha Acharei Kedushim and with Leviticus in general mainly because of all the blood and guts of the sacrifices. He loves animals and cringes at the seemingly senseless slaughter of these innocent creatures. What am I to tell him other than that this is the way it was and that this must be the right way as our sages tell us?” R.Apaisu asked sipping on some cool water taking away the heat of the day.

“R. Apaisu do you really think Hashem requires such things as sacrifices especially the taking life in such a gross manner? I know you’ll say they are humanely slaughtered according to all the rules of Kashrut. Still no one bothered to consult the animals about this did they? Aren’t meant to tend this garden and care for it in a responsible way? Let me change the subject for just a moment. What is the greatest thing that the holy one blessed be Elohim has ever given to us?” Zov Tov answered with his question.

“Zov I know well this answer we’ve discussed it many times before. Joy of course. This feeling of joy of simcha is our greatest treasure and the way that we may be assured that we are as one with the holiness that each of us feels within. In fact it is this very holiness that my student was speaking of having difficulty feeling when reading this Parsha.” R. Apaisu explained.

“Yes R. Apaisu I well understand this dilemma your student is having. Torah is a pretty serious matter isn’t it?”

“Well yes it is the most important document ever written,” R. Apaisu remarked. “There was a time when Torah was simply passed mouth to ear correct?”

“Yes and there are still stories from these times that are communicated just so.” Zov Tov answered him. “Listen you well know that there comes a time when the mind becomes so filled with the incongruity of events that it simply seeks escape and that escape is none other than the very holiness we are speaking. This holiness remains in such a stark contrast to the events depicted in this Parsha that any sensible person is directed immediately within this holy state of being. It is the contrast therefore that is being shown here,” Zov Tov told him while washing out his cup in a nearby cistern.

“You are right. It’s funny how Torah comes at you from within and without and so important as you always remind me about having a sense of humor. I used to make excuses for these sacrifices finding hidden meanings in the gematria of each word or repeated word but then I found that it all became even more convoluted so that I just wanted to get past these parts of the story. What you are saying then is that we have to jump past these gory details to get into the heart of holiness as Aaron was told to do when approaching the ark?” R. Apaisu asked.

“Yes exactly. You have hit upon something very profound. They don’t call you the Moroccan Menorah for nothing,” Zov Tov said as they both laughed. “I see this passage and others like it as a kind of a test for our intellect and indeed our higher natures. The temptation for the animal nature is to dwell upon these sacrificial deaths and to try and give meanings to them. It is very much like the ego to try and justify wrongdoing. However, when we see past these sacrifices as to what they are pointing to then the lesson is clear. It is holiness that we are to be imbued with pure and simple. Indeed ironically what this Parsha Acharei Kedoshim is telling us is that these sacrifices were never intended to persist as they did. The problems came about due to a literal interpretation of these passages. In the times of Moses the symbolism was very clear to these Children of Israel but now through the web of time and all of this whispering down the land what has been lost is the higher translation meant to bring us immediately into holiness. Thank you R. Apaisu. You always astound me with the keys you use to open the doors of Torah. It is remarkable that we have this friendship. It would have been enough to have been born just for this day to have this conversation with you,” Zov Tov walked over and embraced R. Apaisu. That afternoon quickly passed with more of their conversations until the silence of the night surrounded them.

R.Apaisu roused himself from his meditations of the day before and smiled to himself. He looked over at his donkey that was laying down relaxing over by a bush she had just picked clean. Most donkeys will sleep standing up but not this one. It took every opportunity to get off of its feet. The donkey looked over and snorted and R. Apaisu laughed and waved as the afternoon moved into twilight and the night birds began their songs.


Mark Siet


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