Spiritual Jerusalem

In the Judaic religion we’re guided to say the prayers of the sages, which include many psalms from King David. Many people believe that these prayers will soften God’s intention, and ease the stress that exists in their lives. But kabbalists have a different approach. They realize that the Creator does not change. The oneness of the universe is constantly in flowing harmony with itself. They insist that when we open our hearts and minds to this flow of loving energy, we will be able to experience this oneness in our lives. Then the disharmony will ease. This is our path–to learn how to become more like this flow of loving oneness, to love our fellow as our self.

This is also true of Jerusalem. It takes a deeper spiritual understanding of Jerusalem (city of peace), to ease the stress that has existed there up until now. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK, reminds us in this detail from the Tanach (bible):

“Outside the United Nations building in New York is a wall bearing the famous words of Isaiah: ‘He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’ Too often the nations of the world forget the words that immediately precede these: ‘For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ ”

So this is our choice: to learn and grow in our awareness, so that we can assist in the flow of goodness, or stay with the status quo and deal with all the challenges that are in the world today. We are being given the opportunity to discover this loving light within ourselves so that we will then share this love with the rest of the world. It’s up to us.

How do we move forward from here?

Maybe it’s time to talk about the next level of development in human society. We’ve seen so many accomplishments, from computers to travels in outer space, which can make us feel like we’ve done all we can do on this planet. But when we look at the disagreements, and economic disparity between the rich and poor all over the world, we can see that there’s still more that needs to be accomplished.

What we need to uncover now is a deeper realization of our capacity for integrity, which the dictionary defines this way:

integrity |in_tegrit_| noun
1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
2. the state of being whole and undivided
• the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction
• internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data

Integrity is a level of awareness that guides us from within when we’ve learned to develop it through life’s lessons—it’s a sense of responsibility for every word we say and everything we do, to the point where we always want to do the right thing in every situation. This is a huge responsibility, and most of us seem to fall far short of it in many ways for a variety of reasons. So learning about it and coming into this realization usually demands more of what we understand about ourselves than we really want to think about.

But now we’ve come to a time when the rich and famous are being brought down out of the stratosphere of wealth and privilege in a way that couldn’t have been imagined just a short while ago.

The definition from the dictionary can really help us to see how to move forward from here. The “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” actually comes from a person’s “state of being whole and undivided” within one’s self.

So our next step needs to be one of understanding the unique and precious wholeness of our own being, by conscientiously being respectful of our own self. This appreciation of our own uniqueness, and, of course, our precious vulnerability, can heighten our awareness of the beauty we each carry within us. As we acknowledge the importance of our own unique life, we can begin to recognize that others around us are also unique, and therefore also precious individuals, and we can learn how to respect their vulnerability just as we can learn how to respect our own.

This does take deep, careful thought—contemplation that can gently lead to loving-kindness between us. It does take time to become more aware of our capacity to develop integrity, but we can find that we are all made in a way where this is our next step forward into a more compassionate, integral society. It is possible to uncover the inner knowing that is already hidden within your own heart.

Coming into harmony with the paradox of being.

Judaism, as well as many other religions, appears to speak of God as separate from us. In our prayers we often ask for help from “above” to give us what we need for material and spiritual sustenance. But Kabbalah and Chassidus say that God is all there is—Infinity itself, Ayn Sof, without end. So where are we humans in all of this? How can we understand our place in this endless realm of space?

We are used to seeing ourselves as physical creatures who walk on top of the earth. We usually see the world from our own unique perspective, where everything we experience appears to be outside of us, separate from us in every way. All people are separate from each other, the material world is made of different substances, and this can occasionally cause us to feel very distant, even isolated sometimes, from everything else.

But as soon as we consider that we live within our planetary ecosystem, relying on the whole process of air and water and soil on the planet to feed and support our lives, we have to acknowledge that we live in symbiosis with everything that exists here on earth. Our survival literally depends on the continuous sustenance of the planet.

And then, going one step further, our planet can only survive by continuously spinning on its own axis and traveling around the sun. According to astrophysicists, planet earth is traveling at a speed of 18.5 miles per second (30 km/sec), simply to travel around the sun! And the sun—in fact, our whole solar system—is, at the same time, traveling around the Milky Way Galaxy, at a speed of 143 miles per second (230 km/sec)! All of this is happening all of the time, throughout every moment of time.

With all of this occurring without any effort from us, we have to realize that this could not possibly be happening by chance. In reality, nothing is happening by chance—even everything that we create here on earth comes not by chance, but from our own thought. We have to think of an idea before it can come into being. Everything we humans have ever made, from the brilliance of space flight to simply making a cup of tea, comes from our own thought before it can exist. How much more so, then, must the universe have conscious thought to create everything that exists in space?

This is the paradox and the beauty of Kabbalah, which reassures us that even though we didn’t create the planet, or the sun, or the galaxies, we humans are made in a way that we can come into harmony with the Oneness of it all. How awesome is that?! We are creatures existing on just one of the planets in this vast universe, and yet we can each have access to experience the harmony of this amazingly interconnected Oneness!

However, we can only attain this experience when we understand what real harmony is. And this is not as difficult as you might think. We each have the capacity to create it between ourselves, simply by showing respect and compassion to everyone and everything on earth. It requires that we make a commitment to remember not to do any harm to others in the same way that we wouldn’t want any harm done to us. This is often given as the “golden rule” that exists within all religions. When we maintain this compassionate approach toward everyone and everything in life, we can eventually develop the holy intention of loving our fellow human beings as we love our own self. And then, when we are ready to open up our mind and our heart to this clearer vision of our world and everything that exists in it, we can find that the wisdom of the universal Oneness will gently open up more access to the light, so that we can see the loving, harmonious connection we actually already have with each other and with the universe itself.

Why are we so blasé?

Looking in wonder at the beautiful double rainbow this morning (Friday, just after 7am), and then experiencing the rain, hearing the thunder, and seeing the lightening, I can only acknowledge that there is no earthly power like this. This powerful force is way beyond any human capacity. Of course, I can think of the logical, physical explanations for all the things I can see and experience, but our human abilities are completely dwarfed by this august power. Primitive people long ago would cower in fear of the great gods they imagined were creating all these natural occurrences, so why are we so blasé about it all now?

Well, we began to understand the scientific reasons that made all these seemingly magical activities happen. We humans could explain the logic behind our magnificent world. We no longer needed to fear such magnificent power. Maybe this is why people fear the Jews. Judaic teachings insist that we still need to realize there is an amazing wisdom beneath the surface of all that we see, even though we do recognize the scientific explanations for everything that occurs. We still know, in our heart of hearts, that we could never explain in earthly, scientific terms, why this planet even exists, or why we all live here on its surface, going through all that we keep going through.

Our Judaic ancestors taught us that the wisdom that brought us here, and made us who we are, is still taking care of us, whenever we are able to pay attention to it. Our prophets and sages insisted that we have to take notice, to make time, every Sabbath, as well as during the week, to acknowledge this higher wisdom, because it takes a great amount of time to connect with this amazing love that is carefully hidden within our hearts.

I believe that the rest of the world is jealous of such a connection as this. Some have gone on to discover it for themselves, and some even think that they can claim we no longer have it, but this is the kind of connection that can never leave us. We can be grateful to those among us who have always known and always continued to honor this wisdom throughout our two thousand years of exile.

So now, with all the craziness that is happening in the world and in the United States at this time, we have to wake up to the blessings that were given to us so many thousands of years ago. We have to learn how to live in the teachings of our sages until we come to realize, once again, that we were given a gift that is the greatest blessing anyone could receive. We have to understand that the Torah is giving us the truth, even though this truth is hidden within the stories we read in every week’s parshah.

We are promised peace: “If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will provide your rains in their time … and you will dwell securely in your land. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you.” (Lev.26:3-6)

Ghandi is known to have said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Judaism demands even more of us: to transcend the physical aspects of the world, while still being in a physical body. This is clearly not a simple matter, but it is what we are designed to ultimately do. Our halachic guidelines have taught us the required behavior to begin our transcendence while still keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground. But this was just a beginning. We now need to understand in more detail the greater plan for our planet, which will give us a more harmonious, cooperative way to experience and enjoy our lives here on earth.

Spreading love

The creative process of life is all about love. When we consider that so many of us yearn for love in our lives, it seems amazing that we’re so hesitant to live in a way that could spread it all over the world. I believe that we’ve resisted creating an open and trusting society because we’ve been limited by a natural, protective layer of fear.

This world has seen so much fear. It’s so easy to create and so hard to undo. Somehow our minds hold on to fear more easily than love. We value fear as a reasonable response. We laugh at love as a vulnerable feeling. So many of us find it hard to believe that love could be a solution for anything, and yet that is what we all crave—even though some don’t want to admit it. That would mean we’d have to acknowledge our own vulnerability. No one likes to see his or her self as vulnerable, but that is really what we are.

It takes courage to look into what’s holding us back from creating a more harmonious world. It takes admitting and confronting our fears on a personal and societal level before we can disentangle ourselves from the dysfunctional complexities in our lives. Only then, when we are each ready to face our own struggles head on, can we begin to ease any suffering and gradually experience relief.

A reason why

It’s natural to wonder why we have to go through this demanding, educational process in life, especially when it can sometimes cause us such distress. It would be so much easier to just live and let live. But this is what we’re given; we didn’t create the way the world works. When these challenges come they usually stretch us in ways we often can’t understand while we’re going through them. It’s only after we’ve resolved any difficulty that we get to see how much we’ve learned and how much better things can be on the other side of it.

Once we’re ready to accept that we’ve each been given a unique and precious life for a reason, we can start to discover—even through the challenges—that there’s a more enlightened way to be our full self and to succeed in whatever we attempt to do.

Every one of us is born into a space that we have to rise above; when we’re ready to learn from our mistakes and gradually overcome any obstacles life sends our way, each new lesson we’re given can increase the possibility that our challenges will finally cease, never to happen again in our own or our children’s lifetime. As we gradually develop the strength to work through and overcome any negative pressures in life, we can create more positive experiences that will allow love to flourish.

(Excerpt from The Way The World Works – Myra Estelle)

Why count the omer?

The Counting of the Omer is truly inner work. We can’t just say each number and then move on. The kabbalists who declared the need for this counting, every day between Pesach and Shavuot, were asking every person who follows the Judaic path, to reach within for a deeper comprehension of who we really are.

It’s so important to realize who we are at a time like this. When we’re being questioned by so many in the world who ask us why we are Jews, and why do we need Israel, we have to know who we really are. This is not just a personal inquiry—this is also a question for us to understand why the nation of Israel needs to exist. Why, indeed are we here? What, in fact, are we trying to accomplish?

When we learn how to answer these deep questions with clarity, we’ll know how to move forward in a safe, enlightened direction.

To be sure, there are many practical reasons for Israel to exist. When we know that throughout the 2,000 years of exile, when Jews were forced out, so many times, from a country they were in, and had to search for another place to live, a homeland can give us a safe haven. And we know that we can find great comfort just by being observant in Judaism, even if we simply follow the laws without always knowing why they were given.

But this is not enough to explain why we insist on staying in the Middle East, surrounded by countries, with terrorists in their midst, who clearly don’t want us there. We need to know that much more is being demanded of us than simply creating a state so that we can live under our own authority, like every other country.

We Jews are part of a much more awesome story. When we were told that we were to be the “light to the nations,” it wasn’t just to enhance life for everyone in the world on a material level. We can see that even though many in Israel are inventing and creating wonderful solutions for problems in the material world, anti-semitism still exists.

No. We were given teachings that can lift us up above the usual, earthly way of living life, so that we can reach a higher, clearer, much more awesome way of experiencing our lives. This is why the kabbalists set up most of our prayers and holiday rituals, teaching us that we have to rise above the way the world thinks. They say we have to rise “above reason.” This means we have to learn how to see the world from God’s perspective.

The way to do this is to learn how to tune into the inner depths of our soul, as we’re required to do when we count in the way the kabbalists designed for us. We have to reach for the inner part of us that is already connected to the higher, divine wisdom of the universe, and then take the time to patiently listen for the loving words that you can only hear when you sit for a while in absolute silence.

It’s only when we expand our realization that we each carry within us the loving support of the higher consciousness of the universe, that we’ll understand the need to develop our ability to live in harmony with its wisdom. And it helps to know the structure of our own soul, by learning about the seven sephirot of our emotions.

So we can’t just count. If that’s all you’re doing every day, even with the bracha (blessing), just stop and think of what you’re really being asked to do. Remember: you wouldn’t have been given this profound task if you weren’t going to be helped to do it on a deep, awesome level.

What’s missing in the political discourse?

When we hear various people discussing how they would solve the problems of the world during this political time, it’s interesting to notice that not one of them speaks of love. No one mentions stopping their own judgment or hatred. Each person speaks about the problem with the other guy or gal.

However, if we have a problem with someone’s behavior, it’s often considered that there could be a little of their behavior in us too. This is not said to give us a feeling of guilt — it’s meant to wake us up to the fact that we need to first notice our own shortcomings before we can judge someone else. An interesting result of recognizing this same trait in our self can mean that we heal something that limits us. And when we do that, the other person’s problem usually won’t appear before us again, because we’ve learned the lesson we were being taught by the universe, and therefore we don’t need to see that problem any more!

Where is Queen Esther when you need her?

With so much up in the air this year, and now the tragedy in Brussels, we have to look, even more closely, into our inner relationship with the higher consciousness of all life. As what I wrote last year before Purim still holds true, here it is again:

Who are you going to be on Purim? Mordecai? Esther? King Ahasuerus? The Courtiers? or Haman? Each of the characters in this tale always seems to be in the right place at the right time, to move the story along at exactly the right pace to (spoiler alert) save the Jews from disaster!

Everything in this tale in Persia seems to be happening by chance, without any hint that there’s a distinctly concealed flow of movement throughout this whole Megillah. But when we look more closely, we get to see that all of these seemingly coincidental happenings were clearly going through a synchronistic process to save the Jews, just in time, from a deadly fate. Only then can we notice that these coincidences were really no coincidence at all—they were actually part of an ingenious divine plan.

Fast forward to now, to modern day Persia—Iran. Just like it was in the days of the Purim story, Iran is menacingly threatening the Jews. And just as it was then, it’s up to us to save ourselves. Just as before, we need to know that God hasn’t left us alone in the world to fend for ourselves. We need to remember that divine wisdom is still here, forever present within us at every moment, to support us on our way.

Every one of us has to summon up the courage of Queen Esther and bravely face present day challenges. Clearly, we have to take care of whatever we physically can, but once we come to realize that the ancient teachings in the Megillah are still true today—that there really is a greater wisdom beneath the surface of our physical, material world—we’ll be able to notice, and gradually accept, that the greater, underlying source of all life is protecting every one of us, and will give us the insights we need to prevail.

The prophet Malachi explained it so well: “For I, God, have not changed; and you, children of Jacob, have not ceased to be … Return to Me and I will return to you, says God … and I shall have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.” (Malachi 3:6-7, 17)

When we’re ready to deeply contemplate this reality with all of our heart, soul, and might, we can begin to discover the serendipitous flow of life that can give us the profound support we each need.

So whichever character we decide to portray this Purim, we’ll be able to recognize who we really are: every single one of us is the star of our own Megillah.

What do we stand for?

With all the challenges against Judaism occurring in Israel and other parts of the world at this time, we need to be clear about who we are and what we stand for.

Judaism teaches that every one on earth has a life that is uniquely precious. And when we start to take this unique preciousness seriously, we can find that there is more to who we are than we could ever have imagined.

Deep inside every one of us is a source of consciousness that is beyond our usual awareness. This is a greater consciousness that can only be experienced when we are open to receiving its wisdom in the stillness of our being. This is the part of the conscious universe—the one we call God—that is always present inside of us when we take the time to listen from within. This is what Moses was commanding us to do when he declared: “Shema!!” “Listen to the Oneness that belongs to you!”

With all the challenges against Judaism occurring in Israel and other parts of the world at this time, we need to be clear about who we are and what we stand for.
Judaism teaches that everyone on earth has a life that is uniquely precious. And when we start to take this unique preciousness seriously, we can find that there is more to who we are than we could ever have imagined.

Deep inside every one of us is a source of consciousness that is beyond our usual awareness. This is a greater consciousness that can only be experienced when we are open to receiving its wisdom in the stillness of our being. This is the part of the conscious universe—the one we call God—that is always present inside of us when we take the time to listen from within. This is what Moses was commanding us to do when he declared: “Shema!!” “Listen to the Oneness that belongs to you!”

It’s only when we think we are separate from our planet, and separate from the vast expanse of the conscious universe, that we feel isolated, vulnerable, and powerless; when we can come to terms with the fact that we are each an integral part of the Divine consciousness of the universe, we can begin to realize that whatever we experience here on earth is given to raise our awareness of the inner connection we have to this greater wisdom.

Our Judaic teachings were passed down to us to guide and support us into a life of enlightened awareness, so that we could develop the kind of humility that would open up our minds and allow us to discover the awesome and powerful connection we each have with the brilliant wisdom of God. This realization can empower us, and strengthen us in all that we do.

The great kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto taught that we all live within the realm of this conscious energy of God. He wrote:
“God has influence over everything that exists at all levels of existence. God arranged all created things in a system of steps and sequences, thus all details of existence are sustained.”

Cosmic Wi-fi System

We don’t need to know how a car engine is put together in order to drive it. We don’t need to know who made a computer program in order to use it. We just need to know how these things work so that we can enjoy using them. The same thing goes for life on planet earth–When we know how to relate to the way the world works, we can discover how to experience it with joy.

“The Way The World Works” celebrates the fact that we all live within a matrix of conscious energy. We’re all tuned into a cosmic wi-fi system of consciousness. When we recognize and live within this flow of conscious energy, we can discover freedom from fear. www.myraestelle.com