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.

How can we feel better?

Instead of remembering the pain of the past, it’s time for us to realize that we can create a much better future by simply taking care of it. We each have the potential to make things better for ourselves and for everyone around us. We can enhance our experience as soon as we recognize how amazing it is that we all live together on this one little planet that spins and travels around the sun.

All we have to do is make a commitment to make life better! Every day, in whatever we have to do that day, we have to have the intention to do something that will benefit someone in the world, or will benefit the planet itself.

It’s amazing how many people think that they have to see what they can get out of this life—how much money they can make or how many things or people they can control—but when we’re ready to face each day with the intention to do something good for others, we’ll find that we can experience a wonderful feeling of joy that resonates within us.

So, the next time you feel a little low, do something good for someone else—a phone call, a gift, even a smile, can make another person’s day a little brighter. Then notice how good you feel. Try it—it always works!

In case you think I’m just writing a self-help article, think again. This was the philosophy of Rabbi Yehuda Lev Ashlag, who lived in Jerusalem until he left the world in 1955. He explained, throughout his writings, that we should acknowledge that we are always receiving everything that God is constantly giving to us—like air, and water, and soil to grow our food—and then, he teaches, we should start to emulate God, and learn how to give.

We are all creators

Do you remember when you were a young child, and you loved to paint/draw/build/dress up/pretend to be a super-hero/climb/run/sing/dance/etc. etc. etc.? What you were doing was basking in the joy that’s found in the right-hemisphere of your brain! When you were allowing your imagination to let go of the practical realities of the physical world, you were imagining greater possibilities of who you could be.

Now fast forward to the present time. Are you still allowing yourself to express your right-hemisphere in a way that gives you joy? Or have the practicalities of life separated you from your imagination? The bills, the responsibilities of life—have they overtaken your thought process and limited your potential for fun? You are obviously still the same person as you were when you were a young child, so what changed?

It’s that pesky left-hemisphere that sits next to the right-hemisphere in your brain, telling you to be practical, to deal with the day-to-day realities, to see what needs to be done, what things have to be taken care of, what bills have to be paid. The left-hemisphere is not at odds with the right-hemisphere—it just wants to make sure that your feet are on the ground, that every one of us can be responsible human beings.

But the right-hemisphere in all of us is still available to enable us to imagine great things. It just takes a little longer, as an adult, to receive its possibilities, to realize its expansive perspective. When we stop for a moment—when we resist the logical demands of the left-hemisphere, and allow ourselves, just for a few short moments to breathe slowly, quietly, gently, softening into the peace that exists within each one of us, we can get a glimpse of our own true self, the one we thought we’d left behind many years ago. We can tune into our own true potential, and find ourselves lifted into a tremendous feeling of joy.

This is the creative energy that exists within each of us when we’re ready to tune into it. Some have mastered the art of balancing the left- and right-hemispheres, allowing the creative thoughts of the right- to be more clearly understood in the left-, and then be brought into the world with more clarity, so that we can all benefit from this person or that person’s creative ability. This is how our generation has advanced so far in technology and science: some of us have kept in touch with the right-hemisphere for good purpose.

But when we realize that every single child starts out in life with a powerful imagination, it might seem that the right-hemisphere of so many of them has been restricted and held dormant so that the left-hemisphere could be more dominant. As a society, and as a world, we’ve made the more practical, down-to-earth left-hemisphere the one we rely on because we’ve needed to be pragmatic in order to survive.

The only problem with this is that we’ve hidden away the very best resource we have for solving the social problems that come when we just live life from a purely physical reality. We’ve created an environment where the right-hemisphere of our brains has to struggle to be recognized in our physical world. It’s concealed in our dreams of a brighter tomorrow, when people will one day be more open and free to be their full selves in a way that can enable true peace to exist. We’ve taught our children to put away their toys when they turn 5 or 6 years old, and only have them focus on learning how to read, write, and gain information, which means to shift their thought process from creativity to the physical aspects of life. The truth is they need both perspectives. Diminishing the exercise of the creative mind diminishes the ability to solve problems, to find solutions, to open channels of communication between peoples, and to maintain our instinctive human need to protect our planet.

By not acknowledging the need for encouraging creativity, often seeing it as an incidental extra in our classrooms—when there’s time and money to allow it in the school day—we’ve closed off our greatest human potential.

If we were only born on this planet to exist, to survive, and live life until we die, then we’re doing OK. But if we are here to develop a fine mind, to feel free to express the very depths of our dreams, then something of who we are is seriously missing. The chaos we see in the world, as it builds into extremes that demand our military involvement—whether we want it to or not—is simply the expression of the limited view we have of ourselves. We’ve shut down, and continue to shut down, the very gifts we’ve inherently been given to be able to solve our problems. We’ve removed our strength of imagination, which, when balanced by our practical mind, can open up new pathways of communication between human beings from one tribe, or even one country, to another.

When we’re ready to acknowledge that there’s more to who we are than just our physical reality, we can develop greater respect for our sensibilities and our love. Then we’ll find that our brain’s right-hemisphere is still operational, and can be revived at any moment, to give us a more peaceful, creative perspective, and so help us to solve many of the problems that have arisen.

We are more than we think we are; we have more than we think we have; we simply have to learn how to love our own self and each other more than we think we do.

Love and blessings,

Myra Estelle
Author of The Way The World Works: A Journey Toward Inner Peace