Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )
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I think that one of our life quests - that we often give up on -is have a transcendental experience - the feeling of being close to God and that life is not only meaningful, but everything fits together in a oneness. I suspect that most people don't think of Judaism as a means to that experience. In truth, we have a long tradition of spirituality and methodology for internalizing spirituality.
Along comes Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld (in answer to your question ... yes, possibly a distant cousin of Jerry) who recently published The Art of Amazement: Discover Judaism's Forgotten Spirituality (available as a book, CD or on tapes from your local Jewish book store, amazon.com or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242) as a guide to help people attain a genuine spirituality. Rabbi Seinfeld has many qualifications for writing the book - degrees including Classics and Anthropology from Stanford, experience with Buddhism and Hinduism. However, his greatest qualification is his own personal search and his many years studying in Aish HaTorah.
Perhaps the following excerpt will help you in your quest and give you a small taste from the book:
"A useful litmus test to know whether a particular choice is being guided by the soul or by the body is to ask: 'Is this pleasure that I'm seeking short-term gratification (e.g., I'm hungry, I want food now) or longer-term (I'm going to take an hour to prepare a gourmet meal in order to savor complex aromas and flavors)'? In fact, it is possible to satisfy both body and soul at the same time. But to do so requires that the brain mediate between the two to prevent the body from running out of control.
"Unfortunately, exercising the brain comes second only to physical exercise on the list of most detested things to do. This is why true creativity is so rarely found. Thomas Jefferson said, 'People will go to any amount of effort to avoid the labor of thinking.' And Bertrand Russell observed, 'Most people would rather die than think - and most do.'
"Food and physical consumption is not the only stage of the soul-body dichotomy. It applies to all kinds of pleasure-spiritual soul-pleasures vs. material body-pleasures, aesthetics vs. gluttony, love and caring vs. lust and infatuation, ethics vs. public image, creativity vs. power. Every human experience falls into one of these categories.
"We must constantly negotiate between the material (body) and the spiritual (soul) impulses:
CONFLICTING MESSAGES FROM BODY AND SOUL
Material / body
Spiritual / soul
"Make gourmet meal."
"Look good now."
"Change the world."
"The most important thing to remember is that these messages are constant, like a flowing stream. The body always wants material gratification and the soul always wants spiritual fulfillment.
"Now, spiritual gratification is not necessarily transcendent. One may experience the most sublime aesthetic, loving, ethical and creative pleasures and never transcend the finite realm. Although they are 'soul' pleasures, the soul itself remains, after all, attached to the body in this world.
"But because of the soul's infinite root, it has the potential to transcend the boundaries set by the finite world. It can do so within the scope of any of the various pleasures. One can, in other words, infuse one's life with transcendental awareness. Such awareness is a unique pleasure in that it by definition transcends all else. This experience is the experience of amazement. Striving toward it is the art of amazement.
"Amazement is the vehicle for transforming any pleasure into a transcendental one.
"Notice how the contents of the material world (including the body) are necessary agents of spiritual and transcendental experiences. Without the material, we would be unable to experience transcending it.
"For example, consider the enjoyment of a sunset. The aesthetic pleasure experienced by my soul cannot happen without eyes to see and a sun to be seen. Because my soul is fused to such a body in such a material world, it is able to experience the aesthetic and transcendental pleasures.
"This transcendental access is available via all four areas of pleasure. Any of these areas affords the possibility of all three dimensions of pleasure."
Torah Portion of the Week
Matot includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.
Masay includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws for property when there has been a marriage between individuals from different tribes.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Novach went and captured Kenas and its surrounding villages and he called it Novach after his name." (Numbers 32:42)
Why did the Almighty include this verse in the Torah?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch elucidates: Throughout the world powerful leaders have wanted to leave monuments to themselves through statues and buildings named after them. Kings and conquerors have even named large cities after themselves. However, names can very easily be changed and then nothing is left, as happened to Novach. The good deeds of a person and his spiritual attainments are the only true everlasting monuments.
When you view the good that you do as your eternal monument, you will feel greater motivation to accomplish as much as you can. A life of spiritual attainments is everlasting. Feel joy in every positive act you do, for it gives greater splendor to your monument!
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 25:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:14 Hong Kong 6:49 Honolulu 6:54
J'Burg 5:20 London 8:40 Los Angeles 7:41
Melbourne 5:06 Miami 7:51 Moscow 8:31
New York 7:59 Singapore 6:59
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Life is not measured by
the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments
that take our breath away.
-- Rabbi Abraham Twerski
With Special Thanks to