In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
“Let’s make the next few minutes last forever….”
The Garden, The Tower, and Lech Lecha- The Walk Home 5778
חֶשְׁוָן Cheshvan is the second month of the Jewish calendar counting from Rosh Hashanah. Cheshvan is the only month that does not have any holidays or special mitzvot. It is taught that it is “reserved” for the time of the “Moshiac” (Messiah), who will inaugurate the Third Temple in the month of Cheshvan. The great flood in the days of Noach began in this month, and it was a year later, also in the month of Cheshvan, that Noach left the ark. In the month of Cheshvan, we commemorate the yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of our matriarch Rachel. She is buried on the road to Beit Lechem, where throughout the ages, and still today, Jews of all walks of life go to pray and beseech that she intercede on their behalf as a mother does for her child. This month is the anticlimax of the previous month of Tishrei. With so many holidays and spiritual experiences, it was a feast for the soul—a vacation of sorts. Now, as we enter the month of Cheshvan, real life begins, back to the daily “mundane” grind. This is the time to take the inspiration and all that we gained in the month of Tishrei and integrate it into our lives, learning how to balance the spiritual and the physical elements of our life in unison and harmony.
11 Cheshvan- Passing of Rachel The matriarch Rachel died in childbirth on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 2208 from creation (1553 BCE) while giving birth to her second son…
15 Cheshvan – Kristallnacht (1938) On this night in 1938 and continuing into the next day — November 9 on the secular calendar — the Nazis coordinated vicious pogroms against the Jewish community of Germany. Encouraged by their leaders, rioters attacked and beat Jewish residents, burned and destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized 7,500 Jewish businesses, and ransacked countless Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes, while police and firefighters stood by. Ninety-one Jews were killed and 20,000 others were deported to concentration camps. These pogroms, which collectively came to be known as Kristallnacht (“night of broken glass,” referring to the thousands of windows that were broken) were a turning point after which Nazi anti-Jewish policy intensified.
17 Cheshvan- Great Flood Begins- The rains began to fall on the 17th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 from creation (2105), flooding the earth and rising above the highest mountains….
17 Cheshvan (960 BCE) – First Temple completed by King Solomon
27 Cheshvan- Ground fully dried. Noah exits ark. (This chronology follows the opinion of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Eliezer.)Total time that Noah spent in the ark: 365 days (one solar year; one year and 11 days on the lunar calendar).
Mishlei 23;6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies; 7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. 8 You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, And waste your compliments. 9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. 10 Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, 11 For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you. 12Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge.
Are we doing things because we desire them? Are we dressing up our desires in the cloak of being “for God’s glory” in order to justify our expenditures toward reaching these goals and desires? What is truly for Hashem’s glory and for the sake of sanctification of His name (Kiddush Hashem), and what is being pursued for our own elevation and desire at heart? Do we function from inside our own hearts or are we outside constantly looking inward to see what the heart contains? Is our heart (what we desire) running the show or are we constantly looking inside through God’s eyes to know where our desires can, should, and shouldn’t take us?
We’re often told, ‘use your heart’. But Yirmeyahu says:
“The heart הַלֵּ֛ב (ha’lev) is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. “As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, and in the end he will be a fool.” A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. (Jeremiah 17; 9-12)
So what can this mean? We’re often told to evaluate by asking ourSELF, ‘what does your heart tell you’? But look at the following examples in the bible when ‘fiends’ spoke to themselves, in their own hearts. They live inside their own hearts and are defining for themselves what will be “said” therein- murder is justified, idolatry is condoned, pride is rationalized, atheism-advocated :
- Ber. 27;41So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself ( בְּלִבּוֹ b’libo- in his heart), “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
- 1 Kings 12;26 Jeroboam said in his heart (בְּלִבּוֹ b’libo- in his heart) , “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 “If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.
- Esther 6;5 The king’s servants said to him, “Behold, Haman is standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” 6 So Haman came in and the king said to him, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” And Haman said to himself ( בְּלִבּוֹ b’libo – in his heart), “Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?”
- Tehillim 10; 4The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” 5 His ways prosper at all times; Your judgments are on high, out of his sight; As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them. 6 He says to himself (בּלִבּוֹ b’libo- in his heart), “I will not be moved; Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity.” 7 His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.
What does it mean to know the will of God? What is knowledge of “tov v’ra” and why was that acquisition a negative thing? Adam and Chavah already had the intellectual knowledge-to know good versus bad. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been just for Hashem to punish them for disobedience. The difference became the KNOWLEDGE- Da’at. Da’at- to know experientially.
Before we took inside ourselves desire, by eating of mixed (boundary-less) fruit,
all we cared about was God’s will.
After that, our will came into play.
The mother, Imma, who brings life and partners with God in creating another being, the only kind of flesh that has the capability to understand choice. To know truth, emet, to have knowledge of God and differentiate constantly; battling to determine the difference between good or evil.
A parent holding on too long to a child will ruin the child, at some point one has to liberated in order to make our own mistakes and accomplish our own triumphs. Like a baby who stays within the womb too long beyond a full term, this womb which once fostered life…begins to kill the child. The only true freedom is inside the will of Hashem, through His Torah we can learn that will. Through emulating the example by which Yeshua walked Torah, we can find the purpose in our lives.
By commissioning our heart’s desires through HIS WILL we practice abiding in Him. By this we have been gifted eternal life. To attempt to grasp that Tree of Life there is born the necessity to die to oneself. For submission to the Torah of Hashem is not the way of the world or the flesh. This is How God is Supreme, His balance of creation and knowing that in some cases for there to be life there must be a death… I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
B’reshit 1;27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Devarim 4; 12 “Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. 13 “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone….15 “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, 16 so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female…
When we “reproduce” we are in His Image – male and female He created them. Adam- Mankind- Self aware beings, humans are cognitive of what they are doing. With animals its instinct.
Even in the Hebrew word for son- ben, son’s – beney we find the related word banah- to build.
Having sons is our way of biologically building.
Like tools are the way we build technologically.
Eating mindlessly is to be an animal- animals,eating seed unaware. Humans eating seed wheat berries turned into bread…..
It is a fearsome power to create new life.
A being who knows good and evil.
We are going to look at the person and family of Avraham. The saga of which we are actively involved to this day, because Avraham’s destiny is Israel’s destiny,
a destiny of which we are a part.
B’reshit 11; 27 Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
Avraham’s Legacy– is the thread that ties together the seemingly disconnected “stories” of Parasha Lech Lecha.
Lech lecha means go for yourself…it can mean to yourself…or perhaps to FIND YOURSELF. Avraham was called to leave his pagan ‘roots’ and everything he was ‘familiar’ with to get to KNOW the Creator of the universe.
Why was Avraham chosen? In the wake of the accounts of B’reshit previous to meeting our ‘hero’ we have paid close mind to the attempts to choose Hashem’s will and sanctification of His Name or to further the name of Man. Chavah crossed the healthy boundaries God set and decided that man would choose what was good, what worked for them. Her passion and desire brought exile and pain into the world. Cayin brought offerings in order to be elevated (himself) versus elevating glory and praise to Hashem. His passion and desire made way for the first human bloodshed and again an extended exile from Hashem. The generation of Noach completely obliterated the boundaries Hashem set forth, breaching sexual limitations and social morality. Their passions and desires caused corruption of the entire erets (land/earth). This corruption left Hashem nothing to redeem, nothing to work with…aside from the contents of the Teivah/Ark. Thus “God’s world” underwent a complete mikveh, and in “man’s world” Noach began…The tower builders raged against the God who washed the world anew, and sought to build a name for themselves l’ifney Hashem…in the face of Hashem. They were scattered and exiled and Hashem sought a being whose heart was seeking, looking beyond himSELF.
Avraham is asked to leave it all behind and go forth. He was asked to rely on “beyond the flesh/basar” potential for creation in his life. He was made promises and posed tests. He was flawed and had great struggle.
Throughout his life Avraham cared about perpetuating the name of Hashem.
It is Hashem who tells Him I will make YOU A GREAT NAME.
Avraham exemplifies the concept of being Outward focused.
B’reshit 12;5 Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons (souls- nephesh) which they had acquired (gathered) in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
- When he leaves, Lot is the one who would be ideal to carry on his legacy. He has in his mind the makings of a nation already leaving Haran. Lot who could take up his estate and legacy, great wealth, and a small host of people who were learning Hashem’s ways alongside their teacher’s Avraham and Sarah.
B’reshit 13;5Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9“Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”…11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan…Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
- A dispute arises, the “wealth” of Lot and Avraham get in the way of them dwelling together. The extent to the dissension was so great that Avraham, whose tent doors (to minister) were open to everyone and anyone (it is taught, even the worst of pagans) could not see fit to have Lot remain in his house. This shows how very much indeed Lot was “going his own way” and that Avraham needed to “go His.” Lot choosing to go to the “most wicked” place on earth changes Avraham’s perception of who would be the appropriate legacy progenitor. Avraham’s faith to separate from Lot shows his great trust in Hashem. Every time Avraham ACTS in a ‘leap of faith’ of sorts to trust Hashem God expresses love and reiterates the promise.
B’reshit 14; 13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.
- Another problem arises, he rescues Lot and Lot ends up choosing again to go into the city of sin. After this God again tells Avraham of the reward for his trust, sending Lot away again. But this time, Avraham is pointedly worried….Avraham speaks twice waiting for the response from God. Then God responds- your biological children will inherit you. This is a turning point in the story.
Sin of the Tower- they were making a name for themselves, that’s all that they cared about.
Inward selfishly focused… the Tower is the Culmination of distancing humanity from God.
“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name…” B’reshit 11;4
Confronted with their own impermanence,
from the only Eternal Being
and focus on their own creative power
to assure their legacy.
Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of Gods Name….
Abraham is not promoting the legacy at anyone’s expense, he is constantly traveling and pitching tents. God’s promise was land to Abram’s descendants–
but he builds for those generations
which are to come!!
Unlike Adam and Chavah,or the Tower builders Avraham was able to let go, to safely wield the desire to create so that it doesn’t become self obsessed and destructive. (Narcissistic)
Man has an agricultural desire to create- Kayin becomes intoxicated with the fruits of his labors. He’s planted seeds, he cultivated them become a partner with God and he can’t let go.
Vineyard- Noach’s planting leads to debasement and he curses the next generation (contrasting Avraham who lives and strives for the next generation.)
What we create is NOT what we are. We are tselem Elohim.
Creativity- furthering what we know is in our own hands, this is a misidentification of self.
What was bad about desiring to “be like God?”
It was supposed to be His attributes we emulate.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with it’s fruit just Dripping with desire… eating of the fruit brings that desire inside of oneself and now we identify with that desire, things look different.
We create, we strive, but everything is off balance. This is why Hashem gave us the Sabbath- The Sabbath brings balance. The Sabbath prevents us from over identifying with the drive to create. The Sabbath is what rules over this out of control creative drive. This is a boundary which reminds us who is the Creator and ultimate.
All these accounts come to an apex when we meet Avraham. Why was Abraham chosen?
Can he maintain the vision
devotion to the legacy of others,
can he continue it?
Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old- with a whole life behind him. He could have considered that his life was close to completion but now he learns that it is in fact, only beginning…For ninety-nine years God had guided Abraham through all the experiences meant to train him: He had Abraham accomplish all the things that He expects every pure human being to achieve. Only after that did God appear to Abraham again and say to him, “Ani El Shaddai…”
B’reshit 6;9 Noah was a righteous man, blameless (tamim) in his time; Noah walked with (hit’halech) God.
B’reshit 17;1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me (hit’halech l’fanay), and be blameless (tamim).
hit’halech means- to go one’s own way, not permitting oneself to be swayed by circumstances outside oneself but conducting or guiding oneself from within.
hit’halech denotes movement impelled by one’s own free-willed decision and inner energy…
hit’halech ahti– conduct yourself with Me- would mean merely to permit God to guide his fate…
hit’halech l’fanay – conduct yourself before Me, means to keep God’s presence in mind at all times; that is, to look at every turn toward Him Who has set limits and boundaries to everything and Who has granted liberty only through the discipline of the Law, the Torah…
One who is tamim (perfect, whole, complete) is one who takes full advantage of the limits, of the sphere, which God has assigned to him, but who never oversteps these boundaries. Accordingly, the Hebrew concept of “sin” is an “overstepping” of these Divinely set limits. Everything, including the most physical phase of our lives, is sacred and good as long as it unfolds within the limits set by God. There is nothing in man that can be regarded as absolutely good or absolutely evil. There is nothing in God’s Law that commands the destruction of any human potential; the Law only directs that it be kept within specified limits. Only when these limits are overstepped (or not attained) does a human act become a sin. This is the basic character of lawfulness in the Hebraic mindset. “You are to conduct yourselves freely within the limits set by God.”
The perfect date. Everything went amazingly, that feeling of anticipation, the preparation then the experience. You’re floating, it’s like a dream…even a sweet kiss at the end of the perfect date. This is like the Fall Feasts of Hashem. Cheshvan, is the walk home. This period is the walk home after the date, when you can start to take in what really happened. On the walk home you can replay everything you did with Hashem and start to evaluate…how everything really went.
This life is filled with ups and downs. Heights and falls. The walk of the patriarchs and children of Israel are prime examples. ex. The children of Israel, when liberated from slavery: “yeah! Now we’re free! Dang, there’s the entire Egyptian army coming to kill us. Yeah! God made a miracle for us! Dang, there’s no water to drink. Yeah! There’s a spring! Dang, the water is bitter. Hashem, you’re asking us to trust you for everything? And when Avraham avinu is given a promised son who would be born of his aged soulmate, the height! The “fall”: Hashem you’re asking me to trust you enough to offer him up. This life is all about how you respond to the “back to square one” moment’s Hashem takes you through. This is the test.
This author has had a few weeks filled with interesting and meaningful interactions with my fellow men and women. I have been astounded by the timing of everything. When I was looking at everything from inside my heart, following my heart and plans…I was focusing in on my own will for the projects and ideas and creations and plans that I have. I realized that I slacked in trust, I swayed in focus upon Hashem. This is one of the biggest struggles men face because of the taking into ourselves that “confused” fruit. We forget walking lifney Hashem- walking “before the face” of Hashem in God’s World, when EVERYTHING was about His will. If we’d like to restore things to what they were in Hashem’s pristine creation, we must try and remember, in Eden was a time when our own will was non existent. When we broke the commandment and crossed the boundaries- Confusion. Doubting our capability to observe patience- tselem Elohim, the Most Patient. Doubting our ability to change for the better- tselem Elohim, the Only One Who Is Good. Doubting that stepping out into a walk that is new, different and even uncomfortable could very well be Hashem’s will for our lives- tselem Elohim, Eternal God with Eternal Commandments. Since we have been apart I have been utterly laid low, then brought to extreme wonder and awe. The toll it has taken upon me is that I feel as though Hashem is building me (banah) as He did with Chavah, to be the ben (son, or in my case…bat-daughter) He desires me to become. My prayer is for you to remember that every time (like Avraham) we step out with His view of our hearts focus central,
every time we step out in trust.
B’reshit 18;1Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by.
In every persons life, at some point in our life…
we get thrown out of Gan Edan and into Hell…
we go through hell.
In the beginning of the next Parasha Vayera, God is just with Avraham. ‘Hanging out’ with Him. At the end of the parasha- the Akeida.
B’reshit 22;6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
When it is not clear to you what you should do, buckle up despite everything else going on around you. Vayera, God appeared, and just take in what that is…the experience with Hashem in a ‘quiet’ casual atmosphere…before He asks of you that which you cannot understand. While you’re walking up the mountain remember what He is actually saying, not- destroy all that you hold dear, but….How much are you willing to do for Me?
every day begins with night…
every insight begins with misunderstanding…
May you be blessed in going out to find yourself in Hashem deeper and more beautifully every single day. May you revel and delight in the realization that the wonderful things you do, every effort you make, is establishing a legacy. May each one of us strive to, in some small way, restore this falling world for the future of those we will leave behind us. May we learn how to be tamim- constant…with Hashem as we walk before Him. Hashem, bless us with the ability to have the fortitude we will need for those walks up the mountain when we just cannot understand what You have asked of us. Let us be brave enough to leave behind any and everything that does not honor You, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. May we make You the Home we build for our children, friends, and fellows.
This and all our learning is in memory of Mirjam. You are still teaching me. God gave me the gift under the trees of that prayer He knew I desired. Thank you Hashem. Mirjam you are loved and missed.
Resources: Much of this entry was learned from Rabbi David Fohrman of alephbeta.org, Rabbi Shlomo Katz shlomokatz.com, Rabbi Ari Kahn Rabbiarikahn.com and more. See the Home page on this blog and My Resources entry for a complete list.