I am committed to a life provoking the invasion of The Coming Kingdom through: human service, ecstatic prayer, halakhic observation, community building, nurturing hope, and drawing down abiding faith...
A significant section of parashat Ma’asei deals with the halakhot concerning the murderer. On the one hand, the Torah may seem very harsh in its rulings. A closer look would reveal very important lessons concerning the role of decisiveness in judgment.
This week, in the order of the Jewish calendar, we have the first haftarah of admonition (Jeremiah 1:1─2:3). The Rabbis instituted the reading of special haftarot in the period between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha b’Av. These are commonly referred to as the haftarot of admonition.
Most of us have heard it said, at one point or another, “all good things come to those who wait.” We have also probably heard, “you can’t always get what you want.” For the most part we think of patience in relationship to those things that are eventually coming to us. This week’s parasha (Pinchas) reveals a deeper level of patience.
At the tail end of parashat Balak we read of one of the most violent incidents of the Jewish people’s journey in the desert. In spite of all that had transpired up until that point, the people were still drawn to idolatry of a most heinous kind: the idolatry that objectifies the other (divine and human).
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was a man devoted to inner spiritual growth, his and others. He is ubiquitously known for his method of hitbodedut: “making oneself alone.” At the same time, he liked to dress in the clothes of the average person and would spend time with the non-religious, sound familiar?
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught his students to turn his teachings into prayers. Rabbi Natan (his foremost student) wrote down many prayers corresponding to the various lessons in Likutey MoHaRaN. The following is an excerpt from one of those prayers (based on lesson nine in the above mentioned volume):
“Help me to say my prayers with complete honesty and truthfulness, so that the light of the Truth will shine upon me, and I will be able to emerge from the…strange thoughts…that constantly surround me…Especially when I am praying, I feel surrounded on every side…My only hope of finding a way to escape is by talking to you truthfully…You are ‘close to all who call to you in truth.’”
-Likutey Tefilot, pgs. 187-188
“Show me the goodness, the beauty, the kindness in every one I meet.” – Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, The Gentle Weapon
Harsh words and attitudes rarely come primarily as a result of holy anger or indignation. Most of us would like to pretend this is the case, however. It is much more soothing to the ego to suggest that outbursts of anger come as a result of being legitimately wronged, rather than admitting that the root is more likely fear and insecurity.
The difference between self-expression and communication is fairly simple. Self-expression does not require listening or silence, while communication involves both.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is well known for his promotion of a practice called hitbodedut (make-oneself-alone). Hitbodedut is the practice of taking one hour (or however long you can) every day and pour out all of yourself before God.