The Villagers

There was once a village that was burdened with a great problem. Its inhabitants sought out a great sage and asked for his help. Not being quite sure what to do, the sage answered, “Well, I need some time to think about this.” Then he went off into the nearby woods to meditate; because he was hungry, he brought an avocado with him to eat. He found a rock and began to¬†meditate on the villagers’ problem.

While meditating, the sage suddenly had a revelatory experience. A celestial light¬†appeared before him and he felt infused with divine knowledge. The sage now possessed the complete solution to the villagers’ great difficulty. He returned from the woods to them and announced, “I have the answer for you. Let me tell you what happened. I took an avocado and I went out into the woods. Then I sat down on a rock and I began to meditate. All of a sudden, a celestial light appeared.”

Thereupon, the villagers all asked him at once, “Which rock was it? What kind of avocado were you eating?” To this day, the villagers are still arguing over which rock the sage sat on and what type of avocado he had been eating.

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It is easy to be misled today into believing that spirituality merely involves learning certain techniques. For millennia, Kabbalists have viewed their path as embracing an entire way of life.

In the same way, we can be so caught up in the specific process of spiritual development that we lose sight of the whole objective. It is our whole way of life that matters in this realm.

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Published in: Uncategorized on April 29, 2009 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Chicken Farmer and the Rabbi

A chicken farmer once approached Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (16th century) and asked to be admitted into his (Kabbalah) school. The rabbi gazed into the windows of his soul and said: “I see that you are a good candidate, except for one minor flaw which you must first rectify.”

The farmer spent the next several days trying desperately to figure out what the flaw might be.

Finally, he returned to the sage and asked for a clue. Rabbi Yitzchak asked him what he did for a living. “I raise chickens,” the farmer replied. “And what,” asked the rabbi, “is the very first thing that you do in the morning upon awakening?” The farmer said: “I taste neither food nor drink but go directly to the synagogue to worship God.”

The rabbi said: “Therein lies the flaw. Because the very first thing that you should be doing in the morning is not praying to God but feeding your chickens.”

Published in: Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Essence of the Torah (Law) …

Once there was a man who grew up isolated in the mountains and had never laid eyes upon another human. His primary sustenance was wheat and he knew only raw wheat.

One day, he came upon a village and noticed the people of the village were eating strange foods.

He inquired of one woman, “What are you eating?” She said: “I am eating bread.” He asked: “What is it made from?” She said: “It is made from wheat.”

The man approached a second villager and asked: “What are you eating?” He said: “I am eating cake.” The man of the wilderness said: “And what is it made of?” He replied: “It is made from wheat.”

And so it happened that as he went inquiring from person to person, each one dining on a substance of a different shape and texture, whatever they ate was made from wheat.

Finally, he declared to the villagers: “I am far superior to all of you; for I eat wheat itself, while you eat foods derived thereof.”

He returned to the wilds, only to spend the rest of his life missing out on, and unaware of, the pleasures of the world in all of their varieties.

——- Sefer Ha’Zohar, Vol. 2, folios 176a-b; Sif’ra D’Tzni’uta, Ch. 1

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Because of that view, he knew nothing of the delights of the world, they were lost to him. So it is with one who grasps the principle and does not know all those delectable delights deriving, diverging from that principle.

The man from the mountains claims to be a master of wheat, a master of Torah (the Five Books of Moses). Traditionally, “master of wheat” means one who has mastered the oral tradition. In this parable, wheat and its products (kernels, bread, cake and pastry) symbolize four levels of meaning in Torah: simple, homiletical, allegorical and mystical.

The mountain man assumes that because he understands the simplest, literal meaning of the Torah, he has achieved the essence and hence does not need to delve deeper. Although the essence is often the goal of mysticism, this parable implies that essence is inadequate unless it leads to the exploration of deeper levels of meaning inherent in every word.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  

The Teacher

Rabbi Abba Arey’kha (2nd century) was summoned to a region that was experiencing a drought. He instructed the people to fast, but no rain fell.

Then a man stepped forward to lead the people in prayer, and recited: “God restores the wind!” And the wind began to blow. He then exclaimed: “God sends down rain!” And the rain began to fall.

Curious about the stranger’s supernal powers, Abba Arey’kha asked him: “What is your work?”

He replied: “I am a teacher of young children, and I teach the children of the poor in same manner as I teach the children of the rich. And if anyone is unable to pay for their lessons, I will accept no form of payment from them.”

——- Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a

Published in: Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

The True Rabbi

One day a non-Jew sought to find out what the whole Torah was all about. He went to many prominent rabbis of his time and said to each one: “Look, I don’t have much time. Can you tell me quickly what the Torah is all about?”

According to the tale, he wanted to know in as short a period as he was able to stand on one foot. Each rabbi sent him away and the man became increasingly intent on an answer to his question.

Finally, he met one rabbi that told him, “The most basic law is: Love thy neighbor as thyself. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

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There we have the most fundamental of the 613 laws (ethical and ritual) and it relates to our involvement with one another (between one human being and another). This is because the physical plane is the crucial one in our existence.

Therefore, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the most basic law in Judaism.

Published in: Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment