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Jewish World Review
The owners' manual to the incredible you
Rabbi David Aaron
Secrets to fulfillment and self actualization
And I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and will be their G-d. And they shall know that "I" is the Lord their G-d, who have brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst: I is the Lord their G-d.
ANCHORING TO THE ETERNAL SOUL
The "I," the soul, remains forever the same. It is the axis upon which the persona revolves. Get a picture of yourself when you were five years old, with ice cream drooling down your chin and chocolate all over your face, and ask yourself, "Is that me?" You may change day by day, yet there remains that core "you," the never-changing self who animates the ever-changing persona. You, as a soul, remain the same in good times and bad times, in times of joy and sadness, pain and pleasure, celebration and mourning.
King Solomon wore a ring engraved with the dictum, "This Too Shall Pass." It reminded him that both times of trouble and times of happiness would not last forever. Amid the ever-changing times and the conflicting moods of the people, King Solomon was anchored in his eternal soul.
If you are not anchored in your eternal soul, then you will mistakenly think that you will always feel the way you are currently feeling. In other words, when you are feeling good, you will think that you had always felt good and will always feel good. Then, when bad times come knocking on your door, you will have difficulty bouncing back. Likewise, when you are feeling down, you will feel that you have always been down and will stay that way forever. When a new opportunity for joy appears, you will have difficulty embracing it. But King Solomon knew the secret. He understood that while these feelings will pass, "I" will not pass.
I often see this problem with people who attend my seminars. Suddenly, they feel empowered and elated, certain that they can take on the world. The "self" identifies with its present mood and mistakenly thinks it is its mood. We think, "I am happy," rather than, "I am feeling happy right now, but I have felt sad at other times and I know that I will probably feel sad in the future. I am feeling strong right now, but there have been many times when I was feeling weak, and there will be future times when I will feel weak again."
What I try to impart to people is that our true strength lies in knowing that each and every one of us is an individualized expression of G-d and a unique channel for His presence into this world. This is our service, our purpose and our ultimate joy.
To realize this truth, we have to disengage from the outer trappings of our persona and direct our "I" to identify with G-d and to serve G-d. If we only disengage from the outer trappings but do not identify and seek to serve G-d, then we end up floating in mid air with no anchor. This is the power of the teachings of Torah and the commandments — Mitzvas. They enable us to consciously anchor our "I", our souls, in G-d and be in service of Him who is really the Ultimate I.
I IS G-D YOU LORD
When the first Russian cosmonaut went into space, ground control asked him, "What do you see?"
He said, "I don't see G-d."
What did the guy think he would see? Did he think that somewhere along the journey he would get to the edge of space and there would be two huge eyes peering at him? "Hi, I'm G-d. What took you so long?" But it is true that people think G-d is out there somewhere. Judaism does not believe in this G-d. In fact, you will not find the word "G-d" in the Torah. Judaism believes in Ado-nai — the Master Self. You and I are not the Master Self.
Even though there is a distinction between G-d and us, there is no separation. We are completely one with the Master Self. We are not the master of thinking, the master of feeling or the master of life at large. And we are not the master of will. The One who is the master of all these powers is whom we call Ado-nai — G-d.
If G-d were the sun each of us would be a ray of His light. After all, we exist only because G-d exists. When Moses asked G-d what is His name G-d answered "I am because I am." Only G-d can say that. Only G-d is self sustaining. We cannot say, "I am because I am." We must acknowledge the truth that, "I am because G-d is." If there is no "Eternal I Am" who created us and sustains us as an expression of Himself, then we would not exist. Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." Judaism says, "G-d is, therefore I am." This is why we desire immortality because we are immortal souls; expressions of the Immortal One. This explains why we intuit an incredible sense of connection to a greater whole.
REACHING OUR IDENTITY
So how can we actualize our ultimate selves? This is what the Jewish people experienced when they received the commandments from G-d at Mt. Sinai. Imbued with the ability to identify completely with the Master I am, they experienced the difference between freedom from oppression and freedom to expression. For example, after the Jews were freed from Egyptian slavery, they were then free to be themselves and actualize themselves to serve as channels for the presence of G-d on earth.
We, too, can be freed from being victimized by our addictions or by other people, but that does not guarantee us the freedom to be ourselves. To reach this second goal, we have to find out who the self really is; what is (or really "Who" is) the eternal root of the soul and what is its purpose on earth. We must live the verse — And they shall know that "I" is the Lord their G-d, who have brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst: I is Lord their G-d.
There are psychological schools and techniques that guide people to disengage from their persona, but accomplishing this can only free us from our enslavements. It frees us from oppression but it cannot give us the freedom to expression. While psychology can help us pinpoint our negative personas, Torah and Mitzvas enable us to accomplish the complete goal of actualizing our true selves by redirecting our individual "I" to be in service of its' Divine Source — the Universal Ultimate I. After we release the self from imprisonment to the persona, it must be anchored in G-d. Otherwise, the self will just blow in the wind with no direction and no identity.
This would be analogous to the Jewish people escaping Egypt but never getting to the Promised Land. In other words they would be left to wander in the desert, free from the oppression of Egypt, but they would have never received the Mitzvas and therefore would have never achieved the freedom to be who they were meant to be and feel G-d's presence dwelling in their midst.
GETTING IN TOUCH WITH INNER GODLINESS
Once we are able to dis-identify the soul from the persona, the next step is to do Mitzvas. A Mitzvah is an opportunity to actualize our covenant with G-d and experience our eternal, unconditional bond with the "Ultimate Self."
The Kabbalah teaches that the Jewish proclamation that "G-d is one" really means that G-d is non-dual. One is the opposite of many; it is limited. Non-dual is free of the confines of "one" or "many." Therefore, G-d is beyond you, me and everyone else in this world, yet mysteriously within us as well. G-d is free to be manifest as 100 percent transcendent, yet also as 100 percent immanent.
While this statement seems illogical and contradictory, we have to remember that these concepts can only be explained from our own perspective. From G-d's point of view, there are no two aspects to Divinity. It is only when we describe Divine truth with our limited language that we have difficulty understanding the paradoxes.
The Kabbalah metaphorically describes that there are "two faces to the one G-d" — the face, or aspect, of transcendence and the face of imminence. The aspect of Divine transcendence is identified with the power of masculinity and is referred to in Jewish texts as, "The Holy One, Blessed Be He." The aspect of Divine immanence is identified with the power of femininity and is referred to as the Shechina, meaning "The Divine Presence" or "Indwelling Spirit."
Of course, G-d is not male or female, and G-d is beyond the either/or. The manifestation of G-d outside of us is described as masculine. The manifestation of G-d within us is described as feminine. The Torah generally refers to G-d in the male gender, while the truth about the feminine side of G-d was left for the oral mystical tradition and shared only with a select few. Later in Jewish history the sages revealed this truth to the public.
There is a good reason for this. Jewish tradition aims to instill within us a clear understanding that G-d is beyond us, and that we are not G-d. If the mystery of the "Divine Immanence" were taught to the public prematurely, then there would be a dangerous risk that people would mistakenly think they were G-d. We must first firmly believe that G-d is beyond us before we can be introduced to the truth that G-d is also manifest within us.
Mitzvas — The Eternal and Internal Reward
One of the objectives of living a life of Mitzvas is to empower us to make choices that liberate our true inner self and reveal our holiness, the Divine within us. This feat, however, cannot be accomplished until we overcome our selfish, egotistical concerns and control our lustful, animal drives.
Observing the Mitzvas helps us access and express our true selves — the Indwelling Divine Presence, the Shechina, within. To this end, the commandments of the Torah direct and discipline us toward submission and obedience to G-d. Ironically, however, our submission and obedience to G-d becomes an expression of our own godliness and freedom. We then enjoy the euphoric experience of feeling G-d manifest as the essential power within us.
Often, when we first start observing the Mitzvas, we only hear the voice of the transcendental G-d, emanating outside of us from atop Mt. Sinai, who commands us to obey His will. However, after we humbly accept, submit and obey, we eventually hear this same voice coming from within us. It is as if the Divine voice that we heard speaking to us is now also speaking through us. We become attuned to the voice of G-d speaking through our soul. At this point, we no longer experience the commandments as acts of obedience, but rather as the free expression of our true inner divine self in service of G-d.
In other words, after we obey G-d's will, we discover that His will is actually what we want as well, because our will is really an aspect of G-d's will. Our "I" is an aspect and individualized expression of the Ultimate I. We are then able to feel how our individual soul is plugged into the "Universal Soul," and we become energized with an incredible life force and awareness.
When you do a Mitzvah, you should intend to unify your individual self with the "Transcendental, Universal Self" — G-d. Your aim, simply, is to accord and unite your will with G-d's will. Every Mitzvah is an opportunity to identify with the Divine, and in so doing you are completely transformed. You will get out of your personal Egypt — stop being a slave to your persona and become a servant and channel for the presence of G-d.
This may be a very different understanding of the commandments than most of us had as children. Observing the Mitzvas is not about collecting merit points to be cashed in after we die, an approach that may have been good for us when we were five years old (how else could our parents and teachers have explained it to us?). Now that we are older, we need to understand that Judaism is a very rich, deep and transformative lifestyle that gives us access to divine life force, awareness and freedom. In truth, a Mitzvah is its own reward.
The 13th century Kabbalist Rabbi Abraham Abulafia writes, "All the inner forces in the hidden souls of man are differentiated in the bodies. It is, however, the nature of them that when their knots are untied, they return to their origin, which is one without any duality, which comprises all multiplicity." Put simply, when we identify with our soul rather than our body or persona, we are free to reconnect with and become our true self at one with the Ultimate Self. And they shall know that "I" is the Lord their G-d, who have brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst: I is the Lord their G-d.
For more on this topic see The Secret Life of G-d: Discovering the Divine Within You
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2005, Rabbi David Aaron