Phonetic: " Eem ein a'nee lee mee lee? U'kshe'a'nee le'atz'mee ma a'nee? Ve'eem lo ach'shav, ei'ma'tai?" (Hillel the Elder)
Translation:If I am not to my self - who is? And when I am for my self - what am I? And if not now, then when?
* If a person does not have his/her own self - or in other words the self he/she has is a false one (resulting in not being tuned to his/her true needs and feelings) - what kind of role does he/she is having in this world?
* This phrase emphasizes our responsibility over finding our self, our true and deep inner self, the one that is uniquely and solely ours. We always have the option to choose - things that are either true or false to us - and our fate is the consequence of the choices we make. One must realize there is no in-between phase in spiritual growth en-route being your self - you either go downhill or uphill!
* Once we are tuned to our true self our choices will become apparent and would take us the right way (this is a process, though...).
* Most important, we must do the work now, this minute. If this moment seems inappropriate it is only because we are afraid of the difficulties to come. Our line of reasoning is deriving from our old school of thoughts but once we realize it we can embark on the road towards the true and better self we aspire to be.
Phonetic: "Ei'ze'hu cha'cham? Ha'ro'eh et Ha'no'lad."
Translation: Who is a wise person? The one who sees things to come (or 'to be born').
* Being wise is being able to process information and knowledge, resulting in conclusions and proper action. The wise one, by drawing conclusions based on his experience and knowledge has the ability to see into the future. Hence his actions will have the awareness of the past, understanding of the present, and assurance of the future result.
* In addition, the word "nolad" in Hebrew means the baby born. Most people, when looking at the newborn baby, although he/she may look helpless and capable of nothing at the present time, know that soon a human being will evolve.
* The same is true with other matters. Our past experience and wisdom should teach us how to assess the present situation, draw conclusions and anticipate the future consequences of our actions.
* The 'thing to be born' is the purest form (the essence) of the entity, like the baby born which is pure. By realizing the essence of the matter the wise one can assess the variables and find the truth.
Phonetic: "Ein Om'reen Sheev'cho Shel A'dam Be'fa'nav."
Translation: One should not praise a person facing him/her.
* Humility is one of the most evasive virtues in our society. Thus creating a situation where false pride would flourish is not advisable. A true sense of pride should derive from actions and from recognizing the virtues of these actions by the person himself. This practice should be exercised over a long period of time.
* Praising one while present has the characteristics of flattering and manipulation. As a result, a true assessment of words and actions could be overlooked and humility avoided.
* Giving praise, like all giving, is best done without the recipient knowledge of it. This eliminates the need for expressing gratitude, thus the action of giving remains in its purity. When done this way the positive energy that was created will influence both the person being praised and the one who praised.
* The word 'Befanav' In Hebrew (facing him/her) has the same root as the word 'inner'. Praising the inner of a person interferes with the self and one would feel embarrassment in many cases. If we further look at the root of the word 'embarrassment' in Hebrew we find it to mean 'Maze' or 'Labyrinth'. Hence praising someone 'in his presence' may interfere with the person's self in an unwelcome way, creating a sense of maze and resulting in embarrassment.
Phonetic: "Ein Ha'brac'ha Me'tzu'ya ela Be'da'var Ha'sa'muy Meen Ha'a'yeen."
Translation: Blessed is only what's hidden from the eye.
* In order to succeed in one's work, plans and actions one must learn how to do things in a modest way, without exposition.
* Many are the people who look negatively upon their friend's success. This sort of "looking" may have the power to project negative energy in a way that will disrupt the project.
* Acting and creating without exposing it to the public eye is recommended. Reporting or publishing it is not advisable either, unless publicity is a key ingredient of its success.
* As long as the success of the project means more than it's publicity, it's best to keep it quiet, if only until it's successful ending - and then publish it!
Phonetic: "Yesh bo'te ke'mad'ke'rot che'rev ul'shon cha'cha'meem mar'pe."
Translation: Some harsh as the stabbing of a sword, and the words of wise men heal.
* Some expressions from certain people can hurt us like stabs of swords.
* Words of hope and encouragement from a wise person can heal that pain inside us.
* The harshest of words, when said by a wise person, would eventually help, since these words have a positive quality that will overcome the sharp edge of criticism.
* In addition, the wise person would be aware of the capacity of the listener to accept criticism, hence choosing his words with the utmost care, knowing each and every one will reach the other person's heart.
Phonetic: "Be'oz'ney kseel al te'da'ber, kee ya'vooz le'se'chel mee'leicha."
Translation: In the ears of a fool do not speak for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.
* One of the most crucial things in conversation is measuring and knowing whether the 'vessel' of the listener - his capacity to listen, hear, comprehend and absorb, is adequate and ready to accept (or consider) the words of the speaker.
* When a listener is not ready for your words, instead of giving you a positive feedback she may try to defend herself and her ego by looking down upon you and your words, resulting in feelings of anger and insult in yourself.
* Hence it is advisable to evaluate the listener capacity of comprehension beforehand. In case found insufficient - just stay silent or change the subject matter and the choice of words accordingly.
A Journey to the Heart of Darkness
It’s Purim night and we assemble for the reading of the Ester Megilah. I stand among friends, acquaintances and strangers, all in amazing costumes and masks, greeting them while having a drink. It is the one day in the year when I’m allowed to get drunk – a Mitzvah in fact, or in the words of the Wise ones: “Until one does not know between damn Haman and blessed Mordechai”. We finish our welcome drinks and the Megilah reading commences.
“And that happened in the days of Achashverosh, king from India to Koosh, seven and twenty and one hundred countries….”
It is told in the Gmara “A person is a small world”. We all have one hundred and twenty seven countries within us, some of us perhaps more. And we all want to be kings of those different parts within us, finding the way to live in peace with each and every part, living life in harmony.
I see the Rabbi stands before us, reading in his deep and clear voice with Ta’amei Hamikra, taking us to the sacred areas of the secrets within. The ancient Holly Toungue (which Hebrew originated from) - words that withstood the sifting of time – the cruelest of all critics - fall on my ears like soothing water, making their way to my inner self, my soul. I feel like I’m on a ship cruising the deep ocean on it’s way to a tropical island, with a knowledgeable trustable captain on the helm.
…”There was a Jew in Shushan the capital, his name Mordechai son of Yair son of Shimey son of Kish from the Yemini (tribe)."
Enters Mordechai - the symbol of Good within us, introduced here with his roots. And what roots! Solid like of a tree, drinking from deep, pure and clear water. We stop, drink and welcome Mordechai for joining us, singing and playing music, music and words thankful for who and what we are, for celebrating among friends in our land, our place, our time. For finding and knowing the Mordechai within us, the Good within us …
“… And the king loved Ester more than all women…”
Enter Ester, following Mordechai’s footsteps. The hall is packed. Everyone is mesmerized to the Rabbi, who although had few drinks himself continues to guide us on this enchanted journey. We are introduced to Ester, the feminine energy in this magical story and stop to welcome her. Will there be unification with the Good or the Evil within us?
Suddenly, two of the Kings' men are hanged…
Enters Haman - the symbol of Evil in the Megilah... The reading comes to a halt. The audience yells and shouts as if trying to chase Evil away, to scare him off.
Let’s look at the idea of Evil.
Evil is not merely the wish to lie, harm, steal etc. in every day’s life. Most of us are hopefully beyond that, living in society with moral rules and values that protects us from being subject to evildoings or from inflicting evildoings upon others.
Evil is different. It is the sum of the negative feelings and energy within us, which if not dealt with properly will result in distancing us from our own true self and from society.
Evil is Guilt; Sadness; Depression; Jealousy; Low self-esteem; Cynicism; Gossiping; Anger, Pride. It is what’s behind that lack of willingness to get out of bed in the morning, behind those painful words said to a colleague at noontime, behind that headache in the evening. Evil is the pain in my heart at night...
We pause with the readings and have some more food and drinks…
Surprisingly, those who were strangers before are strangers no more. We joke and eat together, drink together. We unite. No hard feelings, no guilt, no sadness on the surface. No Evil. Since evil, as mentioned before, is all those feeling which distance us. From each other. From our own self.
Rabbi Cook in his book “The lights of Holiness” (Orot Hakodesh) writes about Evil and unity:
“When a person sins he is in “Alma Depiruda” (Aramaic) and then every detail stands alone."
The word “Sin” in Hebrew is pronounce “Chet” whuch shares a root with "Missing the Target”. Here, in these wonderful lines by Rabbi Cook the secret is revealed: The Sin results in “Alma Depiruda” – the World of Separation. The good and the bad depart in our soul – and stay separated. We miss the target – a unified self!
Rabbi Cook continues:
…“Then the Evil is Evil for itself, engulfing a bad and harming value within”
What a mesmeraizing description! Evil stays Evil only when it is separated from the good parts of our self!
…And back to the Megilah:
"…And all the kings slaves bend and bow to Haman…”
At times when slavery in the Near East (Turkey and Greece) was a fact throughout history, the biblical law insisted upon the release of slaves every seven years. Still, many chose slavery out of their own free will. Once a slave made such choice, his ear were marked with a wooden ring, symbolizing the loss of honor for that person.
And today, all those who prefer to do what they are told instead of thinking and finding themselves what is good for them, are the contemporary followers of those slaves-out-of-choice. Only when one is as close to his self as one can be, embracing all parts of his soul in a unifying manner, one can make the right choice for him without “slavery”.
We continue to read. ….”Hamaaaaaaan”.
Here we meet again. And… did the nature of the shouting changed a bit? Are these still shouts of disagreement, or have they changed, bearing a slightly different nature? Do we still negate Haman, trying to chase him off with our loud voices, music and shouts?
To negate Haman, is to negate the Evil within us. This is what we do all year long. We try to put aside the feeling of sadness, to forget our anger, to overcome our depression, to conquer our low self-esteem. We pack them all in a see-proof, listen-proof, feel-proof bag, and put them on a shelf deep in our subconscious.
Until Purim comes…
Few more drinks. Am I smiling most of the time?
"…. And Haman said to King Achashverosh: There is one nation and that nation is separated and scattered among all nations..."
“Haman…. Haman…. Haman…”
The roof of the hall seems to blow off. The electric guitar goes higher… louder… drums… yelling… shouts. I hear a voice, loud and clear: “Haman, Amen, Amen, Haman. The voice dounds familiar...Is it my voice? Saying Amen to the Haman within me, welcoming him like when meeting an old friend?
No doubt… I have arrived!
Arrived at the phase “When one does not know between damn Haman and Amen Mordechai”.
I stop drinking now, knowing it is time for the spiritual work the holiday of Purim engulfs within. The spiritual work I have been preparing myself throughout the month and the year before.
“…But when the person returns with love, the light of being in Alma Deyichuda shines on him immediately… “ Continues Rabbi Cook.
To return with love! To return with love, through the good parts of the soul, with Mordechai and Ester holding my hand, guiding me, to the dark areas of my self. To be the reassuring knowledgeable captain of my own ship, navigating with certainty in the rough waters of sadness, of hatred, anger, guilt. To say Amen to each and every one of these feelings, embracing them, inviting them to join me in the dance of life. My life.
“…When all is unified, and in the general context there is no Evil at all, since Evil joins the Good, spicing it, enforcing it’s luxurious value, and the wrongdoings are becoming real values…” (Rabbi Cook)“
Arriving at a phase when "one does not know between Damn Haman and Amen Mordechai” is not only how much to drink but also knowing when to stop – in the one day in the year when this heavy drinking is a must - executed in a holly way!…
I remember the rest of the Megillah reading as background humming. I was surrounded by friends who joined me on my own ship, cruising the white and dark waters of my soul.
I lost my mobile phone that night and broke my glasses. But the visions I saw – for those my glasses were not needed. And the inner words I’ve heard and yelled and cried that night– no cell phone ever played it in my ears, nor will.
I have taken the mask off my face, looking inside it, embracing Haman while Ester and Mordechai were smiling, reassuring beside me. They all face each other now, know each other, living in harmony with all the one hundred and twenty seven countries of my soul.
Good and Evil. Unified. One.