Maybe you have also experienced the same treatment from your family members. Or perhaps it was an adopted family or even your “church family.” I have experienced this treatment from not just my biological family but families I married into, along with my church family.
Joseph was sold into slavery; he was betrayed by those who were supposed to love him and have his back.
It sounds like what is still happening today! People are being sold into slavery right under our noses! Do you know what to look for? Do you know who to report it to if you see something?
Messiah’s birth, foretold in the Torah, was prophecy fulfilled. Joseph’s sorrows also were to have extraordinary prophecies foretold! In Ezekiel and Hosea, we read about the 12 tribes of Isreal uniting into one new man before the Messiah’s return for His bride and His people, but we are jumping ahead of the story! First, we must get through the story of Joseph and the rascally brothers before we get to the origins of the 12 tribes!
Let’s see what big brother Judah says about this week’s Torah portion!
“And they took him, and cast him into a pit; and the pit was empty; there was no water in it”—Genesis 37:24.
This verse describes the abduction of Joseph by his brothers. The sages expound upon this verse, asking: If the verse has already declared that the pit was “empty,” is it not redundant to state that “there was no water in it”?
The sages concluded: The verse hints that the pit was only devoid of water, there were, however, snakes and scorpions in it.
The sages’ interpretation of the verse is meant both literally and metaphorically. The empty pit may be understood to be the mind. If the mind is devoid of life-giving ‘water,’ that is, nourishing and constructive thoughts, then it is undoubtedly full of ‘snakes and scorpions’ instead.
If one wants to expel an undesirable thought, he cannot just stop thinking. He must actively choose to think about something elseMystical tradition explains that thought – as opposed to speech and action – is the mode of human expression that never ceases. If one wishes to avoid a certain way of speaking or acting, he can merely choose not to speak or not to act. If one, however, wants to expel an undesirable thought from the mind, he cannot just stop thinking. He must actively choose to think about something else, for the mind is never truly empty.
In the absence of productive thoughts, the mind plays host to self-made demons of destructive thinking. Just like the kind of flour a mill produces depends on the grist placed within it, the mind turns out feelings and behaviors according to the ideas it actively entertains.
The alcoholic or addict in recovery knows all too well the troubles of an overactive mind. Our mental mills are fast and frenetic. We, therefore, endeavor to maintain constant vigilance over our thoughts, actively choosing such thinking that we would like to dwell upon and quickly replacing thoughts that tend to do us in. This requires alertness. But if we are lax about what kind of thoughts we allow ourselves to entertain, we find later that our sloppiness in this area costs us dearly. While thinking is free, its effects can levy a steep toll; it affects our serenity, our usefulness and our conscious contact with G‑d.
We mustn’t forget that our disease is not only a physical allergy to alcohol or drugs, but a mental disorder as well. Thus, even in sobriety, when alcohol and drugs don’t enter our system, we still must fend with the psychological aspect of our illness. If we are not sufficiently watchful, our own minds quickly unleash their arsenal of self-destruction—unleashing devastating mental weapons of resentment, fear and self-obsession.
So we watch ourselves closely, quickly identifying the beginning of a negative thought pattern before it spirals so far out of control that we are actually convinced of its worthiness or urgency. In our daily Tenth Step we may ask ourselves whether we have endeavored to have holy, pure and selfless thoughts. Conversely, we ask ourselves whether we have been sufficiently watchful about quickly displacing negative thinking. When we closely monitor our thoughts and judge ourselves swiftly and relentlessly in this matter, we find that the effort expended is well worth the reward. Our energetic minds are just as capable of creating heaven on earth—as they have already been proven capable of the alternative.
Rabbi Ben A. is the most famous anonymous rabbi. Using his pen name, Ben A. draws from his personal experience in recovery to incorporate unique chassidic philosophy into the practice of the 12 Steps.
The idea of this article is based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Welcome to another Torah portion commentary by yours truly! I am not a bible teacher; nope, I am just a person in recovery from some rough life issues that loves to take the Torah portions, drawing out recovery principles!
Well, again, this week is chucked full of amazing ponderings!
Major consequences for both Moseh and the rebel tribes, reminders of what Yah brought them through, reassurance that He will go before them and fight or them…still…
Hear and obey!
Listen to My instructions and walk it out!
People, places, and things! Do NOT mix, DO NOT go there, and DO NOT do those things they are doing…
Simple! But, just like addicts, we want what we want when we want it…no matter what…
Those dang mental games we play with ourselves! Justification, rationalization, minimization, denial, blame-shifting! Nothing new under the sun, right!?
It’s not easy for a trauma survivor to heal, to get over “it.” It doesn’t just happen. Getting over “it.” Research has shown that trauma changes the brain structure; that is the bad news; the good news is that the brain can heal!
As we prepare for the Bridegroom, the Bride must make herself ready. One way she can prepare herself is to attend to whatever wounds hinder her ability to be all He calls her to be…pure, without spot or wrinkle. Some of these spots and wrinkles could very well be:
Some of the symptoms of trauma are:
There is healing; healing takes time and requires a safe space to be able to tell one’s story. There is healing in being heard and believed rather than blamed and shamed.
Preparing for His soon return. That is our focus. Helping others come through their own wilderness experience is also what we are called to do…loving our neighbor AS ourselves…
Trusting and obeying requires one to put away the bitterness from father and mother wounds; it requires much. It requires the shedding of snake skin lies. Which requires honesty. This requires allowing Him to break down the defenses, peel the onion layers, and get to the heart of the issues, the heart of the pain…and that requires trust…
For this person in recovery, I clung to this promise:
Prayer is an act of trust. More specifically, it is an act of trusting God’s unfailing love. Trust is the act of relying on something or someone. When we take the risk of crossing the river by driving over a bridge, we are trusting the bridge to do what it promises to do. We trust the bridge to assist us, to support us, to be there for us. In the same way, to pray is to trust that God will be faithful to God’s promises to lovingly care for us and to be with us.
This does not mean that we have to try to conjure up great faith in order to pray. It does not mean we need to pretend to trust when we are in the throws of despair or doubt. It does not mean that we should force ourselves to trust when our capacity to trust seems broken.
The reality is that many of us have a weakened–or even broken–capacity to trust. We may have been significantly hurt or disappointed in close relationships in the past. As a result, we may find it difficult to trust others or God. The possibility of “unfailing love,” even of God’s unfailing love, may seem like something that is too much to hope for.
So, how can we pray if to pray is to trust and our capacity to trust is weak or broken? Jesus taught his followers that if they had faith as small as a tiny mustard seed, they could move mountains. Perhaps we can think of prayer, then, as an act of taking the tiny mustard seed of faith that we have been given and planting it in the soil of God’s faithful love, even as we are honest about our doubts and fears.
In this way, prayer is an act of turning to the One who claims to be the God of loving kindness, and engaging honestly with God–even when our capacity for trust is small. This means that there will be times that our relationship with God will be from a place of doubt or protest. Psalm 13 is just this kind of engagement with God. Most of the psalm is a lament. The Psalmist asks God: “How long will you forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?” It is only at the end of the Psalm that the psalmist says, “But I trust in your unfailing love.”
The psalmist pours out his honest lament. It is this honesty that opens the way for the psalmist to remember and trust God’s unfailing love. In fact, the lament itself is an act of trusting God’s unfailing love. It is a cry of longing for God, of needing God, of feeling separated from God. The cry itself is a mustard seed of hope that, in spite of how things appear, God may be lovingly present through it all.
When we pray we are using the mustard seed of faith we have been given. We are opening ourselves up in some measure to the God who hears and sees and cares about us with intimate, tender, unfailing love. We are trusting, even if in the smallest way, that no matter what our circumstances, in spite of our fears and doubts, that God is with us, enfolding us in Love that is unshakeable.
Sometimes my trust
in your unfailing love
is as small as the smallest seed.
Sometimes I am afraid that you do not love me,
that you are disappointed with me,
that you are impossible to please,
that you are not there for me.
And when life is hard
I sometimes find it difficult to trust that you are with me
and that your love for me is unshakable.
In turning to you today,
I am planting my small seed of faith.
May my trust in your unfailing love
take root and grow.
May I be able one day to fully trust
in your unfailing love.
As you breathe deeply and easily, let yourself sense God’s tender, faithful love enfolding you. Plant your mustard seed of trust in God’s unfailing love by telling God your fears, your needs, your doubts, your longings. Then allow yourself to rest quietly in the presence of God’s love.
I pray you are blessed by this week’s ramblings from a fellow sojourner’s pen!
Devarim means “words.” The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 1:1). The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.
(Fruit of Zion)
This week, I want to focus on “words.” Words have power, words have meaning…words can do much damage, just as a whip on a slave’s back leaves a trail of scars, a trail of tears, so words can leave a trail of scars in one’s psyche and a trail of tears in one’s soul…echoing taunts, echoing humiliation, echoing shame….until the spell of the spoken words are broken and new words are delivered with love…
Sooooooo, let’s go!
This week’s Torah portion is packed with so many amazing rabbit trails!
Words…they are powerful!
Sometimes words cannot penetrate a traumatized brain…even the words of Yah. Seemingly!
Words are powerful! So are epigenetics!
This is taken from an article from the website Chabad (take what you want and leave the rest!)
Moses on Addiction
It takes courage and strength to change the course of generations.
We all have our addictions. Alcohol or anger, power or pornography, self-absorption or spending—any compulsive, Researchers now believe that about 60% of addiction is epigenetic. Self-destructive behavior is a legitimate candidate for addiction.
The nastiest addictions are those passed along through the generations—perhaps epigenetically. Epigenetics is about how environment and experience leave an imprint on your DNA. Researchers now believe that about 60% of addiction is epigenetic. That’s right—you can inherit the repercussions of traumatic experiences of your ancestors and their adaptive responses in your genes.
Sometimes adaptive, often maladaptive. For example, one generation suffers from famine, and researchers find the grandchildren are obese two generations later.
Small wonder some people can hardly imagine overcoming their worst vices. It’s not easy when a behavioral response is in your blood.
Focus on the word “trauma” and the research that has revealed trauma is passed down in the DNA…
Now…keep up with the rabbit trail…
Consider that those delivered from Egypt lived as slaves…for roughly 400 years…
Ponder what life would have been like for them and the condition they were in when Yah sent Moses to deliver them…
I have suffered from trauma since a little girl…when I was young, before the trauma, I was a sweet innocent little girl…I grew into a problem child, a troubled teen, and an angry, defiant, rebellious woman. I used drugs of all sorts to numb the pain. I was the party girl, always looking for the next distraction from reality.
My life made sense as I became educated on complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Every year I read the Torah portions regarding slavery and the rebellion in the wilderness, and I ponder epigenetics and the effects of trauma.
Before we go any further, I want to share with you something else I ran across as I was researching this blog topic…
this is taken from an article written by By Lance J. Sussman
Today, it is imperative that we understand that the Torah recognized PTSD as a serious problem thousands of years ago. It happens in the din of battle, in the shadows of our college campus and even in our homes. Vigilance, treatment, and compassion are imperative.
Noah survived the flood but drowned in the wake of his untreated PTSD. Let us learn from his tragic example.
I was fired from my first rabbinic position for no other reason than the fact that I was being harassed and asked for it to stop. Just a few weeks later, during an interview for a new job, I could not contain my tears at moments. After the interviewing rabbi heard my pain and offered comfort, he gave me good guidance. He could not hire me, he said, not because I wasn’t qualified but because I wasn’t ready. I needed to do my own healing work before I could help in the healing of others. I needed to rebuild my resiliency so that I could once again meet the challenges of our helping profession.
My experience of trauma inhibited me from being able to be present in that interview and in much of my life. After time in therapy and prayer, walking in parks, and being with friends, I was able to build up my strength and resiliency so that I could do the sacred work of serving God and the Jewish people.
When I read the story of the children of Israel in this week’s Torah portion with a trauma-informed perspective, I understand why one generation was not ready to achieve its dreams and one generation could move into battle and on to the Promised Land.
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ speech to the Israelites as they stand on the border of the land of Israel. Moses retells the story of their journey from slavery to freedom through the challenges and triumphs of the desert. In fact, Moses uses the same language when he tells the Children of Israel to leave Sinai and head toward the border of Canaan as he does 38 years later when he tells them it is time to head toward the Promised Land. Twice God tells them they have wandered long enough and must change directions. The same commands. Very different outcomes.
In chapter one, Moses relates God’s command back when Israel was at Sinai: “Rav lachem shevet bahar hazeh/ You have stayed long enough at this mountain. P’nu u’s’u lachem … Start out and make your way to the hill country…” Two years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were unable to follow God’s commands. Struck with fear upon the report of the reconnaissance team they had sent to Canaan they said, “It is because the Lord hates us that God brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to wipe us out.”(Deut.1:27)
How is it that the Children of Israel could summarize their experience of God’s redemption from Egypt, God’s revelation at Sinai and God’s deliverance to the border of the Promised Land as God’s hatred of Israel and desire to destroy Israel?! The ultimate blessings that God conferred on Israel were experienced as traumatic situations that left Israel feeling alone, abandoned, despised, and threatened. How were they so blind to God’s love? Why couldn’t they experience the blessings of their experience?
Commenting on this verse, Rashi, citing the midrash Sifre, explains that “God loved you but you hated Him. As a common proverb says: What is in your own mind about your friend, [you imagine] is in his mind about you.’” As much as Moses told them not to be afraid and that everything would be ok because God was with them, they couldn’t comprehend this. They were stuck in the past, fearful of every threat, imagined or real, and unable to accurately understand the situation before them.
This is the impact of trauma on our minds. The trauma of slavery had profoundly impacted the Israelites’ capacity to access hope in the face of threat. Remember that Moses never lived as a slave. Where Moses saw promise, the Israelites saw danger. Their traumatic memories were active and ever-present in their minds, making them not yet ready to enter into the next battle. The decades of travel through the desert became a therapeutic holding space to build up Israel’s resiliency and capacity to be in a committed relationship with God.
A generation later Israel stood at Kadesh Barnea again, and we read the same command to set their course toward the promised land. “Rav lachem. Sov et hahar hazeh, p’nu lachem tzafona/You have been skirting this hill country long enough; now turn north.”(Deuteronomy 2:3)
This time Moses has a wealth of experiences upon which he can draw to remind Israel of their strengths and experience overcoming obstacles. They can remember the experience of God’s love and recall the blessings of the divine-human partnership. “Indeed, the Lord your God has blessed you in all your undertakings. God has watched over your wanderings through this great wilderness; the Lord your God has been with you these past 40 years; you have lacked nothing.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)
This time the Israelites are able to hear God’s commands and Moses’ reassurances. This time they are standing in Kadesh Barnea firmly grounded in the present’s opportunities. The past provides the resources to give them strength in times of adversity and faith in God’s presence and benevolence.
While God’s judgement of the Exodus generation and its sentence to wander in the desert until a new generation was prepared may seem harsh and unreasonable, Israel’s experience of post-traumatic growth can point us in the direction of healing, resiliency, and hope.
As we experience so many threats to democracy and fear for our neighbors’ welfare and our children’s future, are there not many times that challenge our capacity to maintain hope and resiliency? These are the times when we must stop and ground ourselves in the present, recount our blessings, witness the beauty in the world, savor the joy. We all carry historical trauma, so we must be careful to pick up resources along our way that promote well-being and resiliency.
The road ahead will always hold potholes and detours. The challenge is to utilize the rest stops and our vast spiritual toolkit. Only then will we fulfill our own divinely-mandated journeys and find our way to the promised land.
Rabbi Francine Roston is the spiritual leader and co-founder of the independent, synagogue-without-walls Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom in northwest Montana. She is working towards certification as a teacher of the Community Resiliency Model® helping people understand the biology of traumatic stress reactions and teaching them well-being skills to develop resiliency.
Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years. This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking and other organized rings of abuse, and more. While there are exceptional circumstances where adults develop C-PTSD, it is most often seen in those whose trauma occurred in childhood. For those who are older, being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the survivor’s sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level. For those who go through this as children, because the brain is still developing and they’re just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, understand the world around them, and build their first relationships – severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychological and neurologic development.
When an adult experiences a traumatic event, they have more tools to understand what is happening to them, their place as a victim of that trauma, and know they should seek support even if they don’t want to. Children don’t possess most of these skills, or even the ability to separate themselves from another’s unconscionable actions. The psychological and developmental implications of that become complexly woven and spun into who that child believes themselves to be — creating a messy web of core beliefs much harder to untangle than the flashbacks, nightmares and other posttraumatic symptoms that come later.
Another important thing to know is that the trauma to children resulting in C-PTSD (as well as dissociative disorders) is usually deeply interpersonal within that child’s caregiving system. Separate from both the traumatic events and the perpetrator, there is often an added component of neglect, hot-and-cold affections from a primary caregiver, or outright invalidation of the trauma if a child does try to speak up. These disorganized attachments and mixed messages from those supposed to provide love, comfort and safety – all in the periphery of extreme trauma – can create even more unique struggles that PTSD sufferers alone don’t always face.
WHAT DOES C-PTSD LOOK LIKE?
To delineate some of these hallmark challenges – as outlined in the proposed Complex PTSD criteria – we’ll begin with the one that shows up most frequently in day-to-day life: emotion regulation. Survivors with Complex PTSD have a very difficult time with emotions — experiencing them, controlling them, and for many, just being able to comprehend or label them accurately. Many have unmanaged or persistent sadness, explosive or inaccessible anger, and/or suicidal thoughts. They may be chronically numb, lack the appropriate affect in certain situations, be unable to triage sudden changes in emotional content or struggle to level out after a great high/low. It’s also common for these survivors to re-experience emotions from trauma intrusively – particularly when triggered. These feelings are often disproportionate to the present situation. Still, they are equal to the intensity of what was required of them at the time of a trauma — also known as an emotional flashback.
As I read the account of Moses, reviewing the years in the wilderness, and the behaviors of rebellion and defiance, I cannot help but wonder about the trauma many of those folks experienced while under the rule of Pharoh.
I also ponder the many times Yah says “do not fear, I am with you”. With a trauma brain, one may not trust, may be suspicious due to fear of authority figures. There are many reasons why many of the older ones could not seem to get their act together! They had to die off so the younger ones could march on in faith!
When Sara’s family had to evacuate her house during a hurricane, they were all equally scared — they could have lost everything they owned, or even been killed. Luckily, her whole family survived, but a tree fell through the roof of Sara’s bedroom, right where she would have been sleeping if they had stayed. Months later, it seems like everyone has gotten over the hurricane…except Sara. She still panics every time it drizzles, has nightmares about storms, and can’t concentrate in school. Sara has experienced a traumatic event and struggles to overcome the feelings it has caused.
What is trauma?
A “trauma” or “traumatic event” is something you either experience or witness that is extremely upsetting, frightening, or difficult. There are two types of traumatic events: chronic and acute.
Acute traumatic events
These types of events usually only happen once and over a short period of time
These experiences bring back feelings of terror, horror, or helplessness
Examples of acute traumatic events:
Natural disasters (like a hurricane, tornado, or flood)
Serious accidents (like a car crash)
Sudden loss of a loved one
Physical or sexual assault (being mugged or attacked)
Chronic traumatic situations
This type of trauma can happen repeatedly and over time
Experiencing chronic trauma can cause victims to feel guilt, shame, fear, loss of trust, and lack of safety
Examples of chronic traumatic situations:
Multiple incidents of physical abuse
Multiple incidents of sexual abuse
Domestic violence (violence in your home)
Wars or political violence
What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?
When someone has experienced trauma — and it continues to cause them intense stress for more than a month — they may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You may have heard of PTSD, particularly when people talk about soldiers returning from war. The truth is, people who have fought in wars aren’t the only ones who can experience PTSD — it can be anyone who has witnessed or been involved in a potentially traumatic event, from being displaced from their home due to a natural disaster or war, to being in a car crash where they broke their ankle.
Signs and symptoms of PTSD:
Reliving or re-experiencing the traumatic event(s)
Having nightmares, intrusive memories, flashbacks, or frequent or unexpected mental images of the event
Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma
Staying away from the people, places, or things that are in any way related to the event
Not being willing to talk about the trauma, even to a professional or a loved one
Negative thoughts and moods
Feeling unwarranted blame toward yourself or others
Feeling distanced or estranged from others
Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Losing the ability to remember events well, especially key aspects of the traumatic event
Aggressive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior
How can you treat PTSD?
Even though talking or thinking about the traumatic event(s) can be stressful or even painful, PTSD is usually not cleared up on its own. Therapy can be an effective treatment for dealing with the anxiety and stress of trauma. One of the most common therapies is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is used to help change the way you react or respond to unhelpful thoughts of behaviors. There are several things you may learn or tactics that may be used in CBT, such as:
Stress management skills to help you cope with unpleasant feelings or memories associated with trauma
“Exposure therapy,” asks that you talk about the trauma or your feelings in a safe space.
Creating a narrative of what happened — so that you can tell the story of the trauma and take ownership of the feelings it causes
Correcting untrue or incorrect thoughts about the trauma, often of guilt or blame. Almost always, there is nothing you could have done to change the event’s outcome, and relieving yourself of the blame goes a long way toward treating PTSD.
Involving your parents or other adults you trust
Trauma is difficult to overcome and even more difficult if you are alone or without a role model you can trust. Getting your parents or another adult involved in your therapy can help the healing process move along with more stability.
Jews and Trauma
All it takes is a quick scan of Jewish history to realize that Jews — both as individuals and as a community — have undergone many traumas over the years. The Holocaust is arguably the most traumatic event in our history. As its survivor’s age, many who managed to suppress trauma earlier in their lives find themselves suffering from PTSD. Recent research indicates that Holocaust trauma may have a genetic component in which survivors pass down their trauma to their children and grandchildren.
In addition, Israel’s numerous experiences with terrorism and war have left a mark on many of its citizens. The one silver lining of this is that Israelis have become world experts in treating trauma. The Jewish state often sends post-trauma experts to countries dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, epidemics, terror attacks, and other crises. Click here for more information about one group that does this, called IsraAid.
Words from our Big Brother Judah…take what you want and leave the rest as we say in the rooms of recovery…
“These are the words that Moses spoke to the entire people of Israel…”—Deuteronomy 1:1.
The book of Deuteronomy relates the monologue spoken by Moses just before the people entered the Promised Land. As it is stated, “These are the words that Moses spoke to the entire people of Israel.” Unlike the other four books, which are “the word of G‑d,” Deuteronomy is the “word of Moses”—that is, it is his final address to the people.
That does not mean that this book is of mortal invention, but rather that Moses delivered these words through divine inspiration. In the first four books of the Torah, Moses merely took dictation from G‑d, precisely relaying each word without regard to his own understanding. The words of Deuteronomy, however, were first integrated into Moses’ own consciousness; and only then were they spoken by him. This does not mean that the content of this book is somehow diluted or compromised by having passed through mortal understanding. Rather, what it means is that Moses attained a level at which G‑d’s word could be faithfully transmitted—not just through his mouth, but also through his brain. In his final days, Moses did not just transmit G‑d’s message; he first conceived it in his own mind.
Moses did not just transmit G‑d’s message; he first conceived it in his own mindThere is a reason why this fusion of mortal and G‑dly intelligence occurred when it did, in the days just prior to entering the Holy Land.
After forty years of wandering in the desert, protected by miracles, the people were poised to meet their destiny and to face the “real world.” They would need to be able to take the rarefied spiritual concepts that they had learned during their forty years in the desert and apply them to ordinary life. They needed to put theory into practice and in order to do so they needed to hear G‑d’s word integrated and conveyed through the intellect of another human being.
“G‑d speaks through people,” is a common saying in recovery. Lofty spiritual concepts are worth little to us in dealing with everyday life if we never hear them spoken in simple, human terms, filtered through the mortal, finite mind of another alcoholic or addict.
Some of us may wonder how it can be that the very same thought that we had come across in our religious studies couldn’t help us overcome our alcoholism, but when heard spoken – in slightly different words – by another alcoholic, had a profound and transformative effect. If G‑d’s own word hadn’t worked on us, how could the word of a mere mortal?
The answer is, of course, that that is G‑d’s word—as understood and communicated by another human being who shares our disease.
There is a lot going on in this week’s Torah Portion! What a bunch of rebels! Wow! Here they are, just rescued from a few centuries of slavery, and this is the thanks Yah gets! Moses, being His right-hand man, along with Aaron, gets the brunt of this rebellious rage…
This theme is a thread all through the scriptures! From Genesis to Revelation! Rebellion began, not on earth but in heaven. And there is nothing new under the sun! It seems that leadership has always been attacked by those who, for whatever reason, cannot submit to Yah’s ways and His perfect will.
A word about this week’s Torah Portion from big brother Judah!
“The entire community is holy and G‑d is amongst them; so why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of G‑d?”–Numbers 16:3
This week we read of Korach, a cousin of Moses, who led a rebellion against Moses and his brother, Aaron, the High Priest, charging them with unduly taking high offices for themselves. Although both Moses and Aaron were divinely appointed to their posts, Korach suspected that they were merely grabbing power for themselves and trying to assert their superiority over the rest of the nation. “The entire community is holy and G‑d is amongst them,” said Korach, “So why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of G‑d?”
Moses and Aaron had held their positions long before Korach’s rebellion in the second year in the wilderness. What prompted Korach to challenge them at that time?
In last week’s reading, we read of the scouts sent by Moses and how they feared entering the Land. The scouts enjoyed the nomadic life in the wilderness where they were free to study, pray and meditate all day. They were thus reluctant to establish a homeland for fear of being distracted from their spiritual pursuits. Their grave error lied in failing to appreciate the importance of serving G‑d not just in speech and thought but in action.
Korach took this episode to heart and drew his own conclusion. Since action is of paramount importance and since everyone performs the same commandments, there is apparently no difference between one person and the next. The fact that people like Moses and Aaron have a heightened sense of understanding and appreciation for the commandments should be irrelevant. Action is action and we all follow the same code, reasoned Korach.
As such, Korach resented the very notion that Moses and Aaron should be recognized on the basis of their greater spiritual sensitivity.
But Korach was wrong. Granted, right action is more crucial than right thinking or feeling. But that does not mean that thoughts and feelings are insignificant. The same deed may be done with various degrees of awareness and feeling. Those who perform the commandments with greater intellectual and emotional depth are rightly placed in their positions as mentors, teachers and guides.
There is a direct application of this lesson to our experience in recovery. We all work the same Steps. We all take the same basic actions: admitting our powerlessness, turning our life over to a Higher Power, taking moral inventory, making amends, etc. In this regard, everyone who works the program is the same as everybody else. But we must not make the same mistake as Korach by thinking that technical execution of the deed is all there is and that everybody is on the same level. There is such a thing as “quality of sobriety,” and we should humbly recognize that in this regard there are those who surpass us.
We all know what it means when we hear that “so-and-so works a good program.” It’s not just about action. It’s about internal growth — intangibles such as serenity, courage and wisdom. It can be a hard pill for such an insecure lot as us to swallow, but if we know people who have real quality sobriety, we should admit it and aspire to be like them. In order to “stick with the winners” we have to give the winners their due.
Shalom! Well, this weekend will be a very busy one for not just me, but the team and speakers that Yah brought together to do a recovery weekend called The Good Samaritan. Due to all the business that has gone into the conference, this week’s Torah Portion page is skimpy!
There is a lot of meat in this Torah Portion! Spies, bad reports, negative thinking, perspective, Yah using a woman of ill repute, giants too!! Lots of action and much we can apply to our own journey through the wilderness of being a sojourner walking a different path!
A different spirit, a different path, a different message…
boots on the ground gospel, providing a door of hope and a way out!
Moses sends scouts to tour the Land of Israel and report back with the best strategy for conquering the Land. Instead of fulfilling their mission, the scouts return with a bleak report and insist that the nation remain in the desert.
There are two questions: a) Why did the scouts disparage the prospect of entering the Land that G‑d had promised them? b) The scouts were handpicked by Moses because of their high spiritual standing – “all of them men of distinction” (Numbers 13:3). How then could they have failed so dismally to carry out their charge?
The scouts were not afraid that they could not conquer the land. They were afraid of what their lives would be like after they didOn a simple level, we may answer that the scouts were afraid of battle. But this only answers our first question and not our second. G‑d had already promised them that they would easily conquer their enemies. If the scouts were spiritual men, they certainly had faith in G‑d’s promise to grant them victory.
A deeper explanation is given which answers both questions. The scouts were not afraid that they could not conquer the land. They were afraid of what their lives would be like after they did. Being spiritual people, they had a profound fear of becoming involved in the kind of worldly affairs that would arise in the course of settling the Land—agriculture, city-building, commerce, government, etc. In the desert, they had no work, no homes, no responsibilities. They were happy to be nomads, for such living left them free to inhabit what the kabbalists refer to as the “plane of thought and speech,” rather than “the plane of action.”
What these misguided spiritualists forgot, however, is that G‑d’s purpose for them was not in the modified reality of the desert, but in tackling the holy task of settling the Land and dealing with the world.
It seems we alcoholics may have a lot in common with these men. They say that we are more sensitive and idealistic than most people and, for that reason, have found great pain in confronting the realities of this world. Whether this is true or not would be hard to say. What we can say with a fair amount of certainty, however, is that no group has ever more clearly displayed an obsession for buffering themselves from reality. No bunch has more feared facing the rigors of mundane existence and “settling the Land.” We felt ourselves more at peace in “the planes of thought and speech” than that of action. Indeed, philosophizing and debating were more readily agreeable to us than tending to everyday affairs. We wanted to live in our own heads, not in the real world. Alcohol helped us do that and, in a strange way, some of us may have even thought it helped us get closer to G‑d.
We felt ourselves more at peace in “the planes of thought and speech” than that of actionBut, also like the scouts, we were tragically mistaken. G‑d desires that He be found in reality. Whether or not we are up to the task is irrelevant. It is not on our power that we rely, but on His. What we thought to be merely an admission of our own inability to handle unmodified existence, we later came to realize was actually a most brazen accusation against G‑d—that He could not help us to deal with reality nearly as well as alcohol could. Thus, we told G‑d in so many words that we did not trust Him to help us carry out our G‑d-given mission that awaited us in the daunting Promised Land of sober reality.
Recovery has helped us correct this grave error in our thinking. We do not fear the world quite as much today as we once did. We are ready to enter and settle the Land, to “live life on life’s terms” and – with G‑d’s ever abundant help and mercy – to face head on whatever may await us there.
Be careful what you pray for AND what you wish for…
Murmuring and complaining…gets you nowhere with Yah but in trouble!
I remember in my active addiction more was never enough. It didn’t matter what the substance was. It was NEVER enough! I was so sick in the head that I use to yearn to have a large pile of cocaine put in front of me with the ability to snort as much up my nose as I wanted. That day came. I remember being in my fiance’s apartment, he placed a pile of top-quality “stuff” in front of me and told me to do as large a line as I wanted. Dream come true!!!!
I snorted a large amount of that white powder up my nose. Tasting the bitterness of the snow-white powder was part of the sick, sweet ritual of a cocaine addict. Feeling it course through your veins, numbing out everything was the chase factor.
The only thing I remember after partaking of my sick dream come true fantasy is being in the bathroom, and having difficulties. Do not ask me with what. I do not remember. To this very day, it’s a dark shadow, a part of a dark past. I lived to tell, many have not been so blessed.
My fiance threw me out of his apartment. To this day I do not know how I arrived home safe, but I did. I do not remember anything from that night…I believe angels watched over me that night, leading me across the street home. Where I belonged.
In the rooms of 12-step recovery, there is a saying
It did not matter what it was…cocaine, alcohol, even heroin. After putting the cocaine addiction down, my alcoholic drinking was amped up…I was out of my mind, out of control. Then after I put that down, my cigarette addiction rocketed off the chart. Then once I conquered that one with a lot of help from Yah, my food addiction was out of control…
As I addressed the childhood sexual abuse, that’s when I returned to my “first love”. I returned to overeating. I could not get enough of whatever it was. I needed comfort.
I was chasing that “ahhhh” factor. My memories of momma’s chocolate cream pie set up in me a craving rivaling a crack addict seeking another numbing hit on the pipe. My mother would comment on my father’s overindulging when she made cookies, brownies, etc. She couldn’t understand why he would eat until he was sick. I did, I got it. Yep, same driving force.
In this week’s Torah portion, we have a bunch of folks rescued from 400 years of slavery. 400 years of trauma. Generational trauma. Epigenetics at work. Craving comfort food, craving meat. Yearning for the familiar…seeking for their next hit of meat…
So, every Torah cycle, I am empathizing with those displaced slaves. Those trauma survivors. Cravings, yearnings to go back. To the familiar, to the well-known. Even though it is destructive and there is no freedom, it is still familiar. It is known. It is a comfort to know where your next meal is coming from, to know that you have your own bed to sleep in, and to know that it will be pretty much the same expectations for you the following day. No surprises, nope, same ol’ same ol’.
I have been in domestic abuse shelters for women, I have worked in residential facilities, and have also had experience with detox facilities. I have been in maximum security prisons. jails, and a host of other settings. I understand being removed from all that is familiar to you and having to rely on an invisible source.
I think of all the upheaval the C19 has brought into our lives. Inflation is out of control. The housing market collapsing. People and families are being displaced out of the home they found comfort in. The homeless shelters are overflowing, The shelves are emptying of stock, and gas prices have soared through the roof.
Nothing is familiar.
Comfort ye comfort ye My people…the prophet Isaiah cried…
Ezekial had a fun job too…prophets got to have all the fun, telling the truth, warning folks about impending doom and gloom if they kept choosing to chase their own tails…wanting their own way, wanting what they want when they want it and the hell with everyone else…
The sheep are being separated. Just like Yah did in the wilderness in our Torah portion. As was prophesied in Ezekiel 34, He is separating His sheep from the sheep.
The question is…will we trust Him? Even when we don’t have 3 meals and snacks? Even when we may not know where we will lay our heads that night to rest, even if we are pressured to take the “solution” the world has?
Trust and obey! He doesn’t change, He isn’t a liar and He is the miracle worker!! His promises are sure!
Now, a word from Big Brother Judah on this week’s Torah portion!
If any man of you, or of your future generations, shall be unclean . . . or be on a journey far off, he shall keep the Passover to G‑d on the fourteenth day of the second month . . . (Numbers 9:10–11)
On the date commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, it is a mitzvah to celebrate the holiday of Passover. When the Temple stood—may it be speedily rebuilt in our day—this celebration would entail bringing a special sacrifice on the day before Passover, the Paschal lamb. The Torah tells also of a “Second Passover” granted to a group of men unable to fulfill their obligation with the rest of the nation on the regularly appointed holiday. Because they were ritually impure, they were excluded from performing the sacrificial offering in honor of Passover. Aggrieved because of their missed opportunity to fulfill a commandment of G‑d, they approached Moses and asked that he somehow make an exception for them. G‑d spoke to Moses and told him to establish a makeup date, one month later, after they would have a chance to purify themselves. The “Second Passover” thus became a mitzvah, a commandment of the Torah, eternalized for all time.
Why didn’t G‑d just tell Moses about the “backup plan” when He told him about the regular Passover?But if the Second Passover was destined to become a commandment, why didn’t G‑d simply relate this commandment to Moses at the outset, as He did with all of the other commandments? Why didn’t G‑d just tell Moses about the “backup plan” when He told him about the regular Passover? Why did the people first have to ask for it?
The Second Passover represents the power of teshuvah (literally: “return”). By returning to G‑d, one has the power to retroactively transform past failings into veritable merits. For it is the penitent’s prior distance from G‑d that serves as the very springboard for his current heightened desire to cleave to Him. Ironically, had he not once been estranged from his G‑d, he would never have come to the kind of yearning for Him that he feels now. The darkest moments of his past, what were once his greatest liabilities, now become his greatest assets, the source of an intense motivation for re-found closeness with G‑d.
Such a condition, however—where past misdeeds become virtues—cannot be premeditated. G‑d’s rulebook could never prescribe failure to serve G‑d properly as a way to later become closer to Him. The opportunity to transform the past must come from the penitent himself. He must ask for it, and only then is it granted.
In recovery, we’ve found a new relationship with G‑d. We have an appreciation for His wisdom, love and guidance that we are quite sure could never have been possible had we not been forced to turn our lives over to Him as the only known treatment for a disease which is progressive, incurable and fatal. We did not become alcoholics in order that we could later discover G‑d in recovery. Nor is that something that we could ever have planned. It isn’t even something G‑d would have told us to do.
A certain chassid was once chided about the fact that the chassidim tend to make a big to-do about the Second Passover. “You celebrate a holiday established for impure people,” his detractors laughed. “No,” he answered, “not a holiday for impure people. A holiday for impure people who became pure.”
We could never have planned it. G‑d would never have advised it. But this is how things worked out.Some might think it odd when they hear an alcoholic in recovery say something like “Being an alcoholic is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” Perhaps they think that recovery is meant only to make us more like normal people, to catch us up. But we do not have the dubious luxury enjoyed by “normal people” who decide how and when to let G‑d into their lives. Such is our fortune: that we must strive to join that happy lot for whom their very survival dictates that they give themselves entirely over to G‑d.
We could never have planned it. G‑d would never have advised it. But this is how things worked out. And this is what has made us closer to Him today.
And, isn’t it all about finding our Messiah in all the Tanak, and the Gospels? This week’s Torah portion is not an easy one, there are so many twists and turns!!! Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense, how on earth does one see Him in such a maze and haze? The woman’s jealous husband, the crazy ritual to prove her innocent…or guilty…and the outcome of going through this ritual. I am no bible scholar, I am learning right along with you….but I wanted to share with you some thoughts and some things I found while doing my rabbit hole dive…
Maybe, just maybe, you, like me, have done some pretty bad things while living as an addictive addiction. When I got clean and sober, and the cloud began to lift, the shame and guilt was enormous! I was steered to Alcoholics Anonymous by Yours Truly, and it was there that I began my healing process. Putting the plug in the jug and the drugs down was only the first step. There were many other steps, one of which was facing those things…those things I had done while living as an addict. Those activities I found myself involved in while out of my mind, under the influence. Like adultrey. That was only one of the many sins I commited.
I can tell you this, teshuva is bitter sweet! Going through the process of being open and honest about all those sexual sins commited over the course of years, brought such freedom. Forgiving myself was very difficult, I must say. Going to Yeshua (Jesus at the time) and laying it all down, accepting His punishment was humbling.
As I attempt to dive deeper into His word, every Torah cycle I learn more. This year was an amazing revelation of how He drank the bitter cup that the adultrous wife in this weeks Torah portion drank.
When the woman was dragged before Him in John 8:1-11..is Isreal and He wrote in the sand of the temple, just like the dirt from the floor was mixed with water and herbs she had to drink.
He died so the adultrous woman was free to marry again…He rose a new Man in order for her to marry Him…again…
Freedom…this is where we find Him in this weeks Torah portion!
Isn’t that refreshing? Isn’t that amazing? He came and died for our sins…yes, but it is so much more! It goes so much deeper!
I hope this has been a blessing to you, please do your own digging, because I am still learning as you are!
He is able to cleanse us all from all our sins, with the blood of the Lamb shed on the stake, for me, and for you!
A word from our big brother Judah on this weeks Torah portion!
“A man or a woman who sets himself apart by making a nazirite vow to abstain for the sake of G‑d”—Numbers 6:2.
In the book of Numbers (chs. 5–6) we learn of the laws of the sotah (suspected adulteress) and the nazir (one who takes a vow which involves abstention from wine). While outwardly these two subjects share nothing in common, the fact that Scripture places them one after the other indicates an underlying correlation. The sages explained the connection between these two sections as follows: “Why is the section dealing with the suspected adulteress related just before the section dealing with one who takes a nazirite vow? To teach you that whoever observes such a woman in her disgrace should forswear wine.”
Witnessing another’s downfall says as much about the one who sees it as about the one actually going through itOn a simple level, one may interpret this teaching to mean that when one beholds someone who is in a state of spiritual ruin, the observer is reminded of the general frailty of human nature and should thus take precautions to prevent his own moral downfall. However, this interpretation raises a question. If observing someone else’s moral failure serves as a stark reminder of our own weaknesses, then why is there a need to also take on a specific vow? Just seeing another person in a state of disgrace should be a sufficiently forceful reminder that the observer must be watchful of his own conduct as well.
The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, explained that one never “just happens” to observe something. Witnessing another person’s downfall says as much about the one who sees it as about the one actually going through it. Despite whatever wrong the other person may have done, the very fact that the observer is so keenly aware of the other’s sinful behavior is an indication of his own glaring defect—a readiness to see impropriety in his fellow. Thus, say the sages, the person who takes notice of the grave failings of others should forswear the drinking of wine. It was not by chance that he set eyes on his fellow in an unseemly position, but rather because of his own predisposition toward spotting such things.
It seems that the sages knew quite a bit about us alcoholics. Who has been as ready to find fault in others as we have been? Who has been as indignant toward the shortcomings of others? Recovery has taught us that whenever we see bad in someone else, our reaction must not be the self-righteous anger to which we had once felt entitled, but to assess our own spiritual condition.
There was a time when seeing how others were doing wrong made us feel more holy. In sobriety, we work toward the day when—in true holiness—we will see only goodness in all of our fellows.
Sometimes, life beats the crap out of us, like an abusive mean spirited man that just looks for anything to give him the ammo to put the fists to use against his betrothed. Some of us have lost hope of ever finding authentic love. A real man as many of us term it. I know that I have given up hope in that realm after so many tries that ended in horrible disaster and great damage to me, mind, body and spirit and pocketbook included.
Yeshua gives us hope, He came to die, to free the Bride to marry her Bridegroom…He took the cup of bitter herbs…the one that the jealous husband ordered her to drink to prove herself…He Himself took that cup, and drank it…to the death…for our freedom…to free the adultrous, guilty wife…so she can be betrothed…to the new Adam. (give me some grace, this is my understanding at the time of this writing, pray for me, if my theology is mess up!)
We are approaching Shavuot and His spirit will be poured out in power. As we see the horses of Revelation running, the seals being broken, we need an outpouring of His spirit like never before…in our frail humaness, we are incapable of running the race til the end. I know I do not have that kind of energy at 62! Even when I was young, there is no way in the frail humanness that anyone could run this race to the finish.
Big Brother Judah’s words of wisdom from the Torah regarding this Torah Portion:
“Bring the Tribe of Levi near and present them before Aaron the Priest that they may serve him”—Numbers 3:6.
This week’s portion, the first in the Book of Numbers, describes the appointment of the Levite tribe as assistants to Aaron the High Priest and his descendents.
There is a tradition that the verse (Psalms 92:13), “A righteous person will give fruit like a date-palm; he will grow tall like a cedar in Lebanon,” alludes to the role of the Levites as attendants to the priests.
A righteous individual may be compared to one of two kinds of trees—the date palm or the cedar. The date palm, as the verse attests, “gives fruit.” It does not, however, grow so tall. The cedar, on the other hand, “grows tall” but does not give fruit.
A righteous individual may be compared to one of two kinds of trees—the date palm or the cedarA righteous person who resembles a cedar is one whose attention to his spiritual growth lifts him to great heights. Yet, because he is primarily focused on his own improvement, he does not “give fruit.” His spiritual accomplishments are impressive but do not translate into a direct benefit for others.
The second type of righteous person is like the date palm. This is the person who takes time that otherwise could have been spent on his own development and uses it to attend his fellow. Having diverted his attention from his personal growth, he does not grow as tall, but he – like the date palm which bears delicious and nourishing fruit – provides life, energy and sustenance to others.
The character of the Levites whose task it was to assist others is like that of the date palm. Rather than concentrating solely on their own spiritual attainments, they were entrusted with the holy mission of being of service to those who performed the holy rites in the Temple. Instead of focusing exclusively on their own spiritual attainments, they made themselves of use to others.
For us alcoholics, this is the spiritual path that grants us day-by-day assurance of our sobriety. Sometimes an alcoholic may think that he might accomplish more by spending less time and energy working with others and concentrating instead on more “lofty” affairs such as prayer and meditation. It sounds nice in theory, but in practice we find that the Twelfth Step’s call for service – that we “carry this message to other alcoholics” – is not just a way of paying back to the program, it is crucial to our own sobriety.
We don’t need to be High Priests performing the holy rites in the Temple. We are grateful to act as the Levites, endowed with the sacred privilege of attending to and serving others—always giving fruit, even at the expense of not growing quite as tall.
Please enjoy the fun interview I did with Chelle Wagner on Hebrew Nation Radio. Chelle is in recovery herself and we had a great time breaking down the steps of recovery! Chelle can be seen on Messianic LambTV, her show is called Heart of the Tribes.
“They will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers….then I will remember My covenant…”—Leviticus 26:40, 42.
This week’s portion speaks about the rewards and punishments for keeping or abandoning G‑d‘s commandments, as well as the forgiveness granted for those who repent. The traditional interpretation of these verses is that G‑d promises that as soon as His people confess their sins, He will have mercy on them. There are, however, various understandings of what constitutes proper confession.
Can one confess even before having resolved to actually change his ways?Does one confess after having thoroughly reformed his conduct? Or can one confess even before having resolved to actually change his ways?
There is a rabbinic expression: “He who confesses but has yet to decide in his heart to abandon his sinful conduct resembles one who immerses in a ritual bath to purify himself while holding a small, defiling creature in his hand.” In other words, it would seem that his attempted spiritual cleansing is futile for he still clings to his old ways.
However, if this analogy really means to say that his confession is useless, why does it compare the person to one who attempts an invalid purification? Why not say that it is like one who does not immerse at all?
The answer is that the very act of verbal confession, even when a person has yet to resolve to change his conduct, contains an aspect of good which is likened to the purifying act of immersion, albeit with a defiling animal in his hand which eventually must be cast aside. However, the fact that one has not yet undergone the process of sincere penitence should not prevent him from admitting his wrongs.
When a person says he that he has done wrong, then, even if he has not yet resolved in his heart to take action, the words themselves rouse him to feelings of contrition that will, in time, lead him to actually change.
This teaching should make sense to any alcoholic who has gone through the personal house cleaning process. In Step 4 we “swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth” about ourselves and in Step 5 we shared with another person exactly what it was that we found. At that point, we had not yet changed, or even resolved to change ourselves. But even if we could not yet bring the words themselves rouse him to feelings of contritionourselves to get rid of our flaws, we could at least lay them out there and get an honest look at them. It was only afterwards, in Steps 6 and 7, that we became ready to give up our defects of character and to actually ask G‑d to take them away from us.
Some people question the use of an alcoholic taking personal inventory and admitting to his wrongs early in sobriety. What’s the point of trying to clean house when you still have the same character defects that made the old mess? The answer, however, is clear to anyone who has worked these steps. If confession had to follow penitence – that is, if Steps 6 and 7 came before 4 and 5 – who among us of would have been able to make it?
As heard in a meeting: We had to talk it out before we could actually throw it out.
Shalom everyone! Welcome to another Torah Portion here at SSS! I love this passage, for I yearn to live in safety. Where I am presently residing I do not feel safe. I have not felt safe for a long time and feel stuck here in swamp country as I call it. The area where I reside was once a swamp, but man came along and cut down trees, filled in the swamp and built a campground on it…in rainy season, it floods in areas, in the hurricane season, the campground dwellers live vulnerable and open to the onslaughts of the HAARP program/Hurricane season. This Hurricane season, the warnings have already begun. I lament daily, I plead for His mercy and grace, I plead for His mighty hand to guard my 86 year old mother and myself while stuck in swampsville.
Father has been merciful so far as there is at least one righteous person that dwells in swamp country! My mother has been a commandment keeper for most of her long life. She honors He Shabbat and has trusted in Jesus since a little girl.
The rainy season brings intense storms that frighten many, Florida is known as the lightning capital of the nation, the first season here, as I sat in my tiny RV listening to the booming thunder and the fierceness of the rain pounding on my roof, I used that time to cry out to Abba, claiming His promises and praising Him that He is far more powerful than any storm.
When we are called to a certain place, to a certain walk, to a certain way, if it goes against the grain of the world, storms come…but the One who came before us has to power to sustain us through the storm, or, to calm the storm…whether the storm is exterior or interior…
The traditional name used to refer to this week’s portion, Behar, is taken from the opening verse: “G‑d spoke to Moses Behar Sinai (at Mount Sinai).”
It is interesting to note that words “mount” and “Sinai” have opposite connotations. A mountain represents grandeur and stature while the word Sinai is rooted in the Hebrew word s’neh, a thorn-bush, which symbolizes lowliness and humility. The combination of the two words “Behar Sinai—at Mount Sinai” indicates a melding of both characteristics, boldness and humility together.
As regards our spiritual development, the three terms 1) Mount, 2) Sinai and 3) Mount Sinai, represent three progressive phases in our growth.
Our sense of self-nullity is so pervasive that it is obvious that any strength we may feel comes only from our total reliance upon G‑d’s strengthThe first level is that of “Sinai”—humility and self-nullification. At the beginning of our spiritual development, we must embrace our own nothingness. Any feelings of grandeur or stature at this point are counterproductive and entirely out of place.
The next level is that of “Mount Sinai,” a combination of the two words. At this stage, we have sufficiently negated ourselves so that we may actually experience feelings of power that do not stem from our own egos but rather from a sense of G‑d’s strength. At the same time, however, there still must be a clear sense of personal nullity for we have not yet come to such a degree of surrender where any sense of power we may feel is certain to be emanating solely from the power of G‑d.
Finally, the ultimate level of spiritual development is embodied by the single word behar—for which this week’s reading is named. This state is achieved when we are so entirely nullified to G‑d that it is not even necessary to mention the humility of “Sinai.” Our sense of self-nullity is so pervasive that it is obvious that any strength we may feel comes only from our total reliance upon G‑d’s strength rather than our own.
There are those critics of the Twelve Steps who say that personal humility along with submission to a Higher Power degrades alcoholics and makes them feel spiritually bankrupt. First of all, we didn’t need any steps to help us feel degraded and spiritually bankrupt. Our lives as active alcoholics had done a fine job at that already. But more importantly, what these critics fail to understand is that by admitting our own powerlessness and thereby coming to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we have found an inner strength that we could never have dreamed of throughout all our years of willful self-reliance. Perhaps they are baffled by the paradox—that through surrender we have become strong and that by facing our own lack of power we have come to know and feel what real power is.