Vayetze 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Vayetze 11 Kislev 5760 November 20, 1999

Younger students, please ask your parents for help in understanding this lesson.

The Tora-Torah in this week’s Parsha is a heavy one. It’s about the highest aspirations of the Jewish Peaceful Warrior in the struggle to draw closer to Hashem.

In this Parsha, Jacob has a most profound, prophetic dream. He sees a ladder rooted to the earth with its head reaching the heavens. Angels/messengers are going up and down from heaven. And these are messengers sent for HERE! These are mal’achay Elokim, the angels that have their jobs within nature.

Shlomo of Redomsk reveals a subtlety in the text of the Parsha that explains how Jacob was able to hear these messages and see this vision. When Jacob wakes up he says: “Surely God is in this place and I knew it not (v’anochi lo yadati).” Why the extra word ‘v’anochi’ — since there are no extra words in the Torah, it must have a meaning –and the words lo yadati already say ‘I did not know’. Shlomo of Redomsk (from Tiferet Shlomo) suggests that what Jacob was saying was that his ego, his ‘anochi’ didn’t get in his way so he was able to see the vision! He had managed to rise above his self-centered mode of consciousness because that impaired his ability to know God. In other words, Jacob was saying: if the presence of the Holy One dwells here, and I am blessed to be able to know it, it must be because my ‘ego’ wasn’t doing the knowing!

We are not prophets and we are certainly not on the level of the patriarchs. But we can reach toward Hashem and we can ‘receive’ on our own level. And, we do believe in hashgacha pratit: normally translated as ‘divine providence’. I prefer the definition of ‘personal watching-caring’ by Hashem. Hashem is watching and wants us to watch for Him, so to speak. So He helps us. How? First, of course, he gave us the Torah and Mitzvot. Ideally, the Mitzvot, done with proper Kavana, should lead us to a perfect state of receptivity. But we don’t all have that kind of Kavana.

So, in addition, Hashem sends us messages all the time. The problem is we are too wrapped up in our egos and the demands of the physical, sensory world to ‘shut up’ long enough to hear the messages or see the messengers! Without a well-trained body, mind and heart, we become too distracted to hear the ‘still, small voice’ that He uses to speak to us.

My students have often heard me tell about the ‘peek’ experience that I had when I was seventeen. No, I didn’t misspell ‘peak’. Years later I had the occasion to tell my teacher DeVries about the experience and she called it a ‘peek’ experience. I answered that I knew that it was, thinking she meant that it was a peak or a natural ‘high’! She said, “No! You misunderstand. I mean a p-e-e-k experience; nature gave you a ‘peek’ into her mysteries. If you want to have more like that, you’ll have to earn them!” “How?”, I asked. “By achieving the kind of controlled discipline of body and mind that your yoga and martial arts encourage. Then you will earn the right to touch nature’s wonders.”

What is a peak/peek experience? Let me begin by sharing that same story from so many years ago. When I was seventeen I was a counselor at a sleep-away camp in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. One night, after lights out, I couldn’t sleep so I went for a walk down by the ‘creek’, which was the dammed up stream in which the kids swam. It was a dark night. There was no moon out and no bothersome electric lights nearby. It seemed as if every star in the Milky Way was visible! I lay back in the thick grass, feeling the first dew on my back watching the stars. It was a wonderful feeling. As I lay there looking up at the stars I noticed one very large bright one in the center of the sky. Maybe it was a planet… I don’t know. I started playing tricks with my eyes. I would stare at the star without blinking for so long that all the other stars seemed to blur and disappear. Then I would blink and they would all come back.

After a while of this very relaxing game, I stood up and kept looking at that one star. I reached out for it with my right hand, fingers spread, palm diagonally upward. I had no reason in mind for doing this; I just did it! As I kept my eyes on the star a thought overwhelmed me. I was overcome with how tiny my hand was. Not just my hand! My body, the ground, the planet, was so tiny. Earth was a tiny speck in a galaxy of a hundred billion stars (I know that now; then I just knew there were a lot!). And even that galaxy was a speck in a universe of over a hundred billion galaxies. And there was my tiny speck of a hand against the star-filled sky. I had a profound sense of being tiny, of being nothing against this incredible backdrop of the heavens.

And then something happened. It was so abrupt it almost seemed to ‘click’. Suddenly I was no longer infinitesimally small. I was the whole universe! I was the stars and the galaxies and the heavens and the earth. I was overwhelmed with the oneness and love that seemed to surround and embrace me. Tears streamed down my face. I stood there with my hand up reaching for the star for … I really don’t know how long. There was no sense of my arm tiring or anything like that. I just stood there and wept, at one with all there is.

Slowly the sensation began to fade. There was no sadness. I knew the power of this experience would never leave me completely. Even as I write it now or tell the story, it happens in the present and not in the past. I took my slow time going back to the bunk and went to bed. Naturally, the following night I wanted to try that again! I followed the same steps: lying in the grass, reaching to the star…. and stood there…. and stood there. Nothing! Not that night or the next. Even so, I knew that, whatever it took, I was going to do to get that ‘feeling’ (it was much more than a feeling) again.

Years later, my teacher understood and explained. Nature — Hashem — had given me (that is, my ‘inner spark of divinity’) a peek into its mystery, into its oneness. That peek has helped focus and direct my life ever since. I came to realize that it didn’t work the second night or the many nights thereafter because I wanted to be part of the whole without being small first. I wanted to energizewithout yielding. (Remember  the Tora-Torah from Vayera? If not, go to www.kodesh.org, click ‘archives’ and then select Vayera)

And the irony was that my anochi-ego, which had been bypassed for that first experience that night, came rushing back and became too big for me to become small enough for it to happen again! (Hey! Look at me! I had a peak experience!) And that is the key: I had no discipline at the time to free myself of the ‘anochi-ego’ so that my real, true ‘I’ (my inner EYE) could experience it.

The moral of this story, I guess, is that when we are disciplined enough to be rooted to the earth and for our heads to reach for the heavens, then we can become the ladder that Hashem wanted us to be. It takes work. For me, Tora Dojo’s physical discipline with a mental thrust that is spiritual was the critical turning point in understanding the whole process. I met TaShih just 17 days after that peek. With his inspiration and my perseverance, have been climbing from peak to peak ever since. We are not prophets. We are all potential ladders. We can all reach and we can all listen.

“Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted ‘Tora tiger’ logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.
“Tora-Torah” is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.
Note that the Tora Dojo comments are highlighted in a different color. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Monday, please) to michael@kodesh.org. I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.
“Tora-Torah” is published by Kodesh, Inc. Kodesh is a non-profit organization devoted to personal growth, mind-body effectiveness training, spiritual awareness. It offers programs to help the student "alter the state of his/her consciousness" through education, experience and joyful celebration.
© 1999 Michael Andron - All rights reserved.
email: michael@kodesh.org