2015-10-14 / Religion Column

Lekh Lekhah and our inner consciousness

RABBI RICHARD SIMON
Temple Har Zion

Parshat Lekh Lekhah Gen. 12:1-17:27

“Up, walk about the land, through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you.” [Gen. 13:17]

I especially enjoyed writing this article for Parshat Lekh Lekhah because it was my Bar Mitzvah parshah. Since that time, I have learned a lot about Torah and its hidden dimensions.

The simple meaning of this verse from Parshat Lekh Lekhah is clear: God tells Abraham to take a walk around the land of Israel which God has promised to give us, Abraham’s descendants.

But in our tradition there are some that have looked beyond this simplicity, what we call the p’shat, or simple meaning, to more hidden dimensions. With today’s interest in spirituality, meditation, Yoga, Mindfulness, etc., we may want to look at what Judaism has to contribute to the concept of inner searching through the lens of this Torah portion.

Kabbalists are fond of reminding us that the Torah is “black fire written on white fire,” and that if we only study the “black fire” (the words), we miss much of the meaning contained in the spaces between the letters and the words.

Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher ben Chlava (13th Century Spain) was one of those who looked beyond the p’shat to the inner essence, the “white fire,” of the text. On this parshah he taught: “…Abraham moved his consciousness from one level to the next in his search for wisdom, and allowed his mind to go back and forth in the attainment of that which the ‘south’ [Abraham’s native place] contains.” In other words, when God told Abraham to “Up, walk about the land,” God was saying, “let your consciousness move about seeking those things that exist in the land.” Abraham was told to see and experience things beyond what his physical eyes and body could achieve. The mystics called this “going” the movement of the Intelligent Soul, and taught that this change in consciousness is accomplished by “quietness of body.”

So like all mystical traditions, Judaism teaches us the value of physical quietness and stillness. We practice it daily when we pray the Silent Standing Prayer, the Amidah. Learning to meditate or just remain quiet for a period of time allows us to access levels of our consciousness that are not available to us if our bodies are racing, constantly doing. Someone once said we act more like “human doings” than “human beings.”

And one of the best times to practice this stillness is on Shabbat, the Day of Restfulness. Shabbat is the time for Being, not Doing. “Doing” we leave for the weekdays. Even God left “doing,” creating, for the six days of Creation, and rested on Shabbat.

If we follow this prescription of rising up and walking about our inner landscape, our inner consciousness, then we will achieve the second part of this verse, “…for I will give it to you.” Give us what? The Promised Land of peace and contentment that we so earnestly seek. May God grant us this Land, as was promised to our Ancestors and to us. .

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