Tree of Life and Flower of Life as they relate to the Human figure.
One of the oldest ideas in Kabbalah is a correspondence between the Sefirot of the Tree of Life and the human body. The Sefirot represent the active, creative potency of the Divine names, and their relationship to the body emphasises that we should view the Sefirot as components of a single organism. The human shape is the “form” of this dynamic, and is the prototype, shape, or image at the largest scale (Macrocosm), and at the human scale (Microcosm). The Sefirot of Keter is the crown of the King. Chokhmah and Binah correspond to the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, and perhaps more properly to the Mind. Chesed and Gevurah correspond to the right and left arm respectively, Tipheret to the trunk, Yesod to the genitals, and Netzach and Hod to the right and left legs.
The past few weeks I’ve been working on drawing this. I now have my very own Tree of Life glyph framed for my space. Though this was created in the progression of my studies, my plan is to use it simply for meditation and reference.
The universe, the macrocosm, and man, the microcosm, are overlaid onto each other and appear to us as this design known as The Tree of Life. It appears that various belief systems, deities, philosophies all fall into place upon the tree. Levels of consciousness, processes of development—all these things can be situated on the tree to expose their nature and involvement within the greater whole.
At some point I’ll be sharing my explorations into the 10 Sephiroth along with the corresponding Tarot associations of the minor arcana.
Our Innermost speaks with us through hunches, through our conscience, through our dreams. But if we do not listen, there is little he can do. Most of the time we do not listen, we are too afraid. And when we do feel something that we must do, we are usually too afraid to do it, so we go around asking for everyone’s opinion. “Do you think I should do this? Do you think I should teach? Do you think I should move to that city? Do you think I should go there? Should I do this, should I do that?” This is collective mind, who wants the approval and guidance of others. We never inquire of the one who gives us real instruction. We are never listening to the clarification of that instruction, from the one who gives it, who is our Innermost. Instead, we want our teachers and our friends to give us approval. We have collective mind.
What qualified Henny Machlis, who passed away this past Friday at the age of 58, as one of the world’s greatest Jewish women?
Jerusalemites would say it was her cooking for and serving up to 300 guests every Shabbos in her cramped Jerusalem apartment. The guests – almost 150 for the Shabbat night meal and over 100 for the Shabbat day meal – ranged from curious tourists and university students to lonely widows and singles to drunks and mentally ill people who considered the Machlis family’s love and warmth more delectable than even their ample food. Henny cooked 51 weeks a year (except only for the week of Pesach) from her tiny kitchen. Starting as newly-weds 35 years ago, the Machlises’ open Shabbos table expanded gradually over the years until the overflow of guests had to be seated in the courtyard and outside the front door. Henny’s great dream was to enclose the courtyard so guests could sit there even in the winter. Alas, she never lived to see her dream’s fulfillment.
The Machlises’ chesed was not restricted to Shabbat. Homeless people slept on their couches, some for weeks at a time, and those whose mental instability might have endangered the Machlises’ fourteen children were accommodated in the family van. When Rabbi Mordechai Machlis would leave for work as a teacher in the mornings, he would know how many van guests he had by the number of shoes in the windshield.
For those who gauge greatness by the level of selflessness a person attains, Henny also scored off the charts. At her funeral her oldest son Moshe recalled how, after he got married and moved away to startKollel (full-time Torah learning), his mother encouraged him: “If you ever aren’t making it financially, tell me and I’ll sell my jewelry.”
“Ima,” Moshe called out in a tearful voice, “you forgot that you didn’t have any jewelry. They had all been stolen by the guests over the years. And your diamond ring – you loaned it to someone twenty years ago, and never got it back.”
Being treated for cancer in New York’s Sloan-Kettering, Henny was sometimes visited by the unfortunates who – even those decades older than she – considered Henny their mother. When one homeless woman came to visit, Henny gave her her bed. A relative discovered Henny, wrapped in a hospital blanket, wandering in the hospital corridor looking for a place to lie down.
Henny’s son Moshe was pushed aside at the crowded funeral by one of the Machlises’s mentally ill “regular guests,” who proclaimed, “I have to get closer. She’s my mother.”
For those who equate spiritual greatness with God-consciousness, with the ability to see God’s hand always and everywhere, Henny had indeed achieved those spiritual heights. At the funeral, a tearful Rabbi Machlis related just one story: He invited a destitute man whom he always saw at the Kotel (Western Wall) to come home with him to eat. That day Henny served her homemade whole-wheat pizza. The man loved it. He came back to their house every day asking for a slice of whole-wheat pizza. Finally, Henny suggested that she could teach him how to make whole-wheat pizza himself. Painstakingly and with infinite patience, Henny taught him how. One night several days later, at 3 AM, there was a knock on the door. “Not on the front door,” Rabbi Machlis related. “Our front door is always unlocked. Someone was knocking on our bedroom door.”
The loud knocking woke them up. Alarmed at what must be an emergency, Rabbi Machlis went to the door and asked, “Who’s there?” When the man identified himself, Rabbi Machlis asked, “What’s wrong?”
The man replied, “I forgot how to make whole-wheat pizza. I need your wife to explain it to me again.”
Rabbi Machlis was exasperated. “At 3 o’clock in the morning, you need to remember how to make whole-wheat pizza?”
But Henny calmed him down. “It’s a test,” she assured him. “It’s from Hashem.”
Then Henny reiterated to the man, step by step, how to make whole-wheat pizza.
Henny emanated radiant joy all the time.
For me personally, the sign of Henny Machlis’s greatness was the radiant joy she emanated all the time. Whenever I ran into her, her wide smile and the joyful light she radiated conveyed that seeing me was the best thing that had happened to her all day. And although I knew that she greeted everyone the same way, I nonetheless was charged by this encounter with a holiness and saintliness that lit up the world – or that tiny piece of the world where Henny Machlis stood.
The last time I saw Henny was several months ago, when she was briefly back in Jerusalem between surgeries and treatments at Sloan-Kettering. She had already been battling metastasized cancer for a couple agonizing years. I decided to drop in at her house, and braced myself to see the battle-weary and fear-worn look that characterized other cancer patients I had known. On the path to the Machlis house, there was Henny with one of her daughters, on her way to go to pray at the grave of the tzaddik Rav Usher. When she saw me, she gave me that same radiant smile and jubilant greeting that had always been her trademark – unmitigated by the cancer, the surgeries, the chemo, the long separations from her family, and the unexpected – and unwanted – turn her life had taken. Her joyful smile conveyed not just her stoic acceptance, but her happy acquiescence with the way God was running His world.
A mutual friend told me after Henny’s death, “When I was with her, I felt embraced by God.”
The question – indeed the challenge – of Henny’s life is: How did an ordinary Jew born to a regular middleclass family in Brooklyn in 1957 become so great?
Henny kept on going and giving and loving and inspiring.
Like the rest of us, she went to college. (She graduated Stern College with a B.S. in education.) Like most of us in our twenties, she had an ideal. Hers was to share the beauty and joy of Shabbos with the whole world. Like most of us, “reality” intruded in the actualization of the ideal. For the Machlises, the tremendous scale of their success cost them over $2500 every Shabbat, a financial load that defied Rabbi Machlis’s modest salary as a teacher supplemented by donations from well-wishers. But unlike most of us, their adamantine faith in God and love for the Jewish people kept them from compromising on their ideal. They mortgaged their apartment to the hilt, took out personal and bank loans – and kept on going.
As Henny once told me: “We are living in the midst of a spiritual holocaust. Most Jews today have no idea of the beauty and depth of Judaism. How can we not do everything in our power, including going into debt, to reach out to our fellow Jews?”
The only difference between Henny Machlis and the rest of us is the voice that asserts, “I’ve done enough. I don’t have to do more.” Henny never harkened to that voice. She kept on going and giving and loving and inspiring – until last Friday, when she was called to her Heavenly reward.
I’ve experienced great kindness .. I really don’t think anyone has ever been this nice to me. Just when I had fallen at the end of the road, a group of kind hearted women dusted me off and helped me up.
Last night I balled my eyes out just because this move has been hard on me and I don’t expect it to get easier any time soon.
I never thought I’d be this thankful for a Facebook group. Last night after admitting that I was feeling alone in my conversion to a “Jewish Women Talk group” so many hands reached out to help me.
I’ll forever be indebted to these women. Shira Gold posted on Facebook for me and found someone to give me a meal. I walked three blocks away to Chani’s place and had dinner. We talked for hours and I’m going to help her with her GED and around the house.
Shira didn’t stop there– she arranged for someone to bring me groceries tonight and for another woman to bring to bring me a meal. She even worked for Rabbi Raskin! Shira even wants me to go to Machon Chana. The amount of love and kindness this woman has given me and she’s hundreds of miles away is amazing.
A student named Sara at Stern got my address and she ordered me a burner. She said “I know you’ve seen my crazy pushy jewish mother in the group and now you have one too– we can share her” Her mother talked to me and gave me a great pep talk and told me how much she cared about me.
I’m seriously in awe and there’s no way to explain the emotions I’m having. My mom never let me accept things from other people when they tried to help me growing up, it was her pride and so I went without. Without food, without clothes, without school, without that toy that all the kids had… So I’ve always shied away from asking for help. Now I have a whole circle of women that want to help me. I could cry all over again.. It’s really wonderful.
Shira said “this is what jewish people do for each other” it was then that I didn’t feel so alone or on the outside.
In times of great temptation and danger, appeal to your Innermost for help.
The Innermost Being has no desires, no cravings, and has no fear and does not avert from anything.
The Being IS … the Being is THAT … “I AM the Being”
You shall not curse a deaf person.” (Lev. 19:14) This is not limited to cursing someone who cannot hear but using bad language with anyone. Why then single out the deaf?
The benefit of appropriate behavior is as much for us as it is for others. We have a responsibility not only to protect the dignity of others, but also to ensure that we refine and develop a sensitive, compassionate and respectful identity for ourselves.
A Lesson On Setting The Course Of Releasing What Buries Your True Self
We each have direction we choose to move within. We each choose to go certain ways in regards to how we have grown into, but yet we never realize that these ways are not always in our best interests, or even safe for traveling. For most it is the ebb and flow of life that they seem to be caught in is a never ending wave of removal and return. The things they wash away they return to themselves in time and it slowly buries them once again and they repeat this process over again until they either overcome the addiction to the burying or are overcome by the weight and fall into the hole they have kept digging and suffocate. To be within the balance of the flow, one must always remember to go within it, not to let it back flow upon them and rebury them with the same blankets of darkness they just sent away. Self-affliction and ego will always torment the waters within you, if you let them tread within them. Cast them down the waters as like the rest of the parts of yourself you have set forth from you. The pain of being buried is less then having the torment of of unburying yourself then having the same debris you cast off let freely return to you and bury yourself once more. But this does not have to be, you can simply set your own course for your waters, steer them along with the debris away fro you and never let worry rest upon you again. This sounds simple, yes. But in reality it is harder then most people will ever truly understand unless they themselves have done it. Keeping yourself unburied and free is as easy as letting it all flow the right course, away from you not back towards you. Cast away, not return. Break away, do not bury. Set yourself free, do not set yourself underneath the stones you tossed away. -rtf
When we steep our hearts in lovingkindness, we are able to sleep easily, to awaken easily, and to have pleasant dreams. To have self-respect in life, to walk through this life with grace and confidence, means having a commitment to nonharming and to loving care. If we do not have these things, we can neither rest nor be at peace; we are always fighting against ourselves. The feelings we create by harming are painful both for ourselves and for others. Thus, harming leads to guilt, tension, and complexity. But living a clear and simple life, free from resentment, fear, and guilt, extends into our sleeping, dreaming, and waking.
Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindess : The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
During the recent snowstorms that hit the Northeast, A Shabbat.com staffer & Shabbat.com member teamed up to preform Random Acts of Kindness by handing out over 50 hot coffees to Mailmen, Plow Operators, Police officers, Emergency Response Personal & Stranded Drivers…
Day 5 - Hod of Chesed: Humility in Lovingkindness You can often get locked in love and be unable to forgive your beloved or to bend or compromise your position. Hod introduces the aspect of humility in love; the ability to rise above yourself and forgive or give in to the one you love just for the sake of love even if you’re convinced that you’re right. Arrogant love is not love.
At one point, during my late teens, I was troubled by certain ethical questions concerning [the destruction of] Amalek etc. I then recalled having recently read that Rabbi Chaim Brisker would awaken nightly to see if someone hadn’t place a foundling at his doorstep. I knew that I slept quite soundly, and I concluded that if such a paragon of kindness coped with these laws, evidently the source of my anxiety did not lie in my greater sensitivity but in my weaker faith. And I set myself to enhancing it.
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who was nifter (passed away) today.
In Israel it is currently 8:50am. The Heritage House that so kindly took me in last night closes at 9am so I had to get going. I had a wonderful night. The women who run the hostel are some the warmest, sweetest people I’ve ever met. They embody the beliefs of Tzedakah and Chesed and inspired me. The situation with my bank won’t be resolved until 9:00am in the US, which is 6 hours behind Israel so I still can’t get back to Kibbutz Yagur. That’s ok, if I had to pick a city to be stuck in I’d pick Jerusalem. Some people say they are uncomfortable here because of the high population of Orthodox but I’ve found it’s the Orthodox who are the most welcoming. When I’m in the Old City I feel at peace, at home.