Monday, September 12, 2005

The Dim Spark

Dear Kristi, Maria and All,
More on light: Here are some thoughts from pages 32 and 33 of Daniel Matt's book The Essential Kabbalah.
"The essence of faith is an awareness of the vastness of Infinity," Matt wrote. "One may speak of goodness, of love, of justice, of power, of beauty, of life in all its glory, of faith, of the divine - all of these convey the yearning of the soul's original nature for what lies beyond everything. All the divine names, whether in Hebrew or any other language, provide merely a tiny, dim spark of the hidden light for which the soul yearns when it says God." Matt goes on to say that if the consciousness is torn from its source, it becomes useless, without value. The only remedy, according to Matt: To "shine vibrantly," the consciousness must be joined to the "illumination of faith."
My own interpretation of that is that God's light is actually within us, and we must let it shine by living our lives in harmony, so there is balance in our interior lives and balance in our relationships with family, friends and others with whom we come in contact. When there is not balance in our lives - and when we're not acting in the best interest of the greater good - the light within us gets muted, and covered up, and when that happens, we can't find our own way, nor can we reach our potential as a guiding light to others.
One thing Matt challenges his readers to do is to get rid of any preconceived notion of God in any particular form. In other words, God is far too great for the human mind to imagine.
"All the troubles of the world," he wrote, "especially spiritual troubles such as impatience, hopelessness and despair, derive from the failure to see the granduer of God clearly."
Matt is saying, I believe, that the best we can do is shine our own little light in our own little corner of the world. And because that light is part of God, it is not little at all. Instead, it is great beyond what we can conceive.
More later.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Kindled Candles

Dear Kristi, Maria and All,
As we explore the meaning of light, here are some thoughts from Daniel Matt's book The Essential Kabbalah:
First, consider this fundamental concept: The Kabbalah teaches that all spiritual energies flow from an infinite source referred to as Ein Sof. The term Ohr Ein Sof means "light of infinity." While Matt cautions against fashioning metaphors for Ein Sof, there are other Kabbalists who refer to Ohr Ein Sof as a metaphor for God. Since our minds are limited, very little about God can be intelligible to us.
Here is what Matt says on Page 29 of his book:
"Everything is from Ein Sof; there is nothing outside of it. . .You can compare Ein Sof to a candle from which hundreds of millions of other candles are kindled. Though some shine brighter than others, compared to the first light they are all the same, all deriving from that one source.''
More later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Going Back to the Beginning

Dear Kristi, Maria and All,
As I mentioned, after reading an article on the ABCs of the Kabbalah, I got the idea to assemble ideas in this blog on the deeper meaning of light. Since ideas from the Kabbalah led to this discussion in the first place, let's start out by exploring teachings of the Kabbalah that relate to light. I need to be clear from the beginning. I'm no expert. I'll simply share some things that experts on the Kabbalah have to say. Being an expert on the Kabbalah is a life-long endeavor, and my own exposure is limited to having read a handful of books - which equates to very little.
Having said that, let me first offer a thumbnail explanation of what the Kabbalah is, for those who may be unfamiliar with it.
The teachings of the Kabbalah essentially represent Jewish mysticism and Orthodox Jewish thought. The word itself means "tradition" or "received knowledge." No one knows the origin of the Kabbalah, but some believes it goes as far back as Abraham. One Jewish woman I know described Kabbalistic teachings as the secrets the angels whispered to Abraham. Keep in mind we're talking about mysticism - as opposed to facts that can be proved. Jews believe that the writings in the Torah were accompanied by an oral tradition, and that the teachings of the Kabbalah come from this oral tradition.
The Kabbalah teaches that God is perceivable as ten different forms of light, together known as a serifot. Further, Hebrew characters are associated with each of the 10 serifot. The Kabbalah then becomes a way of understanding both scripture and the very meaning of life.
To start out, we'll review concepts from the book The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, by Daniel C. Matt.
We'll start with the next post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A New Start

Dear Kristi, Maria and All,
I'm starting over on this blog, in anticipation of an all-new Web site that a group of us have been working on most of the summer. More on that later.
For now, let me say that I had planned on a new blog that would offer reflections on 25 years of personal reading, mainly on faith topics. But as of yesterday, that, too, has changed. By chance, looking something up on the Internet, I ran across an article from May 2005 at, titled The ABCs of Kabbalah, by Rabbi David Aaron.
I'm fascinated by the teachings of Jewish mysticism, and light has special significance in my life personally. So this passage from Rabbi Aaron's writing spoke directly to me:
"The Kabbalah is all about light. It's main message to us is that we have the power to increase the spiritual light in the world or decrease it. All our actions, words and thoughts control the dimmer switch that turns the light up or down. What is the power of light? When you turn the light on in your room it lets you see what is there. Otherwise you grope in the dark, knock things over, bang your knee and walk into walls. This is also true with spiritual light. Without it, your spiritual world is dark. Without spiritual light you can't see love even when it is right in front of you. You knock over people who love you. You step on souls. You walk right past meaningful moments. And you have no sense of direction.
"According to the Kabbalah a person who only has access to physical light lives in the World of Shells or Peels — called Olam HaKlipos. Such a person only sees physical things, those which are external and superficial. The shell or the peel is only the outside of the fruit and is therefore secondary to the fruit. If you can only see the shell or peel, you confuse the wrapping with the true contents. You are impressed with the packaging and miss the true gift inside."

I've come to believe through the years that we, as humans, are light, and that we are meant to light each other. In the past few years, I've made notes in the margins of books and articles, highlighting anything pertaining to the deeper meaning of light in our lives. I've hoped all along to pull these tidbits together someday into something meaningful. Maybe a book, I thought. But for now, a blog seems like a good medium for stringing together lots of different points - and seeing how they come together.
I have no idea where this is going. We'll just have to see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Who Kristi and Maria Are

The first post of this blog was addressed to Kristi, Maria and all. When the idea of a blog was first presented to me, I decided that I would write it as if it were going to Kristi and Maria in particular, along with everyone else.
Kristi is my sister-in-law, and Maria is my next-door neighbor. Both are like blood sisters to me. In April, Kristi moved to Macon, Ga., with my brother and their two children, and next month, Maria is moving to Richmond, Va., with her husband. (Their children are grown.) I miss Kristi very much, and I'm missing Maria already and she hasn't even left. It just so happened that this blog started on a day that my column in the newspaper dealt with the issue of grief. There are so many kinds of grief, some absolutely devastating, as mentioned in the last posting about my colleague, and some kinds of grief that while not necessarily life-altering, must be dealt with nonetheless. I feel a sense of loss without Kristi nearby, and at the prospect of Maria leaving too. I'm happy for the new opportunities open to them, but there is a sadness when a meaningful relationship is no longer the same.
Anyway, I just wanted everyone to know the story behind the salutation to Kristi and Maria.