Thursday, July 05, 2007

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Who’s in Charge Here?

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

In last week’s portion of the Torah, Pinchas’ actions stopped the plague that Hashem sent because of the Children of Israel’s immorality with the daughters of Moav. Although many of the Jews were being rebellious by lusting after the Moavite women and worshiping their idols, one man’s actions were particularly loathsome. He openly and brazenly brought his idolatrous lover to the entrance of the Mishkan, where Moshe and the entire assembly could see them while they were weeping.[i]

This week, that sinner is identified by name. Surprisingly, he was the leader of his tribe.[ii] What in the world was going on there? Could it be that the leader of an entire tribe in Israel could not find a proper Jewish woman to satisfy his desires? Was he so caught up in his lust that he had to have that very woman, who made him worship an idol before she would agree to his cravings?

There was a horse, a wagon and a driver parked by the side of the road.[iii] The driver decided to go forward. He slapped the reins against the horse’s back and called out, “Giddy-up!” The horse lurched forward and started going down the road, pulling the wagon and the driver along with him.

Although the horse is the power that moves everything, still the driver is in charge.

He was in charge, that is, until they passed a pizza parlor, and it just so happened that this particular horse loved pizza. “Neigh-neigh-neigh!” The horse snorted loudly. He turned sharply and ran right into the pizza parlor.

What happened to the wagon and the driver? Well, they went with the horse into the pizza parlor. Who was in charge then? Obviously, the horse was. It was the horse who wanted the pizza, and it was the horse who ran into the pizza parlor, pulling the wagon and the driver with him.

The horse is completely in charge unless the driver pulls back on the horse’s reins at least as hard as the horse pulls forward.

In this story, the horse is the animal instinct that we all have. This aspect of us is also called our animal soul or animal inclination. The wagon is our body, and the driver is our intelligent or Godly soul. Every decision we make in life is going to be made by one of these three faculties.

The animal inclination in man is always hungry, if not for food then for something else. It wants action, and it doesn’t care too much what kind of action it is. The body is slothful. It wants to sit still, to vegge out! If it had its way, the body would sit on the couch almost all day long. But the intelligent soul that we all have knows better. It knows that restraint and hard work are worth the effort. But if the intelligent soul becomes the least bit lazy, either the horse or the wagon is going to take charge.

Can you imagine a leader of an entire tribe in Israel being so tied to his horse that he would take his non-Jewish object of lust right in front of all of the leaders of Israel? How great was his animal’s lust! How lazy was his intellect!

Every step along the path of life is initiated by one of these three characters -- the horse, the wagon or the driver.

Even Today!

A rabbi friend asked me if I had heard about the latest fad-guru in India. “She seems great,” he said. “She has over 30 million followers and a huge ashram in India.”

I said, “Yeah, and there’s lots of idolatry there too.”

“No,” he answered, “she teaches universalism, and each group has their own area. There’s lots of love and lots of charity, and each group has its own music too. It looks great.”

My first response was that today’s teachers of Torah do not know how to give over the spiritual high that should be taught here. And if they did, no one would even think to go after such foolishness.

I walked away thinking about this woman’s trip and those 30 million people following her, especially all those Israelis there. I saw that the rabbi who told me about her in some strange way really admired what she was doing. He seemed to be looking at her trip with his usual good eye. He seemed to be thinking that maybe he could do something like that here, or even go there to see for himself.

How could I answer this learned guy? What is really wrong with it? If indeed she is not teaching Hinduism (which I bet she is), and if there are no other forms of idolatry or magic (which I bet there are), what’s wrong with what she is doing with these people? They are sharing love and giving charity, and there’s great music too. I could see the great attraction this would have for young spiritual seekers, especially those who do not even know what they are looking for.

How can I tell these good-hearted young people that being there, smoking dope and doing whatever boys and girls feel like doing is not what they really want? How could I possibly convince them that what they are doing is wrong? I thought about this for some time.

My first objections came quickly. “Following that trip will surely lead to intermarriage and the removal of their families from the Jewish People.”

“So what?” they would say. They are ready to give up on being Jewish anyway. Torah was never taught to them in such a way that being a Jew meant anything to them. So, in their minds, what would they be losing? Surely being a Jew, as they have been, has mostly meant only trouble. Being Jewish like that is obviously not worth giving up all that kicked-back joy that they have found. Now they feel real freedom to do whatever they want and still can be called righteous and spiritual people. Why would anyone in their right mind start following all of those rules that the Torah insists upon instead of just being free like they seem to be?

Okay, if having a Jewish family does not convince them, then they have to know that the lifestyle they are following will not give them a share in the World to Come.

“So what?” they would say. “This trip says they will have a share in the World to Come, and your trip says they won’t. Who are we to believe? Besides, I want the great reward now, not just a promise for later. And you know what? It’s great here now. I am here with my friends, doing whatever I want to do. I’m getting stoned, having girlfriends, making music. Why do I need all that stuff you are trying to sell me, all of those rules and restrictions that you are trying to lay on me?”

Then I remembered, “Okay, I understand that you have given up on being Jewish because you really do not understand what this means. And I understand that you have heard various things about the World to Come so you can ask who shall you believe. But you know what? That trip over there that you are running to, we already did that. We did it to the n’th degree. That’s just what the 60’s were all about. Kick-back, sing songs, get stoned, free love, do whatever you want We already tried the ‘It’s all ok’ thing. Universalism par excellence.”

“And you know what? We found out that it doesn’t go anywhere. At best, it runs around in small circles. And after you run around those circles for a few weeks, months or years, you still end up having to ask those same essential questions that you had when you first started, ‘What am I doing here? Why was I created? How have I made the world a better place? With whom do I want to make a family?’ We already learned that hanging out, getting stoned and singing songs in a foreign language don’t even begin to answer these questions.”

But why don’t they? Over there they have highs from their drugs and highs from their love and music. Why are they not the answer to spiritual life?

When someone smokes drugs, they experience what they call a high. Sometimes they even have an experience that they call a vision. So what is wrong with this?

What is really happening to them is that the drug is lowering their threshold of spiritual recognition. It is not that they are being elevated spiritually like they think. A threshold is the level at which you begin to experience something. So if you have a high threshold for pain, you will not be bothered by a certain degree of pain that would bother someone with a lower threshold.

When someone is drugged (depending upon the type of drug), his threshold of spiritual satisfaction is lowered tremendously. This means that he is experiencing the mundane, physical awareness, but they are calling it spiritual. He is not actually experiencing the spiritual, but the drug is fooling him into thinking that he is having a spiritual experience. The obvious problem with this is that he is being satisfied with those lower experiences and will not feel the need to do the tremendous work that is really required in order to reveal the actual spiritual perspective. Why should he? All he has to do is smoke a joint and get high!

The same thing is true about the love that he feels in those situations. It is not the deep love that comes from sharing life with someone. It is a superficial love based on feeling good in a time where other people are also feeling good. This does not create the bonding that comes from ongoing relationships.

But my bottom line on this entire issue is not these things that I have written here. My major thought on this subject is still what my initial reaction was: “If only the rabbis knew how to teach the spiritual perspective in a palpable way, no one would ever even think to look elsewhere.”

Later, I checked out that woman guru’s web site, and as I thought, it is full of idolatry. For instance, she says such things as, “Today there are more than 300 million gods!”

[i] Num 25:6
[ii] Sanhedrin 82b
[iii] Adapted from “Taming the Raging Mind” Chap 10

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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