Torah Blog


A blog of Torah thoughts, poems and other random odds 'n' sods. For tag cloud click here.
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Entries in abundance (2)


Bread, Oil and Life Coaching - the Expansion of Abundance

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 180) instructs:

Do not remove the tablecloth and bread from the table until you have said Grace After Meals. Those who leave no bread on the table will never see a sign of blessing.

The Mishnah Berurah here notes that blessing cannot rest upon something that is empty, and that we learn this from the story of Elisha and the jar of oil. This is found in Kings II:4:

1. And there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets to Elisha, saying, Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take to him my two sons to be slaves.

2. And Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? tell me, what have you in the house? And she said, Your maidservant had not any thing in the house, save a jar of oil.

Elisha tells her to gather many empty utensils, and pour out from her jug into these. She does so, and a miracle occurs, and the jugs keep filling up in abundance, until all the utensils are finished.

Elisha did not create something out of nothing, but rather expanded what was already there. This is a fantastic lesson for us and is consonant with the principles of life coaching. One major difference between life coaching and therapy is that instead of delving deeply into what's wrong and trying to fix it, life coaching looks to what is already there, the strengths and the positive that exist, and begins immediately to increase it incrementally, through action, through positive thinking and affirmations.

Though a prophet - whose job it generally is to aid people to do inner processes of repentance - Elisha here did not to go into why the woman was starving or the spiritual reasons behind it. He stepped in, said "What do you have in the house?" and proceeded from there. Similarly, we don't always have to go into deep therapy to fix what's broken in us; we can make positive change and that in and of itself can heal us and make us whole and full...

As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says in his well-known Torah "Azamra" (Likutei Moharan 282), we look to gather the good points, from amongst all the negative. And when we gather those good points, true good is created and expanded, and together all the points make up a melody.

P.s. In parshat Toldot, when Isaac wishes to bless Esau, he asks him to bring him tasty food first, so that he can bless him from within the experience of savouring delicious food. I think this fits with the idea developed above, that in order to create expansive blessing, Isaac wished to get himself into a state where he was already fully inside the positive experience, of what there already was, and proceed from there to expand outwards to what hadn't yet manifested.
This principle is something some New Age philosophies emphasize (e.g. Abraham-Hicks) and I think there is great wisdom to it, to start with what there is, from where our souls can bless and thank G-d naturally.


When our face falls

I've spent quite a bit of time with the story of Cain (I won't call it "Cain and Abel" here, because the brothers undergo different challenges - the challenge of failure is not the same as the challenge of success), and I think it's amazing. This is the first time in the Torah that we get to see a human whirling giddily in the eye of a storm of emotions: Anger, jealousy, frustration and more.

Bereshit 4:6 sets out two of these emotions plainly:

"And the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?

Why is God asking these questions, when the answer is obvious? Clearly God wants to draw Cain's attention to two emotions inside him - two different emotions, each of which has its own pulse and requires its own processing mechanism.

Leaving aside "Why are you angry?" let's think about "Why has your face fallen?" This sounds a lot like sadness, even depression. When we are depressed our mouths turn downwards, our eyes look down, our very being seems to drag into the ground as if we have arrived on a planet when gravity is ten times our own.

And what happens when we look down? What might we miss? When people speak to us, we will not look them in the eye. We will miss the -face-to-face, soul-to-soul encounter possible every time we converse openly and directly with another. God says, "Cain, look up, talk to me. Let's communicate, don't build walls. Raise your face to me." Just as in the priestly blessing, we are blessed "May the Lord lift His countenance to you and grant you peace," perhaps God too wants our countenances lifted to Him/Her, with openness and welcome.

And what else happens while we look down? Absolutely everything! But we don't see any of it. Amazing opportunities whizz right by our ears and we don't even notice. Life is full of doors opening and abundance coming our way; every moment brings its riches. But we are so busy looking down, nose to the grindstone, that we don't even notice.
Look up, dear human! And grab it while its hot!

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.